isla mujeres travel guide

Have you ever wondered what’s it like to travel to Isla Mujeres, Mexico? Is it cheap, pretty, safe? We learned quite a bit in our month there, and have listed all of the highs and lows of this little island.

Time of travel: February 2017

 

I had always imagined Isla Mujeres as a really tiny island with only a handful of shops and restaurants, golf carts traveling down dirt roads, and the easiest fishing and diving in the world.

What I came to find out was only part of that was true. It was about 40-60 on what my perception was vs reality. Here is what we found out.

Island of Women

Isla Mujeres means”Island of Women”, and you can see the Mayan goddess Ixchel (Goddess of childbirth and medicine) throughout the island.

The island is just over 4 miles long and about a half-mile wide. It’s pretty busy in this small area, especially on the northside downtown area. It’s a few miles off of Cancun and you can see the city off to the west.

isla mujeres statue


Places To Stay In Isla Mujeres

We stayed on the boat at the Puerto Isla Mujeres marina. You have to be a member to stay at the hotel. It was beautiful and nice. They didn’t have a restaurant on site so that was a bummer. You could, however, get food at the pool bar.

We stayed at the Mia Reef Resort one night, and honestly, regret it. The place was supposed to be all-inclusive. They had only 2 places open for food and one of those was the pool bar. The other places were closed unless you wanted to pay $200 for dinner. We also couldn’t find the paddleboards that were included either.

When I first started looking for places to stay there didn’t seem to be many options online. Once you get there you discover that many places that don’t even have websites. It’s amazing how many small hotels are hidden above restaurants and shops downtown, and are virtually unknown.

The hotels and condos either seem to be really expensive and nice or cheap. When I say cheap I mean cheap, and you get what you pay for. If you have a hard time finding a place don’t fret too much, because Cancun is about a half hour ferry ride away and much cheaper. Check out Tripadvisor for some suggestions.

When you book make sure to ask a lot of questions. Do they for sure clean the rooms each time (yes, this is a problem), where is it located, what’s included, what am I getting charged for, and any other questions you may have.

We had some friends rent a condo and their water was from a cistern, so it took forever to take a shower and it was cold. The room also hadn’t been cleaned. If these are deal breakers for you make sure to ask. On the plus side, the room was only $60/night and was huge.

isla mujeres skyline


Food

Chicken, rice, beans, and beef seem to be the foods you will find almost everywhere. Most places have a big menu with plenty of delicious options.

Not only does Isla Mujeres boasts great Mexican food, but they have amazing Cuban and Italian restaurants as well.

You typical meal costs about $3-$5 for a big plate of food. If you go to a nicer place downtown you will run into $10-$20 per plate.

Tipping- You need to tip just like you would in America.


Read more: Food Tips


Read more: Favorite Restaurants



 

Isla Mujeres Transportation

In Isla Mujeres, you get around a number of ways: taxi, scooters, or golf cart. If you are staying downtown and don’t need transportation everyday taxis are the cheapest.

You can rent a taxi from one end of the island to the other for about $8 US. Taxis are everywhere, so you never have trouble getting one.

Tip: If you get a taxi right in front of the ferry dock they charge a few dollars more.

Tip: They charge you more after midnight.

Scooters are a fun way to get around the island. Most of them are driven by the locals, but you see tourist on them here and there. You can rent them for about $30 per day. You can even find them for sale at the local grocery store.

Golf carts are by far the most popular way to get around the island. They are fun and easy and can take 4-6 people. You can rent the carts for about $65 per day. The only con to the golf cart was going slow and the time it took to get to some places especially if raining. They have speed bumps every so often to keep traffic slowed down. Make sure to slow way down, because they are big and will rattle you.

The Ferry runs every half hour between Cancun and Isla Mujeres. It’s less than $20 per trip. They run right on time, so make sure you are a little early.

Tip: If you get in line early you can get a seat up top. They have a good view, a singer that plays your entire trip, and snacks for sale.
Tip: They don’t split the roads into lanes like we do in the US. You can pass and swerve in and out of traffic. Be very careful to always pay attention to who is coming behind you!
Tip: They don’t have traffic signs or lights. Always yeild and watch around you. They also don’t have street signs showing you what street you are on. Get a map or use your phone for directions.
Tip: Make sure you lock your scooter and golf cart up everywhere you go. People will take or move your cart if it isn’t. The company itself will even have people who take the carts and bring them back to the shop. If this happens you have to pay to get it back.
Tip: Even if it’s night and businesses are closed DO NOT park in front of no parking signs. They wil move your cart even if they have to run into it to move it.

 

street of isla mujeres


 

Things To Do In Isla Mujeres

Despite Isla Mujeres being a small island, there is a lot to do to keep busy. From fishing and diving charters to relaxing on the beach they have it all.

Beaches

Everyone loves a good beach, so we will start off there.  There really aren’t that many beaches in Isla Mujeres. I imagined it to be just one beach after another, but it was mostly rocky.

The Northside (Playa Norte) of the island has the biggest and best beaches. The beaches aren’t very wide, but the beach on the north side is pretty long. You have to pay attention because part of it is private for the hotels. When it’s busy people from all around pull their boats up to the beach and anchor out for the day. The best part of the Playa Norte beach is all of the cheap massage huts. You can get an hour massage for $30! Some places even include facials.

On the south side of the island there really isn’t any beaches to go too. On the east side if it’s really calm people will go swimming, but you have to be really careful due to all of the rocks.

