If you’ve never heard of Isla Holbox, well, that’s part of its charm! Located north of the Yucatán Peninsula between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, Isla Holbox is part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve. If you want to hang out with friendly locals and chill on the beach with flamingos, this is the place for you. Far from the crowds of Cancún, the tiny island is dotted with dirt roads, laid-back beach bars, and incredible natural beauty. Here’s my review of the island.
Why You Should Visit Isla Holbox
While the stunning scenery and laidback island way of life is already reason enough to visit Isla Holbox, one of the main draws is that it is a very much off-the-beaten-path destination. You’ll also find that there are hardly any paved roads, so you’ll be trekking mostly on rocky, dirt streets via golf cart or bike. Additionally, there are only just over a thousand people that call the island home, so there’s definitely small-town feel.
Over the years, most of Mexico’s coastline has become a bit over-developed, so many destinations feel crowded with visiting tourists. Isla Holbox, in contrast, still remains largely underdeveloped. Add in the idyllic beaches, the amazing underwater life, the beautiful street art, and the welcoming feel to the island, and it all comes together to make the perfect vacation destination.
How To Get To Isla Holbox
No matter which direction you’re coming from, you’ll have to get to the port city of Chiquila in order to take the ferry over to Isla Holbox.
- Cancun to Chiquila
- Toll Road 145 km | 1 hr 50 minutes
- Playa del Carmen to Chiquila
- Toll Road 123 km | 1 hr 45 minutes
- Tulum to Chiquila
- Toll Road 186 km | 2 hours 40 minutes
*Times are based on Taxi/Private Driver
There are a few different options to arrive to Chiquila.
- Car rental (~$5 per day for the vehicle with another ~$5 per day for parking)
- As with any parking lot, don’t leave anything in your car. Take all valuables and leave items you’re not taking with you in the trunk.
- Shuttle (Ranges from $25 – $40 per person depending on the city you’re coming from)
- Taxi/Private Driver (~$100 but definitely the fastest way)
- ADO – Mexican Bus Service (~$20 and while budget friendly, definitely takes the longest)
Where to Stay
I would honestly say that there isn’t one bad location on the island to stay on. The island is relatively small, so you can walk to any destination in roughly 15 minutes. I stayed at Tierra Mia Boutique Hotel. It was centrally located and definitely a hotel I would stay at again. Here are a few other hotels I would recommend:
Casa Las Tortugas
These hotels are some of the more popular options on the island. Pricing truly varies depending on the time of the year in which it is booked.
Top 11 Things To Do In Isla Holbox
Holbox, Mexico is definitely a place where you can find yourself losing track of time while laying on a beach hammock. But if you’re wanting to be a little more active while on the island, here are a list of 11 things you can do!
- Walk the Sandbar Beach at Las Nubes
- The sandbank only emerges at low tide. When you can walk along it, you’ll have pristine turquoise waters of the Caribbean lapping on either side of you. While it is a magical experience, and the scenery and views are absolutely stunning – make sure to get back to firm land before the high tide rolls in and covers the sandbar! You don’t want to be caught walking in waist deep waters.
- Kite Surfing
- Isla Holbox is wonderfully positioned to provide kite surfers with consistent winds making it one of the best places in Mexico to go Kitesurfing.
- Unfortunately this isn’t a sport that you can just grab a board and kite and go. There are two options while on the island. You can do a 2 hour “teaser” which won’t get you on the board but simply talking about the basics. Alternatively, you can do the full 9 hour course which is 3 hours per day for 3 days.
- Snorkel With Whale Sharks
- Every summer you can have the experience of a lifetime and swim with whale sharks. Whale sharks are the largest known fish in the world and are completely harmless. They visit Holbox every year from May – June and you can book a tour to swim right alongside them!
- 3 Island Tour
- Isla Pasión – Passion Island with its uninhabited beaches and lush vegetation.
- Isla Pájaros – Bird Island, where you can gaze upon hundreds of different species of birds that now make the island home.
- Isla Yalahau – a natural water hole (cenote) for swimming that, legend has it, was a favorite haunt of pirates for its fresh water supply. Have a refreshing dip and climb up to an observatory to see the lagoon and vegetation from above.
- Street Art Walking Tour
- There are dozens of mural painted all over Isla Holbox that have been painted by locals. Each unique in its on individual way and telling a different story.
- Volunteer at Refugio Animal Holbox
- Help here is ALWAYS welcomed. You can help by walking dogs, bathing dogs and cleaning kennels, bowls or the courtyard, playing with the dogs and just on loving them
- Bioluminescent Tour
- Bioluminescence in Holbox is a phenomenon that occurs in the southern beaches of the island and can be observed when there is no moonlight at night. It is a spectacular phenomenon where the waters of the seashore are illuminated by certain micro-organisms that light up when they hit the waves.
- I can almost guarantee your immediate thought when seeing this will be to pull out a camera and take a picture, but for this event, a special camera and lens are needed.
- Hot Corner Bar
- The city comes ALIVE at night on this corner. While it’s not necessarily Tulum, at this bar, you’ll find most locals dancing the night away in the middle of the street to the tune of salsa and bachata.
- Ho_box Sign
- No trip to Holbox is complete without taking a picture at the Ho_box sign. The sign is near the boardwalk next to many bars and restaurants
- Beach Clubs
- Do NOT expect this to be anything like Tulum. These are more relaxing and quaint but still a great time. I mean, beach views, cocktails on demand and live music, how can you beat that?
- Rent a Bike and Explore
- Since there are no cars on the island, the best way to explore is to rent a bike and go. Cycling along the beach is a dream, with the waves lapping at the shore and the white sands lying before you.
Best Restaurants in Holbox
While I could go on and on about all the fantastic restaurants on Isla Holbox, here are just a few of my personal favorites that stood out!
- Rosa Mexicano
- This an open-air restaurant that serves up delicious Mexican food with a modern twist. To go along with food, this restaurant has an extensive cocktail menu which made it easily one of my favorite places to go in Isla Holbox.
- Calle Tiburon Ballena, Holbox, Q.R., Mexico
- Opening hours: Daily 8:30 am – 10:30 pm
- Average prices: $$ – $$$
- Another Clandestino
- Best coffee shop on Isla Holbox I believe I went here for breakfast every day I was visiting. From the various coffee options to the social atmosphere in the outdoor garden, this place is an ABSOLUTE must.
- C. Palomino 20, Centro, 77310 Holbox, Q.R., Mexico
- Opening hours: Daily 7:00 am – 8:00 pm
- Average prices: $ – $$
- Roots Pizza
- No Holbox trip is complete without trying the famed lobster pizza Isla Holbox is known for. For this, look no further than Roots Pizza. Their lobster pizza is truly drool worthy. It’s a little pricey, but definitely worth it!
- Calle Porfirio Díaz S/N Entre Palomino y, C. Carito, Isla, 77310 Holbox, Q.R., Mexico
- Opening hours: Daily 12:00 pm – 11:30 pm
- Average prices: $$-$$$
All in all, Isla Holbox is a fantastic option for those looking for an off the beaten path destination to visit. Its beauty and its charm places it in a category of its own and I will most certainly be back again!