I just returned from my first trip to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. It was beautiful, although slightly more touristy than I would have liked. I should have figured the short ferry from Cancun would make it popular with both locals and tourists alike.
My summer travel buddy Rori and I stayed at Playa Arena:
It's one of the newer properties on Playa Norte, making it clean, not too crowded, and most importantly: air conditioned. The location, on the beach, is also a very short walking distance to all the restaurants and bars on the northern part of the island, making it ideal for several reasons.
Speaking of bars and restaurants, we ate and drank quite well. Here are a few of our favorites:
Cafe Mogagua - Great breakfast option with a friendly staff, strong coffee, and free wifi. I was in love with the vines snaking their way across the ceiling like something out of Annihilation - but not as violent.
Tres Mentiras - A quirky spot with the best cocktails I had on the island and a pretty amazing grilled octopus tostada. There was also live music the night we were there - originally described to us as a reggae band, we were skeptical, but they were AWESOME.
Isla Brewing Company - More of a one-room store than some of the larger breweries with a full bar that I've been to, but the highlight is your tasting is *free* - and you can taste all seven of the beers.
Lola Valentina - Another breakfast stop, although they have a full dinner menu, as well. We shared a benedict with pulled pork and cinnamon roll pancakes - both were crazy delicious.
A few additional highlights:
- At the artisan market (across from Poc Na), find Hortencia - for approx $15 she'll make you *any item of clothing* from a fabric you select in under a handful of hours. Rori and I both got beach cover ups that we're in love with.
- The Women's Beading Cooperative was a treasure trove of jewels all hand-made by local women. Reasonably priced with every beaded accessory imaginable from necklaces to purses to belts.
- Zama Beach Club was a nice change of pace - three pools and a full bar menu in a beautiful location. You have access to everything for the day for a small fee (around $30), which you can put towards your bar tab.
- Punta Sur was a truly spectacular view of sparkling blue water and steep cliffs featuring small Mayan ruins, modern art sculptures and a statue of the goddess of fertility.
In closing, I'd still recommend the island for a girls trip (which is what we did), or a shorter day trip or two if you're already in Cancun...but if you're expecting tranquility, look to Holbox, or for more activities try Tulum. Our beach was beautiful, but super crowded every day. We did get plenty of sun and guacamole, however - so for the $400 or so it took to get there, it was the perfect summer vacation.