Choosing the right excursion while on a cruise or when leaving your resort is important. There are many aspects to consider: the cost for your whole family to participate, your family’s interests, what your family will encounter, and your family’s ability to physically do the excursion. We chose an excursion to Isla Mujeres on a recent family trip to Riviera Maya, Mexico and I’m sharing what you need to know about an excursion to Isla Mujeres to help you in your own vacation plans.
You don’t want to choose an excursion that doesn’t work for your family because then it won’t be fun, plus it could even be a hardship. But, you also don’t want to choose the wrong excursion and waste money because excursions are often very expensive. You want it to be worth the money.
You want memorable experiences for your family that are safe and fun.
In this post I’m reviewing an excursion my family took while in Mexico to help you in your travel planning and decisions. When traveling with kids to Isla Mujeres in Mexico, here are my tips for What You Need To Know About An Excursion to Isla Mujeres.
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My Number #1 tip for What You Need to Know About An Excursion to Isla Mujeres is…….
Bring cash! Bringing cash is my #1 tip for an excursion to the island.
The reason this is the #1 tip is because we were told we would be able to use a credit card on the island to rent a golf cart to drive around the island, but their card reader had stopped working so we couldn’t pay with a card. As a result, we barely had enough cash to do our planned activity of renting the golf cart for our self-guided tour around the island.
Don’t rely on credit cards when in places like Isla Mujeres, even if you are told credit cards will work, something can always go wrong. Cash always works so I recommend bringing not only enough cash for the day, but bring extra cash just in case.
The reason for extra cash also includes needing money to pay for using the restrooms. My kids were shocked by this one because in America, we can use bathrooms everywhere we go. This was a great learning experience for my kids to find out that in many places in the world, bathrooms are not free. Access to bathrooms all the time is a luxury we take for granted as Americans.
Part of our excursion also included visiting a downtown area for shopping. Again cash is better to have because the shops charge a fee when a credit card is used. So the bonus part is they do take credit cards, however you are going to pay for it. Just play it safe for your family and bring cash (secure it in a hidden pouch strapped under your shirt or in your front pocket if you want to keep it secure). Keep reading below for more on the shopping experience.
Be Prepared for the Boat Ride to Island
We left our resort to go on an excursion to visit the island of Isla Mujeres. The boat ride to Isla Mujeres was long at about 45 minutes so be sure to give your kids motion sicknes medication about a half hour before the boat ride if they get motion sickness. Don’t forget to bring another pill if you will be gone longer than the medication will be working so they will be covered for the ride back too.
The boat was a good size, and we sat in the middle benches, but people on the sides did get splashed so be sure to sit in the middle of the boat if it is a windy day with lots of waves.
They offered free beverages on the boat ride, however we didn’t take any because there was no bathroom on the boat. With kids, having drinks witout a bathroom accessible can be a very big problem. We just said no to drinks and decided to wait until we got to the island to get a drink.
I had snacks along however, so the kids had a snack instead of a drink (tip: grab extra boxes of cereal from the breakfast buffet to bring along for snacks on excursions). Full kids are happy kids, which makes a happy mom!
Use Amenities: Beach Time and Use of Kayaks
At the beginning of our excursion, we were allowed to enjoy a private beach for swimming and beach lounging. There were kayaks for people to use and my boys enjoyed kayaking around. There were also many chairs and several hammocks for lounging. Workers were offering massages on the beach, but again they took cash only. We enjoyed swimming, lounging, and kayaking before our lunch was served.
At Lunch, Don’t Eat the Fresh Fruits or Vegetables
I recommend not eating the fresh fruits or vegetables on the island. Our excursion package included lunch next to the beach. We only scooped cooked fruits and vegetables onto our plates because we didn’t want to be exposed to their water.
Whenever traveling to Mexico, don’t drink the water unless you are from Mexico. Many people end up with stomach upset after drinking the water. The fruits and vegetables are washed with island water so consuming them is the same as drinking the water and may lead to stomach or GI upset.
Rent a Golf Cart for the Day
There were several choices for activities on the island. We chose to rent a golf cart to tour around the island ourselves. We enjoyed renting the golf cart very much. Our boys really loved this experience and we were able to go at our own pace and see what we wanted. However, time went quickly and we wished we had more time. If you do this, make sure you keep track of where you are so you don’t miss your boat ride back. We got confused a few times, but it was easy enough to traverse the small island on our own.
We stopped at Punta Sur on the southern tip of the island at 60 feet above sea level. It is the home to the ancient temple of the Mayan Goddess Ixchel.
Visit the Iguana Statue and Sculptures at Punta Sur
Again here cash is needed to get into the sculpture garden, plus to use the bathroom at this location. We elected not to pay to go in and see the sculptures up close because our kids weren’t very interested. We chose to observe them from afar instead. Plus, we wanted to explore the island more.
However, it was good to visit this location because the view was gorgeous to see the cliffs and the ocean below. We also saw the Iguana Statue (kids loved the statue!) and a native dressed up in costume who offered to take pictures with guests. Again we needed cash to tip him a few dollars. We knew this was his business and we wanted to honor his time, so we gladly gave him a tip. He gave us a great picture with our kids for us to treasure!
