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Harvey's Travel Views

This is my pros and cons on my last vacation to Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula during the last of June and the first of July 2007. This is my opinions/advice and any advice is like all advice in that it is worth what you pay for it and this is, of course, free. Just a little more info than you get via the companies, governments, and other web sites. I am getting tired of being ripped-off and not having it bother those responsible. And the BLOGS are so hard to find on the web -- I hope I can stand out a little more on the web and help my fellow travelers.

ISLA MUJERES

ISLA DE LAS MUJERES or ISLA MUJERES or ISLA (local terminology) is a place that has grown up in a hurry. When I went in the 1960's you could rent a hammock on the beach for 50 cents, and in the 1980's there was a couple of small hotels, and now it looks like Cancun about 10 years ago. The ferry service is really good. The car ferry is large and modern and if you get there about an hour before, you are almost guaranteed to get on. It is about $25.00 for a car and a couple of passengers. On Wednesday morning, I was the only car on the ferry (commercial vehicles-trucks-buses made up the rest) and it was full -- and on Sunday morning, there was me and 6 other cars only. It travels at about 5 MPH when loaded and about 8 MPH when not, and you have about a 4 mile trip. Do the math yourself and add about 15 minutes to dock and unload.

ISLA MUJERES seems to have no bugs (mosquitoes, ants, etc.) just lots of iguanas, and a constant wind that is usually refreshing. For bird watchers, if you see more than 4 species, tell me: grackles, pelicans, seagulls, and albatrosses are it!!!! But it does have tour boats that are full of tourists on a day trip; i.e., avoid downtown from noon until 5 PM. This particularly applies to the HSBC bank -- the ATM is open, but the teller lines for money exchange will be extensive.

The diving and snorkeling are great and you can book a trip almost anywhere. I went night fishing and caught as many fish as we could eat in a week. Most guides are really nice and expect a tip. They bait your hook, take off the fish, and clean them as to the local tastes -- some whole, some filleted, some butterflied, or to your taste. They use hand lines for "bottom fishing", so bring your own rods and reels, if you have them. During the night fishing trip, I experienced the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen; and after more than sixty years and having traveled the world over, I am saying something. The thunderheads that come in the late evening look to be 30,000 to 50,000 feet high and so they are lit up by the sun, well after sunset -- with the most awesome reds you will ever see. The fishing guides weren't impressed, so I guess it is common on ISLA MUJERES. The night fishing is about $250 for 4 hours for up to 4 persons.

You can book a "deep sea fishing" trip for the day time (about $150-$200 per person for 8 hours), but the good boats (those with good sun protection -- a real cabin) are booked quickly, so book a few days in advance. My favorite booking office was Pier 7, which is also a little restaurant/cocteleria where you can book a trip to Isla Contoy (bird island) and this is the first sign you will see. For your own surf fishing, the locals use cut-up Bonita (dark red meat),  sardines, and squid for bait. There is a rumor that the local fishermen dock behind the PEMEX station and supposedly sell their catch from about 11AM until 1PM -- never saw it - but you can try.

If you don't have a car, you can rent a rental gasoline golf cart, for about $25.00 per day I am told, that will go about 15-20 MPH and they are all over ISLA MUJERES, along with scooters. I recommend a car here, especially if you rent a house.

Shopping for groceries is not bad -- there is one super market off the Town Square (Parque, called locally) in the NE part of town near the Naval Station. It is also the only bakery I could find -- fresh bread 3 times a day. It is like most Mexican bakeries: you grab a pizza tray and tongs and fill it up. The baker will total you up and bag your goodies - you pay at the checkout counter. The naval station also has the equivalent of a PX that is open to the public. It is located on the most eastern street, on the East Side of the naval station. At the entrance, there is an 8.5"x11" piece of paper stuck on a column with the opening times and the word "Tienda". It is open approximately 8AM-5PM weekdays, and 8AM-1PM on Saturdays, and is closed on Sundays. It is a mini K-MART, but just not the wide selection, with the same lack of fresh produce, but decent prices and Cuban cigars. Speaking of contraband, while I was there, the buzz was that one of the naval patrol boats had stopped a boat carrying a large stash of drugs, and had put the crew in jail.

