Discover Isla Mujeres, an Island off the Coast of Cancún and a Hub for Luxury Tourism, Sustainability

Developer Bernardo Linss shares the beauty of the island and his vision for ethical ecotourism.
Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres / SI Staff

Isla Mujeres, a serene, captivating island located just eight miles off the coast of Cancún, Mexico, has surged in popularity over the past several years. The destination, which is home to approximately 25,000 locals, is known for its rich history, stunning beauty and commitment to sustainable tourism.

Developer and entrepreneur Bernardo Linss recognized the island’s potential long before the world did, driven by his family’s deep roots in hospitality and tourism. His family founded the first hotel in Cancún in 1970, and hospitality is clearly part of their DNA. 

Linss is passionate about creating synergy between tourists and locals, and envisions Isla Mujeres as a prime destination for luxury tourism and sustainability. Born on the island, he fondly recalls his childhood there, and today, the 34-year-old is dedicated to showcasing its beauty to the world, describing Isla Mujeres as “a paradise...the island that has the first ray of lights in the whole of Mexico.”

Bernardo Linss
Bernardo Linss / Courtesy of Bernardo Linss

The University of Miami graduate, who earned degrees in business and finance, has always been a visionary entrepreneur. In college, his passion for sports and technology resulted in the Sports Buddy app, which he built to “connect like-minded individuals and unite people through sports.”

After discovering a love for helping people and a desire to give back to his community, Linss went back home to Cancún. He and his brothers focused on their local family business after their father died, and today, Linss is the co-owner of Impression Isla Mujeres by Secrets, a boutique luxury resort located on the island.

Sustainable tourism 

Isla Mujeres saw four million visitors in 2023. The island has a bit of magic for everyone, from those looking for water activities and breathtaking views to those seeking out the area’s most beautiful beaches.

Ethical and sustainable tourism is hugely important to Linss. He emphasizes the significance of the shark population around Isla Mujeres, noting that a large portion of the sea behind the island is a federally protected zone. The diverse range of sharks, including nurse, bull and whale sharks, contributes to the marine ecosystem’s health and local economy.

“The impact that the sharks carry for the ecosystem on the overall balance of it is tremendous,” he says, adding that if you’re visiting from May to September, diving with the whale sharks is an essential activity.

Linss is an ambassador of Saving Our Sharks, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the shark biodiversity around the island. The organization was founded by Alejandro Zozaya, Linss’s business partner and co-owner of the Impression Isla Mujeres resort. “Sustainable practices are part of our mission and purpose, and we intend to be a symbol for the world to see,” he explains of the cause.

Activities on Isla Mujeres

Culture and history

Isla Mujeres is full of history and offers a fun, laid-back energy. “Isla Mujeres” translates to “Island of Women” in English, and the island was named for Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of fertility, medicine and childbirth. In the 1500s, the area was used as a trade center after having been discovered by Spanish conquistadors, who found statues of Ixchel upon their arrival to the island.

If you’re interested in learning about history or exploring the rich culture of Isla Mujeres, Linss suggests going to the southernmost point of the island to see the ancient, preserved statues. 

“For the locals, it has a profound spiritual value in that a lot of the women who couldn’t get pregnant at the time went to give their offerings the goddess Ixchel,” he explains.

And when it comes to food and culture, there’s a little something for everyone on Isla Mujeres. “The options are endless for those who are seeking culture, activities [or] gastronomy,” Linss states.

Scenic ride

The best way to get around Isla Mujeres is to rent a golf cart in order to see the entirety of the six-mile island.

“The golf cart ride is amazing. You [can] go see the ruins. You can see 360 views of the Mexican Caribbean, which is fantastic. You can go to Punta Norte, [whic] is cataloged among the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. The views are fantastic,” Linss says. “It is a small island, but it’s charged with amazing activities and people that are wonderful.”

Avenida Hidalgo

Linss suggests visiting Avenida Hidalgo, one of the main streets on the island where the best traditional Mexican Caribbean seafood restaurants are located. Additionally, bustling shops, cafés and bars offer live music and entertainment in the evenings.

It’s a vibrant street where both locals and tourists come for good meals and a great time—and the views are impeccable. Avenida Hidalgo runs parallel to the island’s coastline, offering visitors easy access to the beach and stunning views of the Caribbean Sea. 

Playa Norte

Playa Norte, or North Beach, is one of the most famous and picturesque beaches on Isla Mujeres. It is located on the northern tip of the island, and is home to soft white sand and crystal clear, calm and shallow turquoise waters.

It’s a fabulous spot for watching a sunrise or taking a sunset stroll, in addition to swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing. Visitors can relax under palapas or enjoy drinks and local cuisine at beachfront restaurants and bars. 

Scuba diving

Scuba diving in Isla Mujeres is a truly incredible experience. The island is located in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest coral reef system in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia).

Divers can explore vibrant coral formations, underwater caves and an abundance of marine life, including colorful tropical fish, turtles, rays and sometimes even whale sharks. Popular dive sites around Isla Mujeres include the Manchones Reef, the Cave of the Sleeping Sharks and the Musa Underwater Museum.

Ananya Panchal