If you plan a trip to Cancun or Playa Del Carmen, chances are you are looking for great ways to experience the area and other fun things there. There is plenty to experience, but you will want to avoid Isla Mujeres catamaran tours to visit the island of Isla Mujeres.
While Isla Mujeres may be the place you want to visit for the clear tropical waters, it is with most certainty that going there via ferry is the best and most beneficial way to travel there.
No, I was not sponsored on this trip, and if I were, this post would not appear because I would have to write about how great it was, even though it sucked.
Read my personal through on why to avoid Isla Mujeres Catamaran tours to help you save time and money and find a better way to visit Isla Mujeres if you find yourself wanting to!
We believe a day visit to Isla Mujeres from Playa del Carmen could be traded in for a day at Cozumel, which is closer and easier to access.
If you are in Cancun, take the Ferry, and save yourself the hassle and BS! Avoid the isla mujeres catamaran tours!
In our opinion, this story comes in 2nd place to the roaches in our salads on a different trip, and we never published or told the story as it was a negative press trip!
Table of Contents
Do You Want To Visit The Island of Isla Mujeres?
You’ll want to avoid the Cancun Sailing Catamarans that take you on a booze cruise to and from Isla Mujeres if you really want to see the island and enjoy it. You’ll want to avoid the island’s loco golf cart rental provider.
As with any vacation, time is always the one thing we don’t have enough of, right? So if you can carve out enough time in your relaxed schedule to do a few local things, you might be tempted to take the all-you-can-drink, snorkeling, catamaran tour to the island of Isla Mujeres.
Ask yourself these questions before deciding if you will embark upon a day visit to Isla Mujeres.
- Do you want to be away from your primary destination for over 1/2 of a day?
- how far are you from Isla Mujeres (I’ll go into a bit more detail below)
- are you able to get private transportation, or do you have to travel with a large group
- do you speak Spanish?
- Do you want to snorkel,
- are you willing to have no right to cancellation fees after a reservation is made?
- Do you like riding in boats, or do you get boat sick?
- Do you want to drink up a storm and party and dance?
- Are you willing to spend at least $65 on a golf cart rental per hour?
- Do you want to go shopping?
Deciding To Day Visit To Isla Mujeres or Not?
We just returned from Playa Del Carmen, and if we had to make the same trip again, we would NEVER retake the catamaran tour, as it is a complete waste of time, money, and a day!
Now, would I go back to the Island of Isla Mujeres itself? Probably not, but I’ll share why, giving you an idea of our vantage point.
How Long To Get To Isla Mujeres From Cancun Vs. Playa Del Carmen
You can get to Isla Mujeres from Playa Del Carmen or Cancun in a few different ways, and I’ll overview what we learned and know.
Staying In Cancun Makes It Much Easier To Travel To Isla Mujeres
Getting to Isla Mujeres from Cancun is super easy via the ferry, and it will make for a fabulous day visit.
It’s also under $10 to take the Ferry round trip on a self-guided tour, and in the event you want to deal with the miserable golf cart vendors and the Jefe himself, you’ll drop another $65 an hour or more, depending on the vendor’s mood!
For those who choose to visit Isla Mujeres via Ferry, chances are, you will be in good company with many making day trips to Isla Mujeres from the local Cancun hotel zone via the ferries and going at any time you please as long as the ferry is running.
From Playa Del Carmen To Isla Mujeres Is A Bit More Complex
If you are staying in Playa Del Carmen, getting to Isla Mujeres from Playa Del Carmen is a bit longer and more expensive, but it is possible.
- Hire a taxi, negotiate the price, and use the Ferry for day trips to Isla Mujeres.
- Use the bus to go to Cancun and then take the Ferry for $9
- Hire a private driver (round trip), then take the Ferry to Isla Mujeres.
- Of course, you can also go through a tour agency and take a Catamaran Tour, and they provide a ride (good luck)
The ride to Cancun is about 48 minutes without traffic at 8 am, but it can be longer if there is much longer traffic.
If you have your rental car, note that parking will be costly, according to many reviews that are less than HAPPY with the cost and issues.
👉 Pro Tip When Hiring an Uber Or A Taxi In Cancun As of January 2023
We were advised of this personally by a concierge in Playa Del Carmen, and we Googled it and found it very true.
You might want to rethink the Cab and Uber rides!
