After walking around for like 30 minutes I immediately got the fuzz about traveling to Isla Holbox. Wow what a little paradise up on the north coast of Yucatan peninsula! The sandy roads, the laid-back vibe, the Caribbean sea, the beautiful beaches and all the backpackers. This was totally my place to live my islandlife! I was happy I decided to visit Isla Holbox for the first time in my life.
When I traveled to Yucatan on my first trip around the world in 2008 Isla Holbox was already one of the best paces to visit in Yucatan simply because of the chance to spot whale sharks. During my visit in March 2019 there was no whale shark season, but that was totally irrelevant. Although there are many things to do in Isla Holbox it is already worth traveling here just for the island vibes.
Holbox means ‘black hole’ in Mayan language and is the name of an island 10 kilometers (6 miles) off the north coast in Yucatan. It is part of the Quintana Roo state and most of the island is actually a protected Biosphere Reserve declared in 2004 by Ramsar (UNESCO). That part that is occupied by locals and the Isla Holbox tourism industry is becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in Yucatan.
This is a little video of me visiting Isla Holbox, an intro for this ultimate travel guide. xxxxx
Isla Holbox Travel Tips
1. How to pronounce Holbox
Unlike what seems logic Holbox is pronounced as Hol-bosch in local Mexican Spanish.
2. (Almost) car free island
One of the first things you will notice when you travel to Holbox is that there are basically no cars on the island. During the day you will see a car or a truck so now and then for construction work but they all leave by the last cargo ferry. Cars are not allowed on Isla Holbox. This is one of the reason Isla Holbox boasts such a laid-back vibe.
For the exact same reason of being a car-free island I named Caye Caulker, Belize as one of the most unique islands to visit in the world.
3. Getting around on Isla Holbox
With the rise of the Isla Holbox tourism industry there are more and more golf carts around the island. There are loads of golf cart taxis that drop you off anywhere on the island between 30 and 130 Pesos.
4. Rent a golf cart
You can rent a golf cart yourself and many tourists do when visiting Holbox. To rent a golf cart on Holbox is around 1,700 Pesos ($90). Walk away from the main square and you will find rental places for 1,200 ($60) per day.
5. Rent a bicycle on Holbox
To me one of the best things to do in Holbox was renting a bicycle. As a Dutchman I love riding bikes especially on an island like this. The wind in your face, the flexibility and simply to get around easily. Riding a bike in Holbox is easy and for 250 Pesos ($13) you have one for 24 hours.
6. Phone signal
In my best sim card in Mexico for tourists article I advice people to buy a Telcel sim card. When you travel to Isla Holbox and want to stay connected then listen to me. On Holbox there is only a Telcel phone signal available.
7. Wifi on Isla Holbox
Ok, don’t get me started about this! In case Isla Holbox would have better internet I surely would have considered renting a place there for a week or two. Since I started full time travel blogging I can’t go without a fast and reliable internet. All hotels and most restaurants have wifi, but it is very slow and unreliable! Some hotels even warn you for its slow wifi with signs in the room. As I just told you make sure you buy a local Telcel sim card, much better.
8. ATM’s on Holbox
The time that there was only 1 ATM on the island is long gone. According to Google Maps there are only 2 ATM’s, but I saw multiple all around the main square, at least 7 or 8. Expect to pay hefty fees though and unfortunately you can’t rely on them either. So my advice when you visit Isla Holbox is to bring a bunch of cash. Below in the section how much does a trip to Holbox cost, I will give you prices and how much I exactly spent.
Many Holbox hotels and some Holbox restaurants accept credit cards but they mostly charge you 3% extra.
9. Uncomplicated trip to Holbox
There is no place for fanciness when you visit Isla Holbox. Life on the island is simple, slow paced and uncomplicated. You can basically leave your shoes at home as all you need is flip-flops and swim wear. Pedestrians share the streets with bicycles, golf carts and buggies.
10. How to get to Isla Holbox
Actually it is pretty straight forward for the majority of the people traveling to Isla Holbox. Although there is an airport on the island almost everyone gets here by boat from Chiquila. Isla Holbox tourism totally relies on two boat companies as they bring in the people from the mainland.
The boat companies don’t really compete with each other as ticket prices are exactly the same and their schedule too. The two companies are: 9 Hermanos and Holbox Express.
