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Isla Mujeres is a small beautiful island located off the coast of Cancun and acts as a popular day trip destination for those visiting the Riviera Maya. The island stretches 4.3 miles (7 km) long and is known for its pristine white sandy beaches and casual island vibes where the main mode of transportation is via golf cart.
Our favorite way to explore this island is to take a catamaran cruise to go from Cancun to Isla Mujeres. It’s the perfect way to get out on the water, enjoy a few drinks, and have transportation to a gorgeous island. I mean if that doesn’t scream vacation, I don’t know what does!
A catamaran cruise tour is by far the most comfortable way to cross the colorful Caribbean Sea and explore the beautiful Isla Mujeres. Plus, we love that tours usually include extras like snorkeling or an open bar to really make for a fun day out in Mexico.
We really enjoyed this day trip so to help you have the best time, I’ve gone into detail about everything you need to know before going on your own Cancun catamaran cruise to Isla Mujeres!
Don’t have time to read the full article? There’s a reason Isla Mujeres is such a popular spot – It’s a perfect day trip when you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Cancun. If you’re looking for a super fun and relaxing way to get there, we recommend this half-day boat excursion that includes round-trip transportation, snacks, an open bar, and a snorkeling tour that will leave you basking in all the glory this island has to offer.
1. What is a Cancun Catamaran Cruise?
If you’ve never cruised on a catamaran boat, you’re in for a treat! A catamaran is essentially a sailboat with two hulls on either side connected by a deck. These are one of our favorite boats to take as they have a very wide base that makes the boat quite stable and helps protect against sea sickness, something Bailey struggles with! These boats come in many different sizes but all share the same general shape.
The cruise tours we will go into detail on shortly vary from smaller boats for private tours to large 3-story boats equipped with slides and other fun features. These boats typically have a lot of outdoor space to relax and enjoy your time on.
The waters between Cancun and Isla Mujeres are typically quite calm, especially if you’re visiting in the dry season, making catamarans a great mode of transportation. Catamaran cruises to Isla Mujeres typically include an open bar, a snorkel experience in a beautiful coral reef, and time to explore the island.
2. When is the best time to go on a Cancun Catamaran Cruise?
We’ve found that the best time to go on a Cancun catamaran cruise is in the dry season, between December and May. During this time, the ocean waters are calm and clear showing off their beautiful turquoise colors.
The hot weather makes jumping in an absolute must and ensures you have the best chance of sunshine and clear skies. If given a choice, I highly recommend a morning cruise as you will beat the crowds. Although the afternoon tours are typically timed so you’re sailing back to Cancun around sunset and I’m a sucker for watching an ocean sunset, so a sunset cruise from Cancun is hard to beat.
If you are visiting between July and November, you may want to rethink your cruise as this is during the hurricane season in the Caribbean. Cancun’s hurricane season has the highest risk between September and October. Mexico’s wet season can lead to some heavy winds and dangerous ocean conditions that make boating both not enjoyable and not safe. Even on clear days, ocean currents don’t make for great snorkeling conditions in these months.
Related Read: If you are going to be in Cancun from May-September, consider going on a whale shark tour in Cancun. This is whale shark season and these gentle giants are amazing to see up close!
3. How much does a Cancun Catamaran Cruise cost?
How much a catamaran cruise in Cancun costs depends on the tour you choose to take. Taking a cruise from Cancun to Isla Mujeres is one of the incredibly popular activities in Mexico and therefore you have a lot of tour options available to choose from.
If you’re looking to stick to a budget, you can find affordable catamaran cruises for as low as $49 USD per person. This cruise will still include snorkeling, time on Isla Mujeres, an open bar, and transportation for an extra $5 USD. You can also choose a sunset departure time if you want to watch the sun sink into the ocean while you relax on the boat.
If you are looking for more of a luxurious cruise experience, the cost increases to $139 USD per person and includes an open bar, gourmet lunch, and a guided tour of Isla Mujeres – or time to explore on your own.
