Isla Mujeres: The 10 best activities + information and travel tips

The first stop on my christmas vacation 2020 was Isla Mujeres. This small island has a rough south and a soft north side. The playa norte often was ranked as one of the most beautiful beaches in México.

The last weeks of the old year I spent in México again, more precisely on Yucatán. My round trip (here you can find the complete travel plan) started this time on the small island Isla Mujeres 13 km north of Cancún. I was there before one time in November 2018, but I only did a day trip and couldn´t visit too much. This time I stayed from 16.-20.12. - enough time to discover the island, go diving and relax a bit.

This blog post is also available in English.

The best travel guide for your trip through Mexico*:

 

Table of contents

 

Overview of Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is only 7 km long and 650 m width and is located 13 km north of Cancún. The only city on the island is located in the north and is also called Isla Mujeres (or sometimes only "Downtown"). I counts (again) to the more than 100 pueblo mágicos in México. Already 500 years b.C. the Maya used the island and build a sanctuary for goddess Ixchel on it. 1517 the spanish conquistador Francisco Hernández de Córdoba discovered Isla Mujeres.

The best beaches are located in the north of the island, you will also find the famous Playa Norte there. The east side is more rough, the waves are higher therer and you will find more stones. On the rugged southern tip, which also defines the most south east part of México, you will find ruins of the temple for Ixchel. On the west coast some hotels and beach clubs were build with nice private beaches. A public and easy accessible beach you can only find in the area around downtown (Playa Sol, Playa Norte).

 

Best travel time

You can visit Isla Mujeres any time during the year. The main season lasts from December till April at temperatures of 26-30°C. May till October temperatures can climb above 30°C, but you will also find more rain during that season. This is the best time to watch the whale sharks, but it is also hurricance season. If you wan t to travel during that time you should inform yourself about the condition before.

You need to bring suncream any time during the year:*

 

How to get there

From San Luis Potosí to Cancún

There is a direct flight* from San Luis Potosí to Cancún with Viva Aerobus or Volaris every day, on saturday even two. Unfortunately the flight times are not the best so sometimes it can make sense to fly via Mexico-City. You will need 2h more (4h in total) but you are more flexible.

 

Via airplane from other destinations

You won´t believer it, but the airport of Cancún is the second biggest airport in Mexico counting the passenger (only Mexico-City has more). If you only count international visitors it is the biggest airport in Latin America. There are direct flights from more than 100 (!) destinations to Cancún. You can find all connections here. Cheap flights are available at Opodo*.

 

From the airport Cancún to the ferry to Isla Mujeres

By Bus / Taxi to the ferry: Leider gibt es keinen Bus* vom Flughafen Cancún direkt zu einem der Fährterminals (siehe unten). Ihr könnt daher entweder den ADO Bus in front of terminal 2, 3 or 4 to Cancún Downtown or Cancún Plaza Kukulcan (hotel zone) (approx. 100 MXN) and from there a cab (50-70 MXN) or Collectivo (30 MXN) to the ferry or you take a taxi in front of the airport (more expensive, maybe you can find somebody to share the price; you can order cabs online).

Tipp: Auf Bookaway.com* könnt ihr super einfach Bus oder Privattransfer zu eurem euer Ziel buchen.

With your rental car: If you booked a rental car* gebucht habt, empfehle ich euch die Anlegestelle Puerto Juarez (siehe unten), denn hier befindet sich direkt davor ein sicheres Parkhaus mit Valet Parking (100 MXN pro Tag). Die Fahrt vom Flughafen dauert etwa 20-25 Minuten und ist relativ einfach (Bundesstraße 307/180). Bitte passt euch an die Geschwindigkeit der anderen Verkehrsteilnehmer an (die Federales kontrollieren hier des Öfteren) und passt auf Straßenschäden auf.


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Ferry terminal of Cancún:

