Located just a few miles off the coast of Cancun, Isla Contoy is an uninhabited tropical island that will leave you with a jaw dropping first impression. I’ve seen a lot of pretty beaches while living in Playa del Carmen and Isla Contoy is simply the best I’ve ever seen. Read on for my complete Isla Contoy tour guide to learn everything you need to know about visiting the island from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or the Riviera Maya.
About Isla Contoy
Where is Isla Contoy?
Isla Contoy (Contoy Island) is located just off the coast of Cancun, Mexico about 30 km north of Isla Mujeres. At only 5 miles (8.5 km) in length, the island is very small and remote with only a few man-made structures.
Isla Contoy also marks the start of the Mesoamerican reef system, which is the second longest barrier reef system in the world and spans for over 600 miles south all the way to Honduras.
Why visit Isla Contoy Mexico?
Isla Contoy is a highly protected island that is home to over 150 species of birds and exotic wildlife, as well as sea turtles and other marine animals. In order to minimize the human impact, only 200 visitors are allowed to visit each day.
Because the island is so preserved, it is one of the more exclusive tour experiences in Riviera Maya offering the unique opportunity to experience an untouched Caribbean paradise. Basically if you want to see one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico, then visiting Isla Contoy is right for you.
How do you get to Isla Contoy?
Isla Contoy can only be visited by a boat and cannot be reached on your own. The easiest way to get there is by booking a tour which will take you to Isla Contoy, in addition to stops at nearby Isla Mujeres and snorkeling at Ixlache reef.
If you’re staying in Playa del Carmen or the Riviera Maya, the tour will begin with a ground transfer to the marina in Cancun. From there, you’ll board the boat to take you to the tour destinations.
Rules for visiting Isla Contoy
As I mentioned, Isla Contoy is a protected island so there are a few rules you must abide by when visiting:
- No sunscreen (not even biodegradable)
- No drones
- No hanging towels or clothes on the bushes to dry
- No more than 200 visitors per day
About the Isla Contoy Tour
Here’s everything you need to know about the Isla Contoy excursion:
What’s included in the Isla Contoy Tour?
Here is what’s included in the Contoy Island tour:
- Roundtrip transportation from your hotel in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or the Riviera Maya
- Boat trip to Isla Mujeres
- Boat trip to Isla Contoy
- Snorkeling at Ixlache Reef
- Continental breakfast
- Buffet lunch
- Water, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages (domestic open bar) on the boat
- Sterilized snorkeling equipment
- $15 USD per person dock fee and Marine Park Federal Tax
- Professional photos
- Money for tips
How much does the Isla Contoy Tour cost?
There are many tour options available but the average cost for the Isla Contoy tour is around $130 USD per person. Considering everything that is included, I think it really is a good value for a full day tour and completely unforgettable travel experience.
How to book the Isla Contoy Tour
I personally booked the Isla Contoy tour with Contoy Adventures (also known as Caribbean Connection), which can be booked online here. It was a great tour experience with fun, friendly, and knowledgable guides, but it’s a little larger boat with a max of 50 participants.
If I did it again, I would probably book this tour with Ocean Tours, just for a smaller boat and a more intimate tour experience. I’ve done other tours with Ocean Tours and really loved the smaller group vibe.
Alternatively, if you have a larger group, I would highly recommend booking a private tour (also with Ocean Tours). It’s not that much more money if you split it between the group and having a private experience on the island would be pretty epic.
Isla Contoy Tour Itinerary
Here’s a timeline of the Isla Contoy tour itinerary and an overview of each agenda item in more detail. It is a full day tour lasting about 12 hours in total.
- 7:45 am – Pickup in Playa del Carmen
- 9:00 am – Arrival to Punta Sam Marina in Cancun
- 9:30 am – Continental Breakfast
- 10:00 am – Depart for Isla Mujeres
- 10:30 am – Arrive in Isla Mujeres: Free time to explore the island at leisure
- 11:45 am – Depart Isla Mujeres
- 1:30 pm – Snorkeling at Ixlache Reef
- 2:15 pm – Arrive at Isla Contoy
- 2:30 pm – Buffet lunch
- 3:00 pm – Free time to explore the island at leisure
- 4:30 pm – Depart Isla Contoy
- 6:00 pm – Arrive in Cancun
- 6:30 pm – Return transfer to Playa del Carmen
- 7:45 pm – Arrive in Playa del Carmen
Pickup and transfer to Cancun
The Isla Contoy tour begins with an early pickup at your hotel between 7:00-8:00am. If you’re staying at an AirBnB or VRBO, then they will likely give you a designated pickup point.
