Island of the Women. Only a short ferry ride away from Cancun, this is the perfect island for a family vacation. A short 13 miles off the Yucatán Peninsula coast, many day tourists visit the not so secret spot when staying at an all inclusive hotel in Cancun. We have been traveling here as our main destination for several years and love it, favorably staying at Nautibeach condo, right by the ocean in Playa Norte with the best sunset views ever.
The long, white sandy beaches are picture perfect with calm turquoise water and coral reefs. The island moves with a relaxed beat and the mixture between tourist and local flair is perfect.
No cars are allowed on the island (only taxis) and everybody uses golf carts or scooters to get around. Hendrix’s loves driving the golf cart! There’s enough here to keep you entertained: you can snorkel or scuba dive, visit a turtle farm, swim with dolphins or put on your sunglasses and settle in with that book you’ve been dying to read. Isla Mujeres is famous for the most beautiful sunsets and Playa Norte offers great dining options and nightlife for families: kids are welcome when live music is played.
Our favorite things to do on Isla Mujeres
The island is only about 4 miles long and 2000 feet wide so it’s very easy to explore the entire island in one day with a golf cart. To the east is the Caribbean Sea with a strong surf and rocky coast, and to the west the skyline of Cancún can be seen across the clear waters. Once we are out of town, we let Hendrix drive the golf cart when there is no traffic and it’s definitely one of the highlights of his vacation. On the east side of the town of Playa Norte is a deserted market square and we always go there for endless kids driving fun.
This little turtle farm is my all time favorite. I love turtles!!!! My whole life I am obsessed with these shelled reptiles. Sometimes we visit this turtle farm more than once on our vacation. It’s a pretty small place and admission is only $3. They have an aquarium room inside with several basins with turtles swimming around in the middle and the walls are also lined with aquariums with different sea creatures like sea horses, crabs, fish, etc.
Outside right by the ocean you will find several round, blue painted pools with bigger water turtles. The pools are not very big and I always wonder if it’s enough space for them. The farm helps the tortugas when it’s nesting season and they created a save heaven for their eggs with a fenced in square area behind the pools.
No doubt that swimming with dolphins is a very touristy thing to do, the place is crowded with families, the food pretty bad and it’s not cheap. But once you are finally in the water and you ignore the touristy atmosphere, swimming with these creatures is the most amazing feeling ever. These smart mammals are so intuitive. When you swim out into the ocean and the trainer blows the whistle, they know exactly where your feet are and pick you right up into the air for the ‘royal swim’. Hendrix was so amazed when he did it. Incredible. My favorite was the belly swim where you hold on to their fins and you lay on their belly while they gently pull you through the water. I highly recommend this experience. We did it twice already in different years and loved it both times! The second time we got a great deal through our hotel. It was about $100 per person including a CD with unlimited photos of the swim. And the photographer took a ton of great pictures! Amazing memory.
The sculpture park is located the very southern tip of the island with stunning views over the steep cliffs leading to the Caribbean Sea. You can take great photos between the huge colorful metal sculptures of local artists with the ocean in the background. Hendrix had a lot of fun discovering countless large iguanas sunbathing on the rocks. The admission is only 30 pesos. Make sure to walk all the way to the end and you will find a very small Mayan ruin which is the beginning of an amazing walkway down to the cliffs. Wear sneakers, bring your sunscreen and a camera and enjoy the amazing views and water splashing up the cliffs.
At the entrance of the park is a little restaurant, a souvenir store and my favorite: the lighthouse. When we first came to Isla Mujeres several years ago the lighthouse was in much better condition. It looks pretty rusted and rundown right now.
Hendrix’s highlight when visiting the park: the Nutella Crêpe vendor on a bicycle. I even get one when we are there. He makes the crepe extra crispy and its so delicious. Hendrix and his friend Mick wait eagerly for their Crepes.
This year we went to Isla Mujeres with friends and then found out that 2 other families we know from Brooklyn were on the island at the same time. We had so much fun together at the beach but the kids really loved the pool Since we all stayed in different hotels and none of them really allowed guests to join us at our hotel pool, we decided to rent some golf carts and go to Zama Beach Club.
