Isla Mujeres – The island of Isla Mujeres, just 13km (8 miles) offshore, is one of the more fun-filled destinations just outside of Cancún. For those interested in snorkeling, there’s El Garrafón Natural Park. At the other end is a village with small shops, restaurants, and hotels, and Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres’ best beach. For those looking for relaxation and time to spare, it’s worth several days.Isla Mujeres – The island of Isla Mujeres, just 13km (8 miles) offshore, is one of the more fun-filled destinations just outside of Cancún. For those interested in snorkeling, there’s El Garrafón Natural Park. At the other end is a village with small shops, restaurants, and hotels, and Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres’ best beach. For those looking for relaxation and time to spare, it’s worth several days.
Here are ways to reach Isla Mujeres:
1.) public ferry from Puerto Juárez, which takes between 15 and 20 minutes;
2.) water taxi (more expensive, but faster), next to the Xcaret Terminal;
3.) daylong pleasure-boat cruises, most of which leave from the Playa Linda pier.
4.) shuttle boat from Playa Linda or Playa Tortuga, an hour-long ride, with irregular service
The inexpensive but fast Puerto Juárez public ferries lie just a few kilometers from downtown Cancún. From Cancún City, take the Ruta 8 bus on Avenida Tulum to Puerto Juárez. The air-conditioned Ultramar (www.granpuerto.com.mx) boats cost $7 per person round-trip and take 15 to 20 minutes. Departures are every half-hour from 5am to 8:30pm and then at 9:30pm, 10:30pm, and 11:30pm.
The slower Caribbean Savage (45-60 min.) costs about $4. It departs every 2 hours, or less frequently, depending on demand. Upon arrival, the ferry docks in downtown Isla Mujeres near all the shops, restaurants, hotels, and Norte beach. You’ll need a taxi to get to El Garrafón park at the other end of the island. You can stay as long as you like on the island and return by ferry, but be sure to confirm the time of the last returning ferry.
Pleasure-boat cruises to Isla Mujeres are popular among visitors. Modern motor yachts, sailboats (including the “Sea Passion” catamaran), and even old-time sloops — more than 25 boats a day — take swimmers, sun lovers, snorkelers, and shoppers out on the turquoise blue waters. Some tours include a snorkeling stop at El Garrafón, lunch on the beach, and a short time for shopping in downtown Isla Mujeres. Most depart at 9:30 or 10am, last about 5 or 6 hours, and include breakfast, lunch, and rental of snorkel gear. Others, particularly sunset and night cruises, go to beaches away from town for pseudo-pirate shows and include a lobster meal or local buffet. If you want to familiarize yourself with Isla Mujeres, go on a morning cruise, or travel on your own using the public ferry from Puerto Juárez. Prices for the day cruises go for about $80 per person. Reservations not required.
An all-inclusive entrance fee of $69 ($50 for kids) to Garrafón Natural Reef Park (www.garrafon.com), includes transportation from Playa Langosta in Cancún; meals; open bar with domestic drinks; access to the reef; and use of snorkel gear, kayaks, inner tubes, life vests, the pool, hammocks, and public facilities and showers (but not towels, so bring your own). There are also nature trails and several restaurants on location.
Other excursions venture to the reefs in glass-bottom boats, so you can have a near-scuba-diving experience and see many tropical fish. However, the reefs are some distance from the shore and are impossible to reach on windy days with choppy seas. They’ve also suffered from heavy tourist traffic, and their condition is far from pristine. Nautibus’s Atlantis Submarine (www.atlantisadventures.com) takes you close to typical aquatic life. Departures vary, depending on the weather. Prices are $79 for adults, $45 for children ages 4 to 12. The submarine descends to a depth of 30m (98 ft.). Atlantis Submarine leaves daily at 9am, 11am, and noon; the tour runs about 40 minutes. The submarine leaves from Cozumel, so you should either take a ferry to get there or buy a package that includes round-trip transportation from your hotel in Cancún ($103 adults, $76 children 4-12). Reservations are needed.