Just a hop and a skip away from Cancun is the beautiful island of Isla Mujeres (which translates to “island of women”). This island, with its pristine waters, stunning beaches, and a never-ending list of things to do, makes for a great day trip or overnight stay if you’re planning a vacation to Cancun.
If you’re looking for an island that offers a mix of relaxation, adventure, and an all-around good time, look no further than Isla Mujeres. Isla Mujeres had been on my bucket list for a few years now, and I’m so glad I finally got to experience the island for myself this year!
Despite the island being relatively small, there are certainly enough restaurants, bars, shops, and activities to keep any traveler busy and entertained for at least a week!
Oh yeah, the best part? You can explore the entire island with nothing more than a golf cart or moped! Keep reading to explore all of the fun things you can do in Isla Mujeres and get to planning your itinerary! Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
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WHERE IS ISLA MUJERES, MEXICO?
Isla Mujeres is a small island located off the coast of Cancun, Mexico in the Caribbean Sea, just 8 miles (13 km) northeast of the Yucatan Peninsula.
This cute little island is only 4.3 miles (7 km) long and 0.7 miles (1.1 km) wide, making it a small island that sure packs a punch!
WHAT IS ISLA MUJERES KNOWN FOR?
Isla Mujeres is known for its relaxed atmosphere, beautiful white-sand beaches, calm crystal clear turquoise waters, small-town feel, mom-and-pop businesses owned by the friendliest locals, and majestic whale sharks in the summertime.
There’s the famous Playa Norte, a stretch of beach that’s often listed as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. And yes, how could I forget, it’s also known for the many, many golf carts you’ll see around town!
If you thought a vacation to Cancun was relaxing, wait until you see Isla! Isla Mujeres will feel worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Cancun.
Not only will you get the chance to zip through the entire island at your own pace with a golf cart or moped, but you’ll also be able to enjoy the adorable little streets and neighborhoods on foot.
IS ISLA MUJERES WORTH VISITING?
If you’re looking to spend your time on a magically relaxed island, the answer is 100% yes.
Every time I fly into Cancun, I think about how I could make an overnight stay or take a day trip in Isla Mujeres.
Though it is a bit more touristy than it used to be, the island has not lost its laid-back Mexican-Caribbean charm! If you like feeling fine, white sand beneath your feet, strolling through colorful souvenir shops, and eating and drinking among locals in outdoor patios, then you will love Isla.
All in all, Isla Mujeres is an enchanting place to be. Given that it’s only a 20 to 30-minute ferry ride from Cancun, I’d say visiting Isla Mujeres is a must when you’re in the Cancun area.
MOST POPULAR TOURS ON ISLA MUJERES
Isla Mujeres Snorkeling Tour with Lunch Included – a must-do best-seller! Departs from Isla Mujeres.
Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Adventure With Snorkel Experience – while I didn’t swim with whale sharks in Isla Mujeres specifically (I did it in Cabo), this experience is an adventure of a lifetime. There are only a handful of places around the world where you can see these gentle creatures! Departs from Isla Mujeres or Cancun.
Isla Mujeres Golf Cart Bar Crawl – eat and drink your way around the island on a fun golf cart bar crawl. Departs from Isla Mujeres.
Scuba Diving At MUSA (Underwater Museum) – MUSA features over 450 sculptures off the coast of Isla Mujeres. Your tour also includes a dive into the Manchones reef system for a closer look at local wildlife like rays, corals, and turtles! Departs from Isla Mujeres.
Isla Mujeres All Inclusive Luxury Catamaran & Snorkel from Cancun – the best half-day spent sailing, snorkeling, and exploring the island of Isla Mujeres. Departs from Cancun or Riviera Maya.
HOW TO GET TO ISLA MUJERES, MEXICO
This section will break down the best ways to get to Isla Mujeres from popular spots like downtown Cancun, The Hotel Zone, the Cancun Airport, and Playa Del Carmen (Riviera Maya).
HOW TO GET FROM CANCUN TO ISLA MUJERES
The best option to get to the island is the ferry that leaves from Puerto Juarez. If you are staying in the city of Cancun, this will be the easiest and quickest way. I’d recommend that you take a taxi or private transfer from your Cancun hotel to Puerto Jaurez.
From Puerto Jaurez, take the UltraMar ferry to get to and from Isla Mujeres. The great thing about this ferry is that it runs very frequently throughout the day, approximately every 30 minutes.
The ferry ride itself is approximately 30 minutes and it’s a pretty pleasant one at that. Sit back and relax while soaking in the views of the turquoise waters around you!
You can buy tickets there at the terminal when you get there (no need to buy in advance) and it’s super easy to catch a ferry every half hour from 6:00AM – 9:00PM. From Puerto Juarez, it costs $300 MXN ($15 USD) roundtrip per person. More fare information here.
Tip: If you’re close enough from the ferry terminal to walk over from a local hotel, make sure to bring some insect repellent, just in case!
Heed my warning, the mosquitos in Cancun are no joke! In November, we walked from our hotel at the Excellence Playa Mujeres to the Puerto Juarez ferry and were eaten alive by mosquitos! This was probably because our route included walking through a tree-lined walking path to the ferry…
In hindsight, we probably should have taken a short cab ride over. In any case, we made this mistake so that you wouldn’t have to! If you plan to do a lot of walking, Sawyer’s 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent is super effective– a must-have for any trip to Mexico!
