I came to Isla Mujeres last November by my self to go diving. I really liked the place so much that Karen and I decided to vacation here. The reason that we came to Isla was to dive and snorkel with the whale sharks.
We used frequent fliers to get to Isla, unfortunately we had a long lay over time in Houston both there and back. We thought we would out smart Northwest but checking our luggage only to Houston, then getting our luggage and going standby on our Continental (you cannot go standby is you do not have your luggage). They outsmarted us, they checked our luggage through anyway. It was an ordeal but we did meet some nice people and we did get an earlier flight, but our luggage did not make it. Fortunately Continental did deliver it to our hotel on Isla Mujeres.
The shuttle ride from the airport to Isla Mujeres was good. I think it was about $25 for both of us compared to $60 if we would have taken a taxi. There were two other couples in the shuttle with us, neither of them very talkative, but that was OK the taxi driver made up for them. He gave us a tour of Cancur including a stop at a beach where he made everyone get out of the van and look at a boat that had run aground on a coral reef in the harbor. He also told us a story about a girl that he dated when he lived in Toronto that turned out to be a lesbian.
Eventually we made it to Puerto Jaurez and the ferry.It was a nice ferry ride, it was hot out so we sat on the upper deck and once we were moving the breeze felt good. The ferries are deceptively fast, when you see the ferry approaching you can see spray and waves breaking around the floats, The boat looks like it is flying across the water but when you are on the ferry it feels like it is hardly moving. When I was in Isla Mujeres last November it poured on the ferry ride to Isla and also on the return trip so I did not get a chance to enjoy the ride from the top deck.
Once on Isla Mujeres we grabbed a cab to the hotel. Ixcel Condos were are less than two years old and are in pretty good condition. Workers were manually pouring the concrete road to the hotel entrance. It appeared to be very arduous work because it was sweltering hot and they were mixing the concrete in a wheel barrel. There were about six to eight men and they could do a thirteen by thirty foot section in a day.
The atrium of the hotel/condos was basic, none of the hotels on the island have the huge or fancy atrium's like the hotels in Cancun or Cozumel. We were on the fourth floor, and the elevator was tiny, it fit two people comfortable but three would have been a crowd, and it was not air-conditioned, so even the short ride to the fourth floor was almost unbearable.
Our room was acceptable, the person that I rented the room from was the owner and he said that he had decorated the room much nicer than most of the other units. maybe that got my expectations too high, but I would not say the room was not decorated particularly nice. They had hung a net on the wall over the beds and put some starfish in cutouts over the bed, that was about it. When I was booking the rooms I forgot to ask about the beds. I wasn't that concerned because usually if the room does not have a king bed it will have two queen beds. Not so with this room and I am a little mad that the owner did not mention that the beds were twin or full. The beds were on concrete pedestals so we could not even push the beds together. For the first time ever, at least on vacation, Karen and I slept in separate beds.
Sleep was somewhat of an issue, we slept fine the first night. The second night was a little rougher for me. The owner's daughter and her boyfriend arrived and they were in the condo next to ours, the condos were connected by a locked door and it was not very sound proof. I woke up about two in the morning to the neighbors coming home and they were loud. Somehow Karen slept through the noise. There was a bar on the beach right next to Ixchel and the following two nights they blasted music from 11:00 pm to 4:00 am, luckily we had a fan in out room and it drown out enough of the noise that we were able to sleep. We discovered that the mayor's son owned the bar so efforts to quiet down the bar had supposedly been blocked by the mayor.
The front desk help at the condo was spectacular. They were friendly, and bent over backwards to help us. When we lost our luggage in Turks and Caicos the front desk person was absolutely no help at all. When the front desk person at Ixchel found out that we did not have our luggage he called his contacts at the airport, and even called the Continental office in Mexico City to try to locate our luggage. All of the front desk people were very helpful.
After we checked into our room we grabbed beer and appetizers at Penguino's, it was a good way to start to decompress and slow down to island time. I don't remember where we ate the first night (I am writing this two and a half months later), but the food was cheap and also good. It was good the entire trip. The following morning we got up and discovered that our luggage had arrived late the previous night and they had not wanted to wake us. After unpacking, we grabbed breakfast in town. Again, not sure of the name of the restaurant but the breakfast was good.
