Did you know that Mexico has over 5,500 mi (9,300 km) of coastline with dozens of idyllic islands just off the shores?
The most famous island is undoubtedly Cozumel in the Mexican-Carribbean Sea, owing its recognition to its calm turquoise waters, crystal clear snorkeling, and the multitude of daily visitors that come off cruise ships. However, there are a handful of other alluring islands that are not on the radar of most travelers and definitely worth the attention. Whether you’re seeking an adventurous experience, romantic getaway, or intimate encounters with Mother Nature, Mexico has an island for you. Consider these three lesser-known islands when daydreaming about your next escape:
Isla Mujeres lies just off the coast of Cancun and is quite small in size, stretching only five miles long and a quarter mile wide. It was once an ancient Mayan religious site dedicated to the goddess, Ixchel (the guardian of fertility and childbirth) and today, is the island of a fishing community with a small collection of hotels. While the tourist infrastructure of the island has grown rapidly in recent years, it still remains a quiet retreat from its glitz and glamour neighbor, Cancun. With the mainland in the distance, the island is a refreshing memory of simpler days. Isla Mujeres is great for snorkelers and boasts stunning beaches with relaxed seaside restaurants. If visiting during summer, be sure not to miss the whale sharks that come to aggregate in the warm waters!
How to Get to Isla Mujeres: Fly into CUN and catch a ferry boat from Puerto Juarez or take a luxury catamaran tour to Isla Mujeres.
Overnight: Adult-Only Zoetry Villa Rolandi
Island Bonus: Visit nearby Isla Contoy, a protected area with pristine beaches, dense vegetation, and a rich biodiversity.
Isla Holbox is a slice of island heaven located in the Mexican-Caribbean Sea, belonging to the same state as Cancun (Quintana Roo). It is much larger than nearby Mujeres Island, spanning 26 miles long and one mile wide – most of which is undeveloped land since it lies within the Yum Balam Natural Reserve. Life on the island is very laid-back with hammocks strewn everywhere, roads made of sand, and friendly locals. The waters of Holbox’s beaches are jade in color and shallow in depth, creating an endless sanctuary for all of its visitors which include an array of captivating wildlife. It is very much still considered a virgin beach destination unspoiled by mass tourism, but the town (which only spans a couple blocks) does have its handful of boutique hotels, and small restaurant and bars. One of Mexico’s best kept secrets, we spill the beans in our All About Isla Holbox Guide.
Isla Espiritu Santo
Off the coast of Baja Peninsula Sur is Espiritu Santo Island, a 23,800-acre protected reserve of UNESCO. This island stretches eleven miles long and three miles wide and is shaped with many bays and inlets cut into it revealing calm, turquoise waters and unspoiled beaches. Mother Nature blessed this oasis with sheer red cliffs, desert sand dunes, blue keys and an abundance of marine life, reptiles, birds, and amphibians. Uninhabited by humans, it is the sea lions, manta rays, dolphins, and turtles that call this place home; and if you’re planning to stay the night with them, camping is the only option. Isla Espiritu Santo neighbors with Isla Partida and the popular Los Islotes Sea Lion Colony.
How to Get to Isla Espiritu Santo: Fly into LAP and rent a boat and captain to take you out. There are now also day tours out of Los Cabos.
Overnight: Privately charter ship (such as Monarch Cruise via Journey Mexico) or camping/glamping
Island Bonus: Isla Espiritu Santo is actually part of the 240 Gulf Islands of California, with Isla San Francisquito being our favorite secret paradise (pictured in header).
Want more islands?
Check out the Archipielago Revillagigedo Islands, Mexico’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site or
Isla Marietas in off of Vallarta-Nayarit Pacific Coast, known to have one of the best beaches in the world.
If you’re looking for an in-land island full of culture, consider Isla Janitzio, located in the middle of Lake Patzcuaro in the state of Michoacan – a popular destination for Dia de los Muertos.