Tip: Buy your return tickets when you buy your departure ticket so you don’t have to stand in line again on your return home.
HOW TO GET FROM CANCUN (HOTEL ZONE) TO ISLA MUJERES
If you are staying in the hotel zone in Cancun, you have three main options to get to Isla Mujeres as there are ferry services leaving from Playa Tortugas, Playa Caracol or El Embarcadero.
One thing to note is that departure times are a lot more limited compared to Puerto Juarez. From these terminals, it costs $21 USD.
Be sure to check departure times and return times to make sure the times fit in with your schedule. If you end up at Isla Mujeres and stay past your ferry return time, you might have to catch a ferry back to Puerto Juarez and cab back to the Hotel Zone from there.
If you are staying at one of the hotels in the Hotel Zone, it will most likely make the most sense to leave from one of these terminals. It’s only slightly more expensive than the ferry from Puerto Juarez, but you can’t beat their proximity from the Hotel Zone.
Just taxi your way over or catch the local bus. If taking the bus, tell the bus driver where you are headed, and get off once you’ve arrived at the ferry terminal (they will tell you when it’s time to get off).
HOW TO GET FROM CANCUN AIRPORT TO ISLA MUJERES
There is no direct transfer from the Cancun airport to Isla Mujeres. The easiest and fastest way to get to Isla Mujeres from the airport is by taking a taxi or private airport transfer over to the Puerto Juarez ferry.
The UltraMar at Puerto Juarez offers the cheapest fares and the most departure/return times compared to their other locations (you’ll have way more flexibility on what time you want to head back to Cancun after your day of exploring Isla Mujeres this way). This method is the most efficient and will take you about 1 hour 15 minutes to get from CUN airport to Isla Mujeres.
Pro Tip: Transfer companies are all cheaper than taxis. I would recommend you set up a transfer ahead of time on Booking.com (what I used to book all my Cancun transportation ahead of time), as I’ve found that they’re 40-50% cheaper than what you’d pay through taxi cab, even after negotiating down the price.
HOW TO GET FROM PLAYA DEL CARMEN TO ISLA MUJERES
From Playa Del Carmen and beyond, you can employ the same tactics as above– take a shared/private transfer to Puerto Juarez and hop on the ferry. Several companies also offer transfers with the round-trip ferry ticket included in the price (UltraMar has one from Playa Del Carmen).
Pro Tip: Bookaway is also a great resource to check out (and book) different transportation options that’ll get you to Isla Mujeres. You can book all your ferry tickets in advance there!
WELCOME TO ISLA MUJERES: GET ORIENTED
Stepping off the ferry, you might not notice too much going on. However, take a few steps away from the ferry terminal and a buzzing town will be revealed to you!
To the north of the ferry port are Isla Mujeres’ most popular beaches, including Playa Norte, where you can rent beach chairs and spend the day wading through unrealistically turquoise waters.
If you only have a half-day available to explore, aim to spend your time up north (where the beaches, town center, and downtown area are located). But if you’ve got a little more time and are up for some adventure, grab a golf cart and make your way down south.
The southern part of the island is where you’ll find rugged coastlines and sweeping views, including those at Punta Sur.
HOW TO GET AROUND ISLA MUJERES, MEXICO
Once on the island, I’d recommend renting a golf cart so you can see all of the spots below on your own time (instead of spending your money cabbing around).
However, if you choose to rent a golf cart, do some comparison shopping when you get there because many of them will try to charge you a higher hourly rate than average.
Golf cart rental shops are easy to find–simply look for the storefronts with many golf carts lined up in front of them.
A lot of people also wonder whether it’s worth bringing a car onto Isla Mujeres. Generally, it is not recommended to take a rental car to Isla as parking on the island is very limited. It’s also so much more fun to zip around on a golf cart!
However, if you must bring a car, there is a car ferry service at Punta Sam just 10 minutes north of Puerto Juárez.
So now that you’re completely oriented, let’s get on to the best things to do in Isla Mujeres!
19 BEST THINGS TO DO IN ISLA MUJERES
1. RENT A GOLF CART
One of the best ways to spend a day on Isla Mujeres is with a golf cart rental! What you’ll notice once you get here— golf carts are way common. Pick up a golf cart from one of the many vendors in town and spend the day whizzing around the island, visiting hard-to-access spots like Punta Sur or Garrafon Park.
By renting a golf cart, you’ll be able to go wherever you want, when you want. You’ll be able to travel more slowly and enjoy all the colorful architecture that makes up the neighborhoods on Isla Mujeres.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t forget to bring your driver’s license! You won’t be able to rent a golf cart without a license. You’ll also have to leave your ID card/license with the rental shop as a deposit for the golf cart. Once you return the golf cart at the end of the day, you’ll get your ID card/license back.
Tip: Obviously since this is a touristy island, you’re going to have to go out of your way to get a good deal. Walk by a few different golf cart vendors, preferably off the main streets, to compare prices. Since golf cart rentals are relatively spacious, they are most economical for parties of 4 or more.
