Things for a Family to Do in Isla Mujeres
There is a lot to do on Isla Mujeres for younger and older children. What I’ve listed here were our kids favourite activities to do during our month on Isla.
The beautiful Isla Mujeres is in the Caribbean Sea so you can expect beautiful beaches. With the tropical climate, nothing beats jumping in the water for a refreshing swim to beat the heat. The swimming is all on the north and east side of the island facing Cancun. The west coast is very rocky with no sandy bays that are easy to access.
The most popular beach is definitely Playa Norte, which literally translates to North Beach. You can access this beach by walking from the ferry building. As you head out of the ferry terminal, turn left and head to the end of the street. Walk down the driveway between the hotels and you will reach Playa Norte. Once you hit the stretch of sand, turn right to explore the length of the beach.
Playa Norte has crystal clear waters and very fine white sand. Mixing this type of sand with water allows you to make sand balls that are great for the kids to throw in the water and make a big splash.
This area of the island is well known for it’s wildlife. Your kids will love spotting the pelicans perched on the wave breakers or watch them dive into the water. You won’t be able to swim here without encountering all sorts of birds. And the kids won’t need their snorkelling gear to see fish swimming around them in the shallows.
This is a beach club type beach that is highly commercialised, as is most of Quintana Roo. Expect to have it covered in bars, hotels and massage tables. If you are on this beach from 11am you will find a line of tour boats anchored nearby and the beach itself gets crazy busy. I recommend a swim between 9am and 11am to avoid the crowds.
There are often lounge chairs with umbrellas that you can use simply by paying the attendant or purchasing drinks from the bar. Otherwise just find yourself a nice coconut tree to lounge under while the kids play in the sand.
It is rated as one of the top ten beaches on TripAdvisor so you can expect a beautiful beach. But a warning for those who have experienced Pacific Ocean beaches, you probably will not rate it as one of the top ten in the world. I have heard that there are far more beautiful Californian beaches. I personally have experienced far more beautiful beaches in NZ, Australia, Tahiti and Cuba. So for you well travelled people, ignore the top ten rating. Focus, rather, on the concept of it being a beautiful Caribbean beach club type beach and by most accounts, the best beach in Quintana Roo.
Playa Lancheros is another beach club beach with lots of restaurants and hotels occupying beachfront property. It has clear waters for snorkelling and golden sands. Many people rate the snorkelling here but most of this coast’s snorkelling has been damaged by hurricane or ignorance. Locals are changing their tours to educate tourists to not touch the reefs so that they do not do further damage.
This beach is a common stop for snorkelling tours especially around lunch time so you’ll find it is quieter in the morning or late afternoon.
La Casa Del Tikinxik is a great place to eat which has very reasonable prices for a tourist restaurant. If you are trying to access Playa Lancheros front he street, google La Casa Del Tikinxik and cut through here to access the beach. The street is unnamed.
There is a shark that is caged directly opposite. The size of the cage is quite a sad sight but still the kids find it fascinating. Because of the conditions, we didn’t spend the 20 pesos to take a photo with it.
Playa Sol is the first beach you hit when you walk towards Playa Norte. It is beautiful especially to watch the sunset over Cancun. It is a much wider stretch of sand and the water gets deeper faster here.
We didn’t swim here because Playa Norte was too tempting with it’s shady options of coconut trees and so many pelicans to watch. However, this beach is still worth the time to stop and visit.
There are loads of shops to browse and pick up some souvenirs. If you have a keen eye you can find the souvenirs that are hand made as opposed to factory made. Although these souvenirs may not traditional of the Quintana Roo area they are used in other areas. For example, the clothing with embroidered flowers are from the state of Chiapas.
There is some lovely snorkelling around the island. You can visit a park like Garafon or take a boat trip to access some underwater wildlife. I recommend taking the tour company that hovers close to the ferry building. They will take you to the two best snorkelling sites close to the island: near the light house and the reef near the underwater art museum. Find out more about our snorkelling trip here.
Bird Watching and Lizard Spotting
This island has hundreds of variations of birds. Some are easily found like the pelicans of Playa Norte, some can only be seen from a distance like the frigates that fly high above water, and some require quiet and patience to see like the small yellow mangrove vireo.
As for the lizards, the small house geckos and the big seaside iguanas are very easy to spot. There are also lizards that jump around outside near old wood.
Check out some of these birds and lizards in our Isla Mujeres wildlife section.
Early Morning or Early Evening Walks
Because the temperature gets pretty hot from about 9am, being able to get out for a walk was more comfortable near sunrise or sunset. If you are up before sunrise, the west coast’s rugged coastline offers great sunrise views. There is a nice walkway that stretches for most of the west coast. Our little ones loved running along there and looking out for any shell crabs that crossed our path. There is also some places to eat and a small art gallery across the road from this walkway.
If you have more time not on the island then be sure to visit the lake in the middle of the island by La Gloria that has walkway. Google how to get to Calle 22 or Calle 7 and you’ll be able to spot the walkway around the perimeter of the lake. From here the kids can look for fish or tadpoles amongst the mangroves and will be able to spot quite a number of birds in the water, above the water and in the bush. Sadly there is a lot of rubbish amongst the mangroves. Although the street cleaners come every morning to clean the pavements and roads, no-one cleans the lake or mangrove area.
Another walk which you can do anytime of day because of how well shaded it is, is the Hacienda Mundaca. The place itself is quite run down but it is free entry and worth the walk if you would like to spot a lot of iguanas. Make sure you take bug spray because there are a lot of mosquitos here.
There are also other activities that you can explore on the island or nearby. Unfortunately we were not visiting during whale season but apparently if you time it right you can swim amongst some whales.
Another tourist attraction is the turtle park. Again we were not there at the right time to watch them hatch and head into the ocean. But I’ve heard they have a great breeding program for them.
There is Dolphin Discovery park where you can swim with dolphins and some people ride them. We prefer to see dolphins in the wild so we didn’t visit this park.
There is also the shark encounter which you can’t miss if you take the snorkelling tour but we questioned how ethical it is to have this shark penned like this.
I personally think these are tourist traps but if you don’t have the opportunity to see dolphins in the wild or to see turtles and sharks in better facilities then it’s a good opportunity to expose your kids to these beautiful creatures.