Holbox Island is exactly what I picture when I think of paradise.
How do you even begin to plan a trip to an island that is saturated by beauty, natural wonders, and picture-perfect white sand beaches? With so many things to do in Holbox, planning the perfect itinerary isn’t easy, so I’ve put together the ultimate travel guide to Holbox in which I answer every question you might have about visiting the island.
The first timer’s guide to Holbox:
How To Get To Holbox
Getting to Holbox sounds like a bit of a trek due to its remoteness, but in fact, it’s pretty easy regardless of your travel style and budget!
- Public transport: If you’re traveling independently or on a budget, you’ll want to take a bus to Chiquilá first and then hop on a public ferry to Holbox. There are several bus companies offering transfers to Chiquilá from major cities in The Yucatan, including Mayab, ADO, and Oriente. Check Holbox’s official website for bus timetables.
The bus will drop you off right at Chiquilás port, where you can hop on a ferry to Holbox (they leave every thirty minutes, so don’t worry too much about their schedules).
Tip: If you purchase your bus ticket in Cancun or Tulum, you’ll get offered a combined ticket that includes the ferry ticket, too. I don’t recommend doing that as it will turn out to be more expensive. Purchase your bus ticket only and your ferry ticket at the port.
- Private transfer: If all you care about is getting to Holbox fast, a private transfer is easy to arrange. You’ll get picked up wherever you want in Cancun, get on the ferry, and get picked up in Holbox and taken to your hotel. This is by far the easiest option, but it does cost significantly more.
- Private Plane: Not the most eco-friendly option, but an option to get to Holbox nonetheless. There is a teensy-tiny airport on the island which caters to private planes, and you can book a private flight to Holbox here. The cost is a whopping $700, but if you’re traveling in a group and split up the cost, it’s not too bad.
Visiting Holbox Island as a day trip
If you don’t have enough time to spend a few days in Holbox, you can also visit it as part of a day trip using these two options:
From Playa del Carmen – You’ll get picked up at your hotel in Playa del Carmen, drive to Holbox, and get to do some of the best excursions around Holbox (Yulhau Island, Isla Pájaros, Isla Pasión, etc). Book your Holbox tour here.
From Cancun with Holbox Island Discovery – This tour takes you to two of the most famous islands in Holbox: Isla Pájaros and Isla Pasión. After lunch, you’ll get two hours to explore Holbox on your own (a golf cart is included in the price). Book your Holbox tour here.
Best Things To do in Holbox
Yalahau Cenote – It’s not a trip to the Yucatan if you didn’t check out a few cenotes, and luckily for us, Yalahau Cenote is a popular day trip from Holbox. It’s set in the mainland, about a 30-minute boat ride away from Holbox and it features a stunning cenote that is believed to contain healing properties (in fact, the Mayans call it “the fountain of youth”).
Isla Pájaros – A small mangrove islet inside Yalhau Lagoon that boasts an incredible variety of birds (the name of the island translates into ” Birds island”, and the name really does it justice. Flamingoes, herons, pelicans, and seagulls – take your pick, stroll through the island, and try to catch a glimpse of some of the birds from one of the viewpoints.
Isla Pasión – Another stunning islet you must visit when in Holbox! Set a 10-minute boat drive away from Holbox, you’ll find virgin beaches here away from civilization.
Tip: You can easily visit Yalahau Cenote, Isla Pájaros, and Isla Pasión in one day on tour. Ask around at downtown Holbox and you’ll easily find a boat driver to take you to all three.
Walk through a sandbank to Punta Mosquito – As far as idyllic things to do in Holbox go, this one takes the cake. Rent a bike and drive through the beach to the easternmost accessible point in Holbox. Once you reach a tiny stream, you’ll have to lock your bike and continue by foot through virgin beaches until you reach a white sandbank in the middle of the ocean that connects to Punta Mosquito. Bring enough water and a few snacks. If you’re lucky enough, you might get to spot a flock of flamingos!
Punta Cocos – The best spot in Holbox to watch the sunset is definitely Punta Cocos. Grab your bike and drive to Holbox’s westernmost point. On the way, you’ll pass through a myriad of restaurants in case you want to grab a bite, but the best way to do sunset at Punta Cocos is to bring your own beer and snacks and just… watch the sun go down.
Cabo Catoche – Cabo Catoche is the exact point where the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea meet. While the main point of visiting Cabo Catoche is to see unraveling nature – there’s a lot of history here, too!
Kiteboarding – The waters around Holbox are incredibly tranquil and shallow, making it one of the safest places in the world to learn how to kiteboard. There is a school on the island with professional instructors.
Refugio Mapuches – A home for stray animals in Holbox. If you love dogs, this is your go-to place in Holbox! Visiting is free, but you can always donate any spare change or help the team by taking the dogs for a walk.
Relax at the beach hammocks of Holbox – Boho-style bars and restaurants have sprung up through Holbox like the plague and while each one is unique, they all have one thing in common: water hammocks!
Swing over the sea – As far as instagrammable spots in Holbox go, a waterfront swing is probably one of the most quintessential picture props you’ll find on the island. Head over to Ensueño Holbox, grab a bite at their restaurant, and swing away!
