The ferry from Cancun to Isla Mujeres takes only 18 minutes, and the small island offers a surprising number of things to do. From Isla Mujeres’ Punta Sur, to shopping, to famous Isla Mujeres snorkeling… you will find what you are looking for. For a partial or full day change of scenery from your Cancun trip – or even an alternate to staying in Cancun – you must check out Isla Mujeres. So, without further ado, I give you my Top 10 Things Do Do on Isla Mujeres:
1. First Thing To Do on Isla Mujeres: Rent a Golf Cart
It is highly recommended, even if you are staying at an Isla Mujeres hotel, that you do not bring a car onto the island. Parking is very limited, and it’s just easier to rent your transportation on the island. And the main form of transport – is golf carts! When you arrive, you will be inundated by people wanting to take you to their golf cart rental place. The easiest thing to do on Isla Mujeres, is to walk across the street from the port (carefully, this is the one busy street on the island!), and walk in to one of the rental places.
A few tips on Isla Mujeres golf carts:
- I learned the hard way that it is worth paying a little extra to rent from a location on the main street. Some of the locations a few blocks inland can be very hard to return the cart to due to one way streets and streets blocked with deliveries. A few extra bucks was worth the easy drop off!
- I rented a cart on two different days, and both days the brakes on the carts were… possibly just slightly better than coasting to a stop. Plan your stops accordingly – a stop sign at the bottom of the hill was the scariest thing that happened to me going it solo on Isla Mujeres! (It was fine.)
- Beware the many speedbumps. They are not gentle!! If you don’t want to rattle your teeth, slow way down.
- Renting a cart for the day ranged from $35 USD (two back seats facing backward, side-street rental place) to $47 USD (4 forward facing seats, renting from a main street location).
2. Coolest Thing To Do on Isla Mujeres: Snorkeling and SCUBA Dive MUSA
On Isla Mujeres, snorkeling and diving is some of the best in the area. Much of life is tied to the sea, so go with it and dive in! The water is gorgeous, and even if you are staying in Cancun, many of the tours will bring you to Isla Mujeres snorkeling & SCUBA. There are a number of places offering a few hours to a day out on the water (See some options here). I highly recommend you snorkel, or better, SCUBA dive MUSA, the underwater museum. It was one of the most memorable things we did while in Cancun.
MUSA is a manmade reef made from sculptures created by British sculptor, Jason deCaires Taylor. It is an effort by Mexico’s Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat to counteract the impact of the many thousands of tourists who snorkel and dive these waters each year. Instead of disturbing natural reefs, these underwater statues provide a manmade habitat for sea life, and give us visitors a fascinating underwater environment to explore. Highly recommend a visit!
Also, if you are uncomfortable with snorkel or SCUBA, Aquaworld runs a Paradise Subsee tour offering a just-below the surface view from a tour boat through some of MUSA, so you can still get a look. See Aquaworld Tours Here.
3. The Most Colorful Thing To Do on Isla Mujeres: Find Your Favorite Mural
One of the things you will notice pretty quickly on Isla Mujeres, is there are murals everywhere. As I’ve traveled more, I’ve developed a love for street art. The street art so often varies according to, and reflects, the place you are visiting. The murals of Quebec City were realistic and told the history of the city. But, the murals of Isla Mujeres are wildly colorful, imaginative, and reflect a love of and dependence on the sea.
If you are in your golf cart, you can’t go too awfully fast, but be sure to slow down and enjoy these works of art.
4. Most Responsible Thing To Do on Isla Mujeres: Tortugranja Visit
The Turtle Sanctuary on Isla Mujeres, Tortugranja, is not a large facility, but it is worth a stop. The main building has interconnected turtle pools where you can get up close and watch (not touch!) several different species of sea turtle at different stages of development. The babies are adorable!! There are also tanks along the walls with other sea life such as sea horses, crabs, starfish, and fish. The outdoor area also has a series of pools for the larger residents of Tortugranja.
