Before we went away it was raining serious cats and dogs in crappy London. I felt bad leaving you all there. Nawwwt. Muahahaha. Hellooooooo hot and sunny Mexico!!!
I should also explain that my boyfriend is with me on this trip. That’s right- this is not a solo trip. I repeat, this is not a drill, people do want to come on holiday with me (thank god). However I did all the booking so will take full credit for it.
We flew Aeromexico out of London to Mexico City. Paying an extra £60 for an exit row seat was totally worth it, we had some serious legroom ohhh yeahhh. Long old flight though, around 13 hours in total. Transfer in Mexico City was more straightforward than anticipated so before we know it, we were at Cancun airport!!
I pre-booked a car to pick us up from the airport and take us to the ferry port. Not my usual style but it worked out to be £7 each so why not. The pick up was straightforward and before we knew it we were well on our way to Puerto Juarez to get the ferry to Isla Mujeres. Everyone I’ve spoken to said Cancun is awful, so there was no desire to stick around, it was just a transport hub for us.
The ferry to Isla Mujeres took 20 mins to cross the 4 mile stretch of water, at 120 pesos each (£5.50). Jet lag and tiredness aside it was one of the best ferry journeys ever!! We sat up top out in the sunshine looking at the beautiful crystal turquoise/blue water whilst a man on an acoustic guitar serenaded the passengers with covers of cliche songs like “Oye Como Va” – heaven!! By the time we docked at the island, I swearrrr we had tans already, not bad for 10.30am!
Stepping foot off the boat, we were greeted by a lovely little island with little streets and mismatched buildings – exactly what I anticipated Mexico to look like and a far cry from the built up concrete jungle of “Zona Hotelaria” we could see across the water in Cancun.
Back in 2006 on my first backpacking trip, google maps didn’t really exist for the common man, nor did iPhones for that matter. It was old school. Now, google maps even works offline from my shiny iPhone, what a different world we live in.
The 8min walk from the port to our hotel was hot. Really hot. The route took us through these aforementioned little streets to Avenida Juarez where Hotel Plaza Alamandros lay smack bang in the middle of all the bars and restaurants. Our hotel was a little oasis, big room, big bed, big shower, big air conditioning and lovely pool surrounded by palm trees. We booked 5 nights here for ultimate chill out and relaxation, to totally unwind from our fast paced London lives.
After we unpacked our stuff, we headed immediately for the beach in search of sun, sand and tacos. Our hotel was a 5min walk from Playa Norte, the best beach on the island and it did not disappoint. We pitched up at a restaurant on the beach and ordered all the food we’ve been craving since booking our trip. Fish tacos, nachos, guacamole yessssss sir all washed down with Coronas. Heaven.
During lunch it hit the hottest part of the day, and it was absolutely boiling. After lunch we alternated between sunbathing and swimming in warm turquoise water that barely came up past the knee. Sheer bliss.
After a few hours in the sunshine and almost exhausting our supply of sun cream we went back to the hotel for a siesta before dinner. Unfortunately we miscalculated just how strong the sun was – we were burnt, not badly, but factor 30 was clearly not enough!
Isla Mujeres is small, really small. In the north part of the island where we were staying, you would walk from one side of the island to the other side in 10 minutes. In searching for somewhere for dinner, we went for a little wander around the streets, where market sellers, shopkeepers, restaurant sales people tried to drag you into their businesses any way they could. There are only so many times you can say “no gracias” before it becomes tiring. People are polite and friendly, but in a “buy my stuff” kinda way, who can blame them – this is how they survive. My Spanish is fairly terrible, but taking advantage of a shopkeeper desperate for a sale, I successfully haggled nearly half the price off fake Raybans. Still too expensive at £6 but what can you do?
For dinner, we settled on a restaurant a few mins down the road from our hotel which was a Mexican/Caribbean fusion restaurant. Not yet aware of the value of a peso, (still Day 1!) we were probably paying heavy tourist prices, but the food was delicious and I especially enjoyed the margaritas! We spent the rest of the night in El Patio, a live music bar watching Americans dance to classic British rock songs played by a Mexican band. – it was a fantastic first night in Mexico.
The next 4 days were spent pretty much like this:
1 – breakfast at a cheap an cheerful little restaurant on the street around the corner from the hotel. (I LOVE eggs, so I ordered a different kind of “huevos” every day.)
3 – lunch at a beach restaurant (one day we got a whole cooked chicken from a place across the road from the hotel. It came with rice, beans, spaghetti(?!), chillis and it cost 150 pesos (£6). We ate it on the balcony of our room and it was soooo delicious my god, Nandos eat your heart out.
5 – dinner at a spot we either stumbled upon or I researched online. (Our goal is to try and order something different every time to eat as much Mexican food as possible)
And that was pretty much it, absolute bliss, what more do you need in life? Exercise-wise, I went for 1 run on the island at 9am, managing 4.5km in the sweltering heat. It was the hottest/slowest run of my life, hardly worth it so I won’t bother again unless it’s at the crack of dawn.
On day 4, we encountered our first iguana. Not a fan. They are like little dinosaurs that seem to pop up when you least expect it, like on the beach when you’re lying in the shade taking a break from the sun. It was massive, and was after the picnic food of the Mexican family next to us, so to avoid dinosaur encounters, don’t take food to the beach!!
Day 5 was our last day on Isla Mujeres, so to give our bodies a rest from sunbathing (I’ve got a sick tan btw) we went sightseeing around the island. Most people drive around the island in Golf Carts. Yup, GOLF CARTS. It’s weird. For 700 pesos (£32) you can rent a cart 9-5pm with petrol etc. It’s a good idea if there’s a group of you but with 2 of us on a tight budget, it wasn’t worth it. We wanted to rent bikes and cycle the island (£10 each) but it was too hot, if I couldn’t run at 9am I definitely couldn’t cycle at 1pm!
Instead, we took a cab from Playa Norte to Tortugranja (Turtle Farm) for 75 pesos (3.59) a little Turtle sanctuary that rehabilitates and breeds turtles. It cost 30 pesos each (£1.40) for entrance fee, which directly supports the turtles. It’s small, a lil bit dilapidated but there are loads of different breeds of turtles floating about in big paddling pools, as well as fish, massive lobsters, seahorse, a shark and a dolphin. It’s worth visiting to see some marine life, but you’re not missing anything if you skip it. You can’t touch the turtles (which I was gutted about) but you can feed them little pellets for an extra charge.
After about 30 mins we hailed a cab and carried on further down the island to the southern tip, Punta Sur.
Punta Sur was beautiful, we were high up on the cliffs overlooking crashing waves of crystal clear water. Unfortunately we were not alone, and it’s not tourists I’m talking about. Iguanas. Loads of them. Everywhere. Climbing. Even a huge statue has been erected of an Iguana. Gross.
One thing I’ve forgotten to mention so far is cans of margarita. Cans of margarita!!! Available from any good 7/11 style store, they’re fairly delicious (though not like the real thing) and cost 20 pesos (less than £1) life saver when travelling on a budget I can tell you! Tinnys on the beach, tinnys in the room, tinnys by the pool! Amazing, especially as I don’t really like beer. Our last night consisted of dinner by the sea and tinnys on the beach. A perfect way to end our chilled out island break.
Next stop: Tulum