Driving into Cancun I can’t believe my eyes – the city is absolutely huge with American brand names jumping out at me from every direction. This is by far the least Mexican place I have been to in Mexico. Driving out to ‘Zona Hotels’ is an experience I won’t soon forget. In every possible way I feel like I am on the coast of Florida or somewhere similar – tourists swarm in every direction from enormous hotels into slightly smaller restaurants, all gleaming with flashy neon signs. I stop quickly for a dip on a perfect white sand beach.
My friend Kate was looking for some exciting travel during her time off work, so we made plans about a month back for her to travel with me for the next three weeks or so. I pick her up at the extremely busy airport in Cancun with no problems and after the sightseeing loop we make for the ferry to Isla Mujeres. We are the last car on with about 30 seconds and 30 centimeters to spare. A note to anyone heading out to Isla Mujeres – this ‘locals’ ferry is about 5 km south of Cancun and costs about $1.80 USD per person. The tourist ferries from the middle of town cost between of $10 and $15 USD.
Kate is much more organized than me and booked ahead for accommodation, thinking it would be crazy-busy around this New Years time and she was spot on. We find the ‘Poc-Na’ hostel without much delay and I’m really surprised by the sheer number of tourists, all speaking heavily accented English. The Poc-Na hostel is great, with a restaurant and bar, huge sandy camping area and beachfront volleyball court.
The island itself is really cool, full of restaurants, shops and street markets selling all manner of tacky tourist stuff and ‘local’ arts & crafts. We spend a day driving around the whole island, which turns out to be a lot smaller than I had thought. It’s possible to rent golf buggies and mopeds here, so suicidal tourists zip about in all directions. We take the roof down on the Jeep and a few people comment when I park next to a row of golf buggies. Mine is clearly the best
The small tortoise refuge allows for some great photos and Kate falls in love with the little guys.
The next day we head out to a small reef just off the island for some snorkeling. I’ve been before on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and it is hilarious to compare the safety standards – actually there is nothing to compare as they are completely non-existent here. After paddling around for a while I’m impressed by a really close-up view of a spinning boat propeller. Apparently the guy wanted to talk to his friends, so drove right through the middle of the snorkeling tourists.
There are tons of brightly colored fish in every direction and we also see a small amount of coral, some barracudas and sting rays. Kate’s underwater camera is really great, but it hasn’t done a good job of capturing the colors – it was a lot clearer than the photos look.
New Years Eve with thousands of locals is really really huge, and again I’m amused by the ability for anyone to buy fireworks of literally any size. Quite a few sounded like mortar rounds and were being set off by teenagers throwing small ones at each other.
The sun shines hot every day and the crystal clear water is just the right temperature. We enjoy eating at all the restaurants and wandering around the stores and street markets in search of bargains.
Isla Mujeres is a really beautiful little place.