When we look for tours, we typically aim for a mid-range experience like this one for that nice combo of all the must-do activities and transportation to and from the dock. Plus we find the smaller groups and attentive staff really add to the experience.
Some cruises include the dock fee of around $20 USD and others do not and require you to pay the fee at check-in. So make sure you factor that into the price, as for example, this luxury cruise includes the dock fee in its $139 USD cost and the mid-range experience for $80 USD does not.
4. What to expect on a typical Cancun Catamaran Cruise?
Taking a catamaran cruise to Isla Mujeres is one of the most popular day trips to take from Cancun and one of our favorites! While you have lots of different tour options to choose from that have different inclusions, they all follow relatively the same outline. If your tour includes transportation, you will be picked up from your hotel, otherwise, you will meet at the ferry terminal in Cancun where your sailing tour will begin.
You will start your experience by boarding your catamaran and leaving Mexico’s mainland to explore the ocean. You will be traveling 8 miles (12.8 km) through the stunning Caribbean Sea to Isla Mujeres – be sure to bring your camera! As you get comfortable on the boat, you will start by heading to a beautiful coral reef between the two places where you can enjoy some snorkeling. We made sure that snorkeling around Isla Mujeres, and all snorkel gear, are provided on every tour we’ve mentioned in this article to add to the experience.
This part of Mexico sits at the tip of the Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The snorkeling around Cancun is great and you will likely see some amazingly colorful corals and fish.
The only downfall is that most tour boats stop in the same area, so expect to be in good company with lots of people in the water and boats all around. You will have a guide from your boat who will go with you to keep your group together.
Once you are done snorkeling, the party really starts as drinks at the open bar will start being served (hello, Mexico!). With the sun beating down and a drink in hand, you will begin making your way toward Isla Mujeres. Once you get there, you will have some free time to explore the beautiful island. There is lots to do on Isla Mujeres including beachfront restaurants, lots of shopping, and pristine white beaches (Playa Norte is one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico!).
You will be dropped off at the northern end of Isla Mujeres where all the tourist activity is. We rented a golf cart and drove around the island. If you’re like us and love exploring, I highly recommend renting a golf cart as the island is so much fun to explore. On the southern tip of the island, you will find Punta Sur, a beautiful beach with a lighthouse and huge waves crashing ashore.
When you are done exploring, you will meet back at your boat. Grab a drink from the open bar and take in the beautiful views as you relax aboard your catamaran and sail back to Cancun. If you choose to take an afternoon tour, this ride back will be timed with the sunset allowing for stunning views on your cruise back to the mainland.
Be sure to note how much time your tour allows at Isla Mujeres as some of the shorter private tours don’t actually allow for time to explore Isla Mujeres and instead pull the catamaran into the harbor at Playa Norte beach for you to splash in the water.
Higher priced luxury tours will often provide lunch or snacks which will definitely add to the experience. We had the best guacamole to munch on during our cruise!
5. What are the best Cancun Catamaran Cruises?
Isla Mujeres Budget Catamaran Tour
If you’re looking for affordability, this catamaran cruise is the best choice coming in at $49 USD per person. This party tour accommodates up to 40 people and perfectly sets the mood for your day with onboard music and a dancefloor as well as an open bar while onboard the catamaran.
The full-day tour includes a coral reef snorkel experience at El Meco Reef, time to relax at Playa Norte, and 3 hours of free time to explore the stunning Isla Mujeres. We highly recommend renting a golf cart like we did so you can zip around the island and make the most of that time.
The tour price doesn’t include transportation but you can choose to upgrade for only $5 USD to have pick up right from your hotel. You can also book a sunset tour for the same price if you’re looking for an evening activity. For one of the best deals on a Cancun Catamaran Cruise we’ve seen, book a spot on this tour online here!
Private Isla Mujeres Catamaran Tour From Cancun with Open Bar
If you are traveling with a group of people, chartering a private catamaran tour can be both affordable and incredibly luxurious. For $950 USD, your group of up to 9 people can enjoy a VIP boat experience to the island.
