Day 5, Monday, January 17:
Monday was our last full day in Mexico. Thankfully, the semi-yucky weather the day before had fully moved out and we had a GLORIOUS final day!!
(I went down by the water in my PJs that morning to just sit for a while. There were still a few lingering clouds, but by the time I went back upstairs, it was all clear.)
We didn’t have anything major left that we wanted to see or do on the island, so during breakfast we brainstormed a few ideas for the day.
Both of us agreed that we wanted a pretty relaxing, low key day for our last day. We did need to make time to go back downtown that afternoon to get our pre-flight COVID tests done (had to be within 24 hours of our flight). The previous days when we’d been downtown we scoped out the testing options and knew right where to go.
We both also had a couple “repeat” requests of things we wanted to do. I really wanted to return to our little private nearby beach, the one we went to on our first day. I just wanted to go and lay in the sun and maybe read a little for a while. Ivan wanted to go back to Punta Sur for more shrimp quesadillas with the habanero salsa. (I did, too!)
By 9:30 or so we headed out to go to the sandy beach.
Check out that brilliant blue sky! Thank you, Mexican Weather Gods, for smiling on us that final day.
The beach was empty, as I was hoping it would be. We spread out our towels and just relaxed there for quite a long time. Ahhh the sun felt SO GOOD! I was really trying to soak it up, knowing I would be returning home to “Wisconsin in January” the following day.
If we had been staying longer, I probably would have bought a beach umbrella and a beach chair. But this was a relatively short trip, so we didn’t bother. But there was definitely no shade to be found! That was the only downfall- eventually we had to pack it up because we didn’t want to turn into lobsters.
Shrimp Quesadilla Lunch
From the beach, we walked down the eastern side of the island back toward Punta Sur (only about 10 minutes away, if that).
Of course, we had already toured Punta Sur, so we weren’t actually going all the way into the site. Our destination was just the restaurant!! We loved this place. If you recall, this was our first lunch on Isla Mujeres and it did not disappoint. Such great views and a total island vibe. I was excited to eat there a second time!
We ordered the exact same thing as the first time, except this time- we got two orders! haha! (We had shared an order of quesadillas last time but I was hungry and these were so amazingly good that I told Ivan I was getting my OWN.)
I could have sat and just hung out at that spot all day. It was so peaceful and beautiful, with ocean views on all sides. But, alas, there was a COVID test waiting for me with my name on it.
COVID tests/ Playa Norte area
From Punta Sur, we decided to hop on the local bus and head straight downtown to get the testing out of the way.
Downtown, it was super easy to get the COVID tests. They had a little booth and there was no line at all. We filled out the forms and the lab staff were all really great.
We were in and out in a flash. They said they’d email us the results in 20 minutes or we could stop back to pick up printed copies.
With that done, I suggested we head a couple blocks over to Playa Norte. As I’ve mentioned, this is the big “famous” stretch of beach along the North end of the island. That whole end is all beach (Playa Centro and Playa Norte). I’d read that the water was so beautiful and that this area was a “must see” spot on Isla Mujeres.
(We had been there on Sunday on the windy day! But I thought maybe we could spend a little time now that it was a beautiful sunny day.) We wanted to wait for our print-outs of our hopefully negative COVID tests, anyway.
Well. To all the travel guide writers who recommended this beach, I’ll just say, “different strokes for different folks”.
It was SO CROWDED. When we first arrived, it took a while before I could even see the ocean through all the people, umbrellas, etc.
I kind of suspected it would be like this, just based on some things I had read. And, I knew that it’s a public beach. So I really wasn’t surprised. I had not anticipated loving this beach, and I didn’t!
The water was crystal clear and beautiful- yes. But that’s about all it really had going for it. I’m never a fan of public beaches anywhere, for this reason! I mean, it is what it is. Lots of people like the beach! But if this had been the only place I had visited on Isla Mujeres, I would have had a very different impression of the island. I’m soooooo glad we stayed on the quiet southern end (and much more dreamy end, in my opinion) of the island.
We looked at each other and at all the people and kind of shrugged like, “When in Rome….”, so we found a clear area of sand and spread out our towels. I think Ivan is generally less bothered by this kind of thing, anyway. He doesn’t really care if there are people around or not. I’m the crazy one who basically wants to vacation on a deserted island. hahaha!
