Living in Isla Mujeres Mexico: Expat Life on the Island

A guide to living in Isla Mujeres in 2022

By
David Araya | Updated January 29, 2023

Whether you are a digital nomad looking for your next impermanent home, an ex-pat wondering where to retire, or a vacationer looking to escape the harsh breath of winter, living in Isla Mujeres might be for you. 

Isla Mujeres offers a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere with sunshine continually radiating throughout the year. 

Just off the coast of Cancun – 13 kilometers to be precise – Isla Mujeres, like many Caribbean islands, has no shortage of bleached sand beaches scattered with coconut-loaded palms. 

Famous for its scuba culture, its turquoise waters do not disappoint. Isla Mujeres offers a unique blend of Mexican identity with a slight twist of Caribbean essence. 

If you’re thinking of moving to Isla Mujeres or just curious about what ex-pat life is like on the island, read on. This article will discuss all aspects of living on the island. By the end, you’ll have a good idea of what it’s like to live as an ex-pat on Isla Mujeres.

What to Expect When You Move to Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is a small island, only about five miles long and half a mile wide. Despite its size, there are plenty of tourist attractions and things to do during the day and night. The island is quiet and relaxed, with only about 22,000 people. 

Most of the residents are Mexican, although there is a growing ex-pat community here on the island. The ex-pats tend to be from North America and Europe, although there are also many from South America and Asia. 

The climate on Isla Mujeres is tropical, with an average temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius). The humidity makes it feel hotter. The rainy season runs from May to October, but even during this time, the rains do not last all day. 

The island is safe, and crime is not a major problem. There are a few things to be aware of, such as pickpockets in crowded areas and rip currents at some beaches, but overall, Isla Mujeres is a safe place to live. 

Apartments, condos, and hotels are dotted throughout the island, and there isn’t one central place to live. Most of the accommodations are small, with one or two bedrooms. The island’s northernmost tip is the liveliest part, with most of the bars, nightlife, and restaurants being located there.

In the south of the island, La Gloria is where most locals live. You’ll find this area more concentrated with apartments and resorts. It’s quieter and has stunning perennial views of the sea. 

The Weather

isla mujeres beach

The tropical climate here is tempered by the trade winds, making Isla Mujeres an enjoyable place to live. 

The average temperature is 28 degrees Celsius (82 Fahrenheit), with highs of 32 degrees Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) and lows of 24 degrees Celsius (75 Fahrenheit). 

Humidity levels can get quite high, especially through the summer months. 

January – April

The best weather of the year in Isla Mujeres is January through April. But with that comes many tourists that fill the island. 

It can get slightly overrun during this period, but locals don’t mind as they appreciate the economic activity from tourism.

May – October

The rainy season in Isla Mujeres runs from May to October. Even during this time, the rains are usually only for a few hours. 

The island is still beautiful during this time, and you’ll get to enjoy it without the crowds. Plus, the sun and heat make for great all-day water activities like snorkeling. 

November – December

The weather is still good, but the tourist numbers start to pick up again as people escape the cold weather in their own countries, mainly the US and Canada. 

Hurricane season has passed, and humidity is low, so this is some of the best times of the year to spend on the island.

The Cost of Living in Isla Mujeres

We can’t list every single item you’ll ever come across on the island. So we have put together a list of general expenses of the island. 

All the numbers below allude to the per-month costs for one person unless stated otherwise. 

CostMonthly Price
Rent$400 – $2000
Utilities$20 – $40
Internet (1)$25
Groceries$200 – $300
Restaurants & Entertainment$100 – $400
Cell Phone$20
Transportation (Public Bus)$30
Tax- Ride (5 Mi)$10
Monthly Total$800 – $2500

As a starting point, the above numbers will give you an idea of what the costs of the island are. 

There is a large amount of variability between some items, so you’ll have to think about your spending patterns and the lifestyle you wish to lead to come up with a more accurate figure. 

Pro-Tip: spend at least six months renting before you decide to buy on the island. It may seem like paradise for the first few months, but over time little irritations turn into larger problems. I’ve known people to start regretting their buying decisions following a quick buy without prior diligence. 

Rent

The cost of living in Isla Mujeres is relatively low, especially if you compare it to places like Cancun or Playa del Carmen. Rent is the biggest expense, but it is still very reasonable. 

There are a lot of cheap rentals in Isla Mujeres so you can even find a great place on a budget.

A one-bedroom apartment in a decent location can be found for as little as $400 per month. 

If you’re looking for a larger apartment or house, the prices go up to around $2000 per month. But, this is still very affordable compared to other places in Mexico or North America. 

You can find some extra information below regarding buying your own place.

Food

The food on Isla Mujeres is delicious, and there are many restaurants to choose from. You can find anything from Mexican to Italian food, and most restaurants are reasonably priced. 

A meal at a mid-range restaurant costs about $15 per person. 

