Just off the coast of Mexico, and only a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancun, is the serene Island of Women — otherwise known as Isla Mujeres.
Isla Mujeres is a tranquil alternative to bustling Cancun. There’s not much to do on the island, but that’s one of the main attractions for travelers seeking a bit of idyllic relaxation. Its powder white beaches and mind-boggling turquoise waters are gaining popularity as more and more tourists are making the quick boat ride from Cancun to enjoy the island for a day.
Because we still wanted to take advantage of the numerous activities and cultural attractions around Cancun, we also opted to visit Isla Mujeres for only a day. Our excursion was an organized tour to Garrafon Natural Reef Park with Dolphin Discovery.
The reef park is located on the southern tip of the island, and features first-rate views of the sparkling sea—as well as plenty of comfortable places to enjoy it from. On the property there are a handful of restaurants and bars, pools, hammocks, lounge chairs, changing rooms and lockers. Guests can go on an organized bike tour, snorkel along the reef, sea kayak, and zip line over the Caribbean (for an additional fee). A $79 admission gets you transport to and from the island from Cancun, breakfast and lunch, an open bar, and access to all the activities. The full day tour lasts until 6:00pm, though there is an option to leave around 2:00pm.
Just a few minutes away from Garrafon Natural Reef Park is Punta Sur. If you can make it here for sunrise, you will be the first person in Mexico to greet the dawn, as it breaks here first. Along with the astounding coral cliffs that jut out into the sea, there is an art sculpture park and rugged remains of a small Mayan temple. It doesn’t take long to walk around the southernmost tip, but the panoramic views certainly make the effort worthwhile. Visitors to the Garrafon Natural Reef Park get in free; there is a stunning access path along the ocean’s edge, worth walking on its own.
We were a bit torn about our experience at the Garrafon Natural Reef Park. As you can tell by the photos, we adored Isla Mujeres. We lost count of the number of times throughout the day we said, “How can water be that blue?!” The food was good—not great, but good—and though the drinks weren’t strong, they were all-inclusive. Some of the staff members were better than others, but most seemed like they didn’t want to be there. The snorkeling was pleasurable but not life changing. The kayaking was a bit of a joke due to the small roped off space. We left halfway through the day, but we were nearly the only people who did opt to leave early.
Overall, we would say don’t go to Garrafon Natural Reef Park for the snorkeling. Don’t go for the beach (there isn’t one). Don’t go for the mediocre food and drinks. DO go if you are staying in Cancun and want an all-inclusive day at Isla Mujeres, packed with a variety of activities to participate in. Do go if you’re traveling with a family and want a place where the kids have things to do while the adults have a place to relax with a cocktail in hand.
Whether or not you decide to visit Garrafon Natural Reef Park, find the time to visit Isla Mujeres. There are regular public ferries from Cancun. Upon arrival, you can rent a bicycle or golf cart to drive around the island and find the beach of your choice. It might not have zip lining or an infinity pool, but it’s a nice off the beaten track alternative.
So the takeaway? No matter how you do it, visit the Island of Women. You won’t be disappointed.
We were guests of the Cancun Tourism Board. All thoughts and opinions remain our own.
Have you been to Isla Mujeres before? Would you recommend it? What about to Garrafon Natural Reef Park?
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