21 Things to Be Careful of In Isla Mujeres

By Michele Samal Kinnon

Isla Mujeres, the enchanting island off the coast of Cancun in Mexico, beckons travelers with its turquoise waters, sugar-white sand beaches, and laid-back atmosphere. This tiny Mexican Caribbean island provides a welcome break from the crush of mass tourism in Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

Isla Mujeres, a name which translates to “Island of Women” is located just a few kilometers and a short ferry ride from Cancun. Aside from its proximity, one of the things that draw locals and tourists to the island is its safety. Even people who live and work in Cancun say that Isla Mujeres (or just “Isla” to the locals) is one of the best places to relax and unwind and a great place to bring their families for a Sunday off. However, There are still things to be careful of in Isla Mujeres

Is Isla Mujeres Safe?

In short, yes. Isla Mujeres is a very safe destination for tourists from around the world. I have been traveling with my kids to Isla Mujeres for years and I can tell you without a doubt that it is a safe place to travel. Since we moved to the Riviera Maya in 2004, I  have taken dozens of trips to the island, on my own, with friends and with my children. Families, couples and solo travelers will all be able to enjoy a fun and safe holiday on this beautiful island.

Playa norte boats isla mujeres - how to get to isla mujeres

People come from near and far to enjoy Isla´s beautiful beaches, clear shallow waters, vibrant coral reefs and the variety of activities available on the island. Like any travel destination, it’s important to exercise common sense, stay informed about local conditions, and take standard travel precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit. 

Isla Mujeres is a pretty safe place statistically, especially when you compare it to other popular travel destinations in Mexico. Violent crimes rarely happen here.  Crime rates in general are very low. There are special tourist police (Policía Turística) who are on patrol to make sure everyone is safe. They are always ready to help if visitors have any problems.

Isla Mujeres feels like a small friendly neighborhood where everyone knows everyone. The people living on the island are friendly and genuinely seem to like having tourists around. They are watchful and care about keeping visitors safe and happy. This friendly vibe makes it a safe and welcoming place for tourists. 

The tourist areas are well taken care of, with clear signs to show you where to go and good facilities to make sure everyone is comfortable. If you fall ill or have a minor injury,  there are small medical clinics on the island. For more serious attention, the city of Cancun is nearby with larger hospitals and medical centers.

The beaches on Isla Mujeres are calm and peaceful, especially on the north side of the island, making it a safe spot for fun water activities like swimming, snorkeling, and boating. The municipal government conducts regular inspections to make sure that restaurants and hotels are clean and safe.

The new zama beach club on playa norte

Isla Mujeres is a tiny island and getting around is easy and safe. You can rent a golf cart or scooter, take a taxi, hop on a public bus or even walk the length of the island. Since Isla Mujeres is small, tourists can explore it all without any worries. 

But, just like any sought-after tourist haven, Isla Mujeres comes with its own set of safety considerations that every visitor should be mindful of. Petty crimes like pickpocketing and bag snatching can occur, especially in crowded areas or on beaches. There are ways that visitors can injure themselves while exploring the island or the surrounding reef. There are circumstances in which a foreign visitor may unwittingly get into trouble!

Here are some things to be careful of in Isla Mujeres and some simple safety tips to help you have the perfect vacation on this fantastic little island.

Travel Safety Tips and Things to be Careful of in Isla Mujeres

1. Take Precautions for Hot and Sunny Weather

I always think this goes without saying but, the sun can be very strong on the Mexican Caribbean. Our days are long and hot, especially in the summer months. Be sure to bring along a good pair of polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging UV rays. You will also want to use a good reef-safe sunscreen with a protection level of at least 30.

Isla mujeres with kids

If you are going to be spending a lot of time on boats or in the water, I would invest in a long-sleeved rash guard. If you can find one with UV protection, even better. I have a great wide-brimmed hat that goes with me everywhere. Besides looking super cool, it keeps the sun off of my face and ears. You can find great hats at reasonable in town in many of the local shops.

2. Stay Hydrated

At the risk of repeating myself, it´s really hot here. The sun is strong and you are going to sweat. A lot. It´s important to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially if you are spending a lot of time outdoors. Make sure you have a good refillable water bottle to carry with you on your golf cart excursions and to the beach. In town, there are plenty of shops with bottled water in case you run out. My advice is to drink more water than you think you need to, especially if you are enjoying some cervezas or other alcoholic drinks which will only dehydrate you further.

3. Avoid Drinking Tap Water

Unless you are staying in an upscale resort or a private villa that has a very good reverse osmosis water filtration system, do not drink the tap water on Isla Mujeres. Or in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Merida or anywhere on the Yucatan Penisula. Depending on the particular area, all the water that comes out of the taps in your kitchen and bathroom, and even the water in your pool, should be “potable”. Water that has come from the water treatment plant should be and is “drinkable”. However, the pipes that water travels through and the cisternas and tinacos that store the water for usage may not been so clean.