Both companies are fine although the boat of Holbox Express is much more modern and has a chill upper deck seating area. Ticket prices are 150 Pesos ($8) one way as of March 2019. There is a boat every 30 minutes between 6:00am and 9:40pm. Boats are never full and there is no need to buy a boat ticket from Chiquila to Isla Holbox in advance.
How to get to Chiquila
When you arrive by bus in Chiquila everyone warns you to keep your belongings close and within your sight. Probably for a reason, but when I traveled to Isla Holbox the streets of Chiquila looked extremely quiet. I took several pictures with my big camera and asked around for information for this Isla Holbox travel blog without being bothered at all. Anyway you have been warned!
In my travel to Yucatan blog I advice travelers to take ADO busses as this is the most tourist friendly bus company. My bus from Cancun to Chiquila was with Oriente and they overbooked the bus. There was one guy who had no seat and had to sit on the ground for 3,5 hours. On top of that the Orient bus stopped multiple times to pick up and drop off locals.
From Cancun to Holbox
There are several busses daily, but since it is a 3,5 hour bus ride the last bus from Cancun to Chiquila is at 12:50pm. I was adviced to just show up at the bus station in Cancun and catch the first bus going to Chiquila. Just before the bus from 9:40am I wanted to buy a ticket, but then I heard that one and the 10:30am bus were full already. Therefore I strongly recommend you to book your bus ticket to Chiquila online.
These are the 5 busses from Cancun to Chiquila:
From Playa del Carmen to Holbox
There is a shuttle service from Playa del Carmen to Holbox two times daily and it costs 380 Pesos ($19) per person. Reservation is required and you can basically book them everywhere around 5th Avenue. The shuttle busses to Holbox leave from Avenida 20 and Calle 2 Norte. The ferry ticket is NOT included in this price.
There are also ADO busses from Playa del Carmen to Chiquila: 8.30am, 9.20am and 10.00am. ADO busses are very comfortable and cost 276 Pesos ($14) one-way. Be aware that busses tend to get fully booked in high season, so reserve your seat a day ahead at least.
From Tulum to Holbox
There is only one bus per day from Tulum to Chiquila and it leaves at 8:10am. Ticket price is 360 Pesos ($18). Make sure to book ahead as there is only one per day from Tulum to Holbox.
From Valladolid to Chiquila
There is only one ADO bus from Valladolid to Chiquila and it leaves at 9.55am, price: 200 Pesos ($10). At night there is a bus from Oriente at 2:00am, I don’t recommend that company and the time is stupid as well!
11. Getting away from Isla Holbox
There is a ferry every 30 minutes back to Chiquila for a fixed price of 150 Pesos ($8). From Chiquila there are loads of shuttles that are willing to take you directly to Tulum, Cancun and Playa del Carmen. You can buy the shuttle bus tickets on Holbox already. They are sold at every tour operator/travel agency. Ticket price for a shuttle is 300 to 400 Pesos ($15-$20). There are also busses of course, but I recommend you taking an ADO bus for 260 Pesos ($13). Busses leave in the afternoon so you can chill for the day in Isla Holbox.
Looking for a boutique hotel in Playa del Carmen: Hotel Morgana. Check the link for a full review of my stay.
12. Flights to Isla Holbox
If you are short on time and have enough budget then this might be the best Isla Holbox travel tip you may find, because yes there is an airport on the island. Before my trip to Holbox I didn’t know either there was an airport but when I looked up the arrivals I found out that there are actually planes arriving from Playa del Carmen. If you are interested in flying to Isla Holbox look on Google for Aerosaab.
13. Laundry in Holbox
There are two lavandarias on Holbox where you can drop your laundry. They wash and dry it for you within only a couple hours if you want. You pay $1 per kilo, with a minimum of $4. The lavanderias are just one block south of the main square. Perfect if you decide to travel to Holbox for a longer time.
Things to do in Isla Holbox
First of all I think I should mention that the best thing to do in Isla Holbox is to really enjoy the island vibe. It does not get much better than this! The slow paced life during the day and the bustling narrow streets at night are Isla Holbox highlights.
On top of that there are a couple things to do in Isla Holbox, but honestly said not all of them are actually worth doing. In the following Holbox travel tips I will tell you which activities I can recommend you.
14. Watching sunset at the Whaleshark Pier
This is where you want to be when the sun goes down. It sounds like a simple thing but at the end of the day everyone gathers around the pier just two blocks away from the main square. Meet loads of travelers here that bring their supermarket beers onto the pier. Sit down all together, listen to some music and make friends while sharing this magical moment. I did not find this in any Isla Holbox travel guide, but it is one of the best travel tips for this island.
