Sailing on a Gypsy Breeze in Cancun, Mexico, via @TravelLatte

Sailing on a Gypsy Breeze: A Cancun Day on the Water

“There is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

We completely agree with Kenneth Grahame, the author of Wind in the Willows. Which is why we came to be sailing on a Gypsy Breeze in Mexico’s Caribbean waters, smiling like idiots. It was our Cancun day on the water.

Introducing the Gypsy Brezee

Ed. Note: Not a typo. The name of the catamaran was Gypsy Brezee, ostensibly because it rhymes better. We are going to stick with Gypsy Breeze. Call it poetic license.

One of our favorite vacation activities is sailing. Salt wind in our hair, a blue horizon stretching away, and the sounds of wind and waves soothe our souls like nothing else. So naturally, when we knew Cancun was in the plans, we had to find a boat! Conveniently, the company taking us to Chichen Itza had a discount package with Sail Away Cancun for a snorkeling sail to Isla Mujeres. We learned later that Gypsy Brezee sails with several of the companies in Puerto Cancun; likewise, Sail Away Cancun partners with several local boats. It was just luck that we landed on this cat.

Discount + Sail = Done Deal!

At the port, we were directed to a waiting area with two dozen other sailors and fun seekers. We didn’t have to wait long for our ship to come in, so to speak, but there was enough time for the company to try selling you disposable waterproof cameras, plastic smartphone pouches, bottled water, and their special, “ecologically safe” sun screen. In short order, the catamaran was docked and we climbed aboard. The boat was tidy and in good shape, but obviously a busy vessel. Being a catamaran, most of the seating is on deck, in full sun. Hence the importance of sunscreen. There was limited seating under an awning aft (to use our limited sailing lingo), but standing room only in the small cabin where the “bar” was. Speaking of… Our sail was advertised as having an “open bar on the boat and at lunch,” but the libations were limited.

About that Sunscreen

The kids working at the port claimed we would be snorkeling in the “National Park,” and that’s why we needed their special sunscreen. While eco-friendly sunscreen is always a good idea if you’ll be in the water, saying we were “in the park” was a stretch, at best. The Parque Nacional Arrecife Puerto Morelos, or Puerto Morelos Reef National Park, is actually south of Cancun and Isla Mujeres, and north of Playa del Carmen. (Oddly enough, it’s directly in front of the village of Morelos. Go figure!) That said, we were still sailing in an ecologically sensitive environment.

If you do plan to visit the national park, be aware that certain chemicals are prohibited, which limits your sunscreen options. You don’t have to buy theirs, but you should get a biodegradable sunscreen. While the crew on our boat didn’t check, we’ve heard others do. You will also need it if you plan on visiting nearby places like Xcaret, Xel Ha, Garrafon, any of the reef areas around Cozumel and Cancun, and some of the cenotes.

Sailing on a Gypsy Breeze in Cancun, Mexico, via @TravelLatte

Sailing Out & Diving In

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Leaving Cancun, the water was smooth and the winds were calm; the sails stay furled while the inboard motors pushed us away. As the seaside hotels faded into the distance, our attention turned to the crystal-clear turquoise waters of Bahia de Mujeres. Passengers watched hopefully for turtles or dolphins, but saw neither. After a brief safety and snorkel demonstration, the crew handed out masks, fins, and packaged snorkels to anyone who wanted to explore the sea. Within thirty minutes we reached our snorkel zone over patch of grass and rocks, with bits of coral.

The calm day made it easy to swim or just float at the surface searching for signs of life. Unfortunately, we seem to have a knack for being where wildlife is not. The crew said they spotted sting rays and turtles “in this very spot” the day before. That was then. This was now, and the sting rays and turtles saturated this very spot with their absence. Even the snails had high tailed it out of there. Thunderstorms the day before must have chased everyone away.

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Suddenly, there was a commotion close to the boat. Was someone in trouble? Was there a shark? No, a tortilla had been sacrificed. Apparently, fishies like tortillas too. (The irony of fish eating a taco shell did not pass unnoticed.) Soon, several wrasse and small parrotfish were circling, snatching bits of tortilla and darting off. We definitely had fun, but were disappointed in the lack of sea life. After almost an hour in the water, we were called back to the boat to motor on.

