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A Rainy Day on Isla Mujeres

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On Monday morning, we awoke with an itinerary full of plans and a sky full of clouds. We looked to the heavens imploringly, begging for no rain, but before we’d even lowered our clasped hands, the storms began. And they didn’t let up the entire day. Undaunted, we stuck to our schedule, and visited Isla Mujeres’ touristy sights. But we’ll be honest: this was a miserable day.

First up was the Tortugranja, or the Turtle Farm. Along with much of the Yucatán coast, the Isla Mujeres has always been an important turtle nesting zone. The Tortugranja helps nature along by snatching up turtles and forcing them to mate at their farm. As a visitor, you can see mostly green and white turtles kept in shallow pools. There was also a pool full of baby turtles when we visited, though I assume this isn’t always the case. There not much to see, but we stayed at the farm for a long time, if only because the storm outside had intensified.

Next up, the Hacienda Mundaca. Despite an interesting history, this was among the most worthless tourist attractions I’ve ever visited. Mundaca was an old Spanish buccaneer who settled down on the island with chestfuls of booty. He fell in love with a beautiful young local girl nicknamed La Trigüena (the Brunette), and built this hacienda for her. But she spurned his advances, uninterested in marrying someone so much older, and the rejection drove the former pirate insane.

In the time it took you to read that short anecdote, you could have seen everything inside the present day hacienda. There’s just nothing there. A building with a couple ratty old pictures, and a couple paths which lead nowhere — I mean literally: you’re walking on the path, and then it ends, and you have to turn around. Maybe on a sunny day, this would be a nice park to have a picnic in, but when there’s hurricane-like rain soaking through your clothes, your skin, your bones and into your very soul, it’s just the worst.

The last stop of the day was Punta Sur which, despite its name, is the easternmost point in Mexico. A path leads through a small sculpture park to the end of the island, around a small set of rocky cliffs and through a hole in the ground called the Ojo de Azul, or Blue Eye. This was pretty, and our favorite part of the day… possibly because we had now completed our list of activities and could return to the hotel for a hot shower and a long nap.

Locations on our Map: Tortugranja | Joyxee Island | Hacienda Mundaca | Punta Sur

More Pics from the Tortugranja
Turtle Farm Isla Mujeres
More Pics from Hacienda Mundaca
More Pics from Punta Sur
Isla Mujeres Blog
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January 13, 2014 at 12:33 am Comment (1)

MUSA – An Underwater Museum Off Isla Mujeres

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We’ve been to plenty of strange museums during our travels around the world. An optical illusion museum in Busan. A bordello museum in Idaho. The Museum of Innocence in Istanbul and a phallological museum in Iceland. But there’s a new contender for the title of most unique: the MUSA, an underwater museum found off the coast of Isla Mujeres.

Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere

The MUSA, or Museo Subacuático de Arte, is the brainchild of Jason DeCaires Taylor, a British artist who was motivated to act after the devastation wreaked by 2008’s Hurricane Wilma. By designing sculptures and placing them on the sandy bottom of the sea, Taylor was fulfilling two purposes. First, he was creating an artificial reef onto which coral would grow and within which sea life might flourish. Second, he was diverting human attention away from the overtaxed natural reef.

Both of these aims have been met. Visiting the museum requires an easy dive of just 8 meters (24 feet), or you can choose to see it from above while snorkeling. The sculptures include a miniature house, a Volkswagen Beetle and a haunting collection of human statues, frozen in time. If you look closely, each person in this group is different, from a pregnant woman to a kneeling priest, and they’re all slowly being claimed by the coral.

Our visit to the MUSA was the first of two dives we made on the same day. The second was to a nearby reef called Manchones. It was another shallow dive, during which we swam along with an incredible array of fish. Our most exciting encounter was with a Stonefish. It was shifting a little as I passed over, otherwise I’d never have spotted it. The fish was so well camouflaged that Jürgen had a hard time seeing it even though I was just a foot away, pointing frantically. I dared not get closer; these are among the most poisonous fish in the world, and a single sting can prove fatal.