Your tour will include an open bar, a private boat and captain, and a snorkel experience at a beautiful coral reef. Because this is a private tour, you can customize the itinerary to include a stop at Isla Mujeres or just extra time sailing and snorkeling.
This tour is offered in both a half-day 4-hour charter or a full-day 7-hour charter. Because it’s a private tour, this one tends to sell out, so make sure to book your boat online before you go!
Half-Day Sailing Trip to Isla Mujeres
This mid-range catamaran cruise to Isla Mujeres includes round-trip transportation from your Cancun hotel, an open bar, and snacks on board including chips and guacamole or salsa. You will have time to go ashore and explore downtown Isla Mujeres as well as snorkel through a beautiful coral reef.
The half-day tour costs $80 USD per person and the boat holds a maximum of 31 people of all ages making this a great option for families. I love that the smaller group size allows the staff to be very attentive, especially when snorkeling. The crew on this boat really goes out of their way to make sure you’re having a great time!
Snorkeling and Dancing Catamaran Cruise with Lunch
If you’re looking for a party, look no further than this full-day party catamaran cruise. Costing $67 USD per person, this large multi-level boat can hold 200 travelers and has everything you’d expect from a booze cruise including an open bar, multiple dance floors, and even a diving board and slide into the water!
A continental breakfast and fresh fajita lunch are included in the experience to help you pace yourself and ensure you have the best time. You can choose just to spend more time on the boat (and take part in a salsa dancing lesson!) or upgrade to include snorkeling or an all-inclusive visit to Isla Mujeres with a golf cart rental included.
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
6. Are Cancun Catamaran Cruises suitable for children?
Some catamaran cruises are suitable for children and families, but you will want to do your research before booking. While some tours are great for all ages, others are not and are marketed as more of a party cruise that will have the liquor flowing and may not be appropriate for children.
Unfortunately, many times kids are at a similar price to adults for these cruises, but usually, infants and toddlers are free! Also, children will need to be strong swimmers to take part in the snorkeling and some tours don’t allow kids under 8 to participate.
Our recommendation is this family-friendly catamaran cruise that’s a great option for all ages. It costs $80 USD for anyone 5 years and older and is completely free for kids under 4. The boat is also stroller accessible which is ideal for when you explore Isla Mujeres.
You can also opt for a private catamaran tour for your family if you have room in your budget! That way you can tailor the experience to exactly what you and your kids want to do and you won’t be around a bunch of other people or an open bar if you don’t want that. The price may seem steep at first at $950 USD, but if you’re booking for a group of 9, that’s just over $100 per person!
Spending a day on the water and exploring Isla Mujeres is often a highlight for kids and can make for a great day trip to add on to your Cancun vacation.
Related Read: A beach day (or three!) is a must if you’re traveling with kids. These are the top beaches to explore in Cancun including some hidden gems!
7. Is snorkeling on a Cancun catamaran cruise good?
Snorkeling on a catamaran cruise is okay, but don’t go in expecting the best. Overall, the snorkeling section of the experience often feels rushed and hectic as you will be entering the water with a lot of other tour boats and a lot of other people in the water.
While there are great fish to see, the water can get quite choppy and you will need to stay alert to follow your guide. The snorkeling portion of your trip should be seen as more of an added bonus rather than a main event.
If snorkeling is your priority, there are so many amazing tours from Cancun to choose from. This half-day snorkeling tour is a much better option in our opinion. You will be snorkeling with sea turtles while exploring a cool underwater reef and the stunning MUSA underwater museum. The family-friendly tour is specifically geared towards beginner snorkelers and kids, so the crew is extra patient and willing to help. It can be booked online for $85 USD and includes all transportation and snorkeling gear.
8. Can you get seasick on a catamaran cruise in Cancun?
While it is possible to get seasick on a catamaran cruise, we actually had a great experience. Bailey typically gets seasick on boats so we always make sure she takes motion sickness medication before the tour starts. The waters we sailed through were surprisingly calm, especially as we went in the dry season, and the catamaran felt very stable.