Swimming with whale sharks in Holbox: Is it ethical?
Every year, between June and September, swimming with whale sharks around Holbox is a popular activity and the reason many people visit the island. However, I won’t lie – after doing it myself, I felt like the experience wasn’t ethical. It’s advertised as such, but the reality felt much different.
Even though only two people from each boat are allowed to swim with the sharks at a time, the fact that there were over a hundred boats swarmed around them made the rule feel kind of pointless. Moreover, I noticed a few whale sharks with scars on their fins from cuts made by the boats getting way to close to them.
It was bittersweet for me. One one hand, getting so close to them was amazing, but on the way back, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy about the whole situation. I know that’s not exactly what you want to read on a guide to Holbox, but I wanted to include it nonetheless.
Where to eat and drink in Holbox
Isla del Colibrí – Breakfast at its finest! Serving eggs, fresh juices, and typical Mexican dishes, you’ll want to visit this restaurant at least once. The address if Porfirio Diaz 80, but you’ll have no issues finding it as its set in a bright pink house in the center of Holbox’s downtown.
Roots – Think Italian food mixed with pre-hispanic cuisine. You wouldn’t expect the staple dish of a Mexican island to be pizza, but in Holbox, Lobster Pizza is the must-try dish.
Antojitos La Sirenita – A super small and local place that specializes in small dishes like sopes, tacos, chalupas.
ALMA Bar – A boho-chic bar offering great cocktails served by the pool with amazing views of the ocean.
Mandarina Restaurant & Beach Club – Head here at night for beachfront dinner + drinks. Their gourmet dishes are to die for and well worth the price.
Raices Beach Club – Nightlife in Holbox doesn’t get crazy as it does in Cancun, but if you’re in the mood for a night out, Raices Beach Club is where you’re most likely to find it.
How to get around Holbox
What makes Holbox feel like paradise is the fact that there are no paved roads and noisy cars in sight. The downside, though? Getting around might sound like tricky business, but Holbox’s downtown is very small and can easily be navigated on foot. Still, though, there are a few options to get around the island if walking isn’t exactly your jam:
Bicicyle – This was my go-to mode of transportation during our week in Holbox. We rented ours for jus $150 a day at our hotel and were good to go.
Golf cart – Bikes are fun, but so are golf carts! This option is a bit pricier, but will also get you from place to place faster. As a rule, you can rent one for a day for around $900 pesos, which isn’t to shabby! The downside to golf carts is that they’re not allowed in certain areas of Holbox (to protect the nature), so you’ll usually be confined to the downtown and nearby beaches.
Taxis – Even though there aren’t many, taxis do exist in Holbox. Golf cart taxis, that is. You might want to haggle around, but usually, the price to get anywhere in downtown Holbox is 50 pesos.
Where To Stay in Holbox
Casa Sandra – A boho-chic boutique hotel featuring dreamy decor in every room, a huge pool, and private beach. If you love boutique hotels, this is the best place to stay in Holbox! Check the latest rates here.
Hotel Villas Tiburón – A luxury hotel offering cozy villas and a rooftop pool, beach cabanas, overwater hammocks, and incredible food. Check the latest rates here.
Holbox Dream Beachfront by Xperience Hotels – Another amazing luxury option with beachfront views, a pool overlooking the ocean, and tree-house design. Check the latest rates here.
Mapache Hostel – If you’re on a budget or backpacking Holbox, a great hostel to stay at is this! It’s close to the beach and has a very cozy feeling. Dorms + camping options available. Check the latest rates here.
Travel Tips for Holbox
Bring enough cash with you. There are only two ATMs on the island, and they run out of cash frequently.
Tap water in Holbox isn’t safe to drink. Get yourself a purifying water bottle like the GRAYL. It filters bacteria, viruses, and chemicals from any source of fresh water in a matter of seconds. Not only is it more environmentally-friendly than buying and disposing of plastic bottles, but it will also save you tons of money in the long run.
Bring reef-safe sunblock. Lately, so many of the Yucatan’s stunning beaches have gotten ruined due to over-tourism and people not being thoughtful. Luckily, Holbox was spared, but that might not be the case in the future if the trend continues. Also, remember that Holbox is part of a natural reserve and is home to many, many animals. In order to help conserve Holbox’s life, bring a reef-safe sunblock. I love StreamToSea’s products.
Travel Insurance for Holbox & Mexico
Medical care in Mexico is great, but it can get expensive. Moreover, if something were to happen while in Holbox, you’d likely need to get evacuated to Cancun – not cheap! Mexico has so many adventurous activities to offer and so, you’ll want to make sure your current insurance will cover you in the case of any accidents. Honestly, you’ll probably be fine (I don’t mean to scare you!), but the chance of something happening does exist, and there’s nothing like having peace of mind during your trip, right?
If you don’t currently have travel insurance, I highly recommend World Nomads. They’ll cover most nationalities and over 150 adventure activities that most other insurance companies don’t. You can also make claims online and even extend or adjust your insurance while you’re already traveling.
And that’s my guide to Holbox! Hope you found it useful! 🙂
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