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Revision as of 16:08, 13 January 2010
Isla Mujeres (Spanish for "Island of Women") is an island in the Mexican Caribbean Sea, located eight miles off of the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, near Cancun Mexico.
Various tour boats will take you there from Cancun, but for a cheaper and more authentic trip, just jump on one of the ferries. Puerto Juarez near downtown Cancun is the cheaper one that the locals use, but can be a bit crowded. Gran Puerto Cancun is located in the hotel zone and is a bit more expensive (150 pesos).
If you're in a hurry and have cash to spare, you can charter a Cessna from the delightfully named Aerobanana (tel. 998 87-25040).
Common destinations include Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen and the Mayan Wonders of Tulum, Cobá and Chichen Itza.
The island is pretty small and it isn't too far to walk from the ferry ports to the main beaches. But to see more of the island, the best way to go is to rent a scooter or golf cart. Like everything in Mexico, you should be able to haggle a decent price. There are two main roads that run from end to end of the island. Be aware that when driving on the Caribbean side of the island, there are occasional strong gusts of wind that can really take you by surprise on a scooter, as can the many topes, or speed bumps.
- Turtle Farm, located on Sac Bajo - Government-sponsored hatchery for endangered sea turtles. See young turtles in tanks.
- Hacienda Mundaca - 19th century hacienda built by Caribbean pirate Fermin Mundaca.
- North Beach - Playa Norte, AKA North Beach, is the stretch of beach that runs along the northern end of the island. It has shallow waters and stunning white sand. The beach is full of fun restaurants and bars as well as several hotels. This is where the majority of travellers will spend their beach time so it can get crowded during peak season.
- Playa Sol - Playa Sol is at the northwestern tip of the island and is the neighboring beach to Playa Norte. Playa Sol is the best location to watch the sunset and is usually a little less crowded than the neighboring beach. Although it is less crowded, the water is not as shallow and clear as Playa Norte. One other advantage is that drinks are less expensive along Playa Sol.
- Mayan Lighthouse and Temple - At the southern tip of the island is a small ruin that was once a lighthouse and temple to Ixchel, goddess of fertility.
- La Noruega Art Gallery (Art Gallery Isla Mujeres), Av. Benito Juarez, Plaza Isla Mujeres Local D13/14 (Up one block from the ferry terminal, then left down Av. Benito Juarez, it`s just after Elements of the Island, Black building not far from the cemetery), ☎ 9981480500, . 5pm - 9pm (17,00 - 21,00). If you are on Isla Mujeres and close to Plaza Isla Mujeres in el centro you should check out La Noruega Art Gallery.. They have new exhibitions each month, and sell reasonable paintings, handcrafted jewelry, teddybears and photos.
La Noruega Art Gallery, Isla Mujeres, México.
Fish watching season at Garafon Park
- Beach Volleyball - Isla Mujeres has several fine stretches of beach. The northern end of the island is Playa Norte which has a wide swatch of sand that is lined with palm trees and also a few beachfront restaurants and bars. The soft white sand and level beach area make for an ideal beach volleyball court. The main volleyball-playing area on Playa Norte in front of Buho's swing bar is now gone, a victim of changing tides and a diminishing beach which locals attribute to the moving of sand from the surrounding ocean floor to build back Wilma-damaged Cancun's beaches. Alas, the big, beautiful pre-Wilma Playa Norte is no longer, though there is hope that it will eventually come back.
- Garafon Park on the southern side of the island lacks a sandy beach but offers snorkeling where fish abound and the crystal clear water makes for an enjoyable swim. The reef that lies within the protective buoys has been severely damaged by storms and years of careless treatment by snorkelers, but a revamp of the park several years ago has created a healtheir environment for the coral, and it thrives more with each passing year. Entrance to the park is expensive. Tour boats from Cancun bring hordes of day-trippers who mostly stay within the park, so it can become quite crowded during the peak of the day.
- Dolphin Discovery in the northwest side of the island on the Peninsula of Sac Bajo is Dolphin Discovery. It is a small amusement park with cahins in other pasts of the Caribbean (including Cozumel) well known for allowing visitors to interact and swim with dolphins in an enclosed area. The park has a list of activities ranging from dolphins to other marine mammals. If traveling from Cancun, visitors can take a bus or taxi to Playa Langosta which is located at Boulevard Kukulcan Km. 5. It is between the Casa Maya Hotel and Vacation Club International. There, Dolphin Discovery representatives can check visitors in and direct them to a ferry which takes 40 minutes to get to the docking area of Dolphin Discovery. 
- The scuba diving and snorkeling around Isla Mujeres is unforgettable. The Manchones Reef begins just off of Isla's shore and the Cuevones and Banderas Reefs are close by. The waters are calm and clear - perfect for the beginner as well as the advanced diver.
