How to Get to Isla Mujeres – A Guide for 1st-Time Visitors

By Michele Samal Kinnon

Are you planning a trip to Isla Mujeres? Are you looking for the best way to get there? Whether you are going for the day, a week or a month we can tell you how to get to Isla Mujeres from Cancun or wherever you are staying along the Riviera Maya!

Isla Mujeres (Island of Women) is a stunningly beautiful island in Mexico that is just a 20-minute ferry ride away from the Cancun coast. The east coast of the island is covered with the most spectacular white sand beaches while the west side sports a rough and rugged rocky coastline. The island is ringed by coral reefs that beckon SCUBA divers and aquatic enthusiasts from all over the world.

Isla Mujeres may be tiny, less than 5 miles long and only 1/2 mile wide, but it is packed with things to see and do. You can rent a golf cart and see the whole island in a day. 

Or, stay longer and explore all the shops and eateries in downtown, visit the sculpture garden at Punta Sur, check out all the best beach clubs, take a snorkel tour to MUSA the underwater museum and enjoy the magnificent sunset from Playa Norte. If you are visiting at the right time, you may be able to swim with sea turtles or even whale sharks!

There is a lot more to Isla than meets the eye. But you have to get there first.

How to get from Cancun to Isla Mujeres

To get to Isla Mujeres, you must take a ferry from the mainland. There are no flights available to Isla. There is a small airstrip on the island but that is reserved for military use.

The most popular way to get from Cancun to Isla Mujeres on your own is to use one of the passenger ferries. The ferry ride will take just 20 minutes and offers you the most amazing views across the spectacular turquoise waters of the Mexican Caribbean, the sun-drenched coast of Cancun, the glittering white hotel zone and the island of Isla Mujeres. 

Ferry ride to isla mujeres

The color of the water is almost indescribable. Turquoise doesn’t begin to describe the many shades of blue. Even after seeing it dozens of times on dozens of crossings to Isla, it still takes my breath away.

Here’s a tip from me to you: If you have the chance to sit up top in the open air, that’s the way to go. You may catch a bit of ocean spray but the views across the channel will be worth it. If you want to capture the moment in photos, this is the way to travel.

Getting from Cancun International Airport to Isla Mujeres

If you are just arriving in Mexico and Isla Mujeres is your first destination, you will need to know how to get from Cancun International Airport to the ferry dock first. The Puerto Juarez ferry terminal is about 50 minutes from the airport. There are several options to get from Cancun Airport to the Isla Mujeres ferry terminal and on to the island.

1. Private Transfer:

Booking a private transfer from the Cancun Airport to Puerto Juarez will give you the fastest and most reliable transportation from the airport to the ferry dock. This is a good idea if you are a family or a group traveling together. This is also the safest option if you arrive at the airport late at night. Keep in mind, the ferries leave Puerto Juarez every 30 minutes. Currently, the last ferry of the day leaves at 11 PM.

You can find secure private transportation here.

2. Shared Shuttle:

Reserving a shared shuttle from the Cancun Airport to Puerto Juarez is another good option and more cost-effective than Private transportation especially if you are traveling solo or with one other person. There are several companies offering this route and all can be booked online in advance.

3. ADO Bus:

If you’re on a tight budget, take the ADO bus from the bus terminal at the airport to the ADO terminal in Cancun. From there, you can make your way to the colectivo station and take one of these local shuttles to Puerto Juarez. The ferry terminals are about 20 minutes from the ADO bus station.

4. Taxi:

You can take a taxi from the Cancun Airport to either the ferry docks at Puerto Juarez or those in the Cancun Hotel Zone. The Ultramar ferry port at Playa Tortugas is probably the closest to the airport but that will depend on the traffic. Ask your taxi driver which is the best choice that day. This is not going to be the most economical option but if you are tight on time, it may be the best bet.

Isla Mujeres Ferry Terminals

There are several ferry terminals situated at different points along the coast in Cancun, so you’ll have no trouble finding one that is convenient for you. There are different options you can consider.

The ferries leave Gran Puerto Cancun every 30 minutes. The ferries departing from the Cancun Hotel Zone run less frequently. 

Should you take the ferry from Puerto Juarez or the Hotel Zone?

The answer depends on where you are staying or arriving from, your available transportation options, and what time you want to depart for Isla Mujeres.

  • Puerto Juárez offers more frequent ferries, earlier and later crossings. However, you will need to get to the ferry dock from wherever you are based. The ferries leave Puerto Juarez every 30 minutes. Currently, the last ferry of the day leaves at 11 PM.
  • Hotel Zone ferries have more limited crossings and charge higher fares but they are easily accessible by public bus for those staying in the Cancun Hotel Zone.

Taking the Ferry to Isla Mujeres from Cancun´s Hotel Zone

There are 3 ferry terminals in the Cancun Hotel Zone from which you can take a ferry to Isla Mujeres.

Ultrmar ferry arriving at the docks. A great way to have a day trip to isla mujeres.

