I’m just sitting here eating my black bean nachos with fresh salsa and sipping a margarita and thinking about my few short days in Paradise. It was my first trip to Isla Mujeres, but it certainly won’t be my last. It was a long road getting there, so how do I begin?
I guess it all started 13 years ago, when my long-time scuba buddies talked about swimming with the sleeping sharks. I had never heard of Isla before and wasn’t really interested even then. I had to give up scuba due to an accident and hated hearing about anything related since I couldn’t go too. Then, over the years I would hear a mention now and then about the little island off of Cancun. Never had the time to go, so I let it slip my mind. Isla popped up again in an internet search for the perfect beach back in ’99, but again, no time. Finally, 2005 rolled around and I told myself I was going to the beach, I deserved it. I’d been searching a website looking for lodging in out-of-the-way places like Roatan and Carricou and happened upon a rental in Isla Mujeres. It looked beautiful and best of all, it was so inexpensive. From there, I found one Isla info site after another and all the message boards. Next thing I knew, I had an airline ticket. I was so excited, I was going on my first solo trip since I got married 14 years ago. Hubby just couldn’t tear himself away from work. Told a few friends about my trip and next thing I know, I had company. My best friend had an airline ticket too. Sisterchicks on the loose!!! Watch out Isla, here we come.
Our flight from Dallas was early morning, so we would have more island time. We just had 5 days this trip and we were going to make the most of it. Arrival into Cancun was easy, our bags were the first off and we slipped right through customs with only some minor flirting with the officer. I’ve found that greases the wheels in Mexico better than even cash. Onto the van, to the ferry and across to Isla. Wow!! The first sight was just beautiful with the turquoise water, the palm trees swaying in the breeze and the lighthouse pointing out that we had the right island.
We quickly found a taxi and made the trip to mid-island and the cute place we had rented on el Caribe.
We were there on time but the property manager wasn’t. A peak in the windows showed that the room wasn’t ready for us either. Ooops! Oh well, when your in paradise, little details like where you are going to sleep just don’t seem so important. We walked down the street to Punta Piedre and even though we had not been able to book a room there (they were full months in advance,) the nice folks there were so kind as to call the property manager for our place and get things straightened out for us. While we waited, we enjoyed meeting IslandNana and her husband around the pool at PPI. The rest of the day, our property manager spent trying to make up for our room not being ready. He is a sweet guy and did a great job orienting us to the island, taking us out to lunch and to the grocery store. So, the confusion on arrival really turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
We were settled in to our home-away-from-home and to the beach at Sergio’s just in time for our first Sunset.
After watching the flaming colors against the turquoise water, we couldn’t help but applaud. And so did everyone else.
Then we’re off to dinner at Fayne’s for great coconut shrimp.
It was a Sunday night, so the atmosphere was like a big party. There was a group of high school students in Carnival costumes dancing in the street and we just all joined in.
Soon we were wandering the streets, shopping and enjoying the warm island breeze. We made it an early night since we had been up at 4am to get here and we wanted to see at least one sunrise on Isla.
The next day dawned gloriously with just a few light clouds in the sky. The sunrise was pretty, but I must say the sunsets are just way more spectacular. Which is good for me because I am a night owl and I didn’t catch any other sunrises this trip. Ok, we’re up, sunscreened and back at Playa Sol by 9am.
We are installed in our chairs by the waters edge and breakfasting on Pina Coladas (they are in the fruit food group aren’t they?)
Everything was perfect until the Cancun Cattle boat arrived. Even though it was noisy with announcements and loud rap music, we did not let it ruin our tanning time. After we had acquired a light golden hue, we made our way to Hildago for lunch and a little shop time. Oh that reminds me, Isla has something even better than Internet shopping, it’s beach shopping!! You just lay in the sun and sip your drink and all these nice people come by and offer you all kinds of pretty things to buy. No matter that they are more expensive that what you can buy in the shops, it is so convenient and soo much fun that you just don’t mind. I bought pareos and jewelry and lots of other cute things. My favorite vendor was a young Mayan woman with her baby strapped to her back and her 2 year-old little girl tagging along. The little girl’s name was Jessica and she just loved the little toys we brought for here. Everyday after that, she would find us to see if we had any thing else for her.
