17 Best Things to Do in Isla Mujeres, Mexico’s Laid-Back Island Paradise

Located just off the coast of bustling Cancun, Isla Mujeres just may be one of the most perfect beach getaways in Mexico–and the plethora of fun things to do in Isla Mujeres is definitely a big part of the reason why (but the sheer beauty of Isla Mujeres’ beaches also plays a role).

This stunning, small island is home to idyllic beaches, an adorable and colorful town center, accommodation for every style, and potential adventures galore.

Isla Mujeres, Mexico, one of those islands that just about everyone loves.

It’s laid-back and easy enough to navigate that even travelers tentatively stepping a foot out of Mexico’s all-inclusive scene for the first time will have a fantastic trip, and engaging enough that even long-time travelers will never be bored.

Boasting phenomenal sunsets, some of the most postcard-worthy beaches we’ve ever laid eyes on, and a wide variety of things to do, Isla Mujeres is one of those islands that’s impossible to resist.

We fell in love with it immediately–here’s what to do on Islaa Mujeres so that you can do the same.

Jeremy Storm standing in front of Isla Mujeres sign with a whale shark on top of it

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Fun Things to Do in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Chill out on Playa Norte.

Often listed as one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico and even the world, Isla Mujeres’ Playa Norte is a long stretch of white sand beach on the north side of the island and is all palm trees, incredibly soft sand, and bright water.

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The beach can get crowded–multiple bars, restaurants, and resorts offering up beach chairs will do that–but it’s still an amazing place to spend a day in Isla Mujeres.

Personally, we walked all the way west on Playa Norte, about as far as you can get before reaching Playa Sol, and found the crowds far more manageable and the experience downright idyllic.

Playa Norte with sailboats in the distance, one of the best places to visit in Isla Mujeres Mexico

Rent a golf cart and road trip the island.

Exploring the island by golf cart (or moped, if you prefer) is one of the most quintessential things to do in Isla Mujeres and absolutely should not be missed!

Driving is both easy and simple: with one main road that circumnavigates the island, it’s virtually impossible to get lost when driving around Isla Mujeres.

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If you’re wondering exactly how to best access some of the Isla Mujeres attractions that are further from town, the answer is simple: a golf cart will get you there.

You can expect to pay about $30-45 USD for a golf cart rental for the day (gas included), and there is no shortage of shops offering the service.

Jeremy's hands steering a golf cart down the empty road in Isla Mujeres. Renting a golf car is one of the best things to do in Isla Mujeres

Pay a visit to MUSA.

The Cancun Underwater Museum of Art, or MUSA, is made up of over 500 statues and various other structures and is located on the seafloor surrounding Isla Mujeres and Cancun.

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Visiting is definitely one of the best things to do in Cancun and Isla Mujeres both!

Installed primarily to promote coral life in the area, MUSA doubles as a tourist attraction, and it makes for a phenomenal diving, snorkeling, and even glass-bottom boat tour location when visiting Isla Mujeres!

underwater photo of statues of humans at musa museum cancun mexico

Check out the Ixchel Ruins & Punta Sur.

The Mayan goddess of Ixchel ruled over fertility, medicine, happiness, and the moon–so, you know, just a few important things in life!

At the very edge of the island, on the tip of Punta Sur (literally “South Point”) sits the ruins of the temple of Ixchel, along with a few other Mayan ruins.

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The site itself is small–certainly nothing like the full-blown Mayan cities you can visit on the mainland–but the location itself is absolutely magnificent.

In addition to being a temple, Punta Sur also served as a lighthouse and looking out over the rough, rocky coast, I’m sure it’s obvious as to why!

Today, in addition to the Mayan ruins, Punta Sur is home to a statue of Ixchel, a gigantic iguana statue, and several souvenir shops and convenience stores set up to cater to the passing tourists.

Punta Sur in Isla Mujeres Mexico

Eat your heart out at Mercado Municipal.