In terms of groceries, you can find many local tiendas (‘shops’ in Spanish) dispersed throughout the island. Some larger supermarkets are close to the island’s center for your large weekly shops. 

Transportation

gulf cart

There is no need for a car on Isla Mujeres since everything is within walking distance. You can rent or buy a motor scooter if you’re looking to get from place to place quickly.

However, most of the island’s transport comprises golf buggies. The rental shops seem to be on every corner, so you won’t be short of options. They are great for the narrow streets and lanes. 

Taxis are prevalent too and never take more than a few minutes to wave one down, especially in the island’s northern part.

How to Find a Place to Buy on the Island

Now that you know more about Isla Mujeres and the costs of living here, it’s time to start looking for a place to live. 

I found the best way to find somewhere is by word of mouth. Ask around at the local bars, restaurants, and shops if they know of any available places. 

Another great way to find somewhere is by looking online. Check out websites like Point2homes and Realtor to find properties for sale and contact the sellers. 

Isla Mujeres is a small island, so it won’t take long before you find the perfect place to call home. Taking that into account, it can work in the opposite direction too, as there can be limited property available to buy, especially if you have a tight budget.

If you’re looking to buy a place, properties start at around $300,000 for a 1 bedroom apartment and can go up to $2,000,000 and beyond for the higher-end condos.  

If you’re set on living in Isla Mujeres, then it’s important to be prepared to find a place. Start by researching online and asking around. That way, you’ll have a good idea of what’s available and at what price. 

Pro-Tip: spend at least six months renting before you decide to buy on the island. It may seem like paradise for the first few months, but over time little irritations turn into larger problems. I’ve known people to start regretting their buying decisions following a quick buy without prior diligence. 

Lifestyle on Isla Mujeres

isla mujeres beach

The island’s relaxed culture goes hand in hand with the fact that daily clothing attire consists mostly of swimsuits and sandals. Isla Mujeres is the perfect place to live if you’re looking for a laid-back lifestyle by the beach. 

That said, there’s still plenty to do on the island if you want to stay active. Many water sports are available such as snorkeling, scuba diving, kitesurfing, and windsurfing. 

You can also find land activities such as tennis and yoga. 

Isla Mujeres is a beautiful place to live with its crystal clear waters and sandy beaches. The island has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a relaxed lifestyle or wanting to stay active.

There are some festivals and events that take place throughout the year. The most popular of which is Isla Mujeres Carnaval in February/March. 

The island is jam-packed with beach clubs which usually offer lavish menus, low-level techno beats, and an array of boozy cocktails. The term beach club isn’t exclusive however, with some ‘beach clubs’ being nothing more than dull restaurants on the beach with a meager atmosphere at best. 

Generally, the good ones have music throughout the day, a beachfront freshwater pool, and a good restaurant menu. Tables, chairs, cushioned sun loungers, and hammocks are dotted around these places to make the day extra relaxed. 

The center of the island is made up of countless bars and restaurants. Most offer fresh seafood caught by the local fishermen that same day. 

Isla Mujeres is the place to be if you’re a fan of seafood. You’ll find that the prices for seafood are very affordable, with many restaurants having daily specials.

In terms of nightlife, Isla Mujeres is pretty low-key compared to places like Cancun and Playa del Carmen. The island’s inhabitants are usually older and more mature, so clubbing and 4 am drinking sessions are kept to the island’s neighboring towns. 

That’s not to say that there’s nothing to do at night, you’ll just find the nightlife more relaxed. There are many bars and clubs to choose from when looking for a place to drink and have a boogie.

Things To Do

1. Visit a Beach Club

Zama Beach Club is one of the most popular places on Isla Mujeres. It’s located on the island’s south end (Sac Bajo, to be exact) and has a stunning view of Cancun on a clear day. 

The beach club has a freshwater pool, a white sand beach, and an array of cocktails. 

Another great one to visit is Green Demon Beach Club, located in Playa Norte. It’s a little more active than Zama and is perfect for those looking to spend the day playing volleyball or lounging around on a shade-covered sun lounger with a good book. 

2. Go Snorkeling

MUSA (Underwater Museum of Art) Isla Mujeres is home to the world’s largest underwater museum. The museum has over 500 sculptures submerged in the waters off Isla Mujeres. The statues are made from materials that encourage marine life growth, such as coral and algae.

The museum aims to raise awareness about environmental issues such as global warming, pollution, and overfishing. This should certainly be the first snorkeling place on your list.

Garrafon Natural Reef Park – Another great place for snorkeling. The park is located on the southern tip of Isla Mujeres and is home to a coral reef, mangrove forest, and tropical fish. The reef is around 60 meters long, and you’ll find that the water is crystal clear. There is even a zip-line.

El Farito (Lighthouse Reef) – One of the most popular reefs on the island. El Farito is located 5 minutes off the coast, so it needs to be visited by boat. It’s a unique place as the reef centerpoint has a small white lighthouse that was abandoned years ago.

