Some things about Isla are definitely a little weird. For example we took to calling it ‘gringo go-cart island.’ But it is an unquestionably beautiful place. Seriously magical with Listerine-hued water, soft fluffy white sand, out of this world coconut french toast*** and even the occasional Mermaid mansion!
***I would go so far as to say that if you go to Isla Mujeres without trying the french toast from Mango Cafe you are doing yourself a grave disservice. It was not anything like traditional french toast and it was as good as everyone says it is – and then some!
We rented an apartment through Airbnb** and it reaffirmed what we love about renting apartments in new places. The little neighborhood of Colonoia La Gloria was just a short motorbike ride away from the main tourist drag, but felt like worlds apart. It was amazing to see how quickly it changed from feeling like we were in an adult Disneyland to feeling like we were back in Mexico. We whizzed by people calling out to one another in Spanish while sitting on the backs of idling motorbikes and ordering drinks to-go from the impromptu Michelada stands set up on the side of the street and dodged around children playing in front of the watchful eyes of parents or neighbors fanning themselves on their front stoops.
** Sign up for Airbnb using this link and we both get $20 in Airbnb bucks!
All in all we loved our week in Isla Mujeres and spent most of it just driving around the island on the motorbike we rented, swimming in the crystal clear waters, and walking along the beautiful coastline wildlife-spotting.
Diving Isla Mujeres
Though we do love the lazy island life, the absolute highlight of our trip there was the day we spent scuba diving MUSA, El Museo subaquàtico de Arte. This underwater art museum was a collaboration between the head of Mexico’s Environment and Natural Resources office and a British sculptor.
It combines environmental goals of decreasing the impact that climate change and tourism has brought to the reefs surrounding the Island with some incredible sculptures. Many of the sculptures are purposely pitted with holes, or other nooks and crannies to encourage wildlife and coral to make their homes there.
The initiative seems to have worked and besides the sculptures there are tons of fish, eels, rays, turtles, lobster, coral and other wildlife I am sure I left out.
Some of the sculptures also have secret surprises, like the little house that will spew bubbles from it’s chimney if you feed it oxygen with your regulator.
Do You Want To Do it Too?
Nearly all the dive shops offer the same trip for the same price; a two dive trip to MUSA and one of the nearby reefs. We visited MUSA and Manchones reef for about $85 per diver, including all entrance fees and equipment. The shop we went with was fine, and we found them by e-mailing a few to see who had availability on the day we were looking to go.
Though MUSA is also offered as a snorkeling tour, I don’t think that it would have been as good of an experience. One person on our boat did snorkel the museum and said that she didn’t see anything except for some blurry gray statues in the distance. Nothing can compare to getting up close to the abundant wildlife and art of this magnificent exhibit.
If you are not a certified diver, many shops also offer “assisted dives” to the site. There was someone on our boat doing an assisted first dive to the museum and I could only imagine what an experience that would be for your first time underwater! I had to hold back from warning him that it was going to be all downhill from there!
Assisted dives are sometimes called resort dives or tagalong dives, and since the max depth of these dives are about 30 feet and the visibility is so good this would really be an easy way to try it out if you have ever been tempted. Even if you are a certified diver, it is never a bad a idea to hold hands and look both ways while crossing the sea! #DadJoke