Wondering how to organize your Isla Mujeres day trip from Cancun?
There is a lot of information on the internet, but it’s hard to weigh the pros and cons of each option and make choices.
Do you have to go on a tour? Is it complicated to go by yourself? Is it worth it?
I had the opportunity to try 3 Isla Mujeres day trips from Cancun and stayed 1 week on the island. You can trust me at 99% (nobody is perfect :D).
👉 Spoiler alert: my favorite experiences are the catamaran tours (private or shared).
This guide will help you decide among my favorite day trips on Isla Mujeres and have plenty of stories to tell your friends.
And I also give you a lot of advice to visit Isla Mujeres by yourself.
Read on to start planning your adventure.
👉 Don’t hesitate to read our Cancun guide to plan your vacation and not make any more mistakes. You will find all our articles about this destination.
Plan your trip around Cancun
In 2 months, I’ve spent more than 10,000 USD to test the best activities in the Riviera Maya. Stay with me to quickly decide which experiences you should do and learn how to make the most of your trip.
Compare the best Isla Mujeres day trips from Cancun (Agencies)
Want to organize an excursion to Isla Mujeres with an agency? This section will provide a clear and short explanation to compare the best tours.
1# Private isla mujeres catamaran tour
It will be the best option if you can afford it. This agency owns several catamarans, and the different crews know how to set the mood. It’s up to you to decide if you want to go snorkeling (stop at Manchones reef & Musa), make a stop on Playa Norte, or just stay on the boat and enjoy the open bar.
✋ It’s ideal for large groups. The best option overall.
- Max Pers: Up to 25 pers.
- Price: 570 to 1,200 $ + 15$/pers dock fee
- Starting time: In the morning.
- Pick up: Not included. Meet them at Marina Las Perlas.
- Duration: 4 to 7 hours
- What’s included: Open Bar, Snorkeling equipment, boat & crew.
- Difficulty: 1/5
2# Shared isla mujeres catamaran tour (I tested it)
It’s the most famous option. After a well-organized pickup, you will be at sea by 9 am. On the way, there are 2 stops to snorkel (20 min, nothing crazy) and swim in the turquoise water. Afterward, you will have 2.5 hours free on Isla Mujeres. Don’t hesitate to leave the beach club chosen by the agency (it’s not great). Then, a quick trip back to Cancun. It’s open bar, but you won’t have time to drink many cocktails since you will be in the water or on the beach. During the ride, you will be a little cramped, and you won’t be able to stand up (safety measure). The food is correct.
✋ For people outside Cancun who want an affordable and easy Isla Mujeres day trip.
- Max Pers: 32 pers
- Price: 129$
- Starting time: 3 departures (8h30, 11h30, 2h30). Better to pick 8h30 or 2h30.
- Pick up: At your hotel
- Duration: 5.5 hours (activity only)
- What’s included: Open Bar, Snorkeling equipment, lunch, dock fee, transportation,
- Difficulty: 1/5
3# Isla Mujeres day trip + Contoy island (I tested it)
The highlight of this tour is Isla Contoy, 45 minutes from Cancun. It is a paradise island protected by the government (0 inhabitants and only 200 visitors/day are allowed). You’ll stay 3 hours in paradise before heading to Isla Mujeres, where you’ll have an hour to discover the island. On the way, you can also do 1 hour of snorkeling in the open sea with the guide. The spot is quite lovely, but the currents are pretty strong. Bring long sleeves as you can’t use repellent or sunscreen to protect the national park.
✋ Ideal to visit 2 beautiful islands.
- Max Pers: 12 pers/van; 50 pers/large boat with roof
- Price: 150$ +13$ fee/pers
- Starting time: 6-8 am
- Pick up: At your hotel
- Duration: 8 hours (activity only)
- What’s included: Beverage, beer, delicious lunch, transportation, snorkeling, guided tour
- Difficulty: 1.5/5
You can plan your Isla Mujeres day trip on your own
This section will help you visit Isla Mujeres without the help of an agency.
1# How to get to Isla Mujeres from Cancun
First, you need to reach the closest ferry terminal. You can take a taxi or jump on a local red bus, R1 or R2 (you won’t wait more than 5 min, and it costs less than 1$).
