It's no secret that Mexico is one of the most visited countries in North America thanks to its impressive array of attractions. These stunning islands off Mexico's coast are a little-known gem, offering a rare fusion of tropical splendor and Mexican tradition. Cozumel and Cancun are two of Mexico's most popular islands, but the country's other islands are just as diverse and welcoming.
This article will discuss the various Mexican islands and their unique characteristics. There is a Mexican island perfect for anyone wishing to kick back on a quiet shore, explore the great outdoors, or experience authentic Mexican culture.
Geography and location of Mexican islands
The islands off the coast of Mexico vary greatly in terms of geography and location, but they all have a stunning natural scenery. Here is a quick rundown of the geography and location of a handful of Mexico's most famous islands:
- Cozumel: You can find this island in the Caribbean Sea, just off the Yucatan Peninsula's eastern shore. The largest island in Mexico, it is renowned for its pristine beaches and turquoise waters. As the largest island in Mexico, Cozumel is roughly 486 square kilometers in size (188 square miles). This island measures roughly 48 kilometers (30 miles) in length but just 7 kilometers (4 miles) in width.
- Cancun: This island is in the Caribbean Sea, off the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. It's a hotspot for vacationers thanks to its abundance of five-star hotels and exciting nightlife. The island of Cancun is about 46.50 square kilometers in size, making it one of the smallest Caribbean islands (18 square miles). The island is a long, skinny rectangle, stretching for around 28 kilometers (17 miles) in length but only 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) across its narrowest point.
- Isla Mujeres: You can find this island in the Caribbean not far from Cancun. It's well-known for its easygoing vibe and stunning beaches. The area of Isla Mujeres is about 32.5 square kilometers, making it another small Caribbean island (12.5 square miles). The island is roughly 10 kilometers (6 miles) in length and 3 kilometers (2 miles) in breadth, making it a long, skinny rectangle.
- Isla Holbox: Located in the Caribbean Sea not far from the northeastern shore of the Yucatan Peninsula is this island. Its pristine beaches and rich animals have made it famous. It just takes up about 38.5 square kilometers of ocean and land to cover all of Isla Holbox (15 square miles). Long and skinny, this island measures around 38 kilometers (24 miles) in length but only 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) across its narrowest point.
- Isla Coiba: This island can be found in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Panama. Several endangered marine animal species can be found in its unspoiled jungles. The island of Isla Coiba is the largest in Panama, with an area of over 1,400 square kilometers (540 square miles). With a length of roughly 50 kilometers (31 miles) and a width of roughly 25 kilometers (16 miles), this island has an irregular triangle shape.
History of Mexican islands
The Pacific and the Gulf of California are home to Mexico's island territory. Mexico has more than 6,000 islands, however, only a small percentage of those are occupied. Located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California to the north, Isla de Cedros is Mexico's largest island. Cozumel, in the Caribbean Sea, and Isla Mujeres, in the Gulf of Mexico, are two more major islands in Mexico.
It was the indigenous people of Mexico who had been living on the islands for thousands of years before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. Some of the islands, including Cozumel and Isla Mujeres, were colonized by the Spanish, who imported African slaves to work on their plantations.
In the nineteenth century, the islands off the coast of Mexico were a major hub for the cultivation of pearls, a precious gem that found widespread use in the jewelry of the well-to-do. The 20th century saw a decrease in the pearl industry, but the Mexican islands are still popular vacation spots thanks to their stunning scenery, excellent swimming and snorkeling conditions, and interesting historical and cultural sites.
Main attractions of the Mexican islands
Several islands off the coast of Mexico are both beautiful and interesting. The following are just a few of the many highlights of Mexico's island paradises:
Isla Mujeres, located in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Cancun, is noted for its beautiful beaches, clean waters, and laid-back environment. Visitors can go snorkeling or diving in the gorgeous coral reefs, or take a boat excursion to explore the marine life on the island. On the island, there are also various Mayan remains, including the Temple of the Goddess Ixchel, which has spectacular views of the surrounding area.
Cozumel, located just off the Yucatan Peninsula, is famed for its stunning beaches, crystal clear waters, and bright coral reefs, making it a favorite snorkeling and diving destination. There are also other Mayan remains on the island, including the Temple of the Sun, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding area. In addition to its natural beauty, Cozumel has a thriving nightlife, with numerous pubs and clubs to pick from.
Holbox Island, located off the Yucatan Peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico, is noted for its magnificent white sand beaches and crystal clear waters, making it a favorite swimming and snorkeling destination. There are also other Mayan ruins on the island, including the Temple of the Jaguar, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding area. Holbox Island, in addition to its natural beauty, is home to various historic relics.
Isla Isabela, located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Nayarit, is noted for its magnificent beaches, crystal clear waters, and bright coral reefs, making it a favorite snorkeling and diving destination. There are also other Mayan remains on the island, including the Temple of the Sun, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding area. In addition to its natural beauty, Isla Isabela is home to various cultural sites.
Isla Guadalupe, located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California, is noted for its magnificent beaches, crystal clear waters, and vibrant coral reefs, making it a favorite snorkeling and diving destination. There are also other Mayan remains on the island, including the Temple of the Sun, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding area.
The appeal of Mexican islands as a vacation destination
Islands in Mexico come in all shapes and sizes, and they each have their unique offerings. When compared to other tropical locations, the following are some of how Mexican islands stand out:
Many different indigenous peoples call the islands of Mexico home, and their presence has affected the region's history and culture in profound ways.
Beaches, coral reefs, and tropical rainforests make the islands off the coast of Mexico a nature lover's delight.
The islands off the coast of Mexico experience year-round high temperatures and high humidity due to their tropical location. Because of this, they attract a lot of vacationers looking to soak up some rays and relax on the sand.
A variety of snorkeling, diving, climbing, and surfing opportunities make the Mexican islands a fantastic travel destination for adventurers.
Tourists can gain insight into the region's rich history by visiting the numerous ancient ruins, temples, and colonial-era buildings that dot the islands off the coast of Mexico.
10 local specialties to try while on Mexican islands
Depending on the Mexican island you're visiting, you can sample a wide variety of regional specialties. Here are some widely-accepted choices:
- Ceviche: A popular dish made with fresh seafood, typically marinated in citrus juice and served with onions, peppers, and spices.
- Tacos al pastor: Thinly sliced pork, marinated in a spicy sauce and cooked on a spit. The meat is then served in a small corn tortilla and topped with pineapple, onions, and cilantro.
- Cochinita pibil: A dish made with slow-roasted pork, marinated in achiote paste and orange juice, and cooked in a pit or oven.
- Empanadas: Fried or baked pastries filled with various types of meat, vegetables, or cheeses.
- Tamales: Corn dough filled with various types of meat, vegetables, or cheeses, wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaf, and steamed.
- Mole: A rich and complex sauce made with a variety of chilies, nuts, and spices, served over chicken, beef, or pork.
- Quesadillas: A popular street food made with a tortilla filled with cheese and various fillings, such as chicken, pork, or vegetables, and grilled until the cheese is melted.
- Tortas: A Mexican sandwich made with a large, crusty roll and filled with various types of meat, vegetables, and condiments.
- Tostadas: A flat, crisp tortilla topped with beans, cheese, and various fillings, such as chicken, pork, or vegetables.
- Agua frescas: A refreshing drink made with fruit, water, and sugar. Popular flavors include hibiscus, tamarind, and watermelon.