Isla Mujeres often gets overlooked when people plan their Quintana Roo vacations, however this 4 mile long island is a fabulous destination within itself! Isla is a short ferry ride from Cancun, but a world apart. Most people come over for a quick visit but don’t limit yourself to a day trip, book a hotel and stay for a while!
We had never heard of Isla Mujeres until we randomly booked a trip in 2014 over New Year’s Eve. Since then we can’t stop raving about this Mexican paradise.
There’s several reasons to visit this little island, here’s our top 6!
Reason 1: The Water Color
If you’ve been to Cancun or Tulum, you know how beautiful the water is, but the shallow water surrounding Isla is unparalleled. It is bright turquoise with seemingly infinite visibility. Grab a snorkel and jump in! We went diving with Sea Hawk Divers and they were great. Our first dive was at Manchones Reef where we saw several schools of fish, lobster and conchs. Insider Tip: Isla Mujeres is known for its whale sharks and you can snorkel with them from June to September. We visited in January so we missed them, but it is for sure on the bucket list!
On our second dive, we visited the MUSA which is an underwater museum with over 500 life-size sculptures. Several tour companies have snorkeling trips here too so you don’t have to be a certified diver to check it out, but the view from below is up close and personal! Unfortunately our GoPro died during the dive so we couldn’t get as many pictures as we’d like but the few we did are pretty rad!
Reason 2: Sunrises and Sunsets
Because Isla Mujeres is an island it has both stunning sunrises and sunsets over the ocean. These were some of the prettiest ones I have ever seen! It is hard to tell where the calm, clear water meets the iridescent sky. Grab a cocktail, a seat in the sand, and enjoy! We were even lucky enough to catch the illusive green flash at sunrise.
Reason 3: Playa Norte
Playa Norte is the beach area on the north side of the island. It is the most popular part of Isla Mujeres and has a few luxury hotels along with several restaurants. A few of the beach bars, like Buho’s, have cabanas and swings in place of bar stools making for a fun ambiance. Plastic chairs cover the beaches and you can use them for free as long as you’re buying food or drinks from the beachfront restaurants.
Reason 4: The Mopeds
There are few cars on Isla Mujeres due to its small size but there are plenty of golf carts and mopeds. Everything in Playa Norte is easily accessible by foot, but renting a moped to scoot down to the south end of the island is a blast! We discovered some cool spots on the moped that we wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise.
There are several beautiful houses on the drive down, including the famous “Seashell House” which looks like something out of the Little Mermaid. Stop by Villa la Bella, an adorable bed and breakfast, for a relaxing poolside drink. Their sign reads “beer so cold it will make your teeth hurt!” Zama Beach Club is another spot you don’t want to miss on your mini-moped tour. You can eat lunch and lounge on their beach chairs for the day, or stare at the yachts from one of the infinity pools!
Reason 5: Punta Sur
The south side of the island, Punta Sur, is home to Garrafon Natural Park. The park is tiny but consists of a sculpture garden, Mayan ruins, and beautiful cliffs. The views are great, and there are little caves to explore. This side of the island is much more natural and quieter than the north side.
Reason 6: The Food
To be such a tiny island, Isla Mujeres has a fabulous food scene. And it’s not just Mexican food! We chatted with some locals who told us that famous American and European chefs retired on Isla and opened up small restaurants. One of these is Dopi’s, which is a European style seafood restaurant with a drool-worthy paella. We actually got to meet and chat with Dopi, himself! The food is 5 star and the price is reasonable. We loved it so much, we went twice in 4 days!
Rooster is a restaurant you cannot miss when in Isla Mujeres. It has two locations, Rooster Cafe and Rooster on the Go. We first discovered Rooster on the Go on the way to way to our dive shop. We stopped in for some delicious piroshkis. I ordered a savory one which was stuffed with spinach, mushroom, cheese, and onion. Grant choose sweet which was filled with nutella and banana. Both were melt in your mouth, fluffy dough heaven. It was my first piroshki and I am hooked! The coffee shop is adorable and had good wifi, so several people were working or reading while they munched on delicious treats. They also had lots of vegetarian and vegan options, so there is something for everyone!
We later had breakfast at the Rooster Cafe and it was delicious as well. Rooster Cafe is bigger and more crowded but has the same great ambiance as “on the go.” Sip a mimosa and devour an egg bennie as you soak up the Mexican sun!
Isla is also dotted with several other mom and pop Mexican restaurants. We ate lunch at one where it literally had no name and we were in the middle of someone’s kitchen! Get adventurous and try an unassuming “restaurant”, you might be surprised.
From lounging on Playa Norte to scooting around on a moped, Isla is a guaranteed good time. Escape the bustle of Cancun’s hotel zone for a few days. and let this 4 mile island charm you.
For more information on Mexico, grab this Lonely Planet guide book.
Inspired Recipe: Vegan Taco Stuffed Sweet Potatoes from Baked in the South