The Complete Guide to Contoy Island + 7 Best Tours from Cancun and Isla Mujeres 2023

Cancun is famous for its white sandy beaches, amazing hotels, and plenty of opportunities to party. If you want to escape the development and experience an undeveloped, virgin beach a trip to Isla Contoy is a must.

Isla Contoy is a small island, and a natural reserve, located to the northeast of Cancun.

There are no hotels or development, and the island is home to over 150 species of birds, 4 types of marine turtles, and countless marine animals living just off its shores.

If this sounds like a side of paradise you want to experience, you must book a tour of Isla Contoy because it’s not possible to go on your own.

Even private tours will need to get a special permit from Semarnat, a governmental institution that aims to protect the natural environment in Mexico.

Catamaran boat Isla Contoy

In this post, I will tell you more about visiting Isla Contoy, the most highly rated tours and what you will see if you book one.

Keep reading to find out how to get to Isla Contoy and what are the best tours to take to get there! 

Disclaimer: This page may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of those links, I may earn a commission at zero cost for you. You can read my disclaimer policy and privacy policy.

Top Tours to Isla Contoy 

If you want to visit Isla Contoy, you must take a tour. The government controls who can visit the island and limits the number of visitors to 200 people per day.

They do this to preserve the natural flora and fauna.

There are a few biologists and park rangers who live there, but other than that, no one is allowed to spend the night on the island.

There are no hotels or restaurants. This means that when you visit Isla Contoy, you will experience undeveloped, pristine beaches. 

Things to know before booking your tour to Isla Contoy

Tours to Isla Contoy leave from Cancun or Isla Mujeres. You can only get to Isla Contoy by boat, and the ride from Cancun takes less than an hour.

There are several different tour operators to choose from to go to Isla Contoy, and most of them include a stop at Isla Mujeres, located just off the coast of Cancun.

The tours usually last all day-around 8 hours and most of them include a small breakfast and lunch. Make sure you check what is included in your tour before booking. (Check out the top-rated tours)

If you are staying in Cancun or anywhere along the Riviera Maya, you will need to check if your tour includes transportation from your hotel to the marina.

At the marina, you may receive a small breakfast snack of fruit and sweet bread before boarding your boat.

Boat sizes and the number of participants on your tour vary by company. Some tours depart from Cancun and head directly to Isla Contoy, while others make a short stop at Isla Mujeres.

Most tours include a stop at a shallow coral reef where you will have the opportunity to get into the water and snorkel.

Aerial view Contoy Island

Once you arrive at Isla Contoy, you will have free time to relax and explore. You may find that it is almost impossible to want to move from the white sandy beach to visit more of the island.

You can take a guided nature hike on groomed trails.

During the hike, your guide will help point out different bird species and other wildlife. Isla Contoy has a visitor’s center and a small museum you can check out.

All tours will provide you with lunch and beverages before you leave the island. 

You can only visit Isla Contoy on a tour, and there are many different tours to choose from. Most tour companies offer similar tours to Isla Contoy, with a few notable differences.

The tours that leave from Cancun to Isla Contoy include a stop at Isla Mujeres where you will have some free time to enjoy the downtown area.

If you are staying in Isla Mujeres you can book a tour from there that only goes to Contoy Island.

Here are some of the best tours to take to visit Isla Contoy. 

The 7 best tours to Contoy Island

1. Isla Contoy and Isla Mujeres Tour with Snorkeling from Cancun or Playa del Carmen

4⭐ 61 Reviews

Your guide will pick you up from your Cancun hotel and take you to the marina. There you will have a light continental breakfast before boarding the high-speed catamaran to travel to Isla Contoy.

On the boat ride, you will get to enjoy views of Cancun. At Isla Contoy you will get the chance to explore the island.

You can choose to relax on the beach or hop into the water to snorkel the shallow reefs. You will enjoy a buffet lunch under a palapa.

After you leave Isla Contoy you will make a stop at Isla Mujeres before heading back to the marina in Cancun. 

Contoy Island palm trees and beach

2. Beach Escape: Isla Contoy and Isla Mujeres with Snorkeling, Breakfast, and Lunch

5⭐ 366 Reviews

You will start your day with a continental breakfast of sweet bread, coffee, and fruit at the marina. You will board the boat that will take you to Isla Contoy.

On the way to Isla Contoy, you will stop at a snorkeling spot. You can get into the water with your guide to enjoy the corals and reef creatures.

After snorkeling, you will go to Isla Contoy. There you can take a guided nature walk to see birds and wildlife, snorkel, and relax on the pristine beaches.

