A Day Trip to Isla Mujeres, Mexico: Everything You Need to Know

Welcome to this guide on visiting Isla Mujeres.

Literally translated as “Island of Women”, this beautiful island is located just off the coast of Cancún in the Caribbean Sea.

Known for its great beaches and lively party scene, it is a great escape from the more touristy areas of Cancún and Playa del Carmen and is only a short ferry ride away.

In this article, we will explore the island, how to get there, what you can see and do, the best time to visit as well as some recommendations for a perfect day trip.

The easiest way to plan a day trip to Isla Mujeres is by booking a full-day catamaran tour to Isla Mujeres.

But, you can also take a ferry to the island to spend the day exploring everything Isla Mujeres has to offer.

And that; both how to get to Isla Mujeres and the best things to do on Isla Mujeres is what I want to share with you.

A Day Trip to Isla Mujeres

a day trip to Isla Mujeres
a day trip to Isla Mujeres, Mexico

With the region of the Riviera Maya being quite large, many wonder what Isla de Mujeres offers and why you should travel here rather than elsewhere.

Why Travel to Isla Mujeres?

The island as a whole is a lot quieter than the bigger cities of Cancún and Playa del Carmen, which is why many come here for more peaceful vibes. However, the island still retains a nice ambiance and atmosphere.

There is a nice mix of both busy and secluded beaches, with the option of a lively night out. So after soaking up the sun you can head to numerous bars and clubs that are open until the early morning hours.

One of my favorite bars on Isla Mujeres is Isla Brewing Company, which is a great option on the northern end of the island that has a sound range of craft beers!

On the north side of the island, there are lots of beautiful beaches and some of the best waters for diving and snorkeling in the entire region.

And to add to that, Isla de Mujeres also happens to be one of the most popular places in Mexico to get your PADI scuba diving certificate. This is due to the cheap prices, numerous companies that are based here as well as the great visibility of the waters and exotic marine wildlife that you can observe.

Also Read: How to Snorkel – Simple & Practical Tips

How to Get to Isla Mujeres?

Ultramar ferry docked at Isla Mujeres
How to get to Isla Mujeres – Ultramar ferry

A day trip to Isla Mujeres is a popular thing to do from Cancun, but also from Playa del Carmen.

And getting to Isla Mujeres is quite a simple task. 

You can get the ferry either from Puerto Juarez or from three locations in the Cancun hotel zone: Playa Tortugas, El Embarcadero and Playa Caracol. Puerto Juarez is the cheapest option and buying a round-trip ticket is slightly cheaper than buying two one-way tickets.

At all four locations the ferry is operated by Ultramar, who has a good website, in English, with timetables and prices. You can book online or go to the ferry terminal and buy your ticket there.

If you are in Playa del Carmen (slightly more south than Cancun), then be aware that despite having a large port as well, they don’t actually offer ferries to Isla Mujeres. You’ll need to take a bus to Cancún and then take one of the ferries mentioned above.

Use the bus company called ADO — one of Mexico’s coach services. They run routes all over the country, are inexpensive and the buses are clean and modern.

Tip: if you are planning a day trip to Isla Mujeres, make sure you check the time of the last ferry back!

Things To Do on Isla Mujeres

In this part of the guide, we will look at some of the best things you can see and do when visiting Isla de Mujeres. However, check out the “best time to visit Isla Mujeres” section below as well, as some of these may be impacted by the season.

1. Snorkeling and Diving

scuba diver getting ready for a dive

Isla Mujeres is one of the most popular places to learn to dive or to go diving as an already certified diver. Many travelers visit Isla Mujeres with the sole purpose of scuba diving the beautiful dive sites.

As well as some of the lowest prices, there are some really beautiful, crystal clear waters to explore on the north and western sides of the island.

Another great experience is to swim with whale sharks, where the best time to do so is between May and August. There are small tours that operate for you to go and see them, however, due to them being protected by the island, this means that only one or two people can swim with them at a time.

