Isla Mujeres Guide
This was our second time to Isla Mujeres, but our first time with a baby! I hope you like this comprehensive Isla Mujeres Guide. If you have more questions after reading please leave a comment below!
We first went to Isla in February 2017. The weather was beautiful but the pools and the ocean were both rather cold. We just enjoyed laying out on the beach and exploring the island. During that visit we stayed at an adults only, all-inclusive resort called Privilege Aluxes and it was great. They don’t have SUPER nice hotels on the island but Privelege had a great staff and the drinks and food were amazing.
This latest visit, in the summer of 2019, was quite a bit different. It was miserably hot. I live in Texas and could still hardly bare the heat and humidity on the island. I think that is just probably anywhere in Mexico in June/June. It has been a long time since I visited Mexico in the summer months. We also stayed at a different, family friendly all-inclusive resort called Mia Reef, which we did not care for at all. The staff were NOT pleasant and the food and drinks were awful. I would not recommend anyone to stay there unless you have to.
One of the draws to visiting Isla is the island and the people who live on the island. They are all so warm and friendly and the food and atmosphere is great. You can rent golf carts and get from one side of the island to the other in 2o minutes. Another draw is that you feel a lot safer. I know a lot of people are afraid of traveling to Mexico right now but we always feel completely safe roaming about on our own on the island. Lastly, it isn’t as affected by the sargassum yet. Yes, some seaweed washes in, but it isn’t near as bad as the cities along the Mexican coastline (Tulum, Cancun, Playa del Carmen to name a few.) We also saw a major sargassum problem when visiting Belize this past February. The waters in Isla Mujeres are beautiful and pristine and are the perfect temperature during these summer months.
Getting to the Island:
You fly into Cancun and take a shuttle to the ferry. We normally book this through Best Day. They are waiting for us at the airport when we arrive and take us to the ferry and then they wait for us at the ferry on the last day and take us back to the airport. They can bring a car seat if you request it as well so that you don’t have to travel with one. From there you will buy your round trip ferry tickets (or you can also do this through Best Day for a little more $) and take the 18 minute ferry ride to the island of Isla Mujeres. The ferry is air conditioned (slightly) on the bottom level and open air on the top. When you get to the island you just jump in a $5 taxi to your hotel. It is a quick 5 minute drive in the taxi to get to your destination on the island.
Where to Stay:
I recommend Privelege Aluxes if you are not bringing any kids. If you are bringing kids I would look into an airbnb close to the beach with a pool. You can also rent a golf cart for the week and get to the beach easily or the to grocery store, etc.
Mia Reef was in a great location! A perfect location actually. We loved the bay area because you can just sit down and still be in the ocean and it was great for Miller because she could stand in the water. But, everything else was lacking. The staff never smiled, none of the alcohol options were good, and the food was horrible in our opinion. They would leave the meat out in the heat for hours at the grill. It was so gross to watch. We ended up going into town often to eat.
I really wish a management company would buy the Mia Reef and just fix those few things!
One night when we were in bed around 9:15pm a woman came to our door with two towels and claimed she was housekeeping and asked if we needed towels. We were terrified it was just someone trying to see if we were there watching Miller. I know that is probably silly but who in the world brings towels at 9:15 pm? Troy hardly slept that night.
Privelege Aluxes and Mia Reef are roughly the same price so if you have the option definitely stay at Privelege! Privelege was also all-inclusive but it had lobster and top shelf alcohol. You could order a cold Stella in a bottle or a pina colada in an actually glass pina colada cup shaved to perfection!
My parents have been to Isla three times. The first time they were at Privelege with us, the second time they did Airbnb for two weeks, and the third time they were with us a Mia Reef. They have the same opinions about Mia Reef that I do!
When to Go:
If you want to do the whale shark diving like we did, you will need to go in late June-early September. If you have no desire to do the whale sharks I would highly recommend going in February! The weather is so nice and you can really explore the island without worrying about heat stroke!
What to Do:
Rent a golf card and explore the island as much as possible. We love walking around Punta Sur, listening to live reggae at The Joint, drinking margaritas at the Soggy Peso (make sure to also eat whatever they are serving that day!), and just eating our way around the island.
Spend time on the beach! Isla has the most gorgeous turquoise waters.