  • Puerto Juarez (Gran Puerto): Puerto Juarez is located in the north of the City. From the big and well equipped terminal every 30-60 minutes between 06:30-22:00 a passenger ferry of Ultramar leaves to Isla Mujeres (return trip every hour between 07:00-23:00). The trip takes 15-20 minutes, the price for tourists is 190 MXN single or 380 MXN return trip. In front of the terminal you will find parking garage with valet parking. You can leave your car here several days for 100 MXN per day.
  • Punta Sam: The only car ferry leaves from Punta Sam to Isla Mujeres. In the past a ticket to take your car cost 482 MXN and the trip took about 45 minutes. You could use the ferry even without a car and it was cheaper than Ultramar. Currently you won´t find information anymore on the webpage of Maritima Isla MUjeres. If you want to use this ferry you should get in contact with the company before, you will find phone number and E-Mail here. I personaly don´t recommend to take your cars. There are already enough cars on the island and also you won´t need it - the island is very small. If you need a transport you can rent a golf cart for less than 40€ a day.
  • El Embarcadero: This pier is located in the hotel zone of Cancún. Three times a day (10:15, 12:15, 13:30) a ferry of Ultramar takes you for 15 USD per person (21 UDS round trip) to the Island. Return trips take place at 11:00, 12:45, 18:00.
  • Playa Tortugas: This pier is also located in the hotel zone of Cancún. Four times a day (10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:15) a ferry of Ultramar takes you for 15 USD per person (21 UDS round trip) to the Island. Return trips take place at 11:00, 12:45, 18:00.
  • Playa Caracol: Also this pier is located in the hotel zone of Cancún. At 11:45 a ferry of Ultramar takes you for 15 USD per person (21 UDS round trip) to the Island. Return trips take place at 12:45 and 18:00.
  • The current schedule you will find on the webpage of Ultramar.
Already in the past when I was on the way to holbox I asked myself how you can play istruments during these waves...

 

My experience: Since I wanted to stay the first four days of my trip on Isla Mujeres I thought it would be better to take bus/cab to the ferry terminal and save a few days of the rental car. But when I compared prices I didn´t really save anything (I did my booking via Billiger-Mietwagen.de* with improved insurance and refund of the deductible). Of course you also need to take the costs of the parking garage into account but with rental car it is also more comfortable and faster. Unfortunately my plan didn´t work out weel: I arrived more than 2h late a the pickup station for the rental car. I called before but it didn´t help - they cancelled my reservation already and gave the car to somebody else (at least that`s what they said). After a very long discussion (you know the tricks of rental car agencies) I received offers for a new reservation. Of course my money was gone (they said they never received it, but I don´t believe that) and I had to take a new reservation for more money with less benefits. So important take-away: Pick up your rental car on time!

 

 

Accomodation

The riviera maya is not cheap anymore, you will notice that especially if you want to be somewhere close to the beach in Cancún, Tulum or Playa del Carmen. Isla Mujeres is fortunately still more or less okay. Your best option is to book a hotel in the north of the island because you will find the best beaches, most restaurants and bars there. Hotels with an own part of the beach are also here a bit more expensive but the island it very small - basically you can also walk from the Inner to the beach.

Recommendations luxury:

  • Mia Reef Isla Mujeres Cancun All Inclusive Resort*: This All-Incluse Hotel is located on an own small island north-east of Playa Norte. Every room has a view on the Ocean, there are centers for Spa- and wellness and a gym. You will also find a private beach and a small reef to snorkel close to the hotel. If you don´t want to stay there but still like to be in the beach club you can buy a day pass for 75 USD.

    The Mia reef on my first visit in 2018. That time the day pass cost 55 USD.
  • Zoetry Villa Rolandi Isla Mujeres Cancun*: Outside of downtown, a bit more to the south, you will find the Zoetry Villa Rolandí. It offers exceptional rooms with view on the Ocean, a gourmet-restaurant, Spa and many water acitivites.

Recommendations middle classe:

  • Hotel Playa La Media Luna*: I stayed in this hotel in the north of the island my first three days. The room in the ground floor was big and good euipped. It had a second door to the terrace (with hammock) which led directly to the pool area (there are two pools, beach chairs and a bar). Behind the pool area you will find a small beach, unfortunately you cannot swim there because of the current and the stones. In many rating the breakfast was not recommended, so I didn´t book it. The Corona measures are taken very serious in the hotel - you even had to go through a desinfectant shower before entering.
  • Nomads Hotel & Beachclub*: Something for the younger people and for backpackers. More south on the island you will find this hostel/hotel with private beach and beach club. There is a cocktail happy hour every day and some activities. You can order a cab or take a golf car to go to the town.

Recommendations budget:

  • Bahia Chac Chi*: This apartment house is located close to the ferry port. It has air-conditioned rooms of different size (some with view on the ocean) and a pool. I stayed another day here after Playa La Media Luna. The price is good, but it was a bit noisy.
  • Hotel Bucaneros Isla Mujeres*: This hotel is located in the middle of downtown. The air-conditioned rooms are quite small and there is no pool. The hotel owns a restaurant with good breakfast.

More hotels you can find on Booking.com:*



Booking.com

 

Sights

1. Isla Mujeres (City)

The touristic center is located in the north of the island. In downtown you will find countless bars, restaurants and souvenir shops. The Calle Miguel Hidalgo is the most important street - here you will definitely find a restaurant if you are hungry. All the promotors are a bit annoying because they will try to attract you to their shops or restaurants. You also should check out the back streets - you will find one or another secret tip there.

