When the weather starts to turn and the winter chill is around the corner it's always nice to get away and soak up some warm rays (even if it's for a few days). Mexico is often a default winter destination but if you want an alternative to the all inclusive resorts give Isla Mujeres a try. This small island near Cancun is perfect for those looking for a less commercial vacation.
We stayed in this tropical oasis Magi Azul, a perfect moroccan inspired home outside the busy part of the town and minutes away from everything. With it's perfectly decorated rooms, delightful pool, private beach and amazing ocean views you would have a hard time leaving the house! (if you are going as a group it's very affordable to rent out and worth every penny.)
The island is small enough that you can walk around (depending where you stay) or take a taxi but if you have the confidence to drive yourself I'd recommend renting a golf cart while you are there. With it you could get around very quickly and see everything on the island easily.
In around the port where you first get off you will find a large concentration of vendors, shops and restaurants (all geared towards the tourists) as well as the public beaches.But if you want to see some of the less touristy spots you would have to go a bit outside of the main strip.
While they are great and affordable the one downside to public beaches is the constant stream of locals coming to sell their trinkets.So if you are looking to be left alone a better option is to pay to spend the day at one of a number of private beach clubs on the island.
I particularly liked Zama beach club where we spent a lazy day enjoying the sun and tasting the great food (and yummy drinks). The place never became too packed and if you ordered both drinks and food you didn't have to pay the cover!
As we explored the island we stumbled upon this cool sculpture garden at Punta Sur. Originally the site of an ancient Mayan temple, today a meeting point between old and new. You can explore the art, see the ruin and walk along the many trails on this southern most point of the island.
At 3 USD it is a much cheaper alternate to spending the money at Garrafon Park right next to it (which was our original destination for the day). If you liked you could even have lunch overlooking it all at a great price!
For those looking to be a bit more adventurous you can try out the snorkelling or diving that is offered by many operators on the island, just make sure to do your research on the company!
We opted to check out one of the nearby islands Isla Contoy. The whole island is a national park whose only human inhabitants are a small group of scientists. You could take a day trip out there to see the island and enjoy the great beaches (not to mention having some delicious local lunch made right there by the tour operators).
In terms of where to eat there are plenty of options to choose from depending on your budget and location. If you want a lively vibe you will find it on Hidalgo Street (the centre of tourist area of town). Here I would highly recommend eating at Lola Valentina, this trendy little joint had a great vibe and interesting twist on traditional dishes.
For me I liked being away from the hassle and bustle of Hidalgo. So I would recommend Bastos Grill a small little spot off on a small side street (about 10 minutes outside of town) that offers a wide range of tasty food at very affordable prices.
If you are looking for a more of a upscale evening you can not go wrong with Casa Rolandi (part of the Zoetry Resort). They delighted us with superb service and mouth watering seafood dishes. To top it off you had a great view of the shoreline.
For a small island it sure can offer a lot and it has things for everyone to do (be they young, old or with a family). You just need to research ahead of time and negotiate upfront to avoid any unexpected issues.
With the warm sunny days at an end it is sadly time to come back to a rapidly cooling fall. Thankfully with a tan I hope to stretch out as much as I can over the winter!