Mercado Municipal, Isla Mujeres’ central market, is the perfect place for a no-frills, affordable, delicious breakfast or lunch.

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Be sure to leave the more tourist-centered restaurants behind at least once to eat here, where everyone, tourist and local alike, settles on plastic chairs under overworked fans for fabulous food.

We ate breakfast here every single day of our Isla Mujeres vacation, unable to stay away.

people eating breakfast under ceiling fans at mercado municipal, one of the best places to visit in isla mujeres mexico

Snap photos of the wild beaches on the east coast.

Isla Mujeres’ picture-perfect north coast and stunning west coast are where the bulk of the swimming happens on the island.

That being said, while the east coast beaches are far, far rougher–more like something you would expect on the west coast of the USA than the Caribbean–they are absolutely gorgeous and well worth admiring from the shore.

Jeremy Storm on the rocky beach of Isla Mujeres east coast

Spot the shell house.

As you drive down the east coast of the island, be sure to keep an eye on the glamorous mansions to your left as well as the stunning sea visible to the right–you just may be able to pick out the shell house, which is one of the most famous Airbnbs in the world!

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It’s easy to see from the road, and well–pretty distinct. I had no idea exactly where it was on the island and spotted it immediately as we passed by in our golf cart.

isla mujeres mexico shell house as seen from the driveway

… or hit the water for a sunset cruise.

Not content to watch the sunset from the shore?

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Join a catamaran cruise to admire the sunset from the water instead!

This is one of the most popular Isla Mujeres activities, and one look at the sunsets over the island makes it very obvious why that is.

catamaran sailing on the water at sunset, one of the best activities isla mujeres mexico

Grab a photo with the colorful Isla Mujeres sign.

All across Mexico, you can find colorful signs with the town’s name displayed in prominent public spaces, and Isla Mujeres is no exception!

Located close to the center of town, it’s easy to stroll over for a quick photo op and some lovely sea views.

Kate Storm standing in front of colorful Isla Mujeres sign, one of the fun places to visit in Isla Mujeres Mexico

Watch the sunset on Playa Sol.

Playa Sol is known for being a beautiful Isla Mujeres beach that is just ever so slightly less desirable than Playa Norte, partially because the water is a tad cloudier.

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That being said, there’s no doubt that west-facing Playa Sol rules the island at sunset, when visitors can be treated to an absolutely stunning view as the sun goes down.

sunset over the water as seen from isla mujeres mexico

Head to a beach resort to relax the day away.

From laid-back, no-frills beach resorts like Garrafon de Castilla (we adored the views from here!) to full-on adventure parks like Parque de los Suenos, there’s no shortage of places to hit the water in Isla Mujeres that are far away from the crowds of Playa Norte, but also not closed to the public.

The best way to find them?

With a golf cart!

Kate Storm standing on a ledge at Garrafon de Castilla with turquoise water surrounding her

Go snorkeling… or scuba diving!

Dive shops and snorkeling tours abound on the island, and admiring life underwater is definitely one of the best things to do in Isla Mujeres.

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Stroll down Avenida Miguel Hidalgo.

Isla Mujeres’ bustling Avenida Miguel Hidalgo is the heart of tourism on the island.

Lined with restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and souvenir shops, it’s colorful, photogenic, and absolutely a fun place to see in Isla Mujeres.

We wouldn’t necessarily recommend eating or shopping here unless you’re comfortable with a steeper-than-average price tag for the area, but even if you don’t sit down at a restaurant, Avenida Miguel Hidalgo is definitely worth a stroll.

Avenida Miguel Hildalgo in Isla Mujeres Mexico

Pay a visit to Isla Mujeres’ turtle sanctuary.

Called tortugranja (or “turtle farm”), this small sanctuary-slash-aquarium is the perfect roadside Isla Mujeres attraction to enjoy during your golf cart tour around the island.

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Tortugranja’s main purpose is to help baby turtles hatch and reach the Caribbean Sea safely, but in addition, the farm is home to several turtles who cannot currently live safely in the wild.

