Last weekend, we revealed where we finally arrived – after a long trip, we are in Mexico! Leaving cold Europe behind and arriving in tropical Mexico has been a blast! And just like many people, we landed in Cancún, where the main international airport is. We read on many sites and were advised by family and friends that Cancún was not the best place to stay. Unless, you’re looking for resorts, all-inclusive, and parties. But this is not what we wanted. Therefore we quickly moved to Isla Mujeres for the better! In this article, we share all you should know when arriving in Cancún as well as why you should not miss Isla Mujeres.
**Mexico is currently open for travel/tourism regardless of your country of origin. However, please refer to your local government for travel restrictions.**
Cancún is a medium-sized city, split into 2 parts, the hotel zone and downtown. In the hotel zone, you’ll find beautiful beaches, resorts as well as more of a party town. Downtown is more local, cheaper and where you’ll find the main bus station. We have decided to stay downtown as we planned just 2 nights in the city. Our flight landed in the late afternoon and between the immigration, the transfer to the hotel, and the jetlag, we have not seen much on that day. Therefore, we stayed another night as it gave us more time to visit Cancún. We also got the time to adjust to the local climate before putting our backpacks on again!
Most people we know did not recommend to stay in Cancún as there is not much to do if you are not in a resort or coming to party. And having just one day there has been enough for us. There are no magnificent sites or places you must see, and everything is overally expensive. When we arrived there, the weather was absolutely terrible and so it might have affected our judgment – but as backpackers, we did not have the best time there.
Getting around Cancún
If you are looking for a cheap way to travel between downtown and the hotel zone, you can use the public buses R1 and R2. The ticket costs 12 pesos (0.6$/0.5€) per person (regardless of the place you jump in or out) and it is fast. There are signs for the bus stops along the road. To get off, just go to the driver and ask him you need to stop at the next one. If you’re at the back of the bus you can scream “alto por favor” and it works perfectly!
Note: From Cancún international airport, we have booked an official taxi transfer directly to our hotel, located downtown, for a little over 20 USD. In our opinion, after a long travel day, this is the best, fastest, and easiest way to get into Cancún. In addition, it helps you to avoid a rip off at the arrival terminal.
From Cancún, we took the ferry from the terminal Puerto Juarez. It is the only terminal where you can pay in Mexican pesos instead of USD. This way the ticket is cheaper (return tickets, prices from Ultramar website: 300 pesos or US$14). We stayed for 3 nights in Isla Mujeres and it was perfect for us to adjust to the Mexican climate before starting our trip. Isla Mujeres is a small island, located just 15 minutes by ferry from Cancún.
In Isla Mujeres, we stayed at Selina Hostel, which is perfectly located and has direct access to the beach. Staying overnight in Isla Mujeres is great because, in the evening, the island gets emptier as day-trip tourists are going back to Cancún. The island is less crowded, the authenticity is back and there are still a lot of dining options.
What to do in Isla Mujeres
Some things you cannot miss in Isla Mujeres:
- Punta Sur. At the southernmost point of the island, for a small fee, you can visit this place which has a beautiful view of both coasts. There are also some small Mayan ruins onsite and a lot of small iguanas!
- Playa Garrafón. Right by the Punta Sur, you can find Playa Garrafón which is like a beach club where you can snorkel and zip line over some beautiful turquoise waters.
- Tortugranja. A small turtle farm on Isla Mujeres. For only 30 pesos (1,25€/US$1.5) you get to learn about turtles and how they are treated in the center before being put back in the ocean.
- Playa Norte. At the northernmost tip of the island, you can find this beautiful white sand beach, with turquoise sea and palm trees. We recommend going there in the late afternoon as it is a lot less busy (a lot of boats go there for the day).
For most of the above places, you’ll need a taxi (if you don’t have a car or a golf cart). The ride from the center to Punta Sur is about 100 pesos (4€/US$5), and 80 pesos to Tortugranja (3.30€/US$4).
Overall, we have really enjoyed our stay in Isla Mujeres. Staying there instead of Cancún was a great alternative! However, if you decide to stay in Cancún we really recommend you visit Isla Mujeres, at least for a day!
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