Everything you need to know for a whistlestop visit to Isla Mujeres. Advice on food accommodation and activities for the perfect getaway.
If you fancy an alternative to the all-inclusive resorts in Cancun, then jump on a 20-minute ferry to Isla Mujeres. A small island off the coast of Cancun, here you can relax and enjoy the white sand beaches and turquoise waters, do some snorkelling and even visit a temple.
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How to get there?
From Cancun Airport
Taxis from the airport can cost up to USD $70 to get a taxi to Puerto Juarez, where the ferry to Isla Mujeres leaves.
Instead, we recommend you get the ADO bus to the main Cancun bus station from the airport. Once through arrivals, you will easily come across the ADO service desk. We paid $88 pesos (USD $4.60) each to get the coach to Cancun central bus station.
From the main Cancun bus station
From here you get a taxi for $150 pesos (USD $7.90) to Puerto Juarez. The taxis are aware that a lot of people are arriving straight from the airport, so they also give you the option to pay in dollars, but the fare will often be cheaper in pesos. We were offered either $150 pesos or USD $9 as the payment options for this trip.
By taking the ADO bus and then a taxi to Puerto Juarez instead of a taxi straight from the airport, we saved $53. More money for cocktails!
There is also an even cheaper option, the colectivo. Effectively a van that has a destination, it waits until it’s full and then it sets off. This is by far the most economical option, but you have no control over when you go.
From the Ferry Terminal
We suggest that you get a return ticket because it’s cheaper. A return ferry journey to Isla Mujeres is $16 dollars per person. You can buy tickets at a small office on the right-hand side as you walk into the entrance of the port. We had just got a Revolut card which is amazing for travelling. It allows you to have multiple currencies on one card and doesn’t charge for currency rate exchanges. For the ferry tickets, we were able to pay in USD or MXN.
Once you have your tickets, you need to scan the ticket to get through to the holding area. You join the queue and wait until the boat arrives and you can board the boat. The journey only takes 20 minutes, so it is very quick.
Stow your bags beneath and sit on top of the boat for some incredible views as you cross the water and Isla Mujeres comes into view. We were lucky enough to arrive as the sun was setting and it was a wonderful way to start our visit to the island.
If you need an ATM when you arrive on the island there is an HSBC when you come out of the port and turn left. It is 30m up on the right-hand side of the road. This only has a small charge of 63.80 pesos ($3) on a 4000 peso withdrawal.
We were warned that getting out money at the airport you can be charged a lot, so we ordered a small amount of pesos in the UK before we left. This allowed us to buy our initial bus tickets and taxis without any hassles.
We tried the Santander ATM in the Cancun bus station and narrowly avoided paying a USD $35 fee! Ouch. Make sure you are paying attention and you understand what fees you’re accepting when you’re getting money out.
At Puerto Juarez, we tried an ATM but it was only dispensing US dollars. A lot of the restaurants on the island will accept payment in USD but we noticed a huge variation in the exchange rate – as low as 14 pesos per USD up to 17 pesos to USD, so local currency is always best.
El Patio Casa de la Musica – We came here on our first night. We sat on the roof terrace listening to an American man sing some lovely songs. It had a relaxed but buzzing atmosphere and there was a lovely cooling breeze keeping any mosquitos away. We ordered the chicken burritos with mole which came with rice and beans. The portion was extremely generous and had a huge amount of melted cheese which made it even better. The local beer was cheap – only $35 pesos and complimented the meal perfectly. A great way to start our Mexican food adventure.
Rooster Restaurant – We were walking past this restaurant and were instantly tempted by the amazing seafood burrito options they offered in this restaurant. We chose the coconut shrimp and spicy tuna burritos and shared them. The burrito was $186 pesos and came with two beers. Both burritos were fresh and delicious. The spicy tuna burrito was so good that we even asked for the recipe, which we will share separately. This restaurant also seemed to be popular at breakfast time. Every time we walked past, it was busy.
We had two nights, but only one full day on Isla Mujeres to explore the island. Apart from relaxing on Playa Norte, we spent our time walking around the various different streets and along the coastline on the east of the island to watch the sunrise. Here are some other activities you can do.
Playa Norte is a stunning beach on the north side of the island, with fine white sand turquoise blue water. There are lots of people asking whether you want sun loungers but if you walk down to the water and turn right, walk for about 3 minutes and you’ll find an area under a tree where you can lay your towel down for free.
The sand is so fine and the sea so blue, it’s hard not to fall in love with the view or believe you’ve been transported to a Caribbean island. Various small birds dot about in front of you and we were even lucky enough to see a scoop of Pelicans and have one fly close to us as we were swimming in the water.
When you arrive on Isla Mujeres you’ll immediately see scores of people on the roads driving golf buggies. The island is relatively long and with an airport in the middle, if you want to get to the other end of the island, it’s the most convenient and fun way to travel. You can either rent the golf buggies by the hour or for the day. The hourly prices are expensive, so opting for the full day is the best option. Again be savvy, as we saw people offering hourly prices ranging from 300 pesos up to 600 pesos.
As you walk through the busy streets people will be keen to sell you everything from bikinis to tequila. Alongside this are numerous people offering snorkelling tours, boat tours and trips to Chichen Itza and Cabo. As we are planning on doing these activities later in our trip we didn’t inquire about the prices.
For any tour, it is always worth asking around and comparing prices. If one trip is significantly cheaper it is worth checking what is included because you might find that you are expected to pay entrance fees that are included in the price at another vendor.
Temple Ixchel in the south of the island
On the southern-most tip of the island, is Temple Ixchel, dedicated to the Mayan Goddess of the moon, fertility and happiness. The ruins are surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and iguanas can be found climbing across the ancient ruins. We didn’t visit the temple as we didn’t have enough time, but we saw lots of people whizzing down to the south of the island in their golf buggies to visit it.
We stayed at Hotel Bucaneros on Isla Mujeres. We booked the hotel through booking.com and it was perfect for our first couple of nights.
We paid USD $40 a night, and whilst there are some cheaper hostels on the island and some much more exclusive hotels with beach access, we were very happy with our choice. Hotel Bucaneros had friendly staff, a central location and provided a great breakfast to start the day. Everything we needed for our first hotel.
To help you choose whether this hotel could work for you, we’ve written a few pros and cons:
Central location in the northern part of the island. 10 minute walk to the port and near lots of bars and restaurants
- Always someone on reception – felt very secure
- Air conditioning and a fan in the room
- Comfortable bed
- Large safe for valuables
- Generous continental breakfast with fresh fruit, toast, biscuits and coffee included in the rate
- A jug and glasses left in the room and a large drinking water dispenser in the hallway
- Towels and toiletries provided
- Great shower and tap lower down for washing your sandy feet
- Good views from the third floor
- Quiet room
- There is a fridge in the room
- A room check is done before you check out to ensure that no items have been left
- No lift, so you have to carry your bag up three flights of stairs. We were kindly helped by the staff on reception to take our very heavy bags upstairs
- Once everyone is awake and online the WIFI doesn’t work very well. Having jet lag and waking up at 6 am was very useful!
- The standard double room we had was not huge so you will have to negotiate how you both move around the room.
Whether you choose to come to Isla Mujeres as a day trip, a short break or for a full week, we think you’ll love the stunning beaches and laid back attitude. We hope that some of our advice in ‘a whistlestop visit to Isla Mujeres’ helps to make your stay on the island even better.
Have you been to Isla Mujeres, what were your favourite activities and places to eat? Get in contact and let us know.
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