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The Ultimate Guide to Isla Contoy National Park

The Ultimate Guide to Isla Contoy National Park

Isla Contoy National Park is a natural reserve in the Mexican Caribbean protected by the Mexican Government and only allows access to 200 people per day. It is also one of the most popular natural attractions for visitors.

A Paradise for Eco-Tourism in the Caribbean

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Isla Contoy is a tourist destination, a national park, a bird sanctuary, a Natural Protected Area (NPA), and a Ramsar wetlands conservation site. As you can imagine, this small island, barely 5.5 miles long, is an important and primordial element for the natural balance of the Mexican Caribbean area.

Its name comes from the Mayan words Kom (low) and To'oy (shelter) since this island provided shelter to sailors and fishermen. Its name is also believed to come from the Mayan word Pontó, which means pelican. It is also known as the Island of Birds because it is a bird sanctuary.

In this blog, you will find:

Stay to read and find out all about this beautiful Mexican Caribbean island👇



Flora of Isla contoy

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The flora of Isla Contoy is very well preserved and is composed of 4 different kinds of vegetation.

  • Coastal Dune comprises creeping grasses that grow on sandy and rocky soils.
  • Low deciduous forest: These are small trees and bushes that, during the dry season, appear to be dead, but in the rainy season, they recover their light green color.
  • Coconut palm grove: It comprises palms of different sizes and is the most representative population.
  • Mangrove: A natural filter made of organic material that protects the island from tides, hurricanes, and climate changes. They are extremely important.



In Contoy, there are different types of animals. The most representative of the island are birds. You will also find reptiles, crustaceans, and many different fish species. Let's see it in detail 👀

Birds Galore at Isla Contoy Sanctuary

Aves de Isla Contoy

Isla Contoy is home to 173 species of birds. Some live there, and others are migratory (meaning they are just passing through), but they all agree that Isla Contoy is a comfortable and special place for them.

Some of the birds that you will see in Isla Contoy are:

  • Brown Pelican: This large bird can measure up to 160 cm in length and has a wingspan of almost 4 meters. You can easily spot it when you arrive, as it likes to stand on the docks.
  • Double-crested cormorant: During the breeding season, a double crest grows on the sides of its head.
  • Western Osprey: A bird of prey that lives on land near marine areas. They have a reversible toe for catching slippery fish.

Want to learn more about the birds of the island? Visit our blog: The Birds of Isla Contoy National Park.


Marine Life in Isla Contoy

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Since this island is located very close to the second-largest barrier reef in the world, the marine fauna it harbors is varied.

Among the marine fauna of Isla Contoy, you will find:

  • Invertebrates include sponges, sea urchins, starfish, mollusks, marine worms, and crustaceans.
  • Sharks include the catshark, bull shark, tiger shark, white tip shark, and leopard shark.
  • Fish such as the grunt fish, tarpon, blue surgeonfish, four-eyed butterflyfish, and the famous whale shark (yes, it is a fish).
  • Manta rays
  • Sea turtles include hawksbill, loggerhead, and green turtles.

Dive into our blog, Marine Life of Isla Contoy National Park, and learn all about the creatures of the Caribbean Sea.




Reefs are complex marine ecosystems composed of diverse flora and fauna. A reef is composed of corals, hence the name coral reef, and is one of the oldest ecosystems on Earth.

South of Isla Contoy, the Ixlaché Reef is located, part of the world's second-largest barrier reef, better known as SAM (Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System). 

The MAR is a transboundary reef that extends across four countries and is home to 400 kinds of corals and almost 7000 species of marine animals.

Want to know why reefs are so important to humans? Check out our blog, MBRS: What's Hidden in the Caribbean Reefs, and discover their current state.




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To protect the natural state of Isla Contoy, the Mexican Government, CONANP (National Commission of Natural Protected Areas), and civil associations such as Amigos de Contoy have established some simple rules for visitors to the park.

  • Do not wear sunscreen: This general rule applies to all visitors entering the sea in the Mexican Caribbean. This is because sunscreen contains chemicals that directly harm corals. Check out our blog: Here's what happens when you wear sunscreen.
  • Do not touch marine life: Corals are complex but delicate ecosystems. They can be damaged and even die if someone touches them. In addition to not touching the corals, we should also not grab the animals that live there. Find out why you should not touch a starfish here👈 

  • Don't bring external animals: Since Isla Contoy is a protected ecosystem, animals are prohibited. Domestic animals, for example, entering the island may depredate the fauna or alter the natural balance. 

  • No littering: This rule not only speaks to our good manners. As good visitors, we must take all our garbage with us.

  • Do not enter restricted areas: Some areas are protected, and others are very dangerous, such as the eastern coast, which has slippery and sharp rocks. For this reason, it is crucial to pay attention to the park rangers' indications.

How can you reach Isla Contoy?

As a tourist, you can get to Isla Contoy through a tour with authorized agencies. Usually, these packages depart from Cancun and include food and a visit to Isla Mujeres. The route to get there depends on the destination where you are staying. However, due to its proximity to Contoy, most tours depart from Cancun or Isla Mujeres.




Isla Contoy was declared a national park in 1998, and to protect its natural state, entry was restricted to the general public. Only 200 people per day can enter, and only through authorized tours.

As a tourist, spending the night on the island is impossible. Only park rangers, scientists, volunteers, and researchers can sleep on Contoy.

To learn more about the hotels in Isla Contoy, visit our entry: Hotels and other questions about Isla Contoy.



Are there any dining options available on Isla Contoy?

There are no restaurants on Isla Contoy; however, during the tours, a complimentary buffet is set up for guests at the side of the museum. The buffet includes:

  • Lasagna
  • Chicken and fish
  • Salad
  • Dessert
  • Dressings


Isla Contoy Nature Experience TOUR

The Isla Contoy Experience is the most complete tour to take you on a unique journey. You will visit the two most beautiful islands in the Caribbean: Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy.


What to expect during the tour?

Start your cruise departing from the dock in Cancun to the central pier of Isla Mujeres, where you will have an hour free to explore the island.

Board again and head to the next stop: a reef in the Caribbean Sea. Dive into the blue waters while admiring the beauty of the seabed during your snorkeling activity. Climb aboard and enjoy the view as you arrive at Isla Contoy.

Visit the lagoon, the museum, and the natural passages in the company of our certified guides. Also, visit the museum and the beach where you will spend a relaxing moment.


  • Certified guide
  • Bread and fruit on board
  • Buffet lunch at Isla Contoy
  • Open bar all-day
  • Guided ecological tour on Contoy Island
  • Snorkeling equipment and activity (weather permitting)
  • Round trip transportation


  • Federal dock and reef tax
  • Photographs
  • Souvenirs
  • Towels
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