Isla Mujeres. A tiny coral island, one of Mexico`s true treasures. The island, once relatively unknown among tourists, was a sanctuary dedicated to Ixchel, the Mayan Goddess of fertility, love and medicine. During this time, The Temple devoted to Ixchel became a place of pilgrimage to the Mayan women seeking a fruitful marriage. In recent years, it has become a sanctuary for people seeking gorgeous beaches and a day away from the hustle and bustle of busy Cancun.
DISCOVER ISLA MUJERES
The Island of Women is a small Caribbean island located off the coast of Cancun in Mexico. La Isla (as the locals call it) is only a short 25 minute ferry ride from Cancun over sparkling turquoise waters. This seven kilometres long and 650 metres wide island can be explored in a single day. It is an ideal beach gateway for a day`s excursion. The little gem with an endless sunshine, laid-back atmosphere and inexpensive food is a backpacker`s favourite spot. This quaint island is very popular with beachgoers who enjoy the less hectic holiday. Despite the increase in tourism Isla Mujeres still has not lost is charm and tranquil atmosphere.
GETTING TO ISLA MUJERES
If you are staying at one of the hotels in Cancun`s Zona Hotelera, take the city bus to the port. You catch a ferry to Isla Mujeres from different ports in Cancun: Punta Sam (the only car ferry), Puerto Juárez or Gran Puerto.
You can take the Ultramar ferry to the island without having to leave the Hotel Zone. The Ultramar Ferry is quick, comfortable and safe. This ferry is running out of Embarcadero Pier at km 4, Playa Tortugas at km 7 and Playa Caracol at km 9.5. These options are a bit longer, run less frequently and cost more than Puerto Juarez or Gran Puerto.
Tip: If travelling with Ultramar, we recommend that you find a seat on the top deck to enjoy the gorgeous view of the Caribbean waters.
The ferry leaving from Puerto Juarez is the cheapest off all the Ultramar terminals as it is located outside the tourist areas. To get to this ferry terminal you can take the bus R1 towards Puerto Juarez. Round trip fare costs about 146 pesos. For more information about Ultamar ferry click here.
You can also get to the island by catamaran or double decker party boat.
Tip for the budget traveller: Magaña Express offers the ride for 35 pesos from Puerto Juarez in Cancun. The boats leave every half hour.
Once on the Island, the ferry will leave you in the heart of downtown, just a short walk from famous Playa Norte. Spend the day exploring the island, snorkel or swim in the azure waters, stroll along beautiful beaches, relax in the white sand. Choice is yours. We recommend you to explore the island first because once you see piece of heaven called Playa Norte; it will be hard for you to explore the rest of the island.
Walking is the best option for staying in a downtown and Playa Norte. If you want to explore the rest of the island, renting a golf cart or a moped is the easiest option for you. If you rent a golf cart, make sure you explore the Southern point of the island, where you can find a picturesque lighthouse or small Mayan ruins of Ixchel.
Helpful tip: For 500 pesos ($40) you can rent a golf cart until 5 pm, or $ 15 hour for up to three hours.
THINGS TO DO
Explore the Isla`s marine life, there are possibilities of swimming with dolphins, Whale Sharks or you can snorkel in crystal clear waters. There are many different day tours and trips to attend; the only limit is your wallet.
1. SWIMMING WITH THE WHALE SHARKS
One of the biggest draws to the island the whale shark migration that occurs every year between mid – May through September. Do not worry; these sharks are feed on the tiniest creatures in the sea – plankton. For about $ 200 you can swim with Whale Sharks. This once in a lifetime experience can be book anywhere on the island for about $ 200 with transfer, lunch and drinks included. One of the biggest draws to the island the whale shark migration that occurs every year between mid – May through September. Do not worry; these sharks are feed on the tiniest creatures in the sea – plankton. For about $ 200 you can swim with Whale Sharks. This once in a lifetime experience can be book anywhere on the island for about $ 200 with transfer, lunch and drinks included.
2. SNORKELLING IN THE CRYSTAL CLEAR WATERS
Whether you choose to join one of the organized snorkelling tours or explore yourself, there are calm waters ideal for snorkelling, diving and fishing.
Garrafόn Natural Reef Park is a unique snorkel park located at the southern tip of Isla Mujeres. We were advised not to go there as much of the coral at park on the island is dead (the result of hurricanes, boat anchors and too many tourists). We decided to skip this expensive day trip as we think it is not worth the price of admission.
There are many local people willing to take tourists out for some fantastic snorkelling. Just head towards the ferry terminal (or the beach) and you definitely find somebody looking for passengers. A reservation is not required and all the equipment is included in the price. You will begin your snorkelling at the Lighthouse reef (El Farito) and you will see lots of colourful fish and many kinds of coral.
The 3 and half hour snorkel trip with lunch at Playa Tiburon cost us about $35 per person.
3. MUSA UNDERWATER MUSEUM
4. SWIMMIN WITH DOLPHIN or DOCILE SHARK
is a great story to take back to the mainland with you
5. THE TURTLE FARM
Visit the turtle sanctuary where you can get up close to all different sizes and kinds of these fascinating creatures. The Turtle Farm is one of Island`s main attractions and a source of pride the locals. The farm is helping to build the turtle population back and protecting the turtles. At the turtle farm, the turtles are protected and the new-borns are placed in tanks to later be released to the ocean. Without the Turtle farm only a small number of hatchlings would survive, because of the many natural predators and also poachers.
The farm will only be their home for a short time, as they will be released into the wild. The Turtle Farm is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm, and the admission fee is $30 pesos or $3 USD per person.
Location: Sac Bajo
Tip: If you are lucky enough to be on Isla Mujeres in October, you can take part in the liberation of the turtles held all over the island, where thousands of baby turtles are released.
6. SOAK UP THE SUN on one of the most beautiful beaches
Most visitors to Isla come to feel the soft sun-soaked sand between their toes. Playa Norte (North beach), the island`s most beautiful beach with calm, turquoise waters, has earned a reputation as one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. Located just a few minute walk from the downtown, the beach attracts hundreads of beach lovers every day, both locals and tourists alike. It is the perfect spot where you can also find a lot of restaurants and bars.
There are lot of things to do in Isla Mujeres and enjoying the sunset is one of these. Both Playa Sol and Playa Norte have got the best location to watch spectacular sunset.
Helpful Tip: For a calmer experience, head to the neighbouring beach to Playa Norte – Playa Sol. This tropical beach with swaying palm trees, white sand and lapping turquoise waters in popular with locals to. In high season bands play reggae, salsa and other danceable music here.
7. EXPLORE ISLA`S CENTRUM
Isla Mujeres centre is small enough to see everything and large enough to enjoy spending time exploring. As you stroll through the centre, music surrounds you. Some of the best action occurs on Avenue Hildalgo. Nice downtown area stretches for several blocks in either direction and makes it hard to leave and go see the rest of the island. The downtown of Isla has very relaxed vibes. You can also find many shops, bars and restaurants, so make sure you leave a few hours to walk around a get a flavour of the Island.
Have you been to Isla Mujeres? Let us know in the comment section below.
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