A lunch of grilled fish, rice, salad, and fresh fruit is provided. After leaving Isla Contoy you will make a short stop at Isla Mujeres.

You will be at Isla Mujeres for about one hour, and you can relax, shop, or get a snack before the boat takes you back to Cancun.

This tour lasts 8 hours.

Isla Mujeres beach views
Isla Mujeres

3. Isla Contoy Eco Adventure

4.5⭐ 96 Reviews

You will meet your bilingual guides and have a light breakfast before departing for Isla Mujeres. You will make a short stop in downtown Isla Mujeres before heading to Isla Contoy.

On the way to Isla Contoy, you will stop at Ixlache Reef to snorkel. You will arrive at Isla Contoy and have plenty of time to explore and relax.

You can take a tour with certified nature guides and will enjoy a buffet lunch and open bar. 

Isla Contoy Yucatan, Mexico

4. Isla Contoy Day Trip: Snorkeling at Ixlache Reef and Eco-Paradise Tour

4⭐ 76 Reviews

You will meet your tour guides at Marina La Amada, where you can enjoy a light, continental breakfast. From there you will head to Isla Mujeres.

On Isla Mujeres, you can shop downtown, visit the beach, or get something to eat. You will have one hour there. You will leave Isla Mujeres and head to Isla Contoy.

On the way, you will stop at Ixlache Reef. Here you will have the chance to snorkel with reef fish and see the colorful corals.

All snorkel gear is included. You will then arrive at Isla Contoy. You can take a walking tour of the island with bilingual tour guides or relax on the pristine beaches.

You will be served a buffet lunch before heading back to Cancun. 

fishing and snorkelling boat approaching Isla Contoy

5. Contoy Island

4⭐ 4 Reviews

You will start your day by boarding a boat and going to Isla Contoy. There you will enjoy the peaceful island and pristine beaches.

You can take a tour and will have plenty of time to take pictures of the birds and wildlife you will see. You can then relax on the beach and enjoy a buffet lunch.

After leaving Isla Contoy you will head to Isla Mujeres. There you will have one hour of free time to explore the island.

You will finish your tour with a snorkeling stop before returning to Cancun. 

Beach with pier Isla Contoy

6. Contoy Caribbean Adventure! Round Transportation from Cancun

4⭐ 4 Reviews

You will meet your guides at the marina and board a double-decker catamaran to set sail to Isla Contoy. On the island, you will have time to enjoy snorkeling, a nature walk and relaxing on the beach.

You will be served a buffet lunch before leaving the island. From Isla Contoy you will sail to Isla Mujeres. There you will have one hour to enjoy the island.

You can go to the beach, shop, or get a snack or drink. You will then return to Cancun. 

Isla Mujeres aerial view
Aerial view of Isla Mujeres

7. Half-Day Guided Tour to Parque Nacional Isla Contoy (from Isla Mujeres)

This tour is perfect for those who are staying a couple of days in Isla Mujeres and also those who have seasick issues.

In fact, Isla Mujeres is closer to Isla Contoy so the boat ride is shorter.

This tour leaves at 8:30 am from the dock downtown Isla Mujeres. The travel time to Isla Contoy is around 50 minutes.

You will be able to enjoy from 2 to 3 hours on the island and be back around 3 pm.

While on the island you can go snorkeling swimming or laying on the beach and you can also join an optional free 30-minute guided tour of the island.

A delicious local lunch and soft drinks will be included.

What to Bring on the Isla Contoy Tour 

Most tours to Isla Contoy last around eight hours. You will leave your hotel in the morning and not return until the evening, so it is important to remember everything you will need for the day.

You will best be able to enjoy your tour when you have proper sun protection and dry clothing.

Here is a packing list to help you prepare for your tour:

✔️ Sunglasses and a hat

Even if you hardly ever wear hats, you will be happy to have one to keep the sun off your face. The sun is strong in the Mexican Caribbean and it reflects off of the water.

High-quality sunglasses and a hat will keep your face from burning and keep you from squinting all day. 

✔️ Binoculars

If you have a pair of binoculars, bring them! Guides will point out birds and other wildlife on the nature hike.

Binoculars will help you get a better look at these rare animals. 

✔️ Camera

Whether you are a photography nut or not, you will want to have some good-quality pictures to commemorate your trip to Isla Contoy. Make sure to charge your camera the day before your tour. 

✔️ Comfortable Shoes

On Isla Contoy you will have the opportunity to hike on well-groomed paths. You will be more comfortable in shoes or hiking sandals than slippery flip-flops. 

✔️ Swimsuit and towel

You will have the chance to get into the water several times on your tour. You will want a swimsuit and towel with you. 

