Magi Azul - Caribe Beach House

Enjoy my family's adventure living on a Caribbean island as they build a boutique vacation beach house. Get a peek at island living and join me in some mischievous musings!

Monday, December 3, 2012

10 Island Travel Tips

1. Airport Pickup - Pre-arrange airport pickup. It will save you quite a bit and make your arrival faster and hassle free. We assist our guest with this at Magi Azul, but any upscale hotel or vacation rental should be able to provide this service. Ask the driver to stop at a casa de cambio on the way to the ferry and change most of your money for your trip.  The exchange rate will be better in Cancun than on the island, and it will save your precious beach time for that lounge chair instead of trudging around looking for a casa de cambio.
2. Money Matters - Once you get to your room leave all your valuables there and carry just enough money for your outing.  The island is safe and you will not get mugged, but there is always the possibility of a misplaced backpack or purse. If you like to get in the water, consider a waterproof packet or container to slip money in that you can wear in the water.
3. Cuanto Cuesta? - Always ask how much something is in pesos instead of U.S. dollars.  You will pay less.
4. Know Your Taxi Rates -  Ask a local the rate to your destination. You may not get that rate, but you can at least get close.  You say the rate to the driver BEFORE you get in the taxi. If they know you know the rate they will not try to gouge you as much. This will save you from paying  double or maybe triple the normal fare. Also generally taxis are cheaper if you catch them on the street rather than at a taxi stand.
5. Notice Your Taxi Number - If you ever accidentally leave anything in a taxi, knowing the taxi number will increase your chances in retrieving it. One of my guests learned this the hard way, when he left his backpack with his passport and camera in a taxi.  With that in mind, also bring a copy of your passport and driver's license and put them in a different bag than your originals.  It will make replacing documentation easier if you need to.
6. Camera Care & Electronics - Throw a few silica packets from pill bottles into your camera bag or any bag with electronics.  Moisture in a tropical climate can be hard on them.  Also be VERY careful on the beach.  One grain of sand can ruin a camera fast.
7. Supplies 101 -   Bring a hat that protects you from the sun and that doesn't blow off easily. It is often windy on the island. Also big beach sarongs are better than heavy beach towels.  They are easier to carry, sand shakes off of them easily, they dry quickly and can double as a beach cover-up.  I also recommend throwing some Ibuprofen or your pain reliever of choice in your suitcase.  If you don't speak Spanish trying to communicate what you need at a pharmacy will be difficult but amusing for the pharmacist. And of course sunscreen, water, antibacterial gel and some glamorous sunglasses.
8. A Map - I recommend Chick Maps.  These maps are the most comprehensive that I have seen and really give you an insider's view of the island.  It shows information, reviews and locations of popular and obscure destinations.  They are well worth the $10.  You will save time and experience places you would have never known about. Order them on-line at

9. Bring Snorkel Gear and Dive Booties - If you have room in your suitcase, it is worth it to buy a set of snorkel gear. Finding equipment to rent outside of a guided snorkel tour can be difficult and is not cheap if you do find them.  In fact, I would go so far as to say, "Make room for a set of snorkel gear."  You are in some of the most beautiful waters in the world and with your own gear exploring is easy and free!  If you don't want to invest a lot, you can get a cheap set at Sam's for $39 that will last the week you are there.  If you don't mind spending more, a quality mask is the most important item. I buy online at  Don't forget dive booties.  They can be used as water shoes and allow you to walk on the rocks and coral without cutting your feet, and then you can slip your fins on over them.  They will also prevent the fins from chaffing your feet.
10. Be Adventuresome - I will never forget an evening spent dancing with gypsies by a campfire in the Indian desert. (No, I was not drinking.) Try something new.  I recommend a snorkel trip no matter what your expertise or lack there of.  I use Casa Del Buceo.  Local divers will know the best places and point out wild life you would have never noticed.  Go early in the morning (7am) before the afternoon crowds scare the big marine creatures away.   Also swimming with the whale sharks is a definite item to add to your bucket list. Make sure it is the season when they are in the area.

These are just a few tips for a hassle free vacation of a life time on Isla Mujeres. If you have some tips of your own. I would love to hear them. Please add a comment.