Just a few years ago, the mangroves to the south of Chuburna on Yucatán’s northern coast, though beautiful, were ignored mainly by locals and tourists alike.
But all that began to change when a small group of fishermen saw the area’s potential as a tourist destination.
Unlike most mangroves in Yucatán, the water in the area now known as Isla Columpios is crystal clear and dotted with several small islands and sandbanks perfect for exploring via motor boat or kayak.
“We have fished all our life and will continue to do so, but tourism is a great business as well, and besides, this place is like a little piece of heaven on earth,” said Jorge Cab, who helped get the Isla Columpios project off the ground.
Best of all, this new tourist attraction is under an hour from Mérida, along the highway running through stunning Sierra Papacal.
When arriving, the fishermen-turned-tour guides are clear with visitors that although Isla Columpios welcomes everyone, littering and damaging mangroves will not be tolerated.
“We have found in Isla Columpios a great opportunity, but we also have an obligation to safeguard and avoid spoiling it for future generations,” said Arcadio Naal, who is from nearby Chuburna Puerto.
But on busy days, especially during weekends and holidays, the swarms of visitors to Isla Columpios do feel a little excessive, which is why visiting this natural wonder is best during the week.
Once inside the visitor’s parking lot, visitors are offered tours for 250 pesos per person or 700 pesos per boat.
There are also several information kiosks offering cold drinks and the coconut-flavored treats Yucatán’s coast is known for.
Just north of Isla Columpios is the Port of Chuburna, whose extensive beaches are among Yucatecos’ favorites.
The small town of Chuburna is also a great place to get a more substantial bit to eat in case coconut treats prove not to be enough.
Though both Chuburna and Isla Columpios are also accessible via a road that connects them with Progreso, the route through Sierra Papacal is usually far less busy and much more interesting. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine