Complete Travel Guide to Isla Holbox // Mexico
Isla Holbox was the first stop of our 3-weeks trip through Yucatán. We spent 4 nights on this island and loved it that much that we decided to come back at the end of our trip. Holbox is a very laid-back island with beautiful white-sand beaches and a diversity of wild life you can see there is amazing!
How to get around
Holbox is a small island and it is very easy to get around. From the ferry station it is a 10 minutes’ walk to the center of the town. In the center there is a main square with a church, an amphitheater and playgrounds. Around the square you can find a lot of the restaurants, bars, shops and supermarkets. In the evening locals and tourists are spending their time around this place. The island is not a secret anymore, so the little center is a bit touristic, but it’s not annoyingly crowded. From the center it’s a few minutes’ walk to the beach. This is one of the things we enjoyed that much about Holbox: everything is easily reachable by walking. If you want to explore the whole island you can rent only a bike or a Golf Cart, as there are no paved roads and no cars on the island. Golf Cart Rental starts at 200 Mxn (10€) for 1 hour.
The beach is very beautiful and it’s the perfect place to calm down and relax. During our first stay, the weather was perfect, the sun was shining, there was no wind and the sea calm. As the water is shallow and the sand almost white, the blue color of the water was unbelievably beautiful. During our second stay it was very windy, the water was a bit rough, so there was a lot of sea weed and the water was not as nice as on our first trip. On the beach, there are houses, hotels and restaurants but we didn’t feel like it’s crowded, because there are no big hotel bunkers. If you are in the water and look back at the shore, it looks like a lonely beach because the hotels are not as high as the trees and they disappear somehow between the palms.
Things to do in Holbox
The Yucatán peninsula is famous for its diverse flora and fauna and if you visit Holbox in the right season, you could be very lucky and see one of these special animals:
Whale Sharks: The season to see them is from May to September and you have to join a boat tour to see them.
Sea Turtles: Turtle hatching season is between May and July at Punta Cocos and on the west of the island. If you are lucky enough to get there, do not disturb the animals and watch your steps carefully.
Pink Flamingos: Season is from April to October, but they are more concentrated around Rio Lagartos and Celestun and not seen on Holbox in great numbers. You can possibly see them on the 3 Island Boat tour or rent a Kayak and go to Punta Mosquito.
Pelicans: Watch the fishermen feeding the pelicans on the beach! In the morning the fishermen cut the fish on their boats and give the rests to pelicans and other birds, that are surrounding them. It’s really a great scenery to watch!
4 Island Boat Tour
Usually you are going on a Boat Tour to see whale sharks and flamingos. We visited Holbox in March, which was not the right season to see these animals. For us the Boat Trip was not that exciting, but if you get to Holbox in the right season it must be a great experience! What I liked about the trip was to drive around the island and see it from another perspective. The different shades of blue of the sea in all the places were really beautiful.
You can choose between different operators around the main square, but they are all selling the same tour for the same price. Actually, there is a tour with 3 stops for 450 Mxn and another one with 4 stops for 500 Mxn (24€), which we actually chose. The first stop was Bird Island, which is part of the conservation area “Yum Balam”. You can’t walk on the island it, but watch the birds from a viewing tower. Next, we visited the Yalahau Cenote, which was like a small lake, where we could swim and then we went to Passion Island, a small island with a long sandbar which is home to some big Iguanas. For the last stop, we drove to the other side of Holbox (Punta Mosquito) where we could see a big sandbar and watch birds from the boat. The trip started in the morning and took around 3 hours.
Bioluminescence is the ability of an organism to create light. This phenomenon occurs on the beaches of Holbox if it gets very dark at night and there is almost no moon light. The water starts glowing when it’s moving, eg. when you get into it and create waves with your hands. You can see this phenomenon close to Punta Cocos, in a little bay where the water is calm. Punta Cocos is about 1 km from the city center, you can either go there by yourself or you can book a tour. The tour gets you there with a Golf Cart, lasts an hour and costs about 400 Mxn (19€).
When is the best season? We looked on the internet and asked different locals and tour operators and only got different answers. Basically you can see it the whole year, there are times where the glowing is clearer and stronger but I guess you just have to be lucky.
Punta Cocos is a completely quiet place which you can enjoy just for yourself. There is only a small basic beach bar and a few hammocks to relax. It’s 1 km from the city center, but there are no other tourists!
For me, Holbox is also the island of colors: The streets are full of beautiful street art and the houses and walls shine in bright colors!
Sunsets on the Beach
The sunsets on the beach are really something special that you should not miss!
Where to stay
Airbnb Casa Victor: the cheapest double rooms (42 €) we could find, located directly on the beach, with very nice and relaxed hosts. If you want to stay at the beach it is usually more expensive. Around the city you can find cheap hostels with dorm beds for 10€.
Where to eat
There are already a lot of tips for stylish restaurants online, it doesn’t make sense to repeat that. My favorite places to eat cheap and yummy Mexican food are:
Street food on the main square, opens daily after 7 pm.
El TacoQueto opens in the evening and is completely full during the main dinner time, but if you get there after 8:30 pm you will get a table.
Tortas de Carmen offers great home-cooked foods for a very reasonable price, but is only open during the day, not for dinner.
Good to know
ATM: The only ATM that is giving you pesos is at the main square in a white public building, on the corner next to the church. The other ATMs are only giving out US Dollars, which you have to chance to pesos. You can often pay with credit card, but they charge a quite high fee for that. I recommend taking enough cash with you to the island, just in case because if the only ATM on the island is not working with your card you may get a problem.
Laundry: A lavanderia is located in Calle Palomino, close to the main square. They do your laundry within a few hours, one load of laundry was 90 Mxn (4,50€).
Internet: Is very slow all over the island, usually it works the best early in the morning (5 am). That’s not a big deal if you are there for holidays, but if you are a digital nomad and work online Holbox won’t be the best place.
How to get to Holbox
- Bus from Cancún to Chiquila: 2,5 hours, 266 Mnx (12€) and then a Speed Boat: 30 mins, 150 Mxn (7€).
- Buses from Cancún leave two times a day, so I recommend to reserve a ticket a day in advance and pick it up 2 hours before the bus leaves.
- Where to buy bus tickets: In Chiquila, the ADO bus is dropping you at the restaurant “Coco”, next to it is a desk where they sell the tickets / On Holbox, you can buy the tickets from a tour operator or directly from the bus company. The office is on the main road from the ferry station to the center.
- Boats between Chiquila and Holbox are leaving daily every 30 minutes: Chiquila to Holbox from 7:30 am to 9:30 pm / Holbox to Chiquila: from 6:30 am to 8:30 pm (Timetable from March 2019)