December 17, 2017

5 Things To Do On Isla Mujeres

Friends, let me tell you about Isla Mujeres. You need it in your life. I went earlier this year with Mr. Wonderful and was, in one word, relaxing. Sound good? I’ve got an Isla Mujeres guide for you.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission for purchases made by making a purchase a things I recommend.

This tiny island is a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancun, Mexico. It’s a breezy ride, and if you’re lucky, you might have some on-board live music (and if you’re really lucky, it might be good).

I’m not a huge fan of Cancun, but airfare can be cheap and that ferry ride to Isla Mujeres is quick. Seriously, look how cheap the airfare to Mexico is on CheapoAir!

Isla Mujeres is the place to go when you need to slow down. Sure, you could find some adventure there. But Mr. Wonderful and I planned a kid-free vacation to Isla Mujeres so that we could rejuvenate. I started with an Isla Mujeres Bucket List, and here’s what I learned from the trip:

  1. Research hotels and book based on your vacation goals.

Isla Mujeres is pretty small, but it has a ton of hotel, AirBnB, and resort options. Most will be the center of town on the north side of the island where the most of the restaurants, shops and tour pick-ups are. It’s close to the ferry port and the best beach (Playa Norte).

TripAdvisor is a good place to start your search for Isla Mujeres hotels.

The view from our Isla Mujeres hotel. There was a tiny pool and a private beach.

We wanted to be away from the hustle, and while it’s a stretch to call anything activity on the island “hustle” – things pretty much shut down after 8 p.m. – we opted to stay on the quieter south end of the island.

The downside? Nothing was within true walking distance, except for the private beach at the hotel. Which was totally what we wanted, so not a downside for us.

It also meant we had to…

  1. Rent a golf cart.

It is cheaper to use taxis on Isla Mujeres, yes, but you don’t get that ocean breeze going through your hair inside a taxi. I recommend renting a golf cart for a day.

A popular way to get around the small Mexican island, Isla Mujeres, is golf cart.

We did it for two days, and that was pretty unnecessary in the end. We got most of our sight-seeing done in one day. Still, I loved cruising around in our little cart. If you have a portable speaker, pack it for your trip so you can enjoy music on the drive.

Research where you rent your cart, though. We got ours at the place billed as haing the fastest golf carts, but that came with the “expense” of going through two duds before we got one that didn’t die on us.

  1. Eat at these restaurants

For such a tiny island, Isla Mujeres has an abundance of great dining options, especially if you love seafood. The restaurants right on the beach, where you’re literally sitting there with your flip-flopped feet in the sand, are adequate, but the real good stuff is away from the beach.

Our most memorable dining experience was at El Veradero, a Cuban restaurant on the island. It had the best food, best atmosphere, and best live music.

There are three that were the highlight of our trips. The most memorable, by far, was El Varadero. This Cuban restaurant is on a port that attracts an international yachting crowd, but we arrived via taxi along a nondescript residential street. Everything about this place is the stuff of vacation legends: Off-the-beaten path restaurant with great food, great setting, great live music, and great people watching. 

My other two favorites were definitely designed to appeal to Americans looking for something a little familiar but not too touristy: Mango Cafe and Green Verde. Mango Cafe was a cute restaurant in the middle of the island, away from the super touristy area. The coconut french toast is a must-order, as is the fresh fruit. While you’re in the neighborhood, cross the street to an open-air church and charming lookout.

Green Verde had the best tacos on the island.

Green Verde was the only restaurant we visited twice…because the tacos were that good. I never order the same thing twice on vacation, but I had to get the chicken tacos twice in two days. So good. And, it’s a lovely place to relax.

Cheap Roundtrip Flights to Mexico!
  1. Get a massage…on the beach.

You can get a massage, on the beach, for about $30 an hour. It’s a steal.

The open air massage tents at one of the beaches on Isla Mujeres.

One caveat? It’s totally not private, at least at the massage tables at Playa Centro… and there’s a good chance music will be blaring since it is a beach and all. The tent probably has a couple tables, and if you’re not there in a two-piece, you’re going to pull some outstanding contortionist tricks trying to undress without flashing the world. It can be done, I promise.

It’s not my ideal setting, and I half-worried about closing my eyes for too long and having my purse walk off. But still. $30 an hour for a professional massage? Yes, please.

  1. Be smart about Avenida Hidalgo.

The main drag on Isla Mujeres is Avenida Hidalgo, a pedestrian-only street filled with souvenir shops and restaurants that appeal to tourists. If you’ve been to one like this, you’ve been to them all – the restaurants look inviting but the food is mediocre, the drinks are watered down, and the souvenirs shop employees will call out to you. It can be overwhelming for the uninitiated.

Avenida Hidalgo appeals to tourists because of abundance souvenir shops and restaurants.

Still, I wouldn’t necessarily say “Skip it.”

My recommendation is to grab a table on the sidewalk and order a cerveza, then enjoy the people watching. Don’t fall for the BOGO offers on drinks, though. In my limited experience, the mixed drinks were disappointing, and I won’t fall for it again.

