Sitting just off the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Isla Mujeres is one of our top must-see sites in Mexico, whether you're visiting for a day or staying a little longer. Surrounded by the glittering blue waters of the Caribbean Ocean, this tiny little island is famous for its bleached white beaches and laidback vibe. Much quieter than the mainland, it's easy to find a tranquil stretch of sand and soak up the subtropical sunshine. However, if you want a taste of island life, there's plenty to see and do. Hop in a golf buggy and potter your way over to Playa Sol, where you can enjoy a cool cocktail in one of the many bars. Explore ancient Mayan ruins, haggle for a bargain in the downtown market, or go swimming and spot the magnificent whale sharks that glide by just offshore. Whatever you want from your holiday to Mexico, Isla Mujeres ticks all the right boxes.
Where are the best beaches?You'll find the best beaches on the north of the island. If you're looking to do some serious bronzing on a blissed-out beach, look out for Playa Norte, which is widely considered to be the very best of the island's beaches. Fringed by palm trees and with sheltered sapphire seas lapping at soft sandy shores, it's as ideal for families as it is for couples on their Mexico holidays. If you want to enjoy a swim in the crystal-clear Caribbean, the best beaches are to be found on the south western coast. Put Playa Garrafon on your list of things to do in Mexico. While it's equally blessed with those soft sands and more than enough beach chairs and beach huts to go around, it has an ace up its sleeve. Playa Garrafon is ideal for those who want a leisurely dip in the sea, but it's even better if you want to strap on some flippers and explore an underwater wonderland. The cliffs that keep the beach sheltered and secluded are dotted with jumping-in points, giving scuba-divers and snorkellers easy access to the reefs that lie just offshore. Get up close to bright corals, shimmering shoals of fish, and even sea turtles. However, seasoned divers might like to up their game and go on a guided diving trip to see the graceful whale sharks. These are common in the waters around Isla Mujeres between June and September, as they come to feast on fish eggs. The trips are carefully monitored so that the sharks are not disturbed in any way.
or laid back?Whether you're taking your holidays to Mexico with the kids or stealing some time away with your better half, the Garrafon Natural Reef Park is a great way to increase the tempo. Surrounded by cliffs and lapped by the temperate waters of the Caribbean, it's perfect for water babies of all ages. Zipline across the ocean, chill out in a swimming pool, hire a kayak, or even go snorkelling at an enclosed reef. With blissed-out bars, excellent restaurants and even hammocks for hire, you can make your break as full-on or as relaxing as you want it to be. Visiting the Garrafon Natural Reef Park also puts you within easy reach of some of the island's most popular attractions. Head to Punta Sur and you'll be able to explore the elegant ruins of the ancient Mayan temple of Ixchtel. In order to get there, you'll have to climb the stairs set against the Cliffs of Dawn, so-named because they are the island's southernmost point and where the first rays of the morning sun hit the land. It's not a steep climb and worth it for the views across the sea, but don't attempt it in flip-flops or heels: a pair of trainers is our footwear of choice while making this hike. While you're there, you'll be able to wander around the Sculpture Garden. A small but interesting installation, it features modern works of art and is a superb place to watch the sun slip over the horizon.
Getting to Isla MujeresIf you're not staying on Isla Mujeres, it's easy enough to get to. The Ultramar Ferry runs every half an hour from Puerto Juarez, which is little more than 10 minutes from Cancun. The journey takes around 20 minutes and is an ideal opportunity to soak up some sunshine and keep an eye out for whale sharks feeding on the surface of the sea. There are other ferries from El Embarcadero, Playa Caracol and Playa Tortugas, but these don't run as frequently. If you'd like to combine your trip to Isla Mujeres with a spot of scuba diving, there are cruise boats and catamaran tours available through various tour operators. Some of these will pick you up from your hotel, while others will meet you at Cancun Harbour. However you decide to visit the island, it's sure to be one of the highlights of your Mexico holiday.