Isla Mujeres literally means Island of women, to fellow travellers (boys) who keep asking us “are there many there?”… well yes actually, loads of them, about 50 percent.
Tribal Mayan’s had originally dedicated the island to the goddess of childbirth. A fertility monument was erected on its very tip, actually at Central America’s most easterly point, the first part of land to see the sunrise. Due to the numerous images that greeted the Spanish on their arrival in the 16th Century the name Island Mujeres seemed appropriate. Nowadays it is a melting pot of locals, foreigners and creative Mexicans from all over the country. The second you arrive in Mujeres you cannot hep but notice the artistic flare that emanates from the people living here. Huge painted murals and elaborate shop fronts, nightly street performances of breakdance and fire juggling, the rhythmic beat of a gembe or delicate strum of an acoustic guitar. Even the numerous stalls or passing nomads will startle you with their handmade intricate pieces of jewellery. In an influx of creativity Mujeres has an astounding amount of friendly entrepreneurs trying to make a living through their hobbies and passions.
For us, there was nothing quite like meeting old friends to make a new location feel instantly like home but I have a sneaky suspicion that Isla Mujeres has that effect on every traveller that hops across the channel for a visit. Once you’ve battled through the immigration cues (which I hear can be anything from 30minutes but for us lasted 2 hours) it is easy to skip the hyperactive city of Cancun and head straight for the port. By sunset we were cruising the channel for the 20 minute crossing during which we were serenaded with ludicrously romantic tunes from a saxophone- epic! it had been a whopping journey for us, the 36 hours of no sleep even effected my usual ability to treasure a real ‘food moment’… my first Mexican dish! I did however fully redeem myself in order to nail a few tequilas and dance the beach bar until he wee early hours.
Every meal since this one has been an absolute thrill since Mexican food lives up to and often exceeds all of my expectations. A luxurious aroma of burritos, tacos, nachos and quesadillas flurries within the streets and squares of Mujeres’ colourful alleyways and we vegetarians are catered for just fine!
Beach dwelling is the islands ultimate highlight and a main reason to visit, with luxuriously blue seas and soft sandy beaches strewn from the northern tip. Crowds of day-trippers arrive on the islands south-western shoreline which is also stunning but becomes a little over run. Unfortunately these beaches also hold captive nurse sharks and sells photographs with them. Learn more about our taking ‘selfies’ with animals campaign.
Isla Mujeres is over 7 kilometres long and only half a kilometre wide, it is so skinny that it is easy to make a dash for sunrise or sunset no matter where you are staying. The sunsets are usually magnificent, taking away the breath of everyone on the beach.
Watch the pelicans… they are everywhere and they are very entertaining. You are particularly lucky if you get to one diving into the sea to catch fish, otherwise watch them pester the fishermen returning with the days catch.
Walk the eastern coastline or hire a bicycle/golf buggy. Explore the cliffside easterly tip and pay your respects to the fertility goddess.
Meet the house and the man who has constructed his very own island out of trash. For $5, this world record holder will give you a tour of his island and treat you to some solar tea. We have never seen anything quite like it, despite now being famous Richart is still rather down to earth, and in tune with it.
Go snorkelling or scuba diving, encounter the wonderful and mysterious Underwater Museum (MUSA) or book a tour and try your chances at swimming with dolphins (non specific season but I hear that you have to be lucky to see them underwater), sailfish (sailfish season is from December to March) or the mighty whale shark (whale shark season is from June to September).
Other than that indulge in the live music scene that literally spills onto the streets from every bar, steal away a couple of tequila shots because its is cultural after all. Late nights end at the core backpacker hostel of Poc Na where you will find yourself dancing on the small stage or swinging in a hammock to the sound of the ocean.
Pre book your shuttle bus from the airport to Puerto Juarez through bestday.com, this 24hour service will immediately load your luggage on one of their vans which do several drop off loops. Its a bit pricey ($17USD per person) but saves you the hassle of arranging anything else or doing bus runs into Cancun and back out. The boat from Puerto Juarez has a fabulous schedule leaving every every hour at 30mins past. From 5.30am to 8.30pm. There are then 3 late night ferries – 9:30pm, 10:30pm and 11:30pm. The price is 70 Pesos (5.50USD) each way and takes around 20minutes to reach the island.