Ixtapa Island: Everything You Need to Know About Isla Ixtapa

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.

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, when I visited Isla Ixtapa, I saw rabbits hopping around in the sand 😍 And there are a few trails to walk around for beautiful ocean views and a touch of nature. 

In this guide to Ixtapa island, I detail everything you need to know including how to get to Ixtapa Island 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

How to Get to Isla Ixtapa

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

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

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 boats 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

Ixtapa Island Tours

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

After snorkeling with your guide, 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.

This tour is only offered Monday – Friday, which is perfect because that’s the best time to visit to avoid crowded beaches.

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.

Best Time to Go to Isla Ixtapa

The best time to visit Ixtapa Island is during the week. Ixtapa Zihuatanejo is a popular destination that becomes even busier on the weekends and holidays so you’ll want to avoid the busiest time if possible.

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 to Isla Ixtapa. However, I recommend arriving first so that you can decide which beach you prefer.

I chose Paraiso Escondido on Playa Varadero because the location tucked into the cove and away from the dock and boat traffic is my idea of paradise.

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.

Note – I was 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, specifically Playa Coral.

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.

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.

If you’re unsure about snorkeling on your own, you should book this tour to Isla Ixtapa which includes guided snorkeling and transportation in an air-conditioned vehicle.

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.

Questions About Visiting Ixtapa Island

Where is Ixtapa Island?

Ixtapa Island (Isla Ixtapa) 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.