Off of the bustling coast of Cancun, in Quintana Roo, Mexico, is a small island called Isla Mujeres. Although I had never heard of it before, this little escape is pretty popular with folks that are visiting Cancun, and for good reason. While Cancun is a big, busy city, with a Las Vegas-style strip of hotels along its major shores, Isla Mujeres is home to a small town of the same name. Here, tourists trundle around in golf carts, walk the narrow streets of downtown, and marvel at the brilliant Caribbean Sea that curls around the entire island.

Without knowing anything about it, my love for islands drew me to making the trek to this beautiful corner of the world. And it was one of the most exceptional parts of my Quintana Roo trip.

While we were visiting, we only had a day in Isla Mujeres, and while you could spend longer, a day-trip to the island is a great option for anyone short on time. For travelers like me, Isla Mujeres has a unique hiking area. The island is also a nice place to connect with Mexican culture.

So, if you are charting out your Quintana Roo trip, consider this guide one resource for your planning what to do on Isla Mujeres. It is a realistic look at what it is like to visit the island for a day. And if you are a casual follower of this blog, please enjoy this taste of beautiful Isla Mujeres.

A Day in Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is only about 4.3 miles long (7 km), and 2,130 ft (650 meters wide). So, that should paint a picture for you that this island is very small. Its size makes it a great option for a day-trip (although you could spend longer!). In terms of what to do on Isla Mujeres, of course, that depends on your travel style, but I will be focusing here on exploring the town and hiking on the southern part of the island.

The island is currently characterized by the town that stretches across most of its surface. The ferry terminal is on the northern end of the Isla, and it is here that the dense downtown is located as well. From here, you can wander on foot into many shops and restaurants, and consider renting a golf cart if you want to make it all the way down to the southern tip of the island. A good part of a day in Isla Mujeres will take place among the colorful buildings of town. There are beautiful, white sand beaches on the very northern edge of the island. And these are easily walkable from the ferry terminal.

a day in isla mujeres

(c) ABR 2023

Exploring south is a great idea as well. In my post on hiking in Quintana Roo, I cover the beautiful trails that weave their way across the rocky cliffs of La Punta Sur (the south point). Along the way, you can stop by the Women’s Beading Co-op, where you can purchase exceptional beaded jewelry from the artists themselves.

Take these together with the time it will take to sample some of the wonderful food of the island, and the travel back and forth, and you have a full day on your hands.

How to Get There

a day in isla mujeres

Isla Mujeres ferry (c) ABR 2023

The most straight forward way to get to Isla Mujeres is by ferry. And while there are car ferries to the island, if you will be just taking a day-trip here, like we did, you won’t need to bring your rental car with you.

Where there are a couple of options for this, we took Ultramar out of Cancun, and that seemed like a pretty easy option. They have a big parking structure in Cancun, and lots of departures back and forth from the island. This allows you to adjust the timing of your trip for your energy levels – either spending more or less time on Isla Mujeres. (We ended up leaving in the afternoon, because we were thoroughly tired out by the heat).

About Town and Getting Around

a day in isla mujeres

(c) ABR 2023

The main town on the island should feature prominently in your plans for a day in Isla Mujeres. Not only is this the heart of life on the island, with restaurants and shops lining nearly every street, but it has access to some of the most beautiful beaches. Even more than all that, the town has many narrow streets, and colorful buildings, which makes it one of the most picturesque villages that we visited while in Quintana Roo.

The lucky thing is that if you take the ferry to Isla Mujeres, the boat will take you directly to town. Thus, without doing anything else, you can waltz right off the boat and into the middle of all the action.

When thinking about “what to do on Isla Mujeres,” I offered some hints above about what you can plan on doing here. There is A LOT of good food to try. We especially loved a churro stall in the middle of the village. And there is plenty of shopping to do as well (although my favorite spot for souvenirs is the women’s co-op – see below).

Renting a Golf Cart

a day in isla mujeres

Rpads were empty in the early morning, but that all changes within an hour or two (c) ABR 2023

Town is also where you can rent a golf cart (or bike), which will be your gateway to the rest of the island. For a day on Isla Mujeres, having a vehicle to get around in is key. While biking is more healthy than taking a golf cart, I will say that I think the roads were pretty busy, even as you head south. So, I think bike riding would be a little stressful.

