Just off the coast of Cancun’s busy Hotel Zone is a sliver of Caribbean island paradise. A 15-minute ferry ride, but an entire world away from the rattle and hum of Cancun’s Avenida Kukulkan, Isla Mujeres is a five-mile-long tropical oasis where the natural beauty dials up and the pace of life slows way, way down.
The island’s history spans centuries, originally serving as a sanctuary for the Mayan goddess Ixchel, the goddess of fertility — hence the name, Isla Mujeres. In the 19th century, it was established as a fishing village. Today it is a thriving coastal community, with gorgeous hotels, perfect beaches, and toes-in-the-sand restaurants. But it is also a paradise for outdoor adventure, thanks to its position along the Mesoamerican Reef, the second-largest coral reef system in the world.
Best Hotels & Resorts in Isla Mujeres
Impression Isla Mujeres by Secrets
Secrets’ newest resort to open in the Mexican Caribbean, Impression Isla Mujeres by Secrets, is an adults-only, all-inclusive property. The five-star resort has a remote location on the south side of the island away from the busy Playa Norte. It features fabulous restaurants and, according to Rabinor, its rooftop bar and lounge, The Top, is the place to be. The hotel also has a notable sustainability program, Save Our Sharks, designed to protect the shark population in the area.
Privilege Aluxes Hotel
Perfect for those who like to be close to town, Privilege Aluxes Hotel is a short walk to the town center, located on the sun-bleached shores of Playa Norte. The five-star resort is adults-only, with a collection of exclusive suites, each of which has its own Jacuzzi or private pool overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
If you want to soak in the island’s beautiful sunrises, look no further than the sleek, modern Hotel Izla. The 123-room resort has an oceanfront pool and a small section of beach, but the star feature here is its stunning rooftop infinity pool with endless views out over the Caribbean.
Belo Isla Mujeres
Located on the sugary shores of North Beach, Belo Isla Mujeres is an intimate boutique hotel with 65 guest rooms and suites. Book the Luxury Ocean Front Villa, with two bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, and views of the turquoise Caribbean Sea. Don’t sleep on the fifth-floor rooftop pool with private Bali beds, hot tubs, a bar, and a rotating roster of live DJs.
Best Things to Do in Isla Mujeres
Although the island is only five miles long and half a mile wide, travelers will find that the atmosphere shifts on the island as you move from north to south, offering a wide range of things to see and do in between. The northern tip is home to Playa Norte, one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico, and a hot spot of hotels, activities, restaurants, and bars. The southern end of the island is far more tranquil, rugged, and remote, serving as the jumping-off point from which to explore Punta Sur and Garrafon Natural Reef Park.
Isla Mujeres Underwater Museum
Just off the southern coast of Isla Mujeres is the Underwater Art Museum, one of the most unique things to do in both Isla Mujeres and Cancun.
Swim With Whale Sharks
Isla Mujeres is one of the best places in Mexico to swim with whale sharks. These gentle giants flock to the waters known as The Blue, a two-hour boat ride from the island, between May and September. It is one of the largest aggregations of whale sharks in the world.
Enjoy the Beach
Isla Mujeres’ Playa Norte is considered one of the best beaches in Mexico, if not the world. Thanks to its selection of buzzy beachfront bars and restaurants, fabulous hotels and water attractions, and fine, powder-soft sand, the beaches of Isla Mujeres are its pride and joy. And because the western coast of the island is protected, expect calm, clear water and no sargassum.
Bike (or Golf Cart) Around the Island
Unlike nearby Isla Holbox, cars are permitted on Isla Mujeres. But the most popular modes of transportation around the island are golf carts, scooters, or bicycles. But more than just practical, this style of seeing the island is a lot of fun and allows visitors to enjoy the scenery as they get around. The pace of life moves slowly at the beach in general, and that is definitely taken to a new level on Isla Mujeres. Tip: If you’re opting to bike the island, Rabinor recommends an early start before the heat and the humidity of the day become too smothering.
