My last stop on my 9 weeks Yucatan Itinerary brought me to the enticing little island of Isla Mujeres. A lovely quiet island with amazing white sand beaches just about 8 miles northeast of Cancun. On my first trip to Yucatan in 2008 I already thought the island was too touristy so last May 2019 I couldn’t be bothered to visit Isla Mujeres again. Eventually it was because I really wanted to try wing diving, one of the best things to do in Isla Mujeres, that convinced me to go.
In February 2019 I stranded in Mexico and started backpacking Yucatan. More than 2 months later I still found myself traveling around and I saw almost all the cool places to visit in Yucatan. From the beach vibes in Isla Holbox to the cenotes in Valladolid and the authentic city vibes in Merida Mexico to the hammocks in the Costa Maya, I saw it all. It was a great journey!
Ending my trip at Isla Mujeres, right before I flew out to Cuba, was a good decision. I got in touch with some local expats who showed me a different side of the island. As you can understand locals don’t go to the standard tourist places in Isla Mujeres. In fact I had such a great time that I hardly took any photos and on my last day when I finally wanted to take some shots for this Isla Mujeres travel blog it rained all day!
NO SEAWEED ON ISLA MUJERES 2019!
A very hot topic at the moment when traveling to Riviera Maya is the seaweed aka sargassum in Cancun! If you are looking to escape the seaweed in Cancun then travel to Isla Mujeres. I can tell you there is NO seaweed on Isla Mujeres, neither on Isla Holbox! Basically the only two places that are not affected by the seaweed problems in the Riviera Maya.
26 Things to do in Isla Mujeres
1. Get lost in El Centro
There is no need to arrange transportation if you are staying in El Centro or are here just for the pristine beaches. This is a small island and most of the best things to do in Isla Mujeres are clustered around El Centro anyway. The heart of the island is called El Centro ans consists of small narrow streets packed with tourists, souvenir shops, bars, restaurants, more souvenir shops, tourists, hostels, tour operators, buggies, markets and more tourists. It is good fun to walk around the bustling streets of El Centro, a little world on its own.
2. Wander through Miguel Hidalgo Avenida
The main street in El Centro and one of the places to see in Isla Mujeres is Avenida Miguel Hidalgo, the heartbeat of the island. This is where you will find endless bars and restaurants lined up from the center of El Centro all the way to the famous Playa Norte. There are many terraces and people watching with a cocktail in your hand is one of the Isla Mujeres activities to put on your list of things to do. This is also the place to go if you are looking for things to do in Isla Mujeres at night or want to do souvenir shopping.
3. Chill at Playa Norte
The spectacular white sand beach called Playa Norte is rated by Tripadvisor as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. The colors of the ocean are amazing I admit, but only if you can see through the thousands of tourists. You can play in the shallow water, sunbath on the silky sand, take a nap in the shade or hang out at any of the many beach bars that front Playa Norte. Drinking ice cold beers and people watching definitely is a one of the better things to do in Isla Mujeres and I promise it absolute great fun. The more Coronas you drink, the more fun it will be!
It is not always super busy!
4. Sunset at Playa sol
From people watching to sunset watching. At the end of the day head from Playa Norte to Playa Sol. It is just around the corner and worth the walk as from Playa Sol you have beautiful sunset views over the mainland. Playa Sol in general is less touristy and prices for food and drinks are cheaper as well. What to do in Isla Mujeres for sunset? Playa Sol!
5. Eat seafood
Although Im doing multiple efforts saving the planet I am having a hard time resisting amazing sea food. As you can understand eating seafood when visiting Isla Mujeres is a treat. Everything is fresh from the hook! Grilled shrimps and lobster are popular, but also try ceviche, raw fish cured in citrus and spices. If you want something more local then try a dish called Tik'n Xic, traditional Maya food, a marinated whole fish in a mild red chili sauce called achiote, grilled over an open fire. Find great seafood at the Playa Norte beach bars. Tourist prices though!
6. Try street food
If you are traveling to Isla Mujeres on a tight budget then you have to try the street food. Head to Avenida Guerrero and find the local market (Mercado Municpal), just a couple minutes from Playa Norte. Here you can indulge on cheap fresh street food.
Around the narrow streets of El Centro you will also find food carts and many taco stands: vendors sell things like tamales, corn on the cob and loads of other typical Mexican street food. The street food is damn good and much cheaper than the Isla Mujeres restaurants.
