If you’ve never heard of Isla Mujeres, join the club! I hadn’t heard of the “island of women” until my sister came across stunning photos of its beaches while researching places to meet up for vacation.
Isla Mujeres is a small island off the coast of Cancún in Mexico. It’s a convenient getaway from the U.S. with a 2-hour flight from Dallas or Houston and a 4.5-hour flight from Chicago.
Although I wasn’t thrilled about yet another all-inclusive resort vacation (my general feeling about all-inclusive resorts is here), the Mia Reef resort on Isla Mujeres ticked off all the boxes for our extended family of 3 adults, 2 children, and 2 seniors.
It ended up being our favorite all-inclusive resort of the four we’ve been to in Mexico. And it’s the only one that we’ve all said we would like to return to!
Here are the details below if you’re looking for a family-friendly beach vacation in an ideal setting!
Isla Mujeres is a small island located off the coast of Cancún on the Yucatan Peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico. It is approximately 7km/4.3 miles long and 650 m/1 mile wide. The island is small enough that you can travel from end-to-end in half an hour on a golf cart (which is one of the must-do activities).
The island is quiet and safe, and very different from the city of Cancún on the mainland where you’ll hear about crime, the Spring Break-like partying scene, and other things NOT ideal for families. Not only that, Isla Mujeres is home to one of the most famous beaches in the world, with crystal-clear and calm waters and pristine-white beaches with soft sand.
The resort is on the northernmost point of the island, and to get there you have to cross a security checkpoint AND a bridge. This provides an exclusive and secure feel, keeping out any vendors offering to sell you goods or braid your hair while on the beach (sometimes an annoyance when you’re just trying to relax). Although this doesn’t lend well in terms of cultural exchange, it will at least give you the peace and quiet of an ultimate relaxing holiday if that’s what you’re looking for.
Although there may be some extra steps to get to Isla Mujeres, it only adds an extra hour or so to your travels and is completely worth it once you step foot on the island.
From Airport to Ferry Station. To get to the Puerto Juarez ferry station from the airport, you’ll need to take a 1/2-hour shuttle or taxi ride to the water. It gets a bit chaotic once you step outside of the Cancún International Airport as locals approach to ask if you need a taxi. I recommend booking a shuttle in advance. We reserved the Happy Shuttle for $75 for our party of 7 for the entire van. The representatives are standing outside of the terminal and will put you on a list to get in a van. It took 20 or so minutes for us to wait for the van, but it relieved us of having to find transportation or negotiate the price for a ride.
TIP: If you plan to go into town (either Cancun or Isla Mujeres), exchange some money for some pesos for tips and other small purchases. If you do not plan on going into town and going straight to the resort, go ahead and exchange dollars for pesos at the airport.
From Ferry Station to Island: Once you get to the Puerto Juarez ferry station, there is a ticket office on the right-hand side as you approach the ferry/water. Tickets cost $17 round-trip and the ferry departs every hour. There are a couple of restaurants and stores in case you need any snacks while you wait for the ferry. The ride is 20 minutes and is very comfortable and smooth. As a family that experiences seasickness quite often, we all fared well after the ferry ride!
Ferry station to Hotel: Once you get off the ferry, the hotel is a 10-minute walk away. If you have bags, you might want to take a taxi to the hotel. The taxi stand is right outside the ferry building on the left-hand side.
Three restaurants are offered at Mia Reef Resort (all meals are included in the all-inclusive package):
- Main restaurant with buffet. Open most hours for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Plenty of options available at each meal between the hot bar, salads, soups, bread display, dessert, and specialties.
- Good combination of Mexican food and other cuisines
- Kids’ area that offers standard kid fare such as hot dogs, mac and cheese, and spaghetti.
- Breakfast by far is the best meal, with options of fresh-cut fruit (pineapples, melons, papaya), smoked salmon, made-to-order omelette and waffle station, and coffee service.
- Cevicheria (seafood taco outdoor cafe). This restaurant is set up like a taco stand by the beach and offers fish, shrimp, and octopus tacos with a variety of hot sauces/salsa. This was my family’s place to eat at the resort.
- Full-service “upscale” restaurant. This restaurant requires reservations and has a dress-code. There are 3-course meal options including a cocktail on the house, appetizer, main dish, and dessert options.
There is also a self-service cafe area off the lobby/reception area with a coffee machine and snacks/desserts in a see-through fridge that is open to guests 24/7.
All in all, I thought the food was fine for the average non-picky eater. My vegan husband was able to find something to eat at every meal and my kids got Mexican or kid food each time. If food is the top requirement for an all-inclusive resort, then the Mia Reef probably isn’t the place for you. But overall, we all found something to eat at every meal and we never went hungry.
Also, the town is only a 5-10 minute walk away with plenty of restaurants if you need a change of scenery (although you have to pay out-of-pocket). One day, my sister picked up a bunch of burritos from Beachin’ Burrito and we all enjoyed the change from the options at the buffet.
Staff were friendly and helpful and amenities were plentiful. Our rooms were cleaned very well every day. When our safe wasn’t working, we got two people within an hour to come to our room to fix it.
Waiter service was spotty on the beach, but the bar/buffet area was so close that you could walk over to get what you need, including fresh water (a water cooler is available at the bar area; there is also one in the gym) or a cocktail.
The hotel itself is right on the beach, so it did not require a far walk. All the rooms are located on the upper levels, in which elevators and stairs are available. The tricky part is going to the eating area and beach, where there are several stairs and ramps. At night, the stairs were not brightly lit. My elderly father, with bad vision and tight joints, had difficulty going to the eating area 3 times a day.
