After reading about Isla Mujeres, or “Island of Women” for months, it was becoming somewhat of a familiar mystery to me. On Sunday I was ready to check it out and the weather report had promised sunshine. So despite some suggestive clouds that rolled in, we decided to go anyway.
We headed to the ferry landing at Port Playa Linda. The UltraMar Ferries run every half hour during the day, making it an easy trip to plan. We bought our tickets for $399 pesos and learned that if we’d paid in U.S. currency we could have saved a few dollars. In any case it was reasonable at about $32 USD, and we took our seat up top of the boat, so we could enjoy the view.
Leaving the pristine harbor, we were surprised by the ferry’s speed and agility. Instead of acting like the heavily weighted water taxi that it is, it handled like a sleek, larger version of the cigarette boat featured in Miami Vice! Our departure had a dramatic feel, with music on full blast, the wind whipping in our hair, and a massive Mexican flag waving us out of the harbor.
Lost in the moment, I finally looked over at Rich, who is very prone to feeling seasick on the water. Unfortunately neither of us thought to bring any Dramamine, but hadn’t been too concerned as we figured it would be a smooth, 20 minute ride.
Think again. The ferry was out on open water, doing major pitch and roll movements -which continued at length. Rich made his way downstairs to the center of the boat, hoping to quickly arrive at the ferry landing.
As we pulled into port we were greeted by a flock of birds, which looked like super-sized black seagulls. They were circling above a group of brown pelicans, creating a friendly setting.
We were glad to be on Isla Mujeres, which retains some of it’s small fishing village charm. It was our hope to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Cancun. So you can imagine I was disappointed by the congestion that engulfed us as we departed from the dock.
Mixed in with throngs of other tourists, we squeezed single file onto a tiny sidewalk that flanked the main road. We turned onto one of the side streets to escape, but instead were met with even tighter streets. They were filled with people driving golf carts and foul-smelling motorbikes. We pressed on looking for a way out, and spotted our opening.
At a cross-street up ahead there was a walled-in cemetery, with unique looking gravestones peeking over it. We found the entrance and I was taken aback for a minute. This was absolutely the most beautiful, elaborate and colorful cemetery I’ve ever seen. Many of the graves are crypts, and some even contain niches, in which urns are placed. Bright pinks, blues, yellows and other vibrant hues decorate the crypts – and decorative tiles, angels and cherubs adorn the tops.
From there we rounded a bend toward Playa Norte. The modest-sized North Beach was flanked with luxury condos and hotels and behind these the waterfront was populated by the expected sunbathers. It was a cozy and pleasant setting, filled with tourists happily sipping drinks on lounge chairs under palapas, with festive music emanating from the several restaurants that anchored the parties.
We did a quick walk-through, looking for a quiet spot to rest. We found it just around the corner, where the beach crowds thinned to almost nothing. There we laid down on a comfy bed in the shade and napped for a bit.
Once refreshed, we walked around the point, climbing on craggy rocks, and watching the boisterous tides crashing in. We followed the shoreline for awhile, and came upon some buildings that had been hit by a hurricane. The cement walls remained intact, but the roofs and insides were gutted. They appeared to be abandoned, which wasn’t surprising.
We walked inland and crossed the tiny island within a few minutes, with the intention of walking south. Just south of the ferry landing we noticed a quaint restaurant offering seafood tacos. Dining in the shade, we enjoyed garlic fish, cervesa and veggies, lingering for awhile in the gentle breeze.
It was a nice temperate day for a walk and we had no agenda, so we trekked southward for a few miles along the wide sidewalk path that followed main route down the coastline. Further south, we noticed we were the only tourists. So we cut inland and went into a quaint neighborhood full of locals who were enjoying the outdoors.
There was a soccer field with several kids playing ball, and other people shopping at the corner mini-market, working on their cars and such. There was a gentle and relaxed spirit among the people, which added to the enjoyment of our relaxed stroll.
By meandering along this way, we didn’t leave room for much in the way of tourist stops. For instance we missed the Tortuga (turtle) Bay, the Pirate’s Hacienda, the Light House, and the small minor ruins, which the southern part of the island offers. But we didn’t care, perhaps we’d make it back another time.
Note: In case you decide to take in Isla Mujeres, there are golf carts, bikes, and motorcycles you can rent reasonably – by the hour or day. That way you can get in just about all the tourist sites in a day or a weekend.
Anyway, we flagged a cab, and for a reasonable $4. fare we arrived back at the market that occupies the central part of town near North Beach. It was getting dark and the marketplace was waking up – with people dining, shopping and having a good time. I liken the atmosphere to a more laid-back version of that found in Playa Del Carmen- a place we loved last time we were in Mexico.
We walked around there for awhile, enjoying a bite of a wonderful ice cream bar called, “Magnum.” It’s made by a Dutch chocolate company and is one of my favorite ice creams today, trumping Ben & Jerry’s and Haagen Daaz! Too bad it isn’t sold in the U.S!
Then we headed over to the docks and took the next ferry home. Due to the late hour, it took us to Puerto Morales, which is just due North of Cancun and is the oldest and largest port in Cancun. Surprisingly, we still had some energy to walk, so we wound our way through the historic port area back to downtown and home.
We crashed on the bed, Google mapping our path, and realizing we’d logged about 7 miles of walking! I must say, those Olukai flip-flops that Rich and I wear are the best warm-weather footwear in the world! They just keep going no matter how long you walk, giving you arch support every step of the way.
Signing off….’til next time, happy trekking!