A Day Trip to Isla Contoy, Mexico from Cancun

I have visited Cancun for about 30 years, so we always look for interesting and unique day trips in the Yucatan of Mexico. On my last trip, the mainly deserted island of Holbox made it onto my radar, but I quickly realized that it couldn’t easily be visited as a day trip from Cancun.

things to do on Contoy Island, Mexico
The main beach on Isla Contoy

We had a spectacular time swimming with whale sharks on this trip with a company called Contoy Adventures. When I spoke to the owner, I learned of another small deserted island that could be visited as a day trip from Cancun, so we booked a trip to Isla Contoy.

What is Isla Contoy?

If you are a nature lover, be sure to visit the deserted island of Contoy off of Cancun, Mexico. It is teeming with birds, sea turtles and life. #thingstodoinMexico #ContoyIslandMexico
Crabs, hermit crabs, and iguanas were ubiquitous on the island, and the skies were full of magnificent frigate birds.

This small 5-mile-long island sits about 30 miles north of Isla Mujeres and is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. It is an uninhabited island that is a National Park with white sand beaches, mangroves, and flowered-covered hills. There is a visitor’s center on the island, and only a few scientists live on the island. Because it is protected, it teems with wildlife, including four sea turtle species and over 150 bird species. It is a significant breeding ground for the magnificent frigate bird.

what to do on Isla Contoy
The name magnificent fits these birds that fly at high altitudes all around this area of Mexico. Here they are soaring above the visitor’s center.

How Can One Visit Isla Contoy?

Does Isla Contoy sound like a pretty cool place? It is because it is kept relatively empty and you can only visit with a tour. Only 200 people can step onto the island daily and in shifts of about 50.

What my Tour to Isla Contoy was Like

The company wants to give you a full-day adventure, but you can only be on the island for a few hours, so they fill your time. The island was the unique part of our day and made the ordeal worth it, but I could have skipped the additions.

Isla Contoy habitats
A mangrove lake on the interior of the island

We were picked up from our hotel around 8 am. The van took us to the dock, where we filled out our paperwork, paid our National Park Admission fee of $10 in cash, and had a continental breakfast.

About fifty of us loaded on the two-story boat with tables on the covered lower level and an open-air upper level. There was an open bar included, and snacks were available for purchase. The crew was accommodating.

Contoy Island Tours
The tip of Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Our first stop was a quick visit to Isla Mujeres. We had just spent a whole day there, and it was only enough time for some shopping. My Things to Do in the Yucatan post contains ideas for a day trip to Isla Mujeres.

Isla Contoy Adventure

Next, we stopped at Ixlache Reef for some snorkeling. The reef is pretty, but it is quite crazy getting fifty people off a boat and snorkeling one reef.

During the last half of the day, we enjoyed Isla Contoy.

What to Do on Contoy Island

animals on Isla Contoy
Scattered conch could be found around the beach.

We first had about an hour to enjoy the beach. Although it isn’t large, there are so few people that you can feel alone on the island. I wandered around the bend to the right side of the beach and found myself wading with a nurse shark, many fish, crabs, and birds. There are also palapas if you want to sit on the beach. Even there, it wasn’t very crowded.

Why visit Isla Contoy
My nurse shark friend

After beach time, we visited a museum about the island and had a Mayan lunch.

The areas you can wander on the island are limited, but there is a naturalist-led tour to see more of it. We took advantage of this to see the mangroves covering 80 percent of the island. We also saw numerous hermit crabs and lots of iguanas!

Contoy Island Visit
An iguana on the estuary walkways

We ended our time on Contoy by walking onto the island’s highest point, giving us a great view of its entirety.

What is Contoy Island
A view of Contoy Island

After that, we reboarded the boat for the one and 1/2-hour ride home. They kept us busy with music, drinks, and a dance party. If you weren’t into that, you could enjoy a view and peace on the top deck.

Is a Tour to Isla Contoy Worth the Time and Money?

This trip felt like a magical visit without crowds but surrounded by animals at every turn. As someone who loves new things, nature and peace, I was thrilled to have a chance to visit. For me, an ideal tour would go only to Isla Contoy, but I don’t know if one is offered. My teenage sons loved the visit too.

Have you been to Isla Contoy? Have you been to Holbox? What are the differences? I hope to get to Holbox one day to see it.

Book your Contoy Island tour today. 

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