Cancun has long been known as the most famous beach destination in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Year-round, tourists flock to Cancun for its stunning Caribbean waters, all-inclusive resorts, and wild nightlife. My first visit to this Mexican hot spot was to celebrate my college graduation. My days were spent sunbathing by the pool and filling up on margaritas. My nights were spent on party buses with twenty-somethings headed into to town ready to hit up Cancun’s nightclubs for body shots and dancing.
After getting a job as an event planner I returned to Cancun twice for work projects. During these work trips, I realized I was in love with the Yucatan’s tropical climate, pristine beaches, and Mexican culture, yet tired of Cancun’s all-inclusive resort lifestyle. And, so for my fourth visit, I set out to explore some of the Yucatan’s less commercial destinations. It was during this trip that I discovered the island known as Holbox (pronounced hole-bosh). To learn more about this sleepy beach town, check out my blog post, Island Bliss on Isla Holbox.
Excited to have discovered Holbox during my last visit, and eager to continue exploring more of Quintana Roo and its famed beach towns, I later ventured to Isla Mujeres. It didn’t take long to feel right at home on this magical little island. Isla Mujeres is just a short ferry ride from Cancun and it received its name, which means “The Island of Women,” from the Spanish. When the Spanish arrived, the native men of the island were away fishing at sea. The island appeared to be inhabited by women and children only, thus it was dubbed Isla Mujeres.
Playa Norte is the island’s most popular beach. I arrived early in the morning before the crowds to enjoy a quiet stroll along its white sandy beach. During my morning walk, I stumbled across the most perfect palm tree. This palm tree has a bend in its trunk making it a nice spot to sit and appreciate the beach. Playa Norte has several beach clubs all offering sun loungers and a beach umbrella for around 300 pesos. As the islands most popular beach it does get crowded so be sure to arrive early to secure a spot. I spent an afternoon swimming in the ocean, pina colada in hand, while working on my tan. Playa Norte is the ideal place if you are looking for a lively crowd, stunning waters, and feel like spending a day in paradise.
Punta Sur is an ecological park at the south end of the island known for its spectacular sunrise views and Mayan ruins. At this ecological park, you can visit a lighthouse, a garden and the Mayan temple dedicated to Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of the moon and fertility. I made my way over to Punta Sur early one morning and sat on a cliff watching as waves crashed against the rocks below. I sat waiting for the sun to rise with a few other travelers. Now, I’ve seen a sunrise before, but watching from Punta Sur was breathtaking and an absolute must-do when visiting the island. From Punta Sur, I wandered past the world famous Casa De Caracol. This funky seashell-shaped house is famous for its conch shell shape exterior and luxurious accommodations inside. Casa De Caracol is available for rent and according to locals is always in high demand!
No matter where I was on the island I was continually captivated by its beauty, including my stunning accommodations at Izla Hotel located on the southern end of the island. I was looking for a hotel that was not in the center of all the action. Izla provided that along with a relaxing pool environment complete with hammocks and a chic rooftop adult-only pool. I adored everything about this hotel but perhaps what I enjoyed the most was its pier. It was a perfect spot to sit in silence while appreciating another of Quintana Roo’s gorgeous beach towns.
The Yucatan continues to capture my heart. With each visit, my appreciation of its beautiful beaches, friendly people and relaxed pace of life grows. I return home proud of my Mexican heritage and excited to encourage travelers to visit the Yucatan. I encourage you to explore beyond Cancun’s famed Zona Hotelera to experience its natural beauty. Next up on my Yucatan wishlist is Bacalar. I am eager to visit this town and its famed lake of seven colors. Stay tuned for more of my Mexican adventures in Quintana Roo