7. Try Wing Diving
Through Tripadvisor I found out about this epic Isla Mujeres activity and it got me excited to eventually visit Isla Mujeres. Now that I did it I can tell you it was AMAZING! Wing diving is basically hanging on to a board while a speedboat drags you through the water. Because the shape and the flexibility of the board you can go up and down through the water and feel like a dolphin. I wish I had recorded my own video, but I was too busy enjoying myself! See here a video of what it is like…
The trip wasn’t really that expensive either, I think I paid around $65, which included a little training session and 2 times 30 minutes behind the boat with a wing! Oh and there were free beers as well! Without a doubt I think this is the best thing to do in Isla Mujeres. This is the Wing Diving Tripadvisor page.
8. Swim with whale sharks (seasonal)
Swimming with whale sharks in Isla Mujeres is seasonal and by the time I was visiting in April 2019 there were no whale shark tours yet. The whale shark season is from June till August. It is considered the best thing to do in Isla Mujeres during that time. For the same reason people travel to Isla Holbox during those months. Tours easily cost up to $130 per person for 5-6 hours. It is kind of a set price around the island, crazy expensive if you ask me! But I admit I have been lucky to see lots of whale sharks while traveling, one of my 30 best travel adventures around the world.
9. Scuba diving
Exploring the underwater world became popular because of the nearby underwater museum. Just offshore from the island they dropped loads of statues on the bottom of the ocean, which is now called the underwater museum. For many people it is a reason to travel to Isla Mujeres. I didn’t do it myself, but some of my friends went scuba diving in Isla Mujeres with Mexico Divers and loved the experience. The visibility in April was good apparently. Big thanks to Mexico Divers for some of the photos in this article!
10. Snorkel the Underwater Musuem: MUSA
You don’t need to go scuba diving to see the underwater museum. There are more than 500 statues down at the bottom of the ocean and free diving and snorkeling MUSA is rated among the best things to do in Isla Mujeres. MUSA was founded in 2009 and attracts many tourists on a daily basis. I saw snorkel tours between $40 to $50.
11. Rent a golf cart
To most people on an Isla Mujeres day trip this is the number one thing to do. Renting a golf cart with a couple of friends and touring the island is good fun, but please keep in mind that it comes with responsibilities. Don’t drink and drive for example! The same rules apply to buggies as they apply to cars and the police is on the lookout to make you pay for your sins. They love tourists in golf cart, so be warned.
Renting a golf cart is the best way to tick off the best places to visit on Isla Mujeres. Drive responsibly and don’t be one of those guys thinking they are on a movie set of the Fast and Furious! Everyone always complains about the corrupt police, but I feel like complaining about those idiots in golf carts to be honest! It is all about island vibes when you travel to Isla Mujeres, please take it easy…
12. Punta Sur
The most southern tip of Isla Mujeres is also the most Eastern point in Mexico. Watching the sunrise from Punta Sur is one of the best things to do in Isla Mujeres. Definitely a place to impress your Tinder date! :)
The entrance to Punta Sur is 30 Pesos and apart from a Maya ruin and a Maya temple you will also get to see the worst art exhibition ever called: the sculpture garden! LOL. Some fallen apart metal structures are still laying around. What probably once was one of the coolest places to visit in Isla Mujeres is now run down.
This is the most eastern tip of Mexico on the most southern tip of Isla Mujeres! :)
Note: Punta Sur is not about the art structures! The views are amazing and the coastline is rough, wild and the cliffs are actually the highest point on the Yucatan Peninsula. At least that is what a local told me. Not sure if that is true to be honest… :)
13. Playa Sur
One of the best beaches in Isla Mujeres is Playa Sur. It is a public beach with amazing views over the hotel zone in Cancun. It is located in the South side of the island, far enough from the tourist trail so that not that many tourists flock here. A great place to visit in Isla Mujeres when touring the island in a golf cart.
14. Zip lining at Garrafon Park
I came across this Isla Mujeres activity while on an island tour and at time it looked like a cool thing to do. The ocean views are pretty damn spectacular and Garrafon Park is located on one of the most beautiful spots on the island. So I put zip lining at Garrafon Park on my list of things to do in Isla Mujeres for the next day. But…
When I researched it on the internet to find out how much it cost I also found out that they offer swimming with dolphins in captivity. They are basically making tons of money off dolphins locked up in small areas! Bullshit when talking about their natural habitat… Having a salt water pool is not their natural habitat!
Therefore I strongly recommend you to NOT book any of the Isla Mujeres activities at Garrafon Park!
15. Parque de los Sueños
Kind of similar to Garrafon Park! Parque de los Sueños means park of dreams. I found it online when looking for things to in Isla Mujeres, but it is not my cup of tea. When I saw that the entrance fee is $45 for half a day and $60 for a full day I was put off already. Although it looks pretty cool with slides ending up in the ocean, a climbing wall, rope swings, snorkeling, kayak, etc. to me this is more like a cruise tourist attraction in Isla Mujeres. With all do respect to cruise tourists of course! :)
16. Visit Tortugranja
I have done a volunteering project with sea turtles when I lived in Costa Rica in 2008 and these little creatures are one of my faves. By visiting Tortugranja you contribute to saving the endangered sea turtle as it is a non-profit organization. I this marine rehabilitation center you can also spot little ones that are kept in captivity to strengthen for their big journey into the ocean. They don’t let people pick up the turtles which is a great thing! It is a fun Isla Mujeres activity when touring the island.
