Hola! A month into our trip and after about 27 hours transit time from Tokyo, we have finally arrived in Mexico at our first stop – Isla Mujeres. A very pretty island with fine white sand beaches surrounded by vivid turquoise water and a LOT of tourists (the only downfall). Despite this, we still had a nice time and the warmer weather and blue sky days made for a lovely welcome to the first of our many Central America destinations over the next few months.
If you arrive during the day on the Ultramar ferry (15 minutes) you’ll be greeted with the beauty of the water as you pull up to the main dock. The same goes for departing the island during the day… it really does resemble a postcard for a Mexican island hotspot!
We only had a couple of nights here and in the end we felt it was more than enough. Because of the thriving tourism here, the island vibes felt more like an extension of the States rather than Mexico. In hindsight, we would recommend doing a nice day trip here early in the morning and leaving late at night – especially as the last ferry leaves Isla Mujeres at midnight!
Thats not to say that we didn’t enjoy our time here though. The beaches were beautiful and we spent our first day wandering the streets of the downtown area before claiming a seat and umbrella at Playa Norte (the north beach). With happy hour offered between 10am-5pm it would’ve been rude not to try the 2-for-1 margaritas, mojitos, cervesas and pina coladas to celebrate our first full day in Mexico. That’s what we told ourselves, anyway.
To experience our first ever Central American sunset we took a walk along the beach to Buho’s, an outdoor beach bar complete with swings for chairs and a view across the beach towards the sun setting over Cancun. It was a great day of rest and recuperation from our long journey the day before, sipping chilled Sol beers as the sun went down over the horizon.
The next day, we woke up at dawn for a walk down to the beach to watch the sunrise and catch a morning dip in the water before the wave of tourists arrived. Lucky for us the beach was only a 2 minute walk from the hotel, so we got changed and went for a ‘light jog’ (we believe it’s a soft ‘j’…) to the Eastern end of the beach. The breeze on this side of the island was much stronger, making for some awesome kaftan floating in the wind and man-bun silhouette photos as the sun rose up over the horizon!
After our morning dip at Playa Norte we had brekkie at Lola Valentina’s, a cute little cafe on the main street filled with fuchsia and terracotta orange walls, dark wooden tables and bright bougainvillaea flowers. The menu is dotted with a mix of organic and vegetarian options, including Mexican and Western ingredients. Soy and almond milk is available too, for those Surry Hills and Bondi Beach coffee connoisseurs who prefer this over ‘regular’ milk. The fresh juices are great, as is the tofu scramble that Alice had (with extra hot sauce on top).
For the rest of the day we hired the most common form of transport on the island – a golf cart – to get to the southern end of Isla Mujeres to see what else the island had to offer. The south of the island is raised higher than the north end, with cliff top views at Punta Sur (South Point). Punta Sur itself is home to an outdoor art installation that leads to some Mayan ruins. We decided to admire this from afar to give us more time to spend in the water (plus by now we’d realised that everything on the island was super expensive so even the $30 MXN entry fee ($3 AUD) was worth saving for something else).
After walking through the perfectly manicured gardens next to Punta Sur we decided to check out Garrafon Park, a place we’d seen earlier promoting snorkelling, kayaking and ZIP-LINING! When we enquired, each activity was linked to a different deal and level of access to the resort:
- Snorkelling package (US$30) – Entry to the snorkelling area and use of the showers
- Kayaking package (US$55) – Everything in the snorkelling package plus access to showers, towels, free drinks (including beer and cocktails) and snacks from the snack bar (hamburgers, hotdogs, nachos and other “healthy food”) all day
- Zip-lining package (US$90) – The kayaking package plus free top shelf spirits and access to the buffet which included seafood cooked to order.
Maybe it was the beautiful water, or perhaps it was the heat… or maybe we were simply getting withdrawals from the all-you-can-drink places in Japan that we opted to go for the kayaking package so we could enjoy all-day cocktails in between snorkelling and swimming. We didn’t end up kayaking but we got our moneys worth at the bar!
Overall, our stay in Isla Mujeres was short but sweet. The experience was a little marred by the extreme tourist vibes but guess we were lucky enough to be there just before the peak-peak season when it would’ve been even busier. Other than that, you can’t beat crystal clear water, sunsets and clear blue skies for an introduction to Mexico’s island life :)
What was your favourite moment on this island? Waking up super early in the morning and running down the street to make the sunrise. It felt like we were the only people awake on the island, just us two and the sun rising up over the water… we were so excited when we got to the beach just in time!
Any word of advice for Isla Mujeres? Food-wise, seek out the little cafes and restaurants that offer more authentic Mexican menus to avoid getting stuck in the tourist trap of Tex-Mex style, oversized and over-cheesy food. You’re in Mexico! Give theAmerican big breakfast a break and and try something with a Mexican twist – there are loads of black beans, tomato salsa and Caribbean-spiced vegetables on offer!
What was your favourite moment on this island? Can’t really beat the first time we were lying on the beach after being in wintery Japan, but a close second was when Alice realised the golf cart was burning the fringe of her kaftan – its since been redesigned with a much shorter modern fringe…
Any word of advice for Isla Mujeres? If you are thinking about checking out Garrafon Park and Ponta Sur you don’t really need to hire a golf cart (as fun as it was to nearly run off the road a few times). To get the most bang for your buck catch a cab to Garrafon Park and get there early to make the most of the day including the bar! Garrafon Park closes at 5pm which gives you plenty of time to wander around the corner to Ponta Sur and check it out and take in the sunset before getting a ab back to the north.