As a continuation of the theme of beautiful and colorful places in Mexico, a report on a trip to the island of Contoy. To be honest, I am indifferent to the sea, I like the mountains much more. However, we had to go to Cancun, because it is an iconic place in Mexico, where not only wealthy Mexicans have homes but also many media personalities.
Cancun did not impress me, nor did Isla de las mujeres, but Contoy did. It’s really a piece of paradise, probably because they don’t allow you to live there.
We, like many tourists, went to the Contoy Isla from Cancun. The tour included a visit to the Isla de la Mujer. Similar tours are also offered in Playa del Carmen at the same prices. There are “promotions” package tour – the more you buy excursions, the cheaper it is.
Information about the Contoy Isla
Isla Contoy is a small island of 230 hectares (+ nearly 5000 hectares of sea area), territorially belonging to the state of Quintana Roo Quintana Roo and located 30 km from the Isla de la Mujer, at the place where the waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico “meet”.
Contoy is called the pearl of the Mexican Caribbean, not only for the unreal clarity of the sea and sand, but also for its unique natural treasures. The small island is home to over 98 tropical plants and 152 resident or wintering bird species, including frigates, cormorants, herons, brown pelicans, and sea swallows. The island is managed by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources’ National Commission for Natural Protected Areas.
Visiting Contoy Isla
Our first impression when we landed on the island was cleanliness. In contrast to the rather dirty Mexico mainland, this is particularly striking. The only person who lives on the island all the time is the caretaker. The number of visitors to the park is limited to 200 a day. The activities allowed at Contoy are ecotourism, monitoring and scientific research, and two types of strictly controlled commercial fishing.
The second highlights are the unusual color of the water and the many birds. There are a great many of them here, and it’s a real pleasure to watch them. It is said that one can also see a bird protected under the Migratory Bird Agreement of 1972, the American white pelican, also called the “rhinoceros pelican. Unfortunately, we did not see this bird. There is a special platform for bird watching on the island.
The path on the island passes through the jungle with mangroves, which, by the way, cover about 70% of the island. On the beach, there are little crabs running around on the stunningly soft sand, just like on my favorite Indian beach, Om. The sea water is so clear that you can see the fish at depth. Interestingly, the waters here are also home to the largest shark in the world, the whale shark.
The rich mineral composition not only causes a huge variety of fish, but also attracts 3 species of sea turtles here in the summer. Even the island’s name, derived from the Mayan “Kom To’oy”, translates to “generous waters”.
Since 1996 Contoy is a protected nature reserve, and since 1998 it is a National Park. The island’s special protected status is due not only to its rich fauna and flora, but also to the Ixlache Reef, which is part of the second largest barrier reef in the world – the Great Mesoamerican Reef. The reef stretches for 1,000 kilometers, covering Yucatan (Yucatán), Belize and Honduras. Moreover, the section of the reef located in Belize has the status of a UNESCO protected heritage because it is in danger of extinction. Another environmental problem of the Contoy marine area is that due to global warming, ocean water temperatures are also increasing, which has a devastating effect on the corals that live there.
In the park we looked at the pier, a small museum exhibition and a 20 meter high viewing tower. About the fact that the sea is very warm and even I did not want to get out of the water, I will not write. So it is clear. By the way, it is undesirable to use sunscreen on the island, so as not to pollute the environment.
Also from the island you can go on an excursion to Puerto Viejo Lagoon, the largest location of pelican nests on the Atlantic coast of Mexico.
Those who love pristine nature should definitely visit Contoy and Puerto Viejo.
How to get to Contoy Isla
Contoy Isla can be reached by motor boats from Cancun, Puerto Juarez or Isla Mujeres. Approximate departure time is 9:00; return at 5:00 pm.
Cheap flights to Cancun are available through Condor airlines. Almost always, with few exceptions, it is better to book a flight in advance (at least 3 months in advance).
Where to stay
If you have to choose between the famous Cancun and Playa del Carmen, I would recommend the latter. Playa del Carmen is cleaner, more “quaint” and more interesting (in my opinion).
Buses run between Playa del Carmen and Cancun airport about every 10 minutes. Travel time is 1 hour and 10 minutes.
To see the schedule and cost, go to: https://mexicoautobuses.com/horarios-autobuses/quintana-roo/playa-del-carmen.html.