|North end of Isla|
“Golf cart amiga? Carito de golf amigo?” the commission salesman asks as you exit the passenger ferry boats. “Take a tour of the island?”
You stop, and chat, negotiate a price, and follow then him to the rental company’s office. What now?
The island is only eight kilometers long and less than a kilometer wide. (For our metric-challenged friends that is five miles long and half a mile wide.) You could zip around the entire island in less than an hour and be back at the rental place before lunch. What fun is there in that?
|Indio’s Cart Rentals new colours|
Let’s take a tour of Isla in one of these jazzy, fun vehicles. Most of the dozen or so rental companies are located in the general vicinity of where the passenger ferries unload. A few that come to mind are Captain Azul, Cardena’s, Caribe, Ciros, Coco’s, Easy, el Sol, Fiesta, Gomar, Indios, Isla Mujeres, Islander, Joaquin, Luxury, and Prisma. The cost can vary, but is usually around $600.00 pesos per day – $50.00 US more or less.
|Fun rentals from Ciro’s|
The golf carts come with a few basic instructions, forward, reverse – and it is illegal to let an underage child drive. Then off you go. What they forget to mention is you do not have brake lights, turn signals, or windshield wipers. What you have is a low-power motor, four wheels and a steering wheel plus seating. Basic! Because golf carts are slow, be courteous and stay as far to the right as possible. Passing is a national sport in Mexico: passing on hills, passing on blind corners, and passing four across on a two-lane road. Golf carts are not made for passing – you are the tortoise in this race, not the hare. Relax, enjoy, and watch out for the other drivers. And yes, you can be fined for drinking while driving.
|The Mia Reef at North Beach|
Let’s get started. The congested downtown area of Isla consists of one-way streets; streets that are not clearly marked. If you make the wrong choice your first clue would be the frantic signals of other drivers, waving their arms: Stop!-not-this-way. Driving on the seawall or malecon is prohibited. There are also two pedestrian-only streets; Hidalgo Avenue where the majority of the restaurants are located, and Morelos, the one with the pedestrian crosswalk usually controlled by a police officer. Poke around downtown and get your bearings then head north in the direction of the big hotel, the Mia Reef.
North beach is as the name suggests at the northern tip of the island, with white sandy beaches made famous by the Corona commercials and Trip Adviser’s surveys rating it one of the Top Ten Best Beaches in the World.
North beach is glorious on a sunny day, with numerous places to rent a beach lounger and be served good food and cold drinks. But hey, you have wheels, it’s time to see the rest of the island.
|North-western side of Isla Mujeres|
To keep your bearing for this circumnavigation of the island – always keep the ocean on the passenger’s side of the vehicle. This trick will take you completely around the island and back to the beginning. As you drive south along Rueda Medina, there are a number of great places along this stretch to enjoy good food and live music later in the afternoon; Jax Grill, Velasquez, Mininos, Ballyhoo, Brisas Grill, and Picus. This is one of our favourite areas to settle in for sunset drinks and snacks. But for now, carry on – you can always walk back to this area after you have returned the golf cart.
|Entrance to Barlito’s at Marina Paraiso|
Drive straight ahead at the intersection by the car ferry, keep going on Rueda Medina until you start to see the various bars and restaurants: Bahia Tortuga, Soggy Peso Bar & Grill, Barlito’s @ Marina Paraiso. Anyone of them have icy cold beverages and good food. This might be a good time for a quick stop for refreshments, but don’t take too long, you still have the rest of the island to explore.
Back on the road again: turn right and continue on your adventure. Eventually you’ll pass the big orange grocery store – Chedraui. Follow the main stream of traffic veering slightly to the right as you drive under the overhead warning lights for the pedestrian crosswalks and traffic congestion. If you notice a line up of impatient drivers behind you let them pass or you might be startled by drivers overtaking you with little or no visibility on Devil’s Corner. Remember what we said about passing being a national sport in Mexico?
|The Joint at Punta Sur|
|Great colours at Punta Sur|
At the round-about across from the Isla Mujeres Palace Hotel you have a choice; you can make a sharp right and visit Dolphin Discovery to swim with the dolphins for the balance of the day or keep driving south to see the rest of Isla Mujeres. Heading south the next refreshment stop is at The Joint, a relaxing shady spot hidden in a jungle of trees and flowers.
Then a few feet further along you will see a perfect “Ah!” location. It is a wide spot on the right side of the road where the gorgeous blues of the Caribbean are displayed for your visual enjoyment. It’s a perfect location to stop for a photograph, and a homemade ice cream cone purchased from the mobile vendor.
A little further on at the extreme southern tip of the island, Punta Sur, is a small collection of stores and the stunning views from the Ancantilado restaurant. For an entrance fee of thirty pesos you can wander the park, and depending on the time of year you might see giant sea turtles mating in the surf.
Whew! You are half way around the island now. Don’t forget to use the baños before leaving this area! The perimeter road on the eastern side of the island is primarily private residences, not restaurants and bars.
|Don’t get distracted by the view!|
When leaving Punta Sur, turn right, keeping the ocean on the passenger’s side of the vehicle. Along the eastern coast line are a number of beautiful homes. This road will lead you down a slight hill, past the smelly but unfortunately necessary garbage dump, the newer cemetery, and the settlement of Guadalupana.
The beautiful ocean vistas have been know to distract drivers leading to collisions with motorcycles, other golf carts and assorted vehicles. Be careful! Drivers doing u-turns in this area have been seriously injured and have injured other people.
|Famous sign at Villa la Bella|
Passing by the various neighbourhoods you will eventually see a sign at Villa la Bella: “Beer so Cold it Will Make Your Teeth Hurt!” You might want to put that claim to the taste test, as this is pretty much the last stop for refreshments before heading back to centro and to return your golf cart.
Remain on the perimeter road, passing the Colegio de Bachilleres (high school) and the airport for the Naval base. At the corner of the airport if you turn left, then take the next right, driving in front of the Naval base, you will be back in the area where you first disembarked from the passenger ferries. Or if you drive straight ahead, behind the Naval base, you will arrive at the Palacio Municipal (City Hall) where a few more golf cart rental companies have their offices.
|Our friends Edie and Gary with their 1957 Chevy golf cart|
Well done! You made it – time for a sunset celebration.
And don’t forget to collect your identification that you left with the golf cart office. It’s a real nuisance to come back for forgotten items, although it could be an excuse for a return trip.
It could be opportunity to explore the individual, local neighbourhoods and really get lost in paradise.
Lynda & Lawrie