We experienced the great joys of exploring the fun Caribbean Island called Isla Mujeres (moo-hair-aaze), just off the coast near Cancun, Mexico. The vibe of the island is quite different from the nearby Cancun mainland. The aqua marine colored ocean water looks like a huge swimming pool that catamaran boats sail through, trimmed with amazing wide white powder sand beaches – with no Sargasso seaweed!! Once you get off the short ferry ride (less than 30 minutes) into the main town and observe the stream of golf carts driving on main street you know you are somewhere unique. There are regular cars too, but over half of the vehicles here are people driving golf carts.
The “glow” of the aqua marine water is mesmerizing. You can see Cancun in the distance, along the route to South Point.
Golf carts flow constantly along the one main street, as well as lots of scooters, which always seem to find their way to the front of the line at stop lights.
The island has a more beachy bohemian vibe, with very little of the tall concrete blocks of Cancun. One of the larger hotels on the North Beach is actually located on its own “island” reef, with a gated bridge entry. It overlooks the beautiful shallow lagoon area which has public access. We wanted a hotel that was in the quieter back streets on the East side shore. You can see more details about Playa La Media Luna here. (Click photo for full size)
The Ultramar passenger ferry from Cancun, arrives in the busy town in the North (Playa Norte). We rented a golf cart and enjoyed a scenic drive to the south point (Punta Sur).
North Beach Town
The usual assortment of beach clubs, bars, restaurant and souvenir shops are along the main street. Two other major streets running parallel have the less expensive restaurants, golf cart rentals and other amenities. (click photo for full size)
East Shore Malecon
The east shore is a mix of sandy beach coves and volcanic rocks. The Malecon is a nice way to walk this shore. There are a few restaurants and street vendors, but it is less developed than the main street area. There is a nice sandy beach there between two red flags, which is a warning not to swim there. There is actually a life guard there to prevent people from trying to swim because of the many deaths from strong under current. (click photo for full size)
Golf Cart Scenic Drive To The South Point
Its fun to feel the ocean breeze in your face as you drive in the open air golf carts, which have a roof canopy to help shield you from the hot sun. There are lots of places to rent the a golf cart from, by the hour or day (US$ 75 / day). They are pretty easy to drive, but take a little adjustment, since the gas powered engine turns off when you stop moving. Then when you press that gas pedal it re-starts the engine and off you go. Only two gears – forward or reverse. Once you get out of the main north town, there are still random places to stop at along the way, mostly beach clubs and a few bar/restaurants. The trip back along the eastern shore has a lot of very nice large private homes.
South Point (Punta Sur)
The South Point is definitely a tourist destination, with a big parking lot full of golf carts. There are a few concession stores in a strip plaza. If you pay a fee, you can walk out to the point, which also has numerous statues and monuments to educate you.
Transportation – Getting there
The “Ultramar” passenger ferry is the main way to the island. They run back and forth constantly all day long from the dock in Cancun central. The ride takes less than 30 minutes, plus queue time. Tickets cost 540 pesos per person for a round trip. Security dogs sniff around while you are in the queue. They use twin hull catamarans, which help minimize sea sickness from the wave action. There seems to be one large one and a bunch of smaller ones. Residents pay less than tourists. There is also a car ferry a little further away.
We took the comfortable ADO bus from Playa del Carmen, to Cancun Central (Centro – not to be confused with the Cancun Airport which costs about twice as much). The bus has a movie playing if you know Spanish. We had to take a taxi from the bus station to the Ultramar ferry terminal (less than 200 pesos). Apparently there are also less expensive collectivo vans available as an alternative. The bathrooms at the ADO station are coin operated, 10 pesos, which was problematic for Rob – since he only had paper money.
This is a highly recommended side trip when in the Cancun / Playa del Carmen area. I think you get more out of it if you spend the night, but I have seen day trips from Playa advertised if you want a quick taste, usually packaged with snorkeling and a catamaran party boat ride.