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10 Best Islands in Mexico to Visit

Did you know that Mexico is also known for some of the best islands this world has to offer? Here’s our curated list of the best islands in Mexico to visit.

With 7,000 miles (km) of coastline, Mexico is blessed with over 1,300 islands and tiny islets. The spearmint postcard-perfect Caribbean coast is dotted with isles that have been developed for tourism; while the Sea of Cortez off the coast of Baja California and the Pacific coast off the Nayarit coast harbor hidden paradises that only those adventurous enough venture to.

Whether you’re looking for secluded castaway islands or tourist hotspots, you’re definitely spoiled for choice in Mexico. With over 1,300 islands, it can sometimes be tricky to choose which island to visit. That’s why we’ve curated this list of the best islands in Mexico to visit, to help you make that decision. 

Islands in Mexico

Islands in Mexico Map

I’ve pinned this list of islands in Mexico on this map:

How to use this map: Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. To open a larger version in a new tab, click on the top right corner of the map. Star the map to save it to your own Google Maps.

Best Islands in Mexico

Islands off the Yucatan Peninsula

1. Isla Cozumel

Cozumel is the kinda Caribbean island that many dream of: with miles and miles of powdery white sand, spearmint blue water and multi-colored reefs. Scuba diving is one of the main activities that Cozumel is known for, as many travelers come here to dive in the Mesoamerican Reef (second biggest reef in the world). Add to that, the island is home to ancient Mayan ruins and mangrove lagoons teeming with wildlife, and so much more!

Situated just off the coast of Playa del Carmen, Cozumel is easily accessible from Cancun and Tulum. It’s the the largest island in Mexico’s Caribbean coast, and receives quite a number of visitors and cruise-ship guests each year. Yes, it is a popular cruise destination — but time your visit to avoid the cruise ship and you’ll have the island to yourself.

In contrast to commercialised coastal cities like Cancun and Tulum, Cozumel Island is wild and relatively unspoiled. Most of the island is covered by lush tropical forests, nature reserves and empty beaches. The best resorts in Cozumel are dotted all along the island’s west coast, so you won’t have to sacrifice creature comforts. Even if you’re staying inland, I recommend checking out beach clubs such as Paradise Beach Cozumel that offer the best views. 

Islands in Mexico - Isla Cozumel

2. Isla Contoy

A stark contrast to the bustling island of Cozumel is the highly protected island of Isla Contoy. This pristine, uninhabited island houses some of the most endangered species of birds that are found within the Yucatan Peninsula. It was declared a national park and remains protected by CONANP.

Situated just an hour’s boat ride from Cancun, this tiny island is actually really easy to get to. However, the only way to visit Isla Contoy is on a guided tour. The authorities want to keep the wildlife as safe as possible and support the natural ecosystem that exists on Isla Contoy. Only a maximum of 200 guests are allowed to visit daily to preserve the island’s natural habitat.  Book your tour here.

Due to its untouched nature, Isla Contoy is as close to a private island as you can get. The waters are crystal clear, beaches are blanketed in pearly white sand and the jungle is as lush as it can get. If you’re ever in Cancun, you can’t miss a trip to Isla Contoy!

See also  Where to Stay in Cozumel, Mexico
Islands in Mexico - Isla Contoy

3. Isla Mujeres

If you are looking for an island that is not as busy as Cozumel but also not as secluded as Isla Contoy, Isla Mujeres will be perfect for you. At just 13km (8 miles) off the mainland, Isla Mujeres is Cancun’s closest island. Consider booking this catamaran that includes transport, food and snorkeling.

Located on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (the second-longest coral reef system in the world), Isla Mujeres has a quieter and more relaxing vibe than what you’ll find across the bay in Cozumel, and there’s plenty to keep you entertained: scuba diving and snorkeling, visiting a turtle farm or simply lazing around on the island’s pristine beaches.

Most of the island is covered by lush tropical forests, nature reserves and empty beaches. There are resorts dotted all along the island’s northern and southern coast. The northern part of the island is where the main town is located. The southern part of the island is the calm side of the island, where the beaches are more quiet and stunning. 

Islands in Mexico - Isla Mujeres

4. Isla Holbox

Situated unassumingly off the northeast coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, Isla Holbox is a tiny, dreamy island that’s gloriously car-free and largely undeveloped. Only a small part of the island is inhabited, and even then, it never feels overrun with visitors. No paved roads, no cars, no hassling. Only miles and miles of spearmint water and powder-puff white sand beach.