For a look at what we hoped to see, check out this You Tube video by Careball13, shot in Puerto Morelos.

Lunch on Isla Mujeres

Our next destination was Isla Mujeres, where we would have two stops: One for lunch, one for shopping! We docked at Playa Lancheros on the southern end of the island, and made our way ashore. A backdrop of dense palms made the beach seem remote, but just beyond were hotels and restaurants, including the one we would have lunch at. It seemed like the epitome of a beach restaurant, built right on the sand with thatch-roofed ramadas and beach umbrellas.

Sailing on a Gypsy Breeze in Cancun, Mexico, via @TravelLatte

The idyllic setting was in stark contrast to the restaurant, which seemed completely unprepared, and unconcerned. Despite being nearly empty when we arrived, the buffet looked picked over and less than appetizing. Unremarkable rice and black beans, and a tray of French fries, sat aside a pan of carne guisada and some enchiladas. There were a few other items that we didn’t bother to investigate. We found some fresh fruit, which seemed to be the best option. The advertised open bar was limited to soft drinks and margaritas that were mostly just the mix. That is, if you could find someone to actually get you a drink. The staff seemed more annoyed by our presence than anything. The time was better spent on the beach or back in the water.

We were disappointed to see a nurse shark held in a small pen for tourists to pose with. It was gratifying that nobody did, but seeing the almost lifeless shark was upsetting. Dolphin “experiences” are still popular in the area, as well. Unfortunately, they will likely persist so long as there are tourists willing to pay for them. When you visit Mexico, we hope you will choose instead to explore the reefs and perhaps see a shark or dolphin as it should be: swimming with fish, not tourists.

Sailing on a Gypsy Breeze in Cancun, Mexico, via @TravelLatte

Exploring Playa Norte

Soon enough, we were back on board and sailing past gorgeous homes and private islands on our way to the main port at Playa Norte. The island had once been a fisherman’s village, and we spotted more than a few casting off the docks and rocks as we sailed up the eastern shore.

Just outside of the port, you can rent a golf cart to zip around the “downtown” area. If you walk straight out of the Port terminal on Calle Bravo, you will be on the other side of the island in just three blocks. The far north end of the island is less than ten blocks to the left, the airport about the same distance to the right. Most of the resort areas are beyond the airport, and a golf cart would be helpful if you’re going that far. We chose to venture out on foot and explore the touristy shops and cafes along Avenida Juarez. Despite being one of the major streets on the island, it was packed with pedestrians.

Tourism is the economic lifeblood on Isla Mujeres today, so you will see a lot of gift shops. While most carried the same assortment of souvenirs, a few were worth browsing through for Mexican ceramics, Cuban cigars, and local crafts. They are fun to wander through, but the two hours we had were plenty. We bargained for souvenirs, got some paletas, and headed back to port to catch our catamaran back to the mainland.

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Sailing on a Gypsy Breeze in Cancun, Mexico, via @TravelLatte

Parasail Fail

Sailboats, catamarans included, don’t tow parasails. They just don’t generate the speed you need to get airborne. Instead, we were invited to try “Mexican Parasailing” using the spinnaker sail. The idea is similar: the crew let loose the bottom of the spinnaker and you let the wind carry you. Anyone daring enough can sit on the rope attached to the two loose ends and, with luck, you are lifted a few feet above the water. When you’re ready to come down, just drop into the water and the crew will toss you a line and pull you back in. Sounds fun!

We mentioned earlier that we had an extremely calm day. Good for snorkeling, bad for spinnaker sailing. After several tries, only one person managed to get airborne. Not so fun. We did manage to catch enough wind to sail back to Cancun, though – the first time all day that the motors were off. Since the only thing to look forward to now was the end of our sail, the crew decided it was time for a “sail-abration!” Suddenly everyone was wearing a costume, dancing, and bearing jugs of…juice. Juice that was suspiciously like Margarita mix, plus soft drinks for the kids.