17. Free beer tasting at Island Brewery
A great thing to do in Isla Mujeres when renting a golf cart is to stop at the Isla Brewery for 6 free beer samples. You can just walk in and get 6 generous beer shots. Some are really nice and worth buying a bottle of. Remember to not drink and drive! Be aware of the notorious police on the island. Just saying… ;)
18. Stand up paddle boarding
On the Eastside of Playa Norte you find SUP Isla Mujeres. They offers stand up paddle boarding for rent and also double as a surf school and equipment rental. Certified guides can lead you around in the Isla Mujeres lagoon. You can also take SUP lessons. The 90 minute lesson costs $140.00 and includes a ten to fifteen minute lesson about the technique of paddle boarding as well as safety. Im not sure who wants to pay that much money, it is not that hard guys! Renting a paddle board to SUP around Playa Norte is great fun, but first take a look on how rough the ocean is, before it becomes a fall off paddle board!
19. Swim in Piscina del Rey or Kings Pool
Piscina del Rey is a natural salt water pool surround by rocks where the water in calm . It is a tiny lagoon filled by water slamming over the rocks. Although it is one of the most amazing places to see in Isla Mujeres it is located in a private resort that can only be accessed by a bridge. The King’s pool can be found on the property Mia Reef Isla Mujeres hotel.
For a fee of $75 you can spend the day from 9:00am till 6:00pm. The entrance fee of $75 includes access to Piscina del Rey including drinks and food! There is a breakfast buffet and lunch buffet. You can also use their kayaks, a fresh water swimming pool and try their zip line. When you are looking for a cool day activity in Isla Mujeres then getting a day pass at Mia Reef Isla Mujeres hotel is a great thing to do.
20. Have a drink in the Icebar
It may seem unreal but you can have a drink in Isla Mujeres below freezing level. Inside you will find some ice sculptures, but you will pay $15 per person entrance fee. There are two cocktails and a shot included in the entrance fee. Disappointing reviews on Tripadvisor kept me away to be honest. May be something cool to do when you looking for things to do in Isla Mujeres when it rains.
21. Have breakfast at Mango Cafe
Away from the tourist trail, yet still very popular. Mango Cafe serves delicious food and smoothies and is the place on the island to have breakfast. I guess it is mentioned in more Isla Mujeres travel guides as there was a waiting list around 10.00am.
22. Lunch at Madera Food and Art
Definitely one of my favorite Isla Mujeres restaurants was Madera Food and Art. The most delicious food with lobster rice bowls, homemade burgers and many more creative dishes. They also serve mezcal mojitos, craft beers, spicy margaritas. Put this high up on your list of things to do in Isla Mujeres, you won’t regret it. I haven’t read it in any other Isla Mujeres travel blog, so Im happy to give you this secret travel tip.
There is an amazing art gallery onside of a lovely Australia lady who uses recycled coral is very creative with wood. That is why the place is called Food and Art. Find it in the middle of the island on the Eastside on Payo Obispo. To top it off the restaurant has unobstructed ocean views.
23. Check out Guadalupe Chapel
The Guadalupe Chapel is may be not the most fascinating church you have ever seen, but one of those places to visit in Isla Mujeres when you rent a golf cart. The wall behind the altar is entirely made out of glass and that is what makes this church worth a stop. The endless ocean views are pretty spectacular.
24. See all 3 lighthouses
The lighthouse in El Centro is called El Faro and built by the Mexican Navy during World War II, El Faro is 62 feet (20 meters) tall and flashes a white light every ten seconds. The second lighthouse is at Punta Sur and a third lighthouse sits on a rock in the bay at El Farito.
El Farito is the smallest of the three lighthouses and sits at the entrance to the Isla Mujeres harbor. What makes this lighthouse popular is the surrounding coral reef, a popular place to go snorkeling.
25. Isla Mujeres Cemetery
Not really the first place to visit you think of when visiting Isla Mujeres. When you are exploring the island is nice to make a stop and marvel at the graves. People are not buried in the ground, but above the ground. Therefore the cemetery is full of little stupas. It is on the same road as the Madera Food and Art restaurant.