Best Nightlife in Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is as versatile as it is beautiful, with a party scene that can transition easily from day to night. Just walk along Playa Norte to see the array of toes-in-the-sand beach clubs, or, when the sun goes down, stroll along Avenida Hidalgo for the best nightlife.
Come to Xantolo for the menu of regional specialties from around Mexico, but stay for the sexy cocktails, salsa music, and fabulous people-watching. Salsa music kicks off every night at 10:30 p.m. and doesn’t stop until after midnight.
The dressed-down vibe at Stingray is what hooks travelers in. Well, that and the swing chairs that surround the bar. But what keeps people coming back to this Avenida Hidalgo hot spot is the music. The two-story bar is in the heart of downtown Isla, just a block from Playa Norte, and features live music upstairs underneath the rooftop palapa. Downstairs things get a little more performative with late-night karaoke. You may find regulars here singing until the sun comes up.
Open to guests of Impressions by Secrets, this rooftop oasis is decked out with low-slung white couches, hanging lanterns, and billowing white curtains. The vibe here is sexy and chic, matched only by the sweeping panoramic ocean views.
Best Restaurants in Isla Mujeres
For such a small island, it’s rather overwhelming how many great restaurants there are on Isla Mujeres.
The barefoot luxury experience has stellar beachfront views and an impeccable menu of grilled seafood, crudo, and a stunning raw bar.
ZaZa Yacht & Beach Club
ZaZa’s is much more than a restaurant — it’s a destination in its own right. Featuring a private dock, a large saltwater pool, beachfront access, and a palapa-covered dining area, ZaZa’s is a place meant to leisurely unwind for the entire day. Guests can make a general day pass reservation or bump it up a notch and splurge on the all-inclusive day pass.
Loncheria Alexia y Geovanny
Of course, not everything on Isla Mujeres has to be high-brow. Rabinor recommends Loncheria Alexia & Geovanny for traditional homemade local food. The tacos and fresh fish here are superb, and this is one of the top spots on Isla Mujeres that is beloved by locals. You’ll find this spot by the Mercado Municipal.
Coco Restaurant & Beach Bar
Perched directly on Playa Norte, Coco Restaurant & Beach Bar is where you’ll want to be for sunset. The fiery, painted sky pairs perfectly with a plate of fresh fish or steak and shrimp skewers. Sip a tropical cocktail on the second floor for the best experience.
Best Time to Visit Isla Mujeres
Mexico overall is a year-round destination, but the best time to visit Isla Mujeres is from December to March when days are bright and sunny and evenings are a bit cooler and breezy. The average high during these months is 83 degrees during the day. Visit Isla Mujeres in February or March for the Isla Carnival, a five-day festival of dancing, parades, and performances.
The high season is from January through April, when the weather is at its best but prices tend to be at their highest. Prices will be lower between May and December, but the low season (when you’ll find the best deals) is from September to November. This time, however, coincides with hurricane season, so expect a lot more rainfall during these months. The wettest month in Isla Mujeres is October.
How to Get to Isla Mujeres
While visitors can dock their own boats and yachts at the many clubs on the island, most people visit Isla Mujeres from the Gran Puerto Cancun ferry dock. The dock is located in Puerto Juarez, a few minutes from downtown Cancun. Ultramar ferry boats leave every half hour from 5 a.m. until 9:30 p.m., and every hour after that. The crossing takes 15 minutes.
Alternatively, the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun All-Inclusive Spa Resort, located in the Cancun Hotel Zone, has its own ferry stop for Isla Mujeres. Guests of the hotel get complimentary round-trip ferry tickets on a first-come, first-served basis by registering with the pool concierge the night before.
How to Get Around Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is not a car-free island, but most locals and visitors get around on two wheels or golf carts. Golf carts and scooter rentals are available all over Playa Norte. Guests can circumnavigate the island in about two hours, though plan for more time because you’ll certainly want to stop and see the sights along the way.