Take a breath and discover one of the most exquisite and funniest experiences in Mexico.
Isla Mujeres : “So, is it really full of just women?”
A question I have been eagerly asked on numerous occasions by male visitors…Makes me think, though, why did the same query never occur to me about the Isle of Man?
The perhaps slightly less appealing origin for this name is due to the large number of images and statues of the female form discovered there on the arrival of the Spaniards, believed to have been offerings to the Goddess of Fertility, ‘Ixchel’.
7 km long, 650m wide, and a short ferry ride from Cancun, Isla Mujeres is still one of my favourite havens in the Mexican Caribbean. It still manages to retain that sleepy town feel to it despite receiving hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, many of them day trippers. So what is the appeal? Is it the laid-back lifestyle of the isleño (islander), so deliciously contagious?
One of the most enjoyable and popular activities is to rent a golf cart (or moped) and explore the tiny island at your own isla-style pace, with no fear of going over the speed limit! Don’t forget to take your driving license with you in order to rent one.
On this exploration, one of the most unusual stop-off points is the minute Tortugranja (turtle sanctuary) where you can take a guided tour and observe these amazing sea creatures at different stages of their growth; and to my utter amazement, the occasional albino turtle! Depending on the time of year, you may see where collected turtle eggs have been buried, or perhaps even have the chance to witness the release of baby turtles, a topic which will expanded upon at a later date…
For a well earned break from all that not-so-hectic driving, park up behind the beautiful Playa Norte, one of the loveliest beaches in the region. A wide stretch of cool, white sand, dotted with lazy palm trees at the back (providing a bit of natural shade to those who claim them first), leading all the way down to the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean; the water tends to be shallow here, with ripples, rather than waves, making it more like a turquoise pool.
For those who are bit more up-tempo, there is the GarrafonEco Reef Park, to the south of the island, where you can enjoy a whole host of activities including reef snorkelling, swimming with dolphins and zip lines.
If you are a water-baby, then explore the island by boat, and take a snorkelling tour. Different tours will allow you to take in the lighthouse reef, or “Manchones” reef, where you can plunge into the spectacular Underwater Art Museum (MUSA) - a subject for another day. Such excursions can be organised with your concierge, local tour operators, or even at the port of arrival to Isla, where local fishermen will be more than happy to take you out.
Last but not least, food… Tikin Xic is famous here, (fish marinated with adobo and sour oranges and traditionally cooked in an earth oven - very tasty!) My personal favourite thing to do is to work up an appetite exploring, swimming, snorkeling and sun-bathing and then potter into the tiny town centre and dig into a well-deserved pizza and salad at the renowned Rolandi´s; but there is plenty of choice for every palate.
Before heading back, I strongly recommend you to saunter around the centre, handmade ice-cream in hand, and simply breathe in the picturesque and thoroughly relaxing ambiance of Isla Mujeres at sunset. Just picturing it right now brings a smile to my face…..