Inbound From Playa Del Carmen To Cancun
- Expect a 1-hour ride with a shuttle driver and other people in the van.
- People may not show up on time,, and the shuttle driver will wait and make YOU late.
- Hire private transportation if you prefer your driver, but the commute will be the same.
- Expect to leave at 8 am and arrive back at 8p (we had a terrible experience with a driver, so it should have been 6:30)
Using A Tour Agency To Book A Catamaran Tour From Cancun TO Isla Mujeres
We used a tour operator who was efficient at everything, and anything that happened during our more than negative terrible trip to Isla Mujeres had nothing to do with the agency but everything to do with the tour operators, the van drivers, and the vendors on the island, namely Cancun Sailing.
Read another recent review offering the same sentiments about the overpriced, underwhelming Isla Mujeres catamaran tours as we did, and you can read thousands more online!
Once your tour is booked, no refund or cancellation is available, so $99 a person is firm, and we cannot change it. Rain or shine, the tour will go, and you can read all the reviews of how unsafe it is to go in the rain by Googling the operator and the people’s reviews.
Avoid Isla Mujeres Catamaran Tours But Understand Our Reasoning.
Our awful experience was not due to the crew of the catamaran, as they were kind and we tipped them well, but due to the following issues:
- People were not showing up on time to leave for the shuttle, making us late to the pier
- The van ride home from HELL, which I detail later in the post (2 hours late getting home)
- the VIP scam at the pier
- the Golf Cart vendor in Isla Mujeres
- The tourist trap set up by Cancun sailing upon arrival at Isla Mujeres
- The lack of actual time given to spend in Isla mujeres contradicts the website offer of a few hours
- The number of PEOPLE in Playa Norte
- The crappy buffet food
- The inability to snorkel in aquamarine water, which does not exist
From Cancun To Isla Mujeres Catamaran Tour
- A van will pick you up at particular hotels and drop you back off
- chances are your longest commute within the Cancun area will be 20 minutes.
- Expect to leave at 8 am and arrive back by 6P
What To Expect Once You Arrive At The Pier In Puerto Juarez
We developed the list of reasons to avoid Isla Mujeres catamaran tours based on our not-so-fun all-the-way-around experience with the van drivers and the tour itself because it flat-out sucked.
But we are not the only ones complaining about the tour; check out Yelp, Google, and TripAdvisor, which we should have before booking!
#1 Extra Charges At The Pier + Chaos
Arriving at the pier was absolute chaos, no matter if you could speak the language or can’t, but the driver told us nothing, so everyone followed each other like an ant trail.
You’ll arrive by your shared van, and be given absolutely ZERO directions, so follow the crowd to the beach and pier.
After that, you’ll enter a building and pay $15 (USD) a person for a pier tax that is NOT included in your $99 (USD) per person.
P.S. – You can rent towels here for $5 each.
And upon exiting the pay station at the Cancun Sailing pier for the tax, chaos abounds, including the VIP upgrade, which creates other issues.
#2 The VIP Upgrade They’ll Push For Isla Mujeres Catamaran is Filled With BS
After You Pay The Pier Tax To Go To the Island Of Isla Mujeres, This Might Happen…
Then expect to be hustled and judged by other workers as you exit, as they assume you can’t speak Spanish (sorry y’all, I am fluent, and you bitches are rude, ruthless, and con artists) and then pass you to someone who can speak English, who tries to convince you that while you are there on a busy day, your boat sucks.
Then you will be told that you need to UPGRADE your package Cancun Sailing package for another $50 each to get(VIP) a more private ride, top shelf boos, and better positioning in the awful snorkeling area they port you off too. ( at this point, if you take them up on it, you have spent $99 a person + $15 + $50 for what could have been a Ferry ride round trip of $9 + a great lunch somewhere on the island)
We were advised that 700 people were heading to Isla Mujeres on a Monday, and it was gonna be rocking, and believe me; it was, and not in a good way!
Once you deny the VIP salesperson, they tell you how you will regret your decision and hurry in, get in line for your boat, and don’t miss your boat that they almost make you miss with their pushy sales.
Line Up For Your Boat For Your Day Visit To Isla Mujeres
Now you’ll be assigned a boat, and you need your receipt to the board, but the better question is how do they know if you are left behind after you go snorkeling and go to the island (they won’t, don’t, and that’s that!)
