I always post on social media following a vacation, and Isla Mujeres has sparked much interest, just as she should! Many people want information and suggestions so I decided to birth a blog, of my personal opinions.
First, getting from the Cancun airport to the ferry, you’ll need transportation. We love using CARM. We have also used Happy Shuttle and had a great experience. You can book ahead online, include round trip ferry tickets, and even add cold beers! I mean, a cold one in the transport van heading to the ferry while in Mexico – you just must.
There is still so much more to the island that we have not experienced. I hope this blog is helpful but don’t just take my word….venture out, as Isla Mujeres has so many beautiful things to see – many which are behind an entry that seems questionable (to most of us). Behind the threshold, is a tranquil display of utopia, that you would have missed had you not just stepped inside.
One of the places we found by just “going in” was Villa La Bella. Their advertisement is “beer so cold it’ll make your teeth hurt” – headed to south end you can’t miss it. This is also where I had the most amazing pina colada. I don’t usually enjoy sweet drinks, but I wanted something refreshing – and it was just “wow”. Now, it’s a staple on every trip to sit in a swing and have a pina colada, at beautiful Villa La Bella. (Bella is for sale so may change names soon.)
The million-dollar question is where to stay. We stayed at Privilege Aluxes (PA) the first time, and chose all-inclusive. Mainly because we did not know what to expect on the island, and played it safe having the food and drink options at our hotel. Oh boy, we were wrong, but that’s ok, we learned! PA, which also has a non-all-inclusive option, is a beautiful resort and very nice, but we like to be closer to the water for an ocean view, and we figured out very quickly the food is one of the main attractions on the island, so no need to pay for the all-inclusive. Again, personal preference. We have also stayed at Ixchel and it was a great location, close to North Beach, did have a small restaurant, but a little too “people-ey” for us. Once we found Playa La Media Luna, that’s our new favorite-forever spot. It’s a smaller hotel, nothing fancy, gorgeous view of ocean, close to Hidalgo Street and North Beach, and affordable. If you want boujie, this is not the place. If you want peaceful, less crowds, beautiful view, and less expensive – book it! Also, I must note the beach at Media Luna is not swimmable because it’s too rough. For us that is ok, because we always plan to hang at North Beach at some point during our trip. For early mornings and late evenings on the beach, we like the more relaxing environment with less crowds.
There are many rentals that say ocean view but are actually on the seawall (Malecon). Make sure you check into that before booking. I am sure many people love to stay on the Malecon, so it’s truly a personal preference. Also, we always want to be near Hidalgo street at the North End. The south end near Punta Sur is absolutely breathtaking, but for us it’s too far from all the fun stuff we like to do.
Rent the golf cart! Yes it’s an added expense but you will not regret it. We get one the moment we arrive until the day we leave. It allows you to go anywhere at any time – drive through the neighborhoods and see beautiful artwork, murals, blooming plants, dogs on roofs, kids playing outside, fresh hanging laundry, and a peek into a lifestyle most of us have never known. Seeing this way of life, changes you.
This last trip, I sent a DM via Facebook to Julio Efrain Zapata Alvarado and he organized our golf cart, fishing trip and he even has transportation available. He was responsive and friendly. There are hundreds of contacts that can help, I had seen Julio suggested on a Facebook page so that’s how I found him.
The food is uhhhmazing. I cannot stress that enough. Don’t get sucked into eating at your resort every meal – You’d be missing out on a main attraction. Don’t be afraid of the fruit, vegetables or street tacos – it’s all legit! Find the hidden gem restaurants – you may only see 2 tables inside for dining – go inside and try it anyway.
So many things to do and see….There are beach clubs where you can pay a fee, eat, drink, and stay all day, and some without fees. We had a fishing trip planned but it ended up too windy. We love going to the Women’s Beading Co-Op and buying jewelry from the many generations of women who bead for income. Somehow, get on the water – Just being out in the “blue” is a must (even the ferry ride is breathtaking!). It’s so beautiful it does not look real, but more like a dream. I always feel like Nim from Nim’s Island. While on the water I’ll contemplate a brand-new life for myself and think of ideas how I could live off the land and stay there forever.
Hidalgo street is the main strip where there are many restaurants, shopping, live music, entertainment, people watching, and just FUN! We don’t “need” anything from the street vendors but we love to support them and buy hand made items, jewelry, or just unique things to take home. Hidalgo is not the only place for shopping so take the cart all over the island to see more.
Go to Punta Sur. Just do it. To walk near the crashing waves from the edge of a cliff, is a feeling I cannot explain. It’s majestic, powerful, and spiritual. It literally brings tears to my eyes – every time. You’ll take photos with your phone, and say to your spouse, “these pictures don’t do it justice”. During all 6 of our trips, I say the same thing to my husband while taking the same picture while standing on the same cliff. When you go, you will see.
Join the Isla Facebook pages, there are a few. Here you’ll learn so much about the island and common Q&A that will be helpful. I created a note in my phone for Isla and saved screenshots from the FB pages. There is a wealth of information, and I didn’t want to keep asking the same questions on the Facebook page. There is also an app called MapChicks Isla Mujeres. It’s A $15 per year fee, but many people find it very helpful.
Again, with the golf cart you can buzz around to anywhere and everything is so close since the island is only 5 miles long by half a mile wide. Punta Sur was pretty amazing at sunrise, but the water color does not turn blue-green until the sun has been up for a bit, so be mindful of that if you decide to go at sunrise. Hang around until the color changes, you won’t be mad. I always say I’m going to bring a book and stay there for a few hours – read, pray, relax, and just declutter my mind.
The best fish taco we had was at Marina Bartolome. Ask for Juaqin, and ask him to make it Yucatan style (not on the menu). They use a seasoning called Achiote that makes the fish kind of red – it’s amazing! Pizza Rock was fabulous, Stingrays Civeche and shrimp cocktail – yessss please! Isla Burger is a fave and we just tried for the first time – so good but a little too greasy for me. I mean it’s made from ground prime rib and brisket, so…yeah. Best sunset dinner in my opinion is Mayan Beach Club, at a table near the ocean. The lights, candles, music – it doesn’t get any better. Breakfast at Mango’s Café is a must. Sunset at Coco’s is where we were every night for at least 30 minutes or so, to start our evening.
Take pesos. Book the cart. Drive the streets. Eat the food. Get on the water. Eat the food. Sight see. Eat the food. Listen to live music. Eat the food. Learn about and support the locals. Eat the food. Drink the drinks. – explore and have fun!