Nature is certainly bountiful on Isla Mujeres, a small island off the coast of Cancun that boasts amazing natural as well as manmade attractions, enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. There are many vantage points on Isla Mujeres from which you can see stunning sunsets and breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea, cozy hotels and restaurants located downtown, a Marine Park with world-class facilities, and a haven for snorkelers with an incredible underwater world teeming with tropical fish, their bright colors nurturing the senses.
The island's northern side features an amazing expanse of white powdery beach inviting visitors to bask in the wonderful sun then cool off in the sparkling turquoise sea with water so calm it resembles an enormous shallow swimming pool.
Swimming and playing with dolphins is a unique and therapeutic experience. Because these mammals have a friendly and sociable nature, it is possible for people to interact with them safely, and you don't have to be an expert swimmer to do so.
At Dolphin Discovery you can touch a dolphin, shake its fin, go diving with them and even receive a kiss; whether you are a beginner or an experienced diver, they have an activity for you. Dolphin Discovery offers visitors the chance to interact with these amazing mammals as well as with other marine species such as sharks, sting rays, spider monkeys, toucans, and macaws. It is definitely one of Isla's most delightful attractions.
The name Garrafon means 'decanter', a smart name for this natural aquarium where the waters are calm and clear and the reefs are so abundant with life that it gives you the feeling of being inside a decanter, where you can safely swim and snorkel because the soft ocean current is almost imperceptible. Happily kayaking above schools of colorful tropical fish or crossing the park on a Tyrolean traverse are both delightful and thrilling experiences offered here. The reef in this area is part of the second longest barrier reef in the world and is home to an enormous variety of species, including some that are considered endangered.
Located 45 minutes north of Isla Mujeres is the Contoy National Park, a natural, protected area and animal reserve, uninhabited by humans. Rare species of turtles and hundreds of colonies of birds such as pelicans, cranes, and frigates use the island as their mating and breeding grounds away from all human contact. Visits to Contoy are allowed under certain restrictions and there are several tour operators who offer different excursions to the island. Just make sure you book in advance because visits are limited to a certain number of people a day.
Another interesting attraction is the remains of an old estate belonging to the famous Caribbean pirate Fermin Antonio de Mundaca y Marechega, who was also a renowned architect, poet, farmer, slave trader, and of course a dreaded buccaneer!
The Hacienda has many legends to tell, especially famous is one about how Mundaca's heart was broken, leading him to despair and a terribly sad end. Currently, the estate is open to the public and houses a small zoo where visitors can see endemic animal species and walk through the lush tropical gardens.
This is the easternmost point of the Mexican territory; consequently, it gets the first rays of sunshine every morning. It is the highest point on the island, where, in some parts, the cliffs reach 66 feet above sea, and from where you can see the most stunning sunrises and views of Cancun, the bay of Isla Mujeres, and the Caribbean Sea.
Located on the southernmost tip of the island, where the sun rises, is the Park of Sculptures. Because of its unique geographic location, it was designated as a permanent open-air museum in 2001, and displays 23 original pieces by local and foreign artists. Among the most famous pieces are the ones made by the world-famous sculptors Sebastian and Jos?Â© Luis Cuevas, from Mexico. It is a splendid site enhanced by the incredible backdrop of majestic cliffs and the stunning turquoise waters of the Caribbean.
Historically speaking, this is one of the most important attractions on Isla Mujeres. In Punta Sur, there is an ancient temple, erected to worship the Mayan Goddess of the moon and fertility, Ixchel. Because it was built on higher ground, archaeologists say it was also used as a lighthouse to guide trade boats coming ashore from Cozumel, Tulum and Xaman-ha, modern day Playa del Carmen.
For thousands of years the beaches on Isla Mujeres have been nesting grounds for marine turtles that return to the same beach every year. Between the months of May and September, they lay hundreds of eggs and then return to the sea, leaving the babies to fend for themselves. The Turtle Farm is one of Isla's main attractions and a source of pride for the locals and without the work of the Tortugranja (Turtle Farm) only a small number of hatchlings would survive, because of the many natural predators and also poachers. The hatchlings are protected until they are strong enough to make it into the sea, at which point children from the local schools are invited to set them free on the shore. This is an excellent opportunity for the children to learn about conservation techniques and how to help ensure the survival of this wonderful species.