For smaller parties, if you’d like to save some money, consider renting a moped. It’s just as fun to see the city on two wheels instead of four, and a bit more adventurous, too!
2. EXPLORE AVENIDA MIGUEL HIDALGO / DOWNTOWN
Avenida Miguel Hidalgo is a pedestrian-only street that comprises the “downtown” of Isla Mujeres. You’ll know you’re here when you walk into a bustling area filled with vibrant colors, artisanal shops, and many various restaurants/bars.
There’s seriously so much to enjoy here, from the colorful architecture surrounding you to the sights of the beautiful textiles and gifts sold in the open-air shops.
It’s the perfect place to go souvenir shopping or grab some lunch, enjoy a few cocktails, and soak up the ambiance.
3. GO SOUVENIR SHOPPING
You’ll find the usual Mexican souvenir shops in Isla Mujeres, but if you’re looking for something more specific such as tequila or mezcal, folk art, silver jewelry, or ceramics, there are a few specialty shops on the island that sell these. Some of the best shopping can be found along Avenida Rueda Medina.
Tip: Since there are so many shops in this area, I’d recommend taking the paths less traveled and exploring the side streets of the downtown area. You’re bound to find lower prices than if you just stayed on the main street!
4. SEE PUNTA SUR
Punta Sur hands-down features the most beautiful views on the island, making it the perfect place to enjoy a picnic lunch with a view. It’s free to visit, and definitely worth the trip!
Breathtaking scenery awaits you at every turn on the short walking trails here. One spot that you should see if you’re into history is the Ruins of the Temple of The Goddess Ixchel.
It is a small, but significant site that dates back to the late postclassic period (1200-1521 AD). The temple was dedicated to the goddess Ixchel, who was the Mayan goddess of fertility, childbirth, and medicine. The ruins of the temple consist of several structures, including a pyramid, an altar, and a number of stelae (carved stone monuments).
Visitors to the Temple of the Goddess Ixchel can explore the site and learn about its history and significance while enjoying the beautiful outdoor setting, surrounded by lush vegetation and overlooking the Caribbean Sea!
There is also a cute lighthouse that sits on a bluff you can visit. If you don’t want to picnic (which I recommend you do, given the awesome views), there is a charming restaurant that sits inside the park as well.
Tip: If you happen to be staying the night in Isla Mujeres, may I recommend heading to Punta Sur during sunrise? This is one of the best sunrise points on the island. If you’re looking to catch some early morning rays as they touch the coastline for the first time in the day, look no further than Punta Sur.
5. BEACH AT PLAYA NORTE
The beaches on Isla Mujeres alone are worth a visit to the island. Playa Norte is literally one of the most beautiful stretches of sand and beach I have ever witnessed!
The sand is shockingly fine, soft, and white, while the waters are shallow, warm and endlessly turquoise (absolutely perfect for swimming).
The water remains waist-deep for quite a while, so what you’ll find is that you can venture out further, even if you’re not a swimmer. Don’t want to deal with typical ocean waves? Also not a problem here!
There are many resorts, bars, and hammocks along the beach, so it’s easy to grab a seat and have a drink where ever you are. It’s also truly a sensational place to watch the sunset.
Tip: It can get crowded in the afternoons, so it’s best to get there early and secure a spot on the beach.
6. DO YOGA BY THE BEACH
If you happen to be in the Playa Norte area and find yourself with free time before your beach session, make sure to take part in a beachside yoga session at The Treehouse Yoga at the ever-popular Buho’s Bar.
Literally, it is a treehouse overlooking Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres. How awesome is that? They offer classes throughout the week at 9:00am. Classes start at $10 USD. Check out their Instagram or Facebook page for the latest info.
Afterwards, pull up a swing at the bar for a cold beer to round out your productive morning!
7. VISIT OTHER GREAT BEACHES
If Playa Norte is too crowded for your liking, check out Playa Tiburon, Playa Lancheros, or Playa Indios.
These beaches are all more secluded and can be found on the western side of the island. Similar to Playa Norte, you can rent beach chairs and umbrellas there as well. There are also a few open-air restaurants, gift shops, and public bathrooms close by.
8. KIN HA (PARQUE DE LOS SUENOS)
This oceanfront park on the southwest coast of Isla Mujeres gives the feeling of being at both a water park and an all-inclusive hotel for the day.
Kin Ha features infinity pools, water slides, SUP boards, kayaks, snorkeling gear, rope swings, climbing walls, and more. What more could you ask for? It’s a great place to spend a few hours if you’re looking to relax by the pool or engage in a few water activities.
Looking to eat or drink? Enjoy a few margaritas accompanied by nachos by the pool or at the swim-up bar, or enjoy a sunset dinner at the full-service restaurant later in the evening.
No matter what time you go, you’re sure to have an awesome time here! All in all, a very good place for any group size of all ages to spend a few hours.
9. GARRAFON NATURAL REEF PARK
Similar to Kin Ha, Garrafon Park offers a jam-packed day out outdoor adventure (only with a much steeper price tag). Garrafon Park features many family activities, including a reef for snorkeling, sprawling green areas with hammock gardens, walking paths, ziplining adventures, kayaks, and bicycles.
Admission includes bathrooms, lockers, showers, and entrance to the Sculpture Garden and Punta Sur. Both a buffet lunch and an open bar are included with the packages offered by the park.