You can book a snorkeling trip that will be great, but it is like a drift snorkeling trip, because of the strong currents. The boat will drop you off in a couple of different places and pick you up down current, and the snorkeling is great. The best beach snorkeling on ISLA MUJERES for the best price is Garrafón de Castillos (beach and hotel - about $4.00 per day and 50 cents for fish food) -- it is at the other end of ISLA MUJERES from the town and next to the Garrafón National Park. The fish are thick and feeding them is almost suicidal; so the snorkeling is unbelievable for fish watchers. (You can just carry an empty fish food container, and the fish will mob you -- but you will become the food, so I don't recommend it.) There is a snack shack and a waiter will also come around and take drink and food orders (the fries and guacamole are surprisingly good). The Garrafón National Park is next door and will probably wind up costing you about $50.00 per day for an aquatic amusement park ($3.00 admission).

For SCUBA diving the Coral SCUBA Dive Center is the PADI associate or call 011-52-998-877-07-63 and Constantino will take care of you) and has the best reputation, and it is well deserved. For our group of three, we had two divers from the Center. My only comment is that I had to tell the lead diver to slow down and smell the lobsters, and the trailing diver to quit worrying about my equipment. The water temperature was about 85F, so you really don't even need a shorty wetsuit. The only problem is that Constantino will charge you a 10% override, if you want to pay with a credit card. Constantino also rents furnished apartments with kitchens - Villas Punta Sur - or call 011-52-998-877-05-72

Casa de Serenidad Rental House

I rented a rental house on the beach -- Casa de Serenidad  on ISLA MUJERES-- and was satisfied overall. It is a really, nice rental house situated as the last house of the urban area of  ISLA MUJERES, on the East side between the beach and the road. Casa de Serenidad on ISLA MUJERES is a rental house that is of fairly new construction with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, on two floors with the fanciest carport you will ever see. Casa de Serenidad on ISLA MUJERES is nicely designed, but the maintenance people the owner has hired are not up to snuff. One air conditioner did not work (of the four) and the oven, and one burner on the stove, did not work. The most important thing was that the High-Speed Cable Internet connection did not work and the maintenance people had so many excuses  (not reasons) for not getting it fixed, that they couldn't keep them straight. (And this was one of my major reasons for renting the rental house.) The owner supplies the drinking water in 5-gallon jugs (actually 20 liters) and that is great. I cooked with it, as well as, drank it. Casa de Serenidad on ISLA MUJERES is a rental house that has a place for a washer and dryer, but they are not installed - but the cleaning supplies and a small BBQ pit are stored there. One other problem was that the largest pot was a 6-quart stockpot. So if you want to cook a bunch of spaghetti, or boil some lobsters, you are out of luck. I looked for a large pot at the local stores, but couldn't find one. Casa de Serenidad on ISLA MUJERES has a lot of small kitchen appliances, like blenders, but no electric slow cooker or deep fryer: those would be nice.

Casa de Serenidad is situated on a beach that is not suitable for swimming -- strong undertow and pounding surf -- and was obviously built on the path that the locals used to get to the beach. All beaches are public and the locals use it to wade around with their kids and to fish off the rocks and they will walk right through the beautiful thatched deck. So you don't want to cook breakfast in the nude with the curtains open. So Casa de Serenidad is not Casa de la Aislamiento ( in 2008, the owner added a privacy fence and a pool). Casa de Serenidad on ISLA MUJERES is about 15 feet above the beach and you have to walk down limestone rocks that have broken off the cliff, to get to the water: not real difficult, but not ADA approved. I quizzed one of the young guys fishing about the bait he used and the best times to fish. He showed me his bait and told me the best times to fish were 5AM and 5PM. I asked him why, thinking I would get some inside dope on tides, etc., and he just pointed to the sun and said it is too hot otherwise.

Previous guests have left the rental house Casa de Serenidad on ISLA MUJERES nicely stocked with essential cooking items, liquor, and amenities. You are asked to replace anything you use up at Casa de Serenidad on ISLA MUJERES.  Next door to Casa de Serenidad is a nice boutique hotel with a bar and restaurant and usually nice guests that I talked to. You can adopt a stray dog and he will act as a watchdog - a very selective watchdog, but the dogs and the locals are usually friendly. The dog will work for kitchen scraps and a little attention.

All in all, Casa de Serenidad on ISLA MUJERES is a good rental house that would be great if it were better maintained; the beach combing at Casa de Serenidad is fantastic, the fishing at Casa de Serenidad is good, but the swimming at Casa de Serenidad is a challenge. Casa de Serenidad on ISLA MUJERES will easily sleep six, and the master bedroom closet (lockable) has some cots and air mattresses for additional troops. It is only a couple of minutes from the main strip on ISLA MUJERES (about one kilometer from the ISLA MUJERES Naval Station), which is the beginning of the Strip.

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