Ever heard of Isla Mujeres? I hadn’t either until last year when my friends recommended it as a top relaxation destination. It’s a tiny island in Mexico with crystal blue water and white sand beaches, only a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancun. It’s a manageable, tranquil island with plenty to see, explore, and of course, eat. Unlike Cancun, you won’t find sky-high all-inclusive resorts — but rather, a slower pace of life with beaches that boast the most crystal blue water you have ever seen.
As of February 2020, there is no seaweed on Isla Mujeres! If you are looking to escape the seaweed in Cancun + Tulum then travel this way to Isla Mujeres or the undeveloped Isla Holbox. These are currently the only two places not accepted by the seaweed problems in the Rivera Maya.
As a vegetarian digital nomad I was worried about having limited options for solid wifi connectivity and limited food options. However, after testing many cafe’s and eating my way around the island, I can share my favorite spots in hopes of inspiring you to visit!
This guide will tell you the best places to stay for every budget, where to eat the most mouthwatering food (+ vegetarian options!), how to get around, and the top instagrammable relaxation spots.
Where to stay
The Island, about 5 miles long, features most of the activity in “El Centro” near Playa Norte on the northern end. This is where you want to be if you want to walk everywhere and not be bothered with transportation logistics.
The middle of the island is where the locals live, featuring some great, less-expensive restaurants and an eclectic mix of hotels and airbnbs. The south end is quieter with a couple of relaxing spots and a massive beach-front hostel away from all the action.
Here are my top accommodation recommendations sorted by location in Isla Mujeres for any budget:
A great, no frills hostel with an awesome rooftop to watch the sunset and meet travelers from all over. There’s a pool, it’s right next to the ferry terminal, and it’s the place to be if you want to party. Right in the heart of all the action, you won’t need a taxi to get around.
Selina (formally Poc Na)
The anticipated opening is May 2020. The oldest hostel in Mexico, Poc Na opened in the 70’s and has since been the place to be for beach parties and the place to stay as a solo traveler. Sadly, it’s closed for renovation at the time of my visit. When it opens though, there’s going to be a co-working space, yoga studio, pool, and tons of perks for digital nomads. I can’t wait to return to check out the new Selina!
Mid Range Option
Hotel Paradise Suites
This new bohemian boutique hotel offers bright suites and a fantastic restaurant, about a hundred meters from Playa Norte! Standard and junior suites are amply sized and decked out in colorful Mexican textiles, all with fully equipped kitchens, small dining areas, and private terraces. Other onsite amenities include a Jacuzzi, pool, golf carts, and a boutique shop.
Hotel phone: +52 998 688 4154
This contemporary, adults-only hotel offers a stellar beach club, two pools, and a spa. Rooms and suites are spacious with up to two bedrooms. All have a private balcony or terrace, some with jetted tubs or outdoor Jacuzzis. This is the only hotel on the island boasting suites with private plunge pools. Though they offer all-inclusive packages, the hotel is walking distance to so many great restaurants and bars; it’s really best to book the room only to take advantage of the excellent local flavors nearby.
Hotel phone: +52 998 848 8470
A bohemian airbnb with affordable rooms and thoughtful decor. Located in the center but only a 10 minute bike ride into the main town, this location is ideal for those who want a relaxing stay, but close to all the action! Click here for $55 off your first booking on Airbnb.
Mid Range Option
El Milagro Beach Hotel & Marina
This is where I stayed on my trip, and I highly recommend it! This is an eclectic slice of land with many unique villas and a private marina. Its charming little beach has tables and chairs in the ocean, swings by the bar, a small pool, and a community kitchen with a grill for guest use.
Studio, one, and two-bedroom suites are decorated in a blend of authentic Mexican and hippie styles, with colorful mismatched tiles, bright textiles, and fully equipped kitchens; one (The Beach Cabana) even has a tin roof! Common areas are equally wild with rainbow colors everywhere, two shady palapas, and a jungle garden filled with local plants, iguanas, and singing birds. Located on the western coast, about twenty minutes’ walk to Centro, Playa Sol, and Playa Norte, near several local restaurants and a minimart.
Hotel phone: +52 998 877 1708
Icaco Island Village
This stylish and cozy, adults-only boutique features a rooftop sun terrace with an infinity plunge pool, Bali beds, and stunning ocean views. Their four suites have bespoke, handmade décor, such as conch shell showerheads, salvaged wood doors, and artisanal textiles. The owners live on site and take pride in offering impeccable hospitality and presentation. Complimentary bicycles and daily Italian breakfast round out the experience. Fresh, contemporary, and tranquil ambiance, fifteen minutes walking to downtown and Playa Norte.
Hotel phone: +52 984 100 5070
How to get around
Golf cart rentals are about $60 a day. While expensive, it’s recommended to rent one of these for at least a day so you can explore the island on your terms and take a trip to the southern end of the island if you want! Check out “El Sol Golf Cart Rental” for the most reliable golf carts.
A bike will do just as well as a golf cart, so long as you’re not going all the way from North to South! Most locations are accessible this way, and it’s fun to explore the island via bike. You can rent them in the center, but often your hotel or accommodation will offer them for free!
Taxis service the entire island and will charge you about 40 – 100 ($2 – $5) pesos to get anywhere in the island, depending on the distance.
