Discover these Mexican Caribbean Islands

By: Jesús Caporal | Published: 8/2/2021 | 8 Mins

5 Mexican Caribbean islands you probably didn’t know

Discover these Mexican Caribbean Islands

Having visited various countries and destinations across the globe, the Mexican Caribbean is without a doubt one of my favorite places to visit, since there is always something new to discover each time you return. Most visitors to this popular region of southeast Mexico only stick to the mainland, which is not unexpected given the fact it's where Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and the Riviera Maya are located. But, in my opinion, those places are merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of what this fascinating region has to offer! Today I'd like to share with you some of Mexico's lesser-known, but equally paradisiacal, locations, the islands of Quintana Roo:


This lovely island is located in the state's northernmost area and is home to a little fishing town that until recently was a well-kept hidden destination for people in the vicinity, but it has recently become a gateway destination for ecological travelers. What I loved the most about my visit here, is that you’ll immediately be wowed by some of the clearest shallow waters that only the Holbox beaches have to offer, some of which have wooden structures with hanging hammocks to lay down and admire the sunset. To explore the island by myself, I simply hopped on a golf cart that you can rent at a very affordable price. After going about the beach for the whole day, I finally was able to find that perfect spot to unwind without worrying about anything else. And at night, I was completely taken aback by one of nature's most stunning displays, a bioluminescence show that is only available in this and a few other beaches around the world, something everyone must witness at least once in their life. Only family-owned hotels and restaurants can be found in Holbox, so if you're searching for a one-of-a-kind vacation experience, this is the place I'd go for sure!

Isla Contoy

More than just a tourist attraction, this little island off the coast of Quintana Roo is a nature reserve, which means it cannot be altered in any manner so as not to damage the native flora and wildlife, in fact it only welcomes less than 200 visitors a day. The only option to visit the island is with a few tours that will bring a very restricted number of people in order to ensure its preservation. When I first visited Isla Contoy a few years ago, I was astounded by how well-preserved the entire island is. Aside from a wooden pier and a tiny tourism center with a museum, there are no man-made structures. The beach here is something that really fascinated me, as it provides a really quiet ambiance, and is ideal for sunbathing and swimming. This island is perfect for people who want to explore the natural environment and enjoy a beach day as far away from civilization as possible.

Isla Mujeres

In terms of tourism, Isla Mujeres has gone a long way in the last couple decades to become a must-see destination in the Mexican Caribbean. Located directly across from the Cancun shoreline, the island was dubbed "Island of the Women" because of the women figurines discovered by the Spanish colonists. I visited this island many years ago, but when I recently returned I was surprised by how many new things I found there. The island undoubtedly has a lot to offer, including a marine park, magnificent buildings with amusing architecture, and an important archaeological site overlooking an amazing cliff on the southern point, where the Atlantic Ocean's wild waves crash with full power. The lovely downtown area is situated right in the heart of the island, which is near where the ferries drop you off. I was able to discover many new restaurants there, as well as ocean-front home-owned hotels, and spend some time on the enchanting beaches overlooking the Cancun landscape. In downtown I also rented a fun golf cart to tour the entire island, which was one of my favorite activities, and due to its relatively small size (over half a mile by 4.5 miles), I was able to explore all of it in less than a day. If you want to visit the island in expensive style, the north section is by far the most developed in terms of luxury resorts, so you'll have no problem choosing a hotel that suits your demands!


Cozumel + Isla de la Pasión

Cozumel, a relatively large island kilometers off the coast of Playa del Carmen, is perhaps the most well-known and one of Mexico's top destinations. This island has a fantastic harbor that welcomes cruise ships from all over the globe, so it's no wonder that it's a popular stop for most Caribbean cruise routes. The vast majority of the island is still in its natural condition, which means that avid explorers like myself are very lucky to have a plethora of jungle activities at our disposal. If you’re simply not into any of that, there are plenty of other things to do, such as relaxing on the beach, strolling around the lovely downtown area, visiting the San Gervasio archaeological site, seeing the Punta Sur lighthouse, or simply partying all night! Those visiting Cozumel with their significant other should pay a visit to the beautiful Isla de la Pasión (Passion Island), which is located to the north of the island. This peaceful and lovely location is where the ancient Maya people used to worship the Mayan Goddess Ixchel, asking to be blessed with a long-lasting marriage and many children. Nowadays, couples from all over the world come to the island to get married on the beach at the island chapel, or simply to have a romantic boat ride. And, if you're an animal lover, keep a look out for the charming raccoons that reside nearby, the most adorable creatures I saw while on the island!

Banco Chinchorro

This is by far the most pristine island I’ve been able to see in all Mexico. The huge atoll is about 30 minutes from Mahahual and is part of the Measoamerican Coral Reef, the world's second biggest coral reef, where you will find a genuine underwater graveyard of 16-20th century vessels reclaimed by the sea bottom. Due to its privileged location, Banco Chinchorro has become a haven for divers and ocean explorers from all over the globe, whether you’re skilled or not, like in my case, as the shallow waters offer great visibility and are relatively easy to dive in. At the reef, I was very fortunate to see hundreds of marine species such as loggerhead sea turtles, dolphins, catsharks, eagle rays, and many more. The island itself has an inner lagoon, mangroves, and cays that are just perfect to explore on a boat and see the varied fauna. The coast that overlooks the open Atlantic Ocean includes a few discrete houses built specially for the people who work very hard to maintain this natural protected area; some were even built off-shore, directly in the water. Another thing that was an unexpected highlight for me was having the chance to meet some of the island's most curious residents: several crocodiles that are surprisingly habituated to human interaction! So there you have it, those are some of the islands I enjoyed visiting during my travels in the Riviera Maya area.

I hope you'll consider some of my personal suggestions for your next trip! If you want to share your own experience and tell other travelers what else to expect at any of these locations, remember you can follow our social media sites and comment on this and other posts.

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