Ivan went to buy a coco. Yummy! We shared the milk, and then he took it back up to the vendor cart so the guy could cut it up for us. We sat and ate the coco and it was delicious. Coconut is not exactly something that grows on trees in Wisconsin, so this was a treat. 🙂
We only stayed about an hour. I checked my email on my phone somewhat compulsively for 20 minutes until our COVID results came in. (Negative for both! Obviously- or I probably would have mentioned an unexpected extended stay in Mexico by now! lol.)
After packing up our towels, I said we should walk the full length to the other end of the public beach, just to check it out. I’m not sure what I was hoping to find, but I guess I just wanted to feel like I really scoped the area out. We ended up stopping at a little beach bar for a drink since “Ivan was thirsty”. 😉
It was now late afternoon. We walked back to the main street to hopefully grab a bus back to the hotel.
Right before the bus pulled up, Ivan spotted a street vendor selling “esquites”- a Mexican favorite of his. Esquites are corn kernels in a cup, mixed with parsley, mayo, mexican cheese and powdered chili on top. I hate mayo so I won’t even try these, but he said he hadn’t had them in ages and really wanted some!
(Ivan loves being back in Mexico. He loves living in the U.S. and is so glad to be a U.S. citizen, of course, and says he wouldn’t trade it for anything. But he’s still a pretty proud Mexican deep down- as he should be! 🙂 He loves the culture and especially the FOOD. Every time we’re there, he has a list a mile long of foods he needs to eat.)
Anyway, we hopped on the bus (which was empty), and Ivan sat and munched on his corn kernels the whole way back, happy as a clam. 🙂
Final lazy afternoon….
Back at the hotel, it was getting close to “sunset time”! (i.e. time to sit on the patio and do nothing)
I took this picture from outside the hotel reception area. Our room was just down the steps immediately to the left. The lighting was just perfect! I love this photo.
We hung out and relaxed for a couple hours, I think. We also walked down by the pool/ocean for a while too.
I felt a twinge of sadness when the sun went down, because I knew the next morning we had to pack up and leave. I loved our hotel and our patio view.
Fuego de Mar- dinner
We had a hard time deciding what to do for dinner. There weren’t a ton of restaurants within walking distance of our hotel, so we figured we’d taxi somewhere. But we weren’t sure we wanted to go all the way back downtown again- and besides, some of those restaurants seemed like tourist traps.
After doing some online review reading, we settled on a placed called Fuego de Mar. It was not in the centro/ city center, but rather in a cute little neighborhood (one of the more local colonias). When the taxi driver picked us up and we said where we were headed, he said, “Ooooh!! MUY buen restaurante.”
It was supposedly a bit of a “higher end” restaurant (for a small island), with some fancier meal options and had excellent reviews. The head chef was from Argentina, as were most of the cooks and waiters. The restaurant was pretty busy when we arrived and had a very cool vibe. It was technically an indoor restaurant, but all open air, with walls that opened up. The chef and assistants were cooking right out in the open and I loved the twinkly lights.
We ordered wine and they brought out some delicious, warm bread with some kind of eggplant/ olive oil mix to garnish the bread with.
This restaurant ended up being the PERFECT choice!!! I was so happy. It just had a really soft, intimate, romantic vibe to it, and being our last night, there was kind of a celebratory mood to the whole meal.
I ordered this amazing seafood pasta dish which was scrumptious (and also humongous).
Ivan got an octopus dish! We both thoroughly enjoyed our food.
We toasted our lovely little getaway. 🙂 It was honestly SO GREAT! It felt like the perfect length and the perfect combo of lots of relaxing while still exploring a new destination.
Both of us were literally stuffed, but we ended up ordering dessert, anyway! (We rarely get dessert, but the options sounded so good!)
We shared this decadent brownie-like thing with a side of a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate truffly thing and passionfruit ice cream. (Clearly, I’m not a food blogger….haha. I don’t know what it was, really. But it was so delicious!)
I think I said about 14 times during the meal, “Oh, this was such a great choice! I’m so glad we came here.” The next day I went online from the airport and added my own review on TripAdvisor about the restaurant, because it was such a highlight for us. 🙂
We rolled ourselves out to the taxi (lol!), stuffed full of pasta and bread and wine and dessert. It was pretty late by this time, so we called it a night.
It’s always sad to go to bed on that final night, knowing it all comes to an end the next morning! But, I was excited to get home to see the boys, so that helped. And while I certainly could have stayed longer, after just these few days I felt surprisingly refreshed and ready to return to normal life.