You wont’ find shortage of things to do in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. A 20-minute ferry ride from Cancun, off the Yucatan Peninsula, this small island is named after the Mayan Goddes Ixchel, the Goddess of fertility and happiness, and the name literally translates as “Island of Women.”
A favorite destination for day trips from Cancun, Isla Mujeres is indeed an ideal place to conclude your trip around Mexico. Here, you’ll find lovely sandy beaches with clear waters, palm trees, plenty of viewpoints to soak in the panorama, archeological site and wildlife. Add to this an atmosphere that is much more relaxed compared to that of the capital of Quintana Roo, and the selection of incredible restaurants, and you’ll easily want to spend a few days.
Curious to discover everything that this island has to offer? Continue reading for a selection of the best things to do in Isla Mujeres.
19 Fun Things To Do In Isla Mujeres
Kick Back at Playa Norte
The main beach on the island, Playa Norte, is lapped by warm, shallow waters and easily one of the best beaches in Mexico. It’s an idyllic place to simply kick back and soak up some sun, and cool off with a splash in the water when you need a refresh. The beach is created by crushed coral, so there’s a pink hue to the sand here; and unlike beaches on the east coast, the water at Playa Norte is safe for swimming.
It’s a laid back spot where you’ll find many hotels and resorts, as well as beach bars and restaurants.
Spend the Day Playing at Garrafon Reef Park & Beach Club
Also known as Playa Garrafon, this all-inclusive beach club has an endless list of activities for you to get to grips with. It’s easy to spend the whole day here, enjoying the luxury of the surroundings and having fun with everything you can do.
From eating in its numerous restaurants or chilling in one of its swimming pools, to ziplining, snorkeling and kayaking, Garrafon is the place to be. Simply pay at the entrance and you can also enjoy a buffet and even an open bar included in the price!
For admission tickets to Playa Garrafon, click here.
Explore the Island in a Golf Cart
The way to get around the island is via a golf cart – that’s how my sister and I did it when we visited, and we certainly enjoyed it – it’s one of the best things to do in Isla Mujeres. There are many rental companies where you can pick up your own set of wheels, especially near the ferry terminal. Once you’ve got your own golf cart, getting around the island is a breeze. All you need is a valid driving license, and then you’ll be able to hit up all the hotspots of Isla Mujeres at your own pace.
To make things easier, you can even reserve your golf cart before you get to the island—that way you know for sure that one will be waiting for you when you arrive.
Go Swimming With Whale Sharks
Whale sharks are incredible; these huge sea creatures have amazingly patterned bodies and can reach lengths of up to 39 feet (that’s almost 12 meters). At Isla Mujeres, it’s possible to swim alongside these giants of the ocean. If this is something you really want to do, make sure you’re here at the right time of year: whale sharks will only be present around the island from June to September.
There are many tour companies you can choose from that will take you swimming with these gentle sharks (usually costing around $150 per person). Make sure to do your research before booking your tour and only opt for a company that is 100% ethical and won’t attract the animals with food, let alone harm them.
For more information on whale shark experiences in Isla Mujeres, click here.
Read my post A Guide To Ethical Animal Tourism for more information.
Enjoy the Artwork at Punta Sur
At the extreme southern end of Isla Mujeres is Punta Sur. As well as being a dramatic part of the coastline, it’s an ecological park fringed by numerous beaches and is topped by a lighthouse. It’s well worth making a trip down to this part of the island, not only for the stunning views, but also for the colorful artwork that dots the headland. Here you’ll find sculptures that look particularly striking against the craggy coastline and blue sky.
A trail leads around the cliffs at Punta Sur, and there are a few restaurants at the entrance, making it a good spot for lunch. Sometimes you may even be able to spot dolphins offshore!
Swing by Lola Valentina for Breakfast (or Brunch)
Food is never too far away in Mexico, and Isla Mujeres is no exception. Lola Valentina is a cute and well reviewed spot for morning morsels and brunch time delights. Among its awesome breakfast offerings, you can even find vegan options, so everyone will be happy. Its location on one of the island’s main streets makes it easily accessible, too. And if you feel like making your brunch a little more indulgent, the cocktails here come highly recommended.
Read my post What To Eat In Mexico.
Drop by Tortugranja Turtle Sanctuary
Sadly, sea turtles are still killed throughout Latin America for their meat and their eggs, even though they’re endangered.
Tortugranja Turtle Sanctuary is a safe haven for many species of sea turtles, including loggerheads, hawksbills, and green turtles. Set up in the 1990s by a local fisherman, the sanctuary aims to protect the turtles’ breeding grounds as well as the eggs laid by the sea turtles.
After hatching the eggs, and caring for the newborns, the sanctuary releases them into the sea.
Tortugranja is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is MXN30 ($1.50 USD).
Learn About the Story of Hacienda Mundaca
If you like a good romantic story, then you should head to the crumbling ruins of the Hacienda Mundaca. It was built by Fermín Antonio Mundaca de Marechaja—a 19th-century slave trader and pirate—in order to win the heart of a local woman known as La Trigueña (literally “The Brunette”).
This charming two-storey mansion may be neglected today, but there’s a reason for that: Mundaca’s love interest married another man and he died broken-hearted, with the hacienda falling into disrepair. Today visitors are free to explore its overgrown gardens, complete with a pond and fountain.
Explore the Ruins of Ixchel Temple
Dedicated to the Mayan goddess Ixchel, these ancient ruins are situated in Punta Sur on the southern tip of the island. Ixchel is the Mayan goddess of the moon, fertility, and happiness, and it’s this temple that gave Isla Mujeres—“Island of Women”—its name.