The sanctuary is small and simple, with no frills, but it is an excellent place to visit as you explore Isla Mujeres!

Tickets are 30 pesos/person, and there are bathrooms and a small gift shop on site as well.

Two turtles at Isla Mujeres turtle sanctuary as seen from above. Definitely consider a visit here when deciding what to do on Isla Mujeres Mexico

Take a day trip to Isla Contoy.

Beautiful, uninhabited Isla Contoy lies about 30km/18 miles away from Isla Mujeres, and is one of the best day trips from Isla Mujeres!

Home to stunning white-sand beaches and an impressively diverse bird population, Isla Contoy is a protected island and a delight to visit.

If you book a day trip to Isla Contoy, you’ll also almost certainly stop for some incredible snorkeling along the way.

Planning a day trip from the mainland and want to squeeze in visits to both bustling Isla Mujeres and the more remote feeling Isla Contoy? This tour is a great option!

Book your day trip to Isla Contoy + Isla Mujeres today!

aerial view of isla contoy mexico on a sunny day

Admire the colorful murals of Isla Mujeres.

The beautiful, vibrant town Isla Mujeres is positively covered in beautiful street art, from its well-known sea wall murals to intricate paintings on everything from souvenir shops to municipal buildings.

Be sure to keep your camera handy when exploring Isla Mujeres–you’ll want to capture some of these for yourself.

Street art in Isla Mujeres Mexico with mopeds and a golf cart parked in front of the building it is on. The street art depicts Mayan culture.

Go swimming with whale sharks.

From June to September, the waters near Isla Mujeres play host to some of the most awe-inspiring underwater creatures that can be observed with nothing more than a snorkel: whale sharks!

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Often clocking in at more than 40 feet long, these slow-moving gentle giants are completely safe to get in the water with, making snorkeling with them a one of the most sought-after activities in Isla Mujeres.

Sadly, our first Isla Mujeres vacation didn’t overlap with whale shark season–all the more reason to return to the island soon.

Image of a whale shark in the center of the frame surrounded by blue water

Where to Stay in Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres has all kinds of accommodation, from budget hostels to luxury digs, with plenty in between.

Unless you’re planning on renting a golf cart for the duration of your stay and/or you’re more interested in hanging out on one particular beach than exploring all the different things to do in Isla Mujeres, we recommend staying within walking distance of Avenida Miguel Hidalgo and Playa Norte.

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As long as your hotel is a comfortable walk from there, you’ll be within reach of all the action.

Here are a few well-reviewed options, including the hotel we loved!

two margaritas being held out in front of the beach--relaxing here belongs on any list of what to do in isla mujeres mexico

Budget

Maya Casitas — For those looking to leave hostel life behind but still travel on a budget, Maya Casitas is an excellent place to stay in Isla Mujeres!

Located in the heart of downtown and within walking distance of Playa Norte, Maya Casitas gets rave reviews–especially for its location and breakfast.

Check rates & book your stay at Maya Casitas today!

Palm trees and columns topped with shark figurines framing the entrance to a beach on Isla Mujeres

Mid-range

Bahia Chac Chi — We loved our stay at Bahia Chac Chi! Featuring spacious rooms, a lovely staff, comfortable beds, and an excellent location within an easy walk of both the port and Playa Norte, we greatly enjoyed our stay and would be happy to return.

The only downside?

The limited continental breakfast–we ended up skipping it and spending a few dollars for breakfast at Mercado Municipal every day instead, which was well worth it to us!

Check rates & book your stay at Bahia Chac Chi today!

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Luxury

Mia Reef — Isla Mujeres doesn’t have a ton of the all-inclusive luxury hotels that the Riviera Maya is known for, but Mia Reef is among them!

Boasting a competitive price for an all-inclusive and an excellent location on the north point of the island (depending on the tide, Mia Reef appears to sit on a private island of its own), Mia Reef gets great reviews for offering all the convenience of an all-inclusive experience while also being right next to the town of Isla Mujeres and steps away from Playa Norte!

