Just 15 minutes off the coast of Cancun, Isla Mujeres is a tiny island known for its picturesque beaches. It’s one of my favorite places for a quick beach escape from Playa del Carmen and makes for an incredible day trip. In this post I’m detailing everything you need to know to take a day trip to Isla Mujeres from Playa del Carmen.
Although it’s somewhat of a trek to get there, it is definitely worth it! The beaches on Isla Mujeres are far superior to those in downtown Playa del Carmen and it’s a fun excursion to explore another part of Mexico. It’s best to start the day early and then you can spend a full day on Isla Mujeres relaxing on the beach or exploring the island.
Meaning “Island of Women,” Isla Mujeres was named by the Spanish when they first arrived to the island and found many images of goddesses dating back to the time when the island was sacred to the Mayan goddess of childbirth and medicine. Nowadays, the island is much more commercial but it is still a nice escape from mainland Mexico.
Isla Mujeres is less than 5 miles long but still offers plenty of restaurants, shopping, and all-inclusive resorts. The prettiest beaches on Isla Mujeres can be found on the north side of the island, most notably Playa Norte, where you will find the most stunning turquoise water and white sand beaches. It definitely makes for a jaw-dropping first impression!
The best part is that the beaches on Isla Mujeres almost never get hit with the amount of seaweed that can sometimes be found on other beaches in Riviera Maya. If you’re looking for a beach without seaweed, Isla Mujeres is where you want to go!
Where is Isla Mujeres?
Isla Mujeres is small island in the Mexican Caribbean located just to the east of Cancun, Mexico. The island can be reached easily by just a 15 minute ferry or boat to Isla Mujeres from the mainland.
How to Get to Isla Mujeres from Playa del Carmen
Getting to Isla Mujeres from Playa del Carmen can be a bit of trek but trust me it is worth it! First you have to travel from Playa del Carmen to Cancun, then take the ferry from Cancun to Isla Mujeres. It’s easiest if you have your own car or hire a taxi but it can also be reached by taking public transportation. The trip from Playa del Carmen to Isla Mujeres takes about 1.5 hours each way.
Isla Mujeres Ferry Location
The ferry to Isla Mujeres is located in Cancun at Puerto Juarez and the name of the ferry operator is called Ultramar. There are a few other ferry locations in Cancun but this is the most popular option for tourists if you’re coming from Playa del Carmen.
Getting to Cancun
The easiest way to get to the ferry in Cancun is by driving or renting a car. Navigate to Puerto Juarez and once you arrive at the ferry terminal there is a parking garage on site or you can choose to park in a nearby lot for around $100 pesos (~$5 USD). If you are traveling in a larger group, you might want to consider hiring a taxi or van service and splitting the cost.
By Public Transportation
If you don’t have a car, the most economical way to get to Isla Mujeres from Playa del Carmen is to take the Playa Express, which is a shared van service to Cancun. The Playa Express is a large white sprinter-type van that is air conditioned and very comfortable.
You can get on the Playa Express at the main bus depot in Playa del Carmen at Calle 2 and Avenida 20. The buses leave very frequently so whenever you show up there should be one leaving in the next few minutes. You’ll take the Playa Express all the way to the end (about an hour drive), which is the ADO bus terminal in Cancun. The cost should be around $50 pesos ($2.50 USD) per person.
Once you get off the Playa Express, there will be a line of taxis waiting at the terminal. From here, you can take a taxi to Puerto Juarez, which is the Ultramar ferry terminal to go to Isla Mujeres. The taxi should cost around $100 pesos (~$5 USD) and takes about 10 minutes.
Travelista Tip: You'll want to make sure you have enough pesos on hand for the Playa Express and taxi as you'll get a better exchange rate than when paying in USD.
By Island Express Shuttle
Another more hassle free option to get to Isla Mujeres from Playa del Carmen is to take the Island Express shuttle service offered by Ultramar ferry, which departs daily at 9:30 AM.
The price is $41 USD per person and includes round trip transportation as well as the ferry ticket. The shuttle departs from 15 Av Sur and Calle 3 Sur in Playa del Carmen. More information can be found here on the Ultramar website. If you choose this option you’ll just want to make sure those departure times work for your schedule.
Isla Mujeres Ferry Price
Once you arrive to the Ultramar ferry terminal, you can purchase your ferry tickets to Isla Mujeres which costs $380 pesos (~$19 USD) for a round-trip ticket. Cash or credit cards are accepted. If you are a local Quintana Roo resident, the cost for the ferry is only $155 pesos.
Isla Mujeres Ferry Schedule
The Ultramar ferry schedule can be found here. The ferry from Cancun to Isla Mujeres usually departs every hour and the last ferry coming back to Cancun departs at 11:00pm. Once you’re on the ferry, it only takes about 15 minutes to cross to Isla Mujeres.
Getting Around Isla Mujeres
Once you arrive to the ferry terminal in Isla Mujeres, there will be a line of taxis waiting right outside. Taxis in Isla Mujeres are red in color and can be hired easily to get to other parts of the island.
