Islands Near Playa Del Carmen That You Should Visit On Your Mexico Vacation

Islands near Playa Del Carmen in Mexico

Playa del Carmen is one of the major tourist hubs of Mexico, and one of my favorite places to vacation.

In recent years, tourism has boomed making it so you get the perfect mix of authentic Mexican vacation with all the amenities and affordability you can hope for from this area of Mexico.

Located about an hour south of Cancun in the state of Quintana Roo, in the heart of the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen offers a central location with lots to see and do.

This includes some of the best islands in Mexico making island hopping fun and easy.

Must Visit Islands Close To Playa Del Carmen

If you are looking into the best islands near Playa del Carmen, you’ve probably heard of Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Isla Contoy, Isla Holbox, Isla Blanca, and Cancun’s Hotel Zone.

After visiting these islands I think there are some major things that I would like to share.


If you’re visiting Cancún, don’t miss checking out these nearby uslands: 1. Isla Mujeres: closest island to Cancun 2. Isla Cozumel: Closest to Playa del Carmen and has the most to offer 3. Isla Holbox: Best for getting away from crowds but farther 4. Isla Contoy: National Park with amazing natural beauty #cancunmexico #islamujeresmexico #islacozumel #islaholbox #islacontoy #mexicoisland #mexicovacation #islandparadise #travelmexico #mexicocaribbean #caribbeanvacation @togethertowherever

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Traveler Tip: Isla Cozumel and Isla Mujeres are the two islands that have Mayan Ruins you can explore!

Below I’ve listed all the must know details about each of these Mexican islands to help you decide where to go on your next vacation.

best islands to visit in Riviera Maya Mexico

1. Cozumel Island – Closest Island To Playa Del Carmen

Cozumel is one of the best and most popular islands in Mexico, and for good reason. If you’re wondering “What island is close to Playa del Carmen?” the closest island is Cozumel.

Located directly off the coast of Playa del Carmen, a direct 45 minute ferry is offered multiple times a day.

If you’re standing on the beach in Playa, you may look across the water and wonder “What is across from Playa del Carmen?”

The answer is Cozumel, more specifically San Miguel de Cozumel, the largest city in Cozumel. 

San Miguel De Cozumel town

Is Cozumel better than Isla Mujeres? In my opinion, yes! The island is much bigger and offers more amenities including epic snorkeling and scuba diving on the Mexican Caribbean.

However, if lazing on white sandy beaches is your main goal, Isla Mujeres has a lot to offer.

Cozumel is one of the best islands in Riviera Maya, even in the whole Yucatan Peninsula, for snorkeling and scuba diving in Mexico thanks to its location along the Mesoamerican Reef, the world’s second largest barrier reef.

There is a wide range of accommodations on Cozumel whether you’re looking for cheap hostels or luxurious all inclusive hotels.

What You Can Do When Visiting Cozumel Island

Cozumel provides that perfect laid back island vibe with enough amenities to keep you interested making it one of the best islands in Quintana Roo.

One of my favorite things to do in Cozumel is rent a moped to explore the island.

I also highly recommend booking a coral reef snorkeling tour where you can swim on one of the nicest reefs in the world.

This was one of the most memorable experiences for our family in Cozumel!

If you are not staying at an all inclusive, but want to indulge in all the luxuries for a day, you can book an all inclusive day pass like we did at one of the hotels in the area.

How To Get To Cozumel From Playa Del Carmen

Cozumel is one of the best islands near Playa del Carmen, and certainly the closest.

The ferry terminal is located right along the beach at the far south end of Quinta Avenida (5th Ave), the main drag of Playa del Carmen. 

Here you will find 2 ferry companies, Winjet and Ultramar, who offer multiple ferries daily traveling to and from Cozumel. You can choose to buy either one way or a round trip fare (cheaper).

Ferry to Cozumel Island - Closest to Playa Del Carmen

We love riding the ferry over to Cozumel! The ride is about 45 minutes and there are bathrooms and snacks available on the ferries.

Once you arrive on Cozumel Island, you can rent golf carts to explore around the island!

