Just a hop and a skip away from Cancun is the beautiful island of Isla Mujeres. 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. Given that it’s only a 30-minute ferry ride from Cancun, I’d say visiting Isla Mujeres is a must!
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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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 June to early August and November to March (high season). If you’re looking for a quieter experience, plan your trip for mid-August to October.
- 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).
ISLA MUJERES: WHAT TO PACK
- 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 the smart way. The key to smart packing is going to be compartmentalization, aka your packing cubes. This set comes with a bunch of different sizes, so you can create a separate compartment for undies and socks, one for clothing, one for toiletries, and one 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.
- SPF 30+ Sunscreen (For Face) | COOLA sunscreen is my new go-to facial sunscreen. My face doesn’t feel sticky or goopy, which is so important for feeling comfortable when you’re out and about in humid areas. If you’re going anywhere in the tropics, you’ll be close to the equator so you really want to use a high SPF – I don’t go below SPF 30 in hot and sunny climates. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s reef-friendly!
- Sunscreen (For Body) | Applying sunscreen to your body is absolutely necessary for tropical destinations. Even if it’s overcast and cloudy, the UV index can be very high, so be sure to apply whenever you’re outdoors. If you plan on snorkeling near the reefs, choose a coral reef-safe brand like Coola or Sun Bum, as traditional sunscreen contains chemicals that damage and even kill the precious reefs.
- 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.
- 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.
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 (beaches, town center, downtown area). 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.
So now that you’re oriented, let’s get on to the best things to do in Isla Mujeres.
14 BEST THINGS TO DO IN ISLA MUJERES
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!
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 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.
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!
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. There is also a cute lighthouse that sits on a bluff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. If you don’t want to picnic, 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.
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.
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 in Playa Norte. Literally, it is a treehouse over looking Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres. How awesome is that? They offer classes throughout the week at 9:00am. Check out their Instagram for the latest info.
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.
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.
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 open bar are included with the packages offered by the park. They also have packages that allow you to swim with dolphins.
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.
DOLPHIN DISCOVERY ISLA MUJERES
Dolphin Discovery Isla Mujeres invites you to live the dream of swimming with dolphins, manatees and sea lions in a natural ocean environment. There are a few different packages to choose from, but the Royal Swim package comes highly recommended due to the increased interaction opportunities with the dolphins. Looking for more VIP treatment? Go with the VIP package, which provides you with a separate, air-conditioned area for lunch away from the crowds (with better lunch options too!).
Tip: It is cheaper to book it online rather than at the port.
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 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!
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
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.
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.
HOW TO GET 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, this will be the easiest and quickest way. UltraMar is the ferry that you’ll take to get to and from Isla Mujeres. It runs very frequently throughout the day from different terminals. 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 (no need to buy in advance) and it’s super easy to catch a ferry every half hour from 5:00AM – 9:30PM. From Puerto Juarez, it costs $300 MXN ($15 USD) roundtrip per person.
If you are staying in the Hotel Zone in Cancun, you have three options–Playa Tortugas, Playa Caracol or El Embarcadero. One thing to note is that departure times are more limited compared to Puerto Juarez. From these terminals, it costs $21 USD. It’s slightly more expensive than the ferry from Puerto Juarez, but you can’t beat their proximity from the Hotel Zone. Simply taxi over from your hotel or catch the local bus. As you’re about to board 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).
Tip: If you’re walking from a local hotel over to the ferry, make sure to bring some bug spray just in case. Otherwise, we recommend taking a taxi over to the ferry. 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 is probably due to the fact that we walked through a tree-lined walking path to the ferry…) Better to be safe than sorry, I wouldn’t want you to be incessantly itchy throughout your day on Isla Mujeres like I was!
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.
WHERE TO STAY IN ISLA MUJERES
There are a lot of very affordable hotel options on Isla Mujeres. Take a look at these here (moderately priced options, while still providing you with all the island vibes):
- 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.
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.
For budget travelers who don’t mind the hostel experience, there is one hostel that beats the rest of them by a landslide:
- 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.
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!