Another good idea is to go to Avenida Hidalgo early in the day. We had a wonderful, low-key breakfast at Rooster (another one of those restaurants that appeal to Americans for the food, decor and music). We got there early and then walked a few blocks to Playa Norte afterward.

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Need more ideas for Isla Mujeres vacation? Check out my Isla Mujeres Bucket List!

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February 16, 2017

My Isla Mujeres Bucket List

I’ve been told some stories about Isla Mujeres, a tiny island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

That it’s so small, visitors and locals use golf carts to get around.

That if you time your visit right, you can swim with whale sharks.

That you mostly spend your vacation days sitting on a beach.

A wish list of things to see and do on the idyllic island in Mexico, Isla Mujeres

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission for purchases made by making a purchase a things I recommend. 

Isla Mujeres sounds pretty idyllic. I’m headed there soon, so I made a big wish list of what I’d like to do if time and money weren’t an issue. Truthfully, I will just be sitting, reading, and sleeping most of my vacation. But, if I do get up and find myself a golf cart, here are some other things I’d go do:

Swim With Whale Sharks

Statue of a whale shark on Isla Mujeres (which is probably how close I’ll get to seeing a real one since I’m not going during the season you’d find them in Mexico). Photo by Kirt Edblom on Flickr.

This is on the bucket list, but I know full well I won’t be doing it. Wrong time of the year. If you want to swim with these gentle giants, you need to visit between June and September.

Chill at Playa Norte

Isla Mujeres is about 5 miles long, so it’s entirely possible that I will be at Playa Norte daily without much of a hassle. It’s the most popular beach on the island.

Explore Isla Mujeres By Golf Cart

You’ve got to love a vacation destination that’s small enough to explore that all you need is a golf cart. Photo by Shinya Suzuki on Flickr.

While we plan on getting around the island by bikes most of the time, it sounds so fun to rent a golf cart and zoom around the island.

Related post: 5 Things To Do On Isla Mujeres

Eat. A lot.

It’s a small island but it is loaded with good restaurants. A lot specialize in fresh seafood because, come on, it’s an island. Among the ones that rank high on travel lists and get featured on blogs a lot are Ballyhoo Restaurant & Margaritas, Mango Cafe and Lolo Lorena. Lolo Lorena sounds like an especially unique dining experience. I also have Bastos Grill, Greenverde, Ruben’s and La Lomita on my list.

Try Mexican Specialties

While on the topic of eating…Yucantan has some noted foods that I want to try, including a citrus roasted pulled pork specialty that originated there called Cochinita pibil. I read about it here, a post about Mexican food I’ve never heard of before, including fruits like nance fruit and guaya fruit (which sounds trick to eat), and cheese-stuffed street food called marquesitas.

Underwater Museum

The surreal-looking sculptures that create a reef in an underwater museum in Mexico called Museo Subacuatico de Arte. Photo by Andy Blackledge on Flickr.

There’s a surreal-looking sculpture garden off the island is not only beautiful to see while snorkeling or diving, it’s also functional by contributing to the reef structure and growth of coral. I’d love to see the Museo Subacuatico de Arte, plus learn how it helps keep the environment healthy for marine life. More information here.

Shop The Women’s Beading Cooperative

This place looks like a nice place to purchase homemade gifts to bring home.

Visit A Turtle Farm

The island has a sanctuary for sea turtles called NAME. Here, they have a hatchery and regularly release the hatchlings to sea.

Zip Line Over Water

You can zip line over the ocean on Isla Mujeres. Photo by Grisha Levit on Flickr.

How often do you get to zipline over an ocean? Garrafon Natural Reef Park offers that experience on Isla Mujeres.

Find The Recycled Bottle Island

There is a man-made island found on Isla Mujeres that’s kept afloat by recycled plastic bottles (it’s called Joyxee Island or Joyxee Island II). A quick tour can be arranged. Sounds like the sort of oddity I need to see while on vacation. Here’s the Trip Advisor page on it.

See Mayan Ruins

You can find incredible ruins in Mexico, and for the best preserved, I know we need to go to the mainland. Isla Mujeres does have some remains of ruins, though. Being on the east side of the island, they’re said to be important in that they’re the first to have the sun hit them each day.

Sea Kayak

Our little hotel has some kayaks available for guests to use, so why not try sea kayaking? Since this is a bucket list post, I’d like to imagine we’d have a guide who’d take us to gorgeous locals. The likely scenario, though, will be that Mr. Wonderful and I will strike out on our own and we’ll get tired 5 minutes into it.

Find A Cenote

Mexico is known for cenotes, underground, water-filled caves. There aren’t any on the island, so if I were to swim in one, I’d have to go inland. There are a few on the Yucatan, so who knows? Someday I’ll find one.

Find a hotel on Isla Mujeres

We opted to book a small hotel located outside the busy island center. It had a small pool overlooking the ocean. Isla Mujeres has a range of hotel accommodations to suit any budget, including luxurious options. Check out Isla Mujeres hotels on TripAdvisor, where you can see guest reviews as well as what amenities are available at each.

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