The ferries are in Puerto Juarez, Playa Tortuga and Playa Caracol. And there are 2 companies (Jetway and Ultramar).
There are hourly departures (check their websites), but you’ll have to go to Puerto Juarez if you want to start your day trip early (which I recommend). The round trip is about 23$, and it takes 30-min.
2# How to get around Isla mujeres
Ok. Now you’re on Isla Mujeres. Good job.
While the island is not that big, you won’t be able to visit it on foot.
You can take the public bus if you’re on a tight budget. There are several lines and buses are frequent (about 20 minutes).
The best option is to rent a scooter or a golf cart. You can pay by the hour for 8 hours (about 50$) or 24 hours. Our host recommended us the rental of Joaquin. You’ll need to bring your driving license (you need a motorcycle driver’s license for the scooter). Most of them open around 9 am.
Count 1h30 to go around Isla Mujeres without stopping.
3# Best things to do on Isla Mujeres
Now, let’s plan your day. You’ll arrive in the northern part of Isla Mujeres.
Playa Norte, the most famous beach
If you get to Playa Norte (North Beach) around 8 am, you will have a beautiful white sand beach to yourself. It’s ideal for walking barefoot, taking beautiful pictures, and swimming in the shallow turquoise water. Did you know that this beach was voted the 19th most beautiful beach in the world?
Later in the day, it is quickly chaos (too many people for my taste). If you decide to stay there, a friend recommended a friendly beach club with a good value for money. It is the Green daemon.
Pass by Q’Bravo for a tasty breakfast before renting your golf cart.
Diving and snorkeling
Since you only have one day to enjoy Isla Mujeres, I don’t recommend booking a snorkeling or diving tour (you can book them from Cancun). There are, however, two exciting spots that you can discover without a guide:
- Swim from the beach to piscina del Rey (behind the Mia Reef resort)
- Visit Garrafón de Castilla. It is a little outdated beach club (do not judge it on its facilities) located at the edge of a beautiful coral reef. It’s shallow.
In both cases, be careful with the waves and currents.
During my 1-week stay in Isla Mujeres, I went snorkeling with these guys.
More beach clubs and parks
The beach clubs of Playa Norte are not the best (too touristy). There are quieter options in the south. Go there in the morning.
- Kin Ha Parque de Los Sueños offers the best quality/price. You only need to spend 15 USD on food and drinks to enjoy the facilities (pools, kayak, seats, paddle) and the mind-blowing views.
- Garrafon Natural Reef Park is a big aquatic park with many activities. It’s great for families, but you won’t have time to include it in your day trip (except if you only want to do that). One thing sucks, though: they let tourists swim with dolphins. Don’t. Do. It.
Easy stops to include in your golf cart trip
After enjoying the ocean, go to the south of the island, to the mirador of Punta Sur. You’ll find various sculptures of the Mayan culture (including the famous island goddess, Ixchel). The views from the cliffs are magnificent, and there is a hidden passageway down to the seafront. It costs 2 USD to enter.
On the way back, take the west road (the ocean will be on your right). You will pass through the island’s center, where the locals live. You can visit a beautiful cemetery (colorful house-shaped graves), drink a refreshing artisanal beer, support a women’s business, or hug needy dogs.
And don’t forget to enjoy the view! You will find small hidden beaches, nice houses, and a lovely seaside promenade.
Once back in the north of the island
You should be back around 4 pm. Return your golf cart (you won’t need it anymore) and walk through town. It’s the most touristy area, with many restaurants, bars, and shops. The most lively street, Miguel Hidalgo, is pedestrian and starts here.
Look for the best street art (made by Sea Walls), then stop at Paradice-cream for a well-deserved treat.
When the sun sets, that’s the signal for you to find a nice spot to have a cocktail on the beach and end the day ideally.
Coco schedules live bands regularly, and you’ll have a nice view if you walk till the end of the propriety, right on the beach.
Note: You’ll have to return to Puerto Juarez if you decide to stay in Isla Mujeres for the sunset.
