Isla Mujeres, a tiny Caribbean paradise
With about 5 miles from one end to another and less than one at its widest part, Isla Mujeres is a tiny Caribbean paradise. And that is precisely the greatest of its charms: it’s a place that you can embrace; a place to walk and relax, to explore by bike –or in the typical golf carts that you can rent on the island–, to enjoy its beautiful beaches, its restaurants, its shops, its relaxed atmosphere, the breeze of the Caribbean… It’s a place to spend one of those days that make traveling so worthwhile!
To give you an idea of how charming this destination is, Isla Mujeres is the first place in Mexico touched by the sun at every sunrise. It also has the distinction of Pueblo Magico (Magical Town), the program of Mexico’s Tourism Ministry that highlights the most fascinating places in the country. In any case, on your next vacation to Riviera Maya, schedule a visit to Isla Mujeres. You will fall in love with this place immediately!
Beaches of Isla Mujeres: Caribbean charm
What happens if you add incredible beaches –soft, white sand, bathed by turquoise blue waters– to an island full of Caribbean charm? You get a true paradise called Isla Mujeres. So, discover the beaches of the island and enjoy its wonderful nature, its fun beach clubs, and its delicious restaurants; practice all sorts of water activities, or simply lie down in a hammock under the palm trees and let life smile at you.
With its super white sand and crystal-clear shallow waters, this incredible beach always appears in the lists of The Best Beaches… in Cancun and Rivera Maya, in Mexico, and, in many cases, the world. This huge sandy area offers you quiet places where you can rest and read your favorite book, and hip beach clubs to enjoy the excellent atmosphere of the area as well. You just have to choose your perfect plan.
Between the Makax lagoon and the southern part of the island, this beach is not as spectacular as Playa Norte, but it is also a beautiful place to enjoy the sand and the exceptional waters that surround Isla Mujeres. In the area, there are several beach clubs and restaurants with water activities, food, drinks… In short, everything you need to enjoy a fantastic day at the beach!
Right in front of the Garrafon reef and next to the famous Garrafon Eco-Park, this little beach in the southern part of the island also has a nice restaurant, lounge chairs and snorkeling equipment rentals, and other beach services. But the best thing is that Playa Garrafon is your gateway to the reef and the incredible marine life that you can discover in the waters of Isla Mujeres.
Isla Contoy National Park, the island of the birds
Located just over 12 miles north of Isla Mujeres, this natural sanctuary is the most important refuge for seabirds in the Mexican Caribbean. More than 150 species, from the gray pelican to the peregrine falcon, visit the island, which is a spawning ground for several species of sea turtles as well. A National Park since 1968, Contoy is uninhabited but has an eco-tourism zone and a visitor center. Nonetheless, only 200 people a day are allowed in the park; authorized boats depart from Cancun, Puerto Juarez, and Isla Mujeres. If you are a nature lover, you definitely have to visit the island of birds.
Garrafon Eco-Park: relax, culture, and adventure
Between reefs and cliffs, this natural park and beach club in the southern part of the island is a great place to relax, enjoy the local culture, and experience fun adventures. If action is your thing, enjoy snorkeling, kayaking, zip-lining… If you rather chill, just relax in the panoramic pool, lounge chairs, and hammocks. If you are looking for something a little more cultural, discover the Temazcal, a ritual and therapeutical steam bath of pre-Hispanic origin. Or walk the path that takes you to the sculpture park and the temple of Ixchel, in Punta Sur. And if all of the above is not enough, the ticket includes a buffet meal and open bar!
Kin Há, the park of dreams
Also on the south side of the island, this beach club & adventure park offers you a lot of water activities (kayaks, paddleboards, snorkeling equipment, water trampoline, and the Kin Ha rope swing), swimming pools (they have 3: one for children with a slide, an infinity pool, and one adults-only with a bar), climbing wall, live music… In addition, the on-site restaurant offers you the best gourmet cuisine, Mexican and International, from breakfast to dinner.
The Temple of Ixchel: love and fertility
When in 1517 the conqueror Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba became the first European to set foot on Isla Mujeres, he and his men found clay figurines with female shapes next to an ancient Maya temple located at the southern tip of the island. That is why they called it Isla Mujeres (Women Island). What those sailors didn’t know was that they were standing in a sanctuary dedicated to Ixchel, the Maya goddess of the Moon, love, and fertility. Visit the ancient temple dedicated to Ixchel on the southern tip of the island and discover a unique jewel of the Mayan World right by the sea.