If you like to snorkel on your own from the beach, Isla Mujeres unfortunately is not the best place. Although they do have Garafon Reef (where you can also go kayaking and zip-lining by the way), the waves around the island can be high and rough. Then there’s North Beach which is perhaps the calmest spot on the island, but visibility is not great.

The best snorkeling around Isla Mujeres is done by boat. So if you’re mainly interested in snorkeling and spending the day on the water, then scroll down and read my recommendations for Isla Mujeres tours.

Tip: if you are only planning a one day trip to Isla Mujeres and want to go diving or swim with whale sharks, I highly recommend booking that in advance. Do a Google search for dive centers on Isla Mujeres. Almost all of them offer diving, snorkeling, and swimming with whale sharks (during the season). Read some reviews and choose the one you feel most comfortable with.

2. The Underwater Museum

MUSA underwater sculptures
picture by MUSA – things to do in Isla Mujeres

Another really cool thing to do on Isla Mujeres is visit MUSA (Museo subacuático de Arte), which is a one-of-a-kind underwater museum located just off the coast of Isla de Mujeres!

Whilst you can’t visit independently, many dive centers offer trips here. And because the dive site is shallow, even if you’re not a certified scuba diver yet, you could, after some initial training, do a first dive here!

Do keep in mind that if you are not a certified diver, going diving here will take up most of your day. So if this is something you really want to do, you might want to change your day trip to Isla Mujeres into a multi-day trip.

3. The Beaches

one of the beaches on Isla Mujeres
picture by Jeff Shewan – visiting Isla Mujeres

The island has two main zones for beaches. You will find the best beaches for relaxing and swimming on the north end, with the best being Playa Norte (also known as Playa Cocos) where there are virtually no waves and plenty of space. However, this beach tends to attract more people.

The western side (which faces the busy hotel zone of Cancún) has many beaches where you can swim, and it has a nice range of amenities nearby. Two of the best beaches in this area are Playa Lancheros and Playa Indios.

The southern end of the island is more rugged, with a hilly landscape and shorelines, whilst the eastern side is wilder and is open sea until you hit Cuba (too dangerous to swim).

Also Read: Why You Shouldn’t Take Seashells From the Beach

4. Ixchel

ruins of the Ixchel temple
picture by Н. Максимович – traveling to Isla Mujeres

On the southern tip of the island known as Punta Sur (south point in English), you can visit the ruins of the Ixchel temple, which were dedicated to the goddess Ixchel herself.

Ixchel is known as the ancient Mayan goddess of medicine and midwifery, and many Mayan women used to make the pilgrimage to the island to honor her.

Nowadays, despite the ruins being mostly eroded due to hurricanes, you can still climb up the vantage point and get beautiful panoramic views of the island and sea.

5. Hiring a Golf Cart

driving around Isla Mujeres in a golf cart

Another fun thing to do on Isla Mujeres? Rent a golf cart and buzz around the island!

Renting one will cost you around $45 for the day, and this way you will be able to venture more off the beaten path, and get from the north to south ends of the island a lot quicker.

Regarding safety; there is hardly any traffic on the island. You’ll find virtually no cars but instead just taxis, some buses, scooters, and other golf carts.

Travel Tips for Visiting Isla de Mujeres

The Best Time to Visit Isla Mujeres

the best time to visit Isla Mujeres

For the most consistent, hot weather you will want to visit Isla de Mujeres between the months of January to April, where temperatures hover around 85°F (29°C).

If you are thinking of heading between June and October, then be aware that this time has an increased risk of wet weather due to hurricane seasons, where there is slightly more chance of an occurrence in September and October.

Overall, the best time to visit Isla Mujeres would be between November to early January. The weather is great this time of year and the high tourist season has yet to start, meaning generally lower prices for accommodation and travel.

If spotting whale sharks is on your to-do list, then the best time to visit is between the months of May and September.

And for those who are coming to Isla Mujeres to dive, you should know that the best diving conditions around Isla Mujeres are between December and April.

