Isla Mujeres two-day boat trip, here’s what happened!

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I stayed on a boat for two days exploring Isla Mujeres: and here’s what happened! Adventure mode: ON!

Tips, recommendations on where to go, a few funny anecdotes, and a recount of my experience in Isla Mujeres (without touching much land for a whole weekend). 

In the midst of seclusion blues, my husband and I had a brilliant idea. We live in Merida, Yucatan, and we’re lucky enough to have access to a beach house owned by my in-laws in Progreso — which is where we spent the first few months of quarantine. As pretty as Progreso is, however, being on the same stretch of beach and coping with the strict “Ley Seca” or dry law, got old very fast. 

Isla Mujeres boat trip

So, the lightbulb went off in our heads, let’s go to Cancun! — which is about 3 hours away, where the dry law isn’t a thing. Now, we were very conscious about COVID, and knew that we needed to find a way to yes, go, live out a wonderful weekend, but still be safe. So I tapped my friend Flami, whose boyfriend Roma (Orlanda’s brother) lives in Cancun — could we stay with them for the weekend? Under the premise that we would cook our meals at home and enjoy the beautiful white sand and turquoise waters socially distant from other beachgoers. Roma proposed a better idea. Why cramp ourselves in his apartment when instead we could take a mini-vacation on the boat?

And here’s my first tip, if you’re planning to take a boat trip to Isla Mujeres, make sure to go in a luxurious yacht with a Cancunian — guaranteed 100% top-notch experience. All kidding aside, I had never enjoyed the beaches as much as I did on Roma’s boat. We decided on Isla Mujeres because the waters are incredible and the boat scene is just so much fun! Side note: this plan very much appealed to my husband, who is as nautical as they come. I’m somewhat neutral. The beach is my absolute favorite place in the world, I grew up in it. But, my beach style is different than his. I set up camp, bring a snack, and a “contigo” mug so your drink stays cool in the sun. My husband is a boat beachgoer! His style, you could say, is fancier: hop on the boat, navigate until they find a good stretch of water, and dive in!

Roma’s plan turned out to be one of my favorite beach experiences in the 26 years of life that have led me to this point! Going to Isla Mujeres on a boat plan is different than just taking the ferry and staying coastal. You get to navigate to amazing places like El Garrafon where we went snorkeling and it doesn’t hurt if you’ve got a couple of wave runners to explore the more shallow areas as the boat anchors in deeper waters.

That’s precisely what we did. We spent our nights anchored in Sac Bajo, which is the tranquil area of Isla, no big waves, perfect for chilling, vibing, jumping in and out of the ocean, and getting your drink on. I actually jumped off the second floor of the boat into the ocean! It wasn’t even that high, but definitely looks like it from where I was standing. It was exhilarating! 

This is where most boats doing the same thing usually anchor. It’s boat party central and the energy is electric. Although we did have to give a wave runner lift to this dude who lost track of the current and was really struggling to get back to his friends a few feet away. When you’re swimming and chilling in the ocean you have to be super aware of how strong the current is, a few ropes tied to the boat, coupled with any flotation device will help you stay close. I’m very partial to the floating “diapers” they’re basically like a little underwater chair you put on and then just grab on to the rope. 

In the Sac Bajo shore, there’s a multitude of dining options which eventually we relented and went to explore (our lack of food planning had us eating olives and tuna for a good part of day 2 so COVID be damned, we had to eat.) We took the wave runners out to the coast. I was surprised to see they’re taking lots of sanitary precautions, even the tiny little beach restaurants. Roma told us that people in touristic destinations take seriously the fact of making their visitors and clients safe. This is where the locally famous Marbella restaurant/beach club is. We didn’t eat there, since Roma and Flami are regulars and know the truth. It’s more about seeing and being seen for Cancunians, but the food is alright and extremely overpriced. Roma’s advice? Eat some delicious fried fish for half the price at one of the eateries next door and then pop over to Marbella for drinks, so you can enjoy the vibe, which is really nice.

Fried fish from La Casa de Tikinxic in Playa Lancheros

We ended up at La Casa del Tikinxic, best known as their name states for their Tikin Xic, a regional preparation of fish that includes marinating the whole fish with achiote and other spices and then wrapping it in a banana leaf to be cooked underneath the ground in an earth oven. You should definitely try it, but since I already had Tikinxic before and I’m not a fan of the achiote flavor, I went for the fried fish instead. We all did. And wow was it a stellar choice. We each got our own fish, and ate it in its entirety!

We also took a trip down to Punta Norte, another area famous for boat parties. Here’s where you get the real party vibes, with yachts, speed boats, catamarans, sailboats, and any other type of seafaring vehicle anchored close to each other, blasting music, and being merry. Lots of restaurants on the shore, some of which (depending on the size of your boat) you can dock in — which is pretty cool and gives off major Miami vibes. The Punta Norte party was my favorite. It is also the new forever home of my husband’s sunglasses, which he lost as he dove in with them on. If you’re ever scuba diving and see a pair of Costco brand Kirkland men’s sunglasses in Cancun, remember us. 

On the day we went back home, we set an early sail to Contoy, a protected reserve unlike any other beach I have seen. After about a 2 hour ride from Sac Bajo, we arrived at a tiny virgin island, completely untouched, which houses all types of marine life. You need special permission to go here and can only access it with approved boats. We didn’t get the special permission (shame on us) to be fair, we weren’t sure of how and if we actually needed it. It was confirmed when after taking a few pictures on the gorgeous waters we were approached by a groundskeeper on his boat informing us we couldn’t be there. I was happy to see how seriously they take the island’s protection and vowed to return with the necessary approvals as soon as I’m able.

Isla Contoy, Mexico, bird eye view

For those of you who want to do it right, and trust me you definitely should, you need to get a permit from the town hall in Isla Mujeres. You set sail on one of the approved boats at 9 am sharp from Isla Mujeres and return around 5 pm. Only 200 visitors are allowed per day, so plan in advance. The trip is about 1 hour and a half each way.

And that’s that, after the Contoy fail, which I mean it wasn’t a complete fail because I got a killer Instagram picture… our trip came to an end. I am now a boat convert, especially on the beaches of Isla Mujeres, it’s so worth it and different from just going there. Like I said to my husband as we sped through the waters on the waverunner, there might be other beaches just as beautiful, but there are definitely none in the world that are more so!

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