3 DAYS ON ISLA MUJERES
Isla Mujeres is a tiny Island just off the coast of Mexico from Cancun. The high-speed ferry only takes half an hour, but once you step off onto the island you are a world away from the huge resorts and spring break atmosphere of Cancun. Here you’re on island time, and there’s nothing better to do than to relax on the white sand beaches, eat the authentic food, and try a cocktail or two. Wondering what you can get up to, check out my travel guide and recommendations for 3 days on Isla Mujeres.
BREAKFAST AT COCO JAGUAR
Start your day right with breakfast at this sweet little cafe in the local part of Isla Mujeres. Instead of jostling shoulders with tourists, you’ll watch the locals going about the beginning of their day. The food here was exceptional and was super photogenic. We ordered the breakfast burrito, Eggs Benedict, and a local dish, Chilaquiles Verdes with baked eggs. It was all so tasty. Don’t miss this sleepy little cafe, it was our favourite breakfast place on the island.
RELAX ON THE BEACH
One of your first stops has to be the beaches on Isla Mujeres. They are your quintessential Mexican beach with white sand and blue water that takes your breath away. Luckily they didn’t seem to be plagued by the same seaweed problem as the mainland, so the beaches were relatively pristine. The easiest to access and largest are at the northern end of the island. Playa Norte, Playa Sol and Playa El Cocal. They are lined with palm trees, restaurants, and bars. You can hire sun lounges or sunbeds, and they provide food and drink service right to where you are on the beach (just be patient, you’re on island time now). They’re also the busiest on the island, so be prepared to share your beach and deal with the usual hawkers.
HIRE A GOLF BUGGY AND GO FOR A DRIVE
Isla Mujeres is tiny, so the easiest and cheapest way to get around is by golf buggy. Many shops are renting them on the main road into town, especially when you walk straight out of the ferry terminal. The prices change according to high and low season and it’s a good idea to research the normal rate before you go (just to make sure you don’t pay a higher price). We paid the equivalent of 80 EURs for 2 days hire for a standard buggy.
I highly recommend it. It’s so much fun to roar around the Island on your personal golf buggy, and you literally roar. They’re noisy and smelly, and probably really bad for the environment, but so much fun.
The Company we went with was Gomar. They’re right across from the ferry terminal on the main road. The golf buggies are cheap and could do with maintenance, but ours ran fine (except for the key falling out of the ignition when you went over speedbumps). Another recommended place is Golf Carts Indios if you want a more stylish version.
LUNCH AT COCO SNACK BEACH BAR OR SUNSET
You need to experience lunch on the beach on Isla Mujeres at least once, and this is a nice place to do it. You can eat on the beach lounges, or at the tables on the beach, or on the wooden deck in the shade. It’s not cheap to eat here, but it surprised us at how tasty it was (we were expecting expensive, touristy food). The chicken nachos had the perfect mix of ingredients and flavouring. If you want to splash out try the Crazy Cocktails. You can get a Piña Colada in an actual pineapple, or a tequila drink in a coconut. It’s also perfect for a sunset with a bucket of Coronas.
VISIT THE WOMEN'S BEADING COOPERATIVE
The Women’s Beading Cooperative is a great initiative run by the locals so women can support themselves from the island’s tourism. It’s a tiny little shop in the La Gloria part of the island. You’ll definitely want a golf buggy or scooter to get here, as it’s not in the central part of town. The beads are beautiful and you can buy necklaces, rings, bracelets, and earrings. If you’re after a souvenir or a gift from Mexico this is the perfect place to get it. Prices range from around 10 – 30 USD and each creation has a name on it so you know which lady you’re supporting.
SWIM WITH WHALE SHARKS
In August the whale sharks gather in huge numbers off the coast of Isla Mujeres. You can check out my indepth guide on how to do it and what it’s like. There are many tour companies and the choice can be overwhelming. I’ll make it easy for you and recommend Casa del Buceo as the only company you should do your whale shark tour with. They’re safety conscious for their travellers and the environment, and their guides are passionate about the whale sharks.
Whale shark tours start early in the morning, and Casa del Buceo’s is one of the first to reach the whale shark feeding area. They leave at 7am and ask you to turn up fifteen minutes before.
The actual experience of swimming with whale sharks is absolutely amazing. They are huge and have no fear of humans. You can swim beside them, and have the uncanny experience of a giant of the ocean staring back at you. They look like they move slowly, but their slow is our fast, so having a good level of swimming ability would be recommended. We also saw turtles, dolphins, and manta rays to make the day just that much more dreamlike.
You get plenty of swims with the whale sharks before the boat heads back to Isla Mujeres for an early lunch at Playa Norte. After the excitement and activity of the morning, it’s nice to relax in the blue water with a cold beer and sandwich (all included). More in-depth information on swimming with whale sharks can be found in my other travel guide.