Playa Caracol Isla Mujeres Ferry Terminal Blvd. Kukulcan (km 9.5) – Ultramar Ferries depart from 10:30 AM to 5:30 PM and return between 11:15 AM and 5 PM.

Playa Tortugas Isla Mujeres Ferry Terminal Blvd. Kukulcan (km 6.5) – Ultramar Ferries depart every 60 to 90 minutes between 9 AM and 5:45 PM and return between 9:30 AM and 7 PM.

Embarcadero Isla Mujeres Ferry Terminal Blvd Kukulcan (Km 4.5) – Xcaret Xailing has catamaran ferries that depart hourly between 9 AM and 7 PM and return hourly between 10 AM and 8 PM.

Xcaret xailing ferry to isla mujeres

Whichever terminal you use, the price for the trip will be about the same.

Getting to the Isla Mujeres Ferry Terminal in the Hotel Zone

If you’re staying in the Cancun Hotel Zone then you can reach Embarcaderos, Playa Caracol or Playa Tortuga terminals by hopping on a bus (R1) from your hotel. Your concierge can also arrange a taxi for you.

If you’re staying in Downtown Cancun, it will be more convenient for you to call a taxi (Uber is currently not available in Cancun). From Downtown Cancun, you may be better off departing from the ferry terminal at Puerto Juarez. Ask the taxi driver to quote both routes before you decide the best option.

Puerto Juarez Ferry to Isla Mujeres

Puerto Juarez is located in the northern part of Cancun and has 3 ferry terminals with service to Isla Mujeres.

Gran Puerto: Often referred to as Terminal Ultramar, this is the most popular terminal because of its frequent departure schedule. This is the most popular ferry terminal for locals as it offers the best rates and the most departure times. This is the terminal we choose to depart from as it is easy to find affordable parking onsite (20 pesos per hour) and longer-term parking nearby (100 pesos per day) when we are planning a longer stay on the island. The popularity of this terminal means lines can be long, especially in high season. You may want to purchase your tickets in advance. You can find the Ultramar ferry schedule here.

Punta Sam: If you want to take your car to Isla Mujeres this is the only terminal with car ferry service. Ultracarga car ferry service offers several crossings daily for vehicles of all sizes. The rate includes the car and the driver. Additional passengers are allowed for an added fee. We have found that the posted schedule is not always followed so you may want to contact them directly to confirm departures before arriving.

Ultramar car ferry

Terminal Maritima Puerto Juarez: This terminal is situated only 400 meters north of the Ultramar terminal. There are two companies that operate ferries from here. Jetway and Naveganto. Jetway offers ferry service to Isla Mujeres daily with the first boat departing at 6 AM and the last boat returning from Isla to Cancun at 9 PM.

* Currently, Naveganto has temporarily suspended its service. You may want to check their website for updated information. 

Tips from Frequent Travelers: Don´t buy round trip tickets on the passenger ferries. There is no economic benefit and a round-trip ticket will limit your return to that one ferry company. Also, in the event you lose your ticket while you are on the island, you will need to repurchase it. 

Day Trip to Isla Mujeres – Tour Options

If you want to take a trip to Isla Mujeres on a tour, you will have a lot of options. Taking a tour to Isla Mujeres is one of the best things to do if you are vacationing in Cancun or the Riviera Maya. The great thing about these tours is they take out the guesswork and just let you enjoy. 

Catamaran day trip

A catamaran tour to Isla Mujeres will provide you with transportation to the departure location and a luxurious crossing from Cancun to Isla. The boats will make a few stops along the way to snorkel and then some stops off the coast of Isla Mujeres.

Depending on the nature of the tour, you can get off the catamaran when you reach Isla Mujeres and explore the island on your own. Most of the tours offer food and an open bar after snorkeling.

Here are a few of the best options for Isla Mujeres catamaran tours.

Ultimate All-Inclusive Catamaran Sailing Experience to Isla Mujeres

If you are looking for a fun Isla Mujeres day trip, this tour will give you a full Isla Mujeres inclusive catamaran experience. After snorkeling at the famous El Meco coral reef, you will dock at a private beach club for a delicious buffet lunch and some downtime. 

You can explore Downtown Isla Mujeres with plenty of time there to explore and shop or just relax on Isla´s famous Playa Norte.

Visit Isla Contoy and Isla Mujeres

This tour will take a full day and will also take you first to the protected island of Contoy. Here, you will have the option to snorkel on a spectacular coral reef, birdwatch at the nature sanctuary on the island, or relax on the pristine beaches of this uninhabited paradise.

Isla mujeres private boat tours

After snorkeling, you’ll dock at a private beach club on Isla Mujeres for a delicious buffet lunch and some beach time. Here, you’ll have plenty of time to explore and shop in downtown Isla. 

Eco-Friendly Whale Shark Snorkel Tour

If you are visiting at the right time of year, do NOT miss an opportunity to snorkel with the majestic whale sharks on a full-day snorkeling tour off the coast of Isla Mujeres. 