10. SEE BABY SEA TURTLES AT TORTUGRANJA
Tortugranja is a small turtle sanctuary located on the island where thousands of turtles are released and reintroduced to the wild each year. For just a small admission fee, you can visit the protected pools where turtles in need of care are protected until they are ready for release.
Depending on when you go, there might even be baby sea turtles! You can also purchase turtle food and feed them.
This stop will take about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how much time you want to enjoy the majestic creatures’ company. It’s well worth the $3 admission cost! There is a little turtle gift shop here as well.
11. SWIM WITH WHALE SHARKS
This is one of the absolute coolest and most memorable things to do on Isla Mujeres, and it’s well worth adding to your itinerary.
Between the summer months (June through September), whale sharks hang out and feed around the warm waters near Isla Mujeres. Well, lucky for you! You can book a whale shark tour to catch a glimpse of them living their best lives and actually snorkel with them!
And if you’re concerned about the dangers of swimming with “sharks”, don’t let their name scare you, whale sharks are completely harmless. If you only had time to do 1-2 activities on Isla Mujeres, I’d highly recommend this be at the top of your list!
12. DAY TRIP TO ISLA CONTOY
Isla Contoy is a small island about 19 miles (30 kilometers) north of Isla Mujeres. This protected and uninhabited island is famous for its white-sand beaches, bright blue waters, as well as being home to over 150 species of birds.
Every day only 200 people are allowed to visit the island. Therefore, most people arrange a trip via a tour company. Most tours include a snorkel trip to the nearby reef of Ixlache.
If you’re wondering whether the snorkeling here is worth it–it is! Ixlache marks the start of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second-largest reef in the world. You can expect to see some pretty wild marine life!
13. VISIT THE UNDERWATER MUSEUM
One of the most popular activities in Isla Mujeres is to visit MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte), the underwater museum. The museum has a total of 500 sculptures, most by the British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, with three different galleries submerged between 10-20 feet below water. It’s truly a unique creation and quite a sight to see.
You can tour the underwater museum by glass-bottom boat to enjoy the sculptures, all designed in collaboration with marine biologists and experts to counteract the effects of climate change on our oceans and reef systems.
Alternatively, there are also snorkeling and scuba diving tours where you’ll have the chance to get up close and personal to the underwater sculptures at MUSA.
If you miss the opportunity to book ahead of time online, you’ll be able to book a tour through various vendors in the downtown area.
MUSA Cancun is divided into 3 sections:
- Salon Nizuc – shallower underwater, suitable for snorkeling, the Jungle Tour, and the glass bottom boat tour
- Salon Punta Sam – shallower underwater, suitable for snorkeling
- Salone Machones – deeper underwater, suitable for both snorkelers and scuba divers
14. GO SNORKELING
You can’t go to the tropical coast of Mexico and not snorkel! If you are a beginner and haven’t done much snorkeling in the past, the best place to start is El Farito. Located at the north of the island, El Farito is shallow and home to schools of colorful fish.
Looking for deeper water or more advanced snorkeling? Check out Los Machones, with a depth of 35-40 feet.
Looking to avoid crowds? Garrafon de Castilla is a lesser-known snorkeling spot that packs a punch. It’s located next to the popular Garrafon Reef Park, but is much quieter, lesser-known, yet equally as stunning. Here, you’ll find pristine snorkeling waters, relaxing lounge chairs, and a restaurant selling fresh and delicious seafood. There are also changing facilities and lockers.
🤿 Looking for the snorkeling tour in Isla Mujeres?
Immerse yourself in the colorful underwater world of Mexico with this Isla Mujeres Snorkeling Tour with Lunch Included. This half-day snorkeling tour from Isla Mujeres will plunge you in at three different locations, including an “underwater museums”.You will be provided with all needed instructions and snorkeling gear.BOOK THE TOUR HERE
Snorkel Tip: If you plan on doing a lot of snorkeling on your trip to Mexico, consider bringing your own snorkel gear to save on constant rental fees. Plus it’s way more hygienic that way. If you’re looking for even more spectacular snorkeling, consider taking a day trip to Isla Contoy or Puerto Morelos.
15. VISIT A BEACH CLUB
Beach clubs are a great way to enjoy the beachside life without having to just sit on a towel in the sand. You’ll get a lounge chair, but that’s just the start of it.
Zama Beach & Lounge is a luxury beach club that features several infinity pools overlooking the sea. Not only is there impeccable beachside service, but there is also gourmet food by an award-winning chef to enjoy here!
Located at Playa Norte, Green Demon Beach Club is the premier destination for tropical cocktails, beachside lounging, and good music. You’re sure to get excellent service and have an all-around good time! Due to popularity, reservations are highly recommended.
16. TAKE A CATAMARAN & SNORKEL CRUISE
Don’t feel like dealing with the logistics of getting to Isla on your own? Consider booking an all-inclusive luxury catamaran and snorkel cruise from Cancun!
Sail along the beautiful crystal-clear waters of Cancun’s Caribbean coastline on this half-day sailing adventure to Islas Mujeres. Get geared up and go snorkeling, then take a break to enjoy a gourmet lunch on board the catamaran.