Sailing on a Gypsy Breeze in Cancun, Mexico, via @TravelLatte

Back in Port

Too soon, our half-day cruise was over, and we were tying up back in Puerto Cancun. Overall, a fun and relaxing day. Lunch was a letdown, and we were disappointed that we managed to extend our streak of missing the wildlife. We snagged a few fun photos and souvenirs, and had a great time together. Most importantly, we came back with new plans to sail out to Cozumel next time, and maybe book a weekend out on Isla Mujeres.

Would we do it again? Not exactly. We will definitely sail again, but on a different itinerary. From Cancun, you can either charter a boat (good if you have a large group) or join one of the scheduled tours. Isla Mujeres is just one destination on offer; the island of Cozumel is close by, plus there are snorkel and diving tours to Puerto Morelos, the Underwater Museum of Art, and the open sea east of Isla Mujeres. On our To Do List for our next visit is searching for Whale Sharks, known to frequent the seas between Mexico and Cuba.

If you’re more interested in exploring the islands than the actual sailing, you can take a ferry to Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. From Puerto Juarez to Isla Mujeres is about $5.50 each way. From the Hotel Zone, expect to pay twice that. Ferries to Cozumel leave from Playa del Carmen, and cost about $10 each way.

Sailing on a Gypsy Breeze in Cancun, Mexico, via @TravelLatte

  • We booked with Sail Away Cancun through Grey Line Cancun. Our combo tour – a snorkel sail plus Chichen Itza tour – was $120 per person. Individually, the snorkel sail starts around $69.
  • Bring cash: There is a $12US per person Marine Reef Tax and Pier Tax due at the port, in cash.
  • Not all tours include transportation to/from your hotel. Make sure yours is included when you book.
  • If you don’t book in advance, don’t worry. You will have plenty of opportunities at the airport, in Cancun, on the beach, at your hotel…pretty much anywhere. And they can get pretty aggressive.
  • You can bring your own gear. We brought our masks and snorkels, and borrowed their fins.

Sailing on a Gypsy Breeze in Cancun, Mexico, via @TravelLatte

Sailing on a Gypsy Breeze in Cancun, Mexico, via @TravelLatte

Have you been sailing around Mexico and the Caribbean? We’d love to hear about your favorite experiences in the Comments! And if you liked this post, why not Pin it for later and share it with your friends?

Disclaimers & Details: Our tours with Sail Cancun and Grey Line Tours were neither solicited nor compensated, and were booked anonymously. All views are our own, and are based on our experiences.

31 comments on “Sailing on a Gypsy Breeze: A Cancun Day on the Water

    • Glad you agree, Tania. Slowly but surely, awareness is growing and people will eventually push that sort of thing out of business. Thanks for your comment!

    • We did have some fun, and can’t wait to do some more sailing. We thought the same about Isla Mujeres. Although a couple of hours is plenty if you just want to browse the souvenir shops, the town has a funky atmosphere that would be interesting to explore for a few days. We made a note of a few interesting small hotels to check out for our next trip! Thanks for reading, Glen!

    • Hi Jessica – It was lots of fun! We’re used to missing the wildlife – it’s like they know we’re watching and hide! But it is still fun sailing and snorkeling. And yes, the weather turned out to be great. Thanks for reading!

  1. Pingback: #TheWeeklyPostcard - 26 May 2017 - TravelLatte

  2. I would have been disappointed with the food choices, too. Looks like the made to most of your experience. Can’t wait to get back to Mexico!

    • Us too! Yeah, lunch was kind of bleh, but that was just one little part of a great day. 🙂 Definitely made the best of the rest of our day. 🙂 Thanks for reading, guys!

  3. I missed the likes of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres when I visited Mexico unfortunately, and I think I did indeed miss out. It sounds like it does sadly suffer from animal abuse and tourist tat but the streets and particularly your lunch spot look great. The cruise on the typo-ridden boat seemed like a laugh too. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hey David – If I remember right, you got to Tulum and some of the cenotes, right? Culturally, Cozumel and Isla Mujeres are a world away – but still fun. It’s nice sometimes to give yourself over to just being a tourist. I get the feeling Isla Mujeres is a lot more fun after the day trippers have gone back to Cancun though. Would love to book a weekend at one of the small hotels in town to find out! As always, thanks for reading!