Bring Bottled Water to the Island
In my experience, people who aren’t from Mexico shouldn’t drink the water out of the facet in Mexico because doing so may cause stomach upset, GI upset, or illness. So, bring water bottles along from your resort or cruise ship on the excursion.
A great idea would be to bring your own water bottles along from home and fill them up on the ship before heading out on the excursions. If you do this, be sure to bring a little bottle of dish soap for washing out the cups at the end of the day (this has saved me many times on our travels because it also works well to scrub out stains on clothing).
Visit the Cemetary at Isla Mujeres for A Cultural Learning Experience
We drove around the island on our golf cart rental to find the cemetary.
Visiting other countries is so valuable for kids. They are exposed to a different culture, language, and foods. If you decide to visit the cemetary at Isla Mujeres (or in Mexico), tell your kids about the differences of the Mexican cementary compared to back home before you arrive at the cemetary. A cemetary in Mexico is very different than in America. As you can see in the picture everything is above ground for each grave. The graves are colorful, and many are decorated with items of special meaning.
Show Kids the Awesome Architecture of the Homes on the Island
Traveling gives kids a taste of an area’s architectural culture. The style of homes and buildings adds to that learning about the culture. I loved sharing this experience with my kids. Traveling to Isla Mujeres showed them so many different types of homes that were quite different from the ones at our home. It’s both fun and educational for kids to be exposed to a region’s specific styles of architecture when traveling.
The famous seashell home is located on Isla Mujeres. It is an awesome sight to see this house. The house is very beautiful and unique. A must see sight on the island!
Don’t Be Surprised to See Garbage Lying Around The Gorgeous Island
We were shocked to see so much garbage lying around on this island. The island was very beautiful, but it was marred by garbage scattered about everywhere. The resorts we drove by were nice and litter free, but the non-resort areas were litter covered. I found it sad and disturbing to see so much garbage tarnishing such a beautiful place.
There is also a large landfill near the ocean. The smell emanating from it was a bad one. This landfill plus the garbage everywhere was very disappointing. I wish the inhabitants of the island took better care of their paradise.
Stop by the Ocean Shoreline for a Family Picture
We parked the golf cart and got out to walk down to the ocean near the cemetary. The shore was rocky and beautiful. We found some other tourists on the rocky beach who we asked to take our picture with the ocean in the background. A family picture in front of the ocean is definitely a must do!
Be Prepared for Downtown Shopping
On our way back to Cancun, we stopeed off in a downtown area for some shopping. As I mentioned above, be sure to bring enough cash to shop because using a credit card for purchases in the stores adds on an extra fee.
We were overjoyed because we found a bank with a cash machine, but we had brought our credit card, not our debit card. Unfortunely, we didn’t know our pin number for our credit card for a cash advance so we had to pay the extra fee for purchases using a credit card.
Travel Tip: Have a backup plan like knowing your credit card pin for cash advances while traveling.
We found some excellent deals on souvnenirs, but we were shocked by how forward and pushy the store salespeople behaved. In the United States, being pushy and forward to patrons is a giant turn off. We left several stores due to the extreme pushiness of the staff. We simply went on to the next store when we felt harassed too much.
Our kids were with us and we were a bit nervous due to hearing about crime and abductions in Mexico, so we kept our children very close and watched them with an ever-vigilant eye. Plus, the traffic on the skinny downtown road kept zooming by and our kids weren’t used to skinny roads with flying by vehicles.
Bring Hand Sanitizer
Be sure to bring along hand sanitizer on your excursion to Isla Mujeres. Clean water for washing hands may not be available for washing hands properly. To avoid getting sick, make sure you keep your hands clean with hand sanitizer or wipes.
Hand sanitizer is better than wipes though and I’ll tell you why. While on the boat ride back to Cancun, I had to remove one contact because it was hurting my eye. I only had wipes to clean my hands, so I used the wipes before removing my contact. The next morning I found out how ineffective the wipes were because I woke up with an eye infection.
This was a huge bummer for me and I didn’t want to see a doctor in Mexico. A strange stroke of luck was my son had just finished up an eye infection medication recently so I had it along on the trip in case it came back.
Now, I have a nursing degree and I’ve worked as a pediatric nurse and I know you aren’t supposed to use other people’s medications. But this was a big problem because I didn’t want to go to a doctor in Mexico. I didn’t know if my insurance would cover it, we would have had to figure out how to get me to a doctor, and I didn’t want to travel outside of the resort unless it was a resort approved mode of travel for safety reasons. So extreme times called for extreme measures and I used my son’s prescription on myself.
It worked and my eye infection began to clear up within 24 hours. Cleaning your hands with wipes isn’t always enough. Just bring hand sanitizer because it kills germs better.
Good Luck, Have Fun, and Bon Voyage!
I hope my guide and review of our excursion to Isla Mujeres was helpful for you in planning your family’s next excursion! If your family visits Isla Mujeres, I’d love to hear about it! Drop me a comment below.
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