Isla Mujeres, a small island just off the coast of Cancun is famed for its pristine beaches and serene ambiance. Most people pencil a visit to the island in as a short day trip from Cancun, but I had no problem filling three days there and could have easily stayed longer. Three days were just enough to explore the island and build in some lazing-time. I stayed at a dreamy B&B; Icaco Island Village, which made the experience all the more blissful. During the day, many tourists from Cancun cross the water to have a sun soaked day on the soft sand beaches or stroll through the vibrantly colorful town. Others rent a golf cart to enjoy the rugged coast, the south coast beach clubs, or the Mayan ruin at Punta Sur, the most southern point of the island and of Mexico. For the activity seekers there’s zip-lining, visiting a turtle sanctuary or snorkeling.
How to get there
Isla Mujeres is only a 30-minute ferry ride from Cancun. With frequent ferries departing almost every 30 minutes, it’s easy to plan the cross over. There are two ports in Cancun to embark: the hotel zone or Puerto Juarez. Tickets are available on the Ultramar website or at the ticket office at the port.
How to get around
Isla Mujeres hardly has any cars, except for the taxis. The best way to get around is by golf cart. You can rent them by the hour or by day for approx Mxn $600-700. There are numourous rental agencies across the ferry terminal. The island is just 10 km long and only has one main road going around the coastline, so navigating the island can be done without a map.
Where to stay overnight
As mentioned before I stayed at the B&B or boutique hotel as you like, Icaco Island Village which is laidback luxury at its best. Another great option is the elegant design Hotel Secreto that is right on the beach. For the luxury seekers there’s Zoetry Villa Rolandi Resort.
The best of Isla
Start your golf cart ride by navigating through the small streets of the town and drive straight to the Isla Mujeres sign for that must-have photo as proof that you really been to Isla. Once you have that instagram photo in your feed, head east on the northern coastal road. Take in the beautiful wild and rugged coastline and feel the tropical breeze in your face.
For breakfast or a mid morning coffee make a stop at Mango Cafe, renowned for their coconut French toast and unique Eggs Benedict. Continue your way to Punta Sur (south point), where you get to enjoy a marvelous view on the majestic cliffs and turquoise blue ocean. Roam the small sculpture park or visit the Mayan temple dedicated to Ixchel (entrance fee MXN $30).
Continue your way on the southern coastal road to Garrafon de Castilla, to pull over to admire the blue waters of the Caribbean sea with Cancun and Playa del Carmen on the horizon. Here’s also the entrance to the park where dare devils can zip line over the water or dive to the underwater museum. Only a few hundred meters further down the road is Beach club Captain Dulche where you can enjoy either the beach or the pool. This playful beach club is great for families with kids.
Seafood fest at Mar-Bella
For lunch and a more cosmopolitan beach experience you go further down the road to Beach Club and Seafood restaurant Mar-Bella. This small and intimate beach club has that mondain ambiance you find in Saint Tropez but without pretentiousness and with a Mexican warmth. Their seafood market menu is boasting with fish that is freshly caught that day and therefore changes daily. While I was there basking in the sun, I actually saw the fishermen bringing in their catch. I recommend the coconut shrimp, the grilled tuna or the octopus. At sundown Mar-Bella is the perfect spot to devour a grilled fish assortment accompanied by a tropical cocktail. http://www.mar-bella.com.mx/en/
Only a few steps next to Beach Club Mar Bella is Albatros Beach Club with its famous swings and hammocks in the sea, right across from Amazona Beach Bar. This beach club is always busy as the day trip group tours from Cancun use this beach club as their anchor place. Boatloads of tourists pop in and out all day long.
Stylish sunbathing at Zama
The most stylish and glamourous beach club and ocean front restaurant on the island is Zama. With an extensive cocktail menu, plunge pools and pools, and plenty of loungers and day beds on the beach, this is the place for happy hour. Its cosmopolitan vibe and trendy decor make this beach club my favourite one! Zama is also where you would go for a sunset dinner and culinary journey of designer dishes by an award winning chef. https://www.zamaislamujeres.com/
The best sunset
Isla Mujeres treats you to amazing sunsets which are best viewed from Playa Norte (north beach), in particular at Beach Club Green Demon with a cocktail in hand.
El Pueblo – Going into town
The small but always bustling town is the first thing you’ll see when you disembark the ferry. The grid of narrow streets is lined with colorful facades, lively terraces and lots of souvenir shops. Walls and doors are adorned with street art making ‘el pueblo’ like an open air modern art museum.
Shopping Mexican design
Among all the tacky souvenir shops with piles of shells and rows of tequila shot glasses there’s one shop that stands out and that’s El Negrito Boutique located in a small inner square between Avenida Hidalgo, Matamores and Juarez. El Negrito Boutique is a luxury lifestyle boutique with Mexican designer pieces, all handmade and unique for men, women and your home. Examples are jewelry by Maria Maha with fringes and delicate beading, exquisite scented candles hand poured and made of 100% soy and natural aromas in Monterrey or hand woven dresses from Guadalajara made by using a loom and spun of raw, organic cotton. https://elnegritoboutique.com/
Where to eat
For breakfast head to Chaya & Cacao. This cute European style place with a cosy living room decor and intimate outdoor seating, serves the best coffee and has a healthy, bio and island fresh, farm-to-table menu. Think Chai tea, Maca, Matcha or green smoothies, avocado toast, banana bread, whole wheat bread with eggs any style, falafel or hummus. There are many vegan options as well. Chaya & Cacao is also great for lunch! – Avenida Matamoros
By the same owner as Chaya & Cacao and just as delightful is Lola Valentina where breakfast, lunch or dinner are equally good. The unique take on Caribbean fusion cuisine results in some mouth watering dishes. For breakfast opt for the coconut French toast, pancakes or Caribbean Eggs Benedict, and one of their fresh juices. At dinner time you can expect tamarind fish, coconut shrimp, stuffed poblano pepper, vegetables sautéed in coconut oil, tostones or ceviche. – Avenida Hidalgo
Another favourite is Fish & Gin on Avenida Madero where you can indulge in some sweet seafood dishes and splash them away with the best gin and tonic mixes you ever had. The lobster tacos and spicy tuna tostadas are to die for! (lunch or dinner) – Avenida Francisco Madero
A short drive out of town, in the middle of the island and close to the lagoon you’ll find Argentinean family owned restaurant Fuego de Mar. This charming rustic restaurant has an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs prepare their rustic dishes in a wood fire oven. The presentation is just as impressive as the flavours. Try the grilled eggplant, the tamarind shrimps, grouper and platano leaves or the red snapper. The Chef’s sampler dessert plate is a fest with a coffee mousse with spirulina, Alfajor peanut cookie with chocolate peanut cream, Frangelico hazelnut cream with licor and a grapefruit and basil sorbet. The prices are very reasonable and the service was outstanding – Jesús Martínez Ross Y Calle 17