Step off the short ferry ride from Cancun to Isla Mujeres and you’ll find yourself in the busy downtown area, with its beaches, restaurants and bars. But what has the rest of the island got to offer?
If you’re going to explore far afield, you need to get hold of some wheels. Just for fun, hire a retro golf cart pimped out like a classic 50s Chevrolet from Ciro’s Golf Cart Rental on Avenida Guerrero from $50 a day.
Start the day at the boutique hotel, Casa Ixchel. Overlooking the Caribbean, the rooftop palapa restaurant Da Luisa serves a delicious breakfast including eggs chilaquiles with tortilla chips and salsa roja. You can also try island yoga here. Mel Hermann from Austin, Texas, leads a Vinyasa-style flow class with upbeat tunes, laughter and meditation.
When it’s time to hit the sand, head to Garrafon de Castilla, an old school-style beach club at the south of the island. Jump into the waters of the sheltered cove to feed the friendly reef fish or simply relax on the curved sun beds and make use of the waiter service offering ice-cold lemonade, beers and snacks. There’s also changing rooms, lockers and snorkel gear for hire.
To get to the heart of the island, visit the residential area of La Gloria. Here you'll find the Women’s Beading Co-operative, where locals make and sell traditional jewellery. Watch as the ladies handcraft one-off designs using shells and semi-precious stones. With profits going to the women and co-op, this is the perfect place to shop for necklaces and bracelets while supporting the local community.
Exploring the island can be thirsty work, but luckily there's a quiet oceanfront bar serving expertly mixed piña coladas and frozen mojitos. Kick back on sun loungers or at the swing bar at the boutique B&B, Villa La Bella, where you can also sample the finest Don Julio 1942 tequila. The Friday happy hour is a social affair with live music and pizza bites.
For a glimpse of the famous Isla Mujeres sunset, step aboard a catamaran cruise that circumnavigates the island. This laid-back, three-hour ride offers an alternative perspective of the isle with views of the dramatic cliffs and a chance to spot dolphins and turtles. Induna Charters departs from Brisas Grill, downtown, every Friday at 3.30pm (winter), 4pm (summer).
Getting peckish at the end of the day? Isla Mujeres has many restaurants to choose from. Recently opened Greenverde is run by Oscar and Poala from Mexico City, designers who make furniture from recycled materials. The restaurant interior will delight artisans with its collection of quirky knick-knacks and antiques. On the menu are Mexican favourites such as mole enchiladas and stuffed chilli poblano from $10 USD.
Header photo: Garrafon de Castilla beach © Garrafon de Castilla
Have you visited Isla Mujeres? What are your favourite day trips in the region?
Written by Catherine Gordon
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About the author: CatherineGordonCatherine Gordon
British freelance journalist Catherine Gordon is based in Cancun, Mexico. She writes about Cancun, the Riviera Maya and the Yucatan for newspapers, magazines and online media. She specialises in travel, culture, health, luxury, water sports and off-the-beaten-track city guides. Her website can be viewed at www.catherinegordon.net