As for the ocean water and beach, I would rate it a 10 for accessibility for children and the elderly. You can walk right into the water and it’s shallow for several meters. The waves are minimal so it’s safe for children to play in the water.
The area around the hotel is nice, with Kings Pool (tide pools) a short walk away, a giant chessboard, stage area for entertainment, and plenty of areas to catch the sunrise and sunset and beautiful ocean views. Around the property there are docks where you can get a good view of the fish from above (check out the . One side has hammocks in the water which is very relaxing to lie down in. There are plenty of beach chairs, beach beds, and tables available. Make sure to reserve the beds and chairs in the shade early (by putting some personal belongings on them) because the sun is strong for most of the day.
Property and Rooms
The property from the outside is decent. It’s definitely not a brand new building, with some areas that look rundown. The reception and lobby area looks the most updated with shiny marble floors and modern decor. The hotel itself draws inspiration from Frida Kahlo, and you’ll see her face and art throughout the hotel.
Rooms were on the small side, with a small closet, 3-drawer dresser (which tips over if you leave the drawers open), television, safe, and small fridge stocked with water, beer, soda, and juices (amenities are free but you are encouraged to tip as they restock and clean your room everyday).
The bathroom is not very private, being in an enclosed space with glass walls within the room (not separate). There is a hot shower (no bathtub), hairdryer, magnifying lighted mirror, and toiletries (tissues, shampoo, soap, and conditioner). Note: Do not flush toilet paper or other items in the toilet!
All the rooms have balconies and a view of the ocean surrounding the resort. No matter what room you are in, you will get an incredible view of the sunrise or sunset and the sound of waves pounding against the rocks (which can get quite loud).
Activities and Entertainment
If you are happy to relax, go to the beach, and enjoy the warm water and soak in some sun everyday, then you will be perfectly content at Mia Reef all-inclusive resort.
The hotel has a variety of sport equipment available including kayaks, stand up paddleboards, snorkeling equipment, and life jackets. The rental equipment (except for the golf carts) is included in your package and it’s not necessary to sign a waiver.
The hotel has other scheduled activities throughout the day, including yoga/stretching, dance lessons, karaoke, kayak trips, snorkeling trips, and cooking lessons. Nightly entertainment (singing and dancing) at the hotel was offered twice during our 1-week stay, one of which was a display of traditional Mexican dancing.
Snorkeling is one of my favorite activities, and one of the best things about staying at Mia Reef is that you can snorkel right there on the property. Under the bridge on the Mia Reef side, you’ll can swim among schools of fish, including sargeant majors, parrotfish, and butterflyfish. If you go out toward the rocks where the currents are stronger, there are more variety of fish.
If you venture outside the resort, there are plenty of outfitters on the island offering snorkeling tours. We went on one to the Manchones Reef, the underground museum, and the lighthouse. The waters were very rocky that day and we didn’t see all that much compared to what we saw at Mia Reef. The tour was about 3 hours total but I would not recommend it, especially since my husband got seasick, the lunch was bad, and the snorkeling/fish sightings were mediocre. The underground museum could have been more interesting as a dive rather than snorkeling above.
Around the Island in a Golf Cart
We took one afternoon to drive around the small island on a golf cart. Reservations need to be made a day or so in advance at the concierge desk ($75/day). Other golf cart rental outfitters are found in the town if you want to go a bit cheaper or need a specific golf cart.
The main destination for this is Punta Sur, an area on the southernmost point about 30 minutes from the Mia Reef resort on the golf cart. This area has beautiful views of the sea and has with a walking path along the rocks and water, Mayan ruins, and plenty of iguanas that are not afraid of people.
Massage on the Beach
I highly recommend getting a massage under the tents at the main beach (NOT at the Mia Reef resort, which can set you back $150USD). Four people from the family got massages and we all agreed that it was professional and very relaxing. It was a great full-body, deep tissue massage for only $35 per hour!
COVID & Travel Sickness
We haven’t had the best of luck the last few times we traveled to Mexico. Between Montezuma’s Revenge (i.e. diarrhea), catching a virus, or a mysterious rash, one of us ended up with some sort of ailment when traveling to Mexico.
Luckily, we escaped it for the most part. My dad and I both experienced diarrhea accompanied by dizziness, but it was a short bout that went away within a couple of hours.
Masks are required on the property indoors, including the lobby and dining area when getting food. All staff wear masks and will remind you to wear them when in the lobby or getting food at the buffet. Free masks are available at the lobby.
At the time we traveled, a negative COVID rapid antigen test 24-48 hours before our flight was required for the trip back to the United States. There are test sites available in town (one at the ferry station) or you can make an appointment at the hotel. The day before your flight, the saliva sample is taken by a healthcare worker and an email with the results are sent out prior to your flight. The cost at Mia Reef was $38 and hotel staff can schedule a person to come onsite to take your samples.
- Bring $1 bills or get a lot of change for tips. It’s appreciated by staff and you’ll get better service!
- Bring own snorkeling gear
- Bring one nice outfit for dinner at the restaurant which has a dress code
- Bring a hat, reef-safe sunscreen, and sunglasses. If you forget them, you can easily go into town to purchase them but the cost for everything is elevated on Isla Mujeres!
All in all, everyone in our party enjoyed our stay at the Isla Mujeres. The majority of us even said we wanted to return, which is not something we normally say about other all-inclusive resorts. Overall you can’t beat the price point and location for a relaxing vacation that suits everyone in the family.