Visiting Punta Sur and Playa Norte - Day Trip to Isla Mujeres from Cancun

Updated: 2 days ago

I've been to Mexico on four different occasions over the past decade. Usually my decision to go there starts with the desire to do an affordable & relaxing beach vacation.

In terms of accessibility, affordability and quality of the resorts you can stay at it's no surprise that Cancun is a popular destination.

From those on a budget to those looking to book higher end resorts Cancun has a little bit of something for every type of traveler.

Mexican Coastal Cliffs with Lighthouse and Ocean
Coastal View at Punta Sur, the Island's Southernmost Point

If you're planning to visit Cancun this year (or other nearby destinations like Tulum) keep on reading to learn why you need to check out Isla Mujeres.

Specifically we'll talk about getting down to Punta Sur (the island's southernmost tip) and Playa Norte (the northern beach area). My only regret during our trip to Isla Mujeres was that we ONLY made a day trip out of it.

We quickly realized that the island has so much more to offer. The beaches, bars and restaurants are top notch and next time I find myself in Mexico I'll be sure to book a couple nights on the island.

Did I mention the island's primary form of transportation is by golf cart?!

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How Do I Get to Isla Mujeres?

First let's talk about the logistics of getting to Isla Mujeres. If you're staying in Cancun the island is easily accessible via the Puerto Juarez Ultramar Ferry. You can purchase your tickets in advance which I highly recommend.

Any chance I get to avoid waiting in a line when traveling I'm always going to take it and the Isla Mujeres ferry is no exception.

You basically have three options for getting to Puerto Juarez. If you rented a car, there's plenty of parking at the ferry terminal so this is your most straightforward option. If not I'd recommend taking a taxi.

Any cab you hop into will know where Puerto Juarez is and the terminal entrance serves as a taxi stand which means you won't have any issues getting a cab for your return trip.

You can also take a bus to get here. If you're staying at a resort in the Hotel Zone the front desk where you're staying should be able to help you coordinate which bus to take.


How to Spend a Day Visiting Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres has an entirely different vibe than Cancun - the mix of locals, expats and tourists makes the beach area an eclectic melting pot of beachgoers

There are two important takeaways I hope to pass along to anyone reading this post. The first being how to spend a fun day exploring Isla Mujeres.

Is One Day Enough to See Isla Mujeres?

The second key takeaway is that you really need to dedicate more than one day to seeing all the island has to offer! The amount of FOMO we experienced when it came time to pack up our things and head back to the ferry terminal was next level.

Hopefully I can help others avoid making that mistake. For what it's worth, I did get a really good lay of the land and the next time I find myself near Cancun or Tulum I certainly plan to budget a couple days for staying on the island itself.

Mexican Beach with palm tree blue skies and sunbathers
Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres

You can buy snacks, water and beer at the ferry terminals on either side. The ferry ride itself is fairly short at 20 minutes or so.

You can ride on the top deck to enjoy views departing Cancun and arriving at Isla Mujeres, just keep in mind there really isn't any shade up there so depending on what time of day you're traveling you could be cooking in the sun!

Where Can I Rent a Golf Cart in Isla Mujeres

Once you arrive at Isla Mujeres head out towards the main road. We rented our golf cart from the place directly across the street and it ran us about which cost us about $35 bucks and we had it out for about 7 hours.

Not bad on an hourly basis! After you hop in your new whip head south along the main road until you dead end into the Punta Sur area.

Coastal cliffs with ocean and cloudy sky
Cliffs & Walkways at Punta Sur

You'll find retail vendors, a coffee shop and a restaurant in this area. We spent a couple hours wandering the park area out towards the small Mayan ruins and cliff edges.

After enjoy the coastal views and getting some cool pictures down near the water we enjoyed lunch at the restaurant (yes it sells booze!!).

Once you've spent some time taking in the Caribbean views, exploring the park area, having lunch and doing some shopping it's time to head to the island's northern beach area which is known as Playa Norte.

If you came down to Punta Sur along the western coach, switch up your views and come back up the eastern side. The journey back north will take you through some of the island's local communities and past the ornate Cementario Municipal.

Stop and check it out if you have time - even if cemeteries aren't your thing you'll want to stop at some point along the way to hop out and enjoy the views so this makes for the perfect pit stop!

This colorful cemetery is located along the eastern coast of Isla Mujeres

It doesn't take too long to reach Playa Norte even when you're all the way down at Punta Sur. If you take your time and stop you'll still probably only need to budget 30 minutes for crossing the island.

Is There Golf Cart Parking at Playa Norte?

Once you make it to the Playa Norte area be mindful golf cart parking will likely be crowded if it's later in the day (especially on weekends!). You might have to walk a little bit to the beach! Fortunately the area is drowning in bars, restaurants and shopping which makes wandering around by foot enjoyable on its own.

We spent 2-3 hours on the Punta Sur part of our day trip and 3-4 hours hanging out at Playa Norte. If there's one place I'd be sure to recommend for food and drinks it would be The Green Demon Beach Club. Tropical cocktails?

Green Demon Beach Club
Green Demon Beach Club

Yup. Great food? Absolutely! Killer vibes with a DJ and it's located right along the beach which means you're steps from the water!

After enjoying the beach it was sadly time to head back to the ferry terminal and return our golf cart. It was at this point that I realized you really need to spend more than a day in order to experience Isla Mujeres to the fullest!


What are the Lizards on Isla Mujeres?

The Toloks that inhabit the area look like something out of Jurassic Park!

If you're lucky enough like we were you'll encounter toloks during your stay. Tolok is the Mayan word defining the iguanas living on Isla Mujeres.

After paying the $3 fee - on your way out to the islands southernmost tip keep an eye out for the well camouflaged toloks that inhabit the area.

The word tolok is the Mayan word used to define these medium sized iguanas. The one here was probably a little over two feet long! ​ While harmless - try not to get too close or disturb them. We passed a group of three sunbathing toloks when we visited (two shown here, the other was in the grass).

I always enjoy a good wildlife run in, especially the non-venomous variety!

Two large iguanas sunbathing on a walkway in Mexico
Two Toloks Sunbathing at Punta Sur

Learn More About Isla Mujeres

I hope you enjoyed this post about visiting Punta Sur and Playa Norte when spending some time on Isla Mujeres. Check be sure to check out my day trip guide on Isla Mujeres which provides some additional detail on how to spend an entire day on the island.

Visiting Mexico? Nearby Valladolid makes for a great jumping off point to visit Chichen Itza. Be sure to check out my YouTube video guide on what to see and do in Valladolid!


Be sure to read our guide on reducing airfare costs

One of those most unavoidable and dreaded travel costs is airfare.

Even if you budget carefully for food, accommodations and find budget friendly activities the cost of airfare can make many destinations prohibitively expensive.

But if you're a savvy traveler like me then you know there are ways to beat the airlines! I have a full post dedicated to all of the tips and tricks I use to pay the absolute minimum for airfare when I travel.

Looking for quick advice on how to book your next trip?

It's easy to forget how much time, effort and planning can go into putting together a vacation.

Booking flights, shuttles, rental cars, hotels, activities and making sure you've packed everything you'll need for where you're going is no small task!

Man at indian nose lake Atitlan
Photo taken at the top of Indian Nose - Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Not to mention all of these things tend to add up in cost very quickly. With so many things that can go wrong what's a savvy traveler to do? Read my post on travel planning hacks that's what!

In that guide I will highlight all of the strategies I use to streamline the trip planning process while making sure I cover all of the tricks I use to save money along the way.