Garrafon Park 

The Garrafon Park is on the west side of the island towards the end. They have a zip line and beach and advertise snorkeling, but honestly, it isn’t worth it. The zip line is really short, and there isn’t much to look at in the water. You have to stay in a small area, and it can get crowded. You are better off going on a snorkel charter for cheaper.

Punta Sur

Punta Sur is located at the southern tip of the island. It has beautiful views of the ocean that are great for picture taking. Here you can find a statue of the goddess Ixchel. They have a bar/restaurant on the grounds along with some shops. If you wish to tour the outdoor museum and walk to the end it costs about $3. There is also an old lighthouse that makes for some great photo ops as well. Look to spend about 30 minutes here.

Tip- The best way to get there is drive there from the west side of the island and make a loop and take the east road on your way back up.

 

Tortugranja

This is a small turtle conservation park. It takes about a half hour to get through it and has different species of turtles living there.

Dolphin Discovery

Dolphin Discovery is a beautiful spot on the island where you can learn about dolphins and swim with them.

Sightsee 

Just driving around is entertaining enough. I loved looking at all of the beautiful artwork painted on the buildings.

Click Here To See My Favorite Wall Paintings

Shopping

I found shopping to be a bit odd there. My expectations were local stands with handmade crafts everywhere. Yes, you do find some places like that, but the shopping was mostly made up of sidewalk stands that all had the exact same thing. I mean they literally buy from the same factory. Most of it is cheap novelty items, and not much is of actual value. There are a few jewelry stores and that’s about it. Go to Isla Mujeres for the food, not for the shopping.

Diving

Snorkeling and diving is very popular there. They are home to the underwater museum, sailfish and whale shark diving. The waters are crystal clear and offer the same diving conditions as you would see in the Florida Keys.

If you want a fun day trip you can book a charter to dive the cenotes. The dive shops provide transportation to and from along with food. It’s an all day charter so be prepared.

We dove with Casa Del Buceo. They are a great company that is friendly and knowledgeable They customize the dives for you and are very helpful. Their gear is new and in terrific shape. the boat is small, but it’s a short trip so not bad unless you get seasick. I would highly recommend them. They also have a great location right on the water that makes getting your gear and getting on the boat super easy.

It was sailfish season when we went, but there weren’t many around at the time. We opted out of chartering a boat to snorkel with them because they literally take you out on a small boat for about 6 hours and chase fishing boats down trying to find the sailfish. Once they find some they hurry and drop you in the water to snorkel real quick with them. As fun and exhilarating as that sounded we didn’t want to pay all the money to go and possibly not see one. Ask around before you go and see if there have been a lot of them around.

Whaleshark season is in the summer so if you are really wanting to swim with them try to plan your vacation then. They had a few sightings while we were there, but not many.

Fishing

Be aware when taking a fishing charter. Make sure you go with an experienced and reputable boat. I met some people who didn’t research and they literally were taken right offshore and went in circles in the same spot and didn’t catch anything. Make sure your boat will be doing their best to get you fish. If a restroom onboard is a must make sure you confirm that as well. Expect to bring your own drinks and food.

We were lucky to be on a private boat, so could go on our own time.

Click here for more on our fishing in Isla Mujeres 

Day Trip

Take a day trip to Cancun. Since you are just a ferry ride away it’s pretty cheap to head over there for the day. Taxis are much cheaper.

Festivals

Isla Mujeres hosts some amazing festivals for such a small island. While we were there they had the Isla Mujeres Music Festival. It was so much fun and benefited the yellow school house on the island.

Click here for pictures, information, and videos of Jerrod Neimann performing

seagull in isla mujeres


Budget Tips

If you are on a tight budget you can opt for a cheaper hotel- but again you get what you pay for. You can also stay in Cancun and take the ferry over.

Rent a taxi instead of a golf cart.

If you stay downtown you don’t need a taxi and can walk everywhere. There are tons of cheap places to eat on the main restaurant stretch.


Pictures

Interested in seeing more? Click here for our photo gallery!


Click HERE for Other Helpful Things to Know

 


Guidebook: Lonely Planet Travel Guide

More Blog Posts: Isla Mujeres

More Tips: Isla Mujeres Tips

Pictures: Photo Gallery

Does anyone have any questions or anything to add?

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20 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve never heard of this island before – I can’t believe there are big plates of food for $3 to $5!!
    I’m looking to travel to Mexico soon as I’ve never been there and it’s on my bucket list
    I’ll have to check out this island
    Thanks for all the great tips

    • The food is ridiculously cheap! Normally we cook on the boat, but how could you pass up that? If you decide to visit there I can answer any questions you might have prior.

  2. I am so jealous right now! This place looks like tropical heaven! This would be my kind of vacation! If only I had the money! Definitely adding this place to my bucket list!

    • Definitely! If you love the water and being adventurous I recommend going during whaleshark season.

  3. There is just so much to discover in the world and I am so looking forward to checking out Mexico and the nearby islands one day.
    I too am impressed about the food costs, how very affordable

  4. I’ve been to Cozumel and Playa del Carmen but have never heard of this island.Good to know – you offer some great tips on what to avoid and what to see. Thanks!

  5. Wow this looks like the ultimate getaway!! I love food so the low prices are definitely a plus!! Wow those views! Adding it to my travel plans!

  6. The beaches in Mexico are among the worlds best, and Islas Mujeres is clearly no exception. Makes me want to get on a plane and go there now.

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