Ours was Ventus (pretty close to Vento, our last name), and you have to remain with that boat the whole trip, and I guess if you get that effed up from drinking, you might not remember (as we witnessed some pretty intense partying, almost like Spring break before the season started)
The catamaran houses 100 people.
Boarding The Catamaran For Day Trips To Isla Mujeres
Take off your shoes, and get on the boat.
Those who flaunt their natural flotation devices tend to go to the front netting of the catamaran and hang out, taking selfies the whole time.
At the same time, everyone else takes a seat under cover from the shining sun that intensifies when you are out on the water!
For anyone wanting excellent photos, sit on the exterior seats facing the water; for everyone else, sit underneath, and you’ll be closer to the bar!
The captain and crew will review the boat rules and the name of the catamaran and share that there is an open bar when you are on the catamaran.
#2 Be Prepared To NOT Snorkle A BIG ZERO
The captain said, “unless you are a STRONG swimmer, they don’t advise you to go into the water for snorkeling as the water is very rough today.”
The decision was ours, and we had no idea which way to roll.
- The water was indeed rough, and it was hard to stand without support along the way.
- We are strong swimmers, but the water was hardly beautiful – where was the aquamarine water we passed?
- We saw lots of people and boats, and nothing that looked like we wanted to jump in, so we passed.
Based on that information, you will have no idea how rough or not the water is.
Could We Have Snorkeled On This Day Visit Catamaran Cruise?
From what we gathered, we could have and should have snorkeled, but the water was hardly clear, and it was infested with catamarans, boats, and so many people that it was AWFUL.
Once those that went (about 20 total out of a boat of at least 75-100) snorkeling left the boat, the alcohol began to flow.
- The snorkeling area is overly populated by both snorkelers taking that chance and other tours
- the water was rough
- the water was not clear
- there is not much to see because it is too frequented
- this is not a prime snorkeling area
Soon the snorkelers returned, and a few of them were nauseous from all the rough water, and they were ALL complaining that the water was not clear, they saw nothing and the water was cold, and there were too many people in the water!
Let’s Drink Before We Get To The Island Of Isla Mujeres
Your choices of beverages were pretty low-key standard, nothing fancy, and all made with headache-making alcohol.
- Dirty Margaritas (made with beer and tequila and some lemon flavoring)
- Some tropical-looking drinks with red and blue
- Sex on the beach drink too
The Mess Of A Bathroom On The Catamaran
Dishing up dirty bathrooms that you might even call completely unsanitary, you got it on this tour, and remember, you are drinking and in the ocean sailing with a boat that won’t stop rocking; how might you aim in a toilet or hover?
The bathroom required you to go barefoot; there was no toilet paper or flushing.
After one trip down to the bathroom, I never returned!
Once everyone started drinking, it was peeing on the floor in the bathroom and you in your bare feet, and add that to the boat rocking from some strong wavy water; good luck with the aim! Funky right?
#3 The Catamaran Lunch Buffet Mega Lacked Variety
After the snorkeling letdown, we sailed to the Ice Bar for a less-than-plentiful lunch buffet and, after eating to make sure to head back to the Catamaran by 1P.
The food choices, to be honest, just sucked: something that was supposed to be spaghetti, some seafood that smelled like it had been out forever and longer, some beans and rice, and your choice of water or soft drinks. Limited, and a boxed lunch would have been better.
Pro Tip: Use the bathrooms here, so you don’t have to use them on the catamaran!
Pro Tip For Bathrooms In Isla Mujeres
If you wipe, you don’t put that paper in the toilet; you put it in the trash. If you hit a bathroom that is not tended to, you will see a lot of flies because that rule is all over the island and for both #1 and #2, and the bathrooms smell.
Yes, another possible reason to avoid Isla Mujeres catamaran tours is if you don’t like stenches in the bathroom!
Maybe another reason to avoid isla mujeres catamaran tours or Isla Mujeres altogether!
The Dock Has Got Crocodiles
When you get off the catamaran, no one tells you that you have pulled into a cove where crocodiles nest and live; how fricking fun is that?
But on the way back onto the dock after eating, we saw the warning signs; they should be marked so much better as crocodiles can jump and attack even unprovoked as they are nasty beasties and fiercely mean.
We advise using caution because there have been attacks around Mexico, Cancun, etc., and Isla Mujeres is hardly exempt from crocodiles as there is a sign posting a warning.
The ClusterEff Known as Playa Norte On The Island Of Isla Mujeres
Our Captain could hardly dock, and as soon as he did, we were quickly ushered OFF the catamaran, being told to remember our name VE to return to “X” dock and not be late. They will leave without you.
The beach was overpopulated, and there was no way to enjoy it.
We were supposed to have had 2-3 hours here, but we were given 1.5 hours which 15 minutes was made up of being paraded into the jewelry store for a bracelet we didn’t need.
From The Island Of Isla Mujeres Dock To The Tourist Trap, We Go
One of the crew members led us through the beach.
Then through the pathway via the bar shacks and restaurants across the street, into a tourist trap jewelry store to be given a “bracelet” that would get us back on our boat, which was a bunch of Bullshit, too, it was a tourist trap, and the bracelets served ZERO purpose. (there was not ONE person on our tour not complaining about this moment)
As you walk in and get a bracelet, then you make a U-turn inside and exit out the other side, where you are hit with a quick-talking golf cart vendor who has a boss that is in charge of him, who grabs your license but is slow to bring the keys to start the golf cart.
Look at the sign above the Golf Cart! That’s right, the Cancun Sailing team has part of that business and the golf carts, and it’s all a tourist trap with horrible management and bad endings!
#4 Our Issues With The Golf Cart Vendor
As my husband attempted to get our keys, I fought with one of the Mexican men.
I sat in the golf cart they told us to use, and we paid for it, and he had his cerveza (beer) sitting in it as he was trying to hustle tourists into his shop.
Immediately he started on me, telling me to get out of the golf cart, and I told him I wasn’t moving.
He told me it had to be rented even though he had just seen my husband with me and knew we rented it, and I told him we did rent it.
The jerk then told me if it was our rental where the keys were, and just as he opened up his trash mouth to keep on going, the one rental manager came over with my husband and the keys and told him to shut up, just as I had already done!
TOTAL NEGATIVE situation.
The Golf Cart Ride TO Nowhere
Now we had the golf cart, but they had no maps of the island, and YES, you can get lost, and if you are limited time (as we were), that is not good.
Unknowingly the route we took went back towards where we ate lunch at the Ice Bar, and it seemed a bit sketchy as police (over four cars or more) had closed down a road and were guarding it, which was odd.
We stopped at a taco place for drinks, and it was about 15 minutes max from where we rented the golf cart, which is AS FAR as we got. We turned around because we needed 15 minutes back and ten to the boat.
We Didn’t Get Far…
So we stopped to drink, which was as far as we got.
At this point, it was 15 minutes out of town from where we got our rental, and we had spent about 10 minutes eating/drinking and rented the golf cart for one hour.
We headed back, so we would not be late because we had to be at the dock to get off the island, and we had seen NOTHING except too many people on Playa Norte, a miserable man, and police.
We literally drove the cart back as fast as we could to the rental place and had 10 minutes to spare to get back to the boat and at least 15 minutes left on our 1-hour rental, per the man who rented it to us (we had returned it early), but then…
El Jefe (the boss of the man we rented from) came over and started arguing with my husband that he would not give him his license back (because he was an asshole, for lack of a better term), stating we were fifteen minutes late.
Don’t Argue Because, Golf Cart Man, you’re mistaken.
Um, Mr. Timekeeper, we had only 1:15 minutes in your little crap island; by the time we got the cart, another 15 minutes had passed; we didn’t even go far, we ate and came back and had 10-15 minutes to spare but since you can’t do the math… it ended up ugly.
He had my husband’s license in his hand, refused to hand it over, and they went back in forth (it was ugly), and then the guy that contracted the rental stepped in and told him there were no keys.
It took over 15 minutes to find them That we still had time LEFT on our rental, and we didn’t OWE any more money (at least that man knew and told the truth)
Our Quarrel Got Louder And Nastier: Avoid Isla Mujeres Catamaran Tours
But El Jefe was not having it, and he continued his quarrel with my husband (by the way, my husband will win this battle, he’s no Gringo)
In other words, our rental was not even 45 minutes of use for 65 dollars, and my husband GRABBED his license out of El Jefe’s hands while others were watching what was going on, and we were screaming at him because we had to get to the port.
After all, this fight had gone on for 10+ minutes, and our catamaran was going to board, without us, due to NO fault of our own but instead this twisted Shyster.
Where Is The Catamaran?
As a parting favor from the day visit to Isla Mujeres, the catamaran was nowhere to be seen.
At first, we thought we had missed the boat, but we then found ALL of the people on our day trip to Isla Mujeres. We were all on the dock they told us to stand on, and everyone was buzzing about the missing boat.
The crew came to find us, as they had to move because there were TOO many boats that day and no docking space.
Once back on board, more drinks, more music, and a guy decided to stand up on the boat as though he was on the Titanic, and the crew had to tell him, “Are you Loco? Get Down”
Then the music turned back up, and we got to the dock and paid the tips to the crew (who worked hard).
Pier In Cancun After Returning From A Day Visit To Isla Mujeres
It’s a hot mess is the only way to describe this scene.
Get off the boat, and follow everyone to where? Before you disembark the catamaran, they go through which Van number or letter you will be. You have to know this when you get to the shuttle lot.
Find your shuttle, and away you’ll go if… your shuttle shows up. Unfortunately, ours didn’t wait until 1/2 hour after everyone left because we had the worst shuttle driver you’ll ever run into, a total anti-American driver!
Yet another reason to avoid Isla Mujeres catamaran tours is that nothing is as it is supposed to be from pickup to drop off to directions of any sort, it is just a total cluster Eff the whole time, and that takes the magic out of the day.
After the driver finally arrived, we ended up being the only Americans, which was a massive disadvantage as we were judged.
The two families commandeered the shuttle, assuming we understood and couldn’t speak until… they knew we could.
#5 The Shuttle Driver And The Passengers
I’ll be as honest about this as they were rude, and I don’t care how it sounds; I am still ticked off.
We were five minutes into the drive, overheated from a full-sun filled day, and the family’s teens kept complaining they were cold, and they turned off the vent above my head and one above theirs.
We turned our back on without being obnoxious, hoping to get home. We should have arrived home at 6:30, at the latest, but at 7:35P, we were returned to the corner we were picked up on while EVERYONE else got dropped off at their doorstep.
What The Day Visit TO Isla Mujeres Shuttle Driver Did Next Is Whack
Five minutes into what would turn into the drive from hell, the driver stopped at a Go-Mart without saying a word to us but having discussed it with the teens’ parent, who was sitting up front chatting away.
To be very clear, we had no vehicle in Playa del Carmen, so we had Zero access to a place like this to show you the validity of the story, and we were here because, for some reason, the families that commandeered the van and the driver needed to stop.
The driver left the van running, his door open, and all the doors open, and everyone got out, but no one said why.
They went in to get snacks, used the bathroom, and returned one by one 15-20 minutes later.
The Shuttle Driver Makes It Even Worse
We didn’t take a chance to get out because we didn’t want to be stranded an hour away from Playa Del Carmen.
Once back in the van, tequila flowed to their family members and the driver. Yes, the effn driver was drinking tequila.
The shuttle stopped and left off one other couple that sat quietly, then left one of the two large families off at a hotel in Puerto Morales on some backroad, where he filled his cup with tequila and drank more.
The teen continued to complain, ad we continued to fight about the air conditioning staying on, and then the driver made the biggest asshole move ever; he put the heat on to pacify this family even more.
Why To Avoid The Isla Mujeres Catamaran Tours: Whoaa, You Missed Our Stop!
To add to the insanity, the driver decided to drive the other family right to Calle 30, passing our stop up, even though we were all supposed to be left off at the bank by the 5th.
We were then asked where we were to be dropped, and when we told him, he got mad because he had already passed it and had to circle back.
The stop caused us to lose our dinner reservations for 8P, and we had to reschedule to go later to a very top eating spot, which aggravated the situation even more because we had been on time, with a driver who showed up and didn’t make side stops, we could have been on time!
Now You Know Why We Are Sharing Why To Avoid Isla Mujeres Catamaran Tours
- We had terrible transportation and were late to port
- Going home, our driver drank and got us home 2 hours later than it should have been
- We didn’t have more than an hour at Playa Norte
- The golf cart vendor was a liar bad business person, and they destroyed any possible positive memory of the place.
- The beaches are overcrowded.
- The food is awful
- You won’t have the snorkeling experience they post about online
- Do I need to go on?
We hope we save you time, money, and a headache and that you take the Ferry to Isla Mujeres instead!