It’s not far by physical distance, but Isla Mujeres and Cancun are simply world’s apart. Isla Mujeres is sleepy and laid back where Cancun is bustling and “always on”.
Easy Access from the United States:
Cancun couldn’t possibly be easier to get to from the U.S., which is probably why the Mexican Riviera, the stretch of beach starting with Cancun and stretching about 2 hours driving south is Mexico’s most popular beach destination. The trick to the perfect week on the beach starting with Cancun as a point of entry is to find a destination that is still relatively un-crowded and not over-developed (like Cancun!)
Cancun is serviced by direct flights from a ton of major markets on nearly every major American airline. And it’s fairly affordable to fly to either Cancun or Cozumel. Here are some sample fares for direct flights for early 2014:
Los Angeles (LAX) – Cancun (CUN) $483
Denver (DEN) – Cancun (CUN) $413
Chicago (ORD) – Cozumel (CZM) $447
Atlanta (ATL) – Cozumel (CZM) $635
To get to Isla Mujeres, arrange an airport transfer for the Isla Mujeres Ferry Terminal. This ferry goes every 30 minutes all day, and takes about 20 minutes to traverse the about 4 miles from the mainland to the Island. You can literally feel your stress melting away as the ferry chugs over the island.
Playa Norte (North Beach) on Isla Mujeres is the textbook definition of gorgeous white sand beach. Here you’ll find the shallow, clean sandy beaches for which the Mexican Riviera is known.
Isla Mujeres is a great family beach destination. Playa Norte (North Beach) is the best beach on the island, and it’s also the most crowded (people and a slew of fancy-pants boats parked beyond the cordoned off swimming section, still shallow enough for good swimming).
While there are other beaches on the island, Playa Norte is the main attraction. The other beaches are rougher with overall less beach space. You’ll find some beach clubs on the West side of the island – Zama is certainly worth checking out!, but the beaches aren’t quite as nice.
The background soundtrack on Playa Norte is popular Mexican dance music. Not surprising seeing as no less than half of the beach-goers were locals either from Isla or having come over on the ferry from Cancun, which gives the beach a cool local feel. While there are the usual vendors of the usual necklaces and baskets roaming the beach, there are also a number vendors coming by with nuts, cakes and more (largely targeted at the locals). Having said that, they are not pushy or unpleasant at all.
Because it’s so easy to get around the island, it’s also a great place to run, walk and bike which is a great way to start each day before the Coronas and Pina Coladas (excellent at Ixchel Beach Club by the way!) kick in. The weather in the winter months (Nov – Feb) are best for that morning run through town, as the rest of the year it’s much more hot and humid.
Checking out the island on a Golf Cart (do this early in your trip) is the best way to get a feel for the island. Most golf carts are about $50 per day to rent. Try to organize for your cart the night before to ensure one is available, we had a hard time finding one at 9am when all the rental shops open.
The Ixchel Beach Hotel is a great option. This is part hotel, part timeshare/condo facility. There are 2 twin buildings, each with their own pool and restaurant and both right on Playa Norte. The location is worth the price of admission. Splurge for one of the rooms on the top as these have plunge pools and lounge area on the top of the building.
Have you been to Isla Mujeres? Would love your thoughts and feedback about crafting the perfect Week at the Beach!