|Fishing boats at sunset|
“This is my favourite part of Cancun,” the woman sitting beside me said.
Quickly I swallowed my mouthful of wine, to prevent it from being snorted out through my nose. Perplexed I turned to look at her and noticed her all-inclusive resort wristband.
“Cancun?” I said, my eyebrows rising up, questioning.
|Sand art - on North Beach|
“Yes, we are on a day trip from the hotel zone. This is my favourite part of Cancun.”
Lawrie just smiled and diplomatically said, “This isn't Cancun. It's Isla Mujeres. We're a separate community.”
|Same location - next day, are we in Cancun?|
A few days later when I was walking along the shore of North Beach, I noticed a sign that someone had built in the sand. It said: Dream Trip! Yep, good assessment. The next day I passed the exact same sign and someone had changed it to read: Cancun.
Apparently more than one tourist is confused on the concept of where Cancun is located.
|Casa Sirena T-shirts|
As Steve Broin, proprietor of the delightful Casa Sirena Bed & Breakfast located in Centro, is fond of saying: Isla Mujeres is Un-Discovered, Un-Forgettable, Un-Cancun. Just a twenty-minute ferry ride from the mainland Isla is a small island hamlet where people generally know a little bit about you, or sometimes a lot, and even occasionally too much.
It's a friendly, open-hearted community where ex-pats and locals co-mingle. Many long-term ex-pats tirelessly help out with local charities, animal rescue, and student educational programs. Visitors and residents can choose to very involved, or can maintain a lower profile. It's a personal preference.
Like Cancun, Isla does have four all-inclusive resorts: The Privileges Aluxes, The Mia Reef, The Isla Mujeres Palace, and now the Hotel Villa Rolandi has changed to an all-inclusive. However, most of the accommodations are located in condominiums, small quirky hotels, a large hostel, and private houses. The tourists who discover Isla usually have a more adventurous outlook on life, preferring to try something new rather than to ensconce themselves in an all-inclusive, this-could-be-any-beach-resort-in-the-world, atmosphere.
|Golf carts are common transportation for locals|
As soon as you step off the boat you will realize this is very un-Cancun. The first clue is the number of golf carts on the road – about 800 are available for rent, and many more are privately owned. It's a fun and unusual way to explore the island.
Then there are numerous tiny restaurants and bars scattered throughout the various neighbourhoods, augmented by street vendors with their mobile food carts. Another clue that this is not Cancun would be the dozens of small fishing boats pulled up above the tide line, festooned with nets, anchors, and bait buckets – ready and waiting. Or perhaps the coco frio vendors, who with the whack of a sharp machete will lop the top off a coco and hand you a cool nutritious drink, all for around two dollars.
|Nutritious coco water|
Unlike Cancun, the island has a huge Naval base, just to the right of the passenger ferry docks. Several Navy ships, including the fast rescue boats, are often berthed in front of the base. There is a navy hospital, barracks for single personal, and family housing as well. Frequently the enlisted personal can be seen exercising, practicing drills, or doing maintenance chores at the base.
And the airport – well, that belongs to the Navy, but occasionally is used by visiting dignitaries or pilots who have connections. However, a word of advise; be discrete if you are taking photographs of the Navy base, or the boats. For security reasons photographers are not welcome.
Isla is a tight-knit, family-oriented community. Many islanders have lived here all their lives, as have their parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents and so on.
Isla is not the anything-goes party-til-you-drop atmosphere of Cancun.
Come visit. Enjoy. Be kind to our little island and you'll have a wonderful experience, one that will keep you coming back time and again.
And please, don't make me snort my wine through my nose by telling me this is your favourite part of Cancun.
That's wrong, just so wrong.
Lawrie & Lynda
(Thanks to Steve Broin for his great quote:Un-Discovered, Un-Forgettable, Un-Cancun!)
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