Go Whale Shark diving. More on that below!
Go shopping! There are so many shops on the busy streets in town. Take some time to look around and never accept the first price! They always have wiggle room! They have beautiful handmade items you won’t find anywhere else. The town is walking distance from both hotels and it is so colorful and fun! Along with the shops you will find tons of restaurants and bars!
*photo of one of the streets in town from To Travel & Beyond
Unfortunately, the snorkeling is NOT that great on the island. You may want to take a ferry to Cozumel or Cancun for Isla for the day if you want to do some good snorkeling.
Whale Shark Diving:
The whale shark diving experience was incredible! Weirdly, we went in two groups (so that someone could watch Miller) and each group had a completely different experience.
In our group, we met our guide at 8 and left Isla at 8:30. It was a very horrible, bumpy hour and a half ride to the whale sharks. The ride was SO LONG and the entire last hour you are thinking ‘ok, I am over this.’ It is so bumpy that you really don’t even talk at all. You just brace yourself for the next off-your-seat wave. But, it was all worth it!
We got to where the Whale Sharks were feeding and there were around 18 of the in a big circle of boats. We jumped in two at a time and swam with them for about 7-10 min. We would then get out and the next group would go and we would wait our turn to go again. Troy and I went 3 times. There were so many whale sharks that as you swam next to one of them you would worry another one was about to come up behind you! We weren’t scared at all though. They only eat teeny tiny fish eggs at the top of the water.
Rules have changed (humans ruin everything) and now you have to wear life jackets and swim at the top of the water. It was OK though because they swam right at the top with you! We got to swim over them and next to them!
Then it was a bumpy hour and a half ride back to shore. Still worth it though.
I had to wear a patch behind my ear that was prescribed by my dr. They are about $20 each and so worth it. Remember how sick I was on the yacht in Punta Mita? I didn’t get sick at all on this tiny fishing boat with the whale sharks. In fact, the only person that ended up throwing up was the person who did not have the patch or take any medicine for sea/motion sickness! If you cannot get the patch, take two dramamine the night before and then two again an hour before you head out.
The second group had a completely different experience. They were in a bigger boat so it wasn’t nearly as rough, but they didn’t get a pod of whale sharks. Instead, they would have to find a whale shark and boat ahead of it and the couple would have to jump out and wait for the shark and then swim with it for awhile. They just did that all morning. They still said it was incredible and definitely worth it! They felt like it was really getting to swim with them in their natural habitat (out in the open water!) I would have been pretty freaked out sitting there waiting for the shark haha! I guess you just don’t know what experience you will have when you go out! You just hope you get to see them!
PS- my dad god horrible leg cramps when he jumped into the water for the first time. If you are prone to cramps make sure you take something for them before you go. Drink lots of water, eat lots of bananas, and take your medicine!!
What to Pack:
Pack tons of electric fans! For you and for the kids! You will need them in the summertime. I ended up using Miller’s when I was laying at the beach reading on days when there was hardly any breeze. You will also want them at dinner depehttps://shopstyle.it/l/5oqYnding on where you go. We always had to request to be seated near the fans. You will DEFINITELY need them for the kids. It is HOT HOT HOT.
Pack a super light stroller for the kids. It isn’t very stroller friendly anywhere you go and we had to carry the stroller up steps a lot. You won’t want your big bulky one.
Bring some cortisone cream. Heat rash is very common there since you are a lot closer to the equator.
You will need some bug repellant for dinners but the mosquitoes really aren’t that bad on the island. I got bit around 5 times but Troy and Miller did not get bit at all. I don’t think anyone else in my group did actually. Story of my life! I would go ahead and bring some just in case!
Bring some Pesos! They actually prefer pesos than american dollars and 100 pesos is about 16-17 usd! It will be easier to tip with them and to buy things in the markets.
What I Wore:
I don’t like to wear shorts on the airplane but you will definitely want to change into some once you land! Bring some in your backpack or carry on that you can quickly change into in the bathroom! You will have to stand outside to wait for your shuttle and you will be standing outside waiting for the ferry!
Like my travel posts? See my latest one from my recent cruise to Coco Caye HERE. And make sure to share this Isla Mujeres guide with your friends! Going in a big group and renting a house there would be soooo much fun! There is just so much to see and do you would never be bored.