Quintana Roo, Cancún
This picture-postcard beach has a misleading name. Isla Blanca means 'White Island' but it is a peninsula, not an island. It is the white sand of the Caribbean shore that gives it its name.
The beach is located between the sea (left photo below) and the Chacmuchuch lagoon (right photo below). At some places there’s not much more than a hundred yards between the ocean and the lagoon, full of pools of water. At the north point, the lagoon and the sea meet. At low tide the strand of sand is revealed as the waters recede into the extremely shallow Chacmuchuch Lagoon.
Isla Blanca itself is at the tip of this slender 20km neck of sand and on the map, it looks like a hungry Chinese dragon trying to gobble up Isla Contoy to the north. Just getting there is an adventure.
The lagoon is a fly-fishing paradise for tarpon, bonefish and permit. It is also a kitesurfing spot as the water is waist deep and there is a nice ocean breeze here. They hold the Isla Blanca Kite Festival here for the same reason. When we came here with my husband Rhod and our son Rhodri and his friend Diego on a Sunday, the beach had a little crowd. For added romance, there were some locals on horses on the lagoon side.
The joint point is beautiful; this area should be a National Park, in my view. The ocean side has miles of white sandy beaches (at times with seaweed as the beach does not get cleaned here because there are no hotels). The low jungle landscape on the lagoon side is comprised mostly of very green leafy plants and some coconut palms. The vast area of sand and grass flats is filled with mangrove. The ocean water is a perfect turquoise colour (while the lagoon is blue). I can still smell the salt and the fresh air of the ocean when I write about this beach. The open end of the peninsula makes it feel rather fresh. You can walk barefoot in the cool sand as the white coral sand of the Caribbean does not get hot. The blue sky feels endless and the herons' cries fill the scene with freedom. I don't often feel like using poetic licence to describe a beach but that is how I truly felt here.
The tourists don't come here. We were able to see Cancún from the beach, just a silhouette in the distance, but to drive from Punta Sam to the beach takes an hour. The locals from Cancún usually go to Playa Tortuga or Playa Langosta but some have discovered Isla Blanca by now. If you come at the weekend, the beach is so long that it's worth walking a bit as you'll be sure to find a quiet spot. We also noticed people walking their dogs here (dogs are not allowed on most beaches along Riviera Maya).
I must add, however, that on the way to the beach we saw some development going on (new luxury condos). Go there before the area gets developed and full of crowds. At the moment, it is still a hidden gem.
You will need to bring your own chair or a towel as there are no services or restaurants here. We brought an umbrella as well and my husband spent the day reading under its shade (when he was not watching the herons) while our son and his friend played beach tennis. This beach just invites you to do something physical (you might not think of that on a small crowded beach). We brought our own picnic and I strongly recommend that as well. We did not find the bathrooms; you will need to bear that in mind. Just hide among the mangroves!
How to get there:
You will need a car. Isla Blanca is located around 30km north of Cancún City Centre. Drive north out of Cancún toward Punta Sam. Take Avenida Bonampak for the most direct route or you can take the López Portillo road which will meet up with Avenida Bonampak. The road is paved and has four lanes. (That's just to start with; you'll soon be on a dirt track!)
On your way up to the beach you will notice a lot of development taking place. Close to Punta Sam (car ferry to Isla Mujeres), you will come to a roundabout (you will see a gate there that leads to some residency), then go 3/4 of the way around the circle and turn on the road that runs just west of the gate. Then another roundabout will lead you to a dirt road with holes. Follow this out for another 10 minutes. On your way you will see Pirata Morgan restaurant. The place is nothing special but that's all there is up there. I guess it's named after Captain Henry Morgan, the Welsh privateer who terrorised the Caribbean in the 17th century and was born less than ten miles from where my husband grew up. Small world! You'll know his face from the rum label (Captain Morgan's; not my husband's). If you keep going on the road past Pirata Morgan you'll see the peninsula narrow to just the width of the road. Once you arrive, you will be charged a parking fee (we paid 30 pesos).