For your own safety and peace of mind, drink only bottled water. If you are in a resort, bottled water will be provided for you. If you are in a budget hotel, you will want to stock up and keep some filtered water in your room. If you are in a vacation rental, your drinking water will probably come in a 20-liter bottle called a garrafon. Use that to keep your refillable bottle full when you go out for the day. And no matter what you have been told, boiling the tap water on Isla Mujeres does not make it safe to drink.

4. Keep Your Wits About You

On Isla Mujeres and anywhere you travel to, it´s important to be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. If you are going out for the evening to a bar or nightclub, keep your eye on your drink and be mindful of your consumption. Dehydration and long days in the sun will wreak havoc on your tolerance for alcohol. Isla Mujeres is a very safe place but it´s still a good idea to stick to well-lit, busy locations and be aware of your surroundings.

Isla mujeres golf cart rentals

Avoid walking alone at night, especially in unlit and unpopulated areas. Taxis on Isla are generally considered safe (especially in comparison to those in Playa del Carmen and Tulum). If it´s late and dark and you have been drinking, leave your golf cart in a safe, legal spot and grab a cab home.

5. Keep Your Belongings Close

Although the risk of being pickpocketed is low in Isla Mujeres, it´s wise to keep your belongings close to prevent pickpocketing. Keep your belongings secure and avoid leaving valuables unattended on the beach or in public places. Do not hang your purse on your chair in a restaurant. Most Mexican restaurants will provide you with a stand to hang your bag on so it stays right next to you. If not, simply keep it in your lap.

**Fun fact: It´s considered bad luck to put your purse on the floor in Mexico. It is a common superstition that if you let your purse touch the floor you will lose money.

6. Be Aware of Exchange Rates

US Dollars are widely accepted on Isla Mujeres so if you are there on a day trip and don´t have pesos…not to worry. Paying in the local currency can very often save you money, but not always. Make sure you know the current exchange rate. I have seen many instances where the local businesses were giving an older, more favorable exchange rate. It could be in your best interest to pay in USD. Many of the restaurants, tour operators and service providers will accept credit cards (Mastercard and VISA). The best rate may actually be the one offered by your bank credit card.

7. Get in the Mood to Bargain

Even though I know it’s expected, I’m not one to haggle. I don’t like it. The whole thing makes me uncomfortable. I also don’t like feeling that I have been ripped off or taken advantage of so I know that a certain amount of negotiation is needed so that everyone goes away happy. Be prepared to haggle with street sellers and beachside merchants to get better prices.

Shopping on isla mujeres

Don´t start your negotiations so low as to be insulting but know that there is a significant buffer built into the first asking price. Keep in mind, the majority of the shops and vendors are selling the same items. If you don´t get the price you think is fair, walk away and move on to the next guy. If you find something really special that you really think will be a great memento from your trip to Isla Mujeres, just buy it and enjoy it.

8. Beware of Mosquitoes

One souvenir you do NOT want to pick up in Isla Mujeres is a mosquito-borne illness. Protect yourself from mosquito bites to avoid diseases like Dengue fever, chikungunya virus, and the Zika virus. Be prepared by using bio-degradable insect repellent, especially at dawn and dusk. Plan to bring it along with you and reapply it throughout the day, like sunscreen. Wearing light-colored clothing also helps keep mosquitos at bay. In your hotel or vacation villa, be sure to keep your screens shut as much as possible.

9. Watch Your Step

When people ask me about whether it is safe in Mexico, I always tell them the same thing. It´s not the cartel you need to be worried about. The most dangerous thing in Mexico is the chance of tripping and falling. Sidewalks are notoriously uneven, or non-existent. Tree roots pop up in inexplicable places. Grates and manhole covers can go missing leaving gaping holes that are invisible at night. Be careful when walking at night and always wear closed shoes or sandals with non-slip soles. Leave the high heels at home, ladies.

10. Be Careful on the Roads

The roads are getting better, but in some places, on this small island, the roads are very narrow. In most places, there are no sidewalks and very little shoulder. Fortunately, there are relatively few cars on the island and most of them are taxis. The narrow roadways are more suited for golf carts and scooters that tend to travel at a slower pace.

If you are planning to rent a golf cart, be aware of the motorized traffic around you. Look out in particular for delivery trucks and other large service vehicles that will take up a good part of the road. If you are going to walk or take a bike on the main roads around the island, be sure you are on the correct side of the road and be very careful of oncoming traffic from both directions.

