How to Visit Isla Contoy (Riviera Maya): The Definitive Guide


Isla Contoy (Cancun): Everything You Need to Know For Your Visit

Have you ever dreamed of visiting a pristine island paradise in Mexico? If so, you will love Isla Contoy, a small island that boasts stunning turquoise waters, white sand, and exotic birds.

Isla Contoy is a dream destination for beach lovers and wildlife enthusiasts, but it’s not easy to get there. Only 200 visitors are allowed per day to preserve its natural beauty. That’s why you need to plan ahead and book your tour in advance.

In this guide, I will share with you everything you need to know about Isla Contoy, including what to see and do on the island, how to get there from Cancun and what to expect from the tour.

I will also give you my best hotel tips for Cancun and Playa del Carmen, where you can stay before or after your visit.

Are you ready to explore Isla Contoy? Let’s get started!

What is Contoy Island?

Contoy is a small island that stretches for less than 6 miles, where the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico meet, just 18 miles away from Isla Mujeres. It’s the oldest national park in Quintana Roo.

It’s also the most important nesting spot for seabirds in the Mexican Caribbean.

And it has 10 nesting sites for turtles: the Loggerhead, the Hawksbill and the Dermatemys mawii.

The island has 7 saltwater lagoons, but only one is open to visitors: the Laguna Azul.

No one lives on the island, except for some biologists and coastguards!

How is the tour to Isla Contoy?

I booked the tour to Isla Contoy from Playa del Carmen, but you can also go straight from Cancun‘s port.

The tour has 3 parts:

1. Snorkeling

We leave Cancun at 10am and in ten minutes we arrive at a snorkeling spot in the Ixlache reef. The activity is fun, especially because the water here is amazing. You can see coral, fish and even statues.

  • The downside: it’s packed with other groups and you have to follow the guide in the water so you don’t lose him. That makes it less magical. I also don’t like that they feed the fish to attract them and make them easier to see.

But the sun is bright, the water is refreshing, and I clear my mind. Marco, one of the friendly crew members, gives me a piña colada. I go to the upper deck and relax, enjoying the view, the sun and the breeze.

The boat heads towards Isla Contoy.

bateau cancun

2. A visit to Contoy

It takes an hour to reach Contoy.

I use the time to watch the people around me: a Russian father and his son, three Argentinian girls who came to party in Mexico, a quiet couple from Quebec and a small family of Americans who are sunburnt despite using a lot of sun cream.

Halfway there, they tell us the rules for visiting Contoy:

  • no smoking
  • no touching of plants or animals
  • no sunscreen (they ask us to put it on well before we get there, and to rub it in well so there’s no excess on our skin)

After passing by the beautiful Isla Blanca, Contoy finally shows up in the distance. The closer we get, the more I realize that this is indeed paradise!


bateau contoy

When we get there, we have two options: relax on the beach until lunchtime, or join the short (30min) guided tour of the island. The first option sounds tempting, but I choose to follow the guide while most people go straight to the beach.

The guide takes us first to the small museum to tell us about Contoy Island and its plants and animals.

Then he takes us to the only lagoon open to visitors: the Laguna Azul. It’s full of seabirds, like the frigatebird, Isla Contoy’s iconic bird, that you can recognize by the male’s red pouch, which he inflates to impress females.

We follow the little path again, and the thick vegetation turns into palm trees. We walk along a sandy path to the other side of the island, which is very different from the beach. Here, the waves crash on the rocks, creating pools where tiny crustaceans live.

laguna azul contoy
laguna azul contoy

palmiers contoy mexique

flore contoy

vagues contoy

crustacés contoy

On my way back to the beach, I see a big plate of fish that smells delicious. Luckily, it’s lunchtime. We can choose between chicken or Tik-in-chik fish. In this dreamy place, the fish sounds perfect!

poisson tikinchik
tikinchik fish
fish contoy
Tikinchik fish, cooked with the traditional Mayan recipe

But I don’t want to linger at the table, because the boat leaves at 2:30 pm and I don’t want to miss the beautiful sandy beach and its clear turquoise water!

It’s time to go, and the crew is waving at us from afar.

Nobody wants to leave. People snap one last photo and head to the dock reluctantly.

Who would want to leave this place?

3. The quick stop to Isla Mujeres

Before going back to Cancun, the boat stops by Isla Mujeres for a free visit.

Isla Mujeres, “Island of Women”, got its name from the Mayan temple dedicated to Ixchel, goddess of fertility, found on the island.

Today, it’s a tourist destination where people come to enjoy beaches, snorkeling and diving.

This is not the vibe of Contoy: here you’ll find small resorts, a small airport and a harbour with many boats. But luckily, it’s still a lovely, small island that hasn’t been totally changed or modernized for tourism.

We have about 1h15 on the island, enough time to explore its little streets and beaches quickly.

Here’s how to make the most of Isla Mujeres in the shortest time possible:

-When you get off the boat, take the street in front of you and turn left at the 3rd corner, Guerrero Street (the 1st and 2nd streets you’ll see are very touristy, full of vendors). You’ll see a more authentic, quieter and charming side of Isla Mujeres!

