Just another beach vacation right? Pictures of the beautiful sand and the beautiful water and people doing nothing but relaxing, right? Wrong.
While you are certainly more than welcome to relax as long as you want, Isla Mujeres offers a lot more than just a pretty beach. And I'm not just talking about hotel-planned excursions where you get on a bus, drive for two hours, and spend your day squished between fellow tourists. A Mexican island in the Caribbean Sea, there are an abundance of cool locations free for you to explore and free of charge—well, sometimes free. Located off the coast of Cancun, it's only a thirty minute ferryboat ride to the Yucatan Peninsula and a twenty-five minute drive from one end of the island to the other, give or take ten minutes depending on mode of transportation.
Isla Mujeres is the perfect place to pack your vacation with unforgettable experiences—here are 7 reasons why.
1. Personal Snorkeling Waters
After recently convincing you Isla Mujeres is not "just" another pretty beach, I am going to go ahead and tout the beach in front a particular hotel anyway. Though the beach itself is indeed beautiful and the water crystal clear—the snorkeling is why the Mia Reef hotel is the best place to stay on the island. As the Mia is on the northern point of the island, these particular waters are only for Mia guests.
Note: Snorkeling gear is not an item to forget on this trip. The fish are well acclimated to people (/bribed with food all day long), and make this snorkeling experience one of a kind. The best part of these waters is the kid-friendly shallowness. The natural reef to the side of the hotel is not only home to various fish, but also serves as a block to the tidal waves, allowing for smooth, shallow ocean snorkeling.
2. Golf Cart/Moped Transportation
Forget renting a car, hailing a taxi, or catching a bus. On this vacation, you dictate your own destination, and travel. Golf carts and mopeds are the preferred mode of transportation for the majority of both locals and tourists. As Isla Mujeres is rather small, there isn't much room for large cars to maneuver around the island. However, golf carts and mopeds are perfect for squeezing through narrow streets and traffic.
The best way to make your way around the island is by renting one of these vehicles for the duration of your stay. There are still taxis present on the island, but smaller, personal transportation is the best way to get where you want to go, whenever you want to go there. Rental stores are located all over the island, but the cheapest is located directly across from the ferry port and offers both golf carts and mopeds (fuel included). Should you choose a moped, beware the taxis. The rumors are true: If you get in their way, they will hit you.
Tortugranja is a turtle farm located on the west side of the island. Baby turtles, adult turtles, exotic fish, and an array of species you didn't know existed are found at Tortugranja. Unlike the usual aquariums, this place is extremely interactive. Most creatures are displayed in open tanks allowing tourists better access to observe, feed, and even hold these animals. For thirty pesos ($1.736 US dollars), this place is one heck of a pit stop!
On the surface, Isla Mujeres is not home to many art galleries for tourists. However, just take a peek under the water, and you'll find an amazing display sitting on the ocean floor just off the coast of the island. While most everything you do on Isla Mujeres is spur of the moment, this adventure is one that requires some planning. Choose from snorkeling, glass bottom boat, tour, or scuba diving to view the submerged sculptures. The museum displays an array of specially designed statues and exhibits created not only for the enjoyment of tourists, but also to serve as the home of fish and coral. Art and nature gurus, this one is for you!
5. Punta Sur
All the way at the most southern tip of the island is Punta Sur, a sheer cliff with the ocean pounding at the bottom. For a price, tourists are encouraged to explore the natural deterioration of this cliff up close. As the cliff has many nooks and crannies to explore, this is an experience to allow plenty of time for.
With a restaurant serving fresh seafood, several small retail shops, and homemade ice cream, Punta Sur can carve out a significant portion of your day. Not interested in climbing around a cliff on the edge of the ocean? No problem, tourists are still offered a lookout balcony for those who like to observe from afar, free of charge. So take your time, watch your step, and enjoy one of the best views Isla Mujeres has to offer.
6. The ICEBAR
With temperatures climbing higher than ninety degrees most days, sometimes all you want is not to be melting into a puddle. I give you—quite literally— "The coolest place in Mexico," the ICEBAR. Located just down the road from Tortugranja, the ICEBAR welcomes all ages.
Consisting of 150 tons of nothing but ice, the ICEBAR is kept cold, in essentially, a large walk in freezer. Tables, chairs, glasses, walls, yes everything is ice—with the exception of the floor, that could be dangerous. Worried about arctic temperatures after you've been running around in a bathing suit? Not to worry, the price of entry includes a furry poncho, hat, and multiple entries are encouraged so there's no need to go numb to receive your money's worth.
7. The View
Isla Mujeres offers some incredibly memorable experiences, and your day will be consumed with trying to fit them all in. Still, every trip should reserve time for relaxation. What better way to relax than grabbing a chair, listening to the soft crash of the waves, and watching the sun go down over the ocean?
Isla Mujeres is perfect for those seeking a new adventure, but it's also perfect for those who simply love a great beach with crystal waters to relax beside. Isla Mujeres offers something for everyone. This is the trip you've been waiting for, where adults finally get to play again—and children discover a new playground— so go crazy and enjoy every minute of it!
All photos, unless otherwise stated, by the author