Just a decade ago, the sleepy fishing village began drawing in tourists. But locals have since fought to stave off mega-resorts. However, visitors can find simple thatched-roof bungalows and huts by the serene shoreline. There are no cars, no chain restaurants, and no high-rises (buildings are not permitted to top 40 feet). Electricity reached the island in 1987, and even now, WiFi signals can be spotty.

Fast forward to today, the white-sand beaches of Holbox see only a fraction of the six million visitors that flock to nearby Cancún each year. Yes, Holbox Island is touristy and there are plenty of things you can do, but not in the way Cancun is. It has retained its sleepy, laidback island vibes and small-town feel.

Islands in Mexico - Isla Holbox

Islands off Baja California

5. Espíritu Santo

Remote and secluded, Espíritu Santo is a volcanic island off the coast of La Paz. This pristine island is a national park and is highly protected by CONANP. Only licensed boat operators are allowed to land here and it’s not allowed to explore the island unaccompanied by a guide.

The main appeal of the Espíritu Santo island lies in the world-class diving and snorkeling experiences hidden in the waters surrounding it. Due in large part to its unique climate and geographic features, the Sea of Cortez harbors a rich marine ecosystem more diverse and spectacular than anywhere else on Earth. Its placid and protected waters harbor thousands of fish and mammal species, as well as some 5,000 species of micro-invertebrates. To really enjoy Espiritu Santo’s beauty, book this snorkeling experience where you can swim with sea lions and spot blue-footed boobies.

There are many different hiking trails that criss-cross Espiritu Santo and all of them give you spectacular views of the island. The only catch is that you must be accompanied by a local and licensed tour guide. If you’re visiting on a boat tour, you’ll most likely have lunch and some free time at Playa Ensenada Grande, one of the best beaches in Baja California.

Islands in Mexico - Espiritu Santo

6. Isla Coronado

Part of the Loreto archipelago, Isla Coronado is another highly protected island dominated by an inactive volcano that slopes out of the Sea of Cortez.  It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005, and has since been protected as a national park.

At just 25 minutes from Loreto, you can easily do a day trip to Coronado Island. On your boat ride there, you’ll have the opportunity to spot dolphins, sea lions, and blue-footed boobies along the way. Spend a day on this 6km (4mile)long island snorkeling in the Sea of Cortez — you might just spot manta rays, dolphins, whales and turtles. Book Coronados Island Tour here.

See also  How to Get From Cancun to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico 2024

One of the highlights of Isla Coronado is the chance to see blue-footed booby bird which inspired Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. These birds migrate all the way from the Galapagos Islands and nest on the island’s rocky cliffs, so keep your eyes peeled.

Islands in Mexico - Isla Coronado

7. Isla Socorro

As one of the most secluded islands in Mexico, Isla Socorro is a secret whispered only among scuba divers who are in the know. Lying south of Baja California, the island stands 600 kilometers (370 mi) off the mainland. Liveaboards are the only way to access the island and these dive cruises depart mainly from Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.

Isla Socorro is one of the most interesting islands in Mexico as it doesn’t offer the typical sandy beaches and crystal blue waters. One side of the island looks rather intimidating, with large limestone cliffs, similar to the ocean cliffs in England; and the other side has a small stretch of beach backed by lush, thick, green jungle.

The waters off the island are home to the most incredible marine animals, such as manta ray and wild dolphins. The only catch is that you need to be a rather advanced diver to navigate the depths of the ocean, plus handle some strong currents that ricochet off the sides of the monstrous island’s walls.

Islands in Mexico - Isla Socorro

Islands off the Nayarit Coast

8. Islas Marietas, Nayarit

You’ve probably seen a photo of this stunning group of islands even if you don’t recognize the name. Isla Marietas has been made famous by the iconic Playa del Amor, more typically known as the Hidden Beach, a secluded sandy cavern. The beach is engulfed by a cave with a gaping hole in the roof — a hole rumored to be the result of bombs from military testing by the Mexican government during the early 1900s.

These days, the hole serves as a unique skylight that opens the beach up for sunbathing and photo ops. What makes Playa del Amor so special is the fact that it’s only accessible through a water tunnel that must be swum with a snorkeling mask but no fins (to protect the delicate sea bed). It’s relatively easy to traverse but those who aren’t strong swimmers might find moving against the Pacific’s currents tricky.