11. Be Cautious When Renting a Golf Cart

It’s very common for visitors to rent golf carts for transportation around the island. In fact, this is one of the best things to do if you are on the island for a day trip and the best way to get around and see everything from Playa Norte to Punta Sur and everywhere in between. Most of the rates offered by the established golf cart rental companies on Isla are “about” the same. If the deal you are getting seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Renting a golf cart on isla mujeres

Make sure to rent a golf cart from a reputable company and check the condition of the golf cart before renting. Follow the traffic rules, brush up on your bicycle safety hand signals, and be cautious while driving, especially on weekends and during high season. Always park the golf cart in a safe and legal spot and make sure to lock it when not in use. Do not overload the cart with too many people and do NOT drink and drive.

12. Local Laws May Be Different from Your Own

When you are traveling to a foreign country, never assume that the local laws are the same as yours back home. Inform yourself about the traffic laws. Find out about any local blue laws and restrictions on alcohol and tobacco usage that might help you avoid misunderstandings with local authorities.

There are laws in place that restrict public drinking and new strict smoking laws in Mexico that you should be aware of. Plan to leave all your cool vape gear at home. If they find it in customs at the airport, it will be confiscated.

13. Avoid Overcrowded Places

While Isla Mujeres is generally considered a very safe place to visit, like most popular tourist destinations, it is not immune to crimes of opportunity. It’s almost impossible to avoid crowded places such as standing in line at the ferry terminals or even just walking down Hidalgo in high season. If you are enjoying the Isla Mujeres nightlife, you will inevitably be in close quarters with a lot of other people.

Be aware of your surroundings and stay with your travel pals when possible. Avoids crowds if you can but, to reduce the risk of pickpocketing or other petty theft don´t bring anything with you of great value. Keep your purse or bags closed and close to you at all times. Keep your valuables and important documents at home or locked in the hotel room safe.

14. Swim Safely

Isla Mujeres has two very distinct coastlines and they could not be more different. Punta Sur and the eastern side of the island are wild and rough. The coastline is marked by jagged cliffs and rocks jutting out of the water. Some days the waves crash relentlessly on the shore. Do not swim on the east side of Isla. Once you have seen it, you will see why I am warning you off. The north end of the island and the west side facing the Cancun hotel zone are the places to find the best beaches and the best swimming. The water is clear, shallow and calm.

Day trip to isla mujeres north beach

That being said, once you have swam out a fair distance from the island, the currents in the channel between Isla and Cancun pick up considerably. I myself have been caught off guard and found myself swimming hard to get back to shore. It´s a good idea not to swim or snorkel alone. If you are a solo traveler, try to swim in areas with a lifeguard or other people in the vicinity. Do not swim at night and do not swim if you have been drinking.

15. Be Prepared for Sporadic Wi-Fi

It´s certainly getting better and more reliable, but internet connectivity can still be sporadic. If you must have internet access during your time on Isla Mujeres, be prepared for potential connectivity issues. Inquire ahead of time with any hotels or resorts you are considering to see how reliable their internet is. Check online reviews to verify. If access to the internet is crucial during your trip to Mexico, you may want to consider staying in Cancun and just making a day trip to Isla Mujeres.

16. Avoid Flashy Displays of Wealth

In stark comparison to the glitzy hotel zone in Cancun, Isla Mujeres is a pretty laid-back place. The island residents are modest and hard-working. The disparity of wealth between the locals and many of its visitors is very apparent. It´s not necessary or a good idea to do anything to stand out or draw attention to yourself.

There is no need for flashy jewelry, designer bags and accessories. To avoid drawing unwanted attention, avoid unnecessary displays of wealth. I think this advice should be considered wherever you are traveling but especially in rural areas of Mexico including the Yucatan Peninsula and Isla Mujeres.

17. Be Aware of Local Culture and Customs

No matter where you are traveling to, is important to respect the local customs and traditions. The local culture on the island is very conservative. Hidalgo, Isla´s main street, may be just a few yards from the beach but that doesn´t mean you should stroll around downtown in a bikini.

Prepare to dress somewhat modestly in public. You can wear a bathing suit almost 24/7 if you like. Just be sure you have a nice beach cover-up to go over it. Also, try to do a little bit of homework about the customary tipping and acceptable bargaining practices in Isla Mujeres. It may be very different from where you are from.

18. Purchase Travel Insurance

Accidents can and do happen. Our family has health insurance here in Mexico but we always buy travel insurance for our trips abroad. The medical care is very good in Mexico but the medical system can be complicated and expensive for visitors who find themselves in need of emergency care.

Please, strongly consider purchasing travel insurance that covers medical emergencies. This is especially important if you plan on doing water sports like scuba diving or other adventure-based activities. If you are traveling to Mexico during hurricane season, consider a travel insurance policy that covers you if you need to cancel or postpone your trip due to bad weather.

