What a perfect day! After exploring a beautiful island, you biked back to your beachfront bed and breakfast. You ran to your room to rinse the salt water off under a conch shell shower head. Then you walked down to the bar, where happy hour had already begun. From your swinging seat, you ordered a Cadillac Margarita—made with reposado tequila and Grand Marnier—as well as chips and guacamole. Now you’re staring at the pool, the hammocks swaying under the pergola, and the turquoise water in the distance. The smile on your face just won’t disappear.
You’re at Villa La Bella, a small bed and breakfast on the east coast of Isla Mujeres. When you boarded the ferry for the 20-minute ride to the island a few days ago, you weren’t quite sure what to expect. On your previous trips to Mexico, you stayed at big resorts that had numerous restaurants and plenty of activities on site. But this time, you wanted something different. Something quieter. Something more authentic.
When you arrived at Villa La Bella, you were greeted with a flower for your hair and a map, which highlights all of the owners’ favorite spots on the island. Your funky bedroom has brightly colored walls, a thatched roof, and a hanging bed. With the windows open, you feel a cool sea breeze and hear the waves crashing on the little beach. Downstairs, cinnamon-infused coffee and sweetbread are served for breakfast. The library and the living room overlook the pool. Iguanas blend into the rocks. And when you walk down to the beach, you might see dolphins swimming just offshore.
Isla Mujeres is a small island eight miles east of the Yucatán Peninsula. In pre-Columbian times, the island was a sacred place dedicated to Ixchel, the goddess of childbirth and medicine. Medicinal salt was sourced from the small lagoons in the interior of the island. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, they named it the Island of Women after seeing images of goddesses everywhere. Today, it’s a low-key alternative to Cancún, whose skyline can clearly be seen from the island’s west coast.
Start exploring at Punta Sur, the southern tip of the island. A small Mayan temple once stood here. It’s now home to ruins, a small lighthouse, and a sculpture park. On the west coast, visit the turtle farm and the underwater museum. Young, endangered sea turtles are raised in tanks at Tortugranja, while adult sea turtles swim among the sculptures created by a British artist at the Cancún Underwater Museum. Walk through the cobblestone streets and the open-air market in the center of the island. Then head north to the beaches. Playa Norte has calm, shallow water. And Playa Sol, on the island’s northwestern tip, is the perfect place to watch the sun set. Now all you need is a cerveza.