by: Libby Meyer
As Larry and I get ready to leave for vacation, our friends ask, “Are you going to the island?” They know it is our escape, our little piece of paradise. We leave our home in Fort Smith and we are on the beach 4 to 5 hours later.
The island is called Isla Mujeres (Island of Women), located on the Caribbean side of Mexico. It is small, measuring approximately 5 miles long by one mile wide. To reach the island, we fly to Cancun, Mexico, taxi to the port and then board the Ultramar Ferry which transports us to the island.
Watches come off and sunscreen goes on as we board the ferry for a twenty minute ride to the island. Smiles of joy spread across our faces once we are seated atop the open ferry listening to a local musician playing guitar and singing. Docking at the ferry terminal, we are within a few blocks of one of our many favorite hotels. A $3-$5 taxi ride delivers us to our hotel. We have stayed in many different accommodations on the island, some low end, some high end. It really never matters–as long as we are a short stroll to the beach. Sometimes we simply step out of our room onto the white sand. Other times we navigate around a refreshing pool to get to the beach. No matter where we stay, there are beautiful views of the turquoise blue Caribbean.
Recently, we put up at Nautibeach Condos on North Beach, our favorite beach. The day begins with a walk into town for breakfast at one of the many local eateries. Days are whiled away on the beach reading books, enjoying the beautiful water and listening to music from the nearby small palapa bar. The turquoise ocean is beautiful as we walk out to where the sailboats are moored. It’s a perfect place for little ones to play in the ocean or build sand castles. Large sailboats come to North Beach with day trippers around 11 each day, and they typically head back to Cancun by 3 in the afternoon. We never worry about the beach being crowded from the day-trippers as they usually stay out by the boats. It is so relaxing to enjoy the beach without the craziness of seadoos as they are restricted in this area.
There are many things to do on the island and most of the shops and restaurants are within walking distance. We love that we can walk to town, shop at the market and check out the many flavors of restaurants located on the Island. Surprisingly, one of our favorite restaurants is Rolandi’s, which is Italian. They offer fresh pastas, brick oven pizzas and fresh garlic bread from the pizza ovens. It doesn’t take long to get comfortable on the island. Everyone is friendly and appreciate that we are there to relax and enjoy the beauty of their island. We take a break from lounging to stroll down the beach to enjoy a great meal at Buho’s, a restaurant and bar where the most popular seats are wood and rope swings that allow a beautiful view of the ocean with the promise of sand between our toes. North Beach provides great views of spectacular sunsets that beckon us to the beach for quiet evening walks.
The island offers an assortment of things to do. We enjoy day trips on Captain Ariel’s boat. He’ll take us out to the lighthouse for snorkeling. While there, we enjoy an underwater museum and Manchones Reef. We fish and take our catch to Bally-Hoo’s back at the marina. Other attractions include Dolphin Discovery (swim with the dolphins), and the turtle farm. In season we can swim with the whale sharks. And for those who enjoy it, there is the island nightlife.
Larry and I have been going to Isla Mujeres for the past 18 years. We have taken day trips to the island after business meetings in Cancun. However, we always prefer the slow relaxed pace of the island rather than the crowded beaches on the mainland. Our idea of a relaxing vacation is not to spend it in a high rise but to walk out of our room onto the beach.
The island is referred to as the Island of Women, as the island’s history refers to it as a haven for pirates. While the men were at sea, this sliver of land in the Caribbean was inhabited only by the wives and children. We have always felt safe on the island and respect their culture and traditions as we remember we are visitors.