Every year, millions of Americans head south of the border to Mexico. One of the most popular destinations or regions is Quintana Roo. This Mexican state located on the Yucatan Peninsula boasts Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, and Tulum among its popular destinations within the Mexican Riviera. All of these beach towns offer plenty of gorgeous hotels and excursions whether you want to lay by the pool, lay by the beach, or take in a little history at any of the ancient Mayan ruins.
One popular option you can do from Cancun is to take a ferry to Isla Mujeres. Located just off the coast of Cancun, tourists opt for day trips and extended stays in this tranquil tiny island. There’s a lot to do here, but to get the most out of your trip, it’s also important to have some insider tips. Whether you’re a solo traveler, a family of four, or a couple, here are some of the top tips to remember when planning your trip to Isla Mujeres.
Is Isla Mujeres Safe for Tourists?
Crime can happen anywhere, but Isla Mujeres is considered generally safe. However, pickpocketing and other petty crime can happen. Your best bet is to be smart, and avoid doing obvious things like flashing large wads of cash, leaving valuables unattended, committing crimes, or engaging in behavior that draws unwanted attention. Note that there’s a large naval base nearby, so this also helps to deter major crimes.
When To Time Your Trip To Isla Mujeres
Because the Yucatan Peninsula is in a tropic zone, pretty much any time of year is fine weather-wise to visit Isla Mujeres. However, May through October is the rainy season and you need to watch out for the hurricane season which peaks between September and October. But, the spring through early fall also means you have fewer tourists and can possibly score better prices for hotels, excursions, and more. Meanwhile, in November and December, humidity is lower, but you might have cooler nighttime temperatures.
Getting To and From Isla Mujeres
The only way to get to Isla Mujeres is by ferry. The most common option is to catch the ferry at Gran Puerto Cancun which is located in Puerto Juarez in downtown Cancun. From 5:00 AM to 9:30 PM, the ferry runs every half hour. After 9:30 PM, it only runs every hour until 11:30 PM. In total, it takes 15 minutes to cross the sea between Cancun and Isla Mujeres. Tickets cost roughly 160 pesos for one way, and 300 pesos for round trip.
Note that the ferry form Puerto Juarez is for people only. If you want to take a rental car onto the island (which isn’t recommended because of limited parking), you’ll need to catch the car ferry from Punta Sam which is north of Puerto Juarez. Alternatively, there are also ferries that leave from Cancun’s hotel zone, although they’re a bit pricier.
Whether you’re day tripping or spending several days on the island, you’ll take the same Puerto Juarez-bound ferry again. When leaving Isla Mujeres, the first ferry is at 5:30 AM and runs every half hour until 9:30. Then the ferries run every hour until 12:00 AM
Getting Around Isla Mujeres
Once you’re on the island, you have a few choices for getting around: walking, renting a bicycle, renting a golf cart, or taking a taxi. Bike rentals range from $10 to $20 per day. By far, golf cart rentals are the most popular option. Thankfully, the prices are the same at all rental locations, so just pay attention to the vehicle quality and customer service. Taxis are equally convenient, but always make sure you negotiate the price beforehand so you aren’t overcharged.
Staying in Isla Mujeres
Many people prefer to make Isla Mujeres a day trip excursion, and understandably so. It’s only 15 minutes from Cancun by ferry. Alternatively, an all-inclusive catamaran tour is another cost effective option since it includes round trip boat transportation, food and drinks, a snorkeling excursion, and beach club access once you arrive on the island. But for longer stays, you can book hotels or vacation rentals that accommodate a range of budgets from modest to luxury accommodations.
Mind the Sun
Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security because you have more melanin — you need sun block. But Isla Mujeres requires that all sun block be reef-safe to protect its coral reefs. So, be smart and buy it before you arrive in Mexico as the country has a reputation for up-charging for this outdoor necessity. Likewise, if you plan on lounging at the beach all day, take breaks from the sun, rent an umbrella or find a shady spot, and drink plenty of water.
Watch Your Valuables
In general, Isla Mujeres is considered very safe. But common sense still applies. Avoid flashing valuables or large wads of cash, and be mindful of your belongings. These are calling cards for would-be thieves. Likewise, stay in more populated areas and resist the urge to explore less-frequented spots. Most of the tour operators and local restaurants on the island accept international credit cards, so you don’t need to carry tons of cash.
Navigating the Exchange Rate
Isla Mujeres is located in Mexico. So, don’t be shocked that the official currency is the Mexican Peso. However, sometimes it’s cheaper to pay in USD rather than pesos. This is because stores and restaurants may not update the exchange rate regularly. This means that you might be overpaying in pesos if the USD to MP value has shifted in favor of the dollar. When in doubt, always ask the store or waiter to give you the price in pesos and USD so you can decide for yourself which is cheaper.
Skip the Timeshare Pitches
Anyone who’s visited a hotel in Orlando or the Caribbean knows the dreaded timeshare pitch. Often you’re encouraged to give them 90 minutes of your time in exchange for value-added coupons towards services like tours or a tangible gift at the end of the presentation. In most cases, you’ll lose as much as half a day being pressured to sign up for an incredibly expensive time share or vacation club package that you won’t get to use. These salesmen are at the ferry, hoping to lure in unsuspecting tourists. Unless you’re in Cacnun on a long vacation and are willing to give up your time like this, just politely decline and keep it moving.
Don’t Drink the Water
As with many other parts of Mexico, water quality might not be the best on Isla Mujeres. The water is limited to bathing and at most, brushing your teeth. Even the official tourism website cautions against drinking the tap water. Instead, opt for filtered or bottled water instead. Restaurants on the island use purified water for ice and rinsing off produce. Meanwhile, if you bring a water bottle with you, you can refill it at your hotel or various dedicated spots across the island.
Should You Day Trip or Overnight in Isla Mujeres?
There are hotels and vacation rentals in Isla Mujeres if you want to spend more time there. Likewise, the ferries can accommodate luggage. Ultimately, the choice between overnighting or limiting your time to a day trip depends on your goals. If you’re on a longer vacation and want to split your time between Isla Mujeres and the main Mayan Riviera strip, then a few days in Isla Mujeres might make sense. If your trip is shorter, simply spending a half day or so on the island might be more than enough. Similarly, if you prefer the party vibes and faster pace of Cancun, a day trip to Isla Mujeres for a change of pace might be fine too.
Set Sail for Adventure
Whether you stay for a few hours or several days, Isla Mujeres is a relatively safe destination off the coast of Cancun. With a quick 15-minute ferry ride, you can unwind and enjoy white sandy beaches, gorgeous coral reefs, and amazing food and drinks. Better still, it’s easy to get around the island and you can choose between paying in pesos or dollars for added convenience. Still, as with any locale, be smart when you travel. Follow local regulations, avoid flashing cash and valuables, and be a good steward for the environment by bringing your reef-safe sunscreen with you.