You’ll stop at the island of Isla Mujeres, and either visit must-see spots on your own or on a guided tour. Afterward, sip on complimentary beverages on the way back to port!
17. VISIT THE WOMEN’S BEADING COOPERATIVE
Looking for something unique to bring home? Pick out something nice and handmade at The Women’s Beading Cooperative!
This is a local initiative that supports the economic empowerment of women on Isla Mujeres. The cooperative is made up of a group of women who create handmade jewelry and crafts using traditional beading techniques passed down through generations.
The cooperative offers a wide variety of items for sale, including necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and decorative items such as beaded animals and flowers.
In addition to shopping, you can also learn about the beading process and the history of the cooperative. Support local!
18. SWIM IN THE KING’S BATH
The King’s Bath, or Piscina del Rey, is a gorgeous rock formation pool that was created naturally and located at the tip of Playa Norte.
This pool can only be entered by hotel guests of Mia Reef Resort Isla Mujeres, which makes it an ultra-exclusive activity! It’s common for colored fish to come to this pool to look for food, so be prepared to have a memorable experience with just you and your fishy friends!
And thanks to the rock formations and the reefs they help to avoid flooding from passing waves, it’s a safe place to swim for all ages!
19. CONSIDER THE GO CITY CANCUN ATTRACTION PASS
With an all-inclusive attraction pass, you’ll get to do a lot of cool stuff while paying one fixed price. You will be saving a ton of money compared to buying each and every excursion separately.
The Go City Cancun All-inclusive Pass is what I like to get when I’m visiting the Cancun area with friends/family members who have never been. Not only grants you access to a multitude of attractions in Cancun proper but there are also some really great activities included on Isla Mujeres.
The all-inclusive pass includes the following:
- Manatee Encounter & Lunch in Isla Mujeres – normal retail value: $135
- Royal Garrafon Natural Reef Park Adventure – normal retail value: $89
- “Get Up and Go” Catamaran Sail to Isla Mujeres – normal retail value: $70
- Isla Mujeres Discovery Sail – normal retail value: $79
Prices start at $99 for a 1-day pass. Each additional day you tack on makes the pass even cheaper from a cost-per-day perspective.
DEAL ALERT: For a limited time, use this link + the promo code AFFGOALL for an additional 5% off your Go City pass. This code is valid for any Go City pass in any destination!
HOW MANY DAYS TO SPEND IN ISLA MUJERES, MEXICO
Most visitors will spend just one day on Isla Mujeres as a day trip from Cancun. It is definitely possible to see most of the highlights of the island in one day.
Having said that, we think an overnight stay is even better! If you’re able to spend 1-2 nights on Isla Mujeres, this will really open your eyes to how different the Isla Mujeres experience is compared to Cancun.
Staying longer will allow you to enjoy all the sights and eco-parks, as well as relax a lot more (and even enjoy a few island sunrises and sunsets!).
WHERE TO STAY IN ISLA MUJERES, MEXICO
There are a lot of very affordable hotel options on Isla Mujeres. There are also a lot of ultra-luxurious hotels, too! We’ve rounded up some of our favorites for you below.
Moderately Priced Hotels In Isla Mujeres ($$)
- Hotel Beló Isla Mujeres – This hotel is very close to Paraiso Beach; features a beautiful restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool, and a fitness center.
- Hotel La Joya Isla Mujeres – waterfront property that features an outdoor pool, barbecue facilities, and rooms with private terraces and outdoor seating areas that offer unforgettable ocean views.
- Mia Reef Resort Isla Mujeres – The only hotel you should consider if swimming in King’s Bath is on your list! This is an all-inclusive experience, so it’ll be slightly pricier than the above options.
Luxury Hotels In Isla Mujeres ($$$$)
If you’re looking for more luxury, nothing, and I mean nothing, will beat this:
- Zoetry Villa Rolandi Isla Mujeres Cancun – This mind-blowingly luxurious property offers beachfront rooms with stunning Caribbean Sea views. It also features an outdoor sea-water hot tub. The rooms come with Tikul stone floors, with bathrooms that come equipped with soaking tubs and bathrobes. There are lots of gourmet restaurants on the property as well.
Budget Hotels In Isla Mujeres ($)
For budget travelers who don’t mind the hostel experience, there is one hostel that beats the rest of them by a landslide (in Cancun):
- Nomads Hotel & Rooftop Pool Cancun – This is the hippest and most modern-looking hostel in Cancun! The hostel features a rooftop pool with a huge bar, as well as a hangout area where you can enjoy the views surrounded by people from all over the world. Do note that this hostel is in Cancun and not on Isla Mujeres.
Consider A Vacation Home Rental
If you’re going to Isla Mujeres with a larger group, I recommend renting an apartment, condo, or villa. Yes, you heard that right, a whole villa!
Often, you can find entire condominium or villa rentals that fit anywhere from 2 to 16 people for the same price as hotel rooms. Check out VRBO for some really amazing and affordable beach rentals.
ESSENTIAL TRAVEL TIPS FOR ISLA MUJERES
- Located just 10 kilometers from the coast of Cancun, Isla Mujeres is easily accessible from many of the resort towns in the Cancun and Riviera Maya area.
