Isla Mujeres. Island in Mexico, North America

Isla Mujeres

Island in Mexico, North America

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Isla Mujeres

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	Sur - Isla Mujeres
Punta Sur - Isla Mujeres. Photo by Robert Pittman
Isla Muejeres, located across the bay from Cancun, Mexico, has had a long and colorful history. A small island that has great snorkeling and beautiful beaches is a great place for sitting in one of the outdoor cafés and having a cold drink while enjoying the beauty of the island.


The island, when it was ruled by the Mayans, was known as Ekab. It was a sanctuary for Ixchel (Wikipedia Article), the goddess of fertility, reason, the moon, and happiness. Her temple at the south end of the island also served as a lighthouse. Torches would be lit and the light would shine through holes in the walls to alert sailors at sea. Francisco Hernandez de Cordova discovered the island in the spring of 1517. He and his crew found many statues of Goddess Ixchel, her daughter, and her daughter-in-laws. He was astounded at the number of female statues and named the island Isla Mujeres which means “Island of Women”.

Buenos Días - Isla
Buenos Días - Isla Mujeres. Photo by jerowee

The island remained uninhabited for three centuries following de Cordova’s discovery. A few pirates and fishermen used the island for refuge. A couple of well-known pirates, Jean Lafitte and Henry Morgan, supposedly left their women there for safekeeping while they sailed the high seas.

The original small village started forming after the Independence of Mexico and quickly became a fisherman’s paradise.
Long before Cancun became a tourist attraction, visitors would wave from a make-shift dock on the mainland and local fishermen’s sons would take their boats over, pick them up, and take them to the island for a day trip.

 - Isla
Isla Mujeres. Photo by newelly54

What to Do

If you just want to relax, the beaches offer plenty of comfortable lounge chairs and beach umbrellas to rent for soaking up the sun and enjoying a cold beverage, but the diving and snorkeling locations are in abundance and the clear water makes it easy to see all kinds of sea life and reefs. The eastern side of the island is too dangerous for swimming and there are signs posted, but the northern and western sides have white sandy beaches and crystal blue water. There is also an underwater sculpture museum created by Jason deCaires Taylor. The sculptures are designed to become artificial reefs, and the materials that were used will promote all types of marine life. Some of the statues can be seen by boat, but the majority of them can only be when snorkeling or diving. Vacationers can also swim with the dolphins or for the really adventurous, they can swim with the sharks.

Rent a moped or a bike and roam the entire island which is only five miles long and at the widest point, is a half a mile across.
Of course, there is always shops featuring open-air markets with local Mexican crafts.

Places to Stay

There are quite a few hotels, motels, and condos for rent, but if you are a money-conscious traveler, there is a very nice hostel. You can even rent one of their hammocks for the night, but be sure to bring insect repellent.

	Mujeres Lighthouse - Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres Lighthouse - Isla Mujeres. Photo by David Stanley

How to Get There

Ferries run every thirty minutes back and forth from the mainland to the island for a very reasonable rate so travelers can go out to the island for the day or an extended stay. Every hotel and condo resort in Cancun have shuttles or they can make arrangements for you that will take you to the ferry dock. If you are going out for the day, arrangements can be made to pick you up when you return. There are taxis available, but be careful and make sure they have their license displayed where it can be seen or their taxi company decal and the cab number is on the side of the car.

Things to Remember

  • Don’t drink the water! It is safe to brush your teeth with tap water, but only drink bottled water and make sure you stay hydrated. Most of the people that get sick do so because they drink too much and get dehydrated.
  • Bring a lot of high SPF sunscreen, this is a tropical island!!
  • Comfortable and loose clothing is best, but you might need a light jacket or sweater at night as it can be cool.

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Author: 30literbackpack. Last updated: Jan 18, 2015

Pictures of Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres - Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres - Photo by Alistair Edmondson


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