“I’ll be in Mexico,” I replied recently to a colleague asking if I could shoot a job. She quickly exclaimed, “You’re always in Mexico!”
As much as I wish “always” were true, for the past three years, I have at least been to Mexico frequently.
Tulum’s beauty and the Yucatan’s cuisine certainly has had its share of press, and for good reason. (I was able to chronicle a trip there for our fall travel issue in 2014.) Isla Mujeres? Recent pre-trip research turned up a few blog posts at best.
I heard about Isla Mujeres from friends who traveled there often during the ’80s and ’90s. This Caribbean island is only a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancun; to get around, rent a golf cart and visit its most beautiful beach, Playa Norte. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants, but in the spirit of traveling off the beaten path, here are two of my favorite discoveries from my last trip.
My travel companion and dear pal, Linda Ringhouse (proprietor of Grey Horse Tavern in Bayport), is a fearless researcher. How she found Lolo Lorena’s, a bed-and-breakfast in the heart of the island, I have no idea, but am glad she did. Lolo is from Brussels and offers unique rooms in her home that overlook a courtyard. Breakfast is leisurely and isn’t served until everyone starts stirring. Dinners, served four to five times per week, bring in visitors from all over the world to dine family-style in a magical atmosphere. Lolo is a delightful soul who knows everyone on the island. When I mentioned how I wanted to photograph Caribbean lobster, she immediately hooked me up with Oscar, a local spear fisherman.
Oscar took me to a spot off the north side of the island, where he snorkeled out beyond the rocks, spear in hand and came back minutes later with beautiful Caribbean lobsters. Lolo’s kitchen team grilled the lobsters for a simple, delicious brunch.
Recommended by Lolo, El Varadero is a Cuban restaurant that easily became our favorite spot to dine. With its low key waterfront location, fresh fish is literally coming from dock to dish. Ceviche and mojitos are a must, but certainly try the grilled tikinxic, a traditional dish of fish, basted in a dark red paste of achiote, garlic, oregano, and sour orange juice.
So If anyone asks, let them know “I’m in Mexico.”
Calle de Septiembre, Isla Mujeres, Mexico 877169