Where To Stay On Cozumel Island

  • If you’re looking for luxury, The Westin Cozumel is one of the best hotels on the island offering a beachfront paradise with all the amenities you could hope for.
  • Iberostar Cozumel is another great beachfront luxury hotel that is all inclusive.
  • If you are looking for budget friendly accommodations, the Casa Samay Cozumel is located in the city and offers a good mix of comfort and affordability.

One thing that is disappointing for us about visiting Cozumel Island is how expensive it can be.

The cost to stay or eat at the many restaurants in town is much higher, in our opinion than those on Isla Mujeres or even Playa Del Carmen.

There tends to be a lot of cruise tourism which makes it not the most authentic destination, in our opinion.

Isla Mujeres Mayan ruins

Isla Mujeres, translating to Woman Island, is a beautiful small island located off the coast of Cancun.

This island is known for laid back beach vibes where you will find golf carts and scooters as the primary mode of transportation.

This island is known for stunning white sand beaches with turquoise waters, most notably Playa Norte, beautiful resorts, and delicious restaurants.

This can be a fantastic day trip from Cancun or you can comfortably stay here to explore for 4-10 days.

Isla Mujeres sunset

Traveler tip: Because of the location and angle of the Yucatan Peninsula most of the beaches offer great sunrise views. However, Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox have the perfect location to give visitors views of the sunset from the beach!

What You Can Do When Visiting Isla Mujeres

While you will have a great time riding golf carts around the island and trying out all the amazing local cuisine, the main draw is the stunning coral reefs off the coast of the island.

  1. Booking a snorkeling tour to explore the Mexican Caribbean waters off Isla Mujeres is a must.
  2. If you find yourself here between May and September you should definitely take a whale sharks snorkel tour to swim with these gentle giants.
  3. If you prefer to stay on dry land, this half day golf cart bar crawl is a lot of fun.
Whale Shark Isla Mujeres

We stayed at a wonderful resort that gave us access to three pools and a waterslide which our little one loved! The views were fantastic and even snorkeling from the dock was amazing!

Isla Mujeres snorkel

We highly recommend renting a golf cart for the day and riding all the way to the southern tip of Isla Mujeres.

Not only is the landscape totally breathtaking but you will also get to see the Mayan Ruins with the backdrop of the turquoise waters of the Carribean Sea!

How To Get To Isla Mujeres From Playa Del Carmen

From Playa del Carmen, you will first have to travel to Cancun (about a 45 minute drive) before taking the 15 minute ferry here.

The ferry leaves from Puerto Juarez, a few minutes drive from downtown Cancun or the Cancun Hotel Zone, every half hour. 

If you’re just wanting a quick visit to the island, this day trip to Isla Contoy and Isla Mujeres from anywhere in the Riviera Maya is a great option.

Where To Stay On Isla Mujeres

  • If your focus is pure luxury, you can’t get much better than the Mia Reef All Inclusive Resort. Completely surrounded by water, this slice of paradise offers all the luxury you could hope for in a Mexican vacation.
  • Casa Bonita and Villas is a stunning mid range beachfront hotel with a beautiful swimming pool and lots of luxuries.
  • Budget travelers focused on comfort and affordability will love the rooftop pool at Casa Barco Hotel Boutique.
where to stay in Isla Mujeres

3. Isla Holbox – Best Island Getaway From Playa Del Carmen

Holbox (pronounced hol-bosh) is one of the best islands to explore in the Quintana Roo as it maintains largely untouched by the tourist influence.

This is one of the main draws of visiting Isla Holbox rather than Tulum.

Riviera Maya Islands in

You will not find cars on this island and instead see golf carts traveling the streets. The waters here are calm making it a great place to swim and snorkel.

A true paradise, Holbox is north of Cancun and known for its stunning marine and bird life.

There are so many great things to do in Holbox you will have no problem filling up between 4-10 days in the area.

What You Can Do When Visiting Isla Holbox

  1. Holbox is a great area to check off some epic bucket list items such as taking a bioluminescence tour through the waters.
  2. You can also take a kayak tour through the mangroves to see the flamingos.
  3. If you’re here between June and September, I highly recommend taking a whale sharks snorkel tour.

How To Get To Isla Holbox From Playa Del Carmen

Getting to Holbox from Cancun or Playa involves a two hour drive to Chiquilá where you will find a ferry terminal. You will have your choice between two ferry companies (both are great).

