Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

A Digital Nomad in Isla Mujeres: Diving and Whale Sharks

Isla Mujeres is a place that’s easy to miss when planning a trip to the Yucatan peninsula. But, after a recent excursion on the island, I’d argue that it’s a place not to be missed for various kinds of travelers like divers, snorkels, relaxed-pace travelers or digital nomads like myself.

For as much as I travel, I generally don’t spend that much time planning, but instead read some quick overviews, figure out a travel route, and then just go-for-it. I can figure it out along the way better anyways. For my second trip to Yucatan Peninsula (the first being nearly 9 year ago!), I headed to a small island across the bay from Cancun in southern Mexico: Isla Mujeres, which is Spanish for “Island of Women.”

After landing in Cancun airport around noon, I decided to skip staying in Cancun and headed directly to the Isla Mujeres. This proved to be a fortuitous choice.

How I got there?

Forgoing Cancun and hotel strip, I took a bus from the airport to Cancun Centro. While theoretically there should have been a bus, I ended up taking a taxi to Puerto Juarez where there are regular ferries to Isla Mujeres. When I was there in July 2014, they were leaving every 1-2 hours.

Where to Stay?

Isla Mujeres is only a 1-2 kilometers wide and maybe a few more kilometers. In spite of that, there are quite a few accommodation options on the island. Being a solo travelers, I stayed in a small hotel near the main strip.

Tourist spots?: Whale Sharks

There aren’t a ton of touristy things on the island. It’s mostly a chill island with nearby dive and snorkeling sites and a short distance from the main activity the island is famous for: Whale Shark tours.

If you are within range of Isla Mujeres or Cancun during whale shark season, I highly recommend checking this out. Basically you take an early morning boat for around an area to where groups of the whale sharks gather to feed. In small groups of 3-4 divers you jump in and snorkel with these gentle giants of the ocean.

Personally I found the experience extremely moving and invigorating, especially considering the size and mobility of these creatures. In spite of the “crowd” of divers, I also had the sense that the whales were quite aware and careful around us. An experience not to be missed.

Where to Go Out?

There are a few restaurants and bars on the island. There a couple of bars with live music and dancing, but mostly it’s a chill little island to eat and drink beer and cocktails.

Tips for the Traveling Worker:

Internet was quite good on the island. Obviously, make sure you hotel has decent internet. Otherwise most bars, restaurants and coffee shops will have free wifi. Beyond internet access, there isn’t much else on the island for the tech traveler since it’s a pretty small place.

Tips for Divers and Snorkelers

If you like diving or snorkeling, Isla Mujeres is definitely a destination to check out. Most of the main dive sites are a mere 10-20 minutes away with a few of the deeper and more advanced dive sites only 30 or so minutes away.

The obvious highlight to check out is MUSA or Museo Subacuatico de Arte aka Underwater Museum. Basically a group of local and international artists used a special material to create a underwater sculpture garden. Not only does it provide a way to boost marine life, it’s a trippy artistic and natural experience. MUSA is part or nearby the Manchones reef area, which I also recommend checking out.

When I was on the island, I was lucky to be there for the turtle mating season. La Punta Sur (“South Point”) dive is a drift dive where you’ll cruise around with various marine life but mainly, if you are lucky, you’ll get to see the mating / sexual rituals of this giant sea turtle.

Beyond these sites, there are a number of other dives nearby include some wreck dives and some nice other reef and cavern dives.

Conclusion:

Whether you only have a couple days or want to lounge about for a bit longer, Isla Mujeres is a place I’d definitely recommend. If nothing else check out the whale sharks and the underwater museums, both of them are unique experiences of themselves.

If you are a digital nomad like me, there isn’t much to worry about here. Internet is reliable and decently fast. You can split you days between sun and sea and screen time in order to great a nice work/life balance.

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