Cancun didn't exist as a resort at the time, so our journey began in Chetumal, Mex. after a flight from Houston via beat up Honda wagon from Ft. Collins, Co.
We hitched a ride north in the back of a truck hauling ice blocks from Chetumal to Merida, sipping dripping water off the canvas tarp all the way (always wondered how much of the ice actually made it to Merida). The old man driving the truck was kind enough to drop us in Puerto Juarez where he said we could find a fisherman to take us across to Isla. Upon arrival in PJ, small, colorful boats were lined up along the beach and it was a matter of minutes before an eager fisherman had loaded up our backpacks and we were off to Isla Mujeres. We wondered if we would arrive safely as the bottom of the small boat flexed like a dance partner with the water below, seemingly ready to crack like an egg. We arrived safely, tipped the young man well and proceded to north beach where we found a spot (Los Hamacos)to store our stuff and pitch a tent, all for .50 cents a night, right about where you'll find Sea Friends Water Sports today.
Bonfires on north beach or lingering around town square (Zocalo) is where travellers would congregate at night, exchanging stories and wandering the quiet streets. Bucanero's and a few other restaurants were available for the less strapped visitor, but our stretched peso's were reserved for an occasional beer and the delicious (cheap)street cart "hambuergesas" near town square. Today you'll find several of those "hambuergesa street carts", but my favorite is the one in front of the Hotel Carmelina open from about 7-10pm, nightly.
I remember several days biking to Garrafon where a worn dirt path down a steep hill brought you to some of the finest shore access snorkeling you could imagine! No zip lines or admissions, just a dirt path and maybe 5-6 others enjoying the secret delight of this wonder. Two days in a row, nearly more impressive than the snorkeling were two French Canadian girls that shared the small beach with us, but that's another story. Jeff and I always wished they would of been friendlier, but we've since gotten over it. The bumpy bicycle ride back to the north end was a time to reflect and look forward to a cold one and those wonderful greasy "hambuergesas"
Little did I know at the time, but my wife, now of 17 years had been visiting Isla as well at about the same time. Our paths in those days brought us both to Isla, Tulum and the quiet beaches of Playa Del Carmen.
My reflections bring back great memories, but life on Isla is wonderous today as it always has been. After many, many trips, I still leave thinking what all the fuss is about Cancun and most importantly, how easy going and friendly the people of Isla are. Enjoy your trip, whether it's your first or one of many, your footsteps will be forever etched in Isla's mystique.