15. Whaleshark tours
These gentle giants is why a lot of people visit Isla Holbox in the first place, but be aware that the whaleshark season in Isla Holbox is only from June till September. There are tour companies everywhere and you don’t need to worry finding a whaleshark tour. Whalesharks in Isla Holbox are known to be one of the biggest in the world.
16. Swing in a sea hammock
Trust me I didn’t add this to list of Isla Holbox travel tips just to fill in the gaps. There are a bunch of sea hammocks scattered around but once you find a spot, make sure someone brings you an ice cold beer so now and then. Chilling in one of these hammock while half my body was in the sea was one of those moments that made me smile big time! My trip to Isla Holbox was epic!
17. 3 Islands Tour
This is one of the most popular things to do in Isla Holbox. It is a 3-hour boat tour and you will visit Bird Island, Passion Island and the Yalahau Cenote. Tours mostly leave around 9.00am or 2:00pm and cost 500 Pesos ($25). It is a nice tour but not something out of this world. You will see lots of bird species (flamingos are seasonal) and dolphins if you are lucky. I was not impressed by this tour and I wouldn’t list this tour high on my list of Isla Holbox travel tips.
18. Cabo Catoche Tour
Cabo Catoche is the most Northern point on the Yucatan peninsula and part of the protected Biosphere. This is where the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico meet. It is a great place for snorkeling and seeing wildlife. Cabo Catoche tours are more expensive and you will pay $50 USD but the tours take 6 hours. You also go fishing, walking through the mangroves and also visit Mosquito Point.
19. Walk to Mosquito Point
This was one of my favorite things to do in Isla Holbox. On low-tide it is possible to walk from sand bank to sand bank until you reach Mosquito Point. In reality it is not possible anymore to hike all the way. Nowadays they enlarged the protected area and walking to Mosquito Point isn’t possible anymore. The walk starts at the last resort on the road heading East along the beach. Park your bike at Las Nubes hotel and start walking east along the sand banks. During the flamingo season (April - June) you will spot them as well.
Be aware that on high tide you might have to swim. On my way back all the sand banks were gone and I had to walk back through the water. From Las Nubes till the protected area signs is about 1 hour, the way back through the water took 1,5 hours. It never got deeper than my knees most of the time.
20. Visit Punta Cocos
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the center of Holbox then make your way to the west end of the island. There you will find Punta Cocos, the islands best kept secret. Apart from a super basic bar there is nothing, but exactly that is what you want. Here you have the best sunset views and about 8 water hammocks to chill. There is also a big lagoon.
Punta Cocos and the west end of the island are important nesting and hatching places for sea turtles. Do not ride your golf carts on the beach. If you happen to be here in May, June or July (turtle hatching season) you might see hatching baby turtles. This phenomenon mostly occurs around sunset and trust me I volunteered on an uninhabited island off the coast of Costa Rica for 1 month and hatched more than 3,000 baby sea turtles.
21. Chill at a beach club
There are several beach clubs along the gorgeous beaches of Isla Holbox and they are happy to receive guests. Sun beds are available but are have minimum spend per person, ranging from 200 ($10) to 500 Pesos ($25). Cool beach clubs in Holbox are: El Velero & Mandarina.
22. Mangrove Kayak Tour
I am listing it as one of the things to do in Isla Holbox, but it isn’t that exhilarating to be honest. The part through the mangroves was nice, but there wasn’t really anything exciting to see. At least you are able to go into the protected area as you are with a guide.
23. Visit Yalahau Cenote
Some people rave about it, but to me not really one of the best places to visit in Holbox. It is actually not even on the island and you will need to take a tour there. I have seen almost all cenotes around Valladolid so wasn’t tempted at all to go to this open sky cenote. Click on the link to see to most beautiful Valladolid cenotes.
24. Kitesurfing in Isla Holbox
The kitesurfing season lasts from November till May and there are several kite surfing schools around the island. Lessons start from around 1,500 Pesos ($75) per hour per person, but gets cheaper if you do it with two people. Renting equipment will cost you around 1,700 Pesos ($85) per day.
25. Amazing street art
There are Caribbean vibes all over the island and lots of houses are painted in bright colors. Great for taking photos with. Wander through the narrow streets and find your favorite wall painting, some are enormous and absolutely stunning. Most Isla Holbox travel guides have a street art photo on their cover.
