An unforgettable day trip to Isla Mujeres Mexico

A day trip to Isla Mujeres is possible if you don’t want to spend more days on this beautiful island and in this post, I will tell you the best ways you can do that.

Even if you are new to Mexico chances are that you have heard about the pretty island of women (English translation for Isla Mujeres) and its laid-back vibe town, spectacular beaches, and turquoise Caribbean sea.

If you haven’t, allow me to fill you in.

Isla Mujeres at a glance

Isla Mujeres is a Mexican island located right off the pristine Cancun beach at only 20 minute ferry ride.

The island, which is only 5 miles long and half a mile wide, is so-called because, according to an interesting legend, the prehispanic population would leave women-shaped objects as offering to Ixel the fertility goddess which was thought to be living on the island.

Because of those findings, when the Spanish conquerors arrived on the island, decided to call it “island of women”, but this is just a literal translation.

The name of the island is Isla Mujeres, pure and simple. Any other variations of the name are inaccurate.

Nowadays Isla Mujeres is one of the most touristy places to visit in the Yucatan peninsula, and yet you should not miss it if you have never been, actually for the very same reason. If it’s touristy it means it’s worth checking it out.

Despite being so popular and, therefore very crowded, most of the time, there are so many interesting things to do in Isla Mujeres including a spectacular beach, and the Ixchel park, where you will find the iconic statue of the goddess, watching over the island.

I would personally try to stay a couple of nights in Isla Mujeres to enjoy the spectacular sunsets over the sea, something that you cannot enjoy so much in Cancun unless you go to Plaza la Isla (insider tip).

There are many great hotels and Airbnb in Isla Mujeres where to spend the night and get pampered, with spectacular views over the ocean.

However, if you have limited time and you want to see as much as you can in the Riviera Maya or the Yucatan Peninsula, it’s totally fine to go to Isla Mujeres just for the day. And you will still be able to see tons of things.

If you are anything like me, you are planning to rent a car and have already made yourself a spectacular Yucatan itinerary filled with the most important sites, just make sure you include the Yucatan cenotes. And of course, you must squeeze a day trip to Isla Mujeres into your spectacular trip.

And that’s why I have thought about you and decided to write this post to show you that a day trip to Isla Mujeres can be done and below are your options.

isla mujeres overview
Isla Mujeres overview

A day trip to Isla Mujeres: the best way to visit the beautiful island

1. Isla Mujeres day trip by ferry

If you don’t like organized tours so much and prefer a DIY trip instead, this is your best option.

Isla Mujeres Ferry offers the best way to get to Isla Mujeres from Cancun, actually, the only way if you don’t choose to join an organized tour. But getting to Isla Mujeres from Cancun by ferry is super easy and very convenient for the following reasons.

✔️ The ferry schedule to Isla Mujeres is super flexible and you have a boat every 20 minutes from 6 am to 11 pm and from different departure points. To learn more and organize your trip to Isla Mujeres by ferry you should check out my dedicated post on how to get from Cancun to Isla Mujeres, which is super helpful and shows you all the timetables and departure points from Cancun to Isla Mujeres and return.

✔️ You can get to Isla Mujeres at any time but I would suggest you should get there early and stay until after sunset so you can make the most of your time on Isla Mujeres and squeeze in every drop of adventure.

Read on to learn about all the things you can do in one day in Isla Mujeres.

woman driving a golf cart

Things to do in Isla Mujeres if you visit on your own by ferry

✅ Rent a golf cart and drive around the Island

First things first you should get yourself a golf cart so it will be easy to explore around. Golf cart rentals in Isla Mujeres are very common but there aren’t so many carts, so if you travel in the high season, or across the weekend you should consider booking one in advance.

Having said that, the island is really tiny and you can drive around and check out all the main sites in half a day, if you want, depending on what are your priorities. Golf Cart prices should be around 50 USD per day.

✅ Explore Punta Sur

Located on the very southern point of the island, hence the name, in Punta Sur, besides admiring some of the most breathtaking views, you can also see the famous statue of Ixchel, the goddess of fertility that is watching over the island like a caring mother.

Scattered around the manicured garden over the cliff, you can also enjoy some beautiful pieces of artwork. You can enjoy browsing around the small village and getting some drinks in the local restaurant Acantilado.

Insider tip – If you are thirsty try the coconut water from a fresh coconut and ask the vendor to open the nut and take out the coconut meat once you have finished the drink. That will make a delicious natural snack!

rugged coast with green and blue water
Isla Mujeres Punta Sur

✅ Admire the spectacular views of the rough side of the island

On the way back from Punta Sur to town, make sure you ride along the eastern side of the island where you can find a spectacular rugged coast with a stunning view of the ocean.

There are a few small beaches but not swimmable, but very much instagrammable.

This side of the island is where you can also find the best Airbnb in Isla Mujeres with spectacular views over the ocean and great sunrises.

✅ Check out the unmissable Playa Norte

Playa Norte is one of the best beaches in Mexico. The shallow water and turquoise colors make it perfect for a long, endless swim and the white sand and spacious area are perfect to relax and chill.

You can decide whether to stay in proximity of the local beach bars which is more crowded or walk a little further and find some isolated areas all for yourself. Being very touristy this area of Mexico is quite safe.

✅ Watch the sunset from Playa del Sol

This is why I suggested taking one of the late-night ferries to go back to Cancun. Sunsets from Playa del Sol are just incredibly amazing and you should not miss one if you can.

Besides, it’s close to the ferry dock. So if you don’t want to be too late, you can just grab the first ferry to Cancun right after the sun sets, before it gets dark.

sunrise on the water

✅ Dive through the underwater museum

In the proximities of the Isla Mujeres coast, you can find a unique underwater museum.