Maybe what drew me to Tortugranja the most is the good work that it is doing. It used to be that fishermen of Isla Mujeres would wait for turtles to come out of the sea to lay their eggs, and take advantage of the opportunity to capture the mother before she returned to the sea. Thankfully, some fishermen became concerned about the future of these animals, and banded to together to make a change. Now, this humble turtle preserve is doing pioneering work, incubating the turtles until they are strong enough to return to the sea. If you inquire ahead of time, you may even be able to visit for a time of releasing some of the turtles. That is absolutely worth my $3 USD.
5. Isla Mujeres Thing To Do To Freak Out Your Kids: Eat at The Joint
The Joint is a Reggae bar and Grill, and bills itself as the “coolest bar on the island” with good cause. Super relaxed, seating out under a thick covering of trees, a reggae band playing away while you eat, and some really pretty good food and beverages. The only (completely hysterical) downside was when I noticed our daughters picking at, and barely eating their food. When I asked why, I was told they were concerned about marijuana in the food or secondhand smoke. Oh my gosh, I laughed so hard. We assured them that no one was sneaking anything in their food and the only smoking around us was cigarette smoke. Oh my, they are so wonderfully naïve and sweet!!
6. The Meandering Thing To Do on Isla Mujeres: Wander the Streets and Shop
Isla Mujeres, with it’s super-relaxed vibe and colorful daily life, is perfect to just wander about for a bit. At the northern, port-end of the island there are countless shops and restaurants, and you can find whatever it is you are hoping for. I found a wonderful silver shop, another with handmade wooden gift items, and another with an incredible variety of leather bags. I picked up little gifts for the girls in one of my daughters’ classes, and then stumbled upon Rooster, a delicious place to sit with an Americano and a Chicken fajita and relax a bit.
7. Isla Mujeres Punta Sur: The Thing To Do for History and Ruins
If you take your golf cart to the southern-most point on the island, you will arrive at Isla Mujeres’ Punta Sur. Here, you can enjoy a meal at Acantilado, which claims to have the Best View in the Island. Also, for a small fee, you can explore the sculpture garden that covers the area leading to the actual southern point. Perched on the southern tip of the island is a small ruin, all that is left of a Mayan temple. This ruin is a reminder of Isla Mujeres past, once sacred to the Maya goddess, Ixchel, the goddess of childbirth and medicine.
On the western side of the point there are steps leading down to a walkway. It is worth exploring at least a short way on this path. You will find a plaque marking this as the eastern most point of Mexico. On the morning of New Years, Mexicans flock here to be the first in Mexico to see the sun rising on a new year.
8. The Quirkiest Thing To Do On Isla Mujeres: See the Shell House
While exploring Isla Mujeres, working your way through your own list of Things to Do on Isla Mujeres… be sure to just stop and look around at the architecture of the island. There is great variation, from small houses tightly packed together, to new, modern, spacious homes being built. One in particular that is worth a stop as you pass by on the eastern side of the island, is the Shell House, or Casa Caracol. This home was designed by architect Eduardo Ocampo for his brother Octavio Ocampo, a very well known Mexican artist. The home has been on TV programs, used in fashion shoots, and in Magazines around the world. In fact, you can stay there yourself if you are so inclined, it’s an Airbnb! See This Posting. (Seriously, you have to see the interior pictures – the whole place is seashell themed!!)
9. Isla Mujeres Selfie Thing To Do: Find the Isla Mujeres Sign
I was just lucky, and in the process of trying to find some road that was one way Southbound instead of Northbound, to return my golf cart, I wound up pulling into a parking lot on the eastern side of the island and finding the colorful Isla Mujeres sign. I hadn’t been intending to do so, but you can do it on purpose, and get yourself a picture! Follow Calle Abasolo to the East side of the island, and you really can’t miss it.
10. The Thing To Do Everywhere on Isla Mujeres: Enjoy the View
However much time you have on Isla Mujeres, maybe the most important thing to do, is to take the time to stop and enjoy the view. Acantilado claims it has the best view from its restaurant seating at Punta Sur, but I think there are scores of restaurants, overlooks, and random places that could make their own argument for that title. Take some time and see if you can find your favorite.
If you want more on posts like this, check out:
Our post on Navigating the Cancun Airport
Our post on A Great Place to Stay in Cancun
Our post on 7 Reasons to Make Time for Burano in Venice, Italy
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