Budget Mexico Guide: Isla Mujeres
The Best Guide for doing Isla Mujeres, Mexico to the Max, on the Cheap
Whenever I think back to my time on Isla Mujeres, I’ll get a little teary smile on my face. It was some of my best times travelling, and since I got stuck there for months I got to know all the locals as well as the best places to hang and eat. I got into a routine of free Yoga at Poc na Hostel in the mornings, then a swim to wash off the sweat. After, I’d find a cosy place to hide out the heat of the day while I worked, and in the afternoon play hours of volleyball and swim until the sun went down. Over dinner I’d spend two hours studying Spanish and then dance my nights away at the Beach Bar. It was absolute travellers bliss.
COOL THINGS TO DO ON ISLA MUJERES
Whale shark tour
Come at the right time of year (May until September) and you’ll be able to indulge in a tour to swim with the whale sharks. In Mexico these huge fish are protected, meaning you can’t scuba dive with them and you are not to touch them, but snorkelling with these awesome animals is really flipping cool. When I went, I swam with around 10 sharks and saw around 50 in total.
TIP: Shop around for the cheapest price – all the tours are the same and they all go to the same place. Only two people are allowed with the one shark at any one time so a smaller tour will mean more time swimming with the shark.
Dive at an underwater museum
MUSA Museo is a famous dive site in Mexico because it is an underwater art piece, created to regenerate the coral and provide an aquatic playground to divers and snorkelers. An easy 10 meters underwater, anyone can do this dive!
TIP: Similar to above, shop around for prices because they will all do the same thing. I dived with Poc na and found they had really fun staff and good equipment.
Dive at the shipwreck
About an hour from Isla Mujeres is an awesome sunken C-58 Minesweeper that is easy to penetrate and a really fun dive! Dark corners hold some really interesting fish and if you come at the right time of year, spotted eagle rays might be hanging out there!
Tour of Plastic Island
This is one of the most bizarre (and probably my favourite) things you can do on the island. Defecting from “normal” society, Richart attempted to build an island using plastic bottles and other recycled materials twice before finally completing his three-storey home on Isla Mujeres. Between 11am and 6pm Richart gives both tours and wisdom from around his home. Cost is a 50-peso donation.
TIP: Get to JOYSXEE Island by taxi or golf cart. Drive along Captain Dolche street until you see a sign on the right side of the road (toward the lagoon, not the sea).
Watch turtles lay eggs
From around May to July, you can spot big loggerhead turtles digging nests and laying their eggs on the protected beaches of Isla Mujeres. Many of the hotels and local residents look out for the turtles laying their eggs, so that they can collect them to be hatched in the safety of the Turtle Sanctuary on the island. This is a bucket list item for many people and by doing a little research you should be able to find them yourself (since there are no tours here).
TIP: The Eastern-side beaches, particularly in front of Casa Sirena Hotel was the best place I found to spot turtles laying their eggs. I saw mumma turtles twice here. Go at night after 10:30pm for the best chance of catching them.
READ: How to see Turtle Laying and Hatching in Mexico
Help baby turtles return to sea
It’s very unlikely you will see baby turtles hatch on the beaches of Isla Mujeres as most of the nests have been dug up and the eggs hatched in the safety of the Turtle Sanctuary. But the great thing about Isla Mujeres is that the sanctuary do turtle releases with local school children and tourists around September to October, when the babies have had time in the tanks to strengthen.
TIP: It’s hard to know when the Sanctuary will do a release – your best bet is to drop into the sanctuary while your there and ask. That way you’ll at least get to see the baby turtles in their tank. If you’re staying at Poc na hostel they do the release on the beach at the back of the hostel, so you will more than likely hear about it from staff and other guests if there is a release happening.
Play volleyball at Poc na Hostel
There’s a volleyball court on the beach out the back of Poc na hostel where guests and locals gather each afternoon from about 4pm to play off until dark. It’s a fun, sometimes-competitive atmosphere but you’ll be sure to meet some cool people playing.
Go to the Beach Bar at Poc na
Take your shoes off and dance around in the sand surrounding the bar with sweet tunes and cheap drinks. Need I say more?
Watch the sunset at La Punta Sur
La punta means the point in Spanish and refers to the Southern-most point of Isla Mujeres. From here you can actually watch the sun rise and set from the same place. How cool is that? With a small trek to the base of the cliff and some interesting statues to peruse, you can easily kill a few hours here.
WHERE TO STAY ON ISLA MUJERES
There’s a special place in my heart for this awesome hostel. It is literally paradise on Earth and a place you can easily get stuck for months (around 5 for me). The rooms are all pretty basic and not many of them have air-con, but it’s right on the beach with a sandy back area complete with hammocks, a volleyball court and a beach bar! There’s also a camping area and some of the private rooms have ocean views. But the best thing about Poc na is the vibe – it sucks you in and you’ll never want to leave.
I loved this hotel! It had just the right amount of everything… A little run-down and dodgey but with everything you need and a great price (it even had air-con)!
Bahia Tortuga $$$
This little hotel is a gem. Immaculate rooms on the edge of the water with large, comfortable beds, a pool and attentive staff. For people looking for a place that’s a little more luxurious.
WHAT TO EAT ON ISLA MUJERES
Quesadilla street food
This was my go-to street food to bring my friends when they arrived on the island. Juicy bits of meet drenched in cheese with amazing salsa sides – for only 30 pesos ($1.50USD)!
TIP: Find this stall on the corner of Calle Bravo and Miguel Hidalgo streets outside of La Michoacana.
Looks can be deceiving! But although this place isn’t the prettiest or the closest to the water – the food is some of the best on the island. Superb breakfasts and damn delicious, authentic Mexican food. They do awesome daily lunch specials for 75 pesos ($3.50USD) that include fish dishes. And they also have some of the friendliest staff on the island.
Hot dog and burger street food
Looking for cheap American-style street food? Look no further than this collection of food stalls selling hot dogs, hamburgers and other fast foods for seriously cheap prices.
TIP: These stalls can be found on Adolfo Lopez Mateos street near the Miguel Hidalgo intersection for dinner only.
If a beachfront bar/restaurant is what you’re after, head to Minino’s for 100 peso whole fish (pescado), fried or grilled to perfection. It’s great value and really tasty. Then wash it all down with music and cock…tails.
WHERE NEXT? Heading to Playa del Carmen or Isla Holbox? Here’s my Budget Guide to the Yucatan Peninsula
Place: Isla Mujeres
Currency: Mexican Peso
$1 USD = 18.92 Mex$
I was here: November 2014
READ: A Photoblog: Mexican Day of the Dead
What are your favourite things to do on an island paradise?
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