Beachcombing Destination: Isla Mujeres, Mexico
See you at sunrise!
By Claire Ferguson
There are two ferries that take you from Cancun to Isla Mujeres “Island of Women”—the Happy Ferry (arriving), and the Sad Ferry (departing). On Christine Solorio’s very first Happy Ferry ride over 12 years ago, the song “Hotel California” by the Eagles played in the background, and as she became mesmerized by the multiple shades of blue Caribbean water, she heard the lyrics, “You can check out anytime you like, But you can never leave.” She didn’t realize it in that moment, but as one visit became 25 visits, she learned those words to be true. Welcome to Isla Mujeres, Mexico!
Christine, who currently lives in Chicago, fell in love with the charming isle just 13 km (8 miles) off the coast of Cancun (on the northeast coast of the Yucatán Peninsula), and has now lost count of how many times she has been—usually visiting around three or four times per year. From experience, she explains that the most popular times to go are winter and spring, with summers being extremely hot and humid. June/July, however, is Whale Shark season, which she says is “truly a bucket list adventure.” Hurricane season happens typically September through October, but there can be really great weather and good deals to take advantage of during the fall.
A laid-back and casual destination, Isla Mujeres is a place to wear comfortable shoes, bathing suits, and coverups for long days in the sun, and Christine advises wearing loosely fitted clothing due to the heat. But don’t worry, cool off at Playa Norte (North Beach) lined with soft sand, palm trees, and restaurants, and rated as one of the top ten best beaches in the world on Tripadvisor. When exploring the rockier parts of the island, you’ll need your water shoes, especially for beachcombing.
Christine describes a typical visit as flying into Cancun and then boarding the UltraMar Ferry at Puerto Juarez, about a 25-minute ride across. For first time visitors, she recommends staying in Centro/Playa Norte to be close to the beaches and restaurants. “The island is not known for large resorts like you would find in Cancun,” she says, “but there are many wonderful small hotels and private accommodations (Airbnbs) on the island.” She also adds that the best and most fun way to get around is to rent a golf cart, or catch a cheap taxi (using pesos for a better deal).
With so many little nooks and crannies to discover, Christine never makes plans when she visits. In fact, exploring freely and soaking in the island is how she discovered her love for beachcombing, something she never thought to do back home in Chicago. Over the years, she has found quite a bit of pirate glass, aquas, and blue tiles that are unique to Mexico, as well as beautiful shells and a few marbles. According to Christine, the best locations to explore are on the southern Caribbean side of the island. With 24/7 nonstop waves and rocky terrain, “you need good water shoes with traction to climb around big rocks and find the best spots. If you want to swim or hang out on the beach, head to Playa Norte for beautiful pure white sand,” she says.
Once you’ve found your shells and glass treasures, there are many other fun things to do, such as ziplining, visiting the Turtle Farm, taking a sunset cruise, and exploring the island. Or, just lounge by the water with a cheap, delicious cocktail in hand. Christine adds, “The quintessential experience would be watching the breathtaking sunrise at Punta Sur, the first place the sun rises in all of Mexico.” She likes to get her sea glass hunting done at this time as well.
What Christine loves most about the destination, besides it being a marvelous tropical paradise, is that Isla Mujeres, only 4.3 miles long, is a living, breathing community. “Over the years I have made many friends who live on the island either full time or part time. And, I have become involved with some wonderful organizations, such as The Little Yellow Schoolhouse, a school for disabled children on the island,” she explains.
“And the food! Everything from street tacos to grilled seafood, steaks, and everything in between.” Christine recommends breakfast at Q’Bravo for French toast, Caribbean Brisas for stuffed poblano, and tacos el pastor at Al Natural. The best bar is Tiny Gecko on the Malecon, and the best piña colada is at Villa la Bella. Post afternoon nap, Rosa Sirena’s Restaurant & Rooftop Palapa Bar is great for a special occasion dinner, with lemon cake and coconut cheesecake for dessert. Or, if you’re in the mood for Italian food, try Sardinian Smile. For live music go to El Patio or Tiny Gecko Bar. For hotels, Christine recommends Playa La Media Luna, Hotel Rocamar, and Ixchel Beach Hotel. Every February there is the Island Time Music & Fishing Fest that benefits the Little Yellow Schoolhouse. And finally, the best beach clubs are Guru Beach Club on the North Beach, and Capitán Dulché on the South End.
See you at sunrise!
Go to the Malecon, which is the “boardwalk” by Tiny Gecko and the Isla Mujeres sign. Bring good shoes because you are going to have to climb down and it’s rocky/uneven. Good Luck, there are storms in the area bringing in good waves and most likely treasures!
Could you please tell.me where I can find sea glass? We are at Isla right now. The weather has been wet and I need collect seaglass. Thank you.