Isla Mujeres is an island a few miles off the Caribbean coast, accessible via a short 20 minute ferry ride from Cancun. Obviously, it isn’t an undiscovered slice of island paradise free of tourists, being so close to the tourist mecca of Cancún. However, it is a real cool island escape that gets a big thumbs up from Big Doug and Flashpacking Barbie. It should be included on any itinerary when visiting the the nearby Mexican states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo.
Our trip to Isla Mujeres was all about soaking up the vibe of this tropical island where life moves at a slower pace. There’s only one important thing to do on Isla Mujeres, and that is to relax. Nowhere to be, no schedule to maintain, no alarm to set. We hung out on the Playa Norte and gorged on some excellent local mexican food at some of the most relaxed restaurants spread around the island. It was a great place to chill prior to heading off on our month long roadtrip to explore the Yucatan and Quintana Roo states in our rental car.
Isla Mujeres is a unique laid back island, surrounded by crystal clear blue waters and caters perfectly to the backpacker & flashpacker crowds. This small island reminded me so much of our time spent on the islands in Southern Thailand. I swear, no matter how many gorgeous tropical beaches we have lived by during our Round the World journey, the vibrant blue ocean never gets less exciting. The water color on the Caribbean coast is some of the prettiest I’ve seen…and that is a real statement considering our visits to probably some of the most spectacular tropical beach areas in the world.
While exploring the entirety of Isla Mujeres, I noticed the ongoing construction of condos along the sea. The island is clearly attempting to become a tad more upmarket and I believe it will still retain its charm over time without ceding to the dreaded over development prevalent at many other top resort islands spanning the globe.
The island has an even mix of action, nightlife and complete serenity. For a touristy island, it remains remarkably rich in culture and food. The locals still have a big presence on Isla Mujeres and that helps in keeping the island authentic. The locals enjoyed blending in and interacting with the tourists which added to the electricity. This interaction between the locals and tourists did not really exist in the Cancún Hotel zone.
Isla Mujeres is split into three distinct areas:
The North is the where the action is….full of restaurants, bars and the best white sand beach on the island, called Playa Norte. We enjoyed hanging out on the spots just to the left of Los Hamacas and in front of The Green Demon Beach Club.
The middle of the island is is away from the action. It is where you will find more local life plus a bunch of excellent family run cafes.
The southern end of the island is more in tune with nature and it’s where the beautiful areas of Punta Sur and the Garrafon Natural Reef Park are located. The best and primary method to get around and properly explore the entirety of Isla Mujeres is via a rental golf cart, which added to the fun. When a golf cart is the primary mode of transportation your know you’re in the right place! We do not play golf, so it was a real treat to zip around the island in one of these carts. You can also rent a scooter but we favor four wheel transport over two wheels, especially after witnessing all the scooter accidents during our travels.
Restaurants on northern end of Isla Mujeres:
Olivias, Cafe Mogogua, Qubanos, Fish & Gin, Javi’s Cantina, Lola Valentina, Muelle 7, La Lomita, Asia Caribe, Rolandi’s, Rooster
Restaurant in middle of Isla Mujeres:
Mango Cafe, Minino’s, Lolo Lorena, Rosa Sirena’s, Basta’s
One of our primary missions on the island other than chillaxing on Playa Norte was sniffing out the best taco stands. Our fav taco/torta stand which we visited multiple times for lunch had no name, it was located on (Ave Guerrero and Calle Abasolo). It was quite obvious we stumbled upon the ‘Hot’ taco stand after noticing locals pulling up on their scooters and lining up to get their midday taco & torta fix. 3 tacos, 1 torta, 1 Horchata for Big Doug & 3 tacos, 1 fresh squeezed sandia drink for Flashpackingbarbie.
Grand total for this feast = 120 pesos ($6 bucks). A tru value play!
Other notable favs include: Taqueria El Sombrero, Mango Cafe (awesome fish tacos and breakfast), El Torito was just ok but had a nice ocean location to inhale some street tacos. There is also a bunch of taco stands in front of Super Aki Supermarket in the main square which appeared popular with locals.
In summary, Isla Mujeres ticks off all the boxes for a perfect island escape. The proximity to the USA makes it simple to get to without having to endure the arduous 20 hour flight to one of the Southeast Asian islands in order to achieve a similar experience. We will definitely return to this super chillaxed island.
Now it is onto the next leg of our indefinite Mexican journey. I do not want to get too cocky, but eleven days now down in Mexico and still no sign of the shits for either of us Flashpackers!!
THRU THE BINOCS –
On many resort islands, local touts can be relentless trying to sell you all sorts of assorted shit and trinkets you really never need. In Southeast Asia, you can say ‘No Thank You’, till your blue in the face, to the roaming vendors on the beach. They will still have the audacity and perseverance to stand right in front of you hoping you’ll break down and just buy something simply to get rid of them. We were pleasantly surprised that Mexicans are the masters of the art of rejection. They take rejection very kindly and with a smile. A simple polite ‘No Gracias’ and they move on. We appreciated this passive selling while relaxing on the beach.