Are you dreaming of visiting a paradise destination on your next vacation? A place where you can relax next to beautiful and transparent ocean waters while having plenty of places to explore and one of a kind exciting and fun things to do?. Isla Mujeres is the place you are looking for! But before you begin your adventure, there are some important things you need to know to ensure that you have an incredible time.
Isla Mujeres , a Mexican island in the Caribbean Sea known for its crystal clear turquoise waters and white sandy beaches, is located approx 25 min on a Ferry ride from Cancun, Mexico. It is only 7 km/4.3 miles long and about 650 meters/.4 mile wide, and has a population of 12600+ people.
How to get there?
The closest airport to the island is the Cancun International Airport. From there you need to go to Puerto Juarez, where the Ultramar Ferry Terminal to Isla Mujeres is located. There are several transportation options to get to Puerto Juarez, you just need to shop around to find the best one for your budget. Beware that the Airport in Cancun is very small and designed so every passenger has to pass right in between all of the transportation and tour services with lots of representatives trying to grab your attention. I am not going to lie, it becomes overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Taking a Private Taxi to Puerto Juarez costs $750 Mexican pesos (approx 39 dlls). A shared shuttle, which departs every 35 min approx, costs $240 Mexican pesos/person (approx 13 dlls/person). My husband and I chose the ADO bus since it is the most affordable one for us, and because we still had to pay for the ferry ride.
There are 2 ADO ticket booths: one inside the airport and the other right outside on the right side of the sidewalk. So don’t panic if you find yourself outside the airport and with no transportation; you still have plenty of options there. We took the ADO bus to the “Terminal Autobuses ADO” which is located in downtown Cancun for $86 pesos/person (4.50 dlls/person) and from the terminal we jumped in a “controlled” taxi to Puerto Juarez for $100 pesos (5 dlls). (In Mexico controlled taxis, or “Taxis Controlados” in spanish, are a safer option to street taxis because they have to respond to a Taxi station). ADO tickets $86 x 2= $72 + $100 taxi ride = $272 pesos TOTAL (approx 14 dlls).
Quick Tip: Tell the taxi driver to take you specifically to Ultramar Ferry Terminal to Isla Mujeres in Puerto Juarez. Puerto Juarez is big, so it will save you energy and time if you are drop off just outside the Terminal.
The ferry ride costs $19 dlls/person round trip. It departs every 30 min from 5 am to 9;30 pm, then 10:30 and 11:30. Have in mind that at times the line to board the ferry is very long and you might have to wait 30 min for the next ride. Sometimes during heavy rush Ultramar has a second boat in hand to keep up with the demand.
If you think of arriving into a quiet island, you are in for shock(at least at the beginning and depending where you are staying). This wasn’t our first time in Isla, my husband and I went to Garrafon park back in 2008. That said we only stayed within the park and didn’t know much about the rest of the island. This time, when we got out of the ferry, my husband began to question his decision to go there since he wasn’t expecting that many people and golf carts zooming by driven by what looked like teenagers. We don’t particularly enjoy crowded places, so it might have been the rush, that we didn’t do our research beforehand or reserved any transportation to our Airbnb, but we felt very anxious for a second. As we exited the ferry Terminal along with the passengers of the boat, our mission was to head right away to our Airbnb.
Quick Tip: Stay in the north side of the Island if you want to have access to shops and restaurants within walking distance, just have in mind that this side is more crowded and noisy. Stay past the mid point and towards the south of the Island if you want to have a more quiet and relaxing vacation. Just have in mind that by staying on this side, you need access to transportation like Golf Carts, Scooters or taxis.
Moving around the Island
Most of the people living and visiting the island use Scooters and Golf Carts to go around and run errands. So an important decision before arriving to Isla is the need of a Golf Cart or scooter. If you are staying in the north part of the island, you probably don’t need one. The north part of the island is full of restaurants, bars, shops and grocery stores within walking distance. But if you want to have the freedom to go around, I recommend you to rent one. To rent a cart for 24 hours a reservation in advance is needed most of the time. Although you might get lucky and find a cart available at you arrival. Most of the Golf Cart rental companies are around the Ferry Terminal in Isla, so it is convenient for the just arrived tourist. Fees in average are as follow: $300 pesos/hr (approx 16 dlls/hr), $800 – $1000 pesos (42 – 53 dlls) from 9am to 5pm and $1250-$1300 pesos (66 – 69 dlls) for 24 hrs.
We didn’t make a reservation for the Golf Cart in advance, so we weren’t lucky to find one available to rent 24+ hrs. The first day, we had to move around in taxis. Next to the Ferry Terminal, on the left side as you exit, there is a controlled taxi station. It cost us $70 pesos (4 dlls) to get to our Airbnb that was about 4.4 km/2.7 miles from the taxi station.
We stayed at an Airbnb past the mid point and on the east side of the Island. I recommend it if you want to stay away from the crowds and have a relax and quiet stay. It is called Mayakaan Beach front houses.
After check in, we tried to find a grocery store for supplies, this was a hard task without transportation. Catching a taxi was though. Once in a while one would pass us, but it was already occupied. On average a taxi costs from $70 – $100 pesos (4 – 5 dlls) to cross the island.
Next day, first thing in the morning we looked for a rental company that had an available cart for 24 hours. We found one at MEGA rentadora Ciro’s. The lady at the reception area was very friendly and spoke English very well. It cost $1250 pesos to rent it, and a driver license had to be left behind. I recommend this place, the next morning our cart was having an issue (or that was what we thought) and a mechanic was sent right away and arrived within 20 min of the call. Our cart turned out to be fine but he switched carts for us just in case.
The must see and do
Playa Norte or North Beach is located on the North Side of the Island and is a MUST SEE!. It is just what you imagine when dreaming about the perfect beach. It is free, you can just bring your own towel and sun tan for as long as you wish. There are a couple of restaurant & bars within the beach area, so you can purchase cocktails for about $110 pesos (6 dlls) and bring them to your spot in a plastic cup. There is also the option of renting a couple of chairs with an umbrella for about $300 pesos (16 dlls).
The Parador fotografico is on the Northeast side of the island and it is perfect for that awesome Instagram moment.
Visit Punta Sur
You shouldn’t miss the south point of the island which is very different from the north side. Punta Sur is the rocky side of the island and has breathtaking pointy cliffs. There, aside from amazing views, you can find the Espacio Escultorico or Sculpture Garden and the ruins of Ixchel Temple.
Garrafon Park is a unique and world renowned park for its natural reefs and and crystal clear waters. This parks offers activities like kayaking, snorkeling, swim with delphins, zip lining and more….
During this trip we didn’t go to the park because I have a back injury. But we have been to the park in the past and still have wonderful and one of a kind memories.
Part of the magic of Isla is that you can go from one side to the other in just 20 min. This allows to fit in many activities in a short time spam, so the trip could become exhausting if you allow it. So don’t forget to take some time to just relax and enjoy the scenery.
- You can buy groceries in Chedraui, a local chain called “Super Aki” and OXXO.
- On Sundays, grocery stores stop selling alcohol after 5 pm. So if you want to have a drink without going to a restaurant, you better buy it early. I went to 3 stores and kept asking the reason why, they kept just saying that it was illegal.
- It seems that every time you get tacos in Isla you get flour tortillas, so if you want corn tortillas you have to ask. 😉
- Always bring cash with you. Most places that we ate at only took cash. Some places take dollars, but the exchange rate is ridiculous. For example the entrance fee to Espacio Escultorico is $3 dlls, but if you pay with pesos it is only $30 pesos which is almost half price.