It’s a restaurant and pool right on the ocean near Punta Sur sculpture park. When you eat lunch there you can enjoy their pool for free. The food is good and theres something for everyone. The parents lounged on wooden sun beds while sipping cervezas and delicious margaritas while the kids loved jumping in the pool with its waterfall. A band started playing so we stayed until sunset. Only drawback is that the ocean didn’t seem very clean. Remaining posts of an old, destroyed pier sticking out of the ocean make it not very inviting for swimming. Since this was suppose to be a pool day, it didn’t matter to us.
Snorkeling on Isla Mujeres is great. The calm, clear turquoise water and coral reefs is a perfect setting to dive into the underwater world of colorful fish. We booked an afternoon trip once with Pedro, a local who owned a small fishing boat. We met him at one of the beach restaurants and used him several times. We don’t know where to find Pedro anymore but there are countless official snorkeling tours you can book. The only thing we didn’t like one time when snorkeling with him was that he dropped us off in the water by the coral reef and we were suppose to enjoy a relaxing swim to the tiny light house seemingly not too far away. But the current was pretty strong and Hendrix was only 5 years old. Although we were all wearing swim vests (provided by him), we got tired and cold pretty quickly and managed to get ‘rescued’ by one of the boats that were anchored near by. But then our guide quickly picked us up and it was all good. Enjoy the snorkeling, skip the swimming part.
I read about this underwater museum with hundreds of stone sculptures 10 meters under the sea surface before going to Isla Mujeres but since we were with a group of 3 families not everybody wanted to go so we skipped it this time. My friend Lisa went snorkeling there with her 9 year old son and loved it. Some reviews say that it is a better experience when scuba diving instead of snorkeling because you can see the sculptures better. If you have been there, please leave me a comment and tell your thoughts. I am curious.
This is a park where you buy a day pass so you can snorkel at the reef, kayak and get a rush on a zipline over the Caribbean sea. You can relax in hammocks or lounge chairs in the garden area, swim in the infinity pool and hot tubs or take a bike ride. VIP amenities: breakfast and a buffet lunch and bar drinks.
We went there a long time ago when Hendrix was very little. We didn’t like it very much. The hammock area had a ton of mosquitos, the pool was fairly crowded, the ocean seemed to rocky and rough to swim that day. We didn’t buy the VIP pass so we didn’t eat here, but most reviews say the food is not very good. The zip line seems to be the best attraction here but when we went Hendrix was too little to do it and I heard that you can only do one ride and the lines are long. The admission was about $80 and we thought it was way too expensive and not that special. Some people like it there though so try for yourself.
Pretty close to Garaffon Park is another ocean adventure park called Parque de Los Suenos. The advertisement promises three pools, four water slides, two climbing walls, a rope swing, and the thrilling SkyWave, the Mayan Splashdown Zip line where you glide through the air before dipping for a refreshing splashdown. Gear for snorkeling, kayaking and paddle boarding is included as well as a bbq lunch and soft drinks. The day rate for adults is $69, kids under 12 are $49 and children under 36′ are free. .We did not visit this park because not everybody in our group wanted to spend the money since we had a beautiful pool at our hotel. My friend Lisa and her son Jack tried this park and they liked it very much, Jack loved the rope swing and used it over and over again jumping into the blue ocean.
Visiting a cemetery on vacation might sound strange but visiting a Mexican cemetery is a celebration of Mexican culture and it’s tribute to the life and death of a person. In Mexico it is a fusion of thousands of years of traditions all rolled into the “Day of the Dead’ or ‘Hanal Pixan”. Both of these holidays bring families to the cemetery. But not only on these holidays do families come to see their loved ones graves. Mexican families come to visit the souls of the departed regularly and they bring gifts in hopes to attract these souls. At the cemeteries in Mexico, families will sit and talk about humorous anecdotes that happened in the life of that family member.
It was interesting to discover that in addition to candles, flowers and statues, most of the graves had either cups or soda bottles inside an enclosed area on top of them. The story goes that it is for the dead person to have a drink so the family leaves it for them.
