When I was in Cancun recently, I took a fun excursion aboard a catamaran to Isla Mujeres, the eastern most island in the Mexican Caribbean.
The 4.3 mile long, half-mile wide island, has a bit of a Key West vibe combined with a day-tripper island such as Put-In-Bay, Ohio or Mackinac Island, Michigan in that the daytime population is more than twice the number of residents living on the island.
The first adventure of the day was snorkeling over an artificial reef and an underwater museum. The seas were rough this day, so the group was tossed around a bit.
Normally the seas in this area are fairly calm. Despite the waters being churned up, the visibility was good. I could see schools of fish swimming by and the sandy bottom and grassy areas below.
With snorkeling done and back onboard, the staff made sure everyone had something to drink, offering a beer, a tequila sunrise, a soft drink, or water. I grabbed a tequila sunrise. I deserved it after surviving the waves.
Next stop was Isla Mujeres. The main town on the island has a busy beachside road lined with many shops, bars, and restaurants, some appeared to be tourist-traps. Aggressive shopkeepers means lively browsing for the unintimidated. The narrow side streets connected to the main road are lined with stores selling jewelry, liquor, cigars, leather goods, souvenirs, clothing, artwork and Mexican handicrafts.
My second adventure of the day, was on a golf cart. The cost was $35.00 for up to four people.
I am certain that all the tourists driving crazily around the island on hundreds of golf carts has residents being extra careful before stepping onto streets. There is a lot to see on this small island. The streets narrowly wind through small commercial areas past a brewery – the only local beer brewed on the island, small open-air cantinas, tiny shops, and colorfully painted churches perched on the edge of seaside cliffs.
Our little group of four persons discovered the municipal cemetery which is built on solid rock. The hillside graves sit in concrete vaults on top of the rock, are painted, and adorned in religious symbols.
With spectacular views of the bright blue ocean all along the way, we came upon the fortress that was once the hideout of El Chapo Guzman, the infamous drug lord. The compound is now government maintained but not open to visitors. I am intrigued by what may be inside the rusty-colored walls, and in the houses, and watch towers.
The south side of the island has multi-million dollar homes overlooking the sea with names such as Casa Caracol (snail house), Casa Blanca (white house), Casa Tortuga (turtle house), Casa Azul (blue house), and Casa Tranquilo (quiet house), among them. I would love to know what famous persons own the houses.
Along the way, there is somewhat of a rural feeling on this side of the land with roadside country-style restaurants and few vehicles except for the golf carts. We reached the south point, Punta Sur, with Cuba in the distance, not that we could see Cuba, although the local residents say they can see the lights of Cuba at night. The spot is marked with a large statue of the Mayan Goddess of Fertility, Ixchel, with a snake curled on top of her head and a fish she holds in her hands. At the furthest tip of the point, sits an archaeological site where the Mayans worshipped as the place the sun rises first over their lands, which ultimately became Mexico.
After seeing these couple of sites, we headed back to the main town, returned the golf cart, and hopped aboard the catamaran which sailed to a beach club for lunch.
By this time, we had really worked up our appetites. The food was plentiful and good with standard Mexican fare and hearty American dishes as well. We had a beer and some water and put our feet in the powdery sand. Time did not permit use of the kayaks, but the beach club was located in a little cove with calm, clear water, ideal for paddling around.
After the late lunch, jumped onboard the catamaran and headed back to Cancun. More beer, tequila, rum, water and soft drinks. The music was playing and the sun was warm. A beautiful end to my adventure.