Punta Sur – Punta Sur is the southernmost tip of Isla Mujeres and is home to some of the best scuba diving on the island. The area is full of reefs and marine life, making it a great place to explore the underwater worlds. It also contains the Mayan Ruins of Isla Mujeres.

3. Immerse Yourself Underwater with Scuba

Scuba diving can be expensive, so if you’re looking to live on the island, it could be a good idea to invest in your own gear. 

You’ll need to complete your Padi basic training to be able to go without a qualified instructor too. If you don’t want to do this, many tour companies will take you out for a dive. 

For two dives of up to 20 minutes each, it’ll cost around $125. 

Manchones Reef –  Isla Mujeres is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world, so it’s no surprise that Manchones Reef is one of the most popular places to dive. Home to troves of marine life, you may see snappers, parrotfish, and, if you’re lucky, even sharks. 

El Farito (Lighthouse Reef) – As mentioned before, this is one of the most popular reefs on the island. It’s just off the coast and home to a small abandoned lighthouse. The reef has various marine life, including angelfish, barracudas, and turtles. 

C58 & C55 Minesweeper Wreck – The remnants of a WW2 minesweeper. The wreck is also named Juan de la Barrera Battleship, General Anaya, or USS Harlequin. 

Just off the coast of Cancun, the shipwreck is around 25 meters deep and is a popular place for divers of all levels. Depending on the time of year you’ll get eagle ray migration and whale shark season. 

Punta Negra – This is a small reef, but fish density here is incredible. Most species home to the Caribbean sea can be found here. The reef has a small overhang with minor currents to sweep you around without much effort. 

4. Explore With a Golf Buggy

Isla Mujeres is small, so it’s the perfect size to explore on a golf buggy, as many people do. You can either rent one for a few hours, a day or the week. The average price is $15 for 1 hour, but this does depend on the company you use. If you’re looking to rent them for a few days, expect to pay around $40 per day. 

If you want to buy a golf buggy to compliment your new home and use it as your usual mode of transport around the island, you will find a decent one for $5000. If you look on the second-hand market though, you’ll be able to cut this in half. Ask around at the local rental companies as a starting point. 

5. Go on a Hike

Explore the island on foot, take things in slowly, and notice the wildlife. Isla Mujeres is home to iguanas and many birds. You might even see a whale or dolphin during the right season while exploring the coastline. Follow one of the walking trails here.

During turtle nesting season, you must go to the beach at night to see them or when you scuba or snorkel. For tourists, it’s a popular time to visit Isla Mujeres to see them.

Dolphins have been spotted off the coast, but it’s uncommon unless you visit Dolphin Discovery.

6. Check Out a Turtle Sanctuary 

If you want to learn more about turtles and see them up close, there are several sanctuaries on the island that you can visit. 

Totugranja (Turtle Farm) is a governmental organization helping turtles throughout the island. For a fee, they will show you around the farm, explain their work, and let you get up close to the turtles. As of right now, they are currently closed but working on bringing it back.

From May – October, they do turtle releases where hundreds of baby turtles are transported to the seafront to swim free for the first time. 

The Best Things About Living on the Island

For me, the best thing about the island are the sunsets. They are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Book a table at one of Isla Mujeres’ many waterfront restaurants if you want to watch the sunset in style. 

Sunset Grill is a great place to visit, the food is some of the freshest Mexican cuisines I’ve ever eaten, but the sunsets are something else. You can enjoy fresh seafood while watching the sun dip below the horizon. 

Just be sure to make a reservation as these tables fill up quickly in the high season (January – April).

The Worst Things About Living on the Island

While Isla Mujeres is a beautiful place to live, there are a few downsides. 

The biggest downside is the cost of living. While Isla Mujeres is cheaper than other Caribbean islands, it’s still more expensive than many other parts of Mexico. 

This is largely because everything must be imported onto the island, which drives up prices. 

It’s still very cheap compared to places like the US and Canada, so if you’ve got a continual pension or wage from these countries, it shouldn’t be a problem for you. 

As a Wrap

If you’re looking for a beautiful and relaxed place to live in Mexico, Isla Mujeres might be the island for you. Its calm seas and warm weather make it a popular spot for retirees, ex-pats, and those looking for a slower-paced lifestyle. 

While there are some downsides to living on the island (such as the cost of living and isolation), there are plenty of things to do, including exploring on a golf buggy, hiking, snorkeling, scuba diving, and checking out the turtle sanctuaries. 

The positives outweigh the negatives if a chilled lifestyle is up your street. 

So, if you’re looking for a place to retire or just take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, living in Isla Mujeres might be just what you’re looking for. I hope this has given you an insight into what life is like on Isla Mujeres and what there is to do on the island.

Written by David Araya

David Araya

David Araya is an Isla Mujeres resident of many years. He is a husband and Co-founder of the "Cooks for an Island Cause" and "Toys + 'Tings" non-profit organizations. He is also the host of ShakerSation. Follow David on Instagram @araya_bartekniks