My Budget Beach Vacation on Isla Mujeres

Let Me Tell You About Isla Mujeres…

“You’re going to love it! It’s a small place, nothing to do. Go to the North Beach, bring some brewski’s and do nothing. It’s my favorite place in Mexico. Quiet and nothing to do – perfect.”, according to Francisco, a co-worker of mine originally from Mexico who frequently returns. All sources who’ve been there and one that even lives there part of the year all said the same thing: it’s quiet and there’s nothing to do, in a good way. So we figured this would be the relaxing part of are trip – a nice counterpoint to the adventures around Tulum. Boy were we wrong.

View of Playa Norte from Sea Hawk Dive Shop on Isla Mujeres

“Whale shark tours! You guys want to see whale sharks? Best tours on the island.” “Hey guys, free tequila! Free tequila inside, just look at my stuff.” “You guys like girls? Girls inside, take a look.” “I don’t know what the fuck to say, just buy some stuff guys! C’mon dudes!”  These are what we heard again and again from merchants selling their wares and tours. There was no free tequila or girls, by the way – it was all just things they’d shout to grab peoples attention (although they really were selling whale shark tours. It’s a big thing around the island).

Selling by any means necessary was the name of the game on Isla Mujeres. You could see capitalism was alive and kicking on this tiny island 10 miles across the water from the gringolandia of Cancun.

The Best Place to Stay for Sun and Fun on North Beach (Playa Norte)

Sea Hawk Dive Shop on Isla MujeresWe went to Isla with no reservations, figuring that on such a small island with not a lot of business other than tourism we would have little difficulty finding a place to stay. We’d just rent a golf cart or walk around, browsing until we found one we liked.

We weren’t able to find a place right on North Beach (Playa Norte) for a price we were okay with, so we ended up staying at Seahawk Diving Shop. It was the perfect storm of circumstances: less than a block to North Beach, the owner Ariel spoke English very, very well and was extremely friendly without being at all a “salesman” like the vendors, and it was less than $60/night.

Now with all this talk about being bombarded by vendors looking at us like cows that needed to be milked, don’t be put off by Isla. It’s still a place of sublime beauty, and probably due to it’s size (5mi long x 1mi wide at the widest point) it’s still a true retreat. There still really isn’t a lot to do unless you take someone up on a dive tour, people are friendly and feel safe, and there is a surprising and healthy amount of diversity due to so many people moving there from all over the world as a fulfillment of their lifelong dream.

 The Mixed-Up World of Life on a Tropical Mexican Island

Sunset over Playa Norte on Isla MujeresAs for the island itself, it’s a mix of worlds and in one way or another all are a feast for the eyes. There is a promenade along the Caribbean side of the island that starts on the North end next to an assortment of burnt-out looking hotels that are fenced in , foreboding and incongruous with the surrounding natural beauty.

This appears to be remnants of a busy tourist area that was destroyed by hurricanes – especially based on how the palm trees are all bent over and broken away from the sea, though we never were able to confirm this with a local.

It seems to be indicative of the spirit of a tropical island that is part of a nation bordering the capitalism center of the world. Relics and skeletons of making money from wealthy tourists that sit dormant while the residents move at an Island pace, taking their time to repair and rebuild in between the things that really matter: having fun and living the sweet life.

Want to visit the same places I did and checkout the same hotels and activities? Then check out my vacation guide on Isla Mujeres to get started on having your own Mexican adventure.

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