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Coral Reef Island

The Island


In ancient times, Isla Mujeres was the home of Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of fertility and the moon. The Maya people went on pilgrimages to the island to honor Ixchel. This tradition is reenacted yearly as the Sacred Mayan Journey. Ixchel had a temple in, what is today, the Hacienda Mundaca which was built by the Spanish Pirate Hernan Mundaca. In the 1800’s, Mundaca and many other pirates utilized the island’s shallow lagoons as shelter from storms. During one of these visits, Mundaca fell in love with a young beauty and built the Hacienda hoping to entice the young woman to marry him. To his regret, she married another. A small bit of the hacienda remains and today is often the site of many romantic trysts.


So, how did Isla Mujeres come to be known as the Island of Women? In 1517 a Spanish expedition arrived on the island and found an abundance of clay figurines depicting women, most probably fertility symbols… remember Ixchel? Thus, the name, Isla Mujeres.  


It wasn't until after Mexico's independence that the island was permanently inhabited. During the War of Castes in Yucatan, Mayan refugees came to the island and established a settlement, which was recognized by the government as Pueblo de Dolores in 1850. During World War II, the Mexican Navy established a permanent base on the island.


In the 1950’s, long before Cancun became popular with tourists, Isla Mujeres opened her arms to visitors. There was no ferry service so tourists would signal by flashing car lights from a make-shift dock near where Puerto Juárez stands today. Local fishermen would take small boats over to the mainland and pick up the visitors to transport them to the exotic little island. 


In 1969, an eighteen-year-old local fisherman, Carlos Garcia Castilla known locally as “Valvula”, was diving for lobsters when he found a cave where the sharks entered but did not come out. Curiosity led him to free dive about 65 feet and he found that the sharks seemed to be sleeping. Until his discovery it was thought that sharks never slept, that if they stopped moving, they would die.  He later told Ramón Bravo, a colleague of Jacques Cousteau about the cave. Ramón and the National Geographic Society investigated this phenomenon.  Jacques Cousteau soon arrived on the Calypso and Isla Mujeres became known to the world.


Throughout the years, Isla Mujeres has grown into a world class vacation destination. Despite the influx of tourism, Isla retains its relaxing beauty and charm. Waking in the morning is the best time to view the sleepy little island as it awakens to fishermen, brewing coffee, street vendors sweeping their stalls, tortillas being cooked, and the most beautiful blue water promising another magical day.  


The beautiful little island of Isla Mujeres translates to “Island of Women”. Located just 8 miles off the coast of Cancun, where the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea meet. Relaxed and romantic, stepping off the ferry, one is immediately immersed into this magical Caribbean culture. 


The island is less than 5 miles long and about a third of a mile wide. The east side of the island faces the Caribbean Sea with a strong surf and gorgeous rocky coast . The west side of the island faces the Gulf of Mexico and the skyline of Cancún can be seen across the clear glistening waters. The west side of Isla is ideal for swimming as the water is calm and shallow. 


The island has few cars as most people rely on bikes, mopeds and golf carts for transportation. Isla Mujeres is split into three distinct areas: the north beach area is the touristy part of town. You’ll find tons of restaurants and busy white sand beaches with the clearest water you’ve ever seen. Five minutes south, you will find the middle of the island. Here you will find locals. It’s much quieter here, with small, family-run cafes and expat communities making up the majority of the land. Head further south still and you will see more guest homes, small hotels, a turtle sanctuary, dolphin discovery, zipline adventures and long stretches of beautiful beach area, and vibrant turquoise water.  


It wasn’t until a few decades ago that the island was more than a small fishing village, now Isla Mujeres is a relaxing and laid-back vacation destination. It feels quite distant from the high level tourism and all-inclusive hotels of Cancun however, for just a few pesos, one can take the ferry across and enjoy the nightlife and excitement just a boat ride away!


Isla Mujeres offers a wide variety of tempting options for beach lovers and is a relative bargain. Snorkel with tropical fish amid coral reefs, skim the blue waters by kayak or boat, or windsurf along the shores of soft, sandy beaches. On land, you can sunbathe, dine on seafood, dance to Latin rhythms, tour on a moped or enjoy a delicious margarita!