Located on the north end of Bahía de Banderas, Islas Marietas lies just 1 hour northwest of Puerto Vallarta and only 15 minutes from Punta Mita, Nayarit.  The national park is an easy day trip from Puerto Vallarta. To discover the wonders of Playa del Amor, consider booking this tour.

Islands in Mexico - Islas Marietas, Nayarit
Wikimedia image by Christian Frausto Bernal

Islands off the Guerrero Coast

9. Isla Ixtapa

Lying in the Pacific Ocean, Isla Ixtapa is a popular getaway for many Mexicans in the central part of the country. It takes only a few short minutes to get to the island from Zihuatenejo by water taxi, but it feels like a world away.

There are no cars or even roads on the island. Thatch-covered, open-air enramada seafood restaurants and beach bars dot the island. Almost everywhere you go, you’ll get lovely views over the water and the mainland’s Sierra Madre del Sur mountains.

The turquoise waters are crystal-clear, calm (particularly on the main Playa Varadero) and great for snorkeling. On the back side of the island lies Playa Corales, the quietest beach, with soft white sand and offshore coral reef. If you’re looking for a half-day trip, book your Ixtapa Island tour here.

Islands in Mexico - Isla Ixtapa

Islands off Mazatlan

10. Isla de los Venados

The three islands off the shore of Mazatlan are one of the city’s icons. Of these three islands, the largest is Isla de Venados (translates to mean ‘Deer Island’). In the 1980s, two men brought a couple of deers to live in the area. The story turned tragic after some fishermen murdered the male, leaving the female alone. The female deer eventually began to approach people, causing amazement in tourists. It then drew a lot of tourists asking to be taken to the ‘deer island’. The name stuck after that.

See also  Baja Road Trip: 10-Day Baja California Sur Itinerary

Today, Isla de Venados is a tranquil island that offers a glorious view of the Mazatlan skyline.  The warm, calm and clear waters surrounding Isla de Venados are a snorkeler’s dream come true. Those feeling adventurous can also rent a kayak and explore hidden coves and rocky cliffs. 

You can easily catch a ferry or water taxi to Isla de Venados from Mazatlan, or join an exciting guided kayaking tour that will bring you all over the island. You’ll get to hike up the hills of the island, snorkel in the the shallow waters and enjoy some downtime on the beach. Book your kayaking tour here.

Islands in Mexico - Isla de los Venados

What to Pack for the Islands

For any trip to these Mexican islands, you’ll be spending most of your time in the sea, so definitely pack lots of sun-proof gear. KEEN footwear or normal sandals are also really useful to walk on beaches strewn with seashells or corals.

Snorkel mask and fins will come in useful as you’ll be using them alot here. We were glad we brought our snorkel masks!

Make sure to check out my guide on what to pack for Mexico for more detailed information.

Packing List for Mexico Island Trip

Islands in Mexico - Packing List for Mexico Island Trip

Tips for Visiting Islands of Mexico

If you’re going to one of these islands in Mexico, here’s a list of tips you should follow to have the best experience on your adventure:

  • Respect the rules —  Always make sure to read the rules at the park entrance, whether that is wearing a floating vest all the time, not diving, or not climbing certain places. All of it is for your own safety.
  • Check the weather forecast — You do not want to be stuck on a beach during a two-week downpour, so make sure to check the weather before your trip.
  • Wear sunscreen —  Apply some sunscreen before your adventure and again after you’ve been swimming or practicing any kind of water activity. You don’t want to end up sunburnt the next day, trust me, it could ruin your vacation!
  • Drink enough water — A nice swim may freshen, but don’t forget to bring your own water bottle and drink enough so you don’t dehydrate.
  • Keep an eye on your belongings —  Take care to keep an eye on your possessions and consider leaving behind any items of considerable value to minimize the risk of loss or theft.
Islands in Mexico - Tips for Visiting

Which Are Your Favorite Islands in Mexico?

Thank you for reading this far! There are so many beautiful ones to pick from, but I hope this list of best islands in Mexico to visit has helped you narrow down the options and pick the one that suits you.

Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions. For those who are planning to travel more of Mexico, check out other articles I’ve written on Mexico:

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links i.e. if you book a stay through one of my links, I get a small commission at NO EXTRA COST to you. Thank you for your support!

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Islands in Mexico

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