Isla Mujeres, Mexico: An Authentic Island Experience

Mexico is one of my absolute favorite international destinations. It's extremely affordable, the food is incredible and the margaritas are tasty!  I've visited some of the most popular destinations in Mexico including Cabo, Cozumel, Acapulco, Tulum, and most recently Cancun. When I began researching day trips from Cancun, I had never heard of Isla Mujeres but was inspired to visit because of the colorful marketplaces, cliff side ocean views and gorgeous beaches. One of my favorite things about traveling in general is discovering lesser known places to explore because they tend to feel more authentic, untouched and less touristy.

Isla Mujeres is a tiny island that serves as the southern most top of Mexico. It's 5 miles long and only 400 yards wide. This tiny gem is only a short 45 minute ferry ride from Cancun. Although small, the island depicts Mexico's historic and rich culture of things to see, fun activities, friendly people, delicious food & some of the most stunning sunsets I've ever seen!
 

During my 4 day stay in Cancun, I took a day trip to explore Isla Mujeres. There are plenty of hotels on the island if you wish to spend more time there, but you can easily see the entire island in a day or two depending on your activities. I started my day adventure early in the morning from the JW Marriott Cancun by taxi to Playa Tortugus, one of the 3 marinas that take you over to Isla Mujeres. Accompanied by live musical entertainment, I enjoyed the sunshine at the top of the boat and the wind blowing in my hair.

The easiest way to get around the island is by a golf cart or scooter and you can easily save time by renting one on the ferry for pick up upon island arrival. If you decide visit during peak Summer months (May to August) be sure to either book a golf cart in advance or head to the island on the earliest ferry over in order to guarantee you'll get one. There are only a select number of golf carts on the island given that it's so small.

Upon arrival to the island, I was greeted by a bustling strip of restaurants, colorful markets and friendly island people. The energy surrounding the island was unlike anything I have experienced elsewhere and I was so excited to explore! Conveniently, I secured a golf cart on the ferry ride over and was able to take in all the culture and scenery without feeling rushed.
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By the time I picked up my golf cart, I had worked up quite an appetite! I jumped in the golf cart and drove about 10 minutes from the main ferry port until I arrived at a cute little brunch spot called Barlito's. Located at Marina Paraiso Hotel, Barlito's is well known for their famous raison cinnamon rolls and fresh squeezed fruit juices. Since I couldn't choose between watermelon and orange juice, I ordered both! The restaurant had a bunch of fresh fruit and you could actually watch the wait staff pick out your fruit and make your juice right there. It tasted so refreshing! The food was delicious and I would highly recommend coming here if you make the trek to the island. One thing to be aware of however, is that the iguana's here love to join you on the patio while you eat. Although entertaining, a couple times they got a little too close for my personal comfort! The quaint and quiet hotel grounds were really fun to explore and it was nice to enjoy a meal among the palm trees and pool.
Photo Nov 17, 11 12 35 AMPhoto Nov 17, 11 13 19 AMPhoto Nov 17, 11 26 19 AMPhoto Nov 17, 11 43 35 AMPhoto Nov 17, 11 53 57 AMPhoto Nov 17, 12 17 58 PMPhoto Nov 17, 12 26 14 PMPhoto Nov 17, 12 21 50 PMAfter enjoying a beautiful breakfast, I jumped back into my golf cart to began my ride around the island. One thing I didn't expect to see in Isla Mujeres were the number of charming, colorful walls and buildings along the drive which I couldn't resist pulling over to take photos! Hot pink, bright yellow, sunset orange...these colorful walls and homes were so unique to the island and one of my favorite things about the visit. It was also really cool that the main road has some of the most stunning views of the Caribbean which made the trip that much more enjoyable. I would highly suggest spending time roaming around different streets and taking in all of the diverse architecture on the island.
Photo Nov 17, 12 55 07 PMPhoto Dec 16, 12 02 51 AMBecause Isla Mujeres is so small, every restaurant and bar on the island has a stunning view of the ocean. I ran into a unique spot place called Madera Food & Art which is an art gallery and restaurant. I enjoyed a tasty margarita while appreciating some of their on site art sculptures and prestine ocean views.
Photo Feb 23, 8 21 59 AMPhoto Feb 23, 8 25 32 AMPhoto Nov 17, 2 11 10 PMPhoto Feb 23, 8 10 37 AMPhoto Feb 23, 8 33 32 AMVWNot far from Madera, I ran across a local family who had set up a coconut stand on the side of the road. I ordered a fresh "coco frio" (cold coconut) to enjoy with a beautiful view much closer to the water. One of my absolute favorite things about visiting any tropical destination is picking up a fresh coconut to enjoy on the beach!
There's truly nothing better than a stunning ocean view and cold coconut water straight out of a coconut. I took some time to really appreciate Mother Nature in this moment and felt so connected to the culture and energy of the island.
Photo Nov 17, 1 45 24 PMPhoto Feb 23, 8 01 37 AMPhoto Feb 23, 7 46 18 AMYou will know you're half way around the island when you reach the ruins of Ixchel. Located at the southern most tip of the island, the Ixchel temple is one of the main Isla Mujeres destinations for tourists that comes with incredible Caribbean Ocean views. Although small, this portion of the island is very sacred to the Mayan culture and history of Isla Mujeres. You do have to pay to enter the ruins and to use the bathroom so make sure you bring enough cash to the island with you if you wish to see them up close!

 
If you crave adventure, your best bet is to book snorkeling or zip lining on Isla Mujeres at Garrafon Park. Because the island is far off the coast, Garrafon Park has some of the best snorkeling. If I would've had an extra day in Cancun I would've definitely come back to spend an entire day here! I would plan to spend at least 2 hours for snorkeling and 1 additional hour for zip lining. Other activities they offer include kayaking, bicycle tours, swimming with dolphins, relaxing in their outdoor swimming pool, lounging in hammocks and more.
Photo Feb 23, 7 15 29 AMAfter continuing along the road, I stopped at a colorful adults-only hotel called La Bella Villa. They had the cutest bar and patio area with a pool and a gorgeous view of the sea. I enjoyed another margarita and relaxed in one of the beach chairs out by the water enjoying the warm sun on my shoulders and listening to the waves crash on the beach below. How cute is this place?! It has awesome reviews on trip advisor so if you're looking to book a night or two on the island, this is a great option.
Photo Feb 23, 9 04 14 AMPhoto Feb 23, 9 09 47 AMPhoto Nov 17, 3 26 12 PMPhoto Feb 23, 9 21 44 AMAfter several hours of exploring, I had worked up quite an appetite and all I could think about were tacos! (Can you blame me?!) I drove the golf cart back to the main area of the island and dropped it off to spend time exploring the marketplace and beach. I grabbed a table at La Cueva de la Cherna and ordered some of the most delicious nachos and tacos. This place is off the beach but is noted as one of the best taco places on the island. I would highly suggest eating here! Afterwards, I walked to the beach to watch one of the most gorgeous sunsets I've ever witnessed from the beach! The perfect end to a perfect day.
Photo Nov 17, 5 40 25 PM (1)Photo Nov 17, 5 45 57 PMPhoto Nov 17, 6 18 40 PMIf you do plan to spend a day exploring Isla Mujeres, be sure to check the ferry schedule and plan accordingly. I showed up to the marina 5 minutes AFTER the ferry left because I didn't check beforehand and had to wait another hour before being able to head back to Cancun! Luckily I'm patience and easy going so I didn't mind, but it's always better to plan ahead!

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