The island of Isla Mujeres is a 20 minute ferry ride from Cancun, Mexico. It’s popular among day trippers and Cancun locals for a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of the big city. The most popular attraction however is swimming/diving with whale sharks from June through September. We visited the island during off-season in November to avoid the crowds but will definitely return for the whale sharks. We recommend a 2-3 night stay to truly explore this little island and enjoy the island mojo.
Our top 10 highlights from Isla Mujeres
1. Scuba Diving at the MUSA
The Museo Subacuatico De Arte (MUSA) is the largest and most ambitious underwater art attraction in the world and a must see for anyone visiting Cancun or Isla Mujeres. Even if you’re not a certified scuba diver we encourage you to do a discover scuba dive to see this unique display of 460+ submerged life-size sculptures. The statues represent real people and symbolize the socio-economic and environmental situation of the area. It’s a perfect dive for beginners and is only 8-10 feet deep. Diving here is a unique and eerie experience, seeing nature slowly take over these sculptures with corals and plants is quite a sight!
2. Relaxing on Playa Norte
Playa Norte is the most popular and beautiful beach on Isla Mujeres. It’s calm turquoise waters are best for swimming and some much-needed beach fun. Indulge in a relaxing massage on the beach, grab your favorite drink from Buho’s Swing bar, munch on crisp tortilla chips and fresh seafood ceviche or just rent a beach chair and watch the world slowly go by.
3. Exploring the island in a golf car
Rent a golf car and zip through this tiny island to the southernmost point of Punta Sur, stopping at vista points, beaches, restaurants and more. You will find several golf car rental shops in and around downtown. We rented the car for $40 for the day and explored every bit of the island.
4. Drinks at Zamas Beach Club
Zamas is a swanky hip beach club located on the south side of island. It’s a popular spot to catch some sun and have a few drinks with the view of distant Cancun skyline. They have swimming pools and jacuzzis and serve a full menu. You could spend a whole day here or just a few hours.
This was our favorite part! We were lucky to experience a festival where we had the opportunity to mingle with the locals. We were walking back to our hotel after our day’s activities and stumbled on this big community church event with food stalls, live music and locals in their traditional dresses dancing the night away. It was a blast! Keep a look out for local festivities when you travel and don’t be shy to join in the celebrations, locals are happy to see travelers interested in their culture.
6. Indulge in local island food
Food stalls, local markets, small family owned restaurants in the alleyways away from the tourist traps is where you can find your authentic island food experience. The combination of Caribbean and Mexican favors is a treat for the senses. For an authentic experience try these:
- Street food – Churros, empanadas, cakes, crepes …everything we tried was good
- Mercado – Have a traditional huevos rancheros or mexican scrambled eggs for breakfast at the local market
- Mango Cafe- Lunch or brunch at Mango Cafe is a must. They have the best fish tacos!
- Seafood by the pier- Any seafood restaurant by the pier is a good bet for fresh lobsters, whole fried fish and octopus
- Abuelos restaurant on Guerro street – A small no frills family owned mexican cantina
7. Loose yourself in the beautiful sunsets
Sip on your favorite drink and watch the sky put on a spectacular light show of fiery reds and turn the ocean into liquid gold. We saw the most beautiful sunsets from the island and missed them deeply later on our trip. You can’t see the sun set over the horizon from the mainland. We would go back just for the beautiful sunsets!
8. Views at South Point/Punta Sur
Drive down to Punta Sur – the southern tip of the island and soak in the vast views of the ocean and the sound the waves crashing against the tall cliffs. It was extremely windy and we loved sitting at the edge of the cliff admiring the view and feeling the fresh ocean breeze on our faces. Walk around and explore the sculpture garden, the Mayan temple ruins (there’s little to see) and have a coffee or drink at the cafe with the views of Cancun in the distance.
9. Turtle Farm
A quick stop at the turtle farm is a must visit for kids. We love interacting with turtles on our dives and saw several families that loved feeding the baby turtles and having a good time. The turtle farm protects the breeding grounds of the turtles by placing wire cages around their nests on the beach and care for injured turtles. We would have loved to see some baby hatchlings make their way to the ocean in their natural environment. They have days on which they release the turtles to the ocean. Support their cause and visit the farm to learn more about these beautiful endangered creatures.
10. Room with a view
Sometimes your hotel accommodation can make your trip even more memorable. We highly recommend staying at Rocamar on the north-east coast of the island for the beautiful ocean views from all their rooms. The hotel is ideally located walking distance to the main street in downtown, Playa Norte and the pier. This is a very basic, no frills hotel but the views more than make up for the lack of luxury. We slept to the sounds of the waves and woke up to the sunrise each morning.
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