  4. When I started reading, I was thinking “yessss! sailing in Cancun, for some reason I hadn’t thought of that” … then I read on and I agree with you, maybe a different type of trip would be better around this area but at least you have put the idea in my head. Also, as a conservationist, I thank you for being one of those people that didn’t pose for photos with the shark or take part in any dolphin activities 😀 #feetdotravel

    • You guys would want to do a diving sail out to the the Underwater Museum of Art! There are statues to explore and snap some selfies with. 🙂 You’d also want sail towards Puerto Morelos for more reef action. We really want to head out in the direction of Cuba to see whale sharks! How cool would that be?

    • Definitely ask about transportation. It’s at the port, and many hotels have a shuttle anyway, but best to be prepared. Borrowing fins didn’t cost any extra. Most of the boats expect people who don’t have gear, so they have a supply of fins, masks and life jackets to use. Just make sure they have packaged snorkels for you. They’re cheap, but they work!

  5. Sounds like you still made the most of your day despite some disappointing parts – I am slightly put off by visiting these areas as they seem overly touristy but I am sure there are ways to have more authentic experiences too while also not exploiting wild animals. Thanks for sharing!

    • We hear ya, Lexx. We debated a long time before deciding to go to Cancun. It’s not where you go for a lot of authentic Mexican culture, for sure. But if you remember that you’re there for the sun, snorkeling, and trips to the Mayan ruins, it’s good. With all of that, you’d think they’d stop with the dolphin shows and captive sharks! One day…

    • That was pretty funny! Since it brought around some fish, it was definitely a highlight. We just like being in the water, fish or not, so it was enjoyable. And the water was just so amazingly clear! Great day. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

    • Hi Sally – Thanks for your comment! Basically, the eco-friendly versions use zinc oxide as a sunblock, and those are okay. The wildlife thing is our curse…we’re thinking we should start warning other people when we go on tours. 😉 In talking with people at the resort, they saw lots of fish and rays, and the area is well known for its wildlife.

  6. It sounds like you had a fun time in spite of the few disappointments. When they happen you just need to ignore it. Hard to ignore margaritas with suspiciously little tequila. 😉 A beautiful day on the water sailing, though, it doesn’t get much better than that.

    • Exactly – in the grand scheme of things, those little disappointments don’t amount to much. Especially when you’re on a boat in the middle of gorgeous waters! Thanks for reading, Shona!

  7. Love your stunning photos and your honest approach to sailing to Isla Mujeres. I have been and scuba dived Cancun but did not have the pleasure of visiting or staying on Cozumel or Isla Mujeres. What a shame no fish where you snorkeled and a bad lunch. I plan to visit Cozumel and now Isla Mujeres on my next trip to Mexico. Stunning photos and thanks for sharing! 🙂 #feetdotravel

    • Isla Mujeres is a fun day trip, but I can certainly see the appeal of staying on the island to just ‘veg out’ for a few days. Cozumel seems more party oriented, but there is more to do and you can avoid the party scene if that’s not your thing. Definitely easier to reach the reef park from Cozumel though. Thanks for the kind words, Stephanie, and for reading!

  8. Well it looks like you had a lot of fun! despite the food and baby shark. Me and Phil we’re disappointed to see so many places exhibiting dolphins in Mexico, it’s really sad, Spain is similar in popular resorts, lets hope one day tourists will stop paying for these attractions. Good luck with hiring a boat next time!

    • I was really surprised at how many adverts there were for “dolphin encounters.” I think they were all for the same few places, but still. I’m hoping they are advertising so much because attendance is dropping – being the optimistic sort. With all of the great snorkeling and diving in the area, there are far better ways of seeing sea life. Thanks for reading, guys! And yes, we did have a lot of fun. 🙂

  9. I am with you guys, I love sailing! Cancun is a great place to do it too because the water is just so nice. I love that area. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Hi Anisa – The water really is great all along the Yucatan! And there are some interesting islands and dive sites to sail to around Cancun, as well. Makes for great days on the water. After writing that, we’ve been thinking we need to go back already! (Of course, we think that a lot. 😉

    • We’ve noticed a lot of Cancun posts recently, too. I swear we didn’t plan that, but it is a great place for a beach getaway! Thanks for reading, Lolo!

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