Islands In Cancun: The Ultimate Guide.

Last Updated Feb 21, 2024

The most complete guide to understand Islands in Cancun. From how to get around them to their magical history and natural origins. Everything you need to know is just a scroll away!

The majestic views of the ocean, the species that inhabit the sites, the always cool weather and the state of permanent party are things that shouldn’t be taken for granted. An inevitable sense of victory comes to mind while one surfaces the kind of life that can be lived within these territories.

We can’t start speaking about its islands without mentioning a miniscule detail about Cancun:

Cancun is an island!

Yes, you heard it right!

Even though it doesn’t seem that way, Cancun was a 7 shaped deserted island and very few people even knew this place existed. Located at a most forgotten region of the Caribbean, this 20 meter (66 ft) dunes were separated from the continent by narrow canals that lead to a gigantic lagunary system conformed by mangroves, swamps, deep unexplored jungle and virgin beaches.

It was until the year of 1970 that Mexico’s government came up with the master plan for a development that led the place to become one of the most visited and desired destinations of the world. Mexico’s government could foresee, by discovering the majesty and beauty of this land, how unquenched the will of human beings is to explore places with natural richness, how eager people are to traverse through rough jungles, to coincide with animals in their very own habitats, to establish settlements in seemingly inhabitable locations and become one with nature.

Mexicans have made all this possible over an improbable place: a hostile peace of land surrounded with bodies of water, even built their settlements on top of subterranean rivers.

They even have taken the responsibility and task of putting an enormous effort for all of us to go enjoy the luxury that is staying for a few days in the magnificent Caribbean waters, or to cleanse our spirits by swimming in the pristine cenotes and inhabit the ocean with the coral reefs with fish and shark altogether.

Cancun Hotel Zone

But far beyond the island Cancun itself is, there are other spaces, different in historic temporality and behavior, other islands with their own particularities and foundational stories that form the group of majestic floating land around Cancun. From Cozumel to Isla Holbox, from Contoy to Isla Mujeres, these all are incredible sites that will leave you astonished.

Continue reading for a free ultimate guide of these beautiful islands and… All of their magic!

“Maybe you’re interested in a Travel Itinerary for your next vacation”

Isla Mujeres: The Island of Women

Take private transportation from Cancun airport to Puerto Juarez, where a short ferry ride will get you to Isla Mujeres, a place that welcomes travelers to an island paradise steeped in history of Caribbean beauty.

The island's name, translating to the "Island of Women," hints at its mystical allure. As you step ashore, you're greeted by pulsating streets and plazas, small but lively markets, and a relaxed atmosphere that sets the tone for an unforgettable journey. Isla Mujeres' charm lies in its harmonious blend of natural wonders and cultural richness.

We suggest you begin your exploration by wandering through the colorful streets of downtown. Boutiques and artisan shops depict amazing local craftsmanship, offering a chance to collect unique souvenirs that tell the island's story. Being immersed in the confines of local history will make you feel like an islander for a bit.

Isla Mujeres

As you stroll along the Malecón, the island's picturesque seaside promenade, the scent of the sea mingles with the aromas of freshly prepared seafood from local eateries, the garden-fresh limes invite your senses for a taco adventure and mixing with the food culture, an important part of how islanders exchange culture and capital with tourists and travelers all the same.

Let’s not forget that Mexican food is UNESCO’s intangible Cultural Heritage, so be ready to dive into creative, ancestral, rooted dishes that will soothe your palate and make you feel the energy of the Mayan ancestry like -almost- nothing else will.

Transportation Services

Learn more about our private transportation services. We take you everywhere in Riviera Maya!

Beaches in Isla Mujeres.

This amazing island's beaches are a testament to its Caribbean splendor. Playa Norte, with its powdery white sands and crystal-clear waters, consistently ranks among the world's best beaches. Sink your toes into the sand, bask in the tropical sun, and let the soothing sound of waves be your soundtrack.

The beautiful thing about the role beaches play along this island is not only their views, the joyous ambience or the incredible mix of cultures you will find there, but also what lies below the surface, as in many cases, coral reefs can be seen at only a few feet from the shore so, in an excellent day, you can get the reef almost for yourself.

Enjoying the views, the parties and the people is one thing, but having time alone to observe colorful fish and the “sci-fiest” views of them all just below the shallow waters, is something not to be missed.