Swimming with whale sharks on isla mujeres

Under the direction of an expert guide, you will swim with the world’s largest fish while looking out for dolphins, manta rays, and turtles. 

The tour includes lunch on the boat at Playa Norte, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Also included in the fare is pickup and drop off from most Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, and Tulum hotels. 

Local Tours

The most budget-friendly tour option is to hire a lancha from the docks near the ferry terminal. If you are up for an adventure, this could be a great option for you!

These tours are organized by the local fishermen on their small boats. There will be a lot of stops along the way where you’ll get the opportunity to snorkel if you want to. They may throw a few lines in the water and make a few stops along the coast of Isla Mujeres.

This will be much cheaper than the fancier catamaran tours but keep in mind the boats will be much smaller. Depending on the seas, you could be in for a rough day.

Taking a Car to Isla Mujeres

Depending on your length of stay, you may want to bring a car to Isla Mujeres. There are no car rentals available on the island. Most visitors coming for the day or a few days choose to rent a golf cart to get around.

However, golf cart rentals are not cheap. If you are planning to visit Isla for a week or more, if you are traveling with a large group or if your plans already include a rental car, you may want to consider bringing a vehicle over on the car ferry.

The car ferry terminal is located at Punta Sam just north of Puerto Juarez. The ferry company is Ultracarga and they run several crossings from Cancun to Isla Mujeres and back every day. You can check their website for the schedule and the current rates.

Things to keep in mind. Isla is a very small island. Aside from taxis, there are very few cars operating on it. There is very limited parking. Before you decide to bring your vehicle, consider the following:

  • Where you are staying? There are really no options for parking downtown and not all hotels or vacation rental homes have off-street parking.
  • What do you plan to do during your stay? Will you need to get from one end of the island to the other regularly? If you are staying in a vacation rental villa on Punta Sur but want to dine downtown every day, a car might be handy to have.
  • How many people do you need to move around the island? It´s difficult and expensive to rent large golf carts that accommodate more than 4 people.
Isla mujeres golf carts

Depending on your particular circumstances, you may find that you are better off renting a golf cart or using taxis to get around during your stay. There are also public buses that are inexpensive and easy to navigate.

How to get Isla Mujeres from Tulum

If you’re currently in Tulum, you’ll first need to get to Cancun and catch a ferry to Isla Mujeres. You have three options for getting from Tulum to Cancun. 

The first option is to book private transportation directly from your accommodations in Tulum to any of the ferry terminals. This will be the most comfortable option and the most reliable if you are working on a schedule.

A more budget-friendly option is to take the ADO bus, which will bring you directly to Cancun. From the Cancun bus station, you can find a taxi to Puerto Juarez. The trip will take about 2 hours and 30 minutes, depending on traffic.

If you are feeling adventurous and don´t have a lot of luggage, you can take a colectivo (shared shuttle bus), which will take about 2 hours to get you to Cancun. From the colectivo station, you can grab a taxi to the ferry terminal. This is going to be the cheapest way to get from Tulum to Isla Mujeres.

If you are pressed for time, you can take a taxi all the way which will cost 2000 MXN or more. This should get you to Puerto Juarez in about 2 hours. Make sure you negotiate the rate with the taxi driver before getting in the car.

Of course, there is always the option of booking a fun tour from Tulum to Isla Mujeres. Some of the better tour companies provide transportation to and from your hotel at no additional cost. 

Check out this all-inclusive option that will give you the most bang for your buck!

How to get to Isla Mujeres from Playa del Carmen

Just like from Tulum, you’ll first have to get from Playa del Carmen to the ferry terminal in Cancun if you want to go to Isla Mujeres.

Take either the ADO bus or a colectivo from Playa del Carmen to Cancun, and then take a taxi to the ferry terminal at Puerto Juarez. There are plenty of taxis available to take you from the bus station to the ferry, just be sure to negotiate the fare before you get in the cab.

Another option is to book private transportation from Playa del Carmen to any of the ferry terminals. This will be the most comfortable option and the most reliable if you are working on a schedule.

If your schedule is tight and you want to get the most bang for your buck, an organized tour may be the way to go. These tours will provide transportation from Playa del Carmen, passage to Isla Mujeres and will offer the chance to do some amazing snorkeling, visit the best beaches and enjoy yourself without having to worry about planning every detail.

This is one of the all-inclusive Isla Mujeres tours we recommend from Playa del Carmen. 

So, now you know HOW to get to Isla Mujeres. Where the ferry terminals are and how to get there. You even have some all-inlcusive options for an isla Mujeres day trip!

Now…lets find out the best time to visit the island! Read our travel guide here!

If you have any questions about this information, please feel free to contact us

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About the author

Michele Samal Kinnon

Despite the strong reservations of family and friends, in 2004 I moved from the United States to Mexico with my young family. Since then, I have made the Riviera Maya my home. I have raised two remarkable children here. I have celebrated amazing successes, made countless mistakes, and in the process, fallen in love with this beautiful country.