July 31 - August 7
This was our first trip to Isla Mujeres. We considered several other places before deciding on Nautibeach based on the reviews here. It turned out to be a great choice.
We used the services of Fidel and his bike to go from the ferry dock to Nautibeach - a short walk away.
We stayed in Unit 22. All the units have 2 bedrooms, one split bathroom (toilet and shower in one part, sink in another), and a main room with the kitchen/dining/living rooms area. The floors are all tile. There is a balcony with table and chairs, plus hangers for a hammock. The balcony can be accessed through the main bedroom or the living area. The kitchen area is a nice size for the size of the unit and contains a full size refrigerator/freezer, microwave, a two burner cooktop, coffee maker, toaster, blender, and all cooking utensils. It is more than sufficient to cook simple meals. We never used anything except the coffee maker, but we did buy some drinks to keep in the fridge from the main grocery store. (They seemed to have the best prices for beer and other alcohol) There is a water dispenser for a big bottle of water that is replenished when it runs out. There is a dining table with 4 chairs. The living area contains a TV with a VCR/DVD combo, and the second bedroom had a TV with a built in VCR. These are good only for playing the movies available from the office or if you bring your own - there is no reception on the TV - but that's OK as it would likely all be in Spanish anyway, and who really wants to be inside wasting time watching TV when the beach is only steps away?
The AC ran continuously and that was a good thing because it was very hot every day the week we were there. We didn't find it any noisier than any other AC. There were also ceiling fans in all rooms. The beds had a memory foam topper on top of the mattress and were quite comfortable. In the main bedroom is a full size queen bed, in the second bedroom is a double and a single.
The view from the balcony is nice. It looks out at the pool and to the beach beyond. The grounds are very nicely landscaped and well cared for. It was nice to go out there in the morning and listen to the various sounds and sights of everything coming to life for the day. The balcony is as private as any in this type of unit - there is a wall between the neighboring units, but occasionally we could hear our neighbors - no big deal.
For the most part it is pretty quiet and peaceful. The birds are occasionally noisy, but that only lasts a few seconds. There is some kind of dance place right behind the units that had something going on just Saturday night for a few hours. We could barely hear it though and certainly didn't lose any sleep.
The staff was great and very friendly! The grounds have 24 hour security and we found the guards to be amusing, and one even helped us with our Spanish. The office staff never failed to be helpful whenever we asked something about restaurants, they called taxis for us, and lined us up with a golf cart and Isla Contoy trip.
We ate at the Sunset Grill several times. It is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The food may be slightly more expensive than some other places, but the service and quality of food makes up for it. Drink prices were among the best on the island.
Nautibeach does seem to be a family place. Our 10 year old son found several other kids to have fun with in the pool area. The pool is very clean and maintained daily. There is a place to wash sand off from the beach before entering the pool area, and a couple of nice freshwater showers to rinse off the ocean water before entering the pool. The only problem we saw during our week was from a large family from I think somewhere in South America. They had about 5-6 kids and all these kids would just drop garbage all over the place, while the parents seemed oblivious to the mess.
The beach is excellent - probably the best on the island. Often there were many boats moored along the outer edge that brought people to this beach, but it never seemed overly crowded. Nautibeach has free beach chairs and umbrellas for the guests so that was very nice.
Other than making coffee - which is provided - we ate all our meals out. Breakfasts included Amigos, Cafe Boutique, Cafe Cito, Sunset Grill, and Jax's (which is clueless about making proper Huevos Rancheros). All breakfasts except Jax's were good. Lunches included Sunset Grill, Zazil Ha, Pizza Rolandi, snack bar at Hotel Garrafon de Castilla, and excellent lunch on Isla Contoy trip. All lunch choices were good. Dinners included Don Chepo, Pizza Rolandi, Fredy's, Sanchocos, Cuba Libre, Pinguino's, and Sunset Grill. All were quite good. It was really nice to eat food that actually has decent flavors as opposed to the chain restaurant excuse for food in many other places. Service varied from place to place. Some of these places are very small and their kitchens can only do just so much at a time - but it results in freshly made and tasty food. The mixed drinks everywhere were very good. Most were very reasonably priced and had sufficient alcohol instead of being all mixer.