How To Get Here

The trip to Isla Mujeres begins by arriving in Cancun. There are many airlines that fly to the Cancun International Airport. 


From Cancun, you must utilize transportation to take you to Puerto Juarez where you will board a ferry to take you to Isla Mujeres. There are two methods of transport to Puerto Juarez:

Pre-Book a Shuttle. The preferred method is to go online and pre-book a shuttle. These can be shared or private. There are many shuttle companies. Many use 

Best Day and 

Happy Shuttle . You can also book a shuttle once you have arrived, however the wait is usually long once in the terminal. 

ADO Airport Bus: Look for the stand with a large “ADO” sign in red to purchase your ticket to downtown Cancun (around $5 usd per person). The bus runs every half hour. After you have arrived in downtown Cancun, take a taxi to the ferry (around $5 usd) or if you are really feeling adventurous catch the "Ruta 13" bus that will drop you off at Puerto Juárez near the ferry dock. This is the most economical way for one or two people.

Once you exit the airport terminal you’ll be in the arrivals/pick-up area, you’ll see many companies holding signs. If you have pre-booked private shuttle transportation look for a sign with your name on it, if not you will have to purchase a shuttle or bus ticket:


The Ferry to Isla Mujeres – Ultramar is the local transport company offering transport services to Isla Mujeres. Ultramar offers service routes from the Cancun ferry dock and is located in Puerto Juarez, a few minutes from downtown Cancun. It also offers service from three piers located in the hotel zone: Playa Tortugas, EL Embarcadero and Playa Caracol although these rates are significantly more expensive than Puerto Juarez. 

Ultramar Service from Gran Puerto, Puerto Juarez - The facilities at Gran Puerto are very comfortable with nice bathrooms, a convenience store as well as a bar, a small food stall and a tourist clothing shop where you can get hats, sunglasses, beach bags and beach clothes. Tickets are purchased inside the clothing shop. You can purchase a one-way ticket for 160 pesos or round-trip ticket for 300 pesos. Many of the online airport shuttle services include the ferry ticket in their price. 


If you are carrying your own luggage, you will be directed to the back of the boat. It is crowded and during high season, the luggage and bags are piled high. It is best to let the porters load everything. Please don't forget to tip in pesos!


Beer, soda, water and snacks are for sale on the boat. If weather permits (which is most of the time) sit outside on the top deck - you will never forget your first ferry ride to the island.


The first crossing TO Isla Mujeres is at 5:00 AM. Ferries run every half hour until 9:30 pm, then every hour until 11:30 pm (9:30, 10:30 and 11:30).


The first crossing FROM Isla Mujeres TO Cancun is at 5:30 AM. Ferries run every half hour until 9:30 pm and then every hour until 12:00 AM (10:00 pm, 11:00 pm, 12:00 am).


Visit the Ultramar website to confirm schedule and fares:

Getting Around

The island is about 7km (4.3 mi) in length. The north end sees the most tourist action with Playa Norte (North Beach) the main town area (which is extremely compact and walkable) and the ferry. The south end is host to Punta Sur (South Point), Garrafon Reef Park, private homes and guest houses. Mid-Island has Dolphin Discovery and The Turtle Sanctuary. Many locals live in the central part of the island. Taxis from the ferry terminal will take you anywhere in town for 30 pesos. Many like to rent a golf cart for approximately $50.00 per day. Also available for rent are bikes and scooters. There are many rental places in the north part of town near the ferry dock. The roads are all paved and the main road makes a loop the entirety of the island. 

Top Things To Do  On Isla Mujeres

One of the great things about Isla Mujeres is its laid-back beach vibe. It’s hard to resist lying in a hammock and reading a book, walking on the beach or getting a massage to the rhythm of the waves hitting the shore. Once you’re all rested up, try one of these fun activities…  


