We had just crammed all five of our bodies inside a Nissan Sentra-sized taxicab to Puerto Juárez in Cancún to catch a ferry to Isla Mujeres. Immediately a ticket vendor came up to us and presented a couple options: we could either buy a round-trip ticket to Isla Mujeres for 150 pesos (roughly 9 U.S. dollars), or buy a tour package that included the ferry ride, lunch, and dropoffs at five different places around the island for 500 pesos (about 30 USD). Of course, he was pushing hard for the latter option.
But we did a virtual straw poll among ourselves and we decided to do just the ferry ride instead. More freedom; less cost.
I think it turned out to be a good call. We were able to do plenty on the island without being constrained by ferry boarding deadlines. This included the following:
- Renting a carrito to drive around the island, which was about seven miles in circumference. The “small car” was actually a gas-powered golf cart. The cost was about $10/person, including all gas. Liability laws are much more relaxed here than in the States and the car rental places did not even care if we had a valid driver’s license or experience driving golf carts.
- Visiting the Tortugranja (Turtle Farm) on Isla Mujeres. The cost was about 3 USD, which offered plenty of enjoyment for a whole hour.
- Visiting the colorful Mayan Ruins not far from the Turtle Farm.
- Hanging out at various points along the northern coastline of Isla Mujeres.
- Eating an afternoon lunch at Bahama Mama. I had the pico de gallo, which came with a whole basket of chips and satisified my stomach at a cost of 50 pesos (3 USD). This was perfectly timed because it started raining just moments before we pulled into Bahama Mama and stopped before we left.
- Hanging out at the beach about a quarter mile from the ferry station.
- Walking around central downtown of Isla Mujeres to look for the “Club Islander,” as we were given a handwritten coupon for a free drink there by the vendors of the ferry tickets. Despite asking many locals, no one knew where it was—never mind that some feigned knowledge after much chin-brushing and gave us specific directions such as go straight two blocks, turn right and go one more block. We never found it.
One incident of note occurred at Bahama Mama. While we were eating, a man who was there asked for the keys to our carrito, drove it away, and returned with another one that was otherwise identical. He said we had a flat tire; thus, he gave us this one. This seemed a little suspicious that—after we had driven the replacement car away into an alley—Alberto asked a police officer if this was “normal.” The police officer seemed completely blasé about it, saying it was fine. Carolina also said he recognized the man as someone who worked at the car rental place.
All said and done, there was no problem. Business and service transactions are definitely done in a more relaxed manner than in the United States!
Driving in Isla Mujeres
Here’s a video of Alberto driving in Isla Mujeres.