Situated eight miles off the coast of Cancun, Isla Mujeres, or "island of women," offers a tranquil alternative to the bustling mainland resort areas. The island is blessed with beautiful beaches, exquisite sunsets, and is ripe for relaxation and discovery. Discovered by Spanish explorer Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba 1517, Isla Mujeres has an interesting history behind its name. Cordoba found the island while searching the region for slaves and gold. It was in an abandoned state, yet decorated by semi-clothed statues of the Mayan Goddess Ixchel.
The island is five miles long and less than a mile wide, which allows easy access to the interesting attractions. Visitors will find most sightseeing opportunities are either a short walk, a bicycle ride or golf cart drive away from the resort area (bicycle and golf cart rentals are aplenty). The beaches are a main attraction here, with waters that fade from fluorescent lime green at Playa Norte to pale turquoise at the snorkel-worthy Garrafon reef.
On Isla Mujeres, the major beaches are on the north and west sides. The north side's most popular and crowded beach is Playa Norte. More secluded beaches appear on the west side, such as Playa Paraiso, Playa Lanchero and Playa Indios, which are known for their shark pens. The Manchones Reef, Banderas Reef and Cuevones Reef also provide for wonderful scuba diving and snorkeling. There is also much to do without getting wet, like visiting the Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm, the Mayan Temple (dedicated to the Goddess of Fertility) and the Lighthouse, which marks the tip of the island.