- The town and townsfolk. Do NOT stay on Isla Mujeres if you insist on a corporate, highly structured vacation. The tourists are the visitors on the townsfolk's turf, and it truly helps to have a little Spanish language ability. Do not be afraid to eat the food, even from the very small and humble-looking restaurants. For instance, for 5 bucks American you can get a half roasted chicken (skin crispy and marinated in Achiote), beans, rice, home pickled peppers and carrots, pickled onions, and a stack of tortillas--more than 3 or 4 people can eat. If you go in late spring through summer, stay on the northeast coast. Even though it's rocky and not swimable, the refreshing and constant breezes off the ocean keep that side of the island nice and balmy. The town has a fair-sized population of dogs and cats running loose. If you eat on Hildalgo St. (the main drag closed to traffic), you will find many restaurants, and most folks sit outside in warm weather, and the puppies and kitties discreetly position themselves for the occasional dropped morsel. Don't let them upset you. The whole town is very laid back, and if one goes with the flow, it works well. If you treat the local folks with respect, you will be treated in kind.
- Go Fishing - One does not need to shell out the large sums of money to go sport fishing on Isla. Just talk to the local hotel/guesthouse employee and they can set you up with a local fisherman who will take you out fishing. Prices are about $40/person for 3-4 hours of fishing. Whatever fish you catch, you can take to a local restaurant and they will prepare the fish however you like. But if you want to do some big game deep sea fishing, Anthony Mendillo is a very young but fine captain with a sterling reputation. He helped start the movement to catch and release the sail fish, so the waters won't get depleted. If you "google" him, you will find many other skippers saying what a fine fisherman he is. We had a blast, and we caught a ton of Mahi Mahi to eat, and then, at the end of the day, huge sailfish. It was the most exciting part of the trip, and it was so beautiful on the open ocean. Ceviche Tours, Captian Luis Refugio runs Eco Tours for Sport fishing, Snorkeling and swimming with the Whale Sharks in the pristine waters that surrounding the island. As a local resident for 35 years, he and his crews work to preserve the reefs and marine wildlife while providing professional Guide services.
- Rent a golf cart/bike/etc. - Although Isla is a relatively small island, it is fun to rent a golf cart for the day and explore. Because most folks don't venture outside the tourist area they don't find the eastern or southern coasts with their own tucked away private beaches or the other villages on the island that have great food and activities. You can rent a golf cart for $45 for 24 hours.
- Nightlife - Isla's nightlife is a lot more laid back then Cancun's but there are still good options. From small, laid back bars to clubs that go late - you can find what you want. If you want a dosage of Cancun nightlife, jump on an express ferry heading to Cancun in the evening, party the night away and take the first ferry back to Isla at 5AM.
You have the typical items available for purchase (blankets, jewelery, stone carvings, pipes). Silver is the item to look for and good prices can be found, especially if buying in quantity.
Note: you should do your money exchange on the mainland, as the rate will be better.
The majority of shops and restaurants accept the US dollar but may give you your change in pesos.
Fish is fresh and bountiful, and dishes like ceviche are popular and delicious. A signature island dish is Tik-n-chik, which is a whole fish marinated in achiote and grilled. Like all places in tourist areas, there are many reasonably priced restaurants and there are a few that are more expensive. You can find everything from an exquisite lobster dinner to a slice of pizza. Some of the best food on the island comes from carts: taco stands and vendors selling corn on the cob and tamales in the town square.
- Chiles Locos - On the main entertainment street Hidalgo. The signature dish is a poblano pepper stuffed with shrimp and cheese and in a cream sauce. Mouth watering! So are the coconut shrimp, the beef arrachera, the guacamole, and salad (green and fresh). The margaritas are super and strong but tasty - US $ 5.00 and 2-4-1. Specialty tequilas too - try an elixar! Jorge runs a wonedrful place!
- Amigos- Amigos' menu specializes in Mexican and vegetarian dishes. (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner)
- Casa Rolandi's- The restaurant of Villas Rolandi on Sac Bajo has the most unique menu on the island, superb food and excellent service! Gourmet Italian cuisine. Rolandi's makes a tasty Lobster Pizza. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
- Playa Lancheros - A favorite of both tourists and locals of Isla Mujeres, where the island famous "tikin xic" dish is served. Located on Playa Lancheros - mid island. (Lunch)
- El Sombrero de Gomar- A typical Mexican restaurant with a lively atmosphere, good service and fresh grilled seafood. (Lunch & Dinner)
- Picus - This small restaurant is located on the beach next to (north of) the ferry dock serves fresh seafood that is brought in by the fisherman right in front of your eyes. Main entree $4-12USD.
