Located approximately 30 kilometers north of Isla Mujeres, Isla Contoy is a small island in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo that is perfect for a day trip from Cancun. The tiny island only measures around 8.5 km in length and was designated as a national park back in February of 1998. With an abundance of natural beauty and wildlife, Isla Contoy is a perfect getaway for a day of fun, tranquility and adventure.
How To Get There
To arrive in Isla Contoy, you can either take a ferry from Cancun or from Isla Mujeres depending on where you are staying. It is advised to make your plans ahead of time as only a few tour operators are allowed to bring visitors to the island. In addition, there is a 200 visitor max per day so tour space can be limited. On average, the trip between Cancun and Isla Mujeres to Isla Contoy will take around one to two hours. If you have your own boat and would like to visit Isla Contoy, make sure you apply for permission ahead of time at the Park offices in Isla Mujeres or Cancun. As you head over to the island, take the time to get your feet wet and snorkel in the astoundingly beautiful Ixlache Reef where you can enjoy swimming with the local marine life.
Natural Beauty and Wildlife
Did you know that Isla Contoy is considered the most important nesting place of seabirds in all of the Mexican Caribbean? Isla Contoy is jointly run by the Isla Mujeres-based organization called Amigos de Isla Contoy A.C., and the National Commission for Natural Protected Areas CONANP who works in conjunction with the Secretary of Environment, Natural Resources and Fishing which is also known as SEMARNAT. Isla Contoy has private sandy white beaches and swaying palm trees that are home to over 150 different bird species. Some make the island their year round home, and other species pass through during their annual migrations. The most common birds found on the island are the brown pelican, the double-crested cormorant and the frigate. If you prefer, you can arrange for a resident biologist to lead you on a tour during your visit so you can learn even more about the local wildlife.
Sea Turtles and Plant Life
In addition to many bird species, Isla Contoy is also an important nesting place for Sea Turtles. Each summer there are three species of sea turtles that arrive on Isla Contoy to nest which include the hawksbill, green and loggerhead turtles. In addition to wildlife, there are 98 plant species that have been identified on the island including lush mangrove colonies which help provide shelter for the many birds, reptiles, crustaceans and fish that inhabit the island. There are government-sponsored biologists who regularly visit the island to monitor and study the island’s ecosystem and living creatures. These biologists also help manage and regulate commercial fishing and help to support eco-tourism.
Hiking and Underwater Museum
While no one lives on the island except for the workers, you can find a nice visitor center with a pier, museum, souvenir shop and ecological bathrooms and resting area with benches and palapas. There are also grills for barbecues and a twenty-meter high watchtower with impressive views. In the mood to hike? Check out the two walking-paths where you can get up close and personal with the local flora and fauna. In addition, an archeological underwater museum was recently constructed that is worth a visit and a nice way to escape the sun for a bit. As there is little shade on the island, don’t forget to bring sunglasses, hats, biodegradable sunscreen, mosquito repellent, cameras and binoculars so you can document your adventure. Ensure that any products are biodegradable to help care and protect the environment.
Next time you are in the Cancun area, make sure to plan your visit to Isla Contoy so you can see for yourself why it is a magical and majestic oasis that deserves to remain protected.