Once again, we found ourselves on yet another week’s adventure in Cancun. Finding ourselves getting a bit old for the Cancun crowd, we realized that the shrill sound of the whistles being blown at the pool by Cancun hotel activities directors were getting to be a bit much. Something a little more subdued sounded more than just slightly appealing.
I very quickly found myself at the hotel activities desk, hunting desperately for a quiet daytrip. I finally decide on a full-day’s excursion to Isla Mujeres for both my husband and myself.
A few days later, we excitedly boarded the public bus in front of our hotel. The bus was headed for the Playa Tortugas boat dock en route to Isla Mujeres. The boat we wound up on was somewhat small, and with the ocean being so choppy that day, we were in for a bumpy ride. However, a whistle-free, less noisy beach was well worth it!
We arrived via this puny boat and were directed to pick up the snorkel gear, which was included in the low-cost package deal we got for the day for $45 per person, which included transportation to and from the island, lunch at the Isla Mujeres beach restaurant, free non-motorized water sports (i.e. the big plastic tricycle-looking paddle boats), and a big plastic chair for each of us on the beach for the day. The trip from Cancun to Isla Mujeres took about 30 to 45 minutes (we had threatening weather en route).
The minute I sunk my toes into the blinding white sands of Isla Mujeres, I realized that there was a great deal of white coral and small shells mixed in with these sands. In some areas, I felt as though I probably should have been wearing shoes to protect the soles of my feet. It was sweltering hot here, much like it was in Cozumel. The difference is that at least there was a decent breeze blowing on Isla Mujeres! The beach is gorgeous, as are the transparent ocean waters here. I glanced up and noticed that the beach-side restaurant looked like one big palapa hut with sand floors and plain wooden tables, which were quite worn. It had a rustic, yet authentic Mexican feel.
By the time we arrived on Isla Mujeres, I had found myself in need of the little ladies room. I was stopping just short of doing the pee-pee dance when I approached one of the restaurant employees and asked, "Donde es Los Banos porfavor?"(Where are the bathrooms please?). The older, gentle Hispanic man smiled, pointed and said, "Aye yah, aye yah" (pronounced EYE YAH, meaning, "over there, over there.") My first thought was, "Thank God I know enough Spanish to find a ladies room." Speaking of bathrooms and Spanish, word to the wise-many people here speak slang Spanish. In Spanish class I was taught to ask for los sanitarios (proper Spanish for bathrooms). If you ask for sanitarios, the locals will not understand what that means. Moral of the story: use Spanish slang, or find yourself a tree!
The waters were calm here, and we were each able to navigate the huge plastic tricycle in the ocean without falling off. The beach chairs were half the length of the usual poolside lounge chairs and were curved, made of hard plastic, and very much showing their age. People talk about how great the restaurants are here, but, in all honesty, our seafood lunch here was truly mediocre. It appeared that the people here who were on their own (sans tour operators) received a higher quality meal.
If you come here expecting the Taj Mahal of Cancun, sans all the noise, you’ll be disappointed. What we found, overall, that there were lots of day-trippers sunning on relaxed beaches, enjoying siestas, cervesas, shopping and lunch, minus a lot of noisy activities. Many shops and facilities here are worn, more primitive, and not air conditioned. You might find counterfeit Gucci here, but not the real thing. If you come here seeking less noisy, less crowded white beaches surrounded by some of the loveliest ocean you will ever lay eyes on, you will be quite pleased indeed. This is a great getaway from the noisy glitz and glamour of Cancun.
*Note: There is now a larger boat (a tourist ferry) that leaves Playa Tortugas boat dock in Cancun four times a day with Isla Mujeres as the destination.