Isla Mujeres — The Beginning


It was Jackie’s idea to head to Isla Mujeres on our first full day in Mexico. Neither one of us wanted to spend time in Cancun; we figured we’d get our fill of tourists elsewhere. Located roughly 8 miles north east of Cancun in the Carribean Sea, Isla Mujeres is the most easterly point of Mexico. The only way to get to Isla (as the locals call it) is by ferry; we left from Puerto Juarez.

It was exciting to catch a ferry on the first day of our trip! We felt like we were really getting out there and doing something totally out-of-the-ordinary on our first day. Naturally, we sat on the upper-level of the ferry.

The weather wasn’t great. It was cloudy and rainfall was imminent, but we were happy and the air wasn’t cold. Plus, the ferry had entertainment; as soon as we boarded, a man brought out a small speaker-set, a mic, and a guitar. 
At first we were skeptical, but we were thrilled when he started playing that he was, in fact, a talented musician! His voice was sweet and melodic — he played Guantanamera and a few Beatles covers. He must be there regularly, but the simple music gave our ferry ride a bit of magic, it made the ride feel special and unique. We both tipped him. 

When we disembarked and walked on the faded pier towards land, we saw a group of men, one-by-one, approaching tourists. There was no way to get around them.

“Hola, hola,” we heard them saying.

“Oh look, a welcoming committee,” I said to Jackie.

“Ha! At least, they’ve got a map.”

Jackie and I walked up to them, checking out the large map and glancing at the brochures they put under our nose.

“Hola. You want to rent?” They pointed to pictures of golf carts, scooters, and push-bikes.

“No, gracias.”

“Hola. You want a tour? Delphinius. Tortugas. Esnooker [snorkle].” 

We ignored the men and continued looking at the map. We pointed to and discussed the places we wanted to go: the ruins and the turtle sanctuary were on the southern-most end of the island, but the north-end had a lighthouse. 

“Hola. Yes, you go see turtles. Very beautiful.” One of the men had been listening to our conversation.

“What about the dolphins?” I asked.

“Dolphinius. Tortugas. Whatever you like. Best tours. Best esnooker. You like esnooker?”

“Can we walk there?” Jackie asked, pointing to the turtle sanctuary.

“No. Too far.”

Though the island is only 5 miles long, I agreed, “si. Por supuesto. Gracias.”  I turned towards Jackie, “Let’s get something. Should we rent from these guys?”

“Um… Let’s keep walking. There’s probably better deals further down the beach.”

“Gracias,” I said to the man. 

“Gracias,” he said back. 

We walked past the men and onto the street, we marveled at the stone road as we talked about the wide, asphalt roads we were used to at home. 

“This is so much more beautiful!”

“I know!”

It made us wonder if the streets were constructed during Spanish colonization. We couldn’t get over the beautiful street: palm trees growing in the grassy center divide, colorful flags strung from buildings, the cobblestones. And, man! Was it clean! Jackie made fun of me for saying, “it’s like we’ve teleported to somewhere more beautiful than regular life!”

“Teleported…or took a ferry!”

We headed north on the main road, watching tourists go by in golf carts and locals passing in trucks, bikes, and taxis. Everyone, even the locals, were leisurely. People didn’t drive too fast, bike riders and pedestrians moseyed along, and several people were just sitting and talking.  
“I think we should get a golf cart,” Jackie told me.
“Really? But scooters would be so fun! And I’ve never ridden one before.”
“This is cool!” Jackie pointed to a couple statues. A barracuda and a marlin. We stopped to take pictures. 

“Didn’t you ride a scooter at 1770?” I asked, referring to a tour she did while we were traveling in Australia.

“Yeah, but we got lessons. And the instructors go with you.”

“Oh.” I considered the fact that I did not know how to drive a scooter, and the ones for rent were more towards the motorcycle-side of the scooter spectrum (as opposed to the Vespa-side).

“Plus, it’s going to rain,” she mentioned.

“True, ok. Yeah, that’s fine. Besides, we’ll be able to talk while we’re driving around.”

We continued to walk north, towards the lighthouse. Every few paces, we were hassled by men trying to get us to rent their equipment. Jackie, who never complains, even said, “oh my gosh! These guys are intense!”

I agreed and continued to repeat, “no, gracias.” Apparently, it was not until recently that tourism became a big part of the island.

“So grassy-az is ‘thank you?'”


“Ok. No, grassy-az. No, grassy-az,” Jackie was practicing. 

I teased her about her gringo accent even though I knew mine was almost as bad. “Honestly, I’m surprised you don’t know Spanish.”

“I learned French.”

“Oh yeah, makes sense.” Jackie, I knew, grew up in Ontario. “Spanish is pretty important in California. And I used to get to practice it a bit.”

“Yeah, I’m surprised you remember anything!”

“I used to be a LOT better. This is actually pretty hard, but I feel like stuff is already coming back to me.”

We came to an alleyway that caught Jackie’s eye.

“We’re going to have to look through some of these stores.”  

“Totally, but let’s do our sight-seeing first?”

“Yeah. Sounds like a plan. Then if we buy something we don’t have to carry it everywhere.”

After a few more blocks, we found the end of the main road. The lighthouse was quite underwhelming. It really blended in. If we didn’t know it was there, we might have missed it.

“It probably looks better when there’s blue skies.”


The last rental shop was just underneath the lighthouse — we rented the cart that’s in the picture above. We were happy to rent from that shop because not only did we walk past without anyone bothering us, but our patience paid off! This shop was the cheapest; not by much, but by enough that we were satisfied. We signed the papers and started the engine, put it into drive and headed south.



3 thoughts on “Isla Mujeres — The Beginning

  1. Pingback: Journey to the Turtles | Drifting Softly

  2. Pingback: Punta Sur — Isla Mujeres | Drifting Softly

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