Isla Blanca – Before it’s too late

To get the chill of New-England-in-July out of my bones I headed up north to Isla Blanca within 18 hours of landing in Cancun last week. Isla Blanca is not actually an island but more of a skinny little mini-cape that curls around Laguna Chakmochuk, north of Punta Sam.

At some places in Isla Blanca there’s not much more than a hundred yards between the ocean and the lagoon. The lagoon is very shallow, and when you muck around in it the water is always really, really warm. The ocean-side has miles of white sandy beach with a bit of turtle grass seaweed thrown up on it by the waves. The water is that perfect Caribbean turquoise color.

Isla Blanca: Looking west at Laguna Chakmochuk
Looking west from the beach at Isla Blanca, you can see Laguna Chakmochuk is just a few hundred yards away

We first fell in love with Isla Blanca 4 years ago, when we moved to Cancun. Back then the road was mostly unimproved, and there were just a few shacks and palapas up there. And I remember remarking the first time I was there that Mexico should preserve Isla Blanca as a National Park.

Our first time up there we saw all manner of water birds, I remember seeing several herons, and many, many pelicans, and the usual million frigate birds, and lots of other birds I can’t identify.

Isla Blanca: Looking north
Looking north from the beach at Isla Blanca

But of course, why would they make a National Park out of it when they can sell it to developers instead? Silly me. Since I first laid eyes on Isla Blanca there’s been all kinds of development between Punta Sam and where the road ends at Isla Blanca. I’m not up to date on all of what’s happening there, but I know that an artificial lake was built up there, I saw them lining it with a massive square-mile rubber membrane. And I know they’ve built a golf course. And there’s at least one hotel going in up there, though I suspect it’s actually more than one. I should know more, but I’ve been so disgusted that Isla Blanca is not being preserved that I have deliberately tuned out news of it’s development.

I know, I suck, head in the sand and all that, clinging to my ignorance deliberately. But money rules here, and I just find it depressing the way Mexico allows it’s most beautiful places to get taken over by hotels. Once the hotels come in the herons will move out, and the Mexicans will be pushed aside and the only people who will enjoy the beauty of (what’s left of) Isla Blanca will be the tourists. And that’s not good enough for me, in fact it makes me sick.

Isla Blanca: Looking north
Looking south from the beach at Isla Blanca

But, for now, there are still places in Isla Blanca where you, me, anybody, can go and enjoy a pristine powder sand beach and a seemingly endless view unbroken by hulking ugly hotels.

To get to Isla Blanca we took Bonampak Avenue north out of Cancun. And when, close to Punta Sam, we came to a big manicured glorieta (traffic circle) where there was a gate, we went 3/4 of the way around the circle and got on a road that runs just west of the gate. We took that road until we reached another traffic circle and this time made our way off the paved road onto a dirt road running next to a shack.

Sam the sandy man at Isla Blanca
Sam the sandy man enjoying the beach at Isla Blanca

Once on this dirt road you simply follow the road until the very end. At the end of the road is a ramshackle “restaurant”, not that I would trust my stomach or health to that place, but people do eat there. We parked just south of the restaurant and then huffed it with all our stuff (cooler, beach chairs, umbrella, spy novels, dog) north up the beach another half a kilometer.

And that’s where we took the pictures I’ve posted here. There’s a bit of seaweed there. And sometimes there’s some garbage, but not much by un-hotel-groomed Mexican beach standards.

I don’t know how long Isla Blanca will remain open and accessible. Maybe some part of it will always be open to Mexican non-tourists. I hope so. But I won’t bet on it.

Google Earth image of Isla Blanca
Google Earth image of Isla Blanca, the marker is just about where we took the photos

Before Hurricane Wilma hit the road to Isla Blanca went further north. Wilma appears to have destroyed the last half a mile of it or so. Better I say, for it’s lack helps preserve the beautiful wild place that still is Isla Blanca.

I warn you though, people HAVE discovered Isla Blanca. Our pictures were taken on Sunday, and you don’t see people in them only because we walked north, away from all the people. Down by the restaurant, where we parked, there were several hundred people enjoying the beach. I highly recommend visiting Isla Blanca during the week if you can. If you come mid-week you will see almost no one. Regardless, when you do come be sure to walk north, the farther north you go the more pristine Isla Blanca is.

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14 Responses to “Isla Blanca – Before it’s too late”

  1. workinggringa
    July 23rd, 2007 19:20

    thanks for that tip! its especially nice to know that there is somewhere to go with the dogs. my dogs love the beach, and they are becoming less and less welcome along the mayan riviera, much to our collective dismay.

    anyway, we’ll try to go enjoy this special place a few times before it too becomes off limits…

  2. RiverGirl
    July 24th, 2007 10:56

    Another spot where you can easily bring your doggies to the beach is in Puerto Morelos. We like to go down there and drive about 6 blocks north of the town square. Then we head to the beach and usually find that no one is bothered by our dog.

