Isla Mujeres is a small island off the coast of Cancun. It is easily accessible by ferry service, which runs every hour for a majority of the day. There are a couple of terminals near the Cancun Hotel Zone, so just ask your hotel concierge which one is closest to you. If you are heading to the terminal direct from the airport, I recommend using a reliable transfer company, like Olympus Tours, instead of a taking a taxi. The trip to Isla Mujeres only takes about 25 mins by ferry and the views of the aqua water are incredible. Some travelers choose to take their entire vacation on Isla Mujeres, staying at a variety of resorts and inns, while others opt for a long day trip. It is easy to see the entire island in one day, as it is just over 4 miles long but it would be impossible to enjoy everything that Isla (as it is locally called) offers in such a short period. However long you choose to stay, here are some activities you definitely should enjoy:
1. Renting a Golf Cart
The small size and general safety of the island make it great for exploring on your own. You can rent a golf cart from one of the many vendors in centro, where you will disembark from your ferry. Isla Mujeres is easy to navigate and one road will take you around the entire island. Rental fees are fairly inexpensive and rental lengths can vary from a few hours to a full day.
2. Catching the Sunset at Playa Norte
If you have a chance to stay for sunset on Isla, definitely do it! Playa Norte is one of the best places to watch the sunset in all of the Cancun/Riviera Maya region. It is easily walkable from the town and the beach is public, so you can sit on your own chair/towel or if you are early enough, on the boardwalk. Most of the beach bars there close pretty early, so if you are wanting to enjoy some beverages while you watch, be sure to bring them from town. Sunset time greatly varies depending on the season, so be sure to check online or at your resort before you plan your day.
3. Swim with Whale Sharks
If you visit Isla during whale shark season (June through September), you must take advantage of its great location. Not far from where the whale sharks pass, Isla makes a great jumping off point for tours. You must book through a tour operator and you must book early, as only a certain amount of boats are allowed to go out each day. Plan for a long day and be sure to bring “reef-friendly” sunscreen. This is definitely an activity you cannot miss!
4. Visit Garrafon National Park
If you want to enjoy some of the best snorkeling and diving in the Cancun/Riviera Maya area, you must make a stop at Garrafon National Park. Not into getting wet? You can also kayak, zipline and hike in this natural paradise. The park offers a variety of packages that should be purchased in advance through your favorite tour operator to ensure the best deal. A great activity for families of all ages.
5. Eat Caribbean Lobster
Many of the small restaurants in town offer this delicious crustacean. I much prefer it to Maine lobster in terms of flavor (and price!) Don’t be afraid to ask the market price in advance, most waiters here speak English. Wash it down with a delicious Margarita or Bohemia. A good rule of thumb in choosing any restaurant in Mexico is to go where you see most locals. Not into lobster? Seafood is your best bet but there are plenty of other options on the island. Some restaurants worth checking out are Mango Café, Muelle 7, Limon, Qubano, Sunset Grill and Pita Amore.
6. Shop, shop, shop
The centro area of Isla is home to streets full of stores selling various souvenirs. Don’t be afraid to venture down side streets, as you will likely find better deals. Speaking of deals, never be afraid to haggle on certain items like jewelry. Get them down as far as you can and then say you are going to look elsewhere… I bet the vendor will go down, even more, to keep you in the store. Some items, like alcohol, are generally non-negotiable, just use common sense. Be sure to have cash on hand; pesos are generally better than dollars. Another thing to be aware of is that walking around this area gets extremely hot during the summer, so be prepared with fresh water and a change of clothes.
7. Snorkel & Swim
While Garrafon is a fun excursion, you don’t have to book a tour to enjoy the beaches on the island. One of the best beaches for lounging is right by where the ferry docks – just take a left. Snorkeling is better at El Farito, which features a shallow off-shore reef. Diving enthusiasts will also be drawn to El Farito, as well as, MUSA, an underwater museum.
8. Visit the Turtle Farm
If you have animal lovers in your party, then a trip to Tortugranja is definitely in order. This laid-back, no-frills aquarium is inexpensive and quick to get through. I wouldn’t make the trip to Isla just to come here but if you have a few days on the island, it is a nice experience.