Did you ever wonder about life on a Mexico Island? Mexico is not a country one associates with islands, or island life, although there are obvious resemblances to life in Hawaii, or Bali, or any one of a thousand islands all round the world that feature sun, sand, and waves to ride or reefs to dive, or both. But we mostly see Mexico as a solid land mass, south of the US border, hooking east, with a long Pacific coast on one side and the Gulf and Yucatan Peninsula and Caribbean on the other side.
However, if you start getting into the details of Mexican geography, islands begin to loom…well, not large, but significant at least. For example, not far from Cancun lie two very well known destination islands, Cozumel to the south and Isla Mujeres just to the north. While these islands are not quite as busy as Cancun, they are great destinations, home to fabulous tranquil beaches, amazing skin and scuba diving, and a host of great hotels in every price category.
Today let’s have a look at the islands of the Caribbean side —
Those two are the crème de la crème on the Caribbean side, tourist-wise, and well worth visiting, Cozumel for the diving and Isla Mujeres for the laid back life. But there are others less renowned and thus less visited, that offer similar delights with fewer people and cheaper prices. For example, consider…Isla Holbox, just off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Quintana Roo.
Now that sure doesn’t sound like Spanish—and it isn’t. It means “black hole” in Yucatec Maya, a native American language. Not a particularly inviting name, but what a spot: great birding in the lagoon that lies between the 26-mile long island and the mainland; great kiteboarding and boardsailing, for beginners and advanced sailors; and biggest of all, whale shark viewing—big, gentle, harmless whale sharks like to hang here, and you can swim with them.
Isla Contoy is another less-visited Mexican island in the Caribbean. Located where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean about 30 kilometers north of Isla Mujeres, this national park island (since 1998) is considered the most significant seabird nesting site in all of the Mexican Caribbean, with over 150 species recorded. Sea turtles also nest here; a group of biologists are the only human residents.
Tourism is limited to 200 visitors a day, tripping in by boat from Isla Mujeres or Cancun. En route, dive the Ixlache Reef. On the island, check out the visitors’ center, then wander the island, check out the birds and iguanas.
Banco Chinchorro, about 30 kilometers off shore down the Mexican coast near Belize, is an atoll, with three tiny islets, two of which surround the shallow central lagoon. Along with great marine life and coral for diving, this spot is home to over a dozen shipwrecks, including a pair of Spanish galleons. For wreck divers, this is as good as it gets. Get on out there and dive–you might even find some gold doubloons. The site has been declared an archaeological marine sanctuary by the Mexican government.