Pro-tip* If you’re okay sharing a cab with others, it’ll only be 20 pesos as they act as collectivos, making multiple stops and picking up people along the way. It’s basically like uber pool, but you have to make sure before getting in that the driver waits for others or that there’s others in the cab already to get the 20 peso price.
Always ask the cost before getting in, they will usually negotiate a little bit as well.
Best Restaurants To Eat + Drink (+ vegetarian options!)
Hot tip for vegetarians in spanish speaking countries: Just say “soy vegetariana” (or vegetariano if you’re a dude) — they’ll point out the best options or make you something “sin carne” (without meat).
Try the Coconut French Toast, the Maya Scramble (scrambled eggs and veggies on a croissant) and bottomless Mexican coffee (notes of cinnamon!) They have non-dairy milk options, one of the only cafes I’ve come across that do. It’s a cute spot with two floors, live music, and good prices. Most options are vegetarian as well!
You must try their Chilaquiles. They were so damn good, I definitely ate way too many. They also have yummy cappuccinos with almond milk in extra large mugs with lots of foam. It’s the little details, y’all. I’ve also been told they have awesome sweet crepes but didn’t get a chance to try them. This is a nice open-air outdoor cafe with strong wifi in the center. It’s a good spot to bring your laptop and get some work done.
Chaya & Cacao
I was so surprised to find a Maca Smoothie on the island! With almond butter, coconut milk, bananas, dates, and maca, it’s a seriously yummy morning or afternoon healthy treat. They also have a Matcha Smoothie that looked wonderful. A tiny cozy place that has awesome vegetarian/vegan/gluten free options as well and amazing coffee!
Lunch / Dinner
My first stop on the island, this little sidewalk Taqueria with one table had the most mouth-watering tacos I’ve tried on the island. SO good! My vegetarian tacos had mushrooms, cheese, and nopal (cactus) with a creamy avocado cilantro sauce. Grab a coconut from next door and enjoy this refreshingly authentic taco experience.
Simply the best for a more upscale, traditional dining vibe with tableside music and a nice bar. Lots of freshly caught fish options. Sometimes I’ll eat fish if it’s local to the region, and this was one of those times I dabbled. And I have no regrets. I had their Parmesan Crusted Catch of the Day and Asparagus Fries. The drinks here are 100% the best on the island, but I’ll get to that in a second…
No frills, classic Mexican food with cheap prices to reflect. I had the Enchilada Rojo with Cheese, it was a perfect authentic Mexican meal for under $5. Get an “Agua de Jamacia” which is Hibiscus water. It’s a red refreshing drink that’s not too sweet, and very quintessentially Mexico.
By far the most vegetarian and vegan options on the island! I had a portobello burger for a change of pace and it was excellent. They have an array of juices, wellness elixirs, and smoothies as well. If you’re in need of some rehabilitation from eating your body weight in tacos, this is the place to find yourself a trusty ginger shot.
Avoid getting ripped off and go to these establishments if you want a proper cocktail. Trust me. There’s lots of water-ritas on the island.
When the bartender, David, asked us what we were in the mood for, I told him something with horchata and almond, and he whipped up a delightful custom cocktail that was exactly what I was dreaming up in my mind. We had several more drinks including a Hibiscus Mezcal Margarita that was divine and made with fresh ingredients local to Mexico.
The bartender is a true mixologist, who is offering free education to other local bartenders in the area to try and improve the quality of the cocktails on the island. He’s one of those people that is so passionate about mixology that it rubs off on you. I invite you to keep your eye on him as he is definitely making his way to be a local legend, and will soon start offering mezcal and cocktail tastings. Many people were going to the bar just to try his drinks.
Follow him on instagram here (he stamped the pineapple leaf on our drink with his instagram handle)
We were lucky enough to try Xila, a 7 flavor mezcal made by Mexican women per his recommendation. There’s so many distinct tasting notes, I recommend trying this as an after-dinner treat.
Sad name. Strong margaritas. Right next to El Milagro where we were staying, this little spot has the strongest and best margs on the island. It’s also right on the water so you can grab a beverage and a lounge chair, and watch the boats go by.
Most Instagrammable / Photogenic Spots on Isla Mujeres
We’re going there. I know you want the idyllic blue water “look I’m on vacation” pic for the gram. Sun in your hair, tropical drink in the other, I got you.
Poolside bar where you can drink and swim? Say no more! I loved this spot so much I went twice. It’s on the ocean cabanas, a ‘grammabe dock, rope swing, and trampoline. There’s no entry charge either! Go for a day of relaxing to get your tan on and take some poolside snapshots.
This is the crystal clear water beach I was talking about. You gotta go, chill, rent a cabana, and get those dreamy vacation photos!
Top By Belo
An excellent rooftop with a pool to meet people, have fun, dance, swim and above all enjoy the best sunset in Isla Mujeres. This is the place to go to party and enjoy the luxurious atmosphere with an incredible view.
This little island has a lot to offer. With beautiful beaches, a slow pace of life, and incredible options to eat and drink, you really can’t go wrong with choosing Isla Mujeres as your next travel destination. I would recommend spending at least 3 days here to completely unwind and lean in to the slower pace of life.
Has anyone been to Isla Mujeres?! If so, what were some of your favorite things about the island? Leave your comments below.
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