If you are susceptible to seasickness, I do have a few tips! First, I highly recommend taking motion sickness medication before you go and bringing some extra along with you for the way back. Dramamine is among the most popular and you’ll find it easily in pharmacies around the Cancun Hotel Zone. Make sure to take the tablets about 30-60 minutes before you get on the boat and keep some extra with you in case you need more later in the day.
Bringing water is also important! If you can, make sure to get a seat that faces forward and try to focus on the horizon.
9. What should you wear/bring on a Cancun Catamaran Cruise to Isla Mujeres?
Try not to overpack, but a small bag with some essentials and a change of clothes is a good idea. Some of these cruises are quite long and you will spend time on both the water and exploring Isla Mujeres. I recommend wearing your bathing suit as you will likely do some snorkeling and there is only a small bathroom on board for changing. Layers are always a good idea, especially when taking an evening sunset cruise from Cancun.
Remember you will likely be exploring Isla Mujeres as well so packing along some clothes to walk through the city is important too. You will not be able to wear shoes on board the catamaran, but you will want them for exploring the island especially if you plan to visit restaurants or rent a golf cart to explore.
I highly recommend wearing sunscreen prior to jumping on board and bringing extra along with you as many of the tours last several hours. Packing a towel, hat, light beach cover-up, seasickness medication, and water is also a great idea.
Related Read: Depending on where you’re staying, there are also great catamaran cruises offered in Playa del Carmen that also visit Isla Mujeres!
10. What facilities will you find on a catamaran in Cancun?
Catamarans are large boats that have everything you need to enjoy a day on the water. First things first, there will be a fully stocked bar on board! There’s also lots of seating throughout the boat for you to enjoy the scenery of the stunning Caribbean waters.
Most tours will include all snorkeling gear for your trip and may even have some non-motorized watersports on board like paddleboards. Some party boats will have fun add-ons like slides leading into the water and trampoline areas you can lounge on. The boats are all equipped with an onboard toilet as well.
11. Are Cancun Catamaran tours safe?
Yes, rest assured that catamaran tours are considered a fun and safe activity in Mexico. As one of the most popular day trip options, the Isla Mujeres tours from Cancun are heavily regulated by the Mexican government ensuring all boats have trained staff and are fully equipped with all appropriate gear such as life jackets and other emergency equipment.
We found that the crew on these tours is very friendly and go out of their way to make sure you are not only safe but having a good experience.
You can see Isla Mujeres from the terminal in Cancun as the island is a short 8 miles (12.9 km) off the Cancun coast. These waters are very busy with multiple ferries, tours, and private boats crossing constantly. The area is also heavily patrolled by the Mexican coastguard making the waters even more safe to explore.
12. Is a Cancun Catamaran Cruise worth it?
Yes! We had so much fun exploring the island and loved the cruise experience getting there. Isla Mujeres is such a beautiful island that is well worth a day trip and drinking your way across the water on a beautiful cruise is one of the most enjoyable ways to get there.
Taking a day trip to the island allows you to spend an unforgettable day soaking up the sunshine on the water, snorkeling through the beautiful reef, and exploring the island. Most of the tours include round-trip transportation and have an all-inclusive style serving up drinks, music, and good times.
Other Activities to do While You’re in Cancun
Don’t let a catamaran cruise be the only adventure you take in Cancun! I’ve been coming to Cancun since I was a kid and I never get tired of visiting. There are so many fun things to do in Cancun, that will make for an amazing vacay. So if you’re looking for even more activities, check out some of my favorites below!
- Hit the beach – I know it goes without saying that you’ll be spending a few days at some of Cancun’s best beaches! Make sure to vary it up and try a few different beaches while you’re here. Playa Chacmool is a hidden gem in the heart of the Cancun Hotel Zone I love and the sunsets at Playa Gaviota Azul are unreal.
