These are the best things to do in Isla Contoy for nature lovers

or nature lovers, Isla Contoy is considered one of the most spectacular paradises, due to its enormous diversity of animals and plants. Contoy Island has an extension of almost nine kilometers, a land area of 230 hectares and a marine portion of 4,900 hectares.

These are the best things to do in Isla Contoy for nature lovers
Isla Contoy. Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas / Unsplash

According to historians, the name Contoy has two origins, both Maya. It comes from the words kom, which means "low", and to'oy, which is "shelter". Both words refer to the shallow waters that surround a large part of the island and served as shelter for seafarers. For other scholars, it is actually a derivation of depontó, another Mayan word meaning "pelican".

Isla Contoy belongs to the municipality of Isla Mujeres and is located 30 kilometers north of it. Considered one of the most spectacular paradises for nature lovers, due to its enormous diversity of animals and plants, the island has an extension of almost nine kilometers (5.6 miles), a land area of 230 hectares and a marine portion of 4,900 hectares.

Three species of sea turtles - hawksbill, loggerhead and white - come to the island to lay their eggs, all of which are in danger of extinction. You can admire gray iguanas, beach lizards, freshwater and saltwater crocodiles, boa constrictors, face snakes, small lizards, hermit crabs, among others.

Isla Contoy is the most important place on the Atlantic coast -from Texas to Belize- where the brown pelican nests and it is also the nesting and courtship territory of the frigate bird and the cormorant. These three species are the ones with the largest populations on the island, since, according to recent counts, there are more than 10,000 specimens.

The traveler can also see shorebirds, herons and migratory birds. Due to the characteristics of this uninhabited island, the mangroves, lagoons and lowland jungles are home to 210 registered bird species.

Regulated commercial fishing and ecotourism are allowed on the island, but must be supervised by the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas, of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, and the organization Friends of Isla Contoy, A.C.

It is necessary to consider that the visit to the island can only be for one day, since there are no hotels or restaurants, and because it is a protected area, only 200 people have access to the island. To take into account: no suntan lotions or sun blockers that damage the ecosystem are allowed, wear comfortable clothes that protect from the sun, and smoking is not allowed.

Main attractions in Isla Contoy

Ixlaché Reef is in the south and is the beginning of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second longest barrier reef in the world. Here it is possible to see different species of corals, spiny lobsters and pink snails, as well as a large number of different types of fish.

White dune beaches are surrounded by white, red and black mangrove, coconut palms and other low vegetation. Some dunes can reach 12 meters high (40 feet). The water is crystal clear, transparent and shallow.

Viewpoint. From the highest part of the lookout it is possible to have a spectacular panoramic view of the island and discover different species of birds in their natural habitat.

Interpretive trails. The island has several paths or trails where the traveler can enter the territory and discover part of the flora and fauna.

How to get there?

Several companies make trips to Contoy departing from Isla Mujeres, Cancun or Puerto Juarez. The trip takes approximately one hour.