If you know me and my husband, you’re no doubt surprised to see us repeat a trip to a destination we have already experienced. There are just too many exciting places to see – why would we go back to a place we’ve already been? In fact, since we met in 2013, we have made only two exceptions to our “No Repeat” rule – The Dry Tortugas, and Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
In this post, I wish to convey our deep love of Isla Mujeres, and hopefully you will understand why we have been there 3 times within the past year.
Getting to Isla Mujeres
Cancun is probably one of Mexico’s most famous resort towns. There are hundreds of hotel options, deep blue oceans crashing on idyllic sandy beaches, all-inclusive resorts that are guaranteed to satisfy any traveler – but many people have never heard of a small island located just East of this prominent tourist destination. Trust me when I say skip Cancun, and head to the Island of Women.
To arrive at Isla Mujeres, we typically fly out of Fort Lauderdale or Orlando. We land in Cancun, find our pre-paid shuttle from Expedia, and after a 30 minute ride we are dropped off at Puerto Juarez. We then purchase round trip ferry tickets to Isla Mujeres, with multiple return options, on the Ultra Mar ferry company. This 20 minute air-conditioned OR open air ferry is your first taste of the tropical vacation you are about to experience!
The flights have typically been between $175-$200 per person, the shuttle has been about $20 per person, and the ferry costs approximately $16 per person. So, round trip – you are looking at approximately $230 per person! Not a bad start.
Gallivanting About the Island
On all three of our trips, we have rented a golf cart from Rent a Cart Prisma. Their office is within a short walking distance to the ferry port, and after extensive research we have found their prices to be the best on the island. (Hint – as of this publishing, their website has a coupon!) I have always contacted them by email to arrange our cart rental – JesusContrerasb@hotmail.com
A few other transportation options include renting scooters, or hiring taxis. There are no shortages of taxis in the ferry port area, but I hear it can be difficult to get a taxi from the southern part of the island without having a significant wait.
Where to Stay
We have stayed at three different hotels on the island, each unique in their settings! It’s hard to recommend a favorite, so I’ll go through all three we’ve personally experienced.
Cabanas Maria Del Mar
Our first trip to Isla Mujeres brought us to this hotel. To be honest, our entire first trip was a last minute decision – we booked our flights and hotel within a week of flying. We chose this hotel for its proximity to the beach, short walk to the downtown area, their pool, and the price. At $60 per night, this hotel was right up our alley. Our room here had a nice balcony that had a beach view! The air conditioning was cold, the room was clean, and overall we were very happy with our stay.
Hotel La Joya
On our second visit to Isla Mujeres, we were travelling for our anniversary and wanted to stay in a different part of the island. Our downtown stay last trip was fun – but the other side of the island offered a more private experience. This hotel was fantastic – from start to finish, everything was perfect. Each room in this boutique hotel includes a private or semi-private balcony with hammock. The included breakfast can be served in the restaurant or brought to your balcony. The rooms overlook the deepest blue ocean you can imagine, and the infinity pool is the perfect place to sit back, order a margarita, and relax. With beach access and decent snorkeling right off of the property, you won’t find a better place to stay on the island for this price point (we paid about $125 per night in peak season!). One downside – this resort has a LOT of stairs. It’s built into the side of a cliff, so walking up and down stairs between beach, pool, room, restaurant, and parking lot is unavoidable.
Our third and most recent trip brought us to this lovely resort. The price of the condo we rented was significantly higher than our previous two hotel stays, however we split the two-bedroom condo with other travelers. The immaculate condo included a kitchen, dining room, living room, two bedrooms, one bathroom, and balcony with ocean view. The best part of this resort was the POOL! It was enormous, with a swim up bar, circling wait staff from the resort restaurant, and direct beach access – if you are looking for a beach vacation, THIS. IS. YOUR. SPOT. Complimentary beach loungers were in constant supply. The prices of the restaurant were very reasonable too. With its incredible amenities, well-appointed rooms, and close proximity to all downtown restaurants and shopping, this hotel is amazing. (OK so I lied, I kind of think this resort was my favorite place to stay on the island).
Things to Do
The laid back, beachy atmosphere of Isla Mujeres is a perfect place to get swept away in the endless routine of beach chair, pool float, bar swing, repeat. Countless hours flew by while we enjoyed simple, pure, sun-soaked relaxation. But if you’re looking for adventure, plan to travel in the summer months to experience Isla Mujeres’s world famous whale shark migration. Hundreds of people each day venture 3-5 miles from the island to the deepest parts of the Caribbean Sea – searching for the majestic whale shark- the Earth’s largest fish. Snorkeling with whale sharks is by far one of my top ten favorite moments. The sheer size of these awe-inspiring creatures will give you chills, and there’s NOTHING like swimming as fast as you possibly can to keep up with the casual swish of their enormous tails. If you’re lucky, your boat captain will find multiple whale sharks to swim with as well as manta rays! We used the company “On Isla Mujeres Water Tours,” and we could not have been happier. They found plenty of spots with whale sharks, prepared fresh ceviche as we motored around, and finally took us to a beautiful reef to snorkel as we ended our day trip.
Plenty of other neat experiences can be found on the island, including Punta Sur, the Ice Bar, an aquarium, an authentic grocery store, and the downtown night life- just to name a few.
Culinary Experiences Like No Other!
We’ve eaten in many countries all around the world. We’ve had sushi in Japan, curry in Singapore, fondue in Switzerland, pastries in Paris, pasta in Italy, alpaca in Peru, caribou in Alaska, seafood in Australia – I mean it when I say we have experienced almost every type of food imaginable. I mention this to emphasize my ardent love of the restaurants in Isla Mujeres. I have not had one disappointing meal on this island.
The absolute number one restaurant you MUST try is Fuego Del Mar. It is off the beaten tourist path, tucked into the more residential part of the island, but it is worth the golf cart drive / taxi ride / hour long walk. We’ve been here twice, and as much as I would have loved to experience a new menu item, we did a repeat order and I cannot bring myself to regret it. You must try the skirt steak from the menu. It is made with the most magnificent flavors I have ever had in a steak. The vegetables that accompany it are out of this world and means a LOT coming from me – I typically sample the vegetables on my plate and leave them behind in favor of the meats and carbs. Not the case here – I cannot get enough of the rich flavor that is packed into each perfectly cooked vegetable. Even the memory of the food we had is making me drool. Bottom line, go here. I promise you will not be disappointed. (Bring pesos – they do not accept cards)
If you’re in the mood for authentic Mexican food, be sure to stop by Bastos and El Charco, Loncheria y Taqueria Desi y Raul. These are my two favorite spots for what I have found to be family-owned, genuine Mexican experiences. From Bastos I recommend the enchiladas suizas. So perfect. Bring pesos because cards are not accepted.
We continuously return to Isla Mujeres for many reasons. The people are kind and so fun to talk to. We love hearing their stories; getting a glimpse into their unique lives on this tropical island has been life changing. The food is incredible. The beach is relaxing. You can’t beat driving around the island in a golf cart – a warm breeze in your hair and the smell of the waves all around. Not to mention, the price is super affordable. Of all the places we’ve been, there are few that draw me to them. I’d drop everything to go here for a few days, any time of the year.
If you’re planning a trip to Isla Mujeres, or think you’d like to experience this laid back, relaxing tropical island, send us an email! We will give you any advice we have, and help you make the most of your vacation! We are always happy to share 🙂 email@example.com