- Tour an underwater museum – Whether you’re snorkeling or scuba diving in Cancun, a visit to MUSA (Underwater Museum of Art) is a must. There are hundreds of sculptures down here and it feels like visiting the Lost City of Atlantis! This snorkeling tour takes you to MUSA along with visits to a shipwreck and a cenote!
- See Mayan ruins – Right in Cancun you can step back in time with visits to El Meco Ruins or the San Miguelito Ruins. Of course, to see some of the most famous Mayan ruins in Mexico, you’ll want to visit Chichen Itza from Cancun. We took this tour of the ruins that included a guide, a stop at a cenote, and lunch!
- Cancun Scenic Tower – As if Cancun wasn’t scenic enough, there’s another way to enjoy the views here! The Cancun Scenic Tower gives you amazing views of the Caribbean! The entire viewing deck lifts up, so you won’t even need to climb any stairs to get this view.
- Eat, eat eat! – Calories don’t count on vacation right? The restaurants in Cancun deliver on amazing food – especially the Mexican restaurants of course. Mextreme has the best tacos and I always order the Aztec soup! If you want to try a bunch of different dishes in an evening – this taco and beer food tour will take you to five popular spots for a fun night you’ll want to arrive hungry for!
Where to Stay in Cancun
If you’re going to be taking a catamaran cruise from Cancun, then you’ll need a place to stay! Below are some of the best hotels (for every budget) in the Cancun Hotel Zone.
For budget travelers, the Selina Cancun Laguna Hotel Zone is a great choice. It doesn’t have the greatest reviews, but I really enjoyed my stay and for the price (around $30 USD for a bunk or $100 USD for a private room) and fun atmosphere, you can’t go wrong! You can book this hostel on Hostelword or Booking.com.
If you prefer something a little nicer, I love the JW Marriott Cancun Resort. It’s not all-inclusive, which I enjoy because there are so many delicious restaurants in Cancun! The hotel is located right on the beach and has a huge pool. Rooms are typically $300-$500 USD depending on the time of year.
Of course, we all love a luxury all-inclusive stay and for that, I always book either the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun or the Le Blanc Spa Resort Cancun Adults Only. Both are not cheap but are equally as luxurious with fantastic oceanfront locations, delicious food, quality alcohol, and more.
More of a luxury traveler? Learn about the absolute best resorts in Cancun!
Renting a Car in Mexico
Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to get around Mexico is in a rental car.
I struggled to get around by bus and taxi for the longest time. But after renting a car in Cancun in 2023, I never looked back. It allowed me to explore the country without worrying about tours or taxis. It was why I fell in love with Mexico and eventually decided to live here periodically.
I refuse to use local services whenever I rent a car in Mexico. The truth is they sometimes can’t be trusted or come with hidden fees (or costly insurance that doesn’t make sense.) There are even rental car scams! So instead, I use Discover Cars, the company most experienced travelers or ex-pats in Mexico recommend.
The rates on Discover Cars are cheap, too, with the average rental costing around $25 USD per day. Full coverage insurance can be added for an extra $10 USD a day too.
Driving in Mexico also only requires a driver’s license using the Roman alphabet. If yours uses another like Japan and China, you simply need an international driving permit.
Insurance is required, but if you book with Discover Cars and get the full coverage, that’s all you need! Oh, and being over 18 is required, and if you’re over 25, your rental will be much cheaper!
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
Our day trip to Isla Mujeres on a catamaran cruise from Cancun was one of our most memorable experiences in Mexico. Sailing across, and snorkeling in, the beautiful Caribbean Sea on our way to explore this little island was so much fun. If you’re looking for a great way to spend a day in Mexico, booking a catamaran tour to get to Isla Mujeres should be at the top of your list.
I hope we’ve answered all your questions about what you can expect on an Isla Mujeres day trip aboard a catamaran. If you’re looking for more ideas on how to spend a vacation, have a look at our other blogs about Mexico. After living and traveling around the country, we have tons of advice and travel inspiration to share so you can have the best time.