It’s called Musa and it is an underwater installation made of statues from different artists with the purpose to promote sea conservation.

It’s really impressive and being in such shallow waters, you can dive there even if you are not certified.

underwater statues

I have included it in this post for the sake of information but if you are in Isla Mujeres for one day I would just explore the island and maybe go for shorter snorkeling tours from the shore.

You can book this tour to the underwater museums from Cancun in one of the dive shops of your choice. It’s not necessary to be in Isla Mujeres to dive to the Musa.

However, there is one catamaran cruise from Cancun to Isla Mujeres that includes snorkeling over the MUSA. That could be another option too.

✅ Browse around the small town of Isla Mujeres

There is nothing more touristy than Isla Mujeres town but it’s also full of cute little shops and colorful cafes, restaurants, and ice-cream places.

It’s definitely worth strolling around, maybe after the afternoon on the beach before going back to watch the sunset from playa del Sol.

2. Day trip to Isla Mujeres by Catamaran

Now, joining a tour would be your best choice if:

  • you love to party and drink
  • you love being squeezed on a catamaran with a bunch of strangers for half of the day
  • you don’t want to be bothered organizing your day to Isla Mujeres
  • you are not interested in watching the sunset from Isla Mujeres
  • you just prefer tours to DO-IT-YOURSELF trips

If you check one or more of the above read on or just pick one of your catamaran tours to Isla Mujeres!

Isla Mujeres tours are normally on a catamaran or private yacht, you have quite a few choices.

All of them leave from Cancun but the majority of the tour companies offer to organize your pick-up from anywhere you are whether it is in Playa del Carmen or all the way to Tulum.

Unless you book a private tour, which is also a great option (see below), the regular catamaran tours to Isla Mujeres include free drinks all day long (but only after the snorkeling stop, for safety reasons), music and lots of fun, if you like this kind of things, of course.

Every company has its own variation of the tour, so when you book you should ask first about their detailed program, but in general the Isla Mujeres Catamaran tours include the following (not necessarily in the same order)

Isla Mujeres turtle and catamaran
  • Snorkeling in the spectacular turquoise water before arriving to Isla Mujeres
  • navigating along with the cost and getting to a private beach for lunch
  • free time on Isla Mujeres where you can still have enough time to rent a golf cart or walk around town or enjoy the beach

You will get back before sunset at the same point of departure.

3. Day trip to Isla Mujeres from Cancun in a private yacht

If you don’t like crowds but you love boats and you are willing to splurge, this is the option for you. A day trip to Isla Mujeres on a private yacht is definitely one of the ultimate luxury experiences in Mexico.

Being a private tour, you can decide on the itinerary with the captain and make it tailor-made according to your interests. See some options here below.

4. Combined catamaran tour Isla Contoy + Isla Mujeres

If you want to squeeze in one day the best of both worlds and you don’t have motion sickness issues, you should definitely opt for a combined tour of Isla Contoy + Isla Mujeres.

You need to know that Isla Contoy has been open to the public only in the past few years but with restricted access.

It is still a protected island but back it was open only to biologists who were going there for scientific studies and volunteering to protect the environment and you could go visit only on private tours and with special permissions.

In fact, Contoy Island is home to over 150 tropical bird species and four types of endangered sea turtles. 

When I went to visit it was on a company private trip and we had to request permission to Semarnat, the Mexican institution for environmental protection.

Now, although the number of visits is still limited and the government still aims to protect the fragile environment, it is possible to visit this spectacular preserved island by joining an organized tour.

It is located further east of Isla Mujeres and if you are not really comfortable with sea motions just keep it in mind because you will spend a whole lot of time on the boat.

A day trip to Isla Mujeres FAQ

Is Isla Mujeres worth a day trip?

Totally worth it. In fact, it’s the most popular way to visit the island. But of course, if you can stay a couple of days or three, it’s even better.

How do I spend a day in Isla Mujeres?

Follow the tips I share in this post 🙂

How much time do you need at Isla Mujeres?

Half a day is enough to see quickly all its highlights, although I would suggest you stay about a couple of days to make the most of it.

How long is the ferry ride to Isla Mujeres?

A ferry ride to Isla Mujeres is about 30 minutes long by Ultramar.

What is the best month to go to Isla Mujeres?

Every month is a good month to go to Isla Mujeres, however from the end of April through May you will find the best climate and fewer crowds. However, in the summer Isla Mujeres can be a great option if the beach in Cancun is infested by Sargassum.

Is Isla Mujeres a party scene?

Although the best party ambiance is in Cancun, and Isla Mujeres is more laid back, you will find some nice tranquil party vibes in the town at night.

Isla Mujeres beach aerial view
Isla Mujeres aerial view – Photo By YuziS/ Shutterstock

Which is better Tulum or Isla Mujeres?

They are two completely different destinations, you can check out my Tulum Travel guide and Isla Mujeres dedicated articles to learn more about each destination.

How much are ferry tickets from Cancun to Isla Mujeres?

The ferry to Isla Mujeres cost $231 MXN (11 USD) per adult and 176 MXN (9 USD) per child.

Is it safe to swim in Isla Mujeres?

It is relatively safe to swim in Isla Mujeres on the north beach and on the west coast. The east and south coast are rougher and not recommendable.

Is it better to go to Isla Mujeres or Cancun?

This question requires a long answer which you can find in my dedicated post “Cancun vs Isla Mujeres

A day trip to Isla Mujeres: final thoughts

We have come to the end of our post about visiting Isla Mujeres on a day trip. I hope it was useful and I look forward to hearing about your adventure to Isla Mujeres!