 

2. Playa Norte and Playa Sol

The most beautiful and popular beaches are located next to downtown. Playa Norte is normally a bit more crowded than Playa Sol, but in the main season both of them are stuffed with people. There are nice beach clubs which lend you a beach chair if you are going to spend some money for food and drinks. But you can also bring your own cooling box and sit on the beach - in comparison to other areas on Yucatán here everything is still public. Who checked Isla Mujeres already on the satellite view on google maps probably saw that the water at Playa Norte is very narrow. You can walk far before it gets deeper.

You should bring your beack blanket* and the cooling rucksack* for beer and soda!

 

3. Diving-Sites (e.g. MUSA and Manchones Reef)

Close to Isla Contoy, a bit north of Isla Mujeres, starts the mesoamerican reef system. It stretches along the coast of Yucatán till Belize and is the longest border crossing reef of the world and the second biggest coral reef after the Great Barrier Reef near Austalia. Due to that reason you will find many fantastic dive spots. Around Isla Mujeres there are more then 50 dive sites. Next to diving on the reef you can also book tours to wrecks or cenotes (later I will write a report our the Cenote Dos Ojos).

On my first day on the island I did a dive near MUSA (Museo Subacuatico de Arte) and on Manchones reef. I booked it at Carey Dive Center (Website, cost 80 USD). You will find several providers for diving tours on the island, prices are very similar. The tour startet at 8 am and took abou 4.5 hours. Together with some other divers and three guides of the diving center we drove some minutes with a boat to the first station. The Museo Subacatuatico de Arte was opened 2010 and contains more than 1300 sculptures in 12 galeries. At different locations between Cancún and Isla Mujeres you can find sculptures to different topics under water in depths of 8-10 m. You can visit the Museo during dives, snorkelling tours or with glass-bottom-boats. In the gallery near the Manchones reef you can find 473 sculptures, for example a VW beetle, some people in a circle or five bankers who put their heads in the sand. The MUSA was very impressive (which made the Manchones reef later quite boring, even if there was a lot of fish).

Hint: Try your equipment before the tour! I noticed on the way that the DJI Osmo Pocket* does not work with every SD car. I had a 32 GB SanDisk Extreme Plus and a Samsung 64 GB EVO for the vacations. On the morning before the tour I changed to the Samsung card in the hotel and didn´t try the camera. On the boat I noticed that it didn´t like the card and showed an error :(. So I couldn´t take any pictures of the MUSA, but I received some pictures of one of the guides. Back in the hotel I changed to the SanDisk card again and it workd - so you will get pictures of the other adventures of my trip :). Important take-away: Try your equipment before!

 

4. Tortugranja - turtle breeding station

On the west coast in the middle of the Island you can find the Tortugranja - a breeding station for turtles. For only 30 Peso per person (and another 30 Peso if you want to buy some turtle food) you can watch and feed many different sea turtles here. Touching the turtles is not allowed (but they don´t take that too serious since they gave us a baby turtle in the hand). Next to the big hall you will find some bassins with other sea animals. It was interesting, but I think the station is too small for the animals and I wish that they raise the price a bit to build them a better environment.

 

5. Dolphin Discovery

You can find many parks along the Riviera Maya in which you can swim with dolphins (e.g. Dolphin Discovery and several parks of the X-Caret group). Also on Isla Mujeres you will find a dolphin discovery. You can book different packages there, the cheapest ones start at 80 USD but do not contain swimming with the dolphins, only get to know them. Pictures are normally not allowed (they are done by the organizer and can be bought later for 30-50 USD). Even if I was in one of these events before in the Xel-Ha Park I am not a too big fan of it because the animals are living in small areas there normally. If you still want to make that experience I would recommend doing it in the X-Caret park - here the dolphins have a bit more space and you can take pictures from a platform above (I will write a report about that park later).

 

6. Parque Garrafón

On the west coast in the south of the island you will find the adventure park Garrafón (Website). Depending on the package you booked you can take part in different acitivies there, e.g. snorkelling, swim with dolphins, use kayaks, zip lines, swim in an infinity pool or visit a Temazcal (traditional steam bath). The cheapest packages start at 89 USD per day inclusive open bar, buffet lunch, snorkel gear, life jackets, kayaks, lockers, temazcal and beach chairs (if you book some days ahead you will get some discount). Most tourists arrive with a boat from Cancún that why transportation from Cancún hotel zone is included (but you need to pay 250 MXN for the port; the boat starts at 9am, you should arrive 30 minutes before). You can also arrive on your own to the park (e.g. with a golf cart or taxi). On my second day on Isla Mujeres I drove around the island with a Golf Car but I arrived at noon to the park and decided it was too late to enter (if you spent so m much money you should stay the whole day).