✔️ Dry Clothes

You will be more comfortable if you change into dry clothes for your boat ride back to Cancun. 

✔️ Snorkel Equipment

All tours will provide you with snorkel equipment, but if you are an avid snorkeler, you may want to bring your own mask and snorkel. This will guarantee the mask properly fits your face!

✔️ Rash Guard

The sun is strong so a rash guard to wear in the water will help protect your skin. Also, since you are not allowed to use any sunscreens or mosquito repellent, the rash guard will come handy.

✔️Dry bag

It’s always a great idea to use a dry bag in any boat tour to keep your stuff dry from the water sprinkles or also from the sand.

✔️ Cash

You will want some extra cash to tip your guides. Take small bills so you have the proper change to tip. 

What to Wear on the Isla Contoy Tour

You will spend all day outside on your tour to Isla Contoy. Dressing comfortably will keep you happy and safe from sunburns. Here is what you should wear:

Swimsuit and comfortable clothes. You will be getting in and out of the water all day. Wear a swimsuit with board shorts and a t-shirt or cover-up. 

Rashguard. Pack clothes you can use in the water to keep the sun off of you while you are snorkeling or swimming. 

Comfortable Shoes. You will probably want flip-flops to wear on the beach, but remember to bring a pair of sneakers or hiking sandals to wear on the nature hike on Isla Contoy. 

Hat and sunglasses. Your eyes and skin will thank you! 


Dry Clothes. You will want to change out of your wetsuit for the boat ride back to Cancun at the end of the tour. 

The most important thing to remember when getting dressed for your tour to Isla Contoy is to wear comfortable beach clothes.

You will be getting into the water throughout the day and want to have swimwear that lets you enjoy the snorkeling.

Pack clothes that will also let you enjoy the nature hike- you do not want to miss the opportunity to see the island’s wildlife! 

What not to bring or do on Contoy Island

❌ Mosquito Repellent

It’s not allowed to use any mosquito repellent

❌ Sunscreen

It’s not allowed to use any sort of Sunscreen on the island, not even eco-friendly ones.

❌ Drones

Drones are not allowed on the island for being a protected natural area. Please respect the environment.

Isla Contoy Tour Tips

Birds on the Contoy Island

Visiting Isla Contoy is an amazing experience. Only 200 people a day are allowed to visit, and the beaches are pristine.

The government works hard to preserve the island because it is home to so many different bird species. Here are a few tips to enjoy your trip to Isla Contoy.

Book early! The government limits how many people can visit the island each day. There are not very many tour operators who have permits to visit the island, so you need to book your tour early.

In the high season, this tour will sell out. Make sure to book early to guarantee there is space for you! 

Bring cash. You will want cash for tipping guides throughout the day. There is a $15 docking fee at Isla Contoy.

Many tours do not include this fee in the tour price, so you will need cash to pay it. 

Prevent SeaSickness. The water is usually calm, but it is always a good idea to avoid drinking the night before and eat light before getting on a boat.

Most tours stop at Isla Mujeres in addition to Isla Contoy, and nothing will ruin your day faster than feeling seasick. 

Respect the rules. Isla Contoy is a special place, and it is important all visitors respect the rules to keep it pristine.

How to be a responsible traveler on Isla Contoy

Contoy Island Mexico

As travelers, we need to respect the natural environments we are visiting. Your guide will tell you the rules to follow when snorkeling and visiting Isla Contoy.

👉 Sunscreens are not allowed because of ingredients that are harmful to the coral reef. Remember to bring a rashguard. 

👉 Isla Contoy has very limited infrastructure. All garbage that arrives with the tour needs to be cleaned up and taken off the island.

👉 Try to reduce the amount of garbage you generate. Try to take a reusable water bottle to reduce the amount of plastic you will generate. 

👉 When you are snorkeling and swimming remember to be careful of the delicate ecosystem. Make sure you never touch the reef or feed the fish. Enjoy looking at marine life without disturbing it. 

How to visit Isla Contoy: important facts

Where is Isla Contoy located?

Isla Contoy is a small island located about 30 kilometers (18 miles) northeast of Cancun. It is only 8.5 kilometers (5 miles) long and narrow.

The average width of the island is around 500 meters (1640 feet), with the narrowest areas measuring only 20 meters wide!

It is situated where the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea meet and marks the beginning of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.

This reef system is the second longest reef system in the world. It is second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

It begins at Isla Contoy and runs over 1000 kilometers (700 miles) along the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. 

What animals live in Isla Contoy?

Hawskbill turtle
Hawksbill sea turtle

The beautiful turquoise waters of the Mesoamerican Reef are home to countless marine animals and birds. Isla Contoy has amazing wildlife above and below the water.

