Posted by: marymarthatours | February 8, 2012

Isla Mujeres, Mexico, the Perfect Winter Get-Away

Although I haven’t been to Isla Mujeres for several years, every February, I begin to dream of being back there, lounging on the beach, reading books, enjoying freshly made guacamole and pina coladas, and “chilling out” in a warm place.

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Isla Mujeres is a small island off the coast of Cancun, only 5 miles long by half a mile wide. It’s an easy plane ride from Minneapolis, which makes it great for us winter-weary Midwesterners. You leave Minneapolis in the early morning and are on the island in time for lunch and your first tropical beverage. You do have to get to the ferry from the Cancun airport, but the ferries run frequently and the ride to the island is short. On the way, you watch the gorgeous blue-green sea and feel the stresses of you pre-vacation world slipping away.

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Views from west and east sides of the island

If you want nightlife and excitement on your vacation, Isla Mujeres is NOT for you. It’s one of those wonderful places where there is very little to do. The small town at the western end of the island with its many restaurants and shops can easily be covered on foot, although there are taxis for visits to outlying areas.

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Downtown

I first visited Isla Mujeres in 1993 when I went there with friends. We stayed out of town along the south coast, but discovered that it would be more convenient to stay “in town”. One evening we stopped for a sunset drink at the beach restaurant connected to the Nautibeach Condos. We asked about the condos and took a tour of one of the units there. Liking what we saw — a lovely two bedroom unit with living room, kitchenette, and gorgeous balcony overlooking the pool and the beach — we went back to the island in 1994 and stayed at the Nautibeach. We had such a great time there that my friends bought one of the condo units. Since then I have been back with my friends, with my husband, with my whole family, and with my older son’s family and in-laws.

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Nautibeach Condos and view from our unit

When we stayed at the Nautibeach, we had a daily routine. Although it would have been easy to fix our own breakfast in the condo, we liked taking the short walk to town for breakfast at the Red Eye Café, Cafe Cito, or La Cazuela. On the way back, we’d often stop at the open market to pick up fresh fixings for guacamole and tortillas made on the site. Then while my husband opted for the balcony, I would head for the beach with my book, my sunscreen, and my swim goggles. The beach at the Nautibeach (the Playa Norte) is beautiful white sand and the sea is shallow and warm, great for a bit of swimming between chapters of my book. And it’s also a great beach for Mayan sand castles or burying your brother.

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My grandchildren at play on the Playa Norte

Afternoons were for excursions. We might head to town for groceries or souvenirs, or rent a golf cart for a drive around the island. Our favorite stops included the small zoo at Hacienda Mundaca, the turtle farm, or the park at the end of the island. When I first visited the island, the east end of the island was desolate with only the ruins of a small Mayan temple. Now the area is a sculpture park with restaurant, shops, and concrete walkways. I have to admit that I liked it better when it was just a ruin.

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The east end of the island in 1993 and 2008

For dinner, we’d wander into town again to one of our favorite restaurants or take a taxi if we wanted to go to someplace further out. Some of our favorites are gone now, but two special spots are still there. One is Fredy’s, right in town with great local cuisine including fabulous tortilla soup. The other is Restaurant Velazques, where sitting at a table right on the beach, I once had the best snapper that I’ve ever eaten.

It’s true that the island is much more built up and commercialized since my first visit there, but for me, it remains the ideal place for a relaxed, warm, mid-winter break.

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Mary at Isla Mujeres, 1993 (and every visit since)

(by Mary)

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