Isla Mujeres for Families
Sunset over Cancun
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
As people who travel fairly extensively, one question we often get asked is, “Where is your favorite place in the world?” While there are a lot of incredible destinations that still remain on our bucket list, the place that immediately comes to mind is Isla Mujeres, Mexico. We have put together this Isla Mujeres Destination Guide to share our love of this incredible island and to help other families get the full picture of all the amazing things that Isla Mujeres has to offer.
In the past 8 years, we’ve visited Isla Mujeres on a handful of occasions. It even became the first international destination we traveled to with a child after giving birth to Ethan in 2015. Needless to say, it holds a special place in our hearts for many reasons. So what makes it so special? Why do we choose to return whenever the opportunity presents itself? In this Isla Mujeres Destination Guide, we will answer all of these questions and more. But in a nutshell, Isla Mujeres is a perfect destination for families seeking:
- Beautiful beaches
- An authentic laid-back vibe
- Fantastic dining
- Fun attractions that appeal to people of all ages.
About Isla Mujeres
A lot of visitors to Cancun and Riviera Maya are familiar with the name “Isla Mujeres.” In recent years it has become a popular day-trip opportunity offered by many of the local tour operators. But in all reality, a single day doesn’t even begin to do this incredible island the justice it deserves. In our experience, it takes at least several days to fully experience all the beauty, charm, and fun that Isla Mujeres has to offer.
Isla Mujeres is a small, narrow island located in the Caribbean Sea just several miles east of Cancun. Its history dates back over 1500 years when it served as the sanctuary for the Mayan goddess Ixchel – the goddess of fertility. In fact, the island actually got its name in the early 16th Century when the Spanish settlers discovered numerous statues dedicated to the goddess Ixchel. Then in 1821, when Mexico gained its independence from Spain, a number of Mayans once again sought refuge on Isla Mujeres and developed a small fishing village on the island.
Today, fishing continues to be a major part of life for many Isla Mujeres residents. And even though the island has become more commercialized in recent years, that small village charm is still very much alive.
Getting to Isla Mujeres
Getting to Isla Mujeres is easy as many airlines fly in and out of Cancun International Airport every day. Once travelers arrive in Cancun, there are several quick and easy ways to get to the Puerto Juarez ferry dock. These include the local bus, a taxi, a shared airport shuttle, or private ground transportation.
Ferry to Isla Mujeres
Once you arrive at the Puerto Juarez ferry dock, you will purchase your ticket to get to Isla Mujeres. At the time of this writing, the cost is only 80 pesos one-way. The Ultramar Ferry departs for Isla Mujeres every 30 minutes. While you’re waiting at the dock, you may be approached by a porter offering to assist you with your bags. Since we started traveling with kids, we’ve found this service to be extremely helpful. Just be sure to tip them for fairly for the service.
When you finally board the ferry, you have a choice to either sit inside on the first level or go upstairs and sit outside for the duration of the ride. We choose upstairs every time! The ferry ride itself only takes about 15 minutes, but it’s a fun experience every time. There’s always live music onboard, and the crystal clear blue water along the way just can’t be beat!
Accommodations on Isla Mujeres
There are a number of different types of accommodations available for families on Isla Mujeres. These range from budget motels to all-inclusive resorts and from beachside studio apartments to luxury villas. For the purposes of this Isla Mujeres Destination Guide we will only be highlighting those properties in which we’ve personally stayed.
Privilege Aluxes Isla Mujeres
On our first two visits to Isla Mujeres, we opted to stay at the Privilege Aluxes Isla Mujeres resort. At the time Privilege Aluxes marketed itself as an adults-oriented boutique resort. Despite the designation, we always found it to be perfectly suitable for families with young children. Our favorite aspects of the resort include:
- Its prime location on Playa Sol, within walking distance to both Playa Norte and Hidalgo Street
- The all-inclusive option
- Large suites, which offer plenty of space for a family
- Its resort-style pool w/ swim-up bar
- Access to one of the nicest beach clubs on Isla Mujeres
Unfortunately, in recent years Privilege Aluxes changed ownership and has become an adults-only property. While we still highly recommend it for the adult crowd, we’re disappointed that we can no longer stay there as an entire family.
On our most recent visit to Isla Mujeres, we wanted to stay on a totally different part of the island. After hearing great reviews about the newly-built Izla Hotel, we decided to check it out. Located on the west coast of Isla Mujeres, Izla Hotel offers modern boutique accommodations at a great value. Some of the highlights from our stay included:
- Its beautiful beachfront location overlooking Cancun
- The friendly staff who got to know us by name and treated our boys like royalty
- The delicious and plentiful food that is included in the various dining packages.