Isla Mujeres tours from Cancun: Pros & Cons
Should you book a tour to visit Isla Mujeres?
→ It’s an easy solution, especially if you’re staying in a hotel outside Cancun (Riviera Maya). Otherwise, you will need to arrange private transportation to the ferry.
→ In some cases, it’s affordable. Private vehicles can be costly. They pick you up at your hotel if you book the shared catamaran tour (between Playa del Carmen and Cancun). You also get complimentary cocktails and lunch!
→ You’ll have a great time on a catamaran. The turquoise water of the Caribbean Sea is beautiful between Cancun and Isla Mujeres. By ferry, you will not enjoy it (but you will have the right to the A/C, which is pretty cool!). Choose the private catamaran tour if the boat experience really interests you.
→ You can pair the day trip to Isla Mujeres with another adventure. For example, you can visit Contoy or swim with whale sharks. In both cases, you will have little time to enjoy Isla Mujeres. Basically, you will make a quick dip and then leave.
👉 My best tips to enjoy your whale shark tour from Cancun.
→ You won’t spend enough time on Isla Mujeres. The tour that allows you more time on the island is the shared catamaran tour. You will have 3 hours, enough time to rent a car and go around Isla Mujeres. You might feel rushed.
→ You will be on Isla Mujeres when everyone is there. Between the vendors and the hordes of tourists, it can be overwhelming.
→ In some cases, you’ll have to pay a 15 USD tax fee. It won’t happen if you take the ferry.
→ Lots of people in the group tours. During the shared catamaran tour, you are given a spot to sit, and you will not be able to move around on the boat.
Decide if you should visit Isla Mujeres with a tour or not
It’s time to set your expectations.
→ You’re outside Cancun and want to visit Isla Mujeres for the day: Take a tour to save time and money. Book the shared Catamaran tour to have enough free time or the private catamaran tour if you prefer swimming and drinking cocktails.
→ You’re in Cancun and travel on a tight budget: go by yourself.
→ You only want to relax on Playa Norte for a couple of hours: book a tour or go by yourself.
→ You don’t want to share a beautiful white sand beach with other tourists: wake up very early and go by yourself.
→ You’ve got very little time and want to do lots of activities: book a tour to Isla Contoy or go swimming with whale sharks (the world’s largest fish).
→ You love snorkeling: go by yourself or book a private catamaran tour. The other options won’t be great.
Tips to improve your Isla Mujeres excursion
This section will help you avoid mistakes made by rookie travelers. Don’t skip it — we’re all rookies at least once 🙂
When visiting Isla Mujeres
👉 I suggest you read our article if you have any concerns about the weather: best time to go to Cancun.
In general, it won’t rain for long hours (although it can happen). I advise you to check the weather forecast a few days before you plan your day trip to Isla Mujeres. If it doesn’t look like 80% rain for the whole day, you can go.
In high season, it is gonna be chaotic (way too many people) on the island. Your best option will be to arrive early on the ferry. Or stay on your private catamaran and watch people fighting for a lounge chair.
Don’t hope to party and meet people on your tour
The few tours that offer a boat + stop in Isla Mujeres have a bad reputation. The reason is simple. You can’t do everything at once.
The shared Catamaran tours in this article offer unlimited cocktails, but you will only have one hour max to order them. And you’ll have to sit.
The only option where you can get drunk is the private catamaran. But for the price, it is also worth it to enjoy the Mexican Caribbean.
Outside of Cancun, all the resorts are far apart. If you take a tour with transportation included, be prepared to spend long hours in the van. Generally, agencies try to group pickup routes by area. But it’s not uncommon to spend 4 hours in the van round trip if you’re coming from Playa del Carmen.
So the 5h30 catamaran tour can take you all day. In short, don’t plan any other activities in the afternoon, even if the excursion lasts only half a day.
What should you wear to Isla Mujeres: the packing list
In addition to your usual beach outfit, you should bring:
→ everything you can to protect yourself from the sun. Some tours prohibit sunscreen (to protect the environment), and there is almost no shade if you book one of the catamaran tours.
→ Snorkel gears if you plan to chase colorful fishes. The tours in this post lend you the snorkel gears for free.