We arrived early to the pickup point and our driver was already there waiting for us. The tour company followed pretty strict Covid protocols requiring masks to be worn in the vehicle and hand sanitizer before boarding the van.
After departing Playa del Carmen, it is a little over an hour drive to the marina in Cancun. This is a good time to catch up on sleep if you’re able.
Punta Sam Marina (Cancun)
Once you arrive to the Punta Sam marina in Cancun, you will enter a private terminal where you’ll have breakfast while you’re waiting to board the boat.
It is a continental breakfast that consists of muffins, cookies, cake, fruit, coffee, and juice. Additional breakfast items like yogurt and sports drinks can be purchased for an additional cost.
In the terminal, there are also restrooms and a small gift shop, where you can buy sunscreen, insect repellent, and some souvenirs. You’ll have about an hour in the terminal to eat breakfast and get everyone boarded on the boat.
Our tour boat was a large, two-level boat with rows of table seating on the first level, and open air seating on the second level. There is also a bar and bathrooms on board.
After departing Cancun, it is about a 20 minute boat ride over to Isla Mujeres. On the way, you’ll be able to see some of the most unbelievably turquoise water and passing yachts and catamarans.
Once you arrive to Isla Mujeres, you only have about 1 hour to explore the island. That’s not a lot of time so I would suggest planning out what you want to do beforehand.
I personally made a beeline for Playa Norte, which is about a 10 minute walk from the ferry and the most beautiful beach on the island. Other options in Isla Mujeres are souvenir shopping, grabbing a bite to eat or drink, or exploring the downtown area.
Travelista Tip: One hour is not a lot of time to really get to explore Isla Mujeres so I would highly recommend returning to Isla Mujeres on a day trip. Check out my full guide here.
After departing Isla Mujeres, you’ll be en route to Isla Contoy and will stop for snorkeling at the Ixlache reef. Snorkel equipment including masks, fins, and disposable snorkel tubes will be provided. My mask didn’t fit the best so I would recommend bringing your own snorkel set if you have one.
The group will be divided into a few different groups and you will set out with a certified guide to snorkel around the coral reefs. We got to see a good amount of fish and colorful coral reefs, but the Isla Contoy snorkeling wasn’t super impressive (at least on the day we went).
Travelista Tip: Check out my Playa del Carmen snorkeling guide to discover some of the most impressive snorkeling spots in the region.
After snorkeling, it’s just a short ride over to Isla Contoy, which is where the real magic happens. As you are arriving, you will be absolutely floored by the tropical beach views straight out of a movie scene 😍
Calm turquoise water, a white sand beach, and lush tropical palms eagerly await as you disembark the boat. You’ll want to get your camera ready!
Because the number of visitors is restricted, we were the only tour boat on the island at the time, which is such a unique opportunity to experience an untouched natural paradise.
Once you get to the island, you’ll head to a pavilion for a lunch buffet, which was actually better than expected. I was pretty famished so I forgot to take pictures but the food options consist of salad, fresh Tikinxic fish (straight out the ocean), lasagna, pasta salad, chips, bread, and rice pudding for dessert.
Travelista Tip: While eating, be on the lookout for a few visitors including iguanas and crabs.
After lunch, you are free to explore the island at leisure. Basically you can stay at the beach or go on a walking tour of the island to check out the birds and wildlife.
We were so in love with the beach that we couldn’t be bothered to leave. It is such an unbelievably tranquil setting with calm, shallow water, tropical palms, and only occupied by the other people on the tour. It’s definitely a relaxing retreat compared to the often crowded beaches in Playa del Carmen.
Return to Playa del Carmen
After you depart Isla Contoy, it is about an hour boat ride from Isla Contoy back to Cancun. I would recommend sitting on the top level of the boat for the best ocean breeze and golden hour hues.
After you arrive in Cancun, you’ll board the vans waiting there to take you back to Playa del Carmen. It’s a little over an hour ride and they’ll drop you off in the reverse order that they picked you up. You’ll likely be exhausted after an adventurous day in the sun!
