Best things to do on Isla Mujeres, Mexico
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Budget Isla Mujeres Guide: Where to stay and Awesome Things do in Isla Mujeres on a budget!
Ahhh Isla Mujeres, the magical Island of Women. 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 local people. This is how I know what the best things to do on Isla Mujeres are, from the perspective of an expat.
Isla Mujeres has a rich history, some of which are associated with the islands name. Legend has it that when the island was discovered in 1517, the island was inhabited only by women; the priestess of Ixchel and her court of women. Isla Mujeres is also the shape of a pregnant fish, the belly providing the perfect bay for docking boats and ships. I implore you to discover some of the histories yourself!
ⓘ Isla Mujeres Map
At the bottom of this article, I have put together a map of Isla Mujeres with icons or pins on every location mentioned in this article. The custom map integrates into your Google Maps app on your phone and each location has extra information and a photo of the place so you can easily find it yourself.
The Best Things to do in Isla Mujeres
WHALE SHARK TOUR
Come at the right time of year (May until September) and you’ll be able to do 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, either. But you can snorkel with these gigantic fish and it’s really “flipping” cool. During my trip, I swam with around 10 sharks and saw around 50 in total.
Shop around for the cheapest price – all the tours are really the same and they all go to the same place. Though they will tell you they are different! 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.
DIVING ISLA MUJERES
Dive at Museo; the underwater museum
MUSA Museo is a famous dive site in Mexico because it is an underwater piece of art! It was created to regenerate the coral and provide an aquatic playground for divers and snorkelers. An easy 10 meters underwater, anyone with a dive certificate can do this dive! If snorkelling, you can see the museum below in the crisp, clear waters.
Similarly to above, shop around for prices because they all do the same route. I dived with Poc na Dive Center and found they had really fun staff and good equipment. Watch a video about my dives with Poc na below ⬇︎
Dive at the shipwreck
About an hour on a boat from Isla Mujeres is an awesome sunken C-58 Minesweeper that is easy to penetrate and an extremely fun dive! Dark corners hold some really interesting cavefish and the decks are packed full of other fish as well! You enter through the back and are able to explore two levels of the wreck.
If you come at the right time of year, Spotted Eagle Rays might be drifting near this wreck! They are attracted to this site due to the strong currents that they play, feed and mate in. Eagle Ray season is between late November and early April. Check with your dive center if there are rays about.
TOUR AN ISLAND MADE OF PLASTIC
This is one of the most bizarre things to do on Isla Mujeres. 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. He named it JOYSXEE Island.
Between 11 am and 6 pm Richart gives both tours and wisdom and sometimes even kombucha tea from around his home. The price is a $50 peso MXN donation.
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) pointing to JOYSXEE Island. The drive takes about 20 minutes. On the way, you will also drive past Torturgaranja the turtle farm (written about below). Doing both in the one go is recommended.
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; Tortugranja on the island.
Although this is a bucket list item for many people, there are no turtle nesting tours on Isla Mujeres. However, by talking to a few locals you should be able to find out where the turtles nest yourself.
ⓘ Never touch the turtles or handle the eggs without the help of a local person
Where I found turtles nesting on Isla Mujeres
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 pregnant female turtles twice here. Go at night after 10:30 pm for the best chance of spotting them.
More Information on turtle nesting
I have written an entire guide to spotting turtles nesting and letting baby turtles go in Mexico. Click the link below to read more!
READ: How to see Turtle Laying and Hatching in Mexico
HELP BABY TURTLES TO SEA
If you want to see baby turtles hatch, it’s very unlikely you will this phenomenon on the beaches of Isla Mujeres. This is because most of the nests have been dug up and the eggs hatched in the safety of the Torturgaranja turtle farm.
But the great thing about Isla Mujeres is thatTortugranja does turtle releases with local school children and tourists around September to October each year when the baby turtles have had time in the tanks to strengthen themselves before release. “Liberations” are conducted during sundown, usually at about 7 pm at night.
When does Tortugranja do turtle releases?