LUNCH AT RUBEN'S
This place is in the central town on Isla Mujeres and is cheap and cheerful. The plates when they come out are huge so maybe share if you don’t eat a lot. All the ingredients are very fresh and the food was colourful and tasty. It’s a vibrant building inside and out and only has a few tables. After your large meal, it’s probably time for a siesta.
SUNSET FROM AMAZONA BEACH BAR BY MAR-BELLA
If you’re looking for a beautiful sunset and a great experience then take your golf buggy to Amazona Beach Bar by Mar-Bella. It’s a perfect way to end a perfect day on the island. They have comfortable lounges that you can use if you’re buying drinks or food and instagrammable hammocks in the water. The service here was exceptional! They couldn’t do enough for us and went out of their way to give us a great experience. We were just going to stay for a margarita, but we ended up staying for dinner, and I’m so glad we did. Warning, this could possibly be your most expensive meal on the island (it was for us), but the food was incredible and fresh. They call themselves a fresh market and raw kitchen, meaning they specialise in fresh seafood cooked to your choosing or left deliciously raw. It can be overwhelming so ask for their recommendations.
We had the raw tuna tostadas, which were mouth-watering. Citrusy, and a little bit creamy, and the freshest, tastiest tuna. We also ordered snapper fillets cooked in the best herb sauce I’ve ever tasted, and Carribean style rice.
BREAKFAST AT MANGO CAFE
Mango Cafe is an institution for breakfast on Isla Mujeres. The building is a riot of colours with the walls painted different colours and the tables and chairs other colours. The menu is extensive and filled with tasty-sounding dishes like Huevos Ranches, Eggs Benedict, and their famous french toast. They have self serve endless Mexican coffee (hot, strong, with cinnamon, but not Australian quality coffee).
Punta Sur is a headland on Isla Mujeres with an ancient Mayan Temple to the Goddess Ixchel, Goddess of the Moon. The ruin is very ruined so there’s not much to see there, but the headland its self is beautiful, with the stunning crystal blue water of Mexico surrounding it. There’s little twisting paths that you can explore and a few areas where you can go swimming if you don’t mind dealing with rocks. There are several iguanas hanging around for photos, and interesting birdlife. There was once a permanent sculpture exhibition but that has been removed for renovations or wear and tear and hasn’t been replaced. There’s a restaurant that you can go to for lunch, a few little cafes, and some lovely looking shops with clothes and souvenirs. While I was there it was free to visit due to the sculptures missing.
DIVE OR SNORKLE THE UNDERWATER MUSEUM
Just off the coast of Isla Mujeres is MUSA, the underwater museum that has inspired so many others. It was actually started by a Marine Biologist to try and protect the existing reef from over-tourism. It’s worked spectacularly, channelling most of the interest to the man-made cement sculptures, which are now growing their own reef and encouraging alternative ecosystems for the fish and crustaceans. The museum has about twelve different “galleries” all with a theme of climate change. Our dive started at one end and we slowly made our way through about nine of them. If you can dive I would recommend it over snorkelling, as the depth is about eighteen meters, so you see much more from down below. Again we did our dive with Casa del Buceo and they were great. All our gear was provided, they made sure we were comfortable and looked after us above and below the water. We also got a second dive on the actual reef, which is full of sea fans and fish.
LUNCH AT LA LOMITA
This place is in a back street in the central part of the island. It’s small and local looking with flowers painted on the walls and yellow plastic tablecloths. You have to order the ceviche here, it turned out to be the best I had in my entire time in Mexico. It was flavoured with citrus and salsa, and the fish was perfectly cooked by the lime. The guacamole and salsas were so tasty and so were the grilled octopus and prawns. If you order the cocktails you’ll be set with just one, they’re so strong. We left slightly tipsy after our margaritas. It’s cheap and local and perfect for an authentic Mexican meal.
VISIT THE ISLA BREWING COMPANY
The island has its own tiny brewing company. You can pop in most days and chat with the friendly guys that staff the shop. They will do a tasting flight with you on the seven beers that the brewery makes. They explain the flavours and the idea behind the beers. Paying isn’t necessary, but a tip is suggested, and I’d recommend it. I really liked the Indian Pale Ale, and the Hibiscus Beer was a really interesting flavour.
DINNER AT JAVI'S CANTINA
Javi’s Cantina is very close to the ferry terminal and within the centre of town. It’s a simple, casual restaurant serving up tasty food. They have live music usually every night and inside and outside dining areas. The fish tacos were delicious, and their famous parmesan crumbed fish was rich, cheesy, and tasty. They’re also famous for their beef cuts if you’re sick of seafood.