Spanish for "ISLAND OF WOMEN" , the
picturesque fishing village of Isla Mujeres is a tropical paradise just a short, 15-minute ferry ride from Cancun.
The origin of the island's name is uncertain. A popular theory is that it was once a site of pilgrammage for Mayan women who came to make offerings to Ixchel, the goddess of fertility. Another theory is that this island was a place for 17th century pirates, to safely stow their women before heading out to the high seas.
More likely, the name comes from the ceramic statues of women left as a tribute to Ixchel, that the Spaniards found when they first arrived on the island in 1517.
Whatever the reason, Hans and I found the island a thoroughly charming and relaxing atmosphere. Playa Norte, the northern part of the island was filled with fishermen's boats and their nets spread out to dry in the sun. Since it was a Sunday, local families were out enjoying the day on Isla Mujeres.
For more information, see my ISLA MUJERES pages.
Take a water taxi to the island. Not a tour! We went on a small boat with several other Mexican nationals. Stayed with them at their invitation and had a marvelous time. Ate some of the best BBQ fish I've ever had. Was also taken to areas to snorkle where I saw the most beautiful fish. The island is very small. Get off the main road and go onto some of the back roads. You can't get lost. And you get to see how another culture lives.
Upon arriving on Isla Mujeres for our day-trip, we were immediately invited into a large holding pond for a frolic with their sharks - so naturally I was the first one in! Here I am in a life and death struggle with a Great White (actually it is a toothless Nurse shark)! It was interesting to actually feel the texture of a shark's body. When he was ready to go, one flip of his body and he was out of there! Later, in the beach swimming area, one of the other guests found a sea urchin that was also of great interest to everyone - especially if you stepped on its spines!
The Isla Mujeres is about 6 miles off the coast of Cancun and actually just visible from the hotel zone across the sea.
It is possible to book a tour to go here (which we did when we went straight for Garrafon one day). But there is also an excellent public ferry service. You have to take the R1 bus all the way to the Puerto Juarez (some buses don't go there so check the front to make sure it does!) where there are island crossings every thirty minutes. A return crossing costs 70 pesos and takes about 15 minutes.
A minor nuisance you might experience at the port is timeshare touts, so just politely brush off complete strangers who start making conversation with you even before you've even walked in!
The town consists of several long streets with shops and bars and there is a very laid back carribean atmosphere to the place. It has also has a nice beach within walking distance which has a fantastic sunset.
The best thing to do is just wander around and just chill out. Unlike the mainland, the hassle is pretty minimal so it's best to wander around at your own pace. There are some interesting restaurants to choose from when it's time for food and there are ferry crossings back to the mainland all the way until midnight.
Isla Mujeres in English means 'Island of Woman' and derives from the time when the Spaniards discovered and conquered cities and regions in the southern part of Mexico. Because they could not understand the Maya language, they renamed most. This is why today almost no Mayan names are in existence on the Yucatan peninsula.
During Lent of 1517, Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba sailed from Cuba with three ships to procure slaves for the mines. He landed on the southern part of the island and found figurines of woman. The idols were of the goddess of the country Ixchel and her daughters and daughter in law Ixbeliax, Ixhunie and Ixhunieta. They were only vestured from the girdle on down and having the breasts uncovered after the manner of the Indians. Cordoba used his right, bestowed upon him by the King of Spain and christened the Island accordingly 'Isla de la Mujeres'.
One of Isla Mujeres most colourful figure was the pirate and slave trader Fermin Mundaca de Marechaja. In 1860, when the British Navy's campaign against slavery and pirates made life on the high seas uncomfortable, he decided to retire. He chose Isla Mujeres as his home because of its sheltered port and salt. Both important necessities for survival at those time. Check out my Isla Mujeres travelogue for more pictures and info please.
We found it was cheaper to book a guide to take us to the snorkeling spots off of Isla Mujeres, than to go with a boat full of other tourists. After visiting several of the 'usual' spots, our guide took us out to the Manchiones Reef...as we dove down through the amazingly clear waters, he crumpled a package of crackers and we were surrounded by thousands of tropical fish!
It's very possible that 1 of 10 locals will give you a good deal. In our case, we took a recent trip to cancun and went to Isla de las Mujeres, and although fun at first, we quickly found out we were victims of groping and then money snatchers. When you head to Juarez on the R1 get off the first exit where the big boats take off. The second stop was where we got off. We paid like 350 pesos and the boat was very small. There were mainly other mexicans on there and the two guides. Overall about 12 of us. It took 20-30 minutes to get to the island, by the time we got there, we were completely soaked. We got off in the downtown area and looked around for a while, then we got back on and headed to a snorkeling area. This is when I noticed something suspicious, the guide was eyeing my bag. They kept trying to find out more about us. They really forced us to snorkel and eventually we did. The place we stopped was not deep, one guy stayed back with the children and then the other one guided us towards the nearby rocks where there was coral reefs. He said he had to take us one by one around the rock so he can be sure we were all safe. He chose me as the first one, when we went around I quickly noticed he started feeling me below my waist. He pulled me close to his crotch. I pushed off him. He said he was trying to give me an experience, I said in spanish 'that's not the experience I'm looking for.' Before I knew it we were around the corner and I just started swimming away, but he still came and grabbed me by my waist. Immediately after he went for my friend and got her to go with him before I could tell her anything. She too swam away from him, and we quickly headed back to where the boat was. The others eventually did too. By then the guy that had stayed back during snorkeling had already gone through our stuff, and took a $100 dollar bill out of my wallet. He left everything else there, but also my friend got 500 pesos taken away. Those were each our largest bill. I checked my stuff, everything seemed to be there. It wasn't until later that I noticed it, because there was no way I was going to count my money in front of everyone. We then went to see the sharks, it was a dock area, so we got off there. The shark not sharks, from what I heard looked like it didn't move at all. We had gone to the restrooms and skipped the shark thing, and the restrooms were horrible, no leg room or seat cover what so ever. It rained when we were there and we waited for it to slow down a bit before we took off. They served us fish and rice. That part was actually good. When we made it back, I was just relieved. I didn't trust them whatsoever. I also don't think they had enough time to go through everyone else's stuff, because the majority had big backpacks and ours were small and easier to go through, also we came back early. BTW we are americans, which I'm sure makes us a bigger target. We never went to the light house, just the first rock. Next time I would just stick to the big tourist trips. Cancun is all about making money. It's expensive, but sometimes paying more and going with a large group of people is better, then accepting anything the locals try to offer. That was the only local thing we accepted. Everything else was done through our travel company and aside from the assholes we encountered there, Cancun is beautiful.
It is definitely an experience visiting Isla. Riding all over the island in a golf cart and going where ever you want at the pace you want is exhilarating. You see where the locals live (unfortunately pretty poorly), can shop at all the wonderful little shops for bargains, and have a relaxing day on the beach. The sunset at Sergio's is breathtaking.
Isla Mujeres is a beautiful island off the Carribean coast, near Cancun. It's definitly worth a visit. I was just running out of time. The island was named Isla Mujeres because the early conquistadores found woman figures in the island. For the Maya, this was a very religious site.
The boat trip was a blast, the crews put on a great show on the trip over to the island. We meet good friends from all over - London, Texas and New York
Islas Mujeres, only a short ferry ride away from Cancun, is a charming little island, where time seems to have stop. More of the real flavor Mexico here.
It was a nice day trip. We rented a golf cart and drove around the whole island. We found a couple of places along the way to pull off and have a cool drink.