Location of the MUSA on our Map
MUSA Museo Subacuático de Arte – Website

My Underwater Camera

More images from the underwater museum:

Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere

More photos from the Manchones Reef:

Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere
Manchones Reef Diving Isla Mujuere

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January 11, 2014 at 4:19 pm Comments (9)

Isla Mujeres’ Garrafón Castilla

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When you’re on Isla Mujeres, there’s really only one decision with which you’ll need to trouble yourself: of all the tantalizing options, where should you plop down your butt for the entire day? We chose Garrafón de Castilla, a small beach club on the southern end of the island.

Garrafón Castilla Snorkeling

Garrafón de Castilla is named for the reef just offshore, and is not to be confused with nearby Parque Garrafón. The latter is an expensive theme-park type experience, featuring attractions like zip lines and swimming with dolphins. Garrafón de Castilla, on the other hand, is a small beach with snorkeling and a 50 peso ($4 USD) cover charge. Sand, water and sun is all we wanted.

Our day at the beach went like this: lay on a chair, snorkel a bit, lay on the chair some more, eat, snorkel, and chair (this time falling asleep). Perfect. The snorkeling was a lot of fun; despite its proximity to shore, the reef is in decent condition. We saw lobsters, a manta ray and too many colorful fish.

No really, there were way too many colorful fish. The club sells fish food along with its snorkel gear and so, even though we weren’t feeding the fish, they’ve come to recognize snorkeling humans as floating feed machines. It was initially cute, but quickly got weird, and then kind of scary. I could not escape this swarm of little yellow fish, and they were starting to look impatient.

Still, too many fish is hardly a real complaint, and overall Garrafón de Castilla offers a wonderful day out, especially considering the price. If you’re looking for a relaxing spot to chill out in the sun, you can’t do better than this.

Location on our Map

I took the underwater video with this camera!

Garrafón Castilla Snorkeling
Garrafón Castilla Snorkeling
Garrafón Castilla Snorkeling
Garrafón Castilla Snorkeling
Garrafón Castilla Snorkeling
Garrafón Castilla Snorkeling
Garrafón Castilla Snorkeling
Garrafón Castilla Snorkeling
Garrafón Castilla Snorkeling
Garrafón Castilla Snorkeling
Garrafón Castilla Snorkeling
Garrafón Castilla Snorkeling
Garrafón Castilla Snorkeling
Garrafón Castilla Snorkeling
Garrafón Castilla Snorkeling
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January 9, 2014 at 7:19 pm Comments (0)

Isla Mujeres

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After 24 hours, we’d seen enough of Cancún and made our way to Isla Mujeres, just a half-hour by ferry off the coast. This island of around 12,000 people has made a name for itself as a sort of anti-Cancún. A place to relax, escape the crowds and bask in the simple joy of being on a gorgeous Caribbean island.

Isla Mujeres

Named for the numerous Maya goddess statues which the Spanish found here, Isla Mujeres (Island of the Women) isn’t exactly off the beaten path. In fact, we found it to be even more crowded with tourists than Cancún. But the vibe is totally different. People don’t hang out in their hotels, but at beach bars and cozy downtown cafes. There are fewer drunken frat boys and more dreadlocked rasta boys. Isla Mujeres is just a lot cooler, a lot more relaxed.

The island is small enough to comfortably handle in a couple days, but most visitors stay longer. And plenty end up staying forever. Isla Mujeres is popular with wealthy American expats, which comes with both positive and negative aspects. Better restaurants and services, perhaps, but there’s a palpable sense of pretentiousness. This isn’t Cancún, but you’ll still hear more English than Spanish on Isla Mujeres and, for all the hippy vibe, the best locations and properties are in the hands of rich foreigners. The locals have been shunted off farther south, farther inland.

We spent three nights on the island, which gave us plenty of time to see the highlights. Unfortunately the weather didn’t play along; we had torrential rains and a lot of our sightseeing had to be cut short. But overall, we came away with a positive impression of the tiny island.

Location on our Map

Great Hotels On Isla Mujeres

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January 9, 2014 at 6:43 pm Comments (3)
A Rainy Day on Isla Mujeres On Monday morning, we awoke with an itinerary full of plans and a sky full of clouds. We looked to the heavens imploringly, begging for no rain, but before we'd even lowered our clasped hands, the storms began. And they didn't let up the entire day. Undaunted, we stuck to our schedule, and visited Isla Mujeres' touristy sights. But we'll be honest: this was a miserable day.
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