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Mexican Prison Island Seeks To Become Tourist Hotspot

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A former prison island – often referred to as ‘Mexico’s Alcatraz’ –  is set to be transformed into a tourist attraction in the coming months.

The island – which goes by the name of Islas Marías – is a small archipelago, and has been home to the Islas Marías Federal Penal Colony since the early 1900s.

Mexican Prison Island

The four-island archipelago – which can be reached in four hours by boat from Mexico’s Pacific coast – has even been listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.

A Brief History Of The Islas Marías Federal Penal Colony

The prison was built in 1905 – when the former Mexican President, Porfirio Díaz, was in charge – and went on to house some of the most notorious criminals to have committed crimes in the country of Mexico.

Mexico flag at prison

It has even seen some famous faces behind its bars with the likes of the famous Russian violinist, Elias Breeskin, and novelist writer, José Revueltas both having served time there.

Here are a few more facts about the prison and its history:

  • It is believed that as many as 29,000 prisoners were locked up during its operation
Prison cell with bars
  • The prison was temporarily deactivated by former President, Ernesto Zedillo, but again reactivated in 2004 
  • It was declared a biosphere reserve.

However, on 18 February 2019, the nation’s current President – Andrés Manuel López Obrador – put his signature on a declaration, which resulted in the closure of the prison.

Mexico President announcement

The Prison Island Is Now Set To Become A Tourist Attraction

Just a few days ago – 9 April – Mexico’s President, López Obrador, made the announcement that the prison island would be turned into a tourist attraction – with visitors possibly being welcomed in just a matter of months.

However, an exact date on when you will be able to head to the well-known prison island has yet to be announced but expected for late 2022.

Mexican Navy

López Obrador also announced that the country’s Navy would take charge of running the nation’s latest tourist attraction – with plans to expand the airport on the island already underway.

Visitors will be able to visit the prison island by express ferry – with the trip expected to take less than three hours one-way

The Prison Island – What Should Visitors Expect?

History written in book

As with the official opening day – the exact details on what visitors can expect from their visit to the former active Prison Island have also yet to be made public.

However, what López Obrador did say is that “what was a hell is becoming a paradise.”

History written in book

And, it was also mentioned that future visitors to the island will be able to learn about the extensive history that the island and its surroundings has – as well as being given the opportunity to stay overnight in one of the former prison buildings.

These buildings – which includes those that used to house both prisoners and the prison workers – are currently being rebuilt to avoid the need to construct new infrastructure, which could potentially pose a danger to the surrounding nature.  

Tourists visiting Alcatraz

Could Islas Marías Become As Popular As The World-Famous Alcatraz?

Only time will tell how popular Mexico’s upcoming ‘Islas Marías’ tourist hotspot will become.

However, what we do know is that if it is anywhere as popular as America’s popular national park – Alcatraz – then the Mexican Navy is certainly going to have a job on their hands accommodating the masses of tourists.

Alcatraz Island

Since opening to the public in 1973, Alcatraz has undoubtedly been a major player in the U.S. tourism industry – with nearly 1.5 million visitors taking the short boat ride from San Francisco to the island each year.

Mexico Has Already Established Itself As One Of The Most Popular Tourist Destinations

Tourists in the popular Playa del Carmen

There is no doubt that Mexico has already gotten used to welcoming huge numbers through its doors – with the country’s hotels now costing even more than those in the United States.

And, with more and more airlines connecting passengers from the likes of the U.S. and Canada to the country, there is little to doubt that Mexico will become even more popular as time goes on.

Cancun aerial photo

Only a few months ago, the major online travel company website – Tripadvisor – listed the popular Mexican city of Cancun as the 3rd most popular destination in the world.

Read more:

Travel Insurance That Covers Covid-19

Top 8 Outdoor Adventures in New Mexico This Spring

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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories


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