I had a beautiful time in Isla Mujeres but before I get into the unreal beaches and delicious food I want to warn you that, like everywhere on our still blue and green earth people on Isla Mujeres are exploiting animals for entertainment and profit. Generally, I don’t even blog about seeing animals being capitalized on because it so rampant but I wanted to warn you that there are a couple of truly egregious examples on the island so you don’t accidentally patronize them. Shark Beach Club has drinks and food like the other beach spots on the island but they also have a shark in a tiny tank that tourists can swim with, poke at, and gaze at all day. This shark is in a tiny cage and has no escape. Hopefully this place closes down asap when people stop going there. Next is Dolphin Discovery which is a sea-world like spot where you can see trained dolphins perform and swim with them. Let wild animals stay wild!!! This is disgusting! If you love dolphins, don’t swim with them. Finally, there is also a turtle farm, this one I’m not as sure about. I went to another Turtle Farm in Mazunte that rescues and breeds turtles which is I support but the turtles were in tiny cages for the most part and it seems like a similar situation at Tortugranja from reading the reviews. If you have visited and have thoughts, let me know.
Luckily, it is easy peasy to avoid eating animals on Isla Mujeres, I checked out Lola Valentina for Dinner, and then again for breakfast! It’s an open air spot right on the main drag so it was easy to keep coming back to plus they had multiple vegan options- more than I could try- so I went into indecision panic for a while while deciding what to order. I tried the vegan cauliflower tacos described as “tempura battered cauliflower, vegan coleslaw, and caramelized onion with a guava chipotle dressing”. Once I added hot sauce they were fantastic, exactly what you would want in a “fish” taco.
We also had Caribbean tostones, mezcal-ritas, and my mom got a house cocktail, the el diablito with mezcal, cucumber, tamarind, house made cucumber bitters, & Tabasco garnished with rosemary that they lit on fire. So good. Another morning I had this really amazing tofu poblano hash, I absolutely loved it (once I got hot sauce).
I never thought that I would have the best breakfast sandwich I can remember on an island 30 minutes off the coast of Cancun but wow, the fresh baked bread, rice paper bacon, greens, and savory tomato jam at Chaya and Cacao was pretty much unmatched. I wanted to go back again and again but it isn’t so easy when you are traveling with an entirely nonvegan family. If I went back to the island this would be my first stop (after checking to make sure it’s open).
For Buena Noche (Christmas eve) Dinner my sister made reservations at Sardinian Smile Restaurant & Wine. They had a set menu but she worked it out with the chef owner to make me a 4-course dinner too!!!! I had appetizers of eggplant pizzaiolas and other vegetable dishes, portabella mushrooms, and polenta for the main and lemon sorbet for dinner. But the most exciting part was that she also made me vegan pasta! I was thrilled.
On another day my sister wanted to go Limón and I saw online that the chef’s wife was vegetarian so I thought it was a safe bet. Indeed it was! First he made me Hibiscus Tacos which I had never even heard of and they were delicious. I talked to him about the recipe later and he promised to email it to me but after he described it I knew there was no way I would ever go to the trouble lol. I also had another pasta dish there since they were sadly out of gnocchi. But definitely check it out, and talk to Sergio he is the nicest guy ever!
My family really wanted to try a burger spot by our condo on the south side, Madera Food & art, that sure didn’t sound very promising, but then, I found out they also made tofu rice bowls with a sweet teriyaki sauce and I ended up going twice! It was delicious and the people that run it also sell their handmade art, all the wood items and jewelry are made there. I wanted to buy everything, definitely my favorite shopping on the island and the Women’s Beading Cooperative is close by too.
My sister wanted to go to Café Mango for breakfast and we got there right before the rush. It was a super cute place and I was very excited to see that they had a vegan version of their breakfast enchiladas although I demanded potatoes instead of coleslaw because who wants coleslaw for breakfast? (My sister had some and really liked it).
Our last night my mom wanted to see the Sunset and so we drove our golf cart to the Sunset Grill. It was completely empty except for us! But they had farfalle pasta with marinara, olives, and capers. As a person who always wants more olives in her life, I was STOKED.
Last food tip: there is a giant grocery store in the middle of the island called Chedraui. If you don’t have a golf cart you can easily find cabs there and back. They had tons of stuff, including Daiya Cheese, Pizzas, and Cheesecake along with the full variety of plant milks, hummus, tofu etc.
We stayed both on the North End and the South Side of the island, North is crazier but you can walk to all the vegan places. South is way calmer and there are plenty of mostly deserted beaches on the east coast, and a dog beach! If you crave fresh smoothies or cocktails on Playa Norte Green Demon and Guru are both delicious. Don’t miss hiking around Punta Sur! Such beautiful views! So many iguanas getting sun! It was fun snorkeling and drinking at Kin Ha and Maria’s but both were really lacking in vegan eating beyond the very basics. Oh! And almost everything is cash only. They will let you pay in dollars but you will get a better exchange if you hit the ATM instead, there is one by the ferry terminal and one at the corner of playa norte and probably a bunch of other ones but they weren’t ever present.