Active travelers can go snorkeling or scuba-diving, visit a turtle farm or simply swim and laze around on the island’s beautiful northern shore. Once the sun sets, visitors can enjoy plenty of delicious dining options and a nightlife scene that moves at a carefree pace.
Although many tourists plan their holiday around Cancun – only adding Isla Mujeres as a side trip, the island is a worthy destination in its own right. Ideal for beach lovers who want to relax and enjoy simple pleasures, Isla Mujeres offers a great escape with a true island vibe.
Read on for the ultimate guide to vacationing in Isla Mujeres.
Where is Isla Mujeres?
Isla Mujeres is located at the meeting point of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, around 13 kilometers off the coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula within the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. The island is situated across the waters off the eastern coast of Cancun.
How Did Isla Mujeres Get Its Name?
In Pre-Columbian times, Isla Mujeres was a sacred place dedicated to Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of childbirth and medicine. In the 16th century, when the Spanish arrived and saw the many images of the goddess, they chose to name the island “Isla de Mujeres” which translates to the “Island of Women.”
How long is Isla Mujeres Mexico?
Isla Mujeres is about 7 kilometers long and 650 meters wide.
What is the Population of Isla Mujeres?
During a census in 2010, the population of the town on Isla Mujeres was 12,642 inhabitants.
Is Playa Mujeres the Same as Isla Mujeres?
No, Playa Mujeres is not the same as Isla Mujeres. Isla Mujeres is a small island in the Caribbean Sea, located about 13 kilometers (30 minutes by ferry) off the northeastern coast of Cancun. On the other hand, Playa Mujeres is a luxury beach destination in Cancun, located about 25 minutes’ drive north of Cancun Airport. From Playa Mujeres, visitors can enjoy a direct view across the waters to Isla Mujeres.
Is Isla Mujeres Touristy?
Yes. Isla Mujeres is touristy. But this should be expected, seeing as tourism is the main business of the island. What makes Isla Mujeres touristy are the tourists: there are always many of them, especially during the peak tourism season.
El Centro (Downtown) is the main tourist area on Isla Mujeres, and Hidalgo – the main pedestrian street in El Centro – often has tourist crowds visiting the many restaurants, souvenir shops and vendors hawking wares, as well as an endless stream of rented golf carts.
That said, there are less touristy places on Isla Mujeres that have enabled the island to retain its unique charm and basic authenticity, giving it a small town/village feel. However, you will need to get out of El Centro to find these non-touristy areas.
For instance, areas such as the middle and south of the island have a more local vibe thanks to the many locals who live, work and play here. In neighborhoods such as the Colonias, visitors can immerse themselves in local life, dine at small local eateries and shop at local stores.
In the northern part of Isla Mujeres, beach lovers can sit by the sea and enjoy the quiet calm of the island while soaking in beautiful views. Although the beach is crowded on weekends and holidays, it is mostly with day-trippers who disappear later in the day, leaving the island with a chill vibe at night.
What is Isla Mujeres Known for?
Isla Mujeres is known for:
- The Beaches: Isla Mujeres is home to Playa Norte – one of the world’s top ranked beaches. Playa Norte is a pristine beach fringed by calm, clear and shallow turquoise waters. This beach has just the right number of charming bars and restaurants.
- It’s Romantic: A lovers’ paradise, Isla Mujeres boasts pristine beaches that provide a gorgeous backdrop for taking long romantic walks. Its adults-only luxury resorts are perfect for relaxation, while the beachfront dining options under starry night skies provide a magical setting.
- Unique Water Activities: From snorkeling in crystal-clear waters to swimming with whale sharks, Isla Mujeres is the ideal spot to experience Mexico’s underwater world. Visitors can explore the lighthouse reef, the underwater museum of art, and a sea teeming with colorful marine life.
- It’s Sacred: Isla Mujeres was named after the numerous statues of Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of love, fertility and medicine. Although not much remains of the ruins of Ixchel’s temple, at Punta Sur there is a sculpture garden with amazing views of waves crashing into the cliffside.
- Sunrise & Sunset: Isla Mujeres boasts spectacular sunsets and sunrises. At sunrise, head to the south of the island and be the first in Mexico to watch the sun rising over the horizon. In the evening, the western section of Playa Norte is the best place to watch the setting sun.
Are There Any All Inclusive Resorts on Isla Mujeres?
Yes, there are several all-inclusive resorts on Isla Mujeres.