26. Bioluminescent plankton
Unfortunately I did not do this myself, but it is a popular thing to do in Isla Holbox. The bioluminescent plankton can best be watched when there is no moon and in the whale shark season but tours go all year. They leave around midnight and you basically just go to Punta Coco and swim around there. While moving the water the plankton will light up. You will have to go into the water to experience this. Tours cost around $20 USD and only last for an hour. You can easily do this yourself when you you travel to Holbox.
27. Is it expensive to travel to Isla Holbox
On my trip to Isla Holbox I spent about $360 USD for 4 days, 3 nights. But that is because I lived large and 65% of my expenses were accommodation. As a professional world traveler having crossed more than 100 countries in 7 consecutive years of traveling I know how to travel the world on a budget. Therefore you gotta believe me that you can travel to Isla Holbox on a budget. There are numerous supermarkets around and hostels where a dorm bed only cost $10. Getting to Isla Holbox is not expensive either.
Supermarkets in Isla Holbox don't have that much, but at least you can buy some vegetables, pasta and some other stuff to cook yourself.
Hammocks in Isla Holbox are free to use or cost 1 beer! :)
When I was visiting Isla Holbox I chose to eat out 3 times a day, stayed in a mid-range boutique hotel and had some drinks at night. This is what I spent on my trip to Isla Holbox. Prices are in USD.
- Hotel: 3 nights * $75 = $225
- Food: 3d * $6 * 3 meals = $54
- Drinks: 3d * $3 * 4 = $36
- Transportation: $16 + $19 = $35
- Bike rental: 2 days * $5 = $10
In total I spent $360 on my trip to Holbox, but if you want you can go by with $40 a day. On the other hand if you want to splurge you easily can. In my where to stay in Holbox section I will point out some luxury hotels in Holbox that are every travelers dream.
There are multiple amazing restaurants and cute places. If you want to eat local you can find a meal for about $3 already, a salad in a nice place will cost you only $5 either, a coffee is $2. A Beer cost mostly around 40 Pesos, at fancier places you pay around 50-60 ($3). If you eat at some of the fancier beach clubs then you will easily spend double.
This is the delicious Tropical Salad I had at El Cafecito, it was 105 Pesos ($5).
28. Where to eat in Isla Holbox
When you visit Isla Holbox you will discover multiple amazing eateries scattered around the narrow streets. There are some true hidden gems to discover and I am sure you will find your own favorite Holbox restaurant, but these are some places I can recommend.
Be aware that when you get the bill in most Holbox restaurants they suggest you to pay 15% tip. This is not mandatory. May be common practice for Americans, but definitely not for Europeans. Tipping in Mexico is appreciated though and a 10% tip is normal.
Le Jardin for breakfast
This place is only open in the morning and run by a Frenchman. Food is good and reasonable priced. Three sunny side up eggs with toast is $3. They have delicious juices for $2 and an amazing fruit platter for $5 to share with friends. Be prepared to wait a couple minutes for a table, Le Jardin is a popular Holbox restaurant.
Painapol for breakfast/lunch
Find delicious smoothie bowls and vegan dishes at Painapol. This is a popular Holbox reastaurant with great healthy choices. Expect to wait for 15 minutes as every time I passed by there was a waiting line. Although portions are rather small, it was totally worth it. Definitely one of the best places to eat in Isla Holbox.
El Cafecito for lunch/salads
This lovely small cafe is one block from the beach and the city center. There are only a few tables outside, but when you can get a table go here for lunch. The salads are around $5 USD and super tasty. I loved the Tropical Salad with mango, raisins, coconut, avocado, pineapple, tomato, fried onions and a soft spicy dressing. Yummy! See my salad picture in the section how much a trip to Holbox cost.
La Tapatia for Mexican food
This is a great place if you are looking for good Mexican food. It actually is food from the region where Tequila comes from: Jalisco. It has very reasonable prices and great portions. La Tapatia has main courses from $3 - $6 and of course an endless tequila collection. Great place to come and eat Guacamole with nachos and have a drink.
La Isla del Colibri for great vibes
This is one of those Holbox restaurants you will fall in love with as soon as you walk in. This colorful local place gave me Caribbean vibes all over. The fresh juice selection is huge and they are big for just 50 Pesos. Good for breakfast as well as lunch, portions are big, prices moderate. Loved eating at La Isla del Colibri Holbox.
Hot Corner for drinks
The name says it