As you stroll through the island to decide what your next steps are, we’d recommend you take a peek into these beautiful beaches, so you can decide which one of them is the best suit given your situation, location and will to explore:

  • Playa norte (Blue Flag Certificate).
  • Playa Pescador.
  • Playa Paraíso.
  • Playa Lancheros.
  • Playa Indios.
  • Punta Sur (Blue Flag Certificate).
  • Playa Centro (Blue Flag Certificate).

diving in Isla Mujeres

Remember that sites awarded with a Blue flag Certificate will bring your beach experience to a whole new level since, to even qualify for such an award, marinas and beach operators must comply with certain criteria regarding safety, cleanliness of the waters, environmental education programmes and the relation of the specific beach with cultural sites and environmental elements, as well as yearly monitoring to standardize all these criteria year to year.

This is one of the reasons why diving enthusiasts will find a haven in the surrounding waters of Isla Mujeres. Coral reefs are home to a myriad of marine life, making it a primordial destination for snorkeling and scuba diving and all Caribbean underwater heartily endeavors.

Picture yourself diving with colorful fish, graceful rays, and even the majestic whale sharks during the right season!

Isla Mujeres and History

If you’re headed for one of the best islands in Cancun and are on the lookout for a deeper connection with Isla Mujeres' history, explore the Mayan Temple of Ixchel, an ancient site dedicated to the goddess of love fertility. The ruins whisper tales of Mayan rituals and ceremonies, transporting you back to a time where women used to adore the goddess to help them out in the passing from childhood to maturity.

Goddess Ixchel was the patron of birth, medicine, textiles, painting, waters, rainbows and fertility of earth. In some cases, this goddess was portrayed holding a rabbit and in others she was called the mayan words for “Big Rainbow” (Chek Chel). Ixchel is also known to be the goddess of waters, and events and rituals still take place today in her honor.

The Maya name for this place is still unknown, but when in 1517 Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba discovered this beautiful island the place was called Dolores, which is a first name, yes, but also is the Spanish word for “Pains”, which is… interesting, as people go to this island perhaps to let go a bit of the daily pain and forget about it all for a few days.

One of the Spaniards that came first into this island found sculptures in the form of women, representing Ixchel and other goddesses and this is the reason why people started calling this place “Isla Mujeres”, which stands for “Island of Women”.

The Mexican Caribbean is filled with stunning paradoxes!

Tickets Isla Mujeres Xcaret Ferry

Isla Mujeres and Mexican Cuisine

As the day winds down, savor the island's culinary delights. Freshly caught seafood, traditional Mexican dishes, and international cuisine cater to every palate. Enjoy a seaside dinner as the sun dips below the horizon, casting a warm glow over the island.

We recommend:

  • X’catik seafood & grill
  • Fish & Gin
  • Pizza Mike’s
  • Fuego de Mar
  • Ocean’s
  • Taquería Tonicho’s
  • Marbella Fish Market
  • Kash Keken Chuc

From traditional Yucatan Peninsula food, to tacos, pizzas and burgers, all these restaurants have one thing in common:

They’re delicious!

Isla Mujeres is amazing!

In essence, Isla Mujeres invites you to surrender to its laid-back rhythm and embrace the beauty that unfolds in every corner. Whether you seek relaxation on pristine beaches, cultural immersion in historic sites, or underwater adventures in the Caribbean Sea, the Island of Women delivers an experience that lingers in the heart.

Islands in Cancun are simply beautiful!

Cancun and Isla Mujeres are places with a certain charm for those who seek conventional adventures within the area: bars, restaurants, nightlife, vibrant experiences are present in this places, but if your heart beats towards a more natural way of living adventure, maybe your perfect Island is just a few more words away.

Keep on reading to discover…

Tickets to Ventura Park

Isla Contoy: A Natural Haven for real travelers

Far from the bustling tourist hubs, Isla Contoy emerges as a pristine sanctuary, a live entity beckoning nature enthusiasts and avid birdwatchers to its untouched shores. As a protected natural reserve, this tiny island is a haven for biodiversity, showcasing a delicate ecosystem that thrives in the embrace of the Caribbean Sea.