- Bally Hoo - Located on a dock a few hundred yards north of the ferry dock. The open air restaurant serves fresh seafood and some of the best margaritas on Isla Mujeres. A perfect spot to watch the sunset.
- Tacos Campos - A small taqueria located in the La Gloria community at mid-island. Serves many different varieties of tacos for about $0.75USD each and includes a salsa bar with many different types of salsa and mexican condiments. It is open late, sometimes up to 4AM.
- Miguels Moonlight - Located on Hildalgo Ave, Miguel's serves up great food and drinks. The Seafood special includes lobster, shrimp and filet of fish for $15USD. The owner, Miguel, makes excellent drinks.
- Freddie's - on north end of Hidalgo Ave. Doesn't look like much, but they know how to cook a fish and do up shrimp. Freddy himself is quite a character, and will do his best to charm you and make you regulars. He makes the best garlic-butter catch of the day on the island in my opinion.
- Rolandi's - on Hidalgo. If you want some pizza, calzone or something nice like veal, eat at Rolandi's (and they actually deliver to the hotels--call the desk, and a man with a long gray ponytail will hop on a scooter and zip the pizza over to you. Prices are a tiny bit more than the Mexican joints, but sometimes, you just need a pizza.
- Bamboo - on Hidalgo. They have the usual fresh fish, shrimp, etc., but they also have Thai food (pad thai, fried rice). A nice change, and the night we ate there, they actually had two fantastic acoustic guitarists playing, unlike the two wooden sodden figures at Miguel's. Those guys were terrible musicians, and they had the personalities of granite made extra-rigid with liquid nitrogen. They could put a manic depressive to sleep during their manic phase.
- The Mercado - the grocery store on the town square. It is a local grocery with the basics. But they do have a few decent cold cuts and a couple of cheeses. And, they have.... an ATM!!!! Don't forget to stock up on Bimbo products. I died for Bimbo lime cream bars--sort of like granola bars, only ten times better; and their chocolate pound cakes--to die for. So go to the grocery and stock up on a few things.
- Sunset Grill - for a slurge, go to the Sunset Grill on North beach... at sunset or night. It's right on the beach, and one can either eat in the open/bar-restaurant area on in the sand with torches to light your meal. The waiters are young and handsome, and I suppose they got their jobs because they speak more English than many. The food is very nice. The shrimp cocktail is almost too much for one person to eat. And all their dishes are done quite well by a chef. Again, you will have furry visitors--kitties and puppies on occasion, but relax. Don't feed them, and they get the hint.
- Cool Gelato, Av. Hidalgo Mz.18 Lt 5 Local 8 (Next to the entrance of Hotel Plaza Almendros), ☎ 9981676351, . 11.00 - 23.00. The only gelateria that makes 100% natural ice cream on Isla Mujeres, definitely something to try! Dont miss it, best ice cream, great desserts, coffee and a nice ambiance.
Like all beach towns in Mexico, it is usually "Happy Hour" someplace, and beer is 2 for about $3, mixed drinks, 2 for $5. The "beach bars" on the north end have rotating happy hours. Try a michelada, which is a beer mixed with fresh lime juice and a variety of other sauces - the perfect delicious island drink.
- Buho's - Playa Norte. A great place to enjoy happy hour!
- Chi-Chi & Charlies - Playa Norte with the perfect spot to watch sunset
- Chiles Locos - Features live music in the evening.
- La Adelita - Isla's only tequila bar with over 150 different tequilas.
- Nitrox Club - Open Wednesday to Sunday, 9 PM to 3 AM
- Kokonuts - A popular night time spot for both tourist and locals.
- OM Bar and Chill Lounge - A unique new bar with beer on the tap at each table, wines and jazz.
- Romi's Bar - Romi, and Isla legend and owner, serves up fantastic drinks. Located at the Posada Del Mar Hotel.
- Pocna Hostel Bar - Bar within the Pocna Hostel. A cool palapa bar that is located on the beach. Open late and serves cheap beer/drink specials. Great international crowd.
- Casa Bonita de Isla & Villas Your villa by the beach.  Located on the south point of Isla Mujeres. International (617) 892 4670 /(+52) (998) 8870331. Isla Mujeres villa rental, Perfect for weddings, bussiness retreats and family reunions.
- Posada Del Mar — located downtown, near the beach. $50 a night.
- Belmar Located downtown (Hidalgo). USD 46 per night. Nice and clean rooms, but could not store bags after check-out.
- HOSTEL Located downtown in Isla Mujeres, 10~15$ a nght.