26. Joysxee floating bottle island IS GONE!
In some Isla Mujeres travel blogs I read about Joysxee and watched a video on Youtube. For those looking for this particular thing to do in Isla Mujeres I have to disappoint you; it doesn’t exist anymore! It sounded like a cool idea and the guy who created it, was in the news everywhere, but if he really cared about the environment he wouldn’t have left it behind. Both of his islands started falling apart and the guy left and never returned. Locals are now gathering in cleaning up the reef and the mangroves and tons of plastic bottles are fished out of the ocean every day. Special thanks to local expats with much love for Isla Mujeres for all their efforts cleaning the mess once called one of the best things to do in Isla Mujeres!
I hope the above Isla Mujeres travel tips and things to do were helpful for your next trip. I enjoyed traveling to Isla Mujeres a lot and by giving you this long list of activities I am pretty sure you can choose your preferred ones and make the best of your visit. Also here are some general Isla Mujeres travel tips to make your stay on the island a little more comfortable.
7 Isla Mujeres tips
1. Best time to visit Isla Mujeres
Weather wise I would say January and February are the best months to visit Isla Mujeres, but this also means peak season. The temperatures are mild and there is a very small chance of rainfall. Expect the island to be crowded though. If you want to swim with whale sharks then you have to come between June and August. The ocean is calm in those months, but temperature rise to 95 F (35 Celsius)! Raining season is from September till November with occasionally hurricanes.
2. Is it safe to travel to Isla Mujeres
Everywhere you go I tell my readers to use common sense in the first place! Don’t be an ignorant tourist, just behave like you would do in any big city in the US. There is not much a normal tourist in Isla Mujeres has to be afraid of. Yes, pickpocketing occurs like everywhere in this world so keep an eye on your belongings. Don’t get involved with illegal things. Any kind of drugs is strictly prohibited! Think twice…
It seems strange, but one of the biggest scams on Isla Mujeres to watch out for involves the police. The police walks along the beaches keeping an eye out, but also looking for tourists they can exploit. The police will try to scare you into giving them a bribe if you're caught with marijuana, or if you've had one too many tropical drinks (public drunkenness).
As I said other than that, the island is a safe place for tourist, just don’t be stupid!
4. How to get to Isla Mujeres
Getting to Isla Mujeres is very easy. The crossing by boat from the main pier in Puerto Juarez only takes about 15 minutes. To get to Puerto Juarez from downtown Cancun should only cost 40 Pesos ($2) by taxi. It took me about 5 taxi’s to find someone who wanted take me for the standard price. Most taxi drivers ask tourists 100 Pesos ($5).
The ferry from Puerto Juarez to Isla Mujeres leave every 30 minutes from 5:30am till 11:30pm, so there is no need to rush. Tickets cost 160 Pesos ($8) one-way or 300 Pesos ($15) for a round trip.
You can also take a take a ferry from the Cancun Hotel Zone to Isla Mujeres. There are 3 departure points: Playa Tortugas, El Embarcadero, Playa Caracol. Tickets cost $15 one way and $21 round trip. Ferries from the Hotel Zone to Isla Mujeres are less frequent but from Playa Tortugas to Isla Mujeres there is a boat every hour from 9.00am to 8:00pm.
5. Day trip to Isla Mujeres
I decided to stay in on the island for a couple nights to soak up some islandlife vibes, but most people go on an Isla Mujeres day trip from Cancun. It kind of depends what you want. If you are short in time then a day trip is fine, if you are backpacking Yucatan then I would suggest to stay on the island for 2 or 3 nights.
6. Arriving at Isla Mujeres
Once you arrive you'll find yourself surrounded by what seems a million people that all want to offer you transportation. Or in case of a day trip want to show you around the best places to visit in Isla Mujeres. There are scooters, golf carts, and taxi’s. The scooters are a great way to get around and tick off the best things to do in Isla Mujeres. Be prepared to haggle because generally they will charge you around $25 for the day, but you can get as low as $15 per day depending on your negotiation skills. Taxi’s around the island are actually pretty cheap if you are a local expat. But even as a tourist you should never pay more than 50 Pesos per ride.
7. Pay with US dollars
Yes it is possible to pay in USD, but hey you are in Mexico not in the States! If you are too lazy to exchange your USD for Mexican Pesos then don’t be upset that the exchange rate is shit. Restaurants and bars in Isla Mujeres accept US dollars but it is much better to exchange them or even better just go to an ATM and withdraw Mexican Pesos.
Where to go after you visit Isla Mujeres? Have a look at my Mexico Page for more than 30 travel blogs about the Yucatan Peninsula only. A complete itinerary for almost a month with 20 cool places to visit in Yucatan can be found in the link. Don't miss out on the cenotes near Valladolid, visit Isla Holbox for the same kind of island vibes as on Isla Mujeres or head to Merida Mexico for more authentic Mexican vibes.
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