Driving down a narrow sand road, the turquoise Caribbean on one side, the glimmering Laguna Chacmuchuch on the other, you feel like you’re a thousand miles from Cancún. But Isla Blanca sits just 20km north of the city – a sublime, pencil thin, virtually untouched peninsula, a hidden corner of Cancún.
There’s no traffic, no high-rise hotels, no glittery nightclubs. Instead, you’ll find a ribbon of white sand along the peninsula’s oceanside, empty except for a handful of rustic beach clubs and the occasional beachcomber; and a lagoon on the other side, known for its steady wind and shallow waters that brings fly fishermen on grand slam missions and kiteboarders flipping and flying like giant butterflies.
Meaning of Isla Blanca
Though Isla Blanca means ‘White Island,’ it’s actually a long peninsula, attached to the mainland by a thin strip of land. Often during tropical storms or hurricanes, the sea crosses over its narrowest section, creating a momentary island – the reason behind the ‘island’ name. ‘White’ is a reference to the color of its sand.
Isla Blanca beaches
Isla Blanca has over 20km of Caribbean beaches. Most are nameless and gloriously wild but can be tough to access due to long stretches of barbed wire fencing. While the beach itself is public by law, the land between the road and the beach is mostly private and has few access points. A handful of beachfront parking lots (M$30-50) offer access to the windswept beaches; keep your eye out for openings here and there between fenced-off plots too. Otherwise, continue north until you reach a fence blocking the road, about 3.5 km from the start of the sand road. Here, Cielito Lindo restaurant charges M$50-100 per vehicle or group (depending on the toll-taker’s mood) to cross its property to continue north along the road, which opens onto beaches on both the ocean and lagoon sides. The toll also allows you to park on the restaurant’s property, which fronts a beach confusingly called Isla Blanca.
Isla Blanca also has a handful of simple beach clubs with random assortments of beach chairs and umbrellas plus menus consisting of cold beer and freshly caught fish. (There are bathrooms too - though many are just porta potties.) Look for hand painted signs along the road, directing you to the beach clubs. The best of the bunch is Cabañas Playa Blanca (fka Pirata Morgan), with a well-maintained beach, palapa shade and even electricity after sunset.
Kiteboarding conditions don’t get much better than Laguna Chacmuchuch, the vast saltwater lagoon along the western shores of Isla Blanca. Its waters are flat and shallow, just knee-to-waist-deep; there’s very little boat traffic and few natural obstacles; and it has strong, consistent winds from November to June. Combined, these conditions make the lagoon a world class kiteboarding spot, a safe place for beginners to learn the sport, and for freestylers to practice tricks without worrying about crowds.
Several kiteboard shops use the lagoon, some coming from as far away as Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Ikarus, one of the region’s most reputable kiteboarding operations, has a lagoon-side base camp here plus two launching sites. It offers lessons and rentals and also has a restaurant and a few simple hotel rooms for extended kiteboarding vacays.
Spanning over 150 square kilometers, with seemingly endless islands, flats and mangrove channels, Laguna Chacmuchuch is home to a rich variety of fish species year round – truly, an angler’s dream. In fact, the fishing grounds are so abundant, the chances of getting a grand slam in a single day – hooking a Permit, Tarpon, Snook and Bonefish – are excellent, especially from May to September.
From Cancún, fishing trips run around US$400 per day for two people, including guide, equipment, food and drinks. Transportation to and from your hotel is typically included too. Several Cancún-based tour operators offer fishing trips in Isla Blanca; Fly Fish Isla Blanca is a good option with reliable boats, local captains and top notch service.
Entrance fees and practicalities
- Isla Blanca is free. Entrance fees are charged by beach clubs, usually around M$50 per person.
- If you want to travel the entire length of the sand road, you’ll have to pay M$50-100 per vehicle or group to cross through Cielito Lindo restaurant’s beach lot.
- Sundays are especially busy with locals though they tend to hunker down at beach clubs and restaurants; the rest of the week, Isla Blanca is virtually empty.
- Cell phone service is intermittent – plan ahead, if you need a ride back to town.
- Bring cash; credit cards aren’t accepted anywhere on Isla Blanca.
Tips for drivers
- There are no gas stations on Isla Blanca; be sure to fill your tank before heading down the sand road.
- Stay on the hard-packed sand road to avoid getting stuck; getting a tow truck to Isla Blanca is difficult and expensive.
- Stick to the speed limit (60km) – not only is it safer, police do occasionally patrol the road for unsuspecting speeders.
Isla Blanca is a long thin peninsula located 20km north of downtown Cancún. A 9km-long sand road runs through it, petering out about 6km from the peninsula’s northern tip.
The easiest way to access Isla Blanca is to drive yourself. From Cancún, head north on Avenida Bonampak, a paved road that passes a string of beachfront resorts before becoming Isla Blanca’s sand road.
Taxis make the one-way trip for around M$300 from downtown Cancún, and M$800 from the Zona Hotelera. Be sure to agree on a price before getting in and make arrangements with the driver to be picked up (just don’t pay your return trip fare in advance!).
Alternatively, colectivos (shuttle vans) make three daily trips (M$25) to Isla Blanca from downtown Cancún, stopping along the sand road until reaching Cielito Lindo restaurant. The red and white minivans leave at 7am, 11am and 4pm from Farmacia Canto near Parque El Crucero (Av. López Portillo at Calle 7) – look for the ‘Isla Blanca’ sign on the front. Colectivos make the return trip at 7:30am, 11:30am and 4:30pm. If the last colectivo is full (or you miss it), you’ll have to hoof it back to the paved section of Avenida Bonampak, where the resorts begin and taxis stands can be found.