A Delicious Pit Stop On Isla Mujeres

Alexis Steinman

A Delicious Pit Stop On Isla Mujeres

Staff Writer
Zama Beach Club in Cancun provides a refuge from spring breakers and generic resort food

It’s well known that Cancun is a stereotypical destination vacation, forged by government-led tourism efforts that began in the 1970s. The 165-plus hotels are built around hedonism, offering a dizzying array of eats, drinks, and fun-in-the-sun activities. This “the more the merrier” vibe extends to the hotels’ sizes too; many of these pleasure palaces boast room counts in the multi-hundreds.

Isla Mujeres offers an antidote to Cancun’s crowds. Once a Mayan goddess sanctuary and pirate refuge, now day-trippers are drawn to this idyllic island — just 30 minutes by boat across the azure Caribbean Sea. Beach clubs scattered along the shore have the amenities of big hotels — chaises, cocktails, and Mexican cuisine — at a smaller scale. One, Zama Beach Club, stands out for its incredible eats, and it taught us a few things:

Watermelon is a wonderful topper to fresh guacamole. Shrimp aguachile, a ceviche-like dish with lime juice, cilantro, and Serrano chiles, is a refreshing, spicy break from the sun. Grilled octopus tacos are a stellar snack. And one can’t miss Isla Mujeres’ indigenous dish, Tikin Xic (salmon marinated in achiote paste), grilled over coconut husks, and garnished with avocado.

The seafood and fish-centric menu feels right at home on Isla Mujeres, a hub for local fishing boats. Young chef Diego Lòpez has even spearheaded an initiative to incorporate lionfish, a species invasive to the coral reefs, in menus across the island.

Guests can choose to eat on the beach, by the pool, or at tables under a thatched roof palapa. A full bar shakes up refreshing cocktails like fresh fruit margaritas or micheladas, a Bloody Mary made with Mexican beer instead of vodka. Note that micheladas are made differently depending on the bartender. Here, order a “michelada roja” to have yours with Clamato.

Be sure to take the time to savor Zama’s setting while you’re there. Take a dip in the infinity pools, Jacuzzis, or the Tiffany-blue sea to work up an appetite. Beachside cabanas, lounges, and hammocks are sublime spots for post-meal siestas.

Rick Bayless is also a fan of Zama Beach Club, where he just filmed a segment for the next season of his PBS show, Mexico: One Plate at a Time.

Zama Beach Club is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. To get there from the local ferry terminal, take a taxi or book a golf cart ($35-45 per day). Golf carts are Isla Mujeres’ most common form of transportation, as their slow speed sets the pace for relaxation.

Bonus insider tip: Craving some caffeine? Hit up Café Mogagua near the ferry terminal. Billed as the “best coffee on the island,” this open-air, funky café pours organic coffee from Chiapas. If you have a case of seasickness, order the Mexican remedy of mineral water, lime juice, and salt (which also acts as hangover cure).

Related Links
France by the Beach at Cancun’s Le BasilicFor Tropical Relaxation, Elect to Stay at Cancun’s InterContinental Presidente ResortThis Cancun Tequila Tasting Teaches as You Sip25 Best Restaurants in MexicoClassy Cancun: Club Med is a Lavish Breath of Fresh Air for Vacationing Families & Couples