About Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is located only 7 Km. from the Cancun Hotel Zone. The Island is 7.5 Km. long and the widest point is 650 meters. The south point is 20 meters above sea level and the north point is at sea level. At the north end of the island you will find the historical village that was founded as Pueblo de Dolores on 17 August 1850.
Getting to Isla Mujeres
From the Cancun International Airport take a van to Gran Puerto, Puerto Juarez just 15 minutes north of downtown Cancun.
From the Hotel Zone you can take a taxi to Puerto Juarez. If you prefer the bus, you can catch the “Ruta 1” from downtown Cancun, which will take you both Puerto Juarez and Punta Sam. There are also some boats departing from the Hotel Zone in Playa Linda, Playa Langosta and Playa Tortugas, but they only run three or fours times a day and are a bit more expensive.
At Gran Puerto, Puerto Juarez you will find clean bathrooms, stores and a Snack Bar. Express boats take 20 minutes to arrive at Isla and run every half hour from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. And then once every hour until 11:30 p.m. The cost is 80 pesos per person one way.
Places to Visit
Isla Mujeres has one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. The famous Playa Norte (North Beach) where you can swim in the safe, turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Isla’s other beaches offer similar beauty where you can also enjoy different seafood dishes with an exquisite island style, like “tikinxik”, barbecue fish covered with “achiote” paste.
Downtown you will find many restaurants where you can enjoy regional specialties, to the most sophisticated international cuisine. The commercial zone of the island offers a great variety of arts and crafts from bargain prices to the finest jewelry. Many stores have fixed prices, but you can still enjoy bargaining with some of the local artisans.
The turquoise blue waters surrounding Isla are balmy everyday of the year. The Caribbean’s crystal clear transparency reflect the tropical fish and colorful coral that adorn the shallow depths of the reefs. Scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, boat tours and many other aquatic activities can be done at a much lower price than anywhere else.
Enjoy a day at “El Garrafón”, the only near-shore snorkel area on the island. Also, from there you can take a boat to the main reef for other wonderful snorkeling and diving experiences.
For those who like land tours, there are bikes, mopeds, golf carts and taxis. Take a ride around the island and appreciate the views of incredible beauty and some of the traditional activities of it’s citizens.
Very important, especially for children, is to visit the Turtle Farm, Center of Fishing Investigations, where for more than 30 years they have been working to protect the giant marine turtles.
Isla Mujeres also offers both off shore and open water fishing trips. The guides are real fisherman who know the waters and the different marine species.
A trip to Isla Contoy Bird Sanctuary, better known as the “Island of Birds” is not to be missed. A place of incomparable beauty, Isla Contoy is a State Park where many species of birds can live and reproduce.
Don’t forget to visit Hacienda Mundaca and the Mayan Temple and learn more about the history of Isla Mujeres.
On the mainland in the continental zone of Isla Mujeres, there are many nature activities. Visit El Meco, Boca Iglesia and Rancho Viejo. Tropical vegetation surround these Mayan remains and it is common to see flamingos or to be surprised by animals like crocodiles, deers, wild turkeys and pheasants.
The Eco-touristic development of the continental zone of Isla Mujeres is still in the planning stage, everything is virgin and tempting. It’s worth a visit before civilization arrives.
Welcome to Isla Mujeres!
History of Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres was discovered by a spanish expedition on 4 March 1517. Francisco Hernández Córdoba, who was leading the expedition, gave Isla Mujeres it’s name. On the island he found female shaped idols which were representations of the Mayan Goddess Ixchel, whose sanctuary was on Isla Mujeres. For Mayans, the island was very important because it was the last place where they could find salt when they were on route to the Gulf of Honduras. Salt was an indispensable element, not only to conserve the meat that was part of their diet, it was also used as an object of commerce or exchange.
