Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1737: Six Days and Nights on Isla Mujeres
By Jeff H from NH, Fall 2009
Trip Description: Learning to truly relax for six days in the sun: 28 November to 4 December, 2009
Destinations: Countries - North America; Regions/Cities - Mexico
Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Beach; Foodie Trip; Shopping; Independent Travel; 2 People
Page 1 of 1: Isla Mujeres Mexico
It doesn't take long to relax on this little paradise off of Cancun and the whole scene changed my attitude quickly. This is really, really, really slow travel.
Isla Mujeres, Mexico Trip Report
It was chilly in NH and it was our 40th wedding anniversary and Lesfaye had recommended Isla, so nothing was gonna spoil this trip! ...and nothing did. It was a challenge right from the get go, though, since we had a 6:40am flight from Manchester to Newark and a 9:30am flight from there to Cancun, then a van ride to Puerto Juarez via the hotel stretch in Cancun, a ferry ride over to Isla Mujeres and finally a taxi to our hotel. As somewhat of a veteran, I was not hopeful, but all went well.
Of course, I reserved the right to gloat about the reservation mix up at the front desk upon check in, but never got the chance! My wife (the real mediator of the two of us) worked out a solution with the desk manager within five minutes – and a great solution, too. Instead of a room in the hotel proper and no meals included, we got a cabana down on the water and breakfast every day thrown in, all at no extra charge. I liked this island, already and of course ... needless to say, I love my wife!
Situated 30 minutes by high speed catamaran off the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Isla Mujeres is sort of like a “country” unto itself. No mobs of people, no fast talking vendors, little fast paced traffic and very little to distract you from the ocean and the dining (there are scores of restaurants in Isla Town, the little town on the north end of the island, which is the nexus of most all activity on the island). And our hotel, the Avalon Reef, was on an islet about 150 yards off of Isla and only a 1/2 mile or so from town. The islet is maybe 100 yards wide by about 250 yards long and big enough for a hotel, the cabanas and the accoutrement and nothing else. One side is the Caribbean Sea, the other is the cove between Isla Mujeres and the hotel.
The Avalon Reef is accessible by a 150 yard long boardwalk (railroad ties, actually) from the main island and across which taxis, scooters, golf carts and pedestrians have to travel from town on the main island to the hotel. Walking out of town to head back to the hotel after lunch or at night after dinner, the breeze at the beginning of the boardwalk just refreshed us as we emerged from town and began our walk across. This is the ocean (windward) side of Isla and the breeze is pretty constant, unlike the streets of the town of Hidalgo proper, where it can be pretty hot.
Our cabana was a multi-level one bedroom, with a kitchenette and patio. It sat right on the coral facing the Caribbean (East). We left the slider open at night so the sound of the rough wave action on the coral reef lulled us to sleep every night.
Never could figure out the tides - seemed like rough wave action all week no matter what time of day or night. Facing east meant the breeze was constant and the water was rough, but less than 100 yards away, on the leeward side of the hotel, was a small white sand beach, permanent thatched top umbrella/gazebos and curb service from the hotel indoor/outdoor bar next door.
We enjoyed both sides of our tiny oasis island and both ends of Isla Mujeres, which is pretty small in its own right – only 5 miles long or so and perhaps 1000 feet wide. We snorkeled for a while in the King's Bath at the hotel - it's a natural "crater" in the coral, maybe 30 feet in diameter, with five or six feet of water and lots of pretty fish to chase around and an occasional wave crashing in to keep things interesting. The Avalon Reef is starting to show some wear and tear around the edges. The fit and finish kind of things I expect at a well advertised 3 or 4 star place just wasn't there. Nothing major, certainly not enough to spoil any aspect of our stay, but a few little things that caught my attention and took some getting used to, for example:
Renting a golf cart or scooter is pretty standard on Isla, if you want to just discover things on your own. And we did rent a golf cart for 24 hours and drove the length of the island twice just to see what it had to offer. There are any number of snorkeling, scuba, fishing and general boat tour operators scattered up and down the island, but we figured we'd check it out on our own. You can swim with the nurse sharks, or the turtles or the dolphins and rather then doing all three, we opted for the dolphins, when we discovered where they were during our sojourn. We drove back the very next morning and it was a hoot - 10 people, a trainer and two dolphins for about one hour or so. If you haven't done this, do it! Even an old curmudgeon like me enjoyed being pushed full speed ahead while standing up and out of the water to my waist ... and they are cute, even up close, although somewhat larger than I expected, very muscular to touch, but smooth as patent leather. Our days were hardly hectic - slow travel without the travel, almost - filled with:
We didn't get to Olivia restaurant, which by all accounts is a must, but we did alright for a couple of rookies just wandering around. The list of eateries, all of which have a choice of indoor or al fresco dining, includes:
We took in the sunset from a couple of locations and they are gorgeous. We wandered along the Playa Norte beach area (most day trippers from Cancun end up here). We golf-carted around the island and to the southern end and saw wonderful homes and vacation villas as well as cramped hardscrabble neighborhoods with people living on the edge economically. We stopped briefly at the southeastern tip (the farthest east that Mexico extends), to see a Mayan artifact/ruin of some kind, but never found it, and we each read two and half paperbacks while on the beach, or vegging on the patio or in the room just catching our breath, due to the breakneck pace we we keeping ... Paradise might be an overstatement, but very slow, very "sweet" as Lesfaye told me it would be, and just plain easy livin' for a week. Try it ... you'll like it!
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