-Keep going on this street until you reach the beach: this is Playa Norte. You can rent sun loungers from restaurants and bars, but you might not have enough time anyway. other side of the island, which is very different from the beach. Here, the waves crash on the rocks, creating pools where tiny crustaceans live.

-The best part here is that you can easily walk in the water, as it’s shallow. Walk along the beach in a loop back to the harbour.

-Along the way, you’ll see the more family-friendly Playa Los Cocos, where you can relax without having to buy anything or eat anything.

My Advice
To find out more about the island, check out: The Top 21 Things to Do in Isla Mujeres

maison isla mujeres


How to get to Contoy?

Boats to Isla Contoy leave from Cancun

As Isla Contoy is a protected area, it is mandatory to take a tour with a company that has the permit to go there.

  • You can also take a tour to Contoy from Playa del Carmen, which will drive you by van to Cancun to join the boat.

Book you tour to Isla Contoy here – it includes roundtrip transportation from Playa del Carmen or Cancun, a simple breakfast (coffee and sweet bread at the port), open bar and snack on the boat, snorkeling equipment, lunch in Contoy, stopover in Isla Mujeres:

My Advice
As there are few places available, I suggest you book the tour as soon as you have the dates of your trip 

Where to stay when visiting Isla Contoy?

Since Isla Contoy tours include pick-up from your hotel, you can stay in Cancun, Playa del Carmen or anywhere on the Riviera Maya.

Here are my hotel recommendations for a convenient visit to Contoy:

In Cancun

  • Mayan Monkey Cancun: hostel with a festive atmosphere in Cancun’s hotel zone, very close to the beach and bars. Terrace, outdoor pool, bar with happy hour, air conditioning, ping-pong, good wifi. Private rooms and dorms, from only 24$usd!
  • Bed and Breakfast Pecari: if you are looking for more comfort, I recommend without hesitation this establishment. It is a beautiful Bed and Breakfast located in a quiet street near the city center and the ADO bus station, with a relaxation area by the pool, spacious rooms, and a good breakfast, starting at 50$usd per night!
  • Beachscape Kin Ha Villas & Suites: rooms, suites, and villas for 2 to 12 people with direct access to the beach. Outdoor pool, children’s pool, gym, restaurant, beach bar. Breakfast included, starting at 218$usd per night.
  • The Royal Sands Resort & Spa: spacious rooms and suites with ocean views, in the heart of Cancun’s hotel zone. Large outdoor pool, gym, spa, fine restaurants, sports bar and many activities. All inclusive, starting at 485 $usd per night

In Playa del Carmen

  • Che Playa Hostel & Bar Adults Only: great hostel to meet other travelers and party, with a rooftop terrace that has a bar and a small pool, with several offered activities. Clean, with good wifi and a great welcome. From only 13 $usd for the dormitory or 37 $usd for a private room!
  • Hotel Lunata: a charming hotel with hacienda style decoration, which is hidden on Quinta Avenida, very close to the beach. Quiet, with a garden, rooms with balcony, and has very friendly service. From only 82 $usd per night!
  • Porto Playa Condo Beach Club: here you will find a spacious apartment ideal for a family, with fully equipped kitchen, living room and terrace. The hotel has a large swimming pool, a gym and a restaurant, starting at 172 $usd per night!
  • The Reef Playacar Resort & Spa: located on the beautiful beach of Playacar, just a few minutes from Fifth Avenue. Ideal for a romantic stay, with a beautiful tropical garden, two pools, a gym and a spa. 200 $usd with the “all inclusive” formula.
  • Hotel Xcaret Mexico All Parks All Fun Inclusive: it is definitely the best hotel in Playa del Carmen! Ideal for couples and families with children as this luxury hotel offers an exceptional package including meals and access to its parks (Xcaret, Xplor, Xplor Fuego, Xenses, Xoximilco, Xel-Ha and Xenote). Starting at 860 $usd per night, all inclusive.
My tip
Check out my comprehensive guide to find the perfect hotel or resort for your stay. Here’s the link: Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen? 

How to find your plane tickets at the best price?

The nearest airport is Cancun, which receives numerous flights from the main cities of Mexico, Europe and North America. To find cheap plane tickets to Cancun, I recommend you use our flight comparator, in collaboration with Skyscanner: it is the guarantee of paying the best price!


Rent a car in Mexico

Renting a car is for sure the best way to explore Mexico and make the most of your stay!

While it’s not super useful to visit the city, having a car is a must to discover the rest of the country.

To rent a car, personally, I always use, for a few reasons:

  • You can easily compare the rental cars prices between all the agencies: for sure the easiest way to find the best rate!
  • Cancellation is often offered free of charge: no need to worry if you change your mind
  • Rentalcars offers full insurance coverage at a lower price than the rental companies, so it’s an instant saving with no effort

Simply click on the green button to find your rental car at the best price:

Book your trip now and save money!

You’re traveling in Mexico? These articles will help you!

Discover all my articles about Mexico: All my articles to help you plan your trip to Mexico are listed there.

The 35 Best Things to Do in Mexico

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visit isla contoy cancun
visit isla contoy cancun

I have created this blog to give you all my best tips to plan your next trip to Mexico, regardless of your budget. I share detailed itineraries, advice about places to visit as well as recommendations for transportation, hotels and restaurants. I hope I will also help you to discover amazing off the beaten path destinations in Mexico!

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