This post is also available in: Dutch

Latest update: 11 March 2023

Spanish corsairs left their sweethearts safe on a 5-mile (8 km) island off the coast of Cancún while they plundered the mainland. This women’s island (Isla Mujeres) is now looted by many tourists.

Friendlier tourism

Whether the legend is true, I leave it to you. Another story about the name’s origin is that Mayan goddesses’ effigies and clay figures have been found on the island. Also plausible. And it doesn’t really matter as Isla Mujeres is loved by tourists anyway. For some, as a day trip from Cancún (you can see the city from the island), but you can also stay there for a few days.

And while Isla Mujeres is a breath of fresh air compared to Cancún‘s hotel zone, it is fully geared to tourism on all sides. But I find it more pleasant, especially if you avoid the main street. Like so many places in Mexico, you will find beautiful murals everywhere on Isla Mujeres.

Sun, sea, beach on Isla Mujeres

There are many opportunities for diving and snorkeling around the island. From mid-June to August, you can even see whale sharks. Naturally, sunbathing is also a popular activity. Isla Mujeres promises better beaches than Cozumel and Isla Holbox. But, as far as I’m concerned, Isla Mujeres won’t win that game.

Playa Norte is highly regarded as the most beautiful beach. More people know about that: what a hustle and bustle! I can barely see through the people, but it’s a lovely stretch of beach. Finding a spot is difficult, and boats off the coast play different music as loud as possible. Horrible! Fortunately, many people leave at sunset, so we can enjoy a quiet beer while swinging at the bar.

Rent a golf cart on Isla Mujeres

The most popular activity is undoubtedly crossing the island in a golf cart. In 2016, Lonely Planet still mentioned that this should cost you about $30 a day; in 2018, my travel companions and I cannot get the price below $40, and in 2023 it’s already $70. Pfff. But it’s so much fun!

We rent a golf cart at Prisma. In fact, everyone makes the same trip around the island, and a procession of golf carts roams the island every day. We make several stops for photos, food and drinks, and a visit to the Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm, but that has since been closed due to poor management. Another popular stop is Punta Sur, where you can view a lighthouse, gardens, and ruins. We are advised not to pay for the entrance: the various hurricanes have transformed the ruins into rubble. But it’s not the stops that make the island tour fun; it’s mainly the golf cart itself.

Amazing hostel: Selina Poc-Na

We stay at Selina Poc-Na, when the Selina chain has not yet taken over. Already very popular among backpackers then, but now quite a bit more expensive. However, Selina has dramatically upgraded the hostel, and the private rooms look so pretty. Everything does, by the way, because at Selina, they know exactly how to make lovely spaces. There is also an area with desks so you can work if you want/need to. For sure the hostel invites you to stay longer than a day. Maybe I should go back…

The beach bar of Poc-Na Hostel.

How do you get to Isla Mujeres?

It’s an island, so you get there by boat. In Cancún, you can catch an Ultramar boat at the hotel zone or Puerto Juarez. It doesn’t matter for the price. The boat trip takes about 15 minutes. Book the boat here or check availability immediately:

The verdict of this mujer

Isla Mujeres is definitely worth a trip. I also advise you to spend at least one night there. In the evening, it is a bit quieter in the town because the day trippers have left. However, don’t expect an idyllic island free of tourists. It is more relaxed than Cancún and Playa del Carmen, but also very popular.

More Mexico inspiration?

blog overview Mexico
  • Accommodation. All-time favorite: Booking.com. Find hostels via Hostelworld.
  • Activities. You book the best tours and activities with GetYourGuide and Viator. You could also try WithLocals. ‘Free’ walking tours are available at GuruWalk. And for bike tours, try Baja Bikes.
  • Attractions and museums. Get a 5% discount on museums and attractions at Tiqets with the coupon code KIMOPREIS22.
  • Bus. Book bus trips in Mexico with Busbud or 12Go.
  • Car rental. My go-to car rental companies are EasyTerra and Sunny Cars as they have all-inclusive / worry-free offers. If you want more options, compare prices at Discover Cars.
  • Flights. Compare all your options! Definitely check out Momondo, Skyscanner, and Kiwi.
  • Money. Your debit and credit cards may not get accepted everywhere. You could opt for a Revolut card as an additional card when you travel. 
  • Package deals. Rather go on a catered trip? You have many options! For the Dutch, try ANWB vakanties, Tui or Sawadee, or maybe you can find a sweet deal at Vakantie Discounter or D-reizen?
  • SIM card. Beware of unexpectedly high calling and internet costs. Buy a local SIM card when you arrive, or arrange one online via Airalo.
  • Travel gear. Buy your gear at Bever or Decathlon, or simply at Bol.com.
  • Travel guides. I love the practical travel guides from Lonely Planet, buy them at Bol.com or Amazon.
  • Visum. Make sure you have the right documentation to travel to Mexico. iVisa can help you out.
  • Yoga retreat. Or: try a yoga retreat in Mexico!

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First published: January 2018. Updated since.

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