  3. RiverGirl: A Gringa Writes About Life in Cancun, Mexico
    January 1st, 2008 12:00

    […] beach to go to. Husband wants to go somewhere that the dog can run on the beach, so we may go up to Isla Blanca. But first I need a […]

  4. cancunmemo
    April 22nd, 2008 11:20

    Hi, nice review of isla blanca, Im the owner of the little rustic restaurant in the islablanca beach, I invite you to try our food.

  5. Isla Blanca - My Favorite Beach | RiverGirl
    July 21st, 2008 16:49

    […] year ago I wrote a post about Isla Blanca. Below are some new photos of the area. My favorite beach around here is in Isla Blanca, it’s […]

  6. bob
    November 19th, 2008 12:48

    I have been to Isla Mujeres too many times to count. We used to see it as a quiet getaway (15 years ago) but Isal Blanca seems more like our speed. ANy thoughts on a plcae to stay that will be quiet and not crowded.

  7. RiverGirl
    November 19th, 2008 12:51

    Hey Bob – A friend of mine has a vacation rental up there, see it here:

    I’ve seen it and it’s very nice and the beach in front of it is huge and quiet and lovely.

  8. Yvonne Weidmann
    March 18th, 2009 11:12

    Hi, We are trying to find out if there are any places to stay in Isla Blanca. Not all inclusive or high rise types but a house to rent or a room in a house, cabanas, that type of set up. Would appreciate any info you might have. We like totally off the beaten path places. Thanks, Yvonne from Colorado

  9. RiverGirl
    March 18th, 2009 11:21

    Yvonne – Pirata Morgan has really rustic (read dirty) cabins that you can rent. I don’t know of a way to reserve them, I think you have to show up.

    My friends run this site: http://www.islablanca.com/ And they rent out part of their (very nice) house as a vacation rental. If it were me I’d stay with them as it’s nicer than Pirata Morgan and is on the same stretch of (lovely) beach.

    Enjoy and let me know what you end up doing.


  10. Yvonne Weidmann
    April 5th, 2009 10:10

    Thanks for the response. We found a kiteboarding place that you can rent rooms in a house, however, the guy isn’t normally there in June because there is not much wind. We had seen the house of your friends but were not looking to rent such a big place, we just wanted to check out isla blanca for a couple of days. Are there some places in Punta Sam that aren’t the big all inclusives, that you might recommend? Thanks

  11. RiverGirl
    April 5th, 2009 13:42

    Yvonne – Punta Sam is practically Cancun, you might was well stay in a hotel in downtown Cancun. I recommend the Xbalamque Hotel on Yaxchilan but there are many decent ones there. Isla Blanca is only 20 minutes north of Cancun, so if you have a car you can go up there as much as you like.

  12. Yvonne Weidmann
    April 10th, 2009 09:16

    Have you ever checked out Hacienda Punta Sam? It’s at Punta Sam and we thought not too far from Isla Blanca. It is on the water which we like. We are coming from Isla Holbox and want to explore Isla Blanca. We have spent much time south of Cancun in the Tulum area, which we love but are checking out new places for when we eventually drive down for several months if things lighten up along the borders. Thanks for the info. Yvonne

  13. RiverGirl
    April 10th, 2009 09:31

    I do not know Hacienda Punta Sam. Punta Sam is not one of the nicer places around, it’s sort of run-down and the water is dark and cloudy there. Something about the currents brings lots of seaweed and pollution to that area of beach. Once you get north to Isla Blance the water is clean and gorgeous again.

    Isla Blance just isn’t very big and isn’t very far away from Cancun, that’s why I keep encouraging you to just stay in Cancun. If you want a decent hotel on the north side of Cancun I’ve been to the Radisson and know that it’s decent.

    This is a case of you don’t know until you’ve been to a place. But personally I wouldn’t stay in Punta Sam.

  14. Yvonne Weidmann
    March 29th, 2010 11:21

    Hi, I contacted you last year but we didn’t have time to make it to Isla Blanca so we were going to try to get there this year. Is it true that you can camp on the beach? We have been toying with that idea for one or two nights before heading south towards Tulum. We went to Isla Holbox last year and swam with the Whale Sharks and that was tons of fun. Do you know if Pirata Morgan has showers/restrooms? It would be nice to get a shower if we camp. Just trying to find out a little more info. before deciding what we will do. Thanks, Yvonne

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