With white sandy beaches, crystal clear sea water, and a relaxed Caribbean vibe, Mexico’s Isla Mujeres— literally “Women Island”— attracts many tourists. I’ve travelled to Isla Mujeres twice now, and I’d definitely come back again.
The special Island is just a short ferry ride away (about half an hour) from Cancun. Some visitors do a day trip from Cancun, while others stay in one of the many accommodation options on the island.
From places to stay to what to eat, to island experiences/ things to do, here are my top Isla Mujeres guidebook recommendations.
Where to stay on Isla Mujeres
Poc-Na Hostel – For Fun (and Travelling on a Budget)
If you’re on a budget and don’t mind noise … Poc-Na Hostel is the place to be. In 2018, prices for a dorm room with a simple breakfast (toast/ fruit/ hard boiled egg/ coffee/ sugary cereal) were around $16 Canadian / person. I’ve stayed in a female dorm room and a mixed form – both were fine. This place fills out in advance – I was not able to get a private room a few weeks before travel. It’s right on the beach (not one that has swimming access, but still) and every night there is a beach bar “party” with an awesome vibe. A great place to meet people if you’re travelling solo!
Without surprise, at this price point, this hostel attracts a younger crowd. If you’re looking for something quiet – it likely makes sense to contact them and ask for one of their quieter rooms away from the common rooms and the beach party noise. This place is also about a 5 minute walk from Playa Norte (North Beach) – the best beach on the island).
There are many Airbnb options —I recommend Airbnb to people looking get some work done while travelling (like myself!). For couples, its great too because you have your own space. My boyfriend and I were quite happy with the Airbnb we chose on Calle Benito Juarez, about a 10 minute walk through the small town to Playa Norte. There are many nice Airbnb options to pick from! Funny enough, the neighbour next to our Airbnb played music a few nights that was almost just as loud as the beach party music at Poc Na hostel. But the tiredness from the sun’s rays had me fast asleep anyways!
There are also many hotels on the Island … I was jet lagged the first night I arrived to the Isla, and was worried about the noise at Poc Na hostel, so I stayed for one night at Hotel Isleno on Avenida Guerrero. Quiet and clean, this hotel was just what I needed to get some R&R and wake up feeling refreshed. Unfortunately there was no breakfast, but La Isla is filled with many places with affordable breakfast. Many hotels can be booked though sites like hotels.com or booking.com.
Where to Eat on Isla Mujeres
This is my favourite thing to tell you about! I haven’t gone a day without eating Mexican food since I arrived here. I love it: Tacos, enchiladas, guacamole around the clock, tasty salsas … this Island will not leave you hungry not your tastebuds upset. Some of my favourite places include:
This place is a great spot for an authentic Mexican dining experience. It’s simple —some people might be put off by the interior (plastic chairs and an obscure religious shrine in the corner), but the food is worth a visit. I recommend the enchiladas and guacamole and their very filling and delicious bean soup (it could be a meal on its own). It’s also affordable – $10 Canadian will get you a great meal with a drink as well.
A great spot for thoughtful, more upscale cuisine with local ingredients. The mezcal cocktails are blends of local flavours like cocoa, hibiscus and chile. The guacamole and enchiladas were bursting with flavour. The vegan enchiladas (it was cool to see vegan and vegetarian options with local flavours on a menu) with mole (a cocoa-based sauce native to Mexico) could use some work, but overall this place hits the spot for a unique dining experience.
Aroma Isla – if you need a healthy fix (think fresh juices and smoothies, or a selection of vegetarian options and mains), this is your spot. A fresh juice will brighten up your day or evening up for around $3-4 CAD. Starters and mains blend local and middle eastern cuisine. This is a popular spot for many travellers – every time I’ve walked by it’s been busy.
If you make it to the south end of the Island – which you should just for the view of Cancun alone – Acantilado is worth going to for the view of the Caribbean sea and Cancun. Be sure to set at one of the tables on the patio with umbrellas to shade you from the warm sun. The food is on par with many other places on the island — but the view is second to none. Catch a glimpse of Cancun behind boats and pleasure cruisers dotted atop the bright blue Caribbean sea.
There are so many other options on this lovely island. There are lots of restaurants and bars along Playa Norte and the pedestrian street Miguel Higalgo.
Top Isla Mujeres Experiences/ Things to do!
I’ve spent a few weeks here total (a week in 2015, and another week in 2018). Here’s what I’d recommend:
- Sunbathing and swimming at Playa Norte
- Visit the sea turtle sanctuary – La Tortugranja. A great way to see these majestic and delicate creatures, and hopefully support efforts to protect and release them.
- Renting a golf cart and touring around the island. A great way to make it to the the seat turtle sanctuary sourthern tip and Acantilado restaurant for an amazing view of Cancun! You may even spot the resident iguanas on the patio while you’re there! After shopping around, we rented with with Gomar-II on Av-Francisco I. Madero. (Note you can also rent bicycles and scooters).
- Swimming with whale sharks: I didn’t know this was an Isla Mujeres thing until my second time here. We booked our tickets though Poc-Na Hostel, and there are many other companies that offer this experience. Our boat ride was bumpy and uncomfortable (for me at least), and I didn’t stay long in the water myself to swim with these gentle sharks (I’m a chicken when it comes to deep water and being out of my depth). However, seeing so many of them gliding though the water with their wide mouths open was worth it. On the way back we stopped for a short snorkel trip through a reef near the island. I’m a beginner snorkeler, and I was truly amazed by all the colourful fish we saw.
- Go for a short walk along the beach / around the island … there are walkways along the eastern coast surrounding the town for about a 10 minute scenic stretch.
- Dine authentically … and affordably. So many restaurants on this island offer delicious dining experiences!!
- Catch the sunset at Playa Norte
Enjoy your stay!