The pier on Isla Contoy. — Photo courtesy of Frank Kovalchek Everyone dreams of visiting a private island from time to time. That dream can become a reality when you visit Cancun. Less than 20 miles from Cancun is Isla Contoy, a small island that is a nature reserve. It has been a protected area since the 1960s but it only became a national park in 1998.
Isla Contoy is just over five miles long but the tiny island is inhabited by over 150 species of marine birds, like the brown frigate, and, during the Summer months, four species of sea turtles nest on the island. The island's only human residents are a few biologists that live there to study the ecosystem of Isla Contoy.
No lodging is available on Isla Contoy, but day trips are offered from Cancun and Isla Mujeres. Since Isla Contoy is a protected area, the number of visitors to the island are limited. Each day, a maximum of 200 people are allowed to go to Isla Contoy and local tour operators must have government approval before being allowed to offer tours to the island.
From Cancun, it takes approximately two hours to reach Isla Contoy, by boat. Along the way, tour boats normally stop so guests can snorkel in the crystal-clear water for a while. During the Summer, it's not unusual to see whale sharks, the world's largest fish, since they migrate to the warm waters north of Isla Mujeres each year.
Once on the island, there are virgin beaches just waiting for you to come enjoy them. The powder-white sand is a stark contrast to the turquoise water. And, the best part is that you don't have to share the beach, or the island, with many people at all.
Incredibly interesting and informative guided tours are offered by the biologists that study the island. If you prefer to explore the island on your own, there are two hiking trails and a 65-foot watchtower that offers commanding views of the breathtaking surroundings.
Tours include a barbecue lunch on the beach. Fresh fish are grilled right on the beach, while you relax. Even though Isla Contoy is only 20 miles from the bustling city of Cancun, you'll feel like you are in a different world, entirely. During your magical time on island, you'll truly understand what it means to "get away from it all".