As the oldest protected area in the state of Quintana Roo, this island is special because there’s no human settlements there, the only people living there are less than 20 individuals from Mexican institutions taking care of the protection and conservation of the species and the site itself.

The journey to Isla Contoy, one of the most beautiful islands in Cancun, begins with a private transfer from hotel to Puerto juarez ferry, and then a boat ride from Isla Mujeres, adding an element of adventure to your exploration. The island limits daily visitors to protect its delicate ecosystem, ensuring a tranquil and immersive experience for those fortunate enough to step ashore.

Barely 30 years ago the Mexican government attached the idea of declaring Contoy Island as a Protected Natural Reserve, action that came hand in hand with a Management Plan that was created in favor of the preservation of natural ambience and ecosystems, the 173 seabird species that inhabit the island, as well as preserving the island’s diversity and its fishermen cultural heritage.

Isla Contoy: No people, only birds!

One of the island's most enchanting features is its resident bird population. Isla Contoy serves as a nesting ground for countless seabirds, including frigate birds, pelicans, and cormorants. Birdwatchers are treated to a spectacle of aerial displays as these majestic creatures soar above the island, creating a symphony of nature.

And Turtles!

The untouched beaches of Isla Contoy provide a nesting haven for sea turtles. During nesting season, witness the remarkable sight of turtle hatchlings making their journey to the sea. This natural spectacle emphasizes the island's commitment to conservation and the preservation of its unique ecosystem.

Isla Contoy

Ixlache Coral reef, Isla Contoy

Snorkeling enthusiasts will find the surrounding waters teeming with marine life. The coral reefs host a kaleidoscope of colors, with schools of tropical fish dancing beneath the surface. Venture into the clear blue waters to discover an underwater paradise that mirrors the diversity found on the island itself.

An enormous variety of species live in the waters around the reef, where you will find lobsters, octopuses, shrimp, sardines, manta rays, dolphins, starfish and almost every fish you can imagine, as 361 marine species live in this reef.

Isla Contoy offers a serene escape from the modern world, where the rhythm of nature sets the pace. Traverse nature trails, explore hidden lagoons, and relish the feeling of being immersed in a pristine environment untouched by commercialization. As the sun sets over the Caribbean, casting a warm glow over the island, Isla Contoy whispers a tale of natural beauty and conservation.

Isla Contoy

Cozumel: Jewel of the Mexican Caribbean

Tucked away in the embrace of the Yucatan Peninsula, Cozumel stands as a radiant jewel in the crown of the Mexican Caribbean. Renowned for its captivating coral reefs, azure waters, and marine life, Cozumel beckons travelers to a world where natural beauty and adventure intertwine seamlessly.

The island is accessible, but first you have to take a private transportation from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, and then a ferry to Cozumel, providing a glimpse of the stunning coastline before arriving at Cozumel's bustling port. As you disembark, the island's charm unfolds before everyone’s eyes, inviting exploration of its diverse offerings.

The island's town of San Miguel Cozumel, offers a delightful blend of tradition and modernity. Stroll along the waterfront promenade, where lively markets, street vendors, and murals capture the essence of Cozumel's cultural vitality. Indulge in authentic Mexican cuisine at local eateries, savoring the flavors of the region.

Cozumel’s Carnival

One of the most popular reasons why people visit Cozumel yearly is the carnival, a festivity that’s plagued with golden moments and will leave your heart pounding with happiness and joy. During the times of Carnaval, which is the proper Mexican pronunciation, you can find:


  • Parades
  • People in amazing costumes
  • Food stands
  • A variety of music venues
  • Itinerant exhibits throughout town
  • A five-day extravaganza on one of the Islands in Cancun that you shouldn’t miss.

Cozumel’s beaches

For those seeking relaxation, Cozumel's beaches offer idyllic settings for relaxation. Like every Caribbean beach, Cozumel’s beaches boast powdery sands and turquoise waters, providing a perfect backdrop for basking in the sun or indulging in water activities.

We suggest you visit…

  • Isla de la Pasión
  • Playa Azul
  • Playa Rastas
  • Playa Chunchakaab
  • Playa Palancar
  • Dzul Ha

Mesoamerican Reef, Cozumel

Cozumel is celebrated globally for its world-class diving and snorkeling sites. The Mesoamerican Reef, the second-largest coral reef system on the planet, hugs the island's shores, creating an underwater paradise.