→ A Speaker to listen to music while driving in your golf cart. Trust me; you’ll love it.
→ A power bank to charge your phone, especially if you keep your ferry ticket on it.
→ A waterproof bag to protect your stuff from the sea and the rain
→ A Go Pro to make your friends jealous.
Sites that have closed since the pandemic
2 great places are gone.
- Tortugranja was a famous turtle farm.
- Capitán Dulché Beach Club.
Bring Mexican pesos
You can pay in dollars. Actually, Mexicans love when you pay in dollars. They love it so much that they won’t give you a good exchange rate and will keep the change (as a tip).
You’ll save 15-20% of your budget if you make the extra effort to withdraw Mexican Pesos at the ATM. It’s worth it, no?
Better to withdraw your money in Cancun. There are few ATMs in Isla Mujeres, and they have a lousy reputation (fraud).
Don’t stick to the touristy areas
Yes, Punta Norte is one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico. But you won’t enjoy it when you have to share your beach towel with people you don’t know.
The Southern tip of Isla Mujeres is quiet and beautiful. There, you’ll be able to enjoy cheaper beach clubs and tasty restaurants.
If you’ve got 3+ hours free on Isla Mujeres, rent one of the golf carts and go on an adventure.
Where can you swim on Isla Mujeres?
The sea is calm in the north and west of the island. Playa Norte (north) is a public beach with shallow water over several meters. It is perfect for families.
There is no public beach on the west coast. You will find many private properties along Sac Bajo road. Further south, there are several beach clubs and restaurant options, with some small sandy beaches but mostly rocky. However, the color of the water is beautiful, and you can swim there without difficulty.
The island’s tip is beautiful, but it is the meeting point between the Mexican and Caribbean Seas. The currents are powerful. Do not swim there. It is the same for the east coast.
If you book a snorkeling tour, you will go to el Faro, the famous reef el Manchon, the MUSA underwater museum, and along Sac Bajo. I saw a lot of colorful fish (+2 turtles). However, you must use a life jacket, which is not practical for the coral reef.
How much do you need for your Isla Mujeres day trip
Let’s do the math for a couple coming to Isla Mujeres without an agency.
- Transportation from Cancun Hotel Zone (Taxi) to the ferry terminal (Puerto Juarez): 30$
- Ferry ride (2 pers): 46$
- Golf cart: 50$
- Beach club, food, beverage for the day: 80$
With 200 USD (2 pers), you can have a fabulous time on Isla Mujeres.
A tour (with pickup) costs about 130$, but you will still have expenses on Isla Mujeres (Golf cart, food). As you can see, it’s still a good deal if you’re outside of Cancun.
How to book your Isla Mujeres tour
I used Viator to book this experience. The interface is simple, and I could quickly communicate with the tour operator.
Also, you can cancel up to 24 hours before the activity for a full refund.
Q&A: Isla Mujeres day trips from Cancun
Travelers regularly contact us about Isla Mujeres. Here are our answers to their questions.
Is a day trip to Isla Mujeres worth it?
Yes, it is worth organizing a day trip to Isla Mujeres (even if I prefer the option of staying 2 nights). You will find a beautiful white sand beach, palm trees, and turquoise water. Some travelers may be disappointed because it is a very touristy place. If you are allergic to the crowd, I advise you to go by yourself early in the morning. Another positive point is that Playa Norte is very little affected by the seaweed problem from April to October.
Is it safe to travel alone to Isla Mujeres?
Yes, it's safe to travel alone to Isla Mujeres. The atmosphere is relaxing, and you can walk around the island safely. However, be careful with the speed bumps.
Is it complicated to visit Isla Mujeres?
Isla Mujeres is one of the easiest day trips to organize from Cancun. There are many ferry departures, almost everyone speaks English, and you can't get lost.
Bottom Line: Isla Mujeres day trips
Decide to venture to Isla Mujeres without a tour if you like to take your time and avoid the crowds. If you are short on time or want to enjoy the boat ride, I recommend booking a Catamaran tour (private or group). You will still have enough time to rent a car and drive around the island.