ISLA MUJERES, MEXICO
Modern Isla Mujeres is a beautiful blend of cultures, with its Mayan roots, Spanish influence, and the international community. Aside from the pristine beaches and the beautiful greenery, the people of the island are truly what makes it so special. The fishing culture is alive and well on Isla, and most people dedicate their lives to sharing the wonders of the sea with visitors through scuba diving, snorkeling, wingdiving, fishing tours, whale shark expeditions, and much more.
Due to its proximity to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest coral reef system in the world, and the turtles that visit every year to nest, there is a strong push for ecological sustainability and marine conservation. Tortugranja, in the Sac Bajo peninsula, specialize in the protection of momma turtles, eggs, and hatchlings during the nesting season (July to October), and fund their programs with help from the thousands of visitors who come to see their aquariums, turtle care facilities, and educational installations.
Although the island may be famous for what lies off its coasts, there is much to do on land, as well. Isla Mujeres boasts various historical and archeological sites, including the temple to the goddess Ixchel in Punta Sur, where you can see the first sunrise in all of Mexico (due to its eastern-most position) and walk along the rocky paths leading to and from the ruins. During turtle mating season (May to June), you may even be able to spot some happy terrapin couples from the cliffs!
Isla Mujeres is proud to boast some of the top-ranked beaches in the world, and the #1 ranked beach in all of Mexico. Between the crystal clear water and the bright white sand, the ocean appears turquoise close to shore, fading to a beautiful inky sapphire farther off the coast where the seagrass begins. On Playa Norte (North Beach), you’ll find lots of shade underneath the hundreds of palm trees that sway in the wind. Just make sure to look up and check for ripe coconuts! Falling stars are a beautiful sight to see during new moon nights on the island… Falling coconuts, not so much!
The island is also home to a wide-array of gastronomic delights that will thrill even the pickiest of palettes. From hole-in-the-wall mom&pop taco joints to gourmet, fine dining on the sea, you’re guaranteed to find your treasure in this foodies’ paradise.
Another plus of the island is its proximity to Cancun, where you can book a tour, rent a car, or take a bus to the numerous other spots-to-see in the Riviera Maya. Quintana Roo is home to three other well-known islands besides Isla Mujeres: Isla Holbox, Isla Contoy, and Cozumel. Cozumel is no doubt the largest and most-developed of the islands and is a cruise ship hotspot, but despite its bustling downtown, there are still many natural areas to see and wonderful places to surf! Isla Holbox is quiet and charming, its streets still made of sands. Isla Contoy is a nature reserve with some amazing birdwatching opportunities.
Cancun itself has some great activities. You can surf the waves at Plaza Forum, enjoy the lush landscapes and the wild tejones in Parque Kabah, or go see a movie in Plaza Las Americas. Cancun has a vivid youth culture and art scene, as well. The Casa de Cultura is always buzzing with activity, and there’s always a new local band or an art exhibition to find.
HOW TO GET TO ISLA MUJERES FROM THE CANCUN AIRPORT
This is the cheapest option, though it can be a little more time consuming. First you take an ADO bus from the airport (look for signs as you're walking out), to the station in downtown Cancun. The bus is air conditioned and currently priced at about $5USD per person. From the bus station, you have