Here is a list of the best all-inclusive resorts on Isla Mujeres:
- Isla Mujeres Palace: Situated on a white-sandy stretch in the southern part of the island, Isla Mujeres Palace is a quiet, intimate couples-only boutique hotel with a calm atmosphere. The property features a restaurant, spa and swimming pool with a swim-up bar, a beach with non-motorized watersports, luxurious rooms and furnished balconies with ocean views.
- Zoetry Villa Rolandi Isla Mujeres Cancun: Boasting 3 pools, Zoetry Villa Rolandi Isla Mujeres Cancun is a small but upscale boutique hotel. Its oceanfront suites feature king-size beds, steam showers, sunken living rooms and terraces with whirlpools. Guests can enjoy free spa treatments, premium liquor, food and drink, access to the gym and watersports equipment.
- Privilege Aluxes: Situated across the street from the gorgeous Playa Norte, Privilege Aluxes is a quiet adults-only hotel with a spa and gym. Guests at Privilege Aluxes can choose to enjoy their all-inclusive package for as long as they like, which includes food and drink at all 4 restaurants and bars. Room service is free as well, and so are the breakfast buffet and room minibars.
What Restaurants Are in Isla Mujeres?
Here is a list of some of the best restaurants on Isla Mujeres:
- Bobo’s Bar & Grill: For the best fish and chips on the island, look no further than Bobo’s Bar & Grill, located at the heart of El Centro.
- Fenix Lounge: Situated on the world-famous Playa Norte beach, Fenix Lounge is a beach club by day and a sit-down restaurant at night.
- Mango Café: Located in the middle of the island, Mango Café is a top rated breakfast restaurant that serves up the best breakfast on Isla Mujeres.
- Limon: Situated in the middle of Isla Mujeres, Limon is a popular restaurant that offers some of the most creative dining experiences on the island.
- Chaya & Cacao: At Chaya & Cacao, foodies can enjoy fresh, locally-sourced farm-to-table offerings with daily menus and vegan options.
- Chilito’s Restaurant: Situated in La Gloria neighborhood, Chilito’s by Rubens is a welcome addition to the island that offers daily specials.
- La Tarima: Located in the middle of Isla Mujeres, La Tarima is a restaurant built wholly out of recycled material that serves delicious food.
- Madera Food & Art: At the amazing Madera Food & Art, foodies can indulge in delicious food, as well as creative seasonal tastings every month.
- North Garden: Situated within minutes of Playa Norte, North Garden is a great spot for both breakfast and lunch.
- Topaz Restaurant: Situated inside the Isla 33 Resort, Topaz Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
How much is Food in Isla Mujeres?
The average cost of food on Isla Mujeres is 174 Mexican pesos per day, while the cost of an average meal on Isla Mujeres is about 70 Mexican pesos per person. Of course, the prices of meals on Isla Mujeres will vary depending on where you choose to dine. The cost of a meal at a sit-down restaurant on Isla Mujeres will typically be higher than the price of street food.
Where is the Party in Isla Mujeres?
Here is a list of the best nightlife spots on Isla Mujeres:
- Buho’s: Located directly on the Playa Norte beach, Buho’s is a popular beach bar with swinging seats, daybeds, food and alcohol.
- Na Balam Hotel Lounge: Also located on Playa Norte beach, the lounge at the Na Balam hotel serves creative cocktails and tapas to a cool crowd.
- Fayne’s: Located at the heart of Hidalgo, Fayne’s is a popular drinking spot that offers excellent live music and dancing from 8pm.
- Kokonuts: Situated in the town center, the super-casual Kokonuts is the island’s main spot for late-night drinking and dancing.
- Poc-Na: A beach hostel by day, Poc-Na transforms into a beach party at night, where revelers can listen to live music and dance under the stars.
- Bobo’s Grill & Bar: For the best Bloody Caesar on the island, look no further than Bobo’s. This spot can draw a crowd, even during the low season!
- T&T Tropical Paradise: A sandy floor, cheap alcohol and cool crowd make T&T Tropical Paradise a popular hangout on the island.
- Fenix Lounge: Located on Playa Norte, Fenix Lounge is a beach bar and club that offers live music. It’s the only place to celebrate Sunday Funday!
- Broncos: Situated just past the airport strip, Broncos is one of 2 strip clubs on Isla Mujeres. Drinks are expensive, and patrons should expect to also buy for the ladies.
- L’Argentina: Situated on the corner of Hidalgo and Matamoros, L’Argentina offers adventurous shots of tequila that contain scorpions!
How much is a Beer in Isla Mujeres?
The price of a 300ml bottle of Beer in Isla Mujeres is around 35 Mexican pesos.
What Should I Bring to Isla Mujeres?
