Take in the beauty of the islands of the Mexican Caribbean.
Holbox is a 25-mile long island that has not seen as much mass tourism as some of its other neighbors in the Caribbean. This has allowed the island to maintain its quaintness, making it a point-of-interest for those looking to unwind in peace. Access the island by boarding a public ferry in Chiquila. Holbox is primarily inhabited by fisherman who make a living off of the ocean, which provides an opportunity to try fresh seafood straight from the fisherman’s nets. The island is also known for its hammocks, which are hand-knit by local women.
Despite its laidback nature, there is no shortage of activities on the island for the adventurous. Snorkeling, fishing, kayaking and windsurfing are among the many activities available. The island is part of the Yum Balam natural reserve and offers a wonderful opportunity to observe an array of exotic wildlife. Between the months of June and August, the Whale Sharks, also known as Domino Sharks, come to spend the summer off the coast of the island. This offers a unique opportunity to view them—and swim with them—in their natural habitat.
The only thing separating this island from Cancun is a measly seven-mile stretch of water, but everyone here is still on island time. Isla Mujeres is a short 20-minute boat ride from Puerto Juarez in Cancun where visitors can catch a ferry. Isla Mujeres is much smaller than some of its neighbors (only five miles long) it manages to fit quite a bit into a small space. Isla Mujeres has been a popular destination with vacationers since the 1950s, long before Cancun became the vacation destination it is today.
Here, visitors can visit the Temple of the Goddess Ixchel, which archeologists believe may also have served as a lighthouse for trade boats sailing from Cozumel. The island is also known for its turtle nesting grounds. The Tortugranja, or turtle farm, helps release hatchlings back into the ocean and provides an educational opportunity for kids and adults to learn how to protect this species. On the east coast of the island, cliffs reaching up to 66 feet offer stunning views of the ocean and sunrises.
Isla Contoy, only a little more than 18 miles from Isla Mujeres, has been an area protected by the Mexican government since 1961. The island is a proverbial gold mine for conservationists and those looking to see the Caribbean islands in their most pristine state. More than 150 species of birds call this island home—well as four species of turtles facing extinction. Access is only granted to 200 visitors per day and only a few charter companies are allowed to sail here. Tours leave from either Isla Mujeres or Cancun.
Guided tours of the island by local biologists are available, and a portion of the proceeds goes toward funding continued research and conservation of the island. Visitors should also try the local Mayan specialty, Tik-in-chik. This barbequed fish is marinated in a traditional achiote paste made of annatto seeds, herbs and peppers.