Isla Mujeres, Mexico to Key West

Isla Mujeres, Mexico to Key West (via Cuba?)

Where you might ask is Isla Mujeres, Mexico.  And isn’t the word for women in Spanish mujeres?  Why yes, Mel this long, narrow island lies off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, not only is it great for diving but, it lies just 8 miles northeast of Cancún.

The island is close to many coral reefs, as well as the Cancun underwater museum, created by an English sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor.  Haven’t been there or done that yet, but here is the story to get me, you or someone else motivated to cruise there.

Once again according to Wikipedia in pre columbian times the island was sacred to the Maya goddess of childbirth and medicine, Ix Chel.  when the Spanish arrived in the 16th century they named it “Isla Mujeres” because of the many images of goddesses.

The Maya also exploited the salt that the island produced in the “salinas” (small interior lagoons). The salt was used not only for the conservation of food and medicine but also as a generally accepted currency for commerce of goods along the whole Maya region. The Maya goddess Ixchel had a temple in what is today the Hacienda Mundaca (Mundaca’s Plantation House).  A small Maya temple was once located on the southern tip of the island until Hurricane Gilbert hit in 1988.  Today, only a very small portion of the temple exists.


Here is what was written fourteen years ago by a cruiser, with the hopes to also inspire us to visit one day.  Enjoy.

By Bernadette Bernon
April 6, 2001
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
21 14.795 N 86 44.698 W

Every day that we’ve been anchored in the cleft of this funky Mexican island off the Yucatán coast, we’ve heard this same warm greeting, and then sat back to listen to the Isla Mujeres Cruisers’ Net, broadcast each morning on VHF channel 13 at 7:30.

Through this net we’ve gotten to know about the fish barbeques over at the Marina Paraíso (“At 4 for drinkers, and 5 for eaters. Only 60 pesos”), about where to take your propane tank for a fill-up, and about other loosely organized rendezvous that the cruisers here have pulled together.

Through the net, we’ve also gotten to know some of the other people on the boats anchored around us — a mix of Germans, Canadians, Austrians, Swedes, French, English, Americans — many of whom are headed south to Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and Panama, north to the States, or over to Cuba.

While we wait, we’ve been able to tell them about anchorages and way points in Cuba and the U.S. East Coast, and they’ve been able to tell us the latest about where they’ve just been. We’re finding that’s how the cruising world turns, with folks giving and getting enormous amounts of information from one another, especially by connecting initially through the nets.

Although the big daddy of nets in this region is the Northwest Caribbean Cruisers’ Net, broadcast on the single-sideband radio (frequency 8188 every morning at 1400 Zulu, and a treasure for everyone traveling this part of the ocean,) the local Isla Mujeres net, broadcast on the VHF, has also given us great local information and introduced us to new friends. . . . …….

THE CROSSING:  There are two or more published sources of information that cover this particular crossing:   “Cruising Guide to Belize and Mexico’s Caribbean Coast Including Guatemala’s Rio Dulce” from the author: Capt. Freya Rauscher.

Key West to Isla Mujeres is the shortest passage from the US to Mexico if you come from the East coast or Florida, with a total distance of 330 nautical miles at a course of 235º.

The average current is between 1.5 and 2.5 knots running south to north.

Capt. Rauscher suggests to take a course of 267º for 66 Nautical Miles until you are in a position 14 miles south of Dry Tortugas then take up a course for Isla Mujeres.  You have to make sure you make the appropriate corrections for current shift, depending on the current at the time of the crossing and keep a close watch on your GPS for correct course.

The way point you should be heading to on your GPS is:

N 21º 16’ 29’’
W 86º 45’ 09’’

This waypoint is at the north tip of Isla Mujeres and just about .4 n miles north of “El Yunke” (Anvil Rock Light) which you will have to pass on your port side as you enter to Isla Mujeres harbor.


The Yucatan Channel is the stretch of 100 miles between the eastern most point of the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico and the western tip of Cuba (Cabo San Antonio).

This short pass makes the only sea link between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, that is why this area has such strong currents (the gulf stream) that have to be watched for, but also it is the passage of all shipping, that goes from the southern Caribbean to the Gulf of Mexico.

The famous Gulf Stream runs through the Yucatan Channel usually from south to north at approximately 1 to 6 knots depending on the time of year and weather.  The current conditions are reported daily so check for velocity and direction on the weather and current forecast before heading for the channel.

Weather and currents can be looked up at


From late fall to winter and spring, the winds can blow strong 10 to 20 knots from the east or north.  In the spring and summer, usually less strong wins (5 to 15 knots)  and is also the time when tropical storms begin to make their way here, so cruisers should be more aware of current weather forecasts.



(Isla Mujeres has been a very good hurricane hole) The most common months for tropical weather in this area are August and September.

. . . . . . Cruisers come here because of the island’s convenient location as a jumping-off point, because it’s not far from the fabled Mayan ruins at Tulum, Uxmal, Coba, and Chichén Itzá, and because you can find almost anything in Isla in the way of food and provisions.

There’s a well-stocked supermercado and, for those wanting to load up in a more serious way, a 20-minute ferry ride to Cancún puts you within a bus ride of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club. The island has three marinas, one of which is a full-service operation where one can leave a boat in the water or on the hard, and have work done at competitive prices. In fact, Puerto Isla Mujeres Resort and Yacht Club has the only Travellift between here and Panama — a good thing to know.