Great care is given to all the memorials and above ground tombstones decorated with bright colors, interesting designs and many interesting statues and crosses.
The Panteon Municipal Isla Mujeres is right by the ocean in Playa Norte, next to the Hotel Privilege Aluxes. It’s a very crowded space, every inch is ‘occupied’. I loved finding all those beautiful angel statues. Have a visit, it’s so interesting!
This grave made me a little sad though reading “Mama: Te Quiero Mucho’ (Mama, I love you very much). I gave Hendrix a big hug and a kiss and am grateful for every day we have together.
Legend says that the resident pirate Mundaca is buried in this cemetery and we found his grave appropriately decorated with skull and crossbones…whether his bones are really buried here or not, only the afterlife knows…
The beach with the most amount of P’s: picturesque, paradise, postcard perfect, palm trees. Playa Norte is one of our favorite beaches ever. It has the best sunsets, the sand is white, soft and never hot, the water crystal clear, calm, turquoise and warm. The ocean is very shallow and there is almost no current. You can wade out very far with the water still only coming to your waist, the perfect swimming spot for children.
Although there are many restaurants, bars, sun bed rentals, hammocks and swings, it never feels too crowded and still has a bohemian vibe. It’s the perfect beach for sunning, swimming and snorkeling. You can easily rent water toys, kayaks and snorkeling gear. Many restaurants have tables right in the sand only feet from the ocean. I love that.
One of our favorite lunch places was Mayan Beach Club Restaurant & Tequileria in the Nautibeach Condo complex. The grilled octopus and fish tacos are so delicious.
It being the most northern spot of the island, many locals and tourists gather here to watch the sunset with its endless view over the horizon.
Best Places To Eat
Hands down the best Mexican food on Isla Mujeres we found at Green Verde and Mango Cafe. Both places are not right in town but only a short taxi (or golf cart) ride outside of town and it’s well worth it!!! We have not found any Mexican restaurant in town that could match the creativity of the dishes and the margaritas and we’ve tried almost all of them over the years. We traditionally go there after visiting the tortuga farm.
In the same area as Green Verde is other gem of a restaurant, Mango Cafe. Although not located on the ocean but in a little village the atmosphere there is so cozy and local. Great colorful rustic Mexican design, friendly staff and the most delicious authentic Mexican dishes. I had a very unique shrimp dish baked in a pineapple. We also tried the chicken tacos, a salad and desert and everything was outstanding. Wish this place was right in town!
Best restaurant in Playa Norte, actually best restaurant on the island. Period. We even crave it when we are in Brooklyn as we haven’t found anything like it.
Olivia’s food is not Mexican. It’s a wonderful fusion of Moroccan, Greek, Bulgarian and Turkish cuisine. The owners, Lior and Yaron Zelzer, an Israeli couple, have introduced their culture to the island with a mélange of recipes inherited from the couple’s parents and grandparents.
Not the obvious choice during a vacation in Mexico but trust me, this is the most amazing restaurant. And how much Mexican can you actually eat?
On top of the delicious food, the atmosphere of Olivia is so enchanting. Most of the restaurant is outdoors and you will sit under a lush canopy of plants and trees. The dim candle light turns it into a beautiful tropical oasis. The staff is super friendly and it’s surprisingly reasonable. We ordered a lot of dishes to get a taste of all the different flavors and had plenty of cocktails and wine. The Espresso Martini is a must! I miss Olivia!!!!
Our favorite place to stay at Isla Mujeres is Nautibeach, a very relaxied condo complex in Playa Norte right on the ocean. We love the spacious two-bedroom condos equipped with a kitchen. The swimming pool is fun and never crowded and the restaurant (Mayan Beach Club) is so convenient and very good. You can enjoy the magnificent sunsets either from your balcony or from your spot at the pool or beach. Prices are reasonable and staff is very friendly and its only a 5 minute walk to town.
Tags: favorite things to do, Isla Mujeres, Isla Mujeres with kids, Mexico, Mexico with kids, Playa Norte with kids, Things to do with kids, Things to do with kids on Isla Mujeres