A SMART WAY TO TRAVEL
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Isla Mujeres, “the island of the women”, is a small island off the coast of Cancun. It is 5 miles long and a half a mile wide at its widest point. While there are plenty of hotels and hostels on the island, it’s also a great place to visit for the day. Of course, since it is an island, you must travel to “Isla” as it is lovingly referred to by residents, by boat. The ferry is reasonably priced (about 15 U.S. Dollars roundtrip) and runs every half hour.
Once you get to Isla, there is plenty to do. You can choose to relax or you can explore and go, go, go all day! Here are a few favorite things to do…
1. Relax on the Beach
Playa Norte’s white sand beach is magnificent. There are many beach clubs and restaurants on Playa Norte where you can rent beach chairs and an umbrella (you’ll need it at midday). Sometimes the chairs and umbrellas are free with a drink or food order. All restaurants offer cocktails, soft drinks and food. Fresh seafood is abundant here. Try ceviche, a dish made from fresh raw seafood that is marinated in lime. Ceviche is served with tortilla chips and/or saltine crackers. It’s the perfect lunch on a hot day.
2. Rent a Golf Cart or Moped and Explore
You can rent a golf cart or a moped by the hour or for the entire day. You will need your vehicle for at least two hours if you would like to circle the entire island and stop at a few interesting places along the way. At Punta Sur, the southernmost point of the island, there is a Mayan temple which is devoted to Ixchel, the goddess of the moon and wife of the sun. Ixchel is considered a fertility goddess with healing powers and for centuries Mayan women traveled to Isla Mujeres yearly to seek her help. In 1517 when Spanish explorers discovered Isla they found many female shaped idols representing the goddess Ixchel, which is how Isla Mujeres got its name.
3. Visit the Turtle Farm
For many years giant sea turtles were killed for their meat and shell and their eggs dug up for food. However, they are now federally protected in Mexico and Isla Mujeres is their ancestral hatching ground. Every May through September the turtles lay their eggs in the soft sand. Here at the farm they are placed in protected areas to keep them safe from predators. The newly hatched turtles are placed in tanks and released into the sea by local school children.
4. Go Scuba Diving or Snorkeling
The Manchones Reef begins just off of Isla’s shore and close by are the Cuevones and Banderas Reefs. The calm clear waters are perfect for any level of diver. You will experience the vibrant colors of the coral reef and many different kinds of sea life. Other places to dive include the Cave of the Sleeping Sharks and the Underwater Sculpture Museum.
5. Visit Downtown
Downtown Isla is a charming, colorful place to explore. Have lunch at one of the many restaurants that serve food from a variety of different cultures. There are also many shops that sell a great variety of handicrafts and jewelry. There are even a few galleries featuring local artists. In the evenings The Plaza, located in the heart of downtown Isla, comes alive with dances, events and celebrations. Visit the cemetery where the pirate Fermin Mundaca’s empty tomb still awaits him. Mundaca settled on Isla Mujeres after retiring from pirating and slave trading around 1858. As legend tells it, he slowly went insane and died of a broken heart in Merida after his love married another man.
These are just a few of the many things to do on Isla Mujeres. A place you will like so much that you will want to come back the next day!
Have you been to Isla Mujeres? Can you think of anything else to do there?
About the Author
Kristin Busse is currently a travel writer but has worked in many different industries. She lives in Cancun, Mexico and plans to use her diverse experiences to write about the Yucatan Peninsula from her unique perspective.