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A small island getaway, where time slows down to a standstill, that is only a hop, skip and jump from the bustle of Cancún

After several days of perfect weather we awoke to a cloudy and blustery morning, that threatened rain. It was not cold so we were still full of joy for a small island getaway, where time slows down to a standstill, that is only a hop, skip and jump from the bustle of Cancúnhe day ahead. Our destination was the small island of Isla Mujeres, a little over 10 miles off the Yucatan coast from Cancún. The Island itself is only four miles long and about 1/2 a mile wide – yes it is tiny but still is home to 12,000 people.

When we arrived at the dock in Cancún to catch the 10:00 am boat to the island and the dockside bar was full of vacationers in various states of inebriation. Looking at the way the moored up catamarans were being tossed by the waves and the wind I wondered how they would be feeling on their journey across to the Isla Mujeres! Luckily, it is only an 18-minute ferry ride, so there was a chance they might be able to retain the contents of their stomachs for a short stretch of time.

Waiting on the ferry dock in Cancun to catch the boat to Isla Mujeres
Arriving at the dock on the Isla Mujeres

The trip to Isla Mujeres had been put on by the resort where we were staying. We ended up travelling with two other couples, both from the US. Our guide said the best way to get around the Island was by golf cart. So, we signed up for one with the tour operator who was doing the rounds on the outbound ferry journey. We had thought that perhaps Isla Mujeres was similar to Mackinaw Island in Michigan where cars and trucks are banned and you either walk, cycle or travel on horse-drawn carts. Well, we were wrong. On arriving we found that the streets were thronged with golf carts, scooters, cars and trucks. A heady mixture indeed and ripe for some transportation carnage. The ferry port is right in the heart of the main town area of Isla Mujeres, located at one tip of the island, where most of the shops and restaurants are located. Our guide had suggested we initially pick up our golf carts and head to the other side of the island. Anyway, after a kerfuffle with one of our travelling partners (they had not bought any money or their driver’s license), we set off.

Golf carts are the preferred mode of transport in Isla Mujeres
Or mopeds

Our destination was Punta Sur, an ecological park offering beaches, a lighthouse & large sculptures along a path that overlooks the ocean. The trip to Punta Sur was made all the more interesting by having to navigate the traffic en route, but after about 20 minutes we arrived. The first thing that struck us was the amazing colour of the sea. It was a bright turquoise – I have never seen anything quite like it in all my travels to date.

Punta Sur is a narrow piece of land that juts out into the Caribbean Sea. It is about half a mile from the lighthouse to the endpoint. The wind was still gusting strongly, but the clouds had dispersed and the sun was beating down on the exposed headland. Along the trail, there were a number of art installations. Constructed of steel these statues have started to rust badly and in some cases had completely eroded away. At the tip of Punta Sur are the ruins of a small Mayan temple, which like steel statues, have been worn away by the elements on this exposed headland. But they have been there a lot longer! From the top of the headland, there are stairs that take you down to a path that runs along the base of the cliffs just a few feet above the lapping waves of the surrounding sea. The path had collapsed in places, so it was not easy to use it to walk all the way around Punta Sur unless you were inclined to do some impromptu scrambling over rocks,

After around 30 minutes of exploring Punta Sur, we were done. Unless you wanted to spend time in the bar then that is about all the time you need. We mounted our trusty golf cart and headed back to town to grab some lunch before catching the ferry back to the mainland.

The lighthouse at Punta Sur
Following the trail at Punta Sur
Around the headland at Punta Sur there are several art installations
Rusting sculptue on the headland trail of Punta Sur
Crystal blue waters at the headland on Punta Sur
More sculptures
A cave in the rock

In summary …

  • A laid back place to visit – quieted than Cancun or Playa del Carmen
  • Easy to get around on foot or by moped/golf care
  • Several beach options and plenty of places to dine and drink
  • Only 30-minutes from Cancun by Ferry

Planning your visit

Getting to Isla Mujeres

The majority of people get to Isla Mujeres via ferry. Ferry: The most common way of travelling to Isla Mujeres independently. Take the Ultramar Ferry from Puerto Juarez, which has departures every half-hour (300 pesos RT). The journey across the bay takes 20 minutes.

Best time to visit the Riviera Maya

Travel to the Riviera Maya requires careful planning. The rainy season begins in May and continues into November; on average, the region receives almost five feet of rainfall each year. Fortunately, the really severe tropical storms and hurricanes tend to hit the other side of the Yucatán Peninsula. The dry season begins in late November and ends in February, making this season the best time to visit the Riviera Maya. Avoid Riviera Maya travel from March through May, however – the heat and humidity are oppressive.

Vegan / vegetarian eating

1. CHAYA & CACAO

We had checked out the Happy Cow app to find a vegan restaurant on Isla Mujeres and after reading the reviews of the limited options we settled for Chaya and Cacao. It was straightforward to find – after all this is a very small Island. The restaurant is tiny – so blink and you might miss it. Outside there are a couple of small tables that can accommodate about two people. There are more tables inside. Of course, being on holiday we had to sit outside and enjoy the opportunity to people watch.

The staff were very courteous and we ordered our food, after telling them we were in a bit of hurry. It was not long before our food arrived. We had chosen two smoothies, a falafel plate and a sandwich. The food was very nicely presented and we delicious. It was a little pricey but that is to be expected in such a touristy area.

Where to stay?

1. ZOETRY VILLA ROLANDI 

Zoetry Villa Rolandi is a 4.5-star fully-inclusive adults-only resort on Isla Mujeres close to the dolphin discovery centre. On the resort, there is a spa and health club to help with your personal welfare.

The resort is close to several beaches but also has its own private beach.

There is a pool to cool off on those hot days. The resort is small but has two restaurants that offer personalised preparation of dishes.

2. HOTEL LA HOYA

If you are looking for something mid-range then the Hotel La Joya could be for you. This 3-star beachfront resort is family-friendly. There are 12 rooms all with spectacular views of the sea. As well as being close to public beaches the hotel has its own secluded beach. Each room is uniquely decorated and has a private terrace with a hammock where you can waste the afternoon away. Take advantage of their free breakfast and WiFi throughout the hotel. There is also a swimming pool to cool off in and sit by during the day.

3. POSADA PASO DEL SOL

For something more basic and very inexpensive look at the Posada Paso del Sol, a 2.5-star bed and breakfast close to the centre of Isla Mujeres main tourist areas. It is only a few minutes walk from Cocal and Norte beaches.

Ther rooms are basic but there is not much point spending time in your room with the beaches, bars and restaurants so close by.

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