Isla Mujeres has many enjoyable activities that range from relaxing on the beach with an icy cocktail, to tangling with a mighty sailfish on a sport fishing excursion to swimming with dolphins and whalesharks. You can also take advantage of the islands’ proximity to many other great excursions such as Tulum.
SNORKELING AND DIVING:
There are many snorkeling and diving operations that take tourists out to some of the local reefs for some fantastic snorkeling. In most cases a reservation is not necessary to arrange a trip. Around the ferry dock and the beach there are usually representatives available for snorkel and dive trips. Equipment is usually included in the price and the guides are very knowledgeable about the local reefs and marine life.
If you are interested in scuba diving, there are several great dive facilities located on Isla Mujeres. Diving around the island provides a wonderful experience for beginning, intermediate and experienced divers. There are reefs in shallow, low current water for the new divers to reef drift dives for the more experienced. For the truly experienced, try the Cave of the Sleeping Sharks on one of the local shipwrecks like Ultra Freeze. At least a one day notice is required for the smaller dives. Information is readily available near the ferry dock as well as the downtown dive shops.
WHALE SHARK TOURS:
Swim with the Ocean’s largest fish in the pristine, crystal-blue waters of the Caribbean near Cancun. Whale sharks are harmless, gentle fish which enjoy their interaction with people who swim with them. Their migration patterns bring them to the Isla Mujeres area from May through September. For more information about whale shark tours contact Civiche Tours.
GARRAFON NATURAL REEF PARK:
Garrafón Natural Reef Park is a snorkel park located at the southern tip (Punta Sur) of Isla Mujeres. This park is unique as there is a reef located just a few feet off the shore with many colorful fish. This makes for wonderful snorkeling without having to book a trip or get on a boat. For those not interested in snorkeling there are lots of hammocks and chairs for resting, a huge pool for cooling yourself and plenty of staff just waiting to bring you snacks, lunch or drinks! This is a great day trip for families with small children.
GARRAFON DE CASTILLA:
Right next door to the Garrafon Reef Park is the Garrafon De Castilla, which has similar features (snorkeling, food, drinks, beach) but costs MUCH less. For a relaxing, easy, laid-back and inexpensive snorkeling spot, give this one a try. Good for kids, too.
There are several outfits willing to take passengers out for a day’s fishing excursion, either bottom fishing for a great dinner, or a sport fishing adventure to fight mighty sailfish. Talk to any of the excursion vendors for more information, or just ask around down by one of the marinas.
Ever dreamt of being up close and personal with the most interesting intelligent creatures in the ocean? Through the programs offered from Dolphin Discovery you can be in the water, touch and even kiss the most loved of all sea creatures!
THE TURTLE FARM:
Sea Turtles are endangered and endearing creatures. The Turtle Farm organization is assisting in increasing the turtle population by protecting them while laying their eggs as well as protecting the eggs and baby turtles until they are out of danger.
This nearly uninhabited island 15 miles north of Isla Mujeres serves as an important bird sanctuary. Licensed tour services bring visitors in each day to see the island’s beauty and lounge on its powdered beaches. Tours generally include a stop at an underwater national snorkeling park as well as a fresh fish lunch.
EXCURSIONS FROM ISLA MUJERES:
Take a day or more trip to see some fantastic Mexican sites. Anything from a day trip shopping in Cancun’s Malls and Mercados to trips to view the ruins of Tulum will make an exciting addition to your vacation. The Cancun-Tulum corridor (Riviera Maya) provides all sorts of excursions. Here, there are a couple of natural parks as well as quaint cities such as Playa del Carmen (ferries depart daily from Playa to Cozumel).
These excursions can be arranged near the ferry dock in Isla Mujeres and are wonderful options for families and vacationers looking for new adventures.
The Riviera Maya Mexico host Xel-Ha a Mexican caribbean natural theme park with water activities like dolphin swimming, snorkel, snuba, and more ecological activities.
Xcaret Eco Theme Park is full of Mexico; mayan culture, flora and fauna, archaeological tours, water attractions and swimming with dolphins. All this located in Playa del Carmen, 45 minutes from Cancun Mexico in the Riviera Maya, where Xcaret is proof that development, conservation, culture and entertainment are not opposite concepts.
TULUM AND RUINS:
About 80 miles south of Cancún is the small town of Tulum, best known for its ruins, which overlook turquoise colored waters and soft sandy beaches on the Caribbean coast. Tulum is easily accessible by road from Cancún or Playa del Carmen and if you like archaeology, should be included as a fun trip, with the chance to see some delightful scenery and have a great lunch al fresco and a refreshing swim. Tulum was built during the dying days of the Mayan empire, and was actually a fort. It’s quite tame in comparison to the archaeological site of Chichen Itza, but it does have one overwhelming attraction: its location next to the sea. There are no resorts or fancy hotels nearby - you can come here for a day, enjoy the ruins and then walk down to the great beaches and crystal-clear water for sunbathing, paddling, swimming or snorkeling. Spend a whole day in the area or an evening at one of the nearby hotels in Tulum. Besides the experience of staying at a good hotel, you’ll be able to enjoy Tulum outside of the peak hours, arriving early at the park, long before the day-tripper buses arrive and before the heat of midday sun.
Getting To Tulum
Tulum is very easy and inexpensive to get to from Cancun. Plan to take a taxi to the downtown Cancun Bus Station and from there take the bus to the ruins… and bring your bathing suit! Tulum is located 131km (81 miles) south of Cancun, about a 11⁄2 hour drive. Taking the bus may require you to transfer in Playa Del Carmen, but it’s a very simple thing to do. Bus fare from Cancun is cheap, only about $10 - 15 USD per person. I do not suggest travelers do the Tulum/Coba day trip combination offered by the companies. It makes for a very long day with little time to enjoy the sites.
The Mayan ruins at Tulum date from 564 AD. They comprise of a walled-in fortress perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean. This is the picturesque site that you see used in many of the Mexico travel brochures. A complete tour of the ruins doesn’t take very long (about 3 hours) and the cost of admission is inexpensive ($4-6 USD) You can access the real Tulum beach (not that small one at the ruins) by walking or taking a taxi about 1km down the coastal road beside the ruins. This is a must-see while in Tulum. The beach is breathtaking. The water is crystal clear, clean, and that fantastic neon-blue color. On the beach you can find some restaurants and if the urge takes you, book a cabana for an overnight stay. There are bus stations both downtown and at the ruins, so getting back to Cancun is easier than ever.
Cenotes are limestone sinkholes, filled with water. They are unique to the Yucatan Peninsula and an understandable attraction. You can swim, scuba dive and snorkel in them, or simply admire their amazing beauty. Some amazing ones are very close to Isla Mujeres and definitely worth a whole day excursion if you are adventurous! You can find information about them near the ferry dock in Isla Mujeres.