The reef off the shores of Isla Contoy is home to over 240 different fish and crustacean species.

Isla Contoy is home to 8 different ray species that you can spot while snorkeling from the shore. In the summertime hawksbill, loggerhead, and white turtles go to the north shore of Isla Contoy to lay their eggs. 

Above the water, Isla Contoy is home to a variety of bird species. The mangroves and lagoons are ideal for bird species to thrive.

Here you can spot brown pelicans, olive cormorants, brown boobies, red flamingos, and white herons. In the winter, over 10,000 birds call Isla Contoy home.

Frigate baby bird on the Contoy Island
Frigatebird on Contoy Island

It is one of the most important nesting places for birds in the Mexican Caribbean.

This tiny, but remarkable island has been protected for over 60 years. It was declared a national park in 1961, and there is no development on the island.

There are no hotels or restaurants on Isla Contoy.

Here you will find a small visitors’ center with a museum and souvenir store, a BBQ area, and palapas to relax under.

There are lightly groomed walking trails you can follow to explore the island.

Can you stay on Isla Contoy?

No, you cannot stay on Isla Contoy. There are government-sponsored biologists and ecologists who sometimes stay on the island to study the animals that live there, but no one else is allowed to spend the night there.

The government closely controls which tour operators can visit, and it limits the number of tourists who can visit to 200 per day.

These controls help preserve the natural beauty and keep it a hospitable environment for the animals who live there. 

A brief history of Contoy Island

Isla Contoy has a long history of humans visiting its shores. Ancient Maya civilizations began traveling to Isla Contoy around the year 300 BC.

They never set up a permanent settlement there, probably because there is no fresh water.

Instead, they visited the island to collect shells and stingray spines. They used these items to make jewelry and small tools or used them in religious rituals.

Although the Mayan people visited it regularly, there are no Maya ruins to visit on Isla Contoy.

When the Spanish arrived in this area, the Maya stopped traveling to the island. The Spanish used the island as they traveled throughout the area.

In the late 1800s, naturalists took note of the huge variety of birds that live on Isla Contoy and began to travel to the island to study them.

What does Isla Contoy mean?

The name Isla Contoy has its origin in the Mayan language. People debate the exact meaning. Some believe that the word refers to Maya words that mean low shelter.

Others believe it is a mispronunciation of the Mayan word “pontó” which means pelican. 


Contoy Island nature preserve

Is Isla Contoy worth visiting?

Yes! Isla Contoy is home to countless bird and wildlife species. The government made it a nature reserve in 1961 and the beaches are in pristine condition.

The water is turquoise blue and the sand is white. Visiting Isla Contoy is a unique experience to see a part of the Mexican Caribbean without any development. 

Can you stay on Isla Contoy?

No, there are no hotels on Isla Contoy and it is not permitted to spend the night there. The only people who can stay on the island are a handful of biologists who study the wildlife there.

The only way you can access Isla Contoy is with a day tour. 

How do you get from Playa del Carmen to Isla Contoy?

Tours to Isla Contoy depart from marinas in Cancun. Some tour operators offer transportation from hotels in Playa del Carmen to the marina.

You will need to check with your tour operator. If they do not offer transportation you can take a taxi from your hotel to the marina in Cancun. 

How to get to Contoy Island from Isla Mujeres?

Many tours depart from Cancun or Isla Mujeres to go to Isla Contoy. Tours that depart from Cancun often stop at Isla Mujeres on the way to Isla Contoy.

Look for a tour that leaves from Isla Mujeres to Isla Contoy, or a tour that first stops at Isla Mujeres before going to Isla Contoy.

From Isla Mujeres, you will take a short boat ride to get to Isla Contoy. 

Final Thoughts Isla Contoy Tour

Isla Contoy is a piece of paradise you can get to from Cancun. It is one of the few untouched places left in the Mexican Caribbean.

It is located where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean Sea and is home to countless marine and bird species.

Tours to Isla Contoy take you away from the development and crowds of Cancun to a peaceful, pristine beach.

Whether you are a nature lover who wants the chance to see rare birds or just looking for the ultimate relaxing beach day, this is a tour you do not want to miss.

You will feel like you are going back in time to see what this area looked like years ago. 

About the Author

Hey there! This is Isabella, the owner, and writer of this site. I have been living in Cancun for the past 12 years and although I have been roaming around Mexico, Cancun’s spectacular turquoise waters and pristine beach draw me back to this popular Mexican beach destination. That is why I decided to start this blog, to show you all the beauty you can find in Cancun and share helpful travel tips to help you plan a fabulous vacation in Cancun!

Similar Posts