- Most visitors will simply do a day trip to Isla Mujeres from Cancun. It is very possible to see most of the island in one day. An overnight stay is also a great option. An overnight stay means you’ll be able to catch the sunsets and sunrises of Isla Mujeres!
- Aim to hop on an early morning ferry to make the most of your time on Isla Mujeres. You’ll want the extra hours to be able to see everything.
- Want to make sure you’re going to be getting crystal clear waters? Check the latest seaweed conditions report before heading to Isla Mujeres.
- There are two types of ferries to get to Isla Mujeres: one for people, and one for people + cars (your rental car). The Ultimar Ferry from Puerto Juarez is a passenger ferry. There is a car ferry from Punta Sam, about five minutes north of Puerto Juarez.
- The most popular times to visit the Cancun area range from January to March (high season). If you’re looking for a quieter experience, plan your trip for April to December.
- Bring pesos with you just in case you need to pay with cash. Pick up pesos from an ATM wherever you depart from before heading to Isla Mujeres. Not all places accept credit cards on the island (small shopfronts, food vendors, etc.), and ATMs are few and far between.
- When using a credit card, choose to pay in the local currency instead of your home currency. You’ll get a better exchange rate and will be paying less than the home currency option. (In my case, I would pay in $MXN instead of in $USD.)
- The tap water in Mexico is not safe to drink. Instead of spending your money on plastic water bottles, bring a reusable water bottle and a rechargeable Steri-Pen (the way more environmentally friendly option).
- Make sure you bring your snorkel gear, as Isla Mujeres has no shortage of spots to enjoy marine life and coral reefs. There’s even an underwater museum of art!
ISLA MUJERES, MEXICO: ESSENTIAL PACKING LIST
- Lightweight Packable Day Bag | Inside my larger travel backpack, I always bring a lightweight, packable backpack to use for day-to-day exploration. The Fjallraven Kanken Mini is perfect for carrying a few snacks, a lightweight jacket, cameras, phones, a water bottle, and whatever else I need for the day.
- Packing Cubes | Start packing smarter. The key to smart packing is going to be compartmentalization, aka packing cubes. This set comes with a bunch of different sizes, so you can create a separate compartment for undies and socks, for clothing, for toiletries, and for anything else you may want to organize. By using packing cubes, it’s so much easier to pull out only what you need, rather than dig through all of your luggage to find that one thing you’re looking for.
- Laundry Bag | Summer = lots of sweaty, smelly worn clothes. Don’t soil your entire bag by mixing worn clothes with your unworn clothes! Definitely bring a laundry bag to separate your clean clothes from your dirty clothes to maintain the utmost freshness.
- Clothing | Pack your usual summer clothes for Cancun, as well as a few layers for unexpected cooler temperatures. This includes tanks, shorts, swimsuits, and swim coverups!
- Light Rain Jacket | Traveling to tropical areas does not necessarily mean there won’t be rain or wind. Packing a light rain jacket will definitely come in handy in unpredictable tropical climates. This one for men and this one for women are some of the best jackets for any kind of travel. They’re ultralight, wind and water-repellent, and take up virtually no space so they’re easy to carry wherever you go.
- Adventure Sandals | Tevas and Chacos are my go-to brands for multipurpose summer sandals. If you’re planning on having an adventurous day or two, you should definitely consider getting adventure sandals — comfortable for long-distance walking, safe for submerging in water, and super durable.
- Walking Shoes | One pair of closed-toed shoes (walking shoes or running shoes) is always crucial for any trip. These ones that I’ve been traveling around with are super light and breathable. I can even walk 15+ miles in them before getting sore feet.
- Cooling Facial Mist | When you’re faced with mid-day humidity, it can be very hard to deal with. Keeping a small bottle of facial mist in your purse or backpack on a hot day will save your life. This mist takes all the cooling, soothing ingredients you can think of—aloe, cucumber, and green tea—and combines them into one refreshing spritzer for your face.
- Dry Shampoo | Bring some dry shampoo to use in between washes to instantly revitalize and freshen your semi-dirty hair.
- Leave-In Conditioner | I recommend bringing a leave-in conditioner to help nurture your hair after spending time in pools and the salty ocean. As someone with naturally frizzy hair, my hair tends to get tangled, coarse, and even more frizzy after it’s submerged in water. This leave-in conditioner is a cult favorite – just put it in your damp hair after your shower and comb it through.
- Face Sunscreen | We are absolutely obsessed with the magical Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen that goes on completely matte. That’s right, no white-cast, no greasy film!
- Sunscreen | Applying sunscreen to your body is absolutely necessary for tropical destinations. If you plan on snorkeling near the reefs, choose a coral reef-safe option as traditional sunscreen contains chemicals that damage and even kill the precious reefs. And honestly, it’s not enough to just buy any old bottle that has a “reef-friendly” label on it. It turns out many sunscreens claiming to be “reef-friendly” or “reef-safe” actually aren’t!
- Here are a few travel-sized biodegradable sunscreens you can easily buy on Amazon:
- After Sun Cooling Spray| Let’s be real– you’re probably going to be spending the majority of your vacation outdoors under the sun. Chances are, you’re going to get a nice tan, and maybe even a sunburn or two! Even if you don’t get sunburned, you should still treat your exposed skin to some much-needed hydration with an after-sun cooling spray or after-sun lotion.