- Access to an adults-only rooftop infinity pool overlooking the ocean and Cancun
Family Activities & Attractions
The next section of this Isla Mujeres Destination Guide highlights some of the many fun and exciting family-friendly activities that Isla Mujeres has to offer.
One of the main reasons we choose to vacation on Isla Mujeres is Playa Norte. It is consistently ranked one of the best beaches in the world. And in our opinion it is the perfect place to visit with small children. It features a beautiful white sand beach and offers crystal clear blue waters for swimming. The tide here is typically calm, and the gradual slope allows swimmers to venture hundreds of yards from shore while still being only chest-deep in water. However, swimming isn’t the only thing to do on Playa Norte. There are also a number of great beach bars just steps from the shore. Some of them even offer free beach chairs with a minimum purchase.
Rent a Golf Cart or Moped
If you’re needing a break from the beach, another fun activity for families to consider is renting a golf cart or a moped. There are a number of rental companies on the island for visitors to select from. Renters can choose to book for a period of several hours, a day, or for an extended period of time. Because of Isla Mujeres’ small size, it’s easy to get around and fun to explore all the amazing landscapes and attractions it has to offer.
Punta Sur is located at the southernmost tip of Isla Mujeres and boasts some of the most spectacular ocean views from atop its rugged cliffs. It is home to a unique sculpture park, a series of hiking paths, and a Mayan temple to the goddess Ixchel. It also happens to be the place where the sun first hits Mexican soil each morning! Our favorite part of visiting Punta Sur is getting up close and personal with the large waves that crash into the rocks on that end of the island.
Tortugranja is a “turtle farm” where the eggs of sea turtles are gathered and protected until they are hatched and ready to be released back into the ocean. Visitors to Tortugranja have the opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with several breeds of sea turtles. They can also see and occasionally touch several other types of sea life. These include fish, sea horses, crabs, lobsters, and even baby manta rays. It’s a small and simple operation, but it’s cheap and well worth a visit if you’re on that end of the island.
Swimming with Whale Sharks
For the adventurous families out there, no discussion of Isla Mujeres activities would be complete without mentioning the Whale Sharks. Every year from May through September, a large congregation of whale sharks migrate about 20-30 miles off the shore of Isla Mujeres. This has created an eco-tourism boom for people wanting the opportunity to swim and snorkel with these gentle giants. We had the opportunity to do this once-in-a-lifetime excursion with “Captain Tony” on our first trip to Isla Mujeres in 2013. It is an experience we would recommend to anyone (except those with small children).
Garrafon Reef Park
Garrafon Reef Park is a great option for families who enjoy adventure-based water activities. Packages are all-inclusive and include options such as swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, zip lines, and other fun attractions. They also have additional options for rest and relaxation if that’s more your thing. With the ages of our kids, we have not personally visited Garrafon Reef Park, but we’ve heard positive things from those who have been there.
Visitors to Garrafon Reef Park also have the option to add a visit to Dolphin Discovery to their package. Dolphin Discovery is where guests can swim, interact, and play with dolphins and/or other types of marine mammals like sea lions, manatees, sharks, and stingrays in their natural habitat. Again, this is not something we’ve personally had the opportunity to experience yet, but it’s definitely a popular attraction among families.
Dining on Isla Mujeres
When It comes to dining on Isla Mujeres, there are a number of fantastic restaurants available to please any type of palate. If you’re hanging out on the north side of the island, Hidalgo Street is the place to be. This pedestrian-only strip is filled with a number of quality restaurants and bars and makes for a perfect night out.
The central portion of the island is where you’ll find our personal favorite restaurant – Mango Cafe. Mango Cafe not only serves the best brunch on the island, but the people there are just wonderful! When we visited when Ethan was an infant, he became fussy at one point during our meal. The owner kindly offered to take him outside and entertain him while we finished eating. Such amazing service!
Lastly, if you venture to the south part of the island, our favorite place to grab dinner and watch the sunset is the Kin Ha Restaurant at Casa de los Suenos. The margaritas here are amazing, and the sunsets are by far the best we’ve seen anywhere in the world.
With so many incredible destinations around the world that we hope to explore, there are very few that we’ll likely visit on more than one occasion. Isla Mujeres is one of those few, and we plan to return there regularly! That’s what inspired us to create this Isla Mujeres Destination Guide. So if you have any questions about Isla Mujeres or would like some assistance in planning a trip of your own, please leave us a comment or send us an email. We’d love to hear your thoughts!