By the way: Due to the pandemic I bought my own snorkel gear before the vacations. You never know how a rented snorkel was cleaned before so I wanted to be on the safe side. I ordered a good set from Cressi (Big eyes mask, snorkel and fins)*:

 

7. Punta Sur

On the south tip of the island you will find the southernmost point of Mexico: Punta Sur. Here the oceans shows its rough side - there are big rocks and cliffs. Also you will find a small scultpure park there, rests of the temple for the Goddess Ixchel and some nice hiking trails around he rock. The entrance cost 30 Peso and is worth it. A shop for souvenirs and a restaurant is located near the entrance.

If you arrive early and bring your drone you can take beautiful pictures of the sunrise. Currently I recommend the DJI Mini 2*for beginners. This drone it very light, fits in every pocket and is relatively cheap:*

 

8. Tour to Isla Contoy

Here you can find my report about the day trip to Isla Contoy.

 

9. Swimming with whale sharks

From June till September you can swim with whale sharks in the regions of Isla Mujeres, Holbox and Isla Contoy. Whale sharks are with a length of up to 14m the biggest sharks and biggest fish on our planet. They usually eat plankton, that´s why they are not too dangerous for humans. Because these animals are protected you should only book tours with licensed guides. Unfortunately the whale shark season near Yucatán is also the hurricance season. If you don´t want to book your travel during that time I recommend a whale shark tour in Los Cabos. There you can find the animals in the main searon from December till March.

 

10. Kin Há! (Parque de Los Sueños)

Also on the road to Punta Sur but a bit north of Parque Garrafon you will find the beach club Kin Há! (it was called Parque de Los Sueños in the past). It contains several pools, a port with beach chairs and a good restaurant with diversified dishes. You can rent Kayak and Paddle-Board, go diving or climb on a climbing wall. Of course there are also hammocks. The entrance fee is 480 MXN per person (300 MXN of that will be taken into account if you buy food or drinks). Actitivies and equipment are included, you only need to pay 500 MXN as security deposit (per group) for the equipment. Here you can find the webpage..

 

 

Hints

Golf Carts

There are many rental stations for Golf Carts or scooters in downtown. I rented at Rentadora Joaquin a Golf cart for a complete day for only 800 Peso (33€). You need to bring an ID (best case your drivers license^^) and to sign a contract. The Golf carts have a full tank, you don´t need to refuel (the island is small). Also the carts have Lights and mirrors. Often the steering is a bit loose, but it works safe enough for a tour around the island.

7pm we had to return the Golf Cart - fortunately it had lights

 

Withdraw money

In downtown you can find several banks. I had the best experience with the HSBC next to the ferry terminal. There I could withdraw money without limit (at least I didn´t reach any limit by withdrawing 12.000 Peso). By the way, I usually use the Santander 1Plus Visa - you can pick up to 4 times per month worldwide money with it (without paying any fees) and you get a 1% discount for paying gas (also worldwide). The payment target is 30 days (in the past you could always withdraw money for free internationally, but they changed it).

 

Recommendations for restaurants

There are countless restaurants along Calle Miguel Hidalgo. But the side streets are also worth a look - there you can find some secret tipps.

Mahaché Fish & Grill

Definitely one of the highlights during my stay. Very delicious fish and interesting dishes. I ate the carriebean snapper tamale - it was fantastic! The price per main dish is between 10-15€. Here you can find the restaurant..

Very delicious!

 

El Patio Casa de la Musica

The food was not so good, but the atmosphere is very nice and there is almost every evening good live music. My recommendation for some drinks after the dinner in Mahaché. Here the address..

Already hungry?

 

La Playita

Nice atmosphere directly at the beach. Some evenings you will also find live music here. Ask for the seafood sampler - for 800 Peso you will get a big collection of fish and seafood (enough for 2 persons). If didn´t eat a fresher fish during my 4 days on the island. Here you can find the restaurant..

 

Café Mogagua

Super delicious breakfast and good cappuccino! It is a bit more expensive, but the taste is worth it. Here you will wind your breakfast..

 

You want to cook like Mexicans? Then I can reommend the following cookbook* . I gave it to my mum as a present and she loves it:*

 

Conclusion Isla Mujeres

I really enjoyed isla Mujeres! The island is small, but there is still enough to do for 3-4 days. I recommend a hotel in downtown because the best beaches can be reached by foot from there and the Calle Hidalgo with all the restaurants is around the corner. In comparison to Holbox and Cozumel Isla Mujeres has the best overal package in my opinion (but it is the smalles of the three): It is easier reachable (if you want to get to Holbox you first need to drive 2h from the airport to the ferry in Chiquilá) and the beaches are close to the touristic center (on Cozumel the best beaches are on the east side and you need a ride to get there). Still all three islands have their charm. But if you don´t have much time you should decide for Isla Mujeres.

 

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