My parents, husband, 2 year old daughter and I took a direct flight from Detroit to Cancun on Spirit on February 11th. This was our first time on Spirit and we witnessed some pretty sad customer service experiences on behalf of other people on our flight. The direct flight was great, but the stress of having to keep our bags under 40 pounds and all of the additional charges were not worth the initial “$99” flight cost.
The seats on Spirit were tight with my daughter’s carseat – we shouldn’t have brought it, or at least we should have brought something smaller. It was nice to have her buckled in for her nap, but my husband got the seat belt wedged in in such a way that it took him about 30 minutes to unbuckle it after we landed…the beginning of a very long exit from the airport! Saturday afternoon was VERY busy and there were long lines for every step of the exit process. Luckily all of us were waved through at customs – that was nice. By the time we stopped for a diaper change and at the ATM, the USA Transfers guy told us we were 1 ½ hours later than they were expecting us. This was a surprise to us! Our plane landed on time, so we must have been slower than average! It took about 15 minutes to send a van, but the driver zoomed through Cancun on side streets and got us to the ferry dock in time to make the 6pm ferry. He loaded our luggage right on to the boat for us, which was a relief because we did not pack lightly!
They were expecting us at the Posada del Mar. I handed over our confirmation from Mornings in Mexico and the man at the desk said he had 3 rooms for us on the 3rd floor (my sister and her fiancée were arriving later that night). My husband and I wanted a ground floor room and so did my parents, and luckily there were 2 available. We were not thrilled with the old section (old building?) at the hotel. I posted a review. The location was great, but the rooms were not. I have stayed in many different (less expensive) hotels in Mexico that have been cleaner and better maintained. We are budget travelers and don’t expect a lot, but for almost $100 a night, I think the hotel could have done a lot better.
We really enjoyed our trip though, and once we adjusted to the rooms, we were able to make the best of it and had a great time. I loved that we were set so far back from the road, yet were so close to everything. It was nice to have a restaurant on site for drinks and ice. We had breakfast there the first morning (Pinguino’s) and it was not great. That was the only time we ate there. I saw people getting coffee as early as 7:30, but we usually sent someone from our group out to get some. About half way through the week, we figured out how much money we were spending on coffee each day and realized that we just should have bought a coffee pot on Sunday and we would have saved a lot of money!
The beach across from the Posada del Mar is beautiful! We were up before dawn every morning (thanks to the 2 year old…) and got to watch the army of people cleaning and raking the beach. Wow. We noticed that the rocky beach on the other side of downtown was raked every morning as well. What a lot of work goes into making Isla Mujeres so welcoming for tourists. Our first few days on the island were chilly. We were shocked that we wanted long pants and shirts when the sun wasn’t up. We tried to go swimming at about 4:30pm on Sunday and it was too cold! We were the only ones on the beach. Hilarious when you compare this to the near-90 degree weather and crowded beach at the end of the week.
All of the days run together, so I’ll just list a few things that we did. Our favorite restaurant (and also the cheapest!) was Poc Chuc. The chicken tostadas were amazing and my husband loved the pork tacos. We got takeout from them once and the orders of guacamole and salsa Mexicana were incredibly generous. The waitress remembered my husband from the day before and added some habanero hot sauce to the takeout bag that he had asked for at dinner. We had breakfast at da Luisa on our last day on the island and the view was magnificent. We had to sit inside because of the wind, but the windows were wide open to the Caribbean and we saw dolphins while we were eating! The coffee was great and so was the service (cute bathrooms too!), but the food was pretty bland. We got fresh juice from the cart near the ferry dock to drink at the beach and it was wonderful and cheap. We also loved the catch of the day for 70 pesos at Velasquez on the beach. It was the closest beach restaurant to the hotel.
Five of us did a private snorkeling trip with some people from the fisherman’s cooperative. I wish I could remember the man’s name…he approached us on the street and we actually remembered going out on his boat the last time that we were on the island over 15 years ago! For $30 a person, we had a guide and a boat captain. The man that we booked with wanted an extra $10 a person for him to come along with us, which seemed unnecessary. It turned out that the men with the boat did not really speak English as promised (about as well as our Spanish, which is definitely not conversational!), so it probably would have been nice. We drifted south around the little islands by the lighthouse and that was nice. The water was a little choppy and it was hard work see things close up while staying a safe distance from the coral. We saw amazing fish though. I would have liked to go back to the beginning and drift down two or three times. We moved south to a reef in the open water and had a less-than-great time there. The current was pushing us hard in a different direction than the guide wanted us to go. Most of our group was very inexperienced and were a little overwhelmed by the amount of work required to keep up with him. Again, we saw great fish and some nice small coral and rock formations. By the time we got back to the boat however, we were ready to head in. We were supposed to go to another reef, but we were all exhausted after only an hour and a half!
We rented 2 golf carts on Thursday. It was a bit of a fiasco to get them, but it turned out okay. We checked at Ciro’s the night before to see if we could reserve some, but they said no, turn up at 8:30 and there will be plenty available. We were there at 8:15 and there was one other group ahead of us. After 20 minutes of waiting, we were told that they only had one cart available and it went to the woman in front of us. They called another rental place that opened at nine and walked us around the corner once they determined that they had two available. I think the place was called PP’s. Not one that I had read about here, but we trusted that Ciro’s would recommend a good company. After waiting “5 minutes” (30!!!) for them to open, we got 2 carts. One was very jerry-rigged together. There was a beer bottle top crimped around a wire that eventually fell off the nest morning on the way to return the cart. No big problems though. I think it was $65 for a 24 hour rental.
My husband and daughter and I had one cart for the morning and had a great time. Our daughter refused to sit on my lap (did I mention that she’s 2?), so we tied her to the seat between us with a sling that I had brought for just this purpose. It worked great. Later in the day when she decided sitting on my lap was acceptable, I felt much better having her strapped to me with the sling. It helped when she fell asleep too, which was inevitable with the bumpy ride! We had a great time touring the island. We (okay, I…) managed to totally misread our MapChick map and get lost several times, but we always found our way back to the main road easily. I wish we had been able to stop for lunch, but dd was sleeping.
Later that day we met the rest of our group at Garrafon de Castilla. What a great little spot to see the fish! We liked taking dd in the little protected area in the corner. The fish eventually found us in there and we had a great time watching them. We fed them later and there were so many! Dh and I saw a giant ray while snorkeling and some tiny bright blue fish that were fun to see. We liked the relaxed feel of snorkeling from the beach much more than from a boat. Of course, the views from the boat snorkeling were better!
We took a cab to the turtle farm one day. We got there about an hour before the were supposed to close and didn’t see any staff people until they locked the doors 15 minutes early. I was disappointed because I wanted dd to be able to do the touch tank. Oh well, the turtles and aquariums were well worth the admission price. We should have just stopped on our golf cart though. It was quite a trek in a cab for a 45 minute attraction!
We spent a lot of time on the beach later in the week – it was so hot! We ventured around the corner to North Beach once, but really preferred the people watching and smaller crowds at the one in front of the hotel. North Beach was beautiful, but not as colorful. :-) I didn’t find the beach vendors to be at all pushy or annoying. Now the vendors in the stores near the ferry dock, they are aggressive! We only walked that way once, then avoided them after that.
We were very surprised at the size of the crowds in town. Earlier in the week they seemed much smaller. Maybe it was the buildup to Carnivale? I felt like I was on Bourbon Street a few times. Very large crowds after about 7pm. Busy streets too. We were glad for the quiet location of our hotel.
Oh my – this is very long! And I didn’t even get to everything! Sorry for being so long-winded!