Dive into the crystalline waters to encounter a kaleidoscope of marine life, including coral formations, tropical fish, and rays. Palancar Reef and Columbia Reef are revered dive spots, catering to both beginners and experienced divers.

One of the world’s most beloved diving paradises belongs to Cozumel!

Cozumel, with its natural wonders and cultural allure, invites you to immerse yourself in an island experience like no other. Whether you're drawn to the depths of the sea, the mysteries of ancient ruins, or the energy of local communities, Cozumel unfolds as a multifaceted gem in the Mexican Caribbean.


The Goddess of love in Cozumel

Away from the depths, Cozumel's landscapes boast lush jungles and ancient ruins. San Gervasio, a Mayan archaeological site, provides a glimpse into the island's rich history as a place of worship dedicated to the goddess Ixchel. Explore the well-preserved structures and marvel at the sacred significance these settings held for the Mayan people.

Every year people go to Cozumel on a Mayan journey through the ocean waters from Xcaret to the temple to render tribute to their goddess.

Cozumel is one of the most beautiful sites of the Mexican Caribbean, and it takes only private transportation from Cancun airport to get there.

Holbox Island: Nature's Untouched Retreat

Get ready to ditch the tourist traps and dive into the uncharted beauty of Holbox Island.

Tucked away in the northern Yucatan Peninsula, this place is a magnet for nature lovers and bird nerds alike. Holbox isn't your average run-of-the-mill island; it's a chill spot in the Gulf of Mexico, a poetically beautiful site with a unique ecosystem and a commitment to keeping things au naturel.

So, picture this:

You're on a journey to Holbox, a hidden gem in the Mexican Caribbean…

First, a cool private transfer from Cancun airport to Chiquila, then a breezy ferry ride across the tranquil turquoise waters. Holbox keeps attains to sustainable tourism, as there are no cars on the island, so the best way to commute there is by using a bicycle or a golf cart.

Holbox Island: Where Nature Throws a Party

This place is like a wildlife VIP lounge, especially for birds. It's not just an island; it's a luxury penthouse for herons, flamingos, pelicans, and more. Birdwatchers, get ready for a show as these majestic creatures take flight, creating a symphony that even Beethoven would envy.

For this particular scenario we’d recommend you visit Punta Cocos, where you’ll find the most amazing packs of flamingos.

Underwater Fiesta: Dive into the Deep

For all snorkel lovers, Holbox's underwater scene is a total rager. The coral reefs are like an underwater Coachella, packed with colorful fish, dolphins doing flips, and even the rockstars of the sea, whale sharks. Take the plunge into crystal-clear waters and witness the wild party that mirrors the island's diverse scene.

The best beaches to visit are.

  • Yum Balam Reserve
  • Mosquito Beach
  • Playa Holbox Beach
  • West Holbox Beaches
  • Punta Cocos

Holbox: Wild and Free

Holbox Island is the ultimate escape. It's where nature rules, and you're just along for the ride. Explore hidden trails through mangroves, stroll on pristine beaches, and meet the locals, including the chill nurse sharks hanging in the shallow waters. As the sun sets over the Gulf of Mexico, Holbox whispers tales of natural beauty and a commitment to keeping it real.


Food in Holbox

Given that Holbox is part of the Mexican South-West, you will find a variety of Mexican food establishments and restaurants, from tacos to more complex and intricate ancestral dishes.

You can find excellent food in…

  • Magma Restaurante
  • Pantera Holbox
  • Piedrasanta
  • Salma
  • Maiztro
  • Las Panchas
  • TacoQueto

In a nutshell, Holbox Island is not just a destination; it's a vibe, a sanctuary for those who want nature served up raw and real. So, pack your sense of adventure and get ready to vibe with the untouched beauty of Holbox.

Tickets to Tulum Ruins

The complete Cancun Islands Experience

As you can see, even when you step into Cancun from the plane you will be on top of an island, so if you are planning on visiting one of these islands, or you already have, you can now say you’ve been to at least two Caribbean Islands and it was amazing!

Whenever you need information regarding tips for your travels within Cancún, Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen or Tulum, contact our travel experience specialists, who will attend to your every need.

Contact Odigoo Travel as your Mexican Caribbean guru!

See you next time!

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