The Island of Women. This is what the name “Isla Mujeres” means. Half hour by ferry from Cancun, this small island (7Km in length) has become in recent years a very popular tourist destination for those who are not so keen on the Cancun party scene and prefer a quieter environment.
Yet for me, arriving from quiet Bacalar and largely undeveloped Caye Caulker, it was like being in Las Vegas by the sea. I hated the crowds that packed the beaches during the day and the streets/restaurants/shops/bars in the evening. Too many tourists, not enough authenticity.
But there are reasons for the crowds: the island is beautiful.
Playa Norte (North Beach) – with its crystal clear waters and white sand – is amazing. I spent a lot of time in and out of the water, also to cool down from the heat.
Lost in thoughts
Beach lunch: ceviche
The Malecon (esplanade) offers opportunities for leisurely walks. It was especially busy with families on Christmas day, everyone enjoyed the waves and the sea breeze. A section of the Malecon gets busier towards sunset, when fitness-addicts appear for jogging and a varied range of outdoor gym-related activities. After dark you will also find people sitting for a relaxing end of the day in front of the sea.
Malecon and ice cream man
From the Malecon
The main town is certainly full of tourist shops but if you just wander away from the crowds and explore the streets further away from the main pedestrianised area, you will find interesting sights, including lots of beautiful murals painted on the house walls.
From a souvenir stall
A beautiful mural
The main church
And if you want to buy souvenirs, avoid the overpriced shops along the main drag and head to the Artisan’s Market just off the town centre. Nothing is better than buying something that has just been sewn in front of you! And how about those old Singer sewing machines?!
For an active person like me, beach life doesn’t always cut it. So this morning I rented a mountain bike and headed off to Ben Dam fishing port, a 12 Km ride from Con Son Town, up and down a hill.
The scenery was absolutely fantastic: white sand beaches, blue sea, mountains in the background! Ben Dam fishing port appeared very active (it was 9:15am when I got there), with lots of boats coming and going.
Beach on the way to Ben Dam port
From the water
Fishermen boats at Ben Dam port
The ride back was a killer, first gear most of the time and the scorching tropical sun above my head. But it was definitely a ride worth all the sweat and effort!
“Cabin crew, prepare for landing”.
What?! We’ve only just taken off! Not long before reaching its cruising altitude, the 68-seater ATR42 starts its descent towards Con Dao airport. As we land, I notice that the runway is by an amazing beach. Not a bad start, I think.
The Con Dao archipelago, still unspoilt and made of sixteen islands, can be reached by a 14-hour boat ride from Vung Tau or a 45-minute flight from Saigon. What would be your travel choice?
Con Son, the main island, is the only inhabited one and used to be a penal colony during the French occupation. Nowadays it is a very quiet place with amazing scenery, lush tropical forests, and beautiful beaches. Tourist facilities are still limited but this adds to the island’s appeal. Very little English is spoken here, making it challenging at times, yet people are very friendly and always willing to help.
I am about to discover more about Con Dao, so stay tuned!