Ixchel was one of the principal goddesses of the Maya, whose culture was very strong until the Postclassical period (650 AC). Their culture began to decline as a result of the wars that other Mexican cultures, like the Toltecs, brought upon them. Ixchel was considered the Moon Goddess. The Maya associated the moon with fertility, not only of the land but also of human reproduction. For that reason, Ixchel is also called the Goddess of delivery, of abundance, the fabric and the medicine. Many times Ixchel is seen as an old woman without teeth but in some ruins, like in Naj-Tunich in Guatemala, she is portrayed as a young woman.
On Isla Mujeres there was more than one Mayan observatory at the south point of the island. Unfortunately, the years have deteriorated them. You can still see the remains of the last ruin but it is close to falling into the sea. These observatories were important for the Mayan navigators who traveled the caribbean coast. At night, observatories like the one on the south point, were used as lighthouses. The light from torches shown through large holes in the observatory walls were seen by the navigators at sea.
For three centuries after Isla Mujeres was discovered by the Spanish in 1517 it was uninhabited. Because of it’s strategic location, it became an ideal hiding place for many famous pirates like Henry Morgan, El Olonés, Diego el Mulato, Lorencillo, Pata de Palo and Jean Lafitte. Stories of hidden treasures and jewels under the white sands are characteristic of Isla Mujeres, where you can still hear tales of ghostly apparitions of pirates and slaves. When the classic piracy declined at the beginning of the 19th century, the island began to be visited by Cuban / Spanish fisherman and people from Campeche and the Yucatán who came during the season to catch marine turtles, Sharks and Jewfish. The abundance of salt used for the preservation of meat promoted the fishing activity. From the Carey Turtle they used the shell and they extracted the vitamin A from the shark oil. This lasted until the 1930s when the manufacturing of this product was synthesized. The collection of sea sponges was another lucrative activity for the local fisherman.
After becoming inhabited once more, refugees from the conflicts between the Maya and white people went to the safety of Isla Mujeres, Cozumel and Holbox forming villages in only three years. The Maya of the peninsula had stopped navigating the waters of the Caribbean since the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century.
Fermin Antonio Mundaca y Marecheaga, a slave trader who took African natives to Antillas to be sold, was born in 1825 in the village Bermeo in Vizcaya, Spain. He arrived at Isla in 1858. It has been said that a shipwreck brought him to Isla’s shores. The village on Isla, named Pueblo de Dolores by the Yucatán Governor Don Miguel Barbachano, had been thriving for more then 8 years when Mundaca arrived. The name lasted only twenty years. Between the years 1858 and 1870, Mundaca rented his boats to the Government of Yucatán to capture and persecute the rebel Maya along the coast. These Maya were sold as slaves to the large Cuban plantations. The Yucatán Government considered Mundaca “patriotic” and gave him the post of Spanish consul of Isla Mujeres.
Mundaca used his fortune to build a large hacienda named “Vista Alegre” which covered over 40 percent of the island. He found the locals to be passive fisherman and their families who offered no resistance to his dismantling the ruins and using the worked stones of the Goddess Ixchel’s sanctuary to construct his hacienda. The ornamental details of the stones gave a singular value to his construction.
The hacienda was filled with livestock, aquatic birds and large gardens with exotic plants brought from the Orient. One area named the “Pink garden of the winds” was actually constructed to be a solar watch. The large entrance arch was called “El Paso de la Trigueña”, the entrance of the Trigueña, dedicated to a young and beautiful girl from the village named Martiniana Gómez Pantoja, born in 1862 and nicknamed, of course, la Trigueña (the brunette). Mundaca fell in love with this local beauty, 37 years younger than himself. But she preferred to marry a man closer to her own age and had many children while Mundaca slowly became more isolated, lonely, egoistic and some say, mad.
Fermin Mundaca died, still in love with Martiniana, at the age of 55 in Mérida. He was buried there but his empty tomb awaits him in the Cemetery of Isla Mujeres. The symbols of the pirate trade, the skull and cross-bones adorn his gravestone where he carved the words with his own hand:
“As you are, I was. As I am, you will be.”