19. Be Mindful of the Local Ecology

While the natural environment of Isla Mujeres is less hazardous than many places on the mainland, there are a few things to be careful of in Isla Mujeres. It is important to respect the local ecosystem by not touching or feeding the wildlife and adhering to environmental guidelines.

Snorkeling with sea turtles on isla mujeres

Be cautious of dangerous marine life such as jellyfish, sea urchins and lionfish. Do not stand on or touch the reef to avoid contact with stinging corals while snorkeling. If you are swimming with whale sharks or sea turtles be sure to follow all the rules and regulations as explained by your tour guide.

20. Be Prepared for a Language Barrier

While Isla Mujeres is a very popular tourist destination, especially for travelers from the United States and Canada, not everyone on the island speaks English. Learning some basic Spanish phrases can be helpful. Locals on the island really appreciate when visitors make an effort to speak the language, even if the results are hilarious.

To give you a headstart, there is a handy list of common phrases translated into Spanish at the end of this article. Regardless of how much of your high school Spanish you remember, it´s a good idea to download a translation app on your phone for emergency situations and anything more complicated than “Una cerveza mas, por favor.

21. Don´t Miss the Boat

Your trip to Isla Mujeres will start at either the ferry Terminal at Puerto Juarez or at one of the embarcations in the Cancun Hotel Zone. Because there is parking, Puerto Juarez tends to be the busiest of all the ferry stations by far. There are often long lines to get on the ferries, especially in the morning. Be prepared to wait in line for a bit after getting your tickets. The boats leave regularly every half hour or so. If you miss one, you will catch the next or the one after that.

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

Coming back, from Isla to Cancun, you may need to be a bit more careful with your timing. When returning to the mainland, be sure you are aware of the ferry timetable. Ensure you catch the ferry back to Cancun by arriving at the terminal 15 minutes or even a half hour before the scheduled departure time. If you miss the last boat, you may be scrambling to find a hotel for the night.

Important Mexican Spanish Phrases for Tourists

While most of the people you encounter in Isla Mujeres will probably speak some English, it’s a great idea (and a fun learning exercise) to study a bit of the language before your trip. The locals on the island are warm and welcoming and this is the perfect place to get a little practice in.

These days, we can always turn to the translator apps on our phones but I highly suggest learning just a few key phrases if you are traveling anywhere in Mexico.

  • Buenos días! – Good morning!
  • Buenas tardes! – Good afternoon!
  • Buenas noches! – Good evening!
  • Hola! – Hi!
  • Cómo estás? – How are you?
  • Muy bien, gracias! – Very good, thank you!
  • Cómo te llamas? – What’s your name?
  • Me llamo Michele. – My name is Michele.
  • Encantado/a de conocerte! – Nice to meet you!
  • Por favor! – Please!
  • Gracias. – Thank you.
  • Perdón. – Sorry.
  • Habla inglés? – Do you speak English?
  • No hablo Español. – I don’t speak Spanish.
  • Podrias ayudarme? – Can you help me?
  • Tiene…? – Do you have…?
  • Yo tengo… – I have…
  • Yo no tengo… – I don’t have…
  • Me entiende? – Do you understand me?
  • No entiendo. – I don’t understand.
  • Podrias hablar más despacio, por favor? – Could you speak slower, please?
  • Repita por favor. – Please repeat.
  • Cuánto cuesta? – How much does it cost?
  • Me gustaría… – I would like…
  • Yo quiero… – I want…
  • Yo no quiero… – I don’t want…
  • Dónde está…? – Where is…?

Knowing just a few important phrases (or keeping them in a small notebook for easy reference) will enhance your trip and put your mind at ease if you find yourself in need of help.

So, Is Isla Mujeres Safe for Tourists?

Yes. Isla Mujeres is a very safe destination for tourists from around the world. Couples, families with children and solo travelers will all be able to enjoy a fun and safe holiday on this beautiful island. While it’s a place for relaxation and exploration, being aware of certain safety guidelines is crucial for a worry-free experience. Keep in mind the things to be careful of in Isla Mujeres!

Jim walking on playa norte

A good trip becomes great when you can explore without concerns. Knowing what to look out for in terms of safety helps in making the most out of your visit. The clean palm tree-lined beaches, crystal clear waters and colorful streets are best enjoyed when you’re at ease, knowing you’ve taken the right precautions. Our safety tips are straightforward and easy to follow, ensuring you can enjoy what the island has to offer while staying safe.

Respecting local customs, following safety rules, and being environmentally friendly are not just about keeping yourself safe, but also about being a responsible traveler. It’s about ensuring that the island remains a beautiful and welcoming place for others who will come after you.

If you have enjoyed this article, you may want to explore Isla Mujeres more:-

How to get to Isla Mujeres

The history of Isla Mujeres

Fishing on Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres with kids

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.