¡Bienvenidos a Isla Mujeres! (PT 4/5)

IMG_20160513_104432_155Only a short ferry-ride away from Cancun’s bustling Hotel Zone is the small, tranquil island called Isla Mujeres. It’s an incredibly popular locale for scuba divers and snorkelers as it’s the home of Cancun’s underwater museum, a sea turtle farm, whale shark encounters and all-around stunning waters, reefs and tropical fish. It also is the home of the Mayan ruins of Ixchel, a bustling downtown and breathtaking views from every angle of the 425 square mile island. In fact, a leisurely drive in a rented golf cart around the circumference of the island is exactly what made me fall in love with the slow-paced small town.

While there are several luxury resorts and plenty of great restaurants on the island, we decided to go the direct opposite direction and look for the most humble and unassuming hole-in-the-wall to eat at. We found exactly that at Taqueria El Paisano. I’m telling you, no matter how high-end or low-brow you go, Mexico will absolutely delight and surprise you every step of the way.20160410_134935_edited

After our delicious meal at Taqueria El Paisano, we hopped back on the golf cart and headed to the southernmost point of the island, where the Mayan ruins of Ixchel stand overlooking the Caribbean Sea. I’d love to be able to capture with words the beauty of the park where the ruins are located, but since it left me speechless, I’ve decided that the best way to describe it is through pictures:

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Before stepping up to the ruins I noticed that the bushes were covered in the paper bracelets given to us as admittance into the park. I asked someone why that was, and they told me that the temple was for good fortune, so people make a wish and tie their bracelet to the bush so it will come true. While that might be the practice, I found out later that Ixchel’s temple was built in honor of her being the goddess of fertility.20160410_165035_edited

Even though it takes no more than an hour to circle the entire island and we only had four hours of rented time on the golf cart, we quickly realized we should have rented for the whole day! The time flew by as we parked the cart and stopped in at local bars, visited secluded beaches, and even explored a cemetery. I know, I know, it sounds a little creepy to explore a cemetery on vacation, but in Mexico they are bright works of art with little enclosures built on top of the tombs that resemble houses (even with curtains and windows!) and contain pictures and mementos of the deceased, and some of the tombs even offer a little humor. You might be familiar with the term “livin’ la vida loca” as popularized by Ricky Martin. Well, one tomb in particular was painted a bright, cheerful pink and had stones that spelled out “viva la vida floja“, or “livin’ the lazy life”.

Unfortunately our rental time ran out and we had to get back to our ferry to return to the mainland. A twenty-minute boat ride in the most turquoise waters you have ever seen and a sea turtle sighting later, we were back in Cancun and preparing for the whatever adventure would await us tomorrow…

 

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