- Seahawk Rooms Located by Playa Norte. ~$25 per night.
- Casa de lo sueños, . Carretera a Garrafón, Fracc. Turqueza lote 9 A y B, Isla Mujeres, Q. Roo, Mexico. Toll free: National 01800 505 0252 International 1 866 705 1691 / 52 (998) 877 06 51 / 888 03 69. Resort and Spa Zenter, Luxury Boutique Hotel.
- Hotel Secreto - Resort & Spa Tel: (+52)(998) 877-1039
- Casa Ixchel - An Island Sanctuary where time is yours... Tel: (+52)(998) 888-0107
- Pocna Hostel - One of the best hostels in the Caribbean. Located right on the beach. Dormitory style rooms, a few singles and a campsite right on the beach. $7-11 per night, singles are $30, camping is cheap. Great bar and has cafe that serves simple meals. 
- Na Balam Hotel, . Na Balam is a refuge for the soul in the Mexican Caribbean on Isla Mujeres, a small island only a 20 minutes from Cancun, it is a site chosen by nature to enjoy every sunrise in México.
- Villa Rolandi Hotel, . Luxurious 5 star hotel in perfect harmony with the environment and the beach. Hotel Villa Rolandi, Gourmet & Beach Club is located on the Southern part of Isla Mujeres on the Sac Bajo peninsula, overlooking the Caribbean Sea, with views of Cancun.
- 'Playa la Media Luna Hotel', . Small hotel on the northeast side of the island, near the Avalon Reef Club. Low-priced rooms (starting at US$40) are in an older building while the newer building has more luxurious rooms and suites (at prices up to US$225). The Hotel is quite charming. It's locally owned, only 18 rooms. And it was designed so that each room feels as though you are isolated from your neighbors. Each floor has a sitting room, with books all over the place. We had a room with a jacuzzi that you had to take a beautiful wooden walkway to get to, and you never ever heard your neighbors... just the birds, the surf and and the wind. It is owned and run by a local family (two young women run it, Kin and Maria. Also, the famous fishing Captain Anthony Mendillo has his Keen M Deep Sea Fishing office there. We were kind to the staff; we tipped liberally, and we did our best to speak Spanish and be friendly. It was paradise. The sunrises over the Caribbean are amazing (if you're up!), and from about 2 pm on, the place is spectacular. The beach and the hotel turn golden, and the pool is warm by then, and you go down and swim and get later sun, and it's perfect. You can lean on a ledge facing the beach, and you are on your own little half moon cove, and it truly is one of the most beautiful spots on the island.
- Cabanas Maria del Mar, Av. Arq. Carlos Lazo #1, Isla Mujeres, Q. Roo, Mexico 77400, ☎ 52 (998) 877 0179, . Cabanas Maria del Mar is located on Isla Mujeres -- a small tropical island eight miles off the coast of Cancún, Mexico, and one hour door-to-door from Cancun International Airport. The 73-room resort is divided into three different sections. All rooms contain the following amenities: air conditioning, ceiling fan, private bathroom with shower, safety box and refrigerator. Rates start at $75 USD.
- Hotel Rocamar, Calle Nicolas Bravo y Entre Abasolo, Isla Mujeres, Q.Roo, 77400, Mexico, ☎ 52 (998) 877-0101, . The Hotel Rocamar in Isla Mujeres is one of the few hotels on the island that overlook the Caribbean and its conveniently located in the downtown area of the island, a few minutes from all the restaurants, shops, bars and the world famous North Beach. Rates start at $85 USD.
- Hotel Bahia Chac Chi, Lote 12, Mza 8, Smza 01, Avenida Rueda Medina, Colonia Centro, Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico, ☎ 998 8771797, . Hotel Bahia Chac Chi is located along Avenida Rueda Medina in Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Blending comfort and convenience at reasonable rates, Hotel Bahia Chac Chi offers luxury-filled rooms with a 32-inch LCD TV, Internet access, private toilet, and spa shower. Rates start at USD $60.
- XS Hostel (hostel & chilloutplace), Plaza Isla Mujeres Segundo Piso (XS hostel entre la Av. Hidalgo y Av. Juarez), ☎ +52 (998) 2010203, . Hostal XS offers six private⁄semi-private rooms each equiped with: * ∙Bathroom * ∙Air conditioning * ∙Four beds and bed linnens and a blanket are included. Beds are bunk bed style and they have a safe and storage area (safe, locker, storage area) ∙Access to the recreation room & patio equiped with games and * cable TV. The rooms are perfect to accomodate: ∙Families ∙Students ∙Groups of friends ∙Backpackers looking to make new friends. ∙Anyone wanting peace and quiet on their journeys 17 - 20 $.