Here is a list of items to bring to Isla Mujeres:
- Summer Wear – Tank tops, shorts and light dresses
- Beach Wear – Swimsuits, cover-ups and sandals
- Formal Wear – For dining at upscale restaurants
- Small Umbrella/ Raincoat – If visiting during the rainy season
- Reusable Water Bottle – You need to drink water constantly to hydrate while out and about
- Sunscreen – SPF 50 or higher, because the sun can be brutal on Isla Mujeres
- Travel Documents – A valid passport, photo ID and travel insurance
- General Over-the-Counter Medications e.g. antacids, a mild laxative, cough drops and medicine for fever, pain, diarrhea and motion sickness
What Ocean is Isla Mujeres?
Isla Mujeres is surrounded by the waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Where Can I Swim in Isla Mujeres?
When swimming in Isla Mujeres, be sure to swim only within designated areas. Some areas surrounding Isla Mujeres are not safe for recreational swimming due to the presence of strong currents. Also be sure to only swim within the swimming buoys to avoid boat traffic.
Here is a list of places where you can swim in Isla Mujeres:
- Playa Sol & Playa Norte: Start at Playa Sol where the swimming buoys are situated and swim around to the right all the way down to Playa Norte. Stop where the buoys end at the Mia Reef Hotel. The total distance of this swim is about 1.2 kilometers. The sea waters along this route are crystal-clear most of the time, and have a maximum depth of around 8 feet.
- Mia Reef Pier: Start outside the swimming buoys of the Mia Reef Pier and swim around on the inside of the rocks right next to the hotel. There is a small protected area here that is nice for shallow reef snorkeling on calm days. However, there are no buoys or no lifeguards. On your way out, be sure to swim close to the shore and pier to avoid boat traffic.
- Cancun Side: It is safe to swim close to the shore on the side of the island that faces Cancun, as the waters are often calm with no currents. There are several swim parks here as well, including Garrafon Reef Park, Garrafon de Castilla and Parque de Los Suenos, all of which have swim buoys. Do not swim too far out as this side of the island has a lot of boat traffic.
- Caribbean Side: The side of the island facing the Caribbean Sea has no lifeguards, but there is some boat traffic. Therefore, if you do decide to swim here, be sure to have fins and a surface marker buoy. It is recommended to only swim here when the weather is calm and never alone – preferably, go with a friend or on a guided swimming and snorkeling tour.
- Punta Sur: Avoid swimming at Punta Sur, along the southern end of the island, as the area has very strong currents that have previously led to fatalities. That said, it is fine to swim in certain areas of Punta Sur as long as you are with a certified tour guide. But you should never attempt to swim from shore as there are waves on most days, as well as big jagged rocks.
Where Can I Snorkel in Isla Mujeres?
Here is a list of places where you can snorkel in Isla Mujeres:
- Garrafon Reef Park: Constructed opposite the main stretch of Isla Mujeres’ coral reef, Garrafon Reef Park is the center for snorkeling on the island. Because this reef extends outside of the park’s boundaries, some coral is found off the beaches on both sides of Garrafon.
- Snorkel Boat Tours: Such tours frequent sites which are difficult to access from shore, like El Farito and Los Manchones, as well as the Underwater Museum of Art, part of which lies in the shallow waters off Isla Mujeres. Many snorkeling boat tours last up to half a day.
- Whale Shark Snorkeling: Whale sharks and manta rays migrate each year from June through September, into the seawaters off Isla Mujeres to feed on fish eggs and plankton. These giant sea creatures are safe to snorkel with on a whale shark tour.
Can You Snorkel Off the Beach in Isla Mujeres?
Yes, it is possible to snorkel off the beach in Isla Mujeres. In fact, snorkelers can swim out from any beach on the island and get the chance to see some sea creatures. That said, visitors should take a boat ride out to the reef to enjoy the best snorkeling experience in Isla Mujeres.
How deep is the Underwater Museum in Isla Mujeres?
Museo Subacuatico de Arte (MUSA) has 3 galleries submerged between 3 to 6 meters (9.8 to 19.6 feet) deep inside the ocean waters off the coast of Isla Mujeres and Cancun.
Are There Sharks in Isla Mujeres?
Yes, many species of sharks are present in the waters around Isla Mujeres. However, there is no need to worry about sharks ruining your holiday, as cases of shark attacks are very rare in Isla Mujeres. In fact, only one shark attack has occurred in Isla Mujeres over the last 150 years.
Does Isla Mujeres Have Seaweed?
Yes, Isla Mujeres does get seaweed. That said, the amount of seaweed on Isla Mujeres’ beaches varies from day to day because of ocean current activity. Therefore, on some days there’ll be a lot of seaweed while on other days you may not find any.
