After livin’ la vida loca in the crazy city of Cancun, the thought of rocking to sleep in a hammock and sipping cervesas on a pristine beach sounds like the perfect way to spend Christmas.
I missed the final boat from Cancun’s hotel strip to the island, but I was told I could take a twenty-minute taxi ride to the Port of Cancun and catch a ferry from there.
Thirty minutes into the ferry ride I could see the Isla Mujeres (literally, “Island of Women”) ahead. Tears welled up in my eyes as I envisioned an island where caring, loving women mend and soothe wounds—be they physical or emotional. Of course, this was just a fantasy, but one that comforted me.
The colorful, busy dock was far more inviting than I expected. It bustled with the chatter of women selling seashell necklaces and men cooking carne asada and shrimp. I inhaled the deep, rich air laced with sea salt and salsa. This is a place lost in time—thank God! The locals greet you with warm smiles and children are free to run the streets giggling, sunshine beaming from their faces.
Most of the activities in the town are within walking distance. The island is seven miles long and less than a mile wide. You can easily walk from the dock to the other side of the island in twenty minutes. The majority of the thirty-five hotels and condos are on the north side, which the locals call Playa Norte. There, you’ll find a bevy of yoga studios, friendly beaches, and plenty of satisfying restaurants.
Rent a scooter and tour the island. Visit the water park Playa Garrafón for a day of tourista activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, and guided tours. Spend some time walking the edges of the crystal waters and sandy beaches—one foot in, one foot out. Relax in a rented beach chair, which you pay for by ordering beachside cocktails from the chair owners. In the center of town is the most colorful cemetery I’ve ever visited. As in life, the locals celebrate death with color, cheer, and reverence. A visit to this charming, yet sacred space is a must.
I spent Christmas Eve slowly walking the vibrant streets of downtown, eating ice cream and window-shopping. That evening I found a place at the bar of an open-air restaurant and swayed to the rhythms of a live band while sipping a margarita. Once the band ended, the mariachis on the street started up with their trumpets and horns, singing old Mexican folk songs. During this wonderful time, children in their Christmas best skipped hand-in-hand on their way to midnight mass. Their chatting families followed them, arm-in-arm, in their finest threads.
After dinner, I followed the locals to church. There, in the center of town, the nativity scene lit the plaza and the church patrons spilled out from the full mass onto the streets. A small carnival bustled in a corner of the square. A merry-go-round with bright tigers and horses took children on magical rides in circles before they headed off to bed.
Magic: the day, the evening, the island, the people. Isla Mujeres is a fantastic place to get away and celebrate life. It’s an easy place to visit, it’s relatively safe, the prices are reasonable, and the food is spectacular. I was thoroughly satisfied with my stay here; it gave me the opportunity to relax and enjoy life at a slow siesta pace.
Photo courtesy of Tango Diva