Isla Ixtapa: Your Ultimate Ixtapa Island Guide (2024)

Isla Ixtapa is a small island paradise off the coast of Ixtapa Zihuatanejo, México. There are no cars, nor hotels. Just some of the most beautiful beaches in the area.

Ixtapa Island beaches feature calm waves of turquoise water, mountain views, and the best snorkeling in the area. Each beach has a handful of restaurants with loungers under the shade of a palapa. 

The restaurants on Ixtapa Island serve fresh fish, ceviche, coconut shrimp, and of course cold beer and cocktails. Did I say paradise?

Inhabitants of the island include deer and rabbits. Yes, you’ll likely see rabbits in the sand 😍 And there are a few trails to walk around for beautiful ocean views and a touch of nature. 

This guide to Ixtapa island details everything you need to know including how to get there and which beach to visit. I’ve also included some Ixtapa Island tours you should book if you prefer to have everything taken care of for you.

On Ixtapa Island Mexico, an overview of a cove beach where the ocean water fades from dark blue to turquoise. Several people stand on the beach in front of the restaurants while others snorkel. On the left is a platform with a table and palapa for shade.

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Ixtapa Island Beaches

Waves gently roll to shore in this overall shot of Playa Varadero in Isla Ixtapa. Several people walk along the beach in front of the restaurants as two kids sit in the shallow waves. The water is a vibrant turquoise with verdant green trees on the hill behind.

Spoiler alert – I found Ixtapa Island to have some of the best beaches in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo.

There are three beaches on Isla Ixtapa – Playa Varadero, Playa Cuachalalate, and Playa Coral. 

The first two are the most calm due to their location on the backside of the island. They are also where the boats ferry visitors. 

While Playa Varadero is the main dock to load and unload people, the boat I was on dropped a few people off at Playa Cuachalalate first.

In this overhead shot of Coral Beach, Ixtapa Island shades of dark blue water turn to turquoise in the cove which is lined with thick green trees on one end. In the shallow waters there are several people snorkeling in front of the restaurants on the beach.

Playa Coral is also relatively calm, although it can experience bigger waves due to its position. Its rocky beach and coral reef makes it one of the best places to go snorkeling in Ixtapa.

So which one should you visit? I chose to lounge at Playa Varadero and walk over to Playa Coral when I wanted to snorkel. 

The main reason was the sun. Playa Coral faces towards the east, getting hit with the morning sun. The beach restaurants have loungers shaded under the palapas but the sun was blinding.

Pro Tip – Many of the restaurants on Varadero beach have tables on Playa Coral as well. You can get from one beach to the other by walking through the restaurant.

How to Get to Isla Ixtapa

Water taxis take visitors to the island every day from the pier at Playa Linda. To get to Isla Ixtapa, you will first need to take a taxi or combi to Playa Linda.

Then walk to the end of the pier located to the left of the beach. There you can buy a ticket for the boats that take visitors on a 10 minute ride to the island.

The boat leave about every 10 minutes, or when full. Keep in mind, the last boat to return leaves Ixtapa Island at 5 pm.

Ixtapa Island Water Taxi
📍 Playa Linda Pier
⌚ Everyday 8:30 am – 5 pm
💵 80 pesos round trip

A view from the lounge chair under a palapa overlooking the beach on Ixtapa Island. A small boat is anchored in the cove with a green cliff in the background.

Ixtapa Island Tours

For those that prefer to have everything taken care of for them, you can book this tour to Ixtapa Island which includes lunch and transportation from your hotel in an air-conditioned vehicle.

You’ll have free time on the island which you can spend lounging, swimming, or snorkeling. Then you’ll take the boat back to the mainland to take a short guided walk around the crocodile lagoon.

If you’re really focused on snorkeling in Ixtapa, I recommend you book this private tour which includes snorkel gear for the duration of the tour. After snorkeling with your guide, you’ll be able to use it again on your own. It also includes transportation.

Palm trees line the walkway to the pier to get to Ixtapa Island, Mexico. Blue ocean water can be seen in behind the trees.