Rent a golf cart or scooter and explore the island, Admire the Sea Wall Murals, Book a snorkeling or fishing tour, Enjoy the evening at the Zocalo! The Zocalo is the town square in Isla. Both locals and tourists gather here at night for food, dances, events, and celebrations. Walk on Avenida Miguel Hidalgo in the center of Isla Mujeres. By day it’s a nice shopping street, but at night it comes alive with fun nightlife. Restaurants to enjoy dinner and a drink (or two), listen to live music, eat ice-cream and buy souvenirs.Take a day trip to Isla Contoy, a natural wildlife reserve and bird sanctuaryZipline Past the Cliffs and Turquoise Waters at Garrafon Park. Garrafon Natural Reef Park is known for its astonishing reefs and cliffs. Zip line over Isla Mujeres from almost 100 feet above sea level, zooming past the cliffs and waves that will have your heart racing. Or, discover the underwater sea life of the natural reef by snorkeling, then ride the waves above the reef in a single or two-passenger see-through kayak. Garrafon Park also offers a range of more relaxing activities such as a Mayan sauna, panoramic pool, and hammocks. Relax on North Beach. See why Playa Norte was ranked among the 10 best beaches in the world according to the TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Awards three years in a row! Visit Punta Sur. This area is the southern-most point on Isla Mujeres and the eastern-most point in the entire country of Mexico.


Because Punta Sur is literally where Mexico awakens (the location of Mexico that receives the first rays of sunlight), the people of Isla Mujeres celebrate by gathering on the island’s southern-most point to await the sunrise, bringing in the New Year and ridding themselves of the past. The rocky coastal cliffs at Punta Sur are beautiful. Here you can also find a Maya ruins, which was a temple built in honor of the goddess Ixchel. There’s also a sculpture garden but the scenery and views are the number one reason to visit Punta Sur. If you are lucky you may spot some dolphins along the coast. Iguanas are very easy to spot at Punta Sur too.Swim with the whale sharks! The season to see them is from June to September. Dive shops around the island offer snorkel tours to swim with them.Visit La Tortuga Granja - The Turtle Farm. Isla Mujeres is the ancestral hatching ground for the giant sea turtles that lay their eggs in the soft sand from May through September. The eggs are gathered and placed in pens at the Turtle Farm to keep them safe from predators. Depending on the time of year, you can see hundreds of baby turtles in the outdoor holding tanks. From August to October, they are released into the ocean by the children of the island (as well as many tourists). After the last release there are only a few turtles housed within the main building. The ones that are living their life at the Tortuga Granja have a rare disease that makes them albino and unable to withstand any time in the sun. Even the sun’s reflection on the water can kill them. Others have been injured and are receiving care until they can go back to the sea. Every year hundreds of sea turtles survive thanks to the care and love of the islanders. Swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Discovery. Dolphin Discovery is located at the south part of the island. Enjoy the unique experience of swimming with dolphins. Not only will you enjoy their company, you’ll also take part in different activities such as kissing, hugging, belly-riding, and even feeling the excitement of being foot pushed by dolphins, one of the most wonderful and intelligent animals.Go scuba diving at world famous MUSA the largest underwater sculpture museum. For the art enthusiast, tour MUSA (Underwater Museum of Art) and enjoy over 500 concrete sculptures.


Tour the Underwater Museum by glass-bottom boat, or for a close-up experience, head on a snorkeling tour or scuba diving experience. This incredible underwater museum is located 4 to 8 meters below the water’s surface in the Cancun Isla Mujeres Marine Park


 The weather forecast is PERFECT almost every day on Isla Mujeres! 


During the peak season of January through April there is little to no rain and the average temperature is a nice, balmy 84 degrees. The climate is tropical throughout the year with an average temperature of 80 degrees.  The ocean breeze in the evening can bring a little chill, so be sure to bring a sweater. The winter months are the driest with only an occasional afternoon shower. The summer months are wetter, but the storms pass through quickly.


May through September are the rainiest months with the highest humidity, most visitors need A/C at night. Official hurricane season runs from June to November but the most active months for hurricanes are September and October.


November is the beginning of “Norte” season, cold fronts with strong winds from the north hit Isla and generally last for three days. In the middle of the night, it can drop down to around 65 degrees though generally warms up in the day to the high 70’s or low 80’s.  


Summer temperatures are HOT, with blazing sun and highs well over 32 °C (90 °F), although summer visitors (from mid-May through September) have the opportunity to see whale sharks which gather in nearby waters in groups that can contain up to 400 sharks.

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