You will take a 20 minute ferry ride that costs about $12 USD. 

You can choose between a rental car or hiring a private car to take you here. If you drive yourself, keep in mind you will need to park your car in Chiquilá as there are no cars on Holbox.

Once on the island, you can rent golf carts or just walk since most hotels are within walking distance to the center and the beach.

Read More: Bacalar or Isla Holbox – Which is Better?

Where To Stay On Isla Holbox

The main draw of Holbox is to relax on the sea enjoying the beautiful calm waters.

  • If you’re looking for a luxurious way to do just that, I recommend Villas Caracol, a beautiful beachside hotel.
  • If you are looking for a great hotel on a budget, Casa Mech is a great option with a nice pool and cool boho vibes.
  • If you’re looking for an all inclusive hotel, I recommend the beachfront Villas HM Paraiso del Mar.
Holbox Island Near Playa Del Carmen

4. Isla Contoy – Best Island For Natural Beauty

Contoy is one of the best day trips you can take in the area for those looking for epic snorkeling through turquoise waters, scuba diving, and white sandy beaches.

This small island is uninhabited and located about 30km (18.6 miles) north of Isla Mujeres.

It is a protected natural habitat that is known for its untouched natural beauty, coral reefs, and white sand beaches.

In 1998 it was declared a National Park and, in my opinion, is one of the most stunning places in Quintana Roo, if not the world.

Isla Contoy coasts view

Best Things To Do On Isla Contoy

The untouched beauty of Contoy Island offers beautiful beaches, great wildlife in the form of lots of birds and turtles, and a great location along the Mesoamerican Reef.

Most Isla Contoy tours will stop you briefly at Isla Mujeres as well and offer round trip transportation from Cancun, Playa, and even Tulum.

Isla Contoy bird refuge

How To Get To Isla Contoy From Playa Del Carmen

The only way to get to Isla Contoy is to book through a tour company as the island has strict restrictions of a maximum of 200 visitors a day.

Where To Stay On Isla Contoy

There are no hotels on Isla Contoy meaning that this slice of paradise can only be visited on a day trip.

In fact, even if you are staying on a boat, you will need to keep your distance from this protected natural reserve to protect the island from any noise pollution.

Isla Contoy from boat

We visited Isla Contoy with a tour that picked us up in Playa del Carmen and took us to Cancun. From there, we set off on a boat, stopping to snorkel along the reef (we even saw a lobster!)

Our tour did include a stop at Isla Mujeres, as most do, where we were able to explore for about an hour before heading back to the boat.

From Isla Mujeres, the boat ride was two hours to Isla Contoy.

This was longer than I was expecting, but the journey is absolutely breathtaking and you get to see Isla Blanca along the way.

Isla Contoy Caribbean Coast

Once we were on Isla Contoy, we enjoyed a great buffet lunch that was included in our tour and were given the chance to hang out on the beach or explore with our guide.

If you want to go on a short hike up the highest peak, you do have to be chaperoned by your guide.

The views from the peak are stunning, to say the least. You can see tons of birds and the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Carribean Sea on the other.

Our guide also took us to one of the seven lagoons on the island and explained the many different animal species that call this island home.

Isla Contoy wildlife

Be aware that visiting Contoy Island is an all day event.

If you go on a private tour it may be more expensive but it will eliminate all the time it takes to pick up and drop off other passengers.

Isla Contoy, Riviera Maya - beach

5. Isla Blanca – The Riviera Maya Island You Should Know About

Isla Blanca, translating to white island, isn’t actually an island but rather the tip of a peninsula at the northern end of Cancun mainland.

Rough waters during storms can cover a narrow section of the peninsula temporarily making it an island but you can actually drive here.

You can enjoy about 20 km (12.5 miles) of wild untouched white sand beaches. This is a great place to come for an afternoon on the beach or spend a few days at the luxury resorts in the area.

Best Things To Do On Isla Blanca

This area of public beach is beloved by kite surfers who come to enjoy the big waves in the area. The beach is long with a wired fence along it.

Don’t be deterred by the fences as there are a few public access points and the beach itself is public.

How To Get To Isla Blanca From Playa Del Carmen

Isla Blanca is located about 35 km (21.8 miles) north of Cancun’s Hotel Zone, which is about an hour drive from Playa Del Carmen.

I would say that the best way to visit here is with a rental car and driving the hour or so north towards the island. Driving in Quintana Roo, especially along this route, is easy and safe.

Isla Mujeres - Mexico Riviera Maya Island near PDC

Where To Stay On Isla Blanca

There are only a few hotels in the Isla Blanca area, mostly luxurious 5 star resorts.

  1. Catalonia Grand Costa Mujeres is a great all-inclusive beachfront hotel.
  2. Another stunning waterfront all inclusive in the area is Majestic Elegance Costa Mujeres.
  3. Located further along, closest to the end of the peninsula is Punta Blanca Beach House for those looking for a beachfront hotel that isn’t all inclusive.

6. Cancun (Hotel Zona) – The Manmade Island

Cancun’s hotel zone is a manmade narrow strip surrounded by water on the eastern coast of the city.

This is the most popular area to visit in Quintana Roo state full of all inclusive resorts, restaurants and excellent shopping.

Developed in the 1970s, this island is connected to the mainland with a road and has all the tourist hotspots you could ask for.

You will have your choice of beachfront luxury when staying here while still being close to the city and the international airport.

Most people use this as their primary residence while on vacation making the average visit between 7-14 days.

This is why we would rather pick Cozumel over Cancun, there is more peace and quiet!

What To Do When Visiting Cancun’s Hotel Zone

The beauty of staying in Cancun’s hotel zone is the proximity to the rest of Mexico.

  1. If you’re interested in Mexican culture, I highly recommend a visit to some Mayan Ruins on this all inclusive Chichen Itza tour where you will also visit cenotes.
  2. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, this ATV, zipline, and cenote tour can be really fun.
  3. If you are looking to relax and float in the water, this snorkel tour takes you to some of the best spots in the area to explore coral reefs.
  4. This Tulum tour includes Mayan Ruins, cenotes, and reef snorkeling.
  5. If you’re visiting in whale sharks season between May and September, you can take this snorkel tour.
  6. As one of the best islands near Playa del Carmen, this is a great place to visit some adventure parks such as Xcaret, Xplor, or Xenses.
Cancun - Islands Riviera Maya

How To Get To Cancun’s Hotel Zone

If you are coming from Cancun International Airport, getting to the hotel zone involves a 25 minute drive.

Most hotels come with airport transfer, or you have the option of renting a car, taking a taxi which will cost around $33 USD ($600 MXN) or taking a bus which will cost around $4.75 USD ($86 MXN). 

If you are traveling to the Hotel Zone from Playa Del Carmen, the drive will take just over an hour. A taxi will cost you around $50 USD ($900 MXN).

For the cheapest (and longest) route, you can take a Colectivo (mini shuttle).

Keep in mind that you will need to walk to the highway to flag these down and they will not drop you off at your specific hotel.

Where To Stay In The Hotel Zone Of Cancun

  1. If luxury is your priority, either the Hyatt Ziva Cancun or the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach are some of the best all-inclusive resorts in the area.
  2. The Grand Oasis Palm and Oleo are other great beachfront all-inclusive resorts that are more budget-friendly.
  3. If you’re not set on an all-inclusive, the Krystal Cancun is a great hotel that is a bit cheaper

Are You Ready Visit An Island Near Playa Del Carmen?

There are a lot of great islands to visit when staying in the Quintana Roo state of Mexico.

Where you choose should depend on what you’d like to do with your time.

Whether you are looking to go scuba diving, visit a national park, explore Mayan Ruins, or laze sea side with a margarita in hand, there is an island in the area you can do it.

Is it better to stay in Tulum or Playa del Carmen? I would say Playa as it is more central and will cut down your travel time to the different surrounding islands.

Island hopping is one of my favorite parts of a trip to Quintana Roo and I highly recommend all travelers try it.

There are so many great islands near Playa del Carmen, it is hard to pick a favorite.

If you have the time, I highly recommend doing an island hopping tour so that you can see as many of these beautiful islands as possible.

Travel Planning Guide:

Islands Near Playa Del Carmen to visit

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Hi! We’re Rob and Taiss. We set off to live a life in as many places as possible. To actually live in locations around the world long enough to get to know the locals, the culture, and the food, not just a taste of it.
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