Isla Mujeres was a sacred destination for the Maya. Today, the island has several 5-star hotels, and it is a sea turtle nesting sanctuary and a place to play with dolphins.
Isla Mujeres is a small island about 8 miles (13 km) from Cancun. During pre-Hispanic times, the island was consecrated to the godess Ixchel, who was the godess of the Moon, love and fertility. Mayan women came to the island to deposit offerings in the form of feminine figurines. When the Spanish conquerors found the figurines, they called the island "Isla de las Mujeres" (island of the women), which in modern times has been shortened to Isla Mujeres.
Isla Mujeres has about 12,000 inhabitants. Most of them contribute to the infrastructure for tourism and ecological work related to turtle nesting grounds. Many of the tourists come to swim and interact with the dolphins. Others come looking for luxury hotels with uncrowded private beaches.
Tourists who come to interact with the dolphins are organized into groups where each member of the group is able to shake the flippers and pet the dolphins. Official photographers snap pictures of the interaction and then offer a DVD with the pictures and an album with the photographs. The DVDs are available immediately, and the albums are delivered to the hotels the next day.
Ixchel was the main Mayan godess. According to Mayan beliefs, she had power over the rainbow, water, fertility, abundance, the moon, love and medicine. She ruled over all important aspects of Mayan life.
Iguanas are icons representative of the Yucatan peninsula because they are some of the most prevalent animals in the region. The cliff in the background has the ruins of a Mayan temple that has been buffeted by many tropical storms.
The north side of Isla Mujeres faces the open sea. The view is magnificent – blue sea, waves breaking on the reefs, blue sky and a gentle breeze. Many luxurious homes have been built along the coastal road. The shores have strong currents and the seafloor is covered with sharp corals. Many careless or adventurous swimmers have drowned in these waters.