Cancun’s rise to the top of resort destinations has, not surprisingly, taken its toll on the city. Along with the hordes of college students and vacationing families comes inflated prices, chain restaurants, and tourist traps. Still, Cancun remains a beautifully located holiday destination. With miles of white sandy beaches and nearby Mayan culture, Cancun is well situated to explore from. Possibly its best-kept secret is the tiny island of Isla Mujeres. This 4-mile long spit of sand and rock offers visitors an escape from Cancun’s craziness or an easily accessible laid-back holiday destination.
Historically Laid Back
Isla Mujeres’s reputation as a relaxing escape goes back over 1000 years. Mayans used the island as a retreat and there is still evidence of this today with the remains of ancient ruins. When the island was discovered by Francisco Fernández de Córdoba in 1517 it is said that the only people he found living there were women, thus the name Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women.
Although just 8 miles off Cancun’s coast, Isla Mujeres feels like it is so much farther away. Gone are the towering resorts, loud music, and crowds. Instead, you will find locals and expats enjoying island living. This tiny spit of sand is a short ferry ride away from Cancun and offers a completely different experience than what you find on the mainland. For one, there are no cars on the island. Instead, people get around on foot, by bicycle, and on golf carts.
What to do on Isla Mujeres
The contrast between Cancun’s busy nightlife and Isla Mujeres laid back vibe is surprising given their close proximity. This laid-back island life is its best attraction. Spend a lazy day on Playa Norte, one of the nicest beaches in Mexico, then catch the sun setting over Cancun or head to the docks for an afternoon cocktail with local expats. In the evening catch a local basketball game in the town square while dining on street food then cap off your night with a pub crawl down Hidalgo Street, the island’s main tourist strip.
Those looking for a little more action on their visit to Isla Mujeres can take part in a handful of water sports. Jet ski rentals, sport fishing, and skim boarding are all popular in the area as is diving and snorkeling. Isla Mujeres is ideally located for swimming with whale sharks, the world’s largest fish. Each spring these gentle giants arrive and allow thrill seekers the chance to swim alongside them. If the thought of these massive sharks passing by you is too daunting, the MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte) may be more your speed. This fascinating underwater museum can be viewed by boat, snorkeling, or diving.
A Vacation from your Vacation
Whether you are visiting for the day or are staying on one of the islands many quaint resorts, Islas Mujeres is the perfect escape from Cancun’s chaos. As you will find, getting to Islas Mujeres is the easy part. Leaving it behind is the real struggle.
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