It was the final summer weekend for the locals before they return to work and school, so the island was extremely busy. Surprisingly, we didn’t see as many Americans as we expected. Not disappointing, just surprising. There are two main streets on the island in the Playa Norte (north beach) area that are lined with loads of restaurants and little local markets pushing their useless tacky knick knacks. The merchants were mostly male and mostly annoying as hell, some a bit obnoxious and distasteful. But just don’t make eye contact and keeping walking. I get that they need to make a living. We all do, but geez. Look for the closest woman and buy from her. They all sell the same thing anyway. Other than that, walking the streets of Isla Mujeres was amazing. The smells, the sights, the culture, the sounds. It’s really a fabulous little island and I can’t wait to go back again. Next year? Who’s in?
Anyhoooooo, it’s not necessary to bore you with my day to day activities as I normally do, so here are some general observations that I thought were worth noting:
- Restaurants and bars always have extra napkins in a cup, folded into a triangle. It comes in handy but just interesting that they all do it. Perfect for wiping the never-ending sweat off your face.
- Beer is often served with a napkin stuck in the top of the bottle. Perhaps to keep bugs out?
- The beaches were full of perfect tan bodies. Everywhere. Meanwhile, I’m like, “tacos please”!
- If they aren’t trying to sell you knick-knacks, they are trying to sell you a massage. There are massage stands all over the beaches and in every nook and cranny. Please tell me what it is about a massage in 90 degree weather at 90% humidity in the sand that sounds appealing? Clearly I am missing out because they had so shortage of victims.
- All of the ice comes from an ice delivery person. They can’t make ice with local water so it is all centrally processed and delivered. And it’s the kind with the hole in the center. Just in case you were as interested in the shape of ice as I apparently am.
- All bars and restaurants have a cashier that handles the money. Hmph.
- The restroom situation is interesting. They are few and far between. Even some restaurants and bars don’t have them. Public restrooms cost money to use so make sure you bring coins! A lady sits in front of it with a change jar and a plate of tissue. She hands you a few squares of toilet paper and you’re all set. But what happens if you need more??? Additionally, some have community sinks that are out in the public. So chances are if you have to put on lipstick or pick your teeth, you’ll be doing so in front of your fellow patrons. You also aren’t supposed to throw toilet paper in the toilet in most of the business/public bathrooms. Yikes.
- Expect to sweat your balls off. A/C is pretty much non-existent. The only place you’ll find it is your hotel room, not even the hotel lobby as most of them are built with the open concept.
- A checkmark and a check, do not translate to the same word as in English Therefore, using a hand gesture while drawing a checkmark or a signature in the air means nothing. Think about it. Further, no one takes credit cards so signatures are never required. So don’t look like a fool and start writing your name in the air when you catch the waiter’s attention and expect they know what you need. One more note on the check. In America, we are used to the waiter automatically bringing the check when you are done eating. This is not the case here. You always have to ask for it. Perhaps they want you to stay and eat/drink more.
- The food is absolutely amazing. Americans have ruined Mexican food. It is NOTHING like our stereotypical melty, cheesy, greasy food that’ll send you running for the bathroom in a pool of sweat. It is quite healthy, extremely fresh, and unbelievably cheap. Like really cheap. We often saw signs for 3 tacos and 2 beers for $5.
- All taxis on the island are red.
- We forgot our koozies at home so planned on buying some when we got there. They don’t exist in Isla Mujeres from what I could see. Warm beer sucks.
- Always use pesos. Download the XE currency app. It is a godsend. If you use dollars, you won’t get a good exchange rate and you likely won’t get correct change back. Its easier and more courteous to use the local currency so I highly recommend it.
- Mexicans like to sweep. They sweep leaves, dirt on the sidewalks, sand on the beach, and water on the concrete. Just sayin.
- My hotel, Ixchel, had real grass growing on top of the garbage cans. What’s that for? It’s a non-smoking hotel so that’s not it.
- Sodas are usually served in the can with a straw bent in half and tucked under the tab. Speaking of sodas, it’s not Diet Coke, it’s Coke Light. Sheesh.
- Buy the mapchicks map! I don’t know what we would have done without it. Kudos to the couple that publishes these. I wish all maps were so easy and fun to read.
I’m sure I am missing some other fun useless facts but that’s all I could come up with. This post is a bit out of order but I’m sure you won’t mind. I’ll likely post next about my whale shark excursion which was the only reason for making this trip. I’m just not sure how words can even explain it. Communicating my feelings is a challenge and writing them is even harder. So I’ll do my best to give justice to one of the most magical experiences of my life that I hope will convince anyone reading this to just book it! Thanks for reading.