- Hand Sanitizer | Hand sanitizer gel or wipes are a must any time you’re going to be in contact with surfaces many other people have touched. Never leave your hotel room without it! And if you do happen to forget it, remember to wash your hands often, especially before eating or touching your face.
- Body Wipes / Feminine Wipes | Feeling a bit gross but don’t have the time to shower right in that instant? Just whip out one of these body wipes for a quick refresher. The feminine wipes I like are infused with cucumber and aloe. Trust me, you will feel and smell so much better. Always good to have a few handy in your travel bag.
- Oil Blotting Sheets | On a typical day in a hot and tropical place, your makeup will slide/sweat off your face in exactly three seconds after stepping outside. Rather than layering on more makeup, first, focus on tackling your shiny, sweaty glow. The solution? Use blotting sheets whenever your face starts getting sweaty.
- Cooling Face Mask | After a long day of exploring, nothing will feel better than propping your feet up and slapping on a cooling face mask for 10-20 minutes. Lay back and relax!
- Insect Repellent Lotion | Mosquitos love hot climates, so I would definitely recommend packing insect repellent with a high DEET percentage, no matter the season you’re traveling. Sawyer makes some really great bug repellent products, and they’re travel-friendly too!
- Permethrin Insect Repellent Spray for Clothing | This clothing insect repellent spray is a game-changer. If you’re going to be outdoors in areas where mosquitos are prevalent, I’d highly recommend preparing your clothes with this fabric spray!
- How does it work? This is a treatment spray for clothes that adheres only to fabrics, leaving no smell or residue on clothes and doesn’t harm human skin. Permethrin spray lasts for up to 6 machine washes, which is more than enough for most tropical trips. Real life story– I hiked Machu Picchu after treating my hiking clothes with this, and I only got a total of 2 mosquito bites after the 4-day trip, whereas some of my friends got 20+ bites. Worth it.
- Pro Tip: Buy and use before you leave for your trip. A few days before departure, spray all of your clothes, plus anything else made of fabric that you’d like treated.
- Insect Repelling Lightweight Pullover | Too lazy to treat your clothes with insect repellent? I know, it’s a process. The ExOfficio BugsAway pullover is the next best thing– it’s super lightweight too.
- Hat, Bandana, or Buff | Keep the sun off your skin with a fancy sunhat, bandana, or a Buff. All three can be used to shield your neck or forehead from the sun. As a bonus, bandanas and Buffs can be used as headbands to keep hair and sweat off of your face. Soak your bandana or Buff then put it on your head, face, or neck for a quick cool down.
- Cooling Towel | Perfect for working out, a day at the beach, or simply sitting there baking in the sun—you’ll feel Chill Pal‘s cooling effect as soon as you take it out of the package. To activate the cooling towel, just soak it in water and wring it out, then wear it as a bandana or use it as a towel. Another hot weather game-changing travel essential.
- Travel Towel | These are light and quick-drying, which is exactly what you need in hot, humid climates. Super useful if you plan on having beach days or staying in hostels. This one is a great option.
- Travel Clothesline | This is a small and portable clothesline that allows you to hang up your wet clothes almost anywhere. I’ve found that it’s really handy whenever I have wet bathing suits or towels that need to be air-dried. I love it for its multi-purpose functionality!
- Dry Bag | Another multi-purpose item on the list! Dry bags are completely necessary for keeping your dry belongings (clothes, electronics, money, etc)… dry. Don’t set foot on a kayak, boat or canoe without putting your stuff in a dry bag. Trust me, it’s better than ending up with a phone or camera submerged in water in the case where the boat tips or something. It’s also super handy for carrying around wet bathing suits and towels. Or even doubling as your laundry bag!
- Underwater Smartphone Housing | Don’t want to invest in an underwater camera? That’s fine, just stick your phone in the AxisGo’s underwater housing! It’s designed to protect your phone from the harshest weather conditions while offering the freedom to safely capture those special moments underwater.
- Portable Power Bank | You’re probably going to be out all day, snapping away taking pictures, GPSing to all the great food spots… the last thing you want is to be stranded with no phone battery! A portable power bank is a must-have, and Anker’s ultra-light, ultra-portable power bank is tried and true by so many travelers! I never embark on a day of exploration without it.
- Soft Hydration Flask | Stay hydrated in the warm weather with a water bottle that can go anywhere with you—and fold up when not in use. I love the packability of these bottles!
- Snorkel Set | If you plan on snorkeling a lot, bring your own set to save on rental costs.
- Emergen-C packets or Liquid I.V. Hydration Packets | These are a great way to support your immune system and overall health on a trip. They are light, take up no space, and are very easy to pack!
- Medicine | If you get motion sickness, consider bringing a motion sickness reliever like Dramamine for the ferry ride over to Isla Mujeres. If you need other meds, don’t forget your pain killers, antacids, etc.
IS ISLA MUJERES BETTER THAN CANCUN?
This is more of a subjective question that depends on what you’re looking for, but in my opinion, Isla Mujeres is better than Cancun!
Again, that’s totally my own opinion based on my personal travel style. You may think otherwise!
