The origin of the name Isla Mujeres is debated- some theories assert that the name comes from the statues of the medicine and childbirth goddess, Ixchel, found at a Mayan temple on the south of the island. Others say that the name comes from the fact that the Spanish explorers left their womenfolk on the island before heading into the Yucatán.
No matter the nomenclature, the island is truly beautiful. Sitting offshore, it has maintained its incredibly chill vibe despite the proximity of frenetic Cancún. It’s a decidedly Caribbean place, where the pace is determined by the sea and sand.
First, Playa Norte-
… it’s a gem of a beach. Just off the main town, it is very well appointed with bars and bathrooms nearby. For 150 pesos (13 dollars or so) you can rent a pair of lounge chairs and umbrella at the edge of the water for the entire day. You’d think there’d be a crowd here, but the place was wide open- at times I was the only one swimming.
The water is impossibly clear and blue, and very swimmable, despite a strong side current. Towards evening a school of thousands of tropical fish appeared, racing along at crazy speed around my legs.
It feels as though one could spend an eternity here.
As evening begins to fall and the heat becomes bearable again, people start lazily coming off the beach and into the town. In the narrow streets, small restaurants begin opening their doors while street vendors, selling everything from jewelry to plastic toys, try to snag would-be shoppers. Bicycles and golf carts (some packed to the brim) abound on the narrow, colorful streets filled with lazy markets and passers-by.
Outside the stores on the corner, people congregate for evening chats. There’s a certain endearing eccentricity to this place- at one point a beat-up old humvee rolled up, coughing diesel, driven by a huge shirtless guy with scraggly long hair. He stopped to talk a while and then moved on. Meanwhile, just out of view, local teenagers with a laptop were trying to tap into a rogue wireless signal…
It was a really nice ride back to the mainland-
The scene felt like one giant sigh that comes after a day at the beach- huge extended families covering 3 generations posed for pictures, while couples stared up and watched the stars begin to appear. The ship’s lights illuminating the bright blue water around us. At some point between Isla Mujeres and Cancún -the lights of both twinkling far in opposite distances- in the middle of the dark bay, a salty breeze kicked up. Above all the festivities and the blaring Mexican pop music and satiated joy, you could just make out the eternal serenity of a calm sea under moonlight.