Punta Sur: art and nature
The southern end of Isla Mujeres is quite a special place where art and nature go hand in hand while looking out to the sea. Formed by cliffs that rise about 65 feet above the waters of the Caribbean, Punta Sur –as the area is known– offers one of the best views from the island and also allows you to discover an interesting sculpture park created in this vast natural esplanade flanked by the sea. More than 20 works of contemporary art, surrounded by nature, also share the area with the temple of the goddess Ixchel. A beautiful place!
Snorkeling in Isla Mujeres: an incredible underwater world
Isla Mujeres is beautiful on land, but underwater it’s simply breathtaking! The island’s seabed is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS), the largest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere and the second largest in the world. It runs for about 620 miles, from Mexico to Honduras, and it’s the grand stage of a true feast of marine life. Both expert divers and beginners who decide to snorkel for the first time can find authentic jewels under the sea of Isla Mujeres. It is no coincidence that the island is considered one of the best diving spots in the entire Mexican Caribbean.
In addition to its incredible marine life, the waters around the island hold another surprise: the MUSA, Underwater Museum of Art. This spectacular underwater museum of contemporary art is made up of more than 500 sculptures of different sizes. The works of art are submerged at different depths in three “underwater galleries”: one in Punta Sam and one in Punta Nizuc –north and south of the Hotel Zone of Cancun–, and a third one (the largest of the three, with 473 sculptures) in Manchones, off the southern coast of Isla Mujeres. Along with their artistic value, these works also have an environmental benefit since they function as artificial reefs that help conserve and increase the marine flora and fauna of the area.
Tortugranja: love of nature
Regular spawning place between May and September, Isla Mujeres is a sanctuary for different sea turtle species (white, hawksbill, loggerhead…). And although these stunning animals are protected by Mexican laws, they are still threatened by poachers and all kinds of predators.
Precisely for this reason, local authorities created the Tortugranja (Turtle Farm) conservation center, a place where turtle eggs are protected, the hatchlings are monitored, and their release into the sea is organized (sometimes accompanied by local school children and tourists). Visiting this site is a great way to meet these beautiful animals and discover the importance of caring for our environment.
Isla Mujeres restaurants, the island of Tikin-Xic
As the entire Mexican Caribbean, Isla Mujeres offers all kinds of culinary proposals, from taco stands and the best Yucatan-style food to authentic Italian pizza or a great burger. But, of course, being an island, fresh fish and seafood are the main courses.
Fish ceviche, shrimp aguachile, grilled octopus… you have all sorts of delicious treats. But don’t leave the island without trying the Tikin-Xic fish. This delicious grilled fish, marinated in achiote, sour orange, and spices, topped with strips of Xcatic chilies, red onion, tomato slices, and oregano, bathed in beer and wrapped in banana leaf and coconut shell, is a typical dish of the entire Yucatan Peninsula, but it’s a true Isla Mujeres’ classic.
From authentic local flavors to wide-ranging fusions, here are a few options where you can enjoy a great meal in Isla Mujeres:
– Lola Valentina.- With a delicious Mexi-fusion menu, this place in Hidalgo street serves sea bass, jalapeño poppers, stuffed chicken, and great club sandwiches, among many other tasty specialties.
– Javi’s Cantina.- Fresh and local; a place where Mexico meets the Caribbean: ceviche, parmesan-crusted fish filet with tamarind drizzle, Cajun-spiced fish, cilantro chili-lime shrimp… You name it!
– Acantilado.- Most of Isla’s restaurants are on the north side of the island, but if you’re enjoying the breathtaking scenery of Punta Sur don’t forget to stop by this pleasant spot. Tasty, local food, and breathtaking views!
– Municipal Market.- Along with the many excellent restaurants (from budget to high-end), you can also experience the different food stalls at the local market and enjoy the island’s authentic taste.
– Olivia.- Delightful Mediterranean flavors in the middle of the Caribbean, a clear proof of Isla Mujeres’ eclectic taste.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to get to Isla Mujeres?
You can get to Isla Mujeres on the ferries departing from Punta Sam, Puerto Juarez, and the Cancun Hotel Zone. Of course, Vacaciones Barceló also offers you great options to visit the island from anywhere in Riviera Maya.
How big is Isla Mujeres?
With close to 5 miles from one end to another and less than one at its widest part, Isla Mujeres is a tiny Caribbean paradise.
What to do in Isla Mujeres?
Enjoy its beautiful beaches, its restaurants, its shops, its relaxed atmosphere, the cool breeze of the Caribbean... Isla Mujeres is the perfect place to live one of those days that make traveling so worthwhile.