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Our Journey in: Isla Mujeres – The Perfect Honeymoon

There is not a day that passes (or will pass) that I do not dream of being back on the serene island of Isla Mujeres.

A lot of people always ask why we chose this island for our honeymoon.  I mean, no one’s heard of it.  When we were originally planning our escapade, we were pretty set on Belize.  We found accommodations and flights, but as wedding planning continued, our honeymoon budget began to decrease.  Go figure.  We wanted to escape after the wedding to somewhere peaceful, and we didn’t want to use any wedding money to book our getaway.  Our guestlist was multiplying, and we had to figure out how to work with what we had and how to work with it comfortably.

Enter Groupon.  I didn’t buy our trip off of Groupon, but there was a destination with stunning blue waters and promises of escape on there that I couldn’t shake.  Best of all, it was totally affordable.  I did some research on the details of the package and the hotel didn’t have the best of reviews.  However, the island had amazing reviews.  We decided to go here but to research and book everything on our own.  Yes, now here we were on Isla Mujeres.

The small island is a 15-minute ferry boat ride away from Cancun and is an escape from all things city.  After a 350+ guests wedding and a year and a half of wedding planning, the last thing we wanted to be around was city life.  Simply driving through Cancun gave us a little headache, but once we got our tickets and saw the ferry, we knew we would be in for a different kind of adventure.

We checked in to our hotel which welcomed us with 2 glasses of champagne.  Oh, brownie points for that.  The bellhop — who we eventually became friends with — took us to our room, told us all the necessary information, then bid us a grand stay.

Craving for a bit of dinner, we took a walk along the water and found Velasquez which won us over.  Sitting on nothing but plastic chairs and tables on the sand just feet away from the shoreline, we had found our favorite place to dine.  I had some garlic shrimp, and he had the fried fish.  We enjoyed ceviche and experienced our first dose of habanero salsa which can be found at basically every restaurant.  The restaurant was about to close up shop, but the family who owned it treated us with impeccable service despite being the only 2 still dining.  We ate our food and listened to waves rush in.  This was exactly what the doctor ordered.  

The hotel offered the all-inclusive resort benefits, but we opted out as we wanted to explore and enjoy all of the delicious food the island had to offer.  We love seafood.  We also didn’t plan to drink much liquor, so it just didn’t make sense. We just signed up to having the benefits of breakfast each morning.
For our first day, after breakfast, we headed out to the resort’s private beach.  Clean, quiet, and postcard-worthy.  The water is as clear as glass and as warm as your local heated pool.  The sand was like silk between your toes.

After that bit of fun in the sun, we rented a golf cart to check out the island.  Yes, you read that right — a golf cart.  There’s no need for a car here; then again, I’m not sure why you would even want to drive a car when the weather and vibe is this ridiculously perfect.  You just wanna soak it all in.
The island only took us about 2-3 hours to go completely around.  It’s definitely a small island with lots to see.  One stop we had to go to was the turtle farm.  Here, they help raise turtles to a stronger, healthier size then release them into the ocean.  I felt a little bummed that so many were swimming in the pool they built, but I had to trust that they were doing the right thing as they’ve been around for a while.  I was busy snapping photos of the little guys when one of the workers asked if I wanted to hold one.  Without hesitation, I said “yes!”  Oh, baby sea turtles are so, SO cute. I wish we could’ve been there to see them scurry out into sea!

Isla Mujeres is also known for the whale sharks that migrate to nearby waters.  They have tours that take you out and either snorkel or scuba dive with these majestic creatures.  Once I get my scuba license, I hope to go back and swim with them.  It would be a dream come true, so much that I will probably be stunned for the rest of my life.  You know when people ask “If you were an animal, what would you be?”  Yeah, I’ve been telling people that I’d be a whale shark for years.

I don’t remember which day it was since I’ve been trying to erase it from my memory, but we did book an excursion to scuba dive to see the underwater museum MUSA.  I was soooo excited, but I like to know the details of what I’m doing before I do it.  Since neither of us had our scuba license and it was our first time trying this, they gave us a 45 minute crash course which included getting to know the equipment and trying a few dives by the shoreline.  It clearly wasn’t enough for me.  Once we got out into the middle of the ocean, I jumped in, and my anxiety picked up.  The thought of going 15+ feet underwater with equipment I only had moments to get acquainted with was far too much for my mind to handle (not to mention the water out that way was incredibly rocky).  I couldn’t handle it, but I plan to get back out there prepared one day!

More scenic shots from our golf cart outing…

We found a spot along the way that serves buffet meals for the tour buses that make a stop here.  They were still setting up the buffet, but they told us that they also serve food for regular diners too.  We had some carne asada nachos here, and although the scenery/setting was perfect, it seemed like the food was definitely catered to tourists.  I mean, the toppings just didn’t seem as flavor-filled as our other Mexican meals, and they didn’t offer any salsa or hot sauce like other places did.  Pretty much every other restaurant placed salsa/hot sauce on the table once we placed our order. I kinda liked it 🙂

We also made a stop at the Temple of Ixchel which is on the southern part of the island.  This temple was built by the Mayans to worship Ixchel, the Mayan Goddess of the Moon and childbirth.  A hurricane in ’88 had destroyed a part of the temple so not much remains, but the stop there is still breathtaking.  You’ll also find plenty, plenty of large iguanas.

