Last Updated on December 11, 2023
Isla Mujeres–the Island of Women. This is Yucatán’s magical paradise.
Located just over 12 miles from busy Cancún, the island is accessible by boat or a 20-minute ferry ride. Though the five-mile-long island is small, and just 400 yards at its widest point, it is big on adventure with a myriad of things to do and places to explore.
When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, they named the island Isla Mujeres because of the many images of Maya goddesses they found. After a visit here, the feminine touch is certain–Mother Nature has indeed blessed the island in a number of ways. It’s no surprise that Isla Mujeres has been named one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos (magic villages) for its natural beauty, cultural riches, and historical relevance.
Here are my 10 favorite ways to enjoy this enchanting Mexican Caribbean isle.
1. Rent a Golf Cart
Transportation on the island is primarily by golf cart and scooter. Rentals are available from multiple companies just steps from the ferry terminal. Guests have a choice of two- or four-seat carts with an option of half- or full-day rentals.
They’re easy to drive, and it’s almost impossible to get lost–after all, it is an island. And it’s a fun and ideal way to explore all the many treasures of this delightful paradise.
2. Explore Maya History
In pre-Columbian times the island was sacred to Ixchel, the revered Maya goddess of the moon, fertility, childbirth, and medicine and wife of the Sun. Maya women canoed to the island on yearly pilgrimages seeking her help, wisdom, and blessings.
A statue honoring Ixchel is located at the entrance to Punta Sur. Sitting over 60-feet above sea level, Punta Sur is where the rising sun first touches Mexican soil. Views are absolutely incredible, with Maya ruins of the goddess fortress visible at its southernmost point.
3. Bask on a Caribbean Beach
Isla Mujeres beaches are some of the most beautiful in all of Mexico. Playa Norte is a picture-perfect, palm-fringed beach with white powdery sand leading to crystal-clear waters. There’s virtually no current here, so swimmers can wade out a distance and still only be waist-deep.
Beach chairs and umbrellas are available for a very reasonable rental fee. And if you’re lucky enough to snag one of the beach hammocks, enjoy your sway in paradise.
4. Discover Island Art and Architecture
You know you’re in the Caribbean when you see the painter’s palette of colors on the historic houses throughout the island. From turquoise, hot pinks, bright yellows, and lime greens, you’ll find vibrant hues everywhere on Isla Mujeres. Even the local town cemetery sports a colorful entrance.
Wall murals throughout the isle reflect the fascinating Maya and Yucatán history, and many depict a myriad of sea life creations and other unique aspects of island life.
5. Dive or Snorkel to an Underwater Museum
One of the most unique attractions of the island is the Cancún Underwater Museum of Art located just offshore from Isla Mujeres.
Accessed by dive or snorkel boats and glass-bottomed vessels, the museum features over 500 fascinating statues on the shallow seafloor. These artifacts were created to promote healthy coral life in the area. This innovative project was designed to counteract the effects of climate change on our oceans and reef systems. It’s one of the most ambitious underwater art attractions in the world, and a not-to-be-missed experience.
6. Zipline Over Paradise
There’s something amazing about flying over the Caribbean Sea, especially when you’re not in an airplane. Garrafon Park’s adventurous zip line begins at the top of a 42-foot tower built at the highest part of the park. Flyers are launched from over 100-feet above sea level and pass over cliffs, crashing waves, and multi-hued ocean waters.
It’s exhilarating and incredibly picturesque (for those who can manage to keep their eyes open). Of note, however, is that participants must be at least 13 years old to zipline here.
7. Swim with Whale Sharks
If you’ve never done it, you have to. That is, swim with the whale sharks in the Mexican Caribbean. Don’t worry, as these big fish are not maneaters. From June to September, snorkelers can take to these plankton-rich waters with these gentle giants of the deep. Known to reach up to 40 feet in length, whale sharks are a big draw here.
During this whale shark migration, you can get up-close-and-personal with hundreds of these enormous slow-moving sea creatures, each with their own unique spots and stripes. It’s an incredible experience watching a shark open its five-foot-wide mouth while feeding.
8. Visit a Turtle Sanctuary
For thousands of years the beaches of Isla Mujeres have been a nesting ground for turtles. Totugranja (Turtle Farm) is a government-sponsored hatchery started in the 1980s by a local fisherman for these endangered sea turtles.
For a small fee marine specialists will gladly conduct a guided tour of this vital turtle sanctuary. From May through October the farm invites visitors to participate in the release ceremony where hundreds of small turtles are tenderly and safely transported to the water’s edge, thereby increasing their chances of survival. The farm also sports a small aquarium where big kids and little kids alike love viewing the nurse sharks and manta rays.
9. Shopping on the Island
I admit it. I’m not typically a shopper. But I couldn’t resist the colorful boutique shops of Isla Mujeres, drawing me like a moth to a flame.
Only four by six blocks, the colorful town center is a shopper’s paradise–compact, walkable, and easy to navigate. Filled with a multitude of delightfully colorful and unique craft, jewelry, and artisan shops, the district offers silver jewelry at much more reasonable prices than in Cancún or Riviera Maya. Bartering is acceptable and expected.
10. Indulge in Local Island Cuisine
For a small island Isla Mujeres is a foodie paradise. Dining with a view always makes the experience even more memorable. One of the delights of this island is that we were able to do just that.
Mar-Bella Rawbar and Grill is a thatch-roofed palapa (thatched stand) restaurant located directly on the beach with picturesque ocean views, swaying palms, and even a wooden pier. Sailboats glided past while we enjoyed tropical drinks and voraciously devoured a Yucatán specialty–green ceviche with homemade chips.
Though our family loves everything about Mexico, there’s something special about Isla Mujeres. Its rocky cliffs, crashing waves, and multi-hued azure waters are truly captivating. The people are friendly, easygoing, and welcoming.
All this and more makes it easy to fall under Isla’s magical spell, beguiling visitors and beckoning them to return again and again.