Sunset's was our favorite place for breakfast, it is next to our hotel so it is a short walk, it is on the beach and the food is good, also cheap. It was so nice to walk across the beach to the restaurant, we could sit at a table on the beach or under the palaypa. We had breakfast here the rest of the vacation. We never had dinner at the same restaurant the entire vacation. We ate in the downtown area every evening accept for one. The food was always good and need I say it again, cheap. We ate at a Cuban restaurant one evening, The restaurant was recommended by the woman at the dive shop. Another evening we at at a restaurant where they cooked the food on a hibachi type grill on the sidewalk on the sidewalk. The best ambiance was at Casa O's, it is an open air restaurant located on the ocean facing west. We arrived to late, you need to get there before sunset for two reasons, first, watching the sunset from your table must be beautiful. Second, there are almost no electrical lights when the sun goes down so they give you a flashlight to read the menu. When the cab driver dropped us off we had to walk down a winding path that is bordered with heavy vegetation on either side. I was a little afraid that we were never going to find the restaurant.
Diving was so-so, the first dive we booked through a dive shop that was recommended by someone Karen worked with. It was not bad, but the equipment was not as nice as the shop that I dove with the previous November, my regulator leaked and Karen's BCD did not fit. The conditions were not good, a hurricane had gone by Isla several weeks before and the water was still stirred up. I had told Karen about all of the fish I had seen diving here before, they were still there but they were hiding in the coral. Also, the people that we dove with were not very friendly. I was really disgusted after the first dive and did not want to dive again. Karen kind of wanted to go out again, but she was fine with only diving once.
I changed my mind later and we did end up going out one more time. Unfortunately we made the mistake of using the dive shop on the beach by the hotel. This is not usually a good practice because they are usually dealing with a captive audience so they do not have to have good equipment or be a good dive shop and they were not. We decided to do an afternoon dive and even though the dive master agreed to take us out he whined that if we could have come earlier he would have just had to do a morning dive. We had to stop and get gas on the way out and you could tell he wanted to get it over with as soon as possible because he swam really fast during both dives. I have never seen a dive master that moved at more than a turtles pace when in the water. This guy was more like a dolphin. We still had a good dive, Karen and I swam at our own pace and he had to wait for us. I am glad we went out, we saw a lot of fish and both dives were very nice. One of the things that we had wanted to do was go on a whale shark trip, we talked to the woman at the dive shop and she was honest, she said that it was the end of the season and chances were not good that we would see a whale shark so we opted to pass and decided that we would come back next summer.
When I was here the previous November I never got a chance to spend much time on North Beach, it rained every afternoon after I got back from diving. We enjoyed the beach this trip. It is not as large as seven mile beach in T and C, but it is beautiful. The beach wraps around the north end of the island, hence the name. It is beautiful white sand and the really unique thing about the beach is you can wade out fifty years and it is still only chest deep, so you can just hang out in the water, and the water is as warm as bath water.
We spent a fair amount of time on the beach reading and hanging out. Unfortunately, the beach umbrellas that the hotel provided were a thin nylon material so they had a SPF of about 5, it looked like both Karen and I had burned but luckily neither of us pealed.
We rented a golf cart and spent a day cruising the island. We went to Garafon de Castillo, this is park that only cost about $5 to get in. The snorkeling is great. You can buy food to feed the fish and they know it, when they see you the make a bee line directly for you. I fed them several times and it was like a swarm of piranhas eating the food out of your hand. The park had a small restaurant and the food was good, we had fish tacos for $5.
We spent our last day in Cancun. This is a practical thing to do because we had a 6:30 am flight out the next morning. It is also kind of nice to get spoiled at the posh Cancun hotels. It was not as nice as the Fiesta Americana but it was still plush, I believe it was the Ritz Carlton. We checked in and grabbed lunch. We spent the rest of the day walking the beaches and hanging out at the pool, of course we had to go to bed early to get our flight out the next morning.