Turtle liberations happen between September to October each year. It’s hard to know exactly when Tortugranja will do a release – your best bet is to drop into the sanctuary while you’re there and ask. That way you’ll at least get to see the baby turtles in their tanks, even if there are no releases while you are there. Releases have no set date and are done within less than a day’s notice sometimes. It is purely down to luck.
If you’re staying at Poc na Hostel, you might get lucky! Tortugranja do the turtle 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. If you aren’t staying at Poc na, drop in daily to check with staff whether they have heard about any turtle liberations.
Below is a short video made with the footage I took during my stay on Isla Mujeres. I was lucky enough to experience two turtle releases in the four months that I lived on the island. ⬇︎
How to visit Tortugranja the Turtle Farm
Tortugranja is a refuge for loggerhead, hawksbill and green turtles. There are indoor and outdoor pens holding all the different sized turtles. Most turtles have various disabilities that make it difficult for them to be released back into the wild. It also contains a small aquarium displaying local sea life and has a pen holding large nurse sharks.
The cost to visit is only $30 MXN (or $3 USD) and includes an education guide speaking in English or Spanish. Tours usually take about 30 minutes to an hour. It is usually open from 9 am to 5 pm each day.
PLAY VOLLEYBALL AT POC NA
There’s a volleyball court on the beach out the back of Poc na hostel where guests and locals gather each afternoon from about 4 pm to play off until dark. It’s a fun, sometimes-competitive atmosphere but you’ll be sure to meet some cool people playing.
PARTY THE NIGHT AWAY AT POC NA BAR
Take your shoes off and dance around in the sand surrounding the bar with sweet tunes and cheap drinks. Need I say more? The bar is open around dinner each night but gets busy after 10 pm.
I know I have plugged Poc na quite a bit in this article and that’s because I lived there for four months. I honestly love the place and think it’s really the only place to stay if you’re a young backpacker heading to Isla Mujeres.
Here’s a video I made about Poc na and everything you can do there! ⬇︎
WATCH THE SUNSET AT PUNTA SUR
La Punta Sur means ‘the south point’ in Spanish and refers to the Southern-most tip of Isla Mujeres. It is where the rising sun first touches Mexico and is the highest elevated area in the whole of the Yucatan. La Punta has a special place in Mayan history, too. It is home to an ancient temple ruin honouring the Mayan Moon Goddess.
From La Punta you can actually watch the sun rise and set from the same place. How cool is that? The dramatic cliffs surrounding the point have a small walkway on them. Atop these cliffs, you will also find the Punta Sur Sculpture Garden. The whole area makes for an absolutely picturesque location.
How I spent my days on Isla Mujeres
While living on Isla Mujeres for 5 months I got into a routine of Yoga in the mornings, then an ocean 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.
Where to stay on Isla Mujeres
POC NA HOSTEL $
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.
HOTEL CARMELINA $$
Places to eat in Isla Mujeres
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 I’ve met!
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.
This was my go-to street food to bring my friends when they arrived on the island. Juicy bits of meat drenched in cheese with amazing salsa sides – for only 30 pesos ($1.50USD)!
Where? Find this stall on the corner of Calle Bravo and Miguel Hidalgo streets outside of La Michoacana. See my Isla Mujeres map below for a dropped pin.
Hot dogs and burgers
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.
Where? These stalls can be found on Adolfo Lopez Mateos street near the Miguel Hidalgo intersection for dinner only. See my Isla Mujeres map below for a dropped pin.
My Isla Mujeres Map
I made this custom map, just for you! It includes everything from where to find street food to the places where I saw turtles nesting. The map includes each point of reference in this article. Click on each icon to see more information about the location or activity. To open this map in Google Maps simply tap the small square icon on the top right hand side of the map.
If you are using the map from your phone, the map should save into “Your Places” > “MAPS” automatically. You can select an area (such as Isla Mujeres) to download and use offline if you won’t always have access to data. For more information on how to download maps for offline, click here.
WHERE NEXT? 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
Post Updated: January 2018
What are your favourite things to do in an island paradise?
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