Legend has it that the only inhabitants of the island in centuries past were exclusively women: the priestess of Ixchel and her court of women attendants. The ruins themselves may be small, but it’s easy to imagine the ceremonies that would have been held here against the glistening backdrop of the blue sea.
Check out my post The Best Mayan Ruins In Mexico.
Hop on a Boat to Isla Contoy
For something even smaller than Isla Mujeres, you can take a trip to Isla Contoy. Situated 18 miles north of Isla Mujeres, Contoy was dedicated as a national park in 1998. Due to its status as a nature reserve, it can only be visited as part of a tour and visitor numbers are limited to 200 people daily.
The island is a haven for four species of nesting turtles: hawksbill, loggerhead, green and leatherback. It’s also rich in birdlife, with pelicans and double-crested cormorants among the species you can spot here. Many tours also include a trip to nearby Ixlache Reef—part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (second-largest in the world).
Head over to my post The Most Beautiful National Parks In Mexico.
Take in the Views from Guadalupe Chapel
Guadalupe Chapel is a peaceful church; it’s whitewashed, with colorful flags, and a stained glass window, too. But most people come here for the combination of church and incredible views. It may be small, but the quiet chapel looks totally picturesque with the Caribbean Sea stretching out seemingly endlessly in the background.
Inside the church, it’s surprisingly modern and boasts a huge window with ocean views. As well as attending a service at the chapel, visitors can also arrange to get married here—if they feel like it, of course!
Take Snaps of the Colorful Crayola House
This rainbow-colored house has gradually become something of a destination in Isla Mujeres. Dubbed the “Crayola House” because it really does look like a house made out of a box of crayons, it’s one of the most colorful houses on the island. It may be a private home, but the owners are happy for visitors to swing by to admire the murals that decorate the front of the house.
They’re the first large-scale murals on Isla Mujeres, and have been there for 15 years. Situated close to the Guadalupe Chapel, the Crayola House is great for when you’re exploring the island by golf cart, as it’s easy to drop by.
Visit the Mercado Municipal
This farmers market is open every day from 6:00 am to 2:00 pm and is the place to go for fresh produce and a spot of local life on Isla Mujeres. Mercado Municipal offers up some amazing food for affordable prices, with simple and inexpensive snacks, and produce on sale here—think everything from tacos, quesadillas and empanadas, to fresh fruit and vegetables.
After the resorts and high-end options in the area, visiting the Mercado Municipal feels like a bit of an antidote, and a definitive reminder that Isla Mujeres is still an authentic place to visit.
Soak Up the Atmosphere of The Zocalo
If you’re looking for more ways to soak up some authentic local life on Isla Mujeres, you should visit the Zocalo or town square. Here you can go for an evening stroll, pick up a snack from one of the vendors, and spend time people-watching.
There’s often music and dancing in the evenings as well, so if you’re going to come at any time of day, make sure it’s after sunset, when the Zocalo is usually brimming with life. Events and other celebrations take place here, too.
Stay a Night in the Shell House, Casa Caracol
Ever thought about living in a shell? Well, whether you have or haven’t, on Isla Mujeres you can do just that. This completely wacky and eye-catching structure, the brainchild of Eduardo Ocampo, has been sculpted into the shape of a shell, making for an artistic endeavour that you can actually stay in.
Coming complete with its own swimming pool, the white-washed and amazingly shaped house also boasts incredible 180-degree views of the Caribbean Sea. With two main parts to the house, the interiors are a design lover’s dream—the headboard of the bed is in the shape of a giant clamshell, while the shower pours out of a conch shell!
Pick up a Souvenir or Two at the Women’s Beading Cooperative
For those looking for an ideal souvenir for themselves, or a gift to take home for friends or family, you’ll be sure to find it here at the Women’s Beading Cooperative. Located in the La Gloria area of Isla Mujeres, the group is made up of around 60 women who create unique, one-of-a-kind handcrafted beaded jewelry.
Each piece is made one bead at a time and takes many hours to complete. The colors and patterns used in the bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and more, reflect the Mayan heritage of the island and its people. A percentage of each sale goes to the cooperative, plus the individual woman who made the piece you buy gets a percentage, too.
Dive or Snorkel to See the Sculptures at MUSA Underwater Museum
Visiting the Underwater Museum of Art is one of the best things to do in Isla Mujeres. It’s made up of five life-sized sculptures that sit on the bottom of the seafloor. Run by a non-profit organization, the sculptures are intended to promote the growth of corals in the area.
It’s split into three different galleries and is a favorite of divers who come to see the man-made structures slowly merging with marine life. Some of the sculptures include a Volkswagen car, people sitting around a table, figures with their heads in the sand, and a child with a ball.
For a snorkeling tour of MUSA, click here.
Soak Up the Views from Rosa Sirenas Restaurant & Rooftop Palapa Bar
If you like your restaurants to come complete with great views, then you should definitely make some time to visit Rosa Sirenas. This rooftop location serves up an array of amazing food in an idyllic location, with the seafood (and octopus, particularly) being very well regarded.
If you’re not a seafood fan, you could simply order some Mexican staples such as empanadas, and enjoy the ambience with a cold drink to wash it all down with. Sometimes there’s even live music here. I challenge you not to want to come back if you go once!
Get Zen at a Yoga Class
Isla Mujeres is so beautiful that it would be a shame to miss out on celebrating the tranquil surroundings with a yoga class or two. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that there are a selection of places where you can join in with some yoga.
One option is The Treehouse Yoga, a stunning studio that offers morning classes six days a week; another to try out a class is Red Buddha Yoga & Wellness, complete with a beautiful setting where you can relax in nature. Practicing mindfulness at one of these classes will make your Isla Mujeres vacation a memorable one.