Seaweed season on Isla Mujeres runs from May through October, with the worst time being the summer months. That said, seaweed does not accumulate on the beaches of Isla Mujeres as it usually washes away. Moreover, hotel staff normally clear the seaweed on a daily basis.
What is the Best Time to Go to Isla Mujeres?
The best time to go to Isla Mujeres is between the months of December and April. While this is the peak season, which means bigger tourist crowds, travelers can still enjoy amazing weather and some of the most affordable flight and hotel prices for a winter escape to the beach. However, if you fancy a quiet family vacation or romantic holiday, you should avoid traveling to Isla Mujeres during Spring Break.
Does It Rain a Lot in Isla Mujeres?
The amount of rainfall you find on Isla Mujeres will depend on the time of year you visit. If you go to Isla Mujeres in the rainy season (May through November) you should expect rain to fall on most days, usually in the late afternoon or early evening. That said, unless there is a tropical storm or hurricane in the area, the rain showers should end quickly.
Has a Hurricane Ever Hit Isla Mujeres?
Yes. Over the last three decades, 2 hurricanes have hit Isla Mujeres: Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 and Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
Is It Safe to Go to Isla Mujeres?
Yes, it is generally safe to go to Isla Mujeres, as long as you keep to the touristy areas and always have your wits about you. Although crimes against tourists are rare on Isla Mujeres, opportunistic crimes such as pickpocketing, bag-snatching and petty theft do occur. It is therefore important to always use your common sense to stay safe while vacationing on Isla Mujeres.
Is Isla Mujeres Safe at Night?
Yes, Isla Mujeres is generally safe at night, as long as you stick to the tourist areas. The touristy places of Isla Mujeres are safe after dark as they are regularly patrolled by tourist police. In addition, these areas are highly-populated and well-lit with happening nightclubs and bars. That said, it is important to always have your wits about you when out and about on Isla Mujeres after dark.
Can You Drink the Water in Isla Mujeres?
No, you should not drink the water in Isla Mujeres. It is recommended that you only drink bottled water while visiting Isla Mujeres to avoid the risk of ruining your vacation by getting sick.
Are There Mosquitoes in Isla Mujeres?
Yes, there are mosquitos in Isla Mujeres. Because Isla Mujeres is a tropical destination, it is a natural habitat for a variety of insects and bugs, including mosquitos. Mosquitoes are especially problematic in Isla Mujeres during the rainy season, which stretches from May through October. Therefore be sure to take preventative measures to avoid getting bitten by mosquitos when visiting Isla Mujeres.
Is Isla Mujeres Dangerous in Any Way?
Isla Mujeres is not completely immune to crime, especially if you stray from the El Centro – the main tourist area. While crimes against tourists are rare in Isla Mujeres, there have been incidences of opportunistic crimes such as petty theft, pickpocketing and bag-snatching.
Is Isla Mujeres Expensive?
While Isla Mujeres is cheaper than some Caribbean islands, it’s not quite the bargain that you would expect. Nevertheless, visitors can still enjoy good room prices at all-inclusive hotels, especially in the low season. If you book ahead, you can also find great deals during the peak season. If you plan to relax on the beach during the day and go clubbing at night, then Isla Mujeres can work for a lower budget.
How Much Money Should I Bring to Isla Mujeres?
Plan to spend around 640 Mexican pesos (US $32) per day during your vacation in Isla Mujeres. The average daily cost on Isla Mujeres is 174 Mexican pesos (US $8.65) for meals, 39 Mexican pesos (US $1.93) for transportation and 797 Mexican pesos (US $40) for a double room in a hotel.
A one-week holiday to Isla Mujeres will typically costs around 4,479 Mexican pesos per person. Therefore, a one-week trip for two to Isla Mujeres will cost around 8,958 Mexican pesos. Of course, the price will go down if you’re traveling as a family, because children’s tickets are often cheaper and you can also share hotel rooms.
Can You Use US Dollars on Isla Mujeres?
This depends on where you want to make the payment. Although many big hotels, shops, restaurants and tour operators on Isla Mujeres will accept payment in American dollars, smaller shops and street vendors are likely to only accept Mexican pesos. In any case, it is recommended to always use the currency of the country you are visiting.
Do You Need Pesos in Isla Mujeres?
This depends on your travel style and vacation plans. If you plan to give tips, shop at small vendors, use public transport, eat at local restaurants and drink at local bars, then yes, you will need pesos on Isla Mujeres. However, if you plan on never leaving your all-inclusive resort for the entire duration of your holiday, then you will not need pesos.