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Caribbean

Where to go, what to do in Isla Mujeres

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

GETTING THERE

Isla Mujeres has only a small airstrip that is not suited for commercial aircraft. To reach the island, you must fly to Cancun. Round-trip prices from the Washington area start at about $300. From the airport, you'll have to take a cab or shuttle to Gran Puerto Cancun, where the UltraMar ferry will transport you to Isla Mujeres for $12.50 per person round trip. An older rival ferry, the Magana, operates out of Puerto Juarez.

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Once on the island, you cannot rent a car. But there are plenty of taxis, and they operate at all hours. You might find their fee structure -- as in whatever they want to charge you -- a little arbitrary, but the differences boil down to nickels and dimes, not dollars. You can also rent mopeds and oversize golf carts by the hour, day or week. The golf carts, available for about $45 a day, are the way to go. You can zip all around the tiny island on the carts, which are allowed on every street, large or small.

WHERE TO STAY

Casa IxChel, 011-52-998-888-0107, http://www.casaixchelisla.com. This micro-hotel is perfect for those who want to get into the spirit of relaxation that defines Isla Mujeres. It offers massages, yoga, steam baths and a great view of the water, but the beach is too rocky for swimming. A standard double starts at about $60.

Hotel Secreto, 011-52-998-877-1039, http://www.hotelsecreto.com. This small luxury hotel is an architectural sanctuary on a quiet cove on the northern tip of the island. Junior suites with two full-size beds start at $112.50.

Hotel Villa Rolandi, 011-52-998-999-2000, http://www.villarolandi.com. This exclusive hotel, with yacht service from Cancun, gives you a taste of Mediterranean luxury right in Mexico. Standard rooms start at about $330.

Rent a house, 011-52-998-877-0951, http://www.lostoasis.net. You can rent houses and condos all over the island at better rates for long-term stays via this Web site.

WHERE TO EAT

Casa O's, 011-52-998-888-0170, Fresh fish preparations and skewers of succulent skirt steak, known locally as arrachera, are your best bets. Pricier than other restaurants on the island, but two can still dine well for about $60.

Taqueria El Cachirul, 011-52-998-156-9412. Once known as Tacos Campos and located at the local ball field, this taqueria has moved to the Colonias neighborhood toward the southern end of the island. Your two-ply corn tortilla tacos come with meat only; you complete the rest of your snack from the fresh condiments bar, which features pico de gallo, sliced radishes, lime wedges, onions, cilantro and some powerfully hot sauces. Not bad for about $1 a taco.

Playa Lancheros, 011-52-998-877-0340. The entree to order at this beach-side restaurant is tikin xic, a Mayan dish of fresh grouper marinated in achiote paste and sour oranges, then wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled. Entrees run about $10.

Bally-Hoo Restaurant & Bar, 011-52-998-850-3307. This seaside shack, near the Centro, promises to cook anything fishermen bring in that day. If you come empty-handed, though, you shouldn't miss the mixed seafood ceviche, which is fresh and firm and full of flavor. A large bowl of mixed seafood ceviche will cost you less than $10.

KEEP IN MIND

Isla Mujeres isn't Cancun. Although there are some night life options, the island is still more sleepy fishing town than party central. You'll even be hard-pressed to find a first-run movie. People tend to go to Isla Mujeres to relax, get a message and catch up on their reading on the beach. If you're planning to stay for a few days, you might want to rent a place with a DVD player and bring a few of your favorite flicks.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

http://www.isla-mujeres.com.mx; http://www.isla-mujeres.net

-- T.C.


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