Close by to our hotel is a small town full of small shops and restaurants.  It is absolutely adorable with all of the bright colored buildings.  If you’ve been to Mexico before, please note that this town is really different.  There was no one pestering us to go into their shop or competing to have you go to one shop over the other.  It was actually very peaceful; if anything, the bright colors was as loud as it got.  In the evening, people would come to have dinner, a few drinks, and do a little dancing.

The next day we had booked a tour to see Tulum, one of the major Mayan ruins in Cancun.  We were debating if we should see Tulum and/or Chichen Itza (which is a modern world wonder), but as we talked to people who have visited before, they advised that if we only had time to see one, that one should be Tulum.
We started at sunrise which was beautiful.  As tired as we were, you never really look back and regret a great sunrise.  We hopped onto the ferry boat and found our way back to Cancun to catch our tour.

Tulum was a bit crowed, but it was still stunning.  I wish there were less people, but what can you do?  Who wouldn’t want to see stunning Mayan ruins?  Most structures have been well-maintained and preserved.  Practically all of the structures were blocked off with rope to prevent tampering.

The sun was beating on us, but the clouds were definitely on point for some great shots.  I also got to hold an iguana on the way out, of which he was oddly heavy.  My husband was a little iffy about me holding an iguana though.  It definitely wasn’t on his list of things to do.

Anyhow, if you can find my husband below, you’re pretty cool.

After seeing and learning about Tulum, we had half a day at Xel-Ha.  The water park is actually a natural inlet of the ocean that they have blocked off for visitors.  There’s several attractions like cliff diving, ziplining into the water, and some cenotes or caves.  Snorkeling is definitely the go-to.  I’ll probably talk about this spot more in a future post (this post right here!).  There’s too much to relish!

More photos we took that I’m obsessed with…

For one evening, we went to a restaurant known as Alux.  It’s located in Playa del Carmen.  The night before, we were talking to our bellhop about this place and how much he thought a cab ride would be.  Turns out, he’s a cab driver himself!  We were so fortunate.  We made arrangements with him to meet at the ferry entrance on the Cancun side to take us to Playa del Carmen.

Now, Alux is amazing.  The food is more on the American side, but the venue is beyond words.  They built this restaurant in an actual cavern.  Check it out if you ever can.  You won’t regret it.

The next day was a bit more of leisurely sight seeing where we ate even more fresh seafood.  Oddly enough, it doesn’t seem to matter how much ceviche you eat in a week.  The next serving still tickles your tastebuds.  Bally Hoo was another favorite of ours!
One thing we learned while we were here was that many people actually moved here after retirement and just opened up a restaurant or a small shop.  The ice cream we’re enjoying here was from a nice, retired lady who was originally from Canada.  This woman did it right.  I’d enjoy retirement in paradise with tubs of ice cream too.
That night, the only thing I asked Tristan to do was to go to the beach and just enjoy the sunset.  That we did, and it was perfect.  Do sunsets ever get old?

We were debating if we wanted to do anything nice for dinner, and eventually we got dressed and had dinner at Lola Valentina.  We had walked by this restaurant before to inquire about some breakfast details (coconut french toast caught our eye), and the host let us talk to the owner herself.  She brought up that she used to be the owner of Mango Cafe – another spot we really wanted to try for their breakfast, but it was going through some renovations and wouldn’t reopen until a few days after our vacation.  Apparently her and her husband split, and he took ownership of Mango Cafe while she ran Lola.  Somehow breakfast was forgotten, and we decided to come by for dinner instead.

We both agreed we would have gone back here if we had the time because the food was such a perfect blend of Mexican and modern cuisine.  To give you a peek, they had mango habanero margaritas.  Delish, fairly-priced, and great ambience.  So very fun and friendly.

Anyhow, afterwards, we went to a tequileria.  We just had to.  When in Rome, right?

The next day was complete leisure time by the beach and pool.  After melting away in the hot tub at the pool, we decided to get a couples massage which, of course, was perfect. Later in the afternoon, we just took walks along the beach to capture our last sunset.  By now, we were a little more than sunkissed, but heavily glowing with love.  Or.. at least I like to think so.

Once the sun had set, we headed back to our beloved Velasquez restaurant for dinner which made it our 3rd (or was it 4th?) trip there.  My husband, who is fairly comfortable speaking Spanish, had become friendly with the owner to the point where he would call the sweet owner mama.  I think she truly enjoyed our company there.  We asked mama for the best in the house which definitely meant having some Caribbean lobster.  She asked me to come to the dock with her, and she reached down for a rope and started tugging.  I was a little confused, but next thing I knew, there was a cage at the end of the rope with 4 or 5 lobsters still in it.  She told me to pick one.  She pulled it out, and I had to ask to take a picture with it.  This was priceless.  About 30 minutes later, it was served on a plate as our dinner.  How’s THAT for fresh seafood?

I don’t think there’s another place on earth that could’ve given us quite the honeymoon as Isla Mujeres; it was definitely hard to say goodbye, but after a week, we were also ready to head back home.  Such welcoming and hospitable people and such a great escape from reality.  So good that it warranted a ridiculously long post.

I wanna go back.

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