What to Bring on the Isla Contoy Tour
Here are a few must have items I would definitely recommend bringing on the tour and a few items that would be nice to have:
- Biodegradable sunscreen: Any time you are going to be swimming in the ocean, it is so important to bring biodegradable sunscreen to protect and preserve the coral reefs. While sunscreen is not allowed at Isla Contoy, you are still allowed to use biodegradable sunscreen while you are at Isla Mujeres and for the snorkeling portion of the tour. You can pickup some on Amazon here.
- Beach towel: Don’t forget to bring a beach towel to dry off after you get out of the water. These microfiber beach towels are great options because they are super light weight and dry quickly between the multiple stops on the tour.
- Insect Repellent: When we first arrived to Cancun, the gift shop attendants told us we would need insect repellent as the mosquitos are very bad on Isla Contoy. I didn’t really believe them but reluctantly purchased some for the trip. However, I’ll admit the bugs were out in full force on Isla Contoy so I would definitely recommend bringing some bug spray with you.
Nice to Have
- GoPro or waterproof camera: I would highly recommend bringing a GoPro or waterproof camera to capture your snorkeling and beach experience. I always bring my GoPro and am constantly amazed by the picture quality.
- Snorkel Set: If you’re concerned about comfort or cleanliness, you can always bring your own snorkel set instead of using the one provided on the tour. My snorkel set didn’t fit me very well and I was wishing I had my own to ensure the best fit.
- Rash guard: I would also recommend bringing a rash guard, which is like a swim shirt to stay warm and also protect you from the sun without the need for sunscreen. Sunscreen is not allowed on Isla Contoy so a rash guard is essential if you need sun protection.
What to Wear on the Isla Contoy Tour
- Swimsuit: Whenever I go on snorkeling tours, I usually always wear a one-piece swimsuit. It’s just so much more comfortable and provides much more coverage when you’re dealing with your lifejackets, putting on your snorkel gear, and getting in and out of the boat.
- Swimsuit coverup: You’ll also want to wear a lightweight swimsuit coverup or shorts that can be easily removed when you’re ready to get in the water.
- Flip flops: You’ll want to wear flip flops or waterproof sandals that can be removed easily when you’re snorkeling. The tour guides will also dump water on your feet to wash off the sand before getting back on the boat.
- Sun hat: I would also recommend wearing a sun hat but makes sure you have one that fits very securely on your head as the wind can be strong on the boat. It’s also great to have when you’re on the beach at Isla Contoy to protect your face and shoulders from the sun.
- Change of clothes: You’ll also want to bring a change of clothes so you can change out of your wet swimsuit before the ride back to your hotel or resort.
Isla Contoy Tour Tips
Here are a few tips for Isla Contoy tours from my experience:
- Book in advance: I actually made the mistake of trying to book this tour the evening before and while I was able to book online, I quickly received a phone call that the tour was booked and needed to change my tour date. I would highly recommend booking online in advance to reserve your spot. Most tour companies offer flexible booking options so it’s easy to cancel or reschedule if needed.
- Book a private or small group tour: If you can, I would recommend booking a small group or private tour. It can be a little more expensive, but I’ve always had a better experience with smaller tours where you really get to bond with the guides and other tour goers.
- Bring biodegradable sunscreen: As I mentioned, don’t forget to bring biodegradable sunscreen. It’s absolutely essential if you need sun protection.
- Bring cash for tips: This is something I often forget then feel terrible when I don’t any cash on hand to tip the tour guides. Make sure to bring some extra cash (dollars or pesos) to give the tour guides a little something extra. They work hard to deliver great experiences.
Overall, I was absolutely floored by the beauty of Isla Contoy. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful beaches in Riviera Maya, but Isla Contoy really takes the cake for being the best I’ve seen throughout all of my travels.
As I mentioned, I had a great experience on the Isla Contoy day trip with Contoy Adventures, but if I did it again I would probably book a smaller group tour. The boat was very large and it often took a lot of time for them to get everyone organized and explain the directions in multiple languages.
But regardless, visiting Isla Contoy has been one of my favorite tour experiences and definitely gets my vote for being one of the best things to do in Riviera Maya.
I hope this guide to the Isla Contoy tour from Playa del Carmen was helpful if you’re considering visiting the island! It’s truly an unforgettable tour experience you won’t want to miss while visiting Riviera Maya.