Another more popular transportation option on Isla Mujeres is golf carts. Due to the small size of the island, it’s easier to get around on the narrower streets on golf carts. Golf carts rentals in Isla Mujeres can be arranged from the ferry terminal to explore the island or for a fun ride over to the beach.
Depending on where you’re going, it is possible to walk directly from the ferry terminal. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the ferry to the Playa Norte beach and takes you on nice stroll through downtown Isla Mujeres.
Things to do in Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is a tiny island but offers a ton of fun options for things to do whether you’re looking for something more adventurous or just want to relax on the beach. No matter what you do you’ll be treated to stunning views and the most crystalline turquoise water.
Visit a Beach Club on Playa Norte
Of all the beaches in Isla Mujeres, the most popular beach is Playa Norte, and visiting this beach is always my number one recommendation for day trips to Isla Mujeres. It’s just too pretty to miss! Playa Norte can be reached from the ferry terminal by walking or grabbing a quick taxi.
Once you get to Playa Norte, you’ll see why it’s considered the best beach Isla Mujeres has to offer. The beach is flat and widespread and there are several alluring beach clubs to choose from. If you’re looking to relax, the northern end of Playa Norte is generally less crowded and less congested with beach umbrellas. Below are a couple Isla Mujeres beach clubs I would recommend.
Oceanvs Beach Club Isla Mujeres
Oceanvs Beach Club is located on the northern end of Playa Norte inside of the Na Balam Boutique Wellness & Yoga Resort. When I visited, the cost was only $200 pesos (~$10 USD) to rent a beach bed with no food and beverage minimum. The menu consists of your typical beach bar items including nachos, guacamole, tacos, pizzas, etc. The prices are a little high but that’s to be expected in such a touristy area.
Green Demon Beach Club
Another popular beach club on Isla Mujeres is Green Demon Beach Club. With string lights, great music, and hexagon shaped beach beds, the atmosphere at Green Demon is very cool. True to its name, the menu offers much healthier items like fresh fish, wraps, sandwiches, and salads. They also offer wellness drinks and smoothies, but don’t worry you can still order beers and cocktails.
Go on a Catamaran Tour
Another one of the best things to do is going on a catamaran tour or boat trip to Isla Mujeres. These catamaran Isla Mujeres tours can be booked on Get Your Guide in advance and some leave directly from Cancun and some even offer round trip transportation from Playa del Carmen. I went on a catamaran trip to Isla Mujeres for a friend’s birthday celebration and it was an absolute blast!
Go on a Snorkeling Tour
Isla Mujeres is also a great spot for snorkeling and even has an underwater sculpture museum. There are many snorkeling tours available and with the crystal clear water you are sure to have some incredible underwater views. The very first time I ever visited Isla Mujeres was on a snorkeling tour and it was super impressive.
It’s best to book snorkeling Isla Mujeres tours in advance so you can do some research and find out the best option for you. And if you’re visiting during the months of May-September, you can also visit Isla Mujeres on a whale shark tour, when the whale sharks arrive annually to feed on the plankton rich waters.
Go Shopping in Downtown Isla Mujeres
Another more laid back option is to go shopping in downtown Isla Mujeres. There are several souvenir shops, restaurants, and snack bars in downtown Isla Mujeres. Here you can pick up some Isla Mujeres souvenirs as well as your traditional Mexican handicrafts, similar to the 5th Avenue shopping in Playa del Carmen. Downtown Isla Mujeres is also a great place to just sit, relax, and grab a drink.
What to Bring on Day Trip to Isla Mujeres
Below are a few items I would recommend bringing on an Isla Mujeres day trip. You’ll definitely want to pack light so you don’t have too much to carry on the ferry. If you’re going in the water, biodegradable sunscreen is definitely a must to protect the coral reefs. You can pick up some on Amazon here.
Getting Back to Playa del Carmen from Isla Mujeres
Once you’re done with your adventures on Isla Mujeres, you can head back to the ferry terminal to return to Cancun. Be sure to check the ferry schedule for departure times so you don’t miss the last ferry back. If you are taking public transportation, the Playa Express runs late into the night back to Playa del Carmen.
Overnight Stay in Isla Mujeres
If you’re not up for the long trek back to Playa del Carmen or simply want to spend more time on the island, you can always consider booking an overnight stay at a hotel in Isla Mujeres. This is a great option for a more relaxed experience plus you’ll have more time to really explore what Isla Mujeres has to offer.
Below are a few recommendations for hotels in Isla Mujeres on Playa Norte. I personally haven’t stayed the night but it’s been high on my to do list.
So are you ready to visit Isla Mujeres? I hope my day trip Isla Mujeres guide was helpful if you want to spend the day soaking up on the sun on one of Mexico’s most beautiful islands. For more day trips from Playa del Carmen, check out my guides to visiting Cozumel, Playa Xpu Ha, and visiting a hidden beach at Playa Xcacel.
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