The islands really are very spectacular and extremely unique both on and under the surface. This archipelago (chain of islands) was formed by a huge volcanic eruption. Not all of it was made this way though as in the early 1900s the Mexican government began conducting military testing on the islands because no one lived there. Many bombings and large explosions took place on the islands causing amazing caves and rock formations to be created. After a huge international outcry started by scientist Jacques Cousteau in the late 1960s, the government eventually decided to label the islands a national park which protects it against any fishing, hunting or human activity. This extensive military testing damaged the flora fauna and wildlife on the islands for decades, but many years of peace have replenished it to what it is now, a wildlife sanctuary.
There is no denying that the islands are spectacular and are a huge tourist attraction, but that is not all good news. The biggest attraction is the hidden beach, or Playa Del Amor. This beach is either a volcanic crater or a bomb hole depending on who you want to listen too. Anyway, over the past 18 months since the iconic photo of the hidden beach went viral on the internet, everyone wants to see it. The beach is tiny and when there are 100´s of tourists there, it really does lose a lot in translation. The only time to go and see it is before 9am as this is when the big booze cruises and catamarans arrive swiftly followed by panga after panga after panga. I just see this as a quick money spinner and not something that will give tourism to the islands a sustainable future.
To get to the hidden beach you need to snorkel through a tunnel that is not always easy to navigate as there is often surge and high tides, and without the aid of a pair of fins, can be somewhat hazardous.
I used to live on a small island off the coast of Borneo which in comparison is a very primitive country. An hour away by boat was an island called Sipadan which was an uninhabited marine reserve for divers and snorkelers alike. They restricted visitors to 120 per day and have a thriving tourist industry that will stand the test of time. I feel that unless the government put these restrictions on the Marietas, then no one will want to go there in the long term. I have read some very harmful reviews on the internet and as a tourist, it would not be on my bucket list.
I took some diving guests there last week and we were restricted to diving the tunnels and the wall to far left side of the island as there were just too many boats to dive the central reef. The tunnels and caves really are spectacular, but with the constant drone of boat engines above your head it does not make for the most relaxing diving. I put my marker buoy up to surface under and it got shredded by a boat that went straight over it. I don´t think I will bother getting my permit renewed next year.