Here are the main differences between the two:
If you’re looking to get a chance to rub elbows with locals, wander around the little neighborhoods of the island, then Isla Mujeres is better for that. Isla Mujeres does not have any mega-resorts, but what it does have is smaller, more intimate accommodations. It’s all about the laid-back island life here!
Cancun, on the other hand, is great for visitors who want to primarily hang out at their resort and go on an excursion or two outside of the Hotel Zone.
Cancun’s Hotel Zone consists of a long strip of resorts and in this area, there is very little mixing of tourists and locals. It’s definitely hard to walk around on foot as there aren’t any intimate neighborhoods or things to see on this strip of land. For more authentic vibes, you’ll have to venture to the Downtown Cancun area where the locals live.
However, Cancun is great if you’re looking for big nightclubs and parties, easy-to-access amenities, and the all-inclusive resort life.
Both have great beaches, relaxation opportunities, and nightlife but in my opinion, Isla Mujeres is the best of both worlds.
Why I love Isla: On Isla Mujeres, you’ll get to enjoy the beach in the daytime, as well as explore the restaurants, cafes, and shops on foot. At night, you’ll get to enjoy the casual bars and the lively energy!
DO PEOPLE SPEAK ENGLISH ON ISLA MUJERES?
Yes, you will find a lot of locals on Isla Mujeres that know how to speak English, so you will not have to worry about a language barrier.
Having said that, it does help to learn a few common phrases in Spanish.
No matter what country we visit, we always try to study up on at least things like please and thanks, ‘where is the bathroom’, ‘can I get the check please’, and ‘do you speak English?’, as well as things like ‘hello’, ‘good morning’, and ‘thanks’.
Locals feel more respected and even more at ease when you attempt to speak their language, so I’d definitely recommend learning a few Spanish words ahead of time or downloading Google Translate for when you’re there.
MEXICO TRAVEL INSURANCE
This is a no-brainer. When traveling internationally, be sure to get yourself some travel insurance.
I’ve heard of too many unfortunate experiences where friends and family have had baggage lost/stolen, hotels canceled, or have had unexpected medical emergencies while traveling where they’ve had to cut their trips short.
True story alert — in 2022, my partner even had his shoulder completely dislocated while surfing in Mexico, resulting in a $950 USD emergency room bill that we had to pay out of pocket for! Not fun… and most definitely not cheap.
Without travel insurance, you would have to pay out of pocket for these mishaps. This is why I get travel insurance for all my international trips now!
One of the best budget-friendly travel insurances for those traveling outside their home country is SafetyWing.
SafetyWing Insurance provides coverage for unexpected illness or injury, including eligible expenses for hospital, doctor or prescription drugs. This means that if you get ill or injured, THEY will cover the medical expenses.
In addition, it provides emergency travel-related benefits such as:
- emergency medical evacuation – very much needed if you like to go hiking or backpacking in the wild.
- travel delay
- lost checked luggage
- adventure sports coverage (add-on) – so you can rappel down waterfalls, cave dive, mountain bike, scuba dive, etc. with peace of mind.
- electronics theft (add-on) – get reimbursed if your laptop, phone, camera or other electronics get stolen.
And that concludes this guide to our favorite things to do in Isla Mujeres! What are some of your recommendations for things to do in Isla Mujeres? We’d love to hear about them!
Want more Mexico travel tips?
My Favorite International Travel Planning Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when planning out a trip abroad. The sites/companies listed here typically have the best overall value, offer deals, beat out other competitors, and offer great customer service when needed.
- WayAway | This site compares flight ticket fares from hundreds of agencies. You’re going to get the best prices on the market, at least $10 lower than those on Skyscanner, Kayak, and Priceline.com. The best part is? The WayAway Plus membership. With the membership, you’ll get up to 10% cash back on airline tickets, hotel bookings, car rentals, and other travel services.
- DEAL ALERT! Use code ‘travelswithelle’ for 10% off WayAway Plus.
- Booking.com | Honestly, this is my go-to accommodation booking site. This site has free cancellation and no prepayment required on reservations which is huge for me. It also has amazing abilities to filter accommodation options by rating and price. Honestly, it’s shaved off so many hours of endless research for me and has made booking hotels and other accommodations a breeze.
- Trusted Housesitters | Traveling on a budget? Don’t want to spend a dime on lodging and accommodation while traveling? Trusted Housesitters is such a great way to exchange your services for a place to stay while traveling. You’ll care for someone’s pets and property while they’re away, and in exchange, be able to stay at someone’s home completely free of charge! Limited time offer: Get $10 off a TrustedHousesitter Membership with code THS10
- Viator | Viator is a huge online marketplace for all things tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, ATV tours, sailing trips, walking tours, hot air ballooning, and more.
- Go City | Go City offers great value-for-the-money attraction passes in various destinations around the world. Whenever I want to play tourist in a city, I always check to see if Go City operates in that city. The money you can save with this pass is unreal (as opposed to buying admission tickets for various attractions separately).
- Airalo | Need internet access while abroad? Airalo e-SIM card allows you to download a digital data pack and get connected anywhere in the world as soon as you land.
- SafetyWing | SafetyWing is by far one of the best travel medical insurance for travelers as they’ve got a large network and offer both short-term and long-term coverage. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those heading abroad.