It's Jason from Carltonaut's Travel Tips. Isla Mujeres is a small island off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. It's a popular tourist destination because of it's white sandy beaches, shopping and opportunities to explore old Mayan ruins. If a trip to Cancun is on your list of places to visit, make sure Isla Mujeres (translated to “Island of Women”) is on your itinerary.
Here are five things you must do during your visit to Isla Mujeres.
Rent a Golf Cart
When you first arrive at Isla Mujeres, you may notice there are golf carts everywhere. It's probably the number one choice of travel for tourists on the island. While there are some amazing beaches within walking distance of the ferry docks, a golf cart will allow you to explore much more of the island if your time is limited.
If you want to head south to visit the Mayan ruins, the golf cart may be your best option. There are taxis on the island as well, but that isn't nearly as much fun as a golf cart.
You won't have to walk far to find a place renting golf carts. Prices may vary a little by shop, but plan on anywhere from $45-$75 for a day. If your time on the island is a few hours, you can negotiate a price based on how long you'll have the cart. I would also recommend bringing pesos, although some places also accept US dollars and credit cards.
Snorkel at Playa Norte
Playa Norte is a 10-minute walk north from the ferry pier. You'll find white sand and warm shallow water. It's those features that make Playa Norte the most popular beach at Isla Mujeres. Despite the crowds, the warm shallow water is popular for families with young kids.
There are many restaurants along the beach, so check them out if you want to grab a quick bite to eat or something to drink.
Just around the corner from Playa Norte is a great spot to do some snorkeling with some fish. Head east under the bridge and the shallow area on the other side is great for snorkeling. If you lay still on the water, the fish will swim all around you. You may find yourself bumping into people if it's crowded, so just be mindful of others.
Some advice: If you plan to float on the water while snorkeling, put sunblock on the back of your legs. My wife's legs became red as lobsters and she couldn't sleep well for the next few days because every touch of her legs hurt.
Explore Mayan Ruins
At Punta Sur, you'll find a sculpture garden that highlights the Mayan culture. There are also ancient Mayan ruins – likely a temple built centuries ago. The elements have worn down the ruins over time, so they aren't comparable to what you'll see at Chichen Itza, but they're still neat to explore. Plus, the 65-foot high cliffs boast great views of the water below, along with a distant view of Cancun.
If you do venture to Punta Sur, make sure you have your camera with you to capture the picturesque views.
Test Your Bargaining Power
Are you good at negotiating? If so, you'll be able to save A LOT of money on souvenirs. Every shop we looked at for souvenirs has a starting price. We were able to negotiate the price down as much as 50%. We may have been able to go down even further, but we weren't quite willing to walk away because we didn't want to spend our entire time on the island negotiating prices for souvenirs.
If you don't like negotiating, and you don't like being pestered by shop owners to buy their stuff, you may want to avoid shopping. As we walked down the street, every shop owner was standing at their door, strong encouraging us to enter – “prices so low they are almost free!” While their sales tactics gave us a good chuckle, it also became annoying after a while and we had to politely decline the invitation.
Grab a Bite to Eat
Isla Mujeres has plenty of restaurants. You can find places with cheap street food, or you can dine at higher-end restaurants. During our visit, we ate at a place called Icebar. It's in the middle of the island's west side, along Carretera Sac Bajo road. It was a nice little place on the beach. If you're only on Isla Mujeres for a day trip, you'll find lots of little places to grab an ice cream or other treat.
Good to Know
Where: Isla Mujeres is located roughly 13 milometers northeast of Cancun, Mexico. A 15-minute ferry ride is available from downtown Cancun to the island.
When: The island is open year-round. Peak seasons include the holidays and spring break. Summer is the rainy season. You'll find the lowest prices and lightest crowds in the fall.
How Much: The ferry between Cancun and Isla Mujeres is $300 pesos (about $15USD) for a round trip ticket. The ferry departs every half hour from 5 AM to 9 PM from Puerto Juarez, a few minutes from downtown Cancun.
How Long: You can spend however much time you would like at Isla Mujeres. You can book your hotel on the island and spend most of your time there. Or you can take a day trip from Cancun. I recommend at least a half-day so you can explore, shop and relax at the beach. Take your time… you're on vacation.