If you are trying to get from Playa del Carmen to Isla Mujeres, you’ll have to plan for ground and ferry transportation. This trip isn’t as straightforward as going to other mainland beach destinations. As someone who has done this trip, I will share my experience with you so you know what to expect.
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Why visit Isla Mujeres?
While it may take some effort to travel from Playa del Carmen to Isla Mujeres, it’s definitely worth it! You can enjoy the beautiful beaches there, which are much better than those in Playa del Carmen. Moreover, exploring another part of Mexico makes for a fun excursion. What’s great about Isla Mujeres is that its beaches are not usually affected by seaweed, which is a common issue on other beaches in Riviera Maya.
If you want to go to a beach destination without seaweed, Isla Mujeres is the place to go! To make the most of your day, start early and enjoy a full day of relaxation on the beach or island exploration.
About Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres, which means “Island of Women,” got its name from the Spanish when they landed there. The Spanish found numerous goddess images on the island that dated back to the time when it was a sacred place for the Mayan goddess of childbirth and medicine. Today, Isla Mujeres is more of a tourist destination, but it still offers a great escape from mainland Mexico. Although the island is less than 4.5 miles long, it boasts many restaurants, shops, and beautiful hotels and resorts.
How far is Isla Mujeres from Playa del Carmen?
A common question is how far Playa del Carmen is from Cancun and how far Cancun is from Isla Mujeres. The answer is that it’s about a one-hour drive from Playa del Carmen to Cancun and a ferry ride that takes less than 30 minutes from Cancun to Isla Mujeres. If your ground transportation and ferry schedules align perfectly, you could theoretically travel from Playa del Carmen to Isla Mujeres in under two hours. However, it’s likely that you’ll have to wait a bit for your ferry, as I did. In my experience, the total travel time was just over two hours.
The two-step process
To get from the center Playa del Carmen to Isla Mujeres , you need to take a bus or shuttle to Cancun and then take a ferry to Isla Mujeres. Although carrying your luggage for an additional leg of transportation may seem like a hassle, most travelers find it worthwhile.
Traveling to Cancun
There are three ways to get from Playa del Carmen to Cancun’s ferry terminal: driving, taking a taxi, or taking public transportation.
If you’re heading to the ferry in Cancun, the most convenient options are to either drive or just rent a car from Playa del Carmen. Go to the Puerto Juarez Ultramar Ferry terminal and you’ll find a parking garage there. Alternatively, you can park in a cheaper lot nearby for around $100 pesos (~$5 USD).
Taking a taxi is the easiest way that to get from Playa del Carmen center to the ferry terminal in Cancun if you don’t have your own car. Its a 1 hour drive and may cost around $1000 pesos each way, which is approximately $50 USD. It would be a better option for groups to split the cost since taxis are more expensive.
By Public Transportation
If you’re on a tighter budget, the ADO Bus or Playa Express van service are both viable options to get to Cancun. Both will drop you off at the ADO station in Cancun, but you’ll still need to take a 10-minute taxi ride to get to the ferry terminal.
The ADO Bus provides large charter-style buses for travel between Playa del Carmen and Cancun. There are multiple departures every day and each one-way ticket costs approximately $104 MXN (~$5 USD). The bus can be boarded at either the “ADO Playa del Carmen Turistica Station” located on 5th Avenue or the Playa del Carmen Alterna ADO Station in downtown Playa del Carmen. The bus will arrive at the ADO bus station in Cancun as its final destination.
To get to the Ultramar ferry terminal, you’ll have to take a taxi. The taxi ride will take approximately 10 minutes and cost around $200 pesos (~$10 USD).
You can buy tickets from the ADO website (Spanish only).
Taking the ferry to Isla Mujeres
To have a great time on the Ultramar ferry to Isla Mujeres, it is crucial to choose the right port. There are four ports for passenger ferries from Cancun to Isla Mujeres and one for vehicles. I recommend the Puerto Juárez port for its proximity to the bus station, affordability, and more than twenty daily departures.
You can also take a ferry from three different ports in Cancun’s Hotel Zone – Playa Tortugas, Playa Caraco or El Embarcadero. Ultramar ferry ports to Isla Mujeres only have three or fewer departures per day depending on your situation.
Is there a ferry from Playa del Carmen to Isla Mujeres?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a direct transportation option from Cancun to Isla Mujeres. However, you can take the Cancun to Isla Mujeres ferry, which is a great experience. On the ferry, you can choose to either sit on the upper outdoor deck or in the air-conditioned ground-floor cabin with floor-to-ceiling windows.
Traveling from Playa del Carmen to Isla Mujeres through the Puerto Juárez port has an added advantage. Ultramar provides a flexible ticket policy for this route. As the ferries from Puerto Juárez to Isla Mujeres are scheduled every half to one hour, you can choose to board an earlier ferry if you are ahead of your planned schedule.
I was able to make my 3-hour and 15-minute trip to Isla Mujeres in just 2 hours and 15 minutes. It was great to experience the island’s vibe an hour earlier than expected. If you need to take an earlier or later ferry, you don’t need to purchase a new ticket. Just join the line and board the ferry.
Isla Mujeres Ferry Price
When you reach the Ultramar ferry terminal, you can buy a round-trip ticket to Isla Mujeres for $540 pesos (~$29 USD). They accept cash and credit cards. However, if you’re a resident of Quintana Roo with an ID, you can get the round-trip ferry for only $200 pesos.
How to get around in Isla Mujeres
Easiest and most convinient way to get around in Isla Mujeres is by taking taxis, renting a golf car, or simply walking:
You can walk directly from the ferry terminal to Playa Norte beach, depending on your destination. The walk takes approximately 15 minutes and will take you through downtown Isla Mujeres, providing a pleasant stroll.
After you reach the ferry terminal in Isla Mujeres, you will notice a row of red taxis waiting to the left of the exit. These taxis are easily available to hire and can take you to all the areas of the island.
Golf carts are by far the most popular mode of transportation on Isla Mujeres because of the island’s small size, making it easier to maneuver through the narrow streets. You can rent golf carts at the ferry terminal and explore the island or for a fun ride to the beach.
Playa del Carmen vs. Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres has a quieter and smaller atmosphere compared to Playa del Carmen. The area is navigated through narrow roads where you will encounter some golf carts as you head towards the coast. The cost of living in Isla Mujeres is actually higher than Playa del Carmen, but you can still find some affordable dining options with a little effort.
The white sandy beaches of Isla Mujeres with their blue water are much better compared to Playa del Carmen. Though Playa del Carmen beaches are also nice, but Isla Mujeres beaches are simply incomparable.
The Beach hop
If you’re planning a trip to the Yucatán, both Playa del Carmen and Isla Mujeres are unique locations worth visiting. Now that you know the route from Playa del Carmen to Isla Mujeres, all that’s left is to ensure your bathing suit is dry enough to pack. Actually, it might be easier to keep it on since the trip is short, and the inviting waters of Isla Mujeres will be waiting for you upon arrival.