Check rates & book your stay at Mia Reef today!

Mia Reef hotel on Isla Mujeres as seen from Playa Norte

How to Get to Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is extremely simple to access from Cancun: ferries leave every 30 minutes, starting at 5:30 AM and going until 11:30 PM, from Puerto Juarez. 

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There are also additional ferries that leave less frequently (and for a higher price tag) from Cancun’s hotel zone.

You can check ferry prices, schedule, and tickets here.

view of people boarding ultramar ferry to isla mujeres mexico on a cloudy day

Getting to Puerto Juarez from the Cancun Airport

Puerto Juarez is about a 30-minute drive from the Cancun Airport, and the easiest way to get there is via shuttle or taxi service.

Feel free to negotiate with one of the taxi companies that has set up shop near the exit to the Cancun Airport, but keep in mind the price is a bit steep–usually between $30-$40 USD per car (and many may try to charge more).

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To save money, you can also take the ADO bus (Mexico’s main first-class bus network) into Cancun, and then pick up a local bus or taxi that will take you to Puerto Juarez.

This will take longer and be less comfortable, but definitely save lots of money!

Kate Storm in a red dress standing on Playa Norte in Isla Mujeres. The remains of a dock are to her left.

Taking a Day Trip to Isla Mujeres

Want to take a day trip to Isla Mujeres from Cancun?

You absolutely can!

If you’d like to spend a day experiencing all the best things to do in Isla Mujeres, you have two options: book a tour, or hop the ferry yourself.

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The bulk of the ferries to Isla Mujeres leave from Puerto Juarez (more on that in the above section), which is outside Cancun’s hotel zone, but there are also ferries leaving directly from the hotel zone (for a higher price).

An organized Isla Mujeres day trip is best for those who are mostly looking to see Playa Norte, do some snorkeling, and enjoy the sparkling waters from a catamaran.

This tour is a great option for that.

kate storm at the entrance to an isla mujeres beach club

If you’re hoping to check out several of the best things to do in Isla Mujeres and explore independently, we recommend simply taking the ferry.

You can check out the schedule here, and read more about the experience above.

Bottom line: the Isla Mujeres ferry is very easy to use, and we highly recommend it!

Don’t want to worry about handling transportation?

Book your day tour to Isla Mujeres today!

Catamaran full of tour goers offshore near Isla Mujeres Mexico

Is Isla Mujeres Safe?

Safety is, of course, a deeply personal issue, so I can only offer our perspective here–but yes, we perceive Isla Mujeres to be extremely safe, which is in line with additional reports and articles about the area.

Crime against tourists, when it occurs, tends to be limited to property crimes of opportunity.

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We wouldn’t recommend leaving your phone on your beach chair and walking away to swim, for example, but we also wouldn’t be remotely fearful of walking down the street.

After traveling to nearly 50 countries and extensively throughout Mexico, we consider Isla Mujeres to be an ideal first destination in Mexico for a traveler who is a bit nervous about visiting but also wants to avoid the all-inclusive resort bubble. 

Palm trees as seen looking back toward the shore in the water at Playa Norte Isla Mujeres

The island is friendly, easy to get around, a small/manageable size, easy to access, and there are plenty of English speakers around if your Spanish is limited or you get tripped up!

Of course, basic safety requirements are required in Isla Mujeres: don’t get too intoxicated (especially alone or at night), don’t step foot near any sort of illegal activity, and stay aware of your surroundings.

But that being said, I really cannot overemphasize how generally safe, relaxing, and comfortable we found the environment on Isla Mujeres.

Jeremy Storm in a green shirt sitting behind the wheel of a golf cart with the east coast of Isla Mujeres in the background. Renting a golf cart is one of the best things to do in Isla Mujeres

Best Time to Visit Isla Mujeres

There are two distinct best times to visit Isla Mujeres.

