Upon booking our spring break to one of our favorite Mexican hideaways, Isla Mujeres, I had to text one of my friends to rub it in that we were heading back to Isla. Imagine my surprise when he texted back that he and some other mutual friends from our small town had also just booked a vacation there during the same week! Their group of six soon grew to another group of six and so our private getaway became the best of both worlds–relaxing beach days for two followed by fun evenings out with friends. Like the never-experienced luxury of being on a tropical vacation in your own town!
And so we were off! Russell gets so excited at the airport when we go on vacation. Glad to see the TSA didn’t crush all of his joy in the security check point.
Once in Mexico, typical days on Isla consisted of a morning beach walk and breakfast at our hotel, NaBalam http://www.nabalam.com. A few days I went to yoga, once at Na Balam by a true yogi–a, dare I say, shaman? This spiritual little guy made for a nice alternative to my usual yoga. He even gave Russell an hour of yoga therapy during the week. Another day I ventured down to yoga class on the skydeck of Cabanas María del Mar. That yoga instructor was more California surfer than Indian guru, making me chuckle every time I was in a pose and he would prompt in his Zen-stoner vibe, “Relaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaxxxxxx”.
After the morning workouts, we would settle into our daily routine of sunbed surfing while overlooking beautiful North Beach. After a regimen of read, swim, repeat, I waited until it seemed an appropriate and judgment-free time to order my afternoon bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and some lunch. The new restaurant at Na Balam has fantastic food, like these octopus tostadas and fresh seafood ceviche. There’s just nothing better than lying in “bed” all day on one of the best Caribbean beaches while people bring you seafood and pour you wine. Ahhh…..
As hard as it was to break up that lovely daytime routine, we agreed to go with our friends one day on a ride around the island on golf carts. We’ve been to Isla several times and know the golf cart route well. Our morning began with a ride along the windy, rough side of the island where we stopped to walk around awhile on the rock formations. My friend Ron, doing his best impression of James Franco from 127 Hours. Luckily he did not have to saw off his arm…
After working up an appetite from our climbing, we continued south to Colonia La Gloria, the neighborhood housing most of Isla’s residents. Here we would find Mango Café, one of the top rated restaurants on Tripadvisor. www.facebook.com/mangocafeisla
It seemed the word was out as this place was packed so we were told it would be about a 25 minute wait for a table. We made the most of our wait by strolling around the neighborhood and befriending some little girls. Some of them decided to use Russell for their hide and seek spot. “Hey, let’s hide behind this big, white guy!”
And so our playdate was interrupted by a wave across the street signaling our table was ready. ¡Adiós, chicas! The Mango Café did not disappoint! Do not come here looking for a “light breakfast”. Some of us ordered breakfast quesadillas while the others ordered the Stuffed Poblano Chile which came out as large as a deep fried football!An hour later we all waddled out of the place and continued further south, passing the Crayon Houseand making our way to one of the island cemeteries. If you’ve never visited a Mexican cemetery, it is a must. Nothing scary here, looks more like a mini-golf course than anything from a Halloween movie. The tiny mausoleums are interesting and made for a nice little digestive stroll. *Side note, one should not consume 3,000 calories before noon. And so we were off again to Punta Sur, the southernmost point of the island, where conveniently there was a bar in a judgement-free zone so many in our group partook in a piña colada. Nothing goes better on top of a deep fried football than a 600 calorie frothy drink! Ahhhh……vacation.
After a walk about and some photo ops on the lovely south end,
we were back on the carts and northbound up the calm, eastern side of the island. With no agenda, we decided we would make stops as they called our attention so it was no surprise when our lead golf cart pulled into the Ice Bar. A tourist trap if there ever was one, we went for it and donned our yeti-esque parkas in the 90 degree lobby and entered the solid ice bar and its freezing temps. I loved that we paid thousands of dollars to escape the cold and then paid money to be in the cold. We Americans are so strange! Anyway, it was a fun thing actually and I know we really did need two more margaritas on top of the deep fried football.
After the Ice Bar, we stopped for lunch(????!!!!) at Playa Lancheros, a requirement when on the island. It is a great spot to take a swim, which we did, and chill out for awhile before making the final journey north back to town and the hotels. Of course we went out to dinner that night, don’t really remember what or where as I think my clothes were so tight it blocked circulation to my brain. No more 10,000 calorie days on this trip I said the next morning. Through sheer will power and restraint I was able to keep the rest of the trip below 5,000 a day. I know, you are thinking about my sacrifice and I appreciate it. A “diet” on vacation—what??
Anyways, the week went on with more sunning, swimming, reading, and wine, with a little snorkeling by the bridge mixed in for cardio. Nights were a whirlwind of one great seafood dinner after the next at places like Rolandi’s Pizzeria, Asia Caribe, Muelle 7, Olivia’s, and Jax. There were also some nice breakfasts at the market stands behind Na Balam and, of course, the out of this world Lobster Eggs Benedict at Rooster Café.
There were a lot of celebrations too that week on the island. While sitting at a bar one evening, we watched the set up of a child’s birthday party in the street and restaurant next door. Russell was instrumental in helping them hang their piñata and it was great watching the kids smash it in the street as tourists walked by. We also got to celebrate our friend Karen’s birthday one night. I think her birthday wish was to not get back on the ferry at the end of the week! We started her big night in style with sunset cocktails on the balcony of their room at Ixchel Hotel. It was so romantic watching the sun go down from that vantage point, till our friend Andy photo bombed our big moment….or did we photo bomb him? Whatever.
As we had come to the last day of our trip, we decided that since we did originally book the trip as a romantic getaway that we should have one intimate dinner just the two of us, so we headed back to the south end where we dined at Maria’s Kan Kin. This was a truly memorable evening with patio seating overlooking the infinity pool. We were there in time for sunset, which made for an even better view looking across the bay at the lights of Cancún. We started out with a shrimp appetizer and finished up with a seafood pasta and this beautifully prepared grouper. Fantastic!
And so ended another great week on Isla Mujeres. You just can’t go wrong with a vacation here. And you never know what new friends, or in our case this time, old friends, you’ll run into!
As a parting note, whenever I go to Isla I try to think about jobs Russell and I could get here and maybe stay awhile. I found that my translation skills could be needed at this supermarket. Mmmmmm….nothing more refreshing on a 90 degree day than a “cool” beer!