Isla Mujeres

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While staying at the five-star, all-inclusive Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Resort, stepping out onto my balcony was an ‘awe’ moment as I admired the different shades of blue water.

Below, I noticed a blue and yellow ferry boat unloading locals and visitors onto the wooden dock. Soon I learned this ferry takes people from three different areas in Cancun to the quaint Isla Mujeres several times a day.

Conveniently located just a few steps from the sandy beach at my hotel, I took an early morning ferry ride to explore the ‘Island of Women’.

The Ultramar Ferry dock is right below Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Resort
The Ultramar Ferry dock is right below Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Resort.
Photo by Jill Weinlein

Starting at 9 a.m., the ferry crosses the channel on a half-hour boat ride to the ferry terminal in the center of Isla Mujeres. Travelers can go for the day or plan to stay overnight or longer.

Located just off the coast of Yucatan, Mexico, Isla Mujeres is Spanish for ‘Island of Women.’ There are several versions of the name origin, starting with when Hernández de Córdoba arrived on the island in 1517.

Stories have been told that he found a small enclosure at the southern tip containing feminine idols. He called this area “Punta Mujeres” or Women’s Point. The name, “Isla Mujeres,” also references Ixchel the Mayan goddess of the moon, fertility and happiness.

How to Get to Isla Mujeres

blue and yellow UltraMar Ferry Boat to Isla Mujeres
Take the blue and yellow UltraMar Ferry Boat to Isla Mujeres. Photo by Jill Weinlein

Take the bright yellow and blue Ultramar Ferry, which makes two or three stops from Cancun, and disembark at Isla Mujeres. Stops include Puerto Juarez and along the Hotel Zone at Playa Tortugas and Playa Caracol.

Purchase tickets at the Ultra Mar ferry dock. There usually is live entertainment and refreshments to purchase onboard. Once you reach the island you can decide what time you want to return, giving you more flexibility than a private catamaran day cruise tour.

If you prefer a private tour, there are places around Cancun to book a day trip to Isla Mujeres. These private boats take travelers out for the entire day to snorkel and cruise around the island. Full-day trips usually include all-day rum punch and buffet lunch on Isla Mujeres. There usually is a short amount of time to explore the interior of the island.

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When to Visit

The best time to visit Isla Mujeres is January through April, when the tropical temperature lingers around 83 degrees. This is also the most touristy time of the year and prices will be higher in hotels and inns.

May to October is when the sun heats up the island, so you will want to be in the water often to cool down. These few months can also be the rainiest time until hurricane season peaks in September. From November to January, hurricane season has passed and the humidity is low.

Experience Centro 

Art and murals are everywhere, telling a story about island life. Brightly painted wooden homes from the 1930s provide a glimpse into the island’s past.

Stroll along the pedestrian street of Miguel Hidalgo to join in the lively ambiance of colorful boutiques, cheerful restaurants and bars plus a variety of tour operators. There are many Isla Mujeres signs, selfie frames and benches to document your visit to the island in photos.

Best Beaches on Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres has white sand beaches and turquoise blue water
Isla Mujeres has white sand beaches and turquoise blue water.
Photo Jill Weinlein

You can walk from the ferry terminal to Playa Norte in about 10 minutes. Along the way are many shops, restaurants, boutique hotels and bars. Playa Norte offers powdery white sand beaches and gorgeous turquoise-blue water. It’s common to see yachts and boats anchored in the distance with passengers snorkeling and swimming in the crystal-clear waters.

Visit A Beach Club 

Along the white sand around the island, there are a variety of restaurants and beach clubs. Here you will find lounge chairs, water sports rentals, Mexican food, margaritas and music. 

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Mar-Bella Fish Market Rawbar & Grill has tables overlooking million-dollar yachts tied to the dock. Next door is a lively beach club to spend the day in the sun and water while enjoying the views. Beach Clubs charge a nominal fee to lounge in a chair and use the facilities.

Rent A Golf Cart

Rent a golf cart to explore the island
Rent a golf cart to explore the island. Photo Jill Weinlein

Golf carts are the best way to get around the island in one day. There are many rental lots near the ferry terminal in Rueda Medina. Prices are between $50-$70 for a two or four-seat cart.

It’s easy to drive around Isla Mujeres because the island is only five miles long and half a mile wide. As with renting any car, do an inspection before taking off and document or take photos of scratches and dents to prove you didn’t do the damage. 

Ride A Bicycle

Bicycles can be rented in town too. Be sure that a lock is included, so you can park at one of the beach clubs to enjoy a cool-off swim. Prices range from $10-$20/day.

Drive or Ride Out to Punta Sur Park

Punta Sur
People come to Punta Sur early in the morning to watch the sunrise. Photo Jill Weinlein

This historic/ecological park at the southernmost end of the island has statues telling the story of the Mayans who used to live here. The focal point is the Mayan goddess Ixchel and the path to the temple ruins.

It’s an outdoor art exhibition by Mexican and international artists. Walk along the paved and dirt trails and steps along dramatic cliffs that lead down to the incredible blue water’s edge.

Sunrise and Sunset 

Punta Sur is on the easternmost side of Isla Mujeres and is the first place where the morning sun rays touch Mexico. In the late afternoon, Playa Norte, on the opposite western side of the island, offers the prettiest orange and magenta sunsets.

Snorkel On the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef 

The water color is an array of blue hues at Isla Mujeres
The water is an array of blue hues at Isla Mujeres. Photo Jill Weinlein

Known as the second-longest coral reef system in the world, the inviting clear turquoise warm water and white sand beaches attract world-class and novice snorkelers and divers.

Ocean scientists have documented over 500 species of fish, 60 diverse coral species, four types of sea turtles, saltwater crocodiles and the largest number of whale sharks in the world.

Swim With Whale Sharks

Swimming with whale sharks is one of the best ways to experience the magic of Isla Mujeres. The waters around the island are on the migration route of whale sharks, making this one of the best places to spot them.

From late May to September, you can swim with these gentle giants in the waters off the coast to see their enormous size up close. Tour boats take inquisitive passengers snorkeling and swimming with whale sharks, plus you might see manta rays and other marine life.

Note: Touching whale sharks or inhibiting them is strictly forbidden.

Zip-line Above the Water

Zip-line across the Caribbean Sea
Zip-line across the Caribbean Sea. Photo Jill Weinlein

Driving to the south end of the island is Garrafon Reef Park and Beach Club. This is where one can soar above the turquoise-blue Caribbean Sea on a zip line to three different towers.

Visit a Cemetery

Isla Mujeres Cementerio Municipal in town is filled with colorful and creatively designed tombs. Little glass boxes have doors that open for loved ones to place offerings to those who have passed on.

You might see a favorite bottle of beer, food, flowers or a photo of the person displayed. During Dia de Los Muertos, this cemetery is filled with bright orange marigolds, flags and families gathering to welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives.

Mayan Ruins at Punta Sur
Be sure to visit the Mayan Ruins at Punta Sur. Photo by Jill Weinlein

Where to Stay on Isla Mujeres

There are different types of accommodations at Isla Mujeres. You can find everything from the new all-inclusive Impression Isla Mujeres by Secrets resort and all-inclusive Mia Reef Isla Mujeres to boutique hotels and oceanfront inns.

Once you experience Isla Mujeres, you will want to return to the laid-back beauty of the Island of Women.

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Author Bio: Jill Weinlein writes about fascinating destinations around the world. When she is not traveling she is riding her e-bike with her husband by the beach or walking her dog named Peanut. She is a frequent writer for Go World Travel.

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