There are lots of different companies that do this in town. So, unless you come in at a peak time, it is likely that you can grab a cart last minute. If you want to make sure to get one ahead of time, you can pick a company with sufficient good reviews and book online. But renting last minute was no issue for us. We just showed our driver’s licenses, paid, and we were off.

a day in isla mujeres

NOT the golf cart rental place – a nice coffee shop (c) ABR 2023

I wouldn’t specifically suggest the company we went with. They were fine, but our little cart was running on fumes, and the shop itself was a little disheveled. I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to go in if I were alone. And there are PLENTY of options.

Do note that regular cars are on Isla Mujeres, so while driving a golf cart, you will want to stay to the right of the lane. Let cars pass you safely.

It is also VERY busy in downtown, so you will need to come prepared for patience and kindness on the road.

Beaches

a day in isla mujeres

(c) ABR 2023

But if you do nothing else while visiting this part of the island, don’t miss the soft, sandy beaches to the north during a day in Isla Mujeres. While the hotels and city itself makes walking on the beach a little difficult at times, we went first thing in the morning and it was very peaceful before everyone arrived. This was quintessential Caribbean beach – white sand, peaceful, blue waters, complete with palm trees bobbing gently in the wind.

Depending on the weather when you visit, this is a great place to relax and get some vitamin D. But do be aware that the beaches fill up as the day wears on and more people arrive.

A Taste of Nature and History

hiking in quintana roo

(c) ABR 2023

In the Punta Sur, there is a lovely, cliff-side park that mixes some short but exceptional trails, with some really neat and colorful statues representing Mayan deities. (It was especially cool to see the Ixchel statue after visiting Cozumel a few days before!)

I do cover this element of your “What to do on Isla Mujeres” list in more detail in my Guide to Hiking in Quintana Roo. But to give you a taste of why the drive and entry ticket price are worth your time, here are some things that I thought made Punta Sur so unique.

hiking in quintana roo

(c) ABR 2023

Upon entering the park, you immediately get the sense for what Isla Mujeres looked like before people built their homes and business across much of its face. Low lying, and arid, but also carpeted in a bright green carpet of flowering plants. The trails of the park weave their away across this flat, open area with some tracks being paved and others dirt. All prove meandering roads to and from the statues that are scattered throughout the park.

The best part of all, should you have sure feet, are the stone-lined paths that curve and curl around the cliffs that line the edges of the park. From here, you can marvel at the volcanic roots of the island, and gaze out at the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea.

For me, this place is the crowning jewel of a day in Isla Mujeres.

Women’s Co-op

a day in isla mujeres

(c) ABR 2023

In between town and Punta Sur, there is an unassuming building (which can be located on Google Maps), that is home to the women’s beading co-op. This is the ideal spot to get something special to bring home with you! The women here are exceptionally talented artists, and you know that you are supporting local people and their livelihoods.

Not only are the things that they make intricate and unique, but you will likely get to meet some of the women who make the beaded jewelry in the shop. When we visited, the ladies were working together at a table in the middle of the room. It was amazing to see them work! 

Some Considerations

a day in isla mujeres

(c) ABR 2023

When you spend a day in Isla Mujeres, you will be in more of an urban area than you might expect. And the island is a popular place for people visiting Quintana Roo. So, you will be navigating lots of local residents, as well as other tourists. With that in mind, it is really important to be polite and patient while you are exploring. It is also important that every visitor plays a role in supporting the local community and maintaining the small-town quality of the island. That means respecting local rules and regulations. And remembering – your vacation isn’t as important as local people’s lives in their home. Go with humility and gratitude.

Speaking practically, it can also get very hot on the island. So, when thinking about “what to do on Isla Mujeres,” consider your timing. If you are going to be out in the sun, try to go earlier in the day. And make sure to stay hydrated!

Also, while golf carts are fun, you will be driving on the road with cars, so it will be important to drive (and walk) very carefully. Golf carts don’t have many of the safety features that cars do, so they can actually be very dangerous. Drive at your own risk, and do you best to stay out of the way of cars.

Planning a Trip to Quintana Roo?

Are you planning your own trip to Quintana Roo, Mexico? If so, be sure to check out my other visitor guides to the state. I’ve got a recent post on hiking in Quintana Roo, as well as visiting some of the most popular (Cozumel), and lesser known (Bacalar) spots.

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