We went to the Turtle Farm and saw hundreds of sea turtles in various sizes, as well as a few small fish displays. It's a very inexpensive way to keep kids entertained for a couple hours.
We rented a golf cart one day and toured the entire island. This included stopping at the Hotel Garrafon de Castilla to snorkel for a couple hours. We brought our own snorkel gear with us, but they have gear for rent at reasonable prices. We visited the Caribbean Village at Punta Sur and saw the many art sculptures, the lighthouse, and the Mayan Temple. We stopped in at Villa Rolandi to check it out, but it doesn't seem like a kid friendly place and it kinda remote from much of the rest of the island, although it is a very elegant facility. Dolphin Discovery is near there, but it is expensive so we didn't visit.
We booked a trip to Isla Contoy through the front desk at Nautibeach. We went on a small boat with about 12 people total plus the captain and crew. The captain's nickname was Cholla, and it was like being out with a group of family friends. Definitely not a large commercial operation - more of a down to earth experience. It was nice because there was only one other small boat at Isla Contoy instead of being overwhelmed with large tour operators that would have spoiled the peaceful surroundings. On the way we stopped to snorkel at a reef and saw a good number of fish. Isla Contoy is a bird sanctuary, as well as being home to several kinds of reptiles and hermit crabs. There is a nice small museum there with bathroom facilities and an observation tower. While we were off exploring, Cholla and his crew were fixing an excellent lunch of grilled fish, rice, guacamole, and other fixins. Beer, soda, and water were also provided. After lunch was a big treat. Cholla went to the beach and called for a stingray to come over, then he fed this creature from his hand. Then others in the group also got to feed the ray by hand including my wife and son. It was an experience not to be missed!
After our two previous snorkeling adventures we elected not to go to Garrafon Park. It's doubtful the snorkeling is any different than we had already seen, and that made the rest of the park too expensive for what is there. While the snorkeling and the fish are decent in this area, it pales in comparison to what we saw in Hawaii.
One of the interesting things about coming to a place like this is the different culture. There are a multitude of people trying to sell stuff. We found none of them to be pushy or obnoxious in any manner. The expectation of having to haggle about the price is just part of the culture and our adult daughter seemed to take delight in being able to negotiate prices of 60-70% less than the original price. Even our son had fun shopping! I actually admire the vendors in their selling efforts as they rule nobody out. They appeared to sell as much or even more to Mexicans as they did to other tourists. In every instance a simple, "No gracious", was enough and they would simply move on to the next person. To me, hearing the word "no" so often would be discouraging, but to them it is just a way of life and they didn't get upset. It was interesting walking on Hildalgo to have various restaurants with someone trying to entice people to eat there, along with shop merchants trying to get people into their stores. Often after eating or buying something on Hildalgo the various people would wave at us every time we saw them almost like we had made new friends. The only negative about the shopping was that so many of the various shops appeared to have the same stuff. It was hard to find unique things.
The people of Isla Mujeres were almost all very nice. We rarely found anyone who was indifferent or unfriendly. The island is a very nice low key vacation area and not overrun with giant hotels or complexes. The difference between Isla Mujeres and Cancun can be seen just be looking across the several miles of water. If they start building lots of high rise buildings and timeshares, it will remove one of the big reasons to come here.
Nautibeach is an excellent place to stay. It's right on the best beach and within short walking distance of the small city and all the restaurants and shops. It's not high end luxury - nor does it pretend to be. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a very nice, reasonably priced place to stay. I doubt there is anything else on Isla Mujeres that offers such great location, nice restaurant on the property, great staff, and reasonable rates.