Best Time to Go to Isla Ixtapa

It’s best to visit Ixtapa Island during the week. Ixtapa Zihuatanejo is a popular destination that becomes even busier on the weekends and holidays.

As far as the best time of day to visit, I recommend arriving in the morning. This will allow you to enjoy the beach with less people and before the sun becomes intense.

It will also give you the option to spend as long as you’d like on the island before the 5 pm deadline to return by boat. I enjoyed my day here so much that I stayed much longer than I expected.

Looking for more to do in the area? Check out my guide about what to do in Zihuatanejo Mexico.

Isla Ixtapa Restaurants

A shallow waves comes on shore in front of one of the Ixtapa Island restaurants whose surfboard shaped sign says Paraiso Escondido (Hidden Paradise). Along the beach are several lounge chairs shaded under the palapas.

All three beaches on Isla Ixtapa are lined with restaurants that will allow you to use their loungers and tables in the shade if you purchase food and drinks.

You’ll be solicited to patronize a restaurant before you even board the boat. However, I recommend arriving at the island first so that you can decide which beach you prefer.

I chose Paraiso Escondido on Playa Varadero because well, I like the sound of hidden paradise. And because I liked the location tucked into the cove, away from the dock and boat traffic.

Six pan fried coconut shrimp lined up on a plate, one of the most popular foods to eat on Ixtapa Island. Also on the plate are small portions of rice, salad, and tortilla chips as well as a shot glass of coconut cream. The sandy beach is seen in the background.

It was a good choice too! I ate some of the best coconut shrimp I’ve ever had. The butterflied shrimp were bathed in coconut cream before being breaded in shredded coconut and fried.

Note – I was also surprised that the prices for many of the seafood dishes were less than what I found at the restaurants in Ixtapa

Snorkeling Ixtapa Island

Some of the best snorkeling in Ixtapa can be done from the beaches on the island. Playa Coral is the most popular beach to snorkel.

Although if you’re less confident or have young kids, you may want to start at Playa Cuachalalate (named for a medicinal tree, btw). I found it slightly difficult to get back to shore at Playa Coral due to the shallow reef and waves.

In this view from the ocean, a group of people are snorkeling on Ixtapa Island. Past the top of the cresting water, only their life jackets and snorkels are in view.

You may also feel most comfortable when you book this private excursion to Isla Ixtapa that includes guided snorkeling and transportation in an air-conditioned vehicle.

You’ll be able to keep your snorkel gear for the duration of your time on the island so that you can jump back in to admire the underwater world again when you want.

One of the resident rabbits on Ixtapa Island sits in the sand next to my table. The grey rabbit is full size with large ears.

Final Thoughts About Isla Ixtapa

Isla Ixtapa feels like a paradise island far away in the Pacific Ocean. But the beautiful reality is that it’s so close to Ixtapa that taking a day trip to Ixtapa Island is a must do if you’re visiting the area.

Just be aware, it might spoil you for the other beaches in the area.

Where is Ixtapa Island?

Ixtapa Island (Isla Ixtapa), also known as Isla Grande, is located off the coast of Ixtapa Zihuatanejo in the Pacific Ocean. It is easily accessible by boat from the mainland via the dock at Playa Linda.

What is Ixtapa known for?

Ixtapa is known for its pristine beaches along the backdrop of the Sierra Madre mountains. This resort destination has gained popularity for offering a perfect blend of natural beauty and modern amenities, including two golf courses.

Is the snorkeling good in Ixtapa?

Yes, there is good snorkeling in Ixtapa, especially from Playa Coral on Isla Ixtapa. Snorkelers can explore coral formations and encounter various tropical fish species.

Is it safe to swim in the ocean in Ixtapa?

Yes, it is generally safe to swim in the ocean in Ixtapa. At some beaches, you do need to be aware of the potential for an undertow. However, the waters are calm, especially on the cove beaches of Isla Ixtapa.

Is the water clear in Ixtapa?

Yes, the water in Ixtapa is generally clear. However, if you’re looking for turquoise water, you’ll want to visit the Isla Ixtapa beaches.