Travel Tuesday: Your Isla Mujeres, Mexico – PLAYlist Para la Playa (for the beach)

by Marika Flatt on July 11, 2023 in Travels,

It’s a small island off the coast of Cancun, full of expats and tourists day-tripping from the mainland. But for your next Mexican escape, head to Isla Mujeres for your entire visit and soak up this safe option, teeming with locals ready to show Americans a fun time. 


Getting There

Kenny Chesney once said, “Ain’t no better time than now for Mexico.” With that being said, you can typically find a decent deal on airlines from Texas to Cancun (no more than around $300). Schedule your shuttle ahead of time through CARM Tours & Transfers to get you from the airport to the ferry (and you’ll save a little dinero by purchasing your ferry ticket with the shuttle). There are several ferry ports around Cancun but they all dock in the same place on Isla Mujeres. 

The beautiful stone-white stairs of the Castillito del Caribe. Photo courtesy of Castillito del Caribe.

Castle by the Sea

Castillito del Caribe is a multi-level (somewhat castle looking) villa for rent only a few blocks from the ferry, a few blocks from “downtown”, and about a 12-15 minute walk to Playa Norte (North Beach). Therefore, you can’t beat the location! And, this castle overlooks the ocean! 

Because the villa is sectioned off, you can rent various iterations of the layout, including two bedrooms on the bottom floor with two baths, a kitchen and living room. The second story has two separate suites, each with a king bed and fold out futon, private bathroom and small kitchenette; and the third story has a small room and an apartment if the owners are out of town. 

The rooftop offers 360-degree views of the island and sea. The small pool at the back of the house overlooks the ocean and serves as a perfect gathering space to chill. Exit the back gate the malecon (boardwalk) which will take you to nearby bars, restaurants and town center. 

Emerald blue waters await you at this unique island experience at Isla Mujeres. Photo courtesy of Isla Mujeres Pueblo Mágico Turismo y Cultura.

Island Life

Dolphin Discovery, near the middle of the island, offers an enclosed dock where tourists can visit a team of adorable dolphin friends who will put on a show. Our small group (six people) stood on a platform in the water about chest deep and our dolphin friend, Leonor, would wave to us, give us kisses on the cheek, swim by for strokes on her soft, slippery skin and remind us how smart this sea mammal really is. Ella habla espanol (she definitely speaks Spanish!)

Dolphins proudly show their skills throughout the day at Dolphin Discovery. Photo courtesy of Isla Mujeres Pueblo Mágico Turismo y Cultura.

About 15 minutes further south (near the southern tip of the island) is Garrafon Park, which sits on a natural reef. The property is resort-like and features a 3-part zipline over the water, snorkeling, kayaking, an infinity pool, and all inclusive food & beverage. Guests can get a package entry for the park and the dolphin show together. 

Exploring the Isla on your own golf cart from Rentadora PPE is the way to roll. Photo courtesy of Isla Mujeres Pueblo Mágico Turismo y Cultura.

Cruise Down the Strip in Style

Do not skip the golf cart! Rent a golf cart from Rentadora PPE (by the day or 24-hour period) for the easiest way to get around the island. Otherwise, you’ll spend mucho dinero on taxis just to go from north to south. Once you have wheels, start by heading to Punta Sur–the Southern Point–for expansive views. Soak in the beautiful sun with the surrounding ocean, but note, there’s no swimming beach. This is more of a visual experience. Especially around 5:30 a.m. when the sun rises. 

Be sure to take time to stroll through the Mayan sculpture garden where, for approximately $5 per person (100 pesos), you’ll experience an enchanted, historic garden with magical views. On the way back from Punta Sur, drop by The Joint, an outdoor Marley-themed bar that features live music and a truly one-of-a-kind frozen margarita. 

Or try the Soggy Peso, a local’s hangout bar with a view of the waterway. Enjoy local favorite Tito’s Empanada Stand, where for $1.15 USD you can try an empanada in a variety of flavors. Also near the south part of the island is a women’s bead cooperative where 45 women and 20 children create beautiful works of jewelry art from colorful beads. This is one place you won’t want to haggle because these women and children work very hard to create such fantastic pieces, perfect for souvenirs or gifts back home. 

Unique island flavors await. Photo courtesy of Garrafon Park

Savor the Sights, Sounds and Flavors of Isla Mujeres 

Around downtown, be sure to enjoy street tacos from one of the vendors for truly authentic flavors at very reasonable prices. Walk the streets after dark, listening to the wonderful culture shared through live music. 

For a special dinner, make a reservation at Mayan Beach Club. Here, the wonderful staff will prepare a table on the beach for dinner during sunset–a spectacular way to experience Playa Norte! Amazing service, a setting that can’t be beat, and delicious food, all while enjoying the cool sand on your bare feet.

For a fun day soaking up the sun, charter a boat, which typically can be rented in four-hour/ half day excursions. At the time of boarding, meet at the ferry dock and purchase a wristband for the ferry usage tax (only 10 pesos per person). While aboard the boat, you’ll also purchase a wristband for the national park underwater sculpture garden (58 pesos/ $3.37 USD), and head out to three different snorkeling locations. One of our snorkel spots was to see the underwater sculptures and one was a drift through a current that took us past the lighthouse. That particular reef showcased the most colorful and interesting fish of the day. 

Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Island Trip Tips for Your Experience 

Be sure to tap into the wisdom of Julia with Everything Isla Concierge Services. Whether you need a golf cart rental, restaurant reservations, taxi services or any other assistance while on the island, this is a helpful resource! 

A word of caution while using the golf carts. The three reasons to get pulled over by the policia are: driving under the influence, too many people on the cart or driving erratically. Also at various times of the year (particularly in the busy season of summer), there might be “sobriety checkpoints” on the main drag. You’ll want to take this seriously as we were told they can make you blow for a breath test to check your alcohol consumption.

Once here, you’ll want to make sure you have enough cash for your stay. Go to an ATM and get pesos as early as you can on your trip because the exchange rate that businesses charge for using US dollars is somewhat steep (13-17%). The cost of food and drinks on the island is on par with most Texas cities. While you can get pesos from an ATM when you arrive, the best bet is to use the ATM at the ferry as some of the machines on the island may not work properly. 

Even though it’s an easy flight to Cancun, we recommend staying at least 4+ nights to give yourself plenty of time to soak up island life. This tiny island is packed with a world of delightful experiences. Even a simple walk through the downtown streets on a warm evening will expose you to local flavors, the sounds of live music and a particular vibe that is exclusive to Isla Mujeres. Salud!


Cover photo courtesy of Isla Mujeres Pueblo Mágico Turismo y Cultura

Marika Flatt, Outstanding Austin Communicator 2021, is the Travel Editor of Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She began her travel writing career in 2002, and can be seen as a contributor on TV shows across Texas, such as KVUEDaytime (FOX)San Antonio LivingGood Morning Texas, and KXAN!  Marika spent five years as the voice of the “Weekend Trip Tip” on NPR’s Texas Standard pre-Covid.