Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women, is the first point in Mexico to be touched by the Sun every day. The beautiful morning sunrise gives way to wonderful weather almost year round, making this island a jewel in the Caribbean.
While on our latest adventure to Cancun, the Traveling Bradburys jumped on a Catamaran for a half-day cruise to this incredible location. If a visit to Isla Mujeres is not already on your bucket list, then you need to add it, and maybe move it towards the top while it is still as charming, and affordable, as it is today.
In Pre-Columbian times, the Island was sacred and revered by the Maya. The Maya goddess of fertility and health, Ixchel, was especially prominent here. When the Spanish arrived there were many statues and symbols of the goddesses, and so they named the Island after the Women – Isla Mujeres. Indian women believed if they laid their hands on the statue of Ixchel, they would be blessed with child. So be careful ladies…
Situated off the coast of Cancun, the beaches here sport some of the softest sand that you will ever nestle your little piggies in. Playa Norte (the North Beach) juts out into the Caribbean Sea offering beach goers plenty of space to stretch out and catch their rays with amazing views in every direction. Punta Sur on the Southern tip of the Island boasts Oceanside paths winding among large sculptures, a lighthouse, unparalleled views of the Caribbean, and rocky outcrops teeming with sleepy Iguanas to take your picture with. In between, you will find fine dining, beach clubs on Playa Centro, plenty of bars, and even more shopping.
Getting there is half the fun
We stayed at Secrets Riviera Cancun, and they offer excursions thru Amstar at a desk in the reception area. Our original intention was to book a cab and take a ferry to the island on our own, then rent a golf cart for the day. After speaking with our hotel man, Marco, we decided the better choice from the hotel would be the tour. After taxi, cart and ferry costs, our budget would have been blown. With our Catamaran, lunch and snorkeling would be included, as well as a bit of structure in a foreign land, so we dove in, so to speak.
Cancun Adventures ran our tour and offered three options for pickup (7:30, 10:30 or 1:30p). Luckily we chose the late trip, which ultimately led to a beautiful sunset cruise on the way back. But, to start our adventure, they picked us up at the hotel in a nicely air conditioned van and dropped us safely at Puerto Juarez, a small marina in Cancun. Our driver was very specific and did his best to make sure we would remember his name and our van number. After a day on the island, that proved to be somewhat difficult. However, Mateo’s driving skill was something to remember, as he was running a bit late, and made up time like an F1 driver on the last lap of LeMans.
Michelle, a transplant from South Africa, would be our main tour guide for the day and was excellent. Full of personality and knowledge, she made sure to include everyone in the action, while imparting the all the instructions for safety, restrooms and bar service. She took care of everything; she served lunch, made sure our drinks stayed full, and even led the snorkeling tour over the reef. We noticed she took special care of the youngest member of the group, and the Captain letting him pilot the boat on the way back surely made it a day he will never forget. The rest of the staff was always on point, while not ever in the way. The lunch was amazing and delicious, especially considering it was being served on a boat. I love Ceviche, and their offering was fresh and crisp. Also included on the plate, was a chicken pasta salad, guacamole dip (Best Dawn has ever had), and fresh corn chips. Drinks were fresh, cold and well crafted in my opinion – I confess to be an actual expert regarding adult beverages.
SMALL WORLD NOTE: While we were kicking back and letting the more adventurous souls snorkel, we struck up a conversation with another couple on board. Turns out this dude and I had served in the USAF together at Dover AFB, and we knew a lot of the same people. We had taken very similar paths, but being on different shifts never actually crewed together. He eventually served our nation for 18.5 years, and for that I salute him, and the rest of my grease covered brethren that stayed the course.
Ahoy mate! Welcome ashore!!
SO, Two hours free time on the island is all we had, and that isn’t much to be honest. We headed North after disembarking and made our way up past Playa Centro to ChiChi’s-n-Charlie’s Beach Bar. This is the quintessential Mexican beach bar, with a thatch hut roof looking across the beach to the breaking waves. The bar is connected to a small hotel that has some pretty amazing views. The drinks were awesome and the food looked great, but we didn’t eat. Time only allowed for one drink before we hit the road to do some shopping. Since they had been on the Island a few days (also apparently at the bar a few hours), we asked the patrons at the bar where we should go. All hands pointed to Miguel Hidalgo – a walkable shopping street lined with vendors, shops, bars and restaurants, and that was exactly what we were looking for.
We started at the top and worked our way down to the bottom of the street which led us almost back to the pier. Each shop has similar offerings, but don’t be fooled or pressured – Everything is negotiable. Several stalls can be owned by one vendor, so the same item may be cheaper a little further down the street, just take your time and stick to your budget. Also, haggling is part of the culture here, so don’t hesitate to throw a bunch of stuff together and give your best price. Our grand kids are going to have some pretty nifty things to take to show and tell someday, because we bought just about everything in sight. Grandparents tend to do this when traveling, and since this was our only souvenir day, we went wild.
I kept an eye on my watch and I thought we had plenty of time, but as the street stretched out in front of us, the little hand seemed to move faster. Dawn realized how close we were to being late and started picking up a pace that I honestly had trouble keeping up with. By the end, we were nearly pier runners, and ended up being the last two back onboard the Catamaran. We actually had plenty of time after all was said and done, but our hearts were definitely beating an extra beat or two for a bit.
Back to the hotel
As I said earlier, our booking the afternoon tour got us back on the boat just as the day was winding down. Our cruise back to the mainland would be breathtaking, and a perfect ending to a day we won’t soon forget. Drinks flowed freely while “yacht rock” pumped thru the boat’s sound system setting the perfect mood to sail into the night.
Restrooms were made available upon arrival back at the pier, and as promised, Mateo had the van ready to go. We only had to drop off one other group on our way back, so we made it back in plenty of time to enjoy our night and all of the fun Secrets and Breathless Riviera Cancun had to offer. In fact, an incredible fire show was taking place as we walked out of our wonderful Italian dinner and strolled over to Wink, but that is a story for another time.
Looking back, we were amazed almost the entire trip, and you will be too. If you get to Cancun, you must try a day tour to Isla Mujeres! There are so many more things to do and see than we managed to in our short time, but The Traveling Bradburys will definitely be back!!!!