My Recommendations for Visiting Isla Mujeres

travel to Isla Mujeres

Regardless of whether you are a certified scuba diver or not, I think one of the main draws of visiting Isla de Mujeres is the unique underwater museum, where you can observe over 500 statues near the coral reef.

During your day trip to Isla Mujeres you should also head to Centro and check out some of the murals along the sea walls, which have been painted by artists from all over the world.

In terms of the best beaches, I would check out Playa Lancheros for an all-rounder with some waves and local bars and restaurants nearby, and also Playa Norte for calmer waters!

Last but not least, for those who want to see more nature, head to Isla Contoy, which is located some 30km north of Isla de Mujeres. The island is one of the best places in Mexico to see nesting turtles and sea birds. If you want to combine a day trip to Isla Mujeres with a visit to Isla Contoy the best option is to book a tour that combines both.

How to Get Around Isla Mujeres

1. Taxis

Taxis are the easiest way to get around Isla Mujeres. They are everywhere and fairly inexpensive.

2. Rent a Golf Cart

As I mentioned before, golf carts are a popular way to get around. They might end up costing a bit more than taking taxis, but they are so much fun!

You can rent golf carts by the hour or for one or several days. There are several rental locations close to the ferry terminal and prices are the same at all locations.

3. Rent a Bicycle

The island is small enough to easily explore by bicycle.

Several places on Avenida Rueda Medina rent bicycles, but make sure you get one that’s in good shape.

Booking an Isla Mujeres Tour

an Isla Mujeres tour by catamaran
a full day Isla Mujeres tour

As I said at the start of this article, the easiest way to plan a day trip to Isla Mujeres is by booking a tour.

Depending on what you want your Isla Mujeres day trip to look like, there are some pros and cons to booking an organized tour:

Pros of Booking an Isla Mujeres Tour
  • Everything is organized for you
  • Most tours pick you up from your hotel
  • You get to spend time on a beautiful boat
  • You get to explore some of the best snorkeling spots
  • You can combine a visit to Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy
  • Most tours offer snorkeling equipment, food, and an open bar
Cons of Booking an Isla Mujeres Tour
  • Your schedule is fixed
  • You have limited time to actually explore the island
Which Isla Mujeres Tour to Book

Depending on your interests, there are a few different Isla Mujeres Tours you can book:

  1. A Full-Day Catamaran Tour
    On this tour you’ll spend most of the day sailing on a beautiful catamaran, taking you to different idyllic locations. You’ll be able to swim, snorkel, enjoy a delicious lunch, and a beautiful beach.
  2. A Fun Catamaran Tour & Island Visit
    This fun double-decker catamaran takes you to a great snorkeling spot as well, but unlike the first option, it offers more time on Isla Mujeres to actually explore the island. Breakfast and lunch are served on the boat and you can enjoy unlimited drinks since they offer an open bar on board!
  3. A Speedboat Tour to Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy
    This tour takes you snorkeling and lets you explore both Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy. If you want to see as much as possible in one day, then this might be the perfect Isla Mujeres day trip for you.

The Perfect Isla Mujeres Day Trip

And that’s all from this guide on visiting Isla Mujeres!

Having read this article, you should now have a better idea about what there is to see and do on Isla Mujeres, how to get there from mainland Mexico, and the best time to visit.

Isla Mujeres is a beautiful, lively, and affordable destination. And although it’s a perfect day trip, it’s also definitely worth spending more than a day here.

If you do decide to stay longer, there’s a wide range of hotels, resorts, and rental apartments on the island. And, if you were ever thinking about trying scuba diving, definitely consider starting on Isla Mujeres!

Also Read:

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the perfect Isla Mujeres day trip

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Daniel James

Author: Daniel James
Daniel James from Layer Culture is a cultural traveler based in Colombia. Daniel dedicates his time to learning Spanish whilst exploring with his backpack and learning about life in both Central and South America.

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