Contoy Island National Park is located off the coast of Quintana Roo State about 32 kilometers north of Isla Mujeres, where the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea meet. The National Park can only be reached by sea using boats with special permits that leave from Isla Mujeres, Puerto Juarez and Cancun. The sailing time is between one to two hours.
The Park covers an area of approximately 51 square kilometers of which only 2.3 square kilometers is solid ground. The Island itself covers 8.75 kilometers in length and its width varies from 20 to 725 meters. The terrain is almost flat, with the only contrast being some low coastal dunes, whose approximate height is 12 meters above sea level.
There are two theories to the origin of the name Contoy: one refers to the word “Contoy” a combination of two Mayan terms “Kom” meaning depression in the earth and “To Oy” meaning shelter. Throughout time the Island has provided shelter to seafarers. The second theory being “Contoy” is adapted from the word “Ponto” meaning Pelican in Mayan.
Contoy Island is the oldest protected Nature Reserve in Quintana Roo. In January 1961 Isla Contoy was given the status of Nature Reserve and Wildlife Refuge, and then in 1986 it was also granted Marine Turtle Protection Area. National Park status was awarded in February 1998 increasing the Mandate to include a sea area around the Island of 51.28 square kilometers.
When visiting Contoy Island National Park, it is one of the few places in Quintana Roo that is still practically unspoiled; it is asked that a code of conduct is observed. These are simple, but important rules:
A) Do not remove, touch or pick up any animals, plants or life form.
B) Observe birds from a distance to avoid disturbing them.
C) Please only eat food and drink in designated areas and please, please place your litter in the bins which are provided.
Sorry to go on but in the Ocean Area please comply with the following further requests: –
D) Do not catch fish, disturb or remove any life form.
E) When snorkeling or diving do not touch any coral and avoid disturbing the sea beds.
F) Please stay in designated swimming areas at all times – this is important!
G) Please do not use sun lotion or oil.
H) And lastly please do not throw any solid or liquid waste into the waters, thank you.
Visitors to the Enhancing Island of Isla Mujeres should wonder down to the Jetty area where they will find Contoy Island Place – a fisherman’s co-operative who have a permit to take you to the beautiful National Park of Contoy Island.