The Diverse Islands of Mexico

January 29th, 2019

A country with as much coastline as Mexico is bound to have a few islands. In fact, there are close to 100 islands that belong to Mexico. Some are remotely situated in the Pacific Ocean, while others rest on the continental shelf in the Gulf of California and the Gulf of Mexico.

There are even a few noteworthy inner islands, like the island of Xaltocan in ancient Lake Texcoco. The lake is dry now, but Xaltocan was the site of an Aztec city of the same name. What's there now? Oh, just the country's capital, Mexico City!

One of the smaller Mexican islands in the Pacific Ocean is San Benedicto Island. It has a land area of just under 4 sq mi. But San Benedicto is huge compared to Roca Partida. Measuring just 300 ft long and 26 ft wide, Roca Partida is basically just a giant rock sticking out of the ocean!

Ancient history and size extremes aside, it's time to focus on a small selection of Mexican islands that reflect the county's geographical diversity and natural beauty. This article provides a brief overview of five very different Mexican islands, starting with a popular vacation destination, Cozumel.


The cruise ship port in Cozumel.

At 29 miles long and 9 miles wide, Cozumel is the largest inhabited island that belongs to Mexico. Warm weather and crystal-clear water make this island one of the best scuba-diving destinations in the world, as it gives enthusiasts the chance to explore dazzling coral reefs that are teeming with marine life.

There are numerous large resorts on Cozumel. In fact, the island's economy has been based almost entirely on tourism for almost 50 years. The pleasant tropical climate, sandy beaches, and a take-it-easy, island attitude draw hordes of visitors each year.

Guadalupe Island


Guadalupe Island is one of the most remote islands of Mexico. It's a volcanic island sitting 150 mi away from Mexico's Baja California Peninsula. Only a little over 200 people live there.

Guadalupe is a chain of mountain ridges that reach an elevation of 4,259 ft. Most of the coastline is made up of rocky bluffs. While much of the island is barren, there are lush valleys on the northern end.

If you're into sharks, Guadalupe is a great place to see one. The waters around the island are swarming with great white sharks! That's because there's also a massive seal population, and nothing attracts sharks like a tasty seal.

Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is an island located in the Gulf of Mexico. It's only about 8 mi from the Yucatán Peninsula coast. Isla Mujeres is not a large island, measuring just 4.3 mi long and 2,130 ft wide, but just over 12 thousand people call it home.

Like Cozumel, Isla Mujeres has attracted a lot of tourism, starting in the 1970s. Low cost hotels, world-class cuisine, and a vibrant night-life make it popular with visitors from all over the globe. Tourists can enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving in warm waters around colorful coral reefs, and there's even a place where they can swim with dolphins.

Islas Marías

In the Pacific Ocean, about 230 miles southeast of the Baja California, sits the Islas Marías. The name translates to the "Mary Islands." This group included nine islands; the four major ones are María Madre, María Magdalena, María Cleofas, and San Juanito.

The Islas Marías have a population of just over 1000 people. Some of the residents are long-term guests of Islas Marías Federal Prison.

Establishment in 1905 by the Federal Government of Mexico, the prison was one of the most modern of its time and was long considered to be escape proof. That's no longer the consensus—there have been about 76 escapes in the last 25 years!

Isla Holbox

Isla Holbox

Holbox wins the prize for Coolest Name—it translates to "black hole" in Yucatec Maya. The island is located only about 6 mi from the north coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. Holbox measures about 26 mi long and is less than a mile wide. The short space between the island and the mainland is a shallow lagoon that's frequented by flamingos, pelicans, and other birds.

Unlike some of our other subjects, Holbox does not get a lot of tourist activity. It's a small fishing community of just over one thousand residence, with lobster being one of its main products.

When outsiders do visit the island, they're often looking for a whale shark. Holbox is one of the few places in the world that you can swim with whale sharks.