Afternoons were siesta time. Then, after a quick shower, we’d dress up (wrap skirt and T-shirt) and head back to town for dinner. On our way in and out of town, we had a great time talking to the taxi drivers and learning about life on Isla. My friend is Puerto Rican, so her Spanish is flawless. Though we did learn that Mexican Spanish has a few different words than PR Spanish. I am learning Spanish, but since I speak German and English, whenever I couldn’t think of the Spanish word, I’d just slip in a German word. My brain knew that it wasn’t supposed to be speaking English, so it just went to the next easiest language, I guess. It got to be pretty funny at times as no one could understand me.
During our trip,we ate at San Cocho’s, Miguels, Mene Mene, Medina Tacos, Fayne’s, Picus, the Roticeria on Hildago, M&J Cazuela, and Color de Verano. We never had a bad meal. Our favorite’s were the crepes and conversation at Mene Mene (Omar and Mara are wonderful for info on Isla life), the Cazuela Holbox at M&J Cazuela (I love their mission statement on display in the restaurant), Carmita’s Panaderia in La Gloria and the Mayan fish at Miguel’s. There were so many other places we wanted to try, but we just didn’t have the time. For the beach, we hung out at Playa Sol, Buho’s and Zama Beach Club. For the north end, Sergio’s was our favorite thanks to our great waiter Roger, but for peace and quiet and a beautiful pool on the beach, Zama’s won hands-down. We were at Zama’s for two days and had the pleasure of meeting Douglas and Cynthia of Isla DVD fame there.
On the third day of our trip, we decided to rent a golf cart. How fun!! We had a blast driving around the south end and finding La Gloria English school. We actually got lost and stopped to ask some children who were selling shells on the side of the road. They saw that we had toys with us, and next thing we know, there are 10 children around us clambering for a whistle or a pencil. After they went through our wares, they offered us deals on their shells and gave us directions to the school. After more driving around and asking directions, we finally made it to Maggie. What a wonderful lady!! We left my mom with the golf cart while we went inside to deliver clothes and soon, we hear the familiar strains of the Hokey-Pokey coming through the window. One of Maggie’s students had walked up to my mom and started singing the Hokey-Pokey in English, so Mom hops out of the cart and starts dancing in the street. That was a sight to see.
Further explorations led to Punta Sur and Iguana viewing. Wow, there are a lot of new houses being built down there. A slide down the rocks and a bloody knee led to opportunities to meet yet more people. It was a nasty injury and on my birthday, no less. I’ll do anything to get to talk to strangers. Oh, that reminds me of the birthday song. As we were coming out of Picus from dinner one night, my friend grabs some strolling musicians and has them serenade me with a Spanish traditional birthday song and their version of La Bomba. Best “Happy Birthday” I’ve ever heard! Probably had something to do with the warm island breeze.
But I digress. So after we’d circled the island, we stopped at the turtle farm and took a peak at those cute little fellows; then on to Zama for guacamole, Cuba Libres and a gorgeous sunset.
I missed the applause that we heard at sunset on North Beach, but the peace and quiet was incredible.
On our way back to our little apartment on el Caribe, we encountered Panaderia Carmita in Colonia La Gloria. We could smell it before we saw it. Oh, the scent of fresh-baked pastries!! We went a little wild and wound up with enough pastries to serve breakfast to Mexican Navy, I believe. But we did manage to eat all of it before we stopped by there again the next night. I must say, those little sweet-potato pastries are to-die-for. I love the fact that everything has sugar sprinkled on top, even the ham and cheese with jalepeno. That little taste of sweet makes the heat even better. If you have ever heard of Better-than-Sex cake, these pastries take a close second.
We never missed a sunset, a chance to meet more new friends, a new taste or a chance to catch one last ray of sun while watching those turquoise waves. We couldn’t have asked for better weather; sun, 85 degrees and clear skies except for one ten-minute rain shower.
Since we were only on Isla for five days, the end came too soon. Luckily, we did not have to fly out until Friday night; so we spent until 1pm on the Playa Norte. We made a quick dash by the Roticeria on Hildalgo and back to the room for showers and packing. It was so sad to already be saying good-bye to our palm-tree-fringed paradise. When we got to the airport, they were having problems with the computers and things were delayed. We so prayed that we’d have to stay another day, but no such luck. Our flight took off on time and we were back in Dallas and back to real life in a blink. Oh, but the memories. I am writing this one month after returning. I can’t tell you how many times my day has gotten hectic since then, and all I have to do is close my eyes and think of Isla, and everything else just slips away. I already have reservations for Jan. 2007 with my husband and some friends, but I do hope I can get back before that. I think I’ve already caught Isla Fever. Thank you to all, both on Isla and the boards, who helped make our trip so fun and so relaxing.