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There are very few tourist attractions on Isla Mujeres, the `Island of Women’, which is just a 15-minute boat ride from Cancún. But that is precisely the point. Visitors come here to laze around, relax in a hammock under swaying palm trees and sip ice cold margaritas. It is also wonderful to swim in the turquoise Caribbean Sea or sit on the beach and watch the sunset while eating fresh fish.
While Cancún was quickly being developed in the 1970s as a Caribbean holiday paradise, the tiny island off the coast became a haven for hippies. Today Isla Mujeres is the destination of choice for vacationers who only have time to visit one Mexican island. It is less busy than Cozumel, but offers more leisure opportunities than Holbox. Rent a golf cart to explore the 7-kilometre-long island in a day, driving from popular Playa Norte in the north to the small Mayan temple on the southernmost tip of the island.
Regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, Playa Norte is also the most popular beach on Isla Mujeres. Hotels and restaurants rent sun chairs and parasols, as well as snorkel gear and canoes. The next beach over, Playa Sol, is a lot quieter; this is the best spot on the island to watch the pale pink sun sink into the ocean. Beaches on the protected west coast, such as Playa Paraíso with a view of the Cancun skyline, offers quiet beach bars and shady palapa huts.
Isla Mujeres is also one of the best snorkelling and dive spots in the Caribbean Sea. Off the coast of Garrafón, on the southern tip of the island, lies a coral reef that is home to sea turtles, giant manta rays and colourful tropical fish. There is a small amusement park with various facilities. Further down the road you can rent a snorkel set. Divers can explore caves, shipwrecks and an underwater museum with hundreds of sculptures 8 metres below the surface.
Sun, sea and sand are the main attractions of Isla Mujeres, but exploring the island is a great way to spend the day. Golf carts, the most popular mode of transportation on the island, are available to rent for 40 euro a day. Starting at the village in the north, it will take an hour to drive along the east coast to the southernmost point of the island. Here the Mayas built a temple in honour of Ixchel, moon goddess of fertility. Prefer to spend the day on the water? Book a day trip on a fishing boat to visit Isla Contoy, an uninhabited island with 150 species of tropical birds and a quiet sandy beach.
Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico