A Wheelchair User’s Guide to Isla Mujeres
If you’re looking to take an accessible day trip from Cancun or want to spend some nights away from the hustle and bustle of the mainland Yucatán Penninsula, a trip to Isla Mujeres is probably on your mind. But you might be wondering: is Isla Mujeres wheelchair accessible?
In short, yes, Isla Mujeres is wheelchair accessible, although not ideally so. In this guide, I’ll offer recommendations on how to get around Isla Mujeres as a wheelchair user. But first, let’s look at how to get there.
Note: The information here is based on my observation as a non-wheelchair user. If you have firsthand experience as a wheelchair user on Isla Mujeres, please let me know about your time there and your recommendations in the comments section. I appreciate it and know that our future readers will, too!
Taking the Ferry to Isla Mujeres
The ferry to Isla Mujeres is wheelchair accessible. I took the Ultramar ferry, so that’s the one I’ll be referring to here.
Ultramar offers priority boarding for wheelchair users. On the ferry I took, the ramp was on a gentle incline and didn’t have huge bumps on it that your wheels could get caught on, unlike the ferry I took to Cozumel.
Once onboard, you’ll have access to the first floor, which is an indoor air conditioned area. The ferry offers accessible spaces at the back of the boat where you can stay in your chair, so you won’t have to worry about transferring out of it for the quick 20-minute ride.
The downside is that these wheelchair spaces aren’t near a window and there aren’t any regular seats beside them if you’re traveling with an able-bodied companion.
I recommend using the accessible restroom at the Cancun ferry terminal before boarding your ferry to Isla Mujeres. However, if nature calls when you’re on the ferry, you can wheel around to the outdoor restroom at the back of the ferry. The doors are quite heavy and there’s about a 5-inch ledge you’d need to pop over, so you might want to flag down a staff member to assist you (they’d be able to set up a ramp for the ledge).
In both Cancun and Isla Mujeres, the ferry ports are wheelchair accessible.
General Wheelchair Accessibility on Isla Mujeres
So, now you know that you can arrive in Isla Mujeres with your wheelchair, but then what?
You have a few options including rolling around on your own, renting a golf cart, or renting a car. That said, Isla Mujeres is such a small island and parking is so complicated that I don’t recommend a car rental. Instead, you can either roll about 5 minutes from the port to Playa Norte or rent a golf cart if you’re able to transfer out of your chair and cruise around the island.
If you really want to drive, you’re better off taking a car from Cancun over on a ferry to Isla since you’ll have more access to accessible transportation in Cancun.
There are plenty of sidewalks in the area around the ferry port and the Playa Norte region of Isla Mujeres. However, these sidewalks tend to be narrow and/or consumed with vendors and tourists. So, I recommend using the bike path that passes down Av. Rueda Medina (the road that the ferry port is on). If bravery or the situation requires, you can also travel directly on the street. Many able-bodied people walk on the streets in the Playa Norte area, too, nearly forcing them into pedestrian streets during peak hours (be prepared to encounter speed bumps along the way, though).
When you’re exploring the handful of blocks that crisscross from one side to the other on the Playa Norte region of Isla, there’s a wonderful pedestrian-only street called Miguel Hidalgo. There, you’ll have access to a variety of restaurants and tourist shops. It cuts right through the center of the island, so it’s a great place to base yourself.
The side streets are mostly non-cobblestone brick. Sidewalks in Isla Mujeres are hit and miss in terms of their width, maintenance, whether they drop down, and whether there are objects blocking the path.
The Playa Norte region of Isla Mujeres is entirely flat. If you venture to the south side of the island, which I only recommend doing in a golf cart or vehicle due to poor or nonexistent sidewalks, you’ll encounter a few small inclines.
When exiting the ferry port, you can also head down the sidewalk to the right. This will lead you to a quieter area with wider sidewalks and some nice ocean views.
The path allows for a nice 15 – 20 minute stroll.
Beach Accessibility on Isla Mujeres
Now let’s get to the good stuff—the beaches!
In recent years Isla Mujeres has put a greater focus on making their beaches wheelchair accessible. There are two wheelchair accessible entrances—one at the end of Rueda Media Avenue and the other at the end of Miguel Hidalgo Street.
Let’s take a closer look at each.
Rueda Media Av. with Calle Adolfo López Mateos
The beautiful white sand beach at the end of Rueda Media sits right around the corner from the beginning of Playa Norte. You can access this beach directly from the road the ferry is on, about a 10-minute stroll from the port (just keep in mind that the sidewalks can get tricky, so you might be better off using the bicycle path if you don’t rent a golf cart).
There’s a cement ramp that leads to a little wooden hut on the edge of the beach. Here, you can ask for a “silla anfibia” (beach wheelchair). Unfortunately, the hut was closed every time I visited, presumably because of the pandemic.
The beach at Rueda Media is a nicer option than Playa Norte in some aspects because the beach is much wider and there are fewer people (relatively speaking). It also has some beachside restaurants you can enjoy.
Calle Miguel Hidalgo
The beach off of Calle Miguel Hidalgo is an excellent choice if you’re already strolling around the shops and restaurants on this pedestrian Avenue. The road leads directly out onto Isla Mujeres’ famous Playa Norte.
Like the Rueda Media entrance, the Calle Miguel Hidalgo entrance has a small boardwalk that leads up to a wooden kiosk where you can request a beach wheelchair.
Unlike the beach at Rueda Media, Playa Norte is a narrower beach, especially at high tide. If you’re visiting during the heart of the day or at sunset, you might have to do quite a bit of dodging around sunbathers until you pick a spot.
The good news is that Playa Norte is a short beach, so you can easily explore it up and down. And if you visit in the morning, you’ll practically have the entire place to yourself.
The water is shallow and calm here, making it a great place to wheel your beach chair right into the water.
Be on the lookout for fish; they’re quite accustomed to people so don’t be surprised if they start swimming around your wheels!
If you’re driving, you’ll find free accessible parking spaces at the entrance to North Beach at Calle Miguel Hidalgo. This is also a great place to stay at an accessible hotel, which I’ll talk about shortly.
Visiting Punta Sur
There are two popular activities to do on Isla Mujeres—hanging out on the beach and taking a trip to Punta Sur.
Did you know that Punta Sur is the easternmost part of Mexico? That means that it’s the first place the sunrise touches the country every morning! Visiting Punta Sur at sunrise is therefore a popular choice for travelers, although I’d argue that it’s worth two trips because you won’t get to appreciate its stunning blue water at that early hour of the morning.
Located on the south side of the island, Punta Sur is the highest point on Isla Mujeres at 66 feet. You can either drive a golf cart or vehicle to Punta Sur, although you’ll have to make your own accessible parking space since there isn’t any marked parking.
Punta Sur is the kind of place that’s easiest to explain by taking you step by step through photo explanations, so here we go. I hope you find these helpful!
Punta Sur is small, so you won’t need loads of time there. I’d say 30 – 60 minutes is plenty to thoroughly explore the area. However, you can also grab a bite to eat at a restaurant with accessible seating that overlooks the ocean.
Alternatively, there’s an ice cream shop and churro stands if you wanted something to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Watching the Sunrise & Sunset on Isla Mujeres
You already know that Punta Sur is the best place on Isla Mujeres for watching the sunrise, but it’s not the only good place. Along the east side of the island, towards the Playa Norte end, there’s a long, paved boardwalk that borders the rougher side of the ocean.
From there, you can stroll on almost entirely flat terrain and enjoy ocean views and the sunrise. You’ll also arrive at a colorful “Isla Mujeres” sign for a photo op.
As for the sunset, the best place to do this is at Playa Norte, or around the corner from Playa Norte at the Rueda Media Av. with Calle Adolfo López Mateos entrance. Often, yachts and sailboats gather to watch the sunset, adding to even more picturesque photos.
As the sun goes down on Playa Norte, the beach fills with lively bars and restaurants, people performing on the beach, and music. It’s a fun place to feel the Isla Mujeres vibe!
Wheelchair Accessible Restaurants on Isla Mujeres
Although the inside portion of many restaurants aren’t wheelchair accessible because of steps, the pedestrian Miguel Hidalgo Street is an excellent place for dining since nearly all the restaurants offer accessible outdoor seating.
However, Isla Mujeres is expensive. So, if you’re on a budget, I’ve compiled a list of budget-friendly restaurants in Isla Mujeres. Keep an eye out for the blue boxes in that article, as they’ll explain the accessibility situation.
Wheelchair Accessible Restrooms on Isla Mujeres
Oh, man. Finding wheelchair accessible restrooms in Isla Mujeres isn’t easy. In fact, public accessible restrooms are essentially non-existent.
More likely than not, you’ll be relying on your hotel’s restroom. Thankfully, the island is small.
However, there’s an accessible restroom at the ferry port and a somewhat accessible restroom at Punta Sur. The Punta Sur restroom is the green building in the photo above. It costs 5 pesos to use and is plenty wide enough for a wheelchair, but it doesn’t have the standard aids that restrooms built for accessibility have.
Wheelchair Accessible Hotels on Isla Mujeres
There aren’t many wheelchair accessible hotel options on Isla Mujeres. However, the resort-like Ixchel Hotel is among the best options—it’s located at the end of Miguel Hidalgo Street.
That means that you can either hang a left and be on Playa Norte in less than a minute, with access to one of those little wooden kiosks offering beach wheelchairs, or you can hang a right and have access to tons of shops and restaurants along the pedestrian Miguel Hidalgo Street.
Ixchel Hotel also has accessible parking spaces, should you bring a vehicle.
Wheeling Around the Yucatán?
If so, good news!
We’ve put together a number of other accessible blog posts on destinations around Mexico’s Caribbean peninsula. Check them out below:
Ready for Isla Mujeres?
Getting around Isla Mujeres isn’t a breeze for wheelchair users, but it also isn’t impossible. If you’ve already visited Isla as a wheelchair user, I’d love for you to share your experience in the comments section. Alternatively, if you have questions about accessible travel in Isla, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help.
Don’t forget! If you want to check out some cheap and delicious accessible restaurants in Isla, check out this post: Restaurants on Isla Mujeres.
Laura’s love for traveling started with a trip to Jamaica. Since then, she’s spent over five years living in Latin America and four years wandering the globe. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.