The first is from January to April, when you’ll find the best weather with the highest chance experiencing an uninterrupted stream of warm, sunny days.

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The second is from June to September, when the weather can be a bit more temperamental (read: cloudy and rainy), but the whale sharks are in town.

Regardless of which time frame you choose to visit the island, you’re bound to enjoy many of the best things to do in Isla Mujeres, Mexico!

people swimming off the west coast of isla mujeres mexico with a flowering plant in the foreground

What to Pack for an Isla Mujeres Getaway

Wondering what to pack for an Isla Mujeres vacation?

Be sure to throw these items in your bag!

Reef-Safe Sunscreen — Protect the sensitive coral reefs that live in the area by bringing reef-safe sunscreen along on your Isla Mujeres vacation!

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Travel Insurance — We don’t ever suggest traveling without insurance–anything can happen, and this is definitely a case of better safe than sorry.

Traveling to Mexico is generally safe, of course, but it also likely involves stepping outside your comfort zone and trying out new adventures in a foreign land… where you may or may not speak the language.

We use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Mexico.

dock near playa norte isla mujeres things to do

Pacsafe — We can’t recommend our Pacsafe enough: this travel safe is affordable, sturdy, easy to pack, and will help keep your valuables safe in your hotel room during your Isla Mujeres vacation (not that you should need to worry much about theft in your hotel, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!).

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Comfortable Day Bag — We currently use Pacsafe’s sleek anti-theft backpack and love it, but if you don’t want to shell out the cash for this trip, that’s totally understandable.

Just aim for something comfortable to wear, not flashy, and medium-sized–we used a Northface Jester backpack for years and loved it as well.

Jeremy Storm wearing Pacsafe antitheft backpack on Isla Mujeres Mexico

Cute Beach Coverup — You won’t want to walk around town wearing only your bathing suit, but dealing with wet clothes is also a pain.

Something like this is the perfect solution!

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Steripen — Save money and avoid adding more plastic to the Earth–a SteriPen is a win/win.

We’ve used ours in more than a dozen countries over the years, including all throughout Mexico and Central America, and never gotten sick from the water.

Nalgene — Goes hand-in-hand with the Steripen: you have to have somewhere to put that clean water!

Opt for the wide-mouthed version in order to make the water sterilization process easier.

4 photos of Isla Mujeres featuring Playa Norte, palm trees, and sea turtles. Black and pink text reads "17 best things to do in isla mujeres mexico"

2 thoughts on “17 Best Things to Do in Isla Mujeres, Mexico’s Laid-Back Island Paradise”

  1. Thank you for your tips. They were really helpful for our preparations. Having been there yesterday (October 2021) with the family, I do feel the need to add a few impressions to provide potential visitors with a fuller picture:

    1. If you want to snorkel, you have two options: take a boat tour or go into one of the restaurant/hang out places (where you pay for the amenities with higher food prices). Snorkeling with your own gear simply by jumping into the sea at a beach is not really an option.
    2. The east coast is near impossible to swim or snorkel. It is pretty rocky and whenever you find a spot with a possible entrance, the background was either a large trash dump or an ugly construction site or some other unwelcoming scenery. On the west coast the line of hotels was so close that by passing the road in your golf cart you could hardly get a glimpse of the beach. The view was usually blocked by high walls and large hotels complexes.
    3. The island isn’t an idyllic small remote “untouched” place. It is a crowded, busy and intensely developed place. Even the much vaunted Playa Norte didn’t offer anything that our house beach (Playa Paraiso) on the mainland doesn’t offer as well, except for the big crowds and the people shouting “massage” when you pass them.
    4. This most southern point offers the best photo opportunities with the open landscape and the turquoise sea in the background and a restaurant, but is well frequented as well, including entire big bus loads of tourists.
    5. The ferries run from Juarez every 30 minutes and can be booked last minute (at least in October) but are fully occupied inside and near full on the upper deck (with no sun protection). The view plus the life music make the upper deck the more entertaining option by far.

    Reply

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