Sweet Cancun side trip: Isla Mujeres in the Caribbean Sea
Whether you head to Isla Mujeres as a day trip from Cancun or as a stand-alone, laid-back vacation paradise, you'll probably get to Cancun first. While Cancun is a party town famed for its night life, Isla Mujeres is better known for its snorkling and coral reef than for its clubs. So how do you get from Cancun on the mainline to the island of Isla Mujeres? Read on for transportation tips and suggestions to get you on your way to paradise and back.
Changing vacation channels: getting from Cancun to Isla Mujeres
You can't drive from Cancun to Isla Mujeres, and the island has no airport. You can't walk over since there's no bridge, and you probably don't want to try swimming the seven-mile strait. That leaves the Ultramar passenger ferry, and it's not a bad option.
You'll get to pick where you catch the ferry. There are three points of embarkation from Cancun, all of them on Boulevard Kukulcan and services by the r-1 "Puerto Juarez" city bus. You pay for these ferry tickets in U.S. dollars. They are:
- El Embarcadero: six daily departures
- Playa Caracol: six daily departures
- Playa Tortugas: eight daily departures
You can save money by leaving from Puerto Juarez, a few miles north of Ciudad Cancun. These ferries leave every 30 minutes, and the tickets are priced in Mexican pesos. Another ferry at Punta Sam, a little farther north of Ciudad Cancun, is the only one to carry vehicles to Isla Mujeres. Arrive a full hour in advance if you are taking your car over.
Deciding when to go
Your primary considerations in scheduling a trip are likely to be either budget, crowds or weather. These factors tend to overlap, since high season is usually the time with the nicest weather.
Isla Mujeres gets very crowded around holiday season as well as in winter. Holiday season extends over Christmas and New Years, but also includes spring-break weeks before and after Easter. These are the periods when hotels fill up months or even years in advance, and the prices are very high.
The next highest prices are found in Isla Mujeres' busy high season, running from early January through April. This period is also quite crowded.
Summer season, May through August, is slightly more expensive than low season, September through mid-December. These are the best times to go to Isla Mujeres if you are on a budget or want to avoid crowds.
Isla Mujeres has fabulous weather, with average temperatures around 80 degrees F. What differentiates one season from another is more humidity than temperature. In summer, humidity rises. Pleasantly warm weather can feel oppressively hot if the humidity is high. If you arrive during the humid summer months, you'll want to book a hotel with air conditioning.
The winter months are much less humid, which is why more people like to visit during those months. Mexico designates June to November as hurricane season. However, the worst of the hurricanes occur in September and October.
If you are interested in close encounters with fish and sea creatures, take these tips into account in planning your trip:
- Whale sharks arrive in the waters near Isla Mujeres from May to September, peaking in July and August.
- Peak sport fishing season runs from December through July.
- Swim with sail fish from December to April.
- Sea turtles visit the Isla Mujeres beaches to lay eggs in summer. These are collected by volunteers and incubated in the Turtle Farm. They hatch and are released into the sea in August through early October.