Isla Mujeres, Mexico: An Alien Albino Turtle, An Island Made Only of Plastic Bottles and A Look Around

When guide books refer to both San Pedro, Belize AND Isla Mujeres, Mexico, they often start with a phrase like “Once a sleepy fishing village…”.   But I don’t think that is all these two islands have in common.  GRANTED, I’ve lived in San Pedro for almost 7 years and I’ve been on Isla Mujeres for about 24 hours but I went all over the place today and got a decent feel for it.

This island has an excellent vibe, gorgeous beaches and some killer food and one MAJOR difference to San Pedro:  they get about 1 MILLION visitors a year.  ONE MILLION!

Here’s my look around.  I’m saving the eating for another post since it is SO good, it deserves to stand alone.

Here’s a map that I took inside a golf cart rental shop (similarity #1) to give you the general layout.


The island is less than 5 miles long and about 1/2 mile at it’s thickest.  Most of the population (listed at about 13,000 though it seems like SO MUCH more) lives on the left side of the map or the north part of the island called El Centro.  Here is a map to show the isla in relation to it’s HUGE sister, Cancun.

islamujeresferrymapI thought I’d see the sites as early in the day as possible.  It is September after all and the weather is beautiful but HOT.  I headed out in a taxi from El Centro to mid-island for breakfast ($30 pesos)…IMG_3327but I’ll tell you more about this place later.  Across the street from Mango’s is this amazing looking church up a hill.   Totally modern…and the view behind the wall of glass windows?  Amazing.  I was dying to know more but I couldn’t find anyone around…IMG_3333

Almost made for weddings…but taking pictures would be so tricky.IMG_3335

Then off to Tortugranja or the Turtle Farm (another $30 peso ride) farther south.  Most of the drive is along the eastern coast of Isla which is a mix of rocks and beach open to the Caribbean Sea.  There is a walk way all along the mini-cliff and it’s an absolutely gorgeous view.

The Turtle farm is open 9am to 5pm and the entrance looks a bit run down.  There is a lobster museum but it was closed.


The entrance is only $30 pesos.  How could you possibly go wrong?  And the place is just deserted because like San Pedro, it is the slow season on Isla too.  Just not quite so slow…

I walked into a large room with turtles, turtles and more turtles.



How cute!IMG_4010

And then YUCK!  What the heck?  White turtles?  This thing sent me right outside.  Like I said on my facebook page, I was shaken to the core.  I thought all sea turtles were cute?!


Thanks to a viewer of this picture for this image.  It kinda says what I was thinking PERFECTLY.

tee hee

Outside there are hundreds of marked nests fenced off for protection.  More baby turtles waiting to emerge…

Wait, WHAT?  Blanca means white, right?  Ick.

IMG_3346 IMG_3347I decided to cut out the back way and head north along the beach.  This is the side of the island (the west side) that faces Cancun and the beach is most like that of Ambergris Caye.

Sea grass in the water and quite a few docks.

IMG_3348A few hotels but mostly quiet.  I cut through to the road at this beach club called Zama.



And I was really just in time, I came upon this sign.  50 peso tour includes sampling of solar cake and tea?




I must have missed that episode of MTV “Extreme Cribs”.IMG_3356Unfortunately, it was closed.  Look at that rickety little boat rigged up to take you there.  This might mean a trip back to Isla Mujeres in the near future.

The next large hotel along the road was Hotel Villa Rolandi.  I’d seen this place online and it is EXPENSIVE (cheapest room for this weekend is about $250US)…so let’s look around.




Pretty.  And beautiful gardens.  A bit of that faux “Venice in the Caribbean” look but really nice.

IMG_3361 IMG_3363 IMG_3364

I generally like to feel like I am in Mexico when I am in Mexico but…Villa Rolandi, if you want to give me a free stay for a night, I KNOW I will change my mind.

I passed a few private homes, some for rent…

IMG_3358 IMG_3369

A short walk along the road and you run into tons of taxis and scooters almost out of nowhere.

Discovering dolphins…


I climbed the stairs, saw hundreds of people unloading from ferries that had come in front Cancun and I saw the prices and…


Time to hop back in a taxi and head to El Centro.  Where there is a plenty of tourist schlock – how do these Senor Frog’s stores stay in business?


But lots of just plain Mexican cuteness.  The town center is really a great place to walk around.

IMG_3374 IMG_3389

Oh yeah…and one KILLER beach – Playa Norte.


So far I am really REALLY liking it here.  And I have plenty more to tell you about…so far, it’s only about 10am.

  • Jill

    You made it to our stomping grounds..Looking forward to hearing how you feel it compares to Ambergris. One correction…El Centro is where most the tourists stay & where most shops & Restaurants are, but most locals live mid island in the Glorias..
    Have a great time!
    DId you meet Polo at Mango Cafe? He is a sweety..& eye candy too. 🙂

    • Belize Blog

      NO! I didn’t meet him…oh man. But I am SO busy stuffing myself here I can’t focus on men…GOD THE FOOD IS GOOD!

      • Jill

        Soooooo many great places to eat. have you been to one of the seafood restaurants on the beach north of the ferry dock? It’s really a must do…Sunset with your toes in the sand, watching fishermen come in, freshest seafood. Cant go wrong with any of them, but our favs are Picus & Valesques. follow your nose..:)
        wish I were there..I’m jealous

  • Steve Parks

    You sure do get around there early love the pics have fun

    • Belize Blog

      I was kinda sad to leave…I’m already considering coming back on the way home. Must count my pesos first…

  • Connie

    Question … how would you compare the language difference to AC? Did you ever wish you could speak Spanish, or did Spanglish suffice?

    • Belize Blog

      I hardly speak Spanish at all. English was totally fine everywhere I went. Most of the Mexicans speak pretty good english or at least understand it in the whole Cancun area…even down to Tulum. Chetumal is the only place where i find that doesn’t hold true!

  • charlotte

    I absolutely love Isla Mujeres. I even love the boat ride from Cancun. The beaches are just breath taking. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post.

  • Natalie Kilpatrick

    LOL. Need to make a Giorgio Tsoukalos meme that says “TURTLES!!” now.

  • Rebecca McHugh

    The church across from the Mango was built last year to replace the older Catholic Church in that same spot. Killer views! There’s another new one a little farther south in La Gloria and the old one on the square in El Centro. And yes, the food on Isla is amazing!

    • Belize Blog

      Wow. So that is just a church? I mean…not specially/privately funded for some special use? Amazing.