Short History Lesson of Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres has a richly layered history dating back more than a thousand years. At one time, it was a favorite haunt of pirates and marauding buccaneers. Before that, it was inhabited by the Maya, who considered the island a sanctuary for the moon goddess Ixchel. Salt was also harvested from the briny lagoons on the island and traded among the Maya.

According to some accounts, in 1517 the Spanish explorer Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba sailed from Cuba to the Yucatan Peninsula in search of slaves for the Cuban mines. Upon coming across the island, legend has it that the crew found only a priestess and a few other women inhabiting the island, with numerous statues of the goddess Ixchel scattered about. Thus the island was named “Isle of Women”.

Over the last two centuries, Isla Mujeres was gradually populated by fishermen and Maya refugees from the Caste War. It started to become a tourist mecca in the 1950s, with steady progress made in the 1970s as the mainland city of Cancun developed. The Mexican Naval Base on the island dates from the end of World War II.

Isla Mujeres has retained its charm and continues to be a haven for sun seekers looking for tranquility. The population still includes a lot of indigenous Maya people and the local economy revolves around tourism and fishing.

Isla Mujeres Visitor Information

Sun-drenched, quaint and just the right size, Isla is the perfect day trip. If you’re staying in Playa del Carmen, you have more than enough time to visit the island, have a great time all day long and return by nightfall. If you’re staying in Cancun, the ferry is a short taxi drive away.

Since the town itself is not large, you can leisurely walk the breadth of it in a couple hours. Like the island of Holbox, the locals get around on golf-carts, scooters, and small bore motorcycles. You’ll see only a few cars and trucks.

When you get off the ferry, you are right downtown, on Avenue Rueda Medina. Down the road heading south (right) is the military zone [you must stay on the road or sidewalk]. To the north (left), are restaurants, shops and the best beaches [this is the tourist zone].

The most popular streets [calles] run east-west, parallel with the shoreline. However, the intersecting streets also contain shops and restaurants. The main “tourist” street [Miguel Hidalgo Ave.] is a cobblestone pedestrian walkway filled with interesting boutique hotels and restaurants. It’s reminiscent of a charming, small-scale version of Playa del Carmen’s 5th Avenue.

Isla Mujeres Climate

Average air temperature: 80° F [27° C]

July/Aug. – High 80’s to low 90’s F [32° C]

December/January – Mid 70’s F [24° C]

Winter Months: Cold fronts may create windy, cloudy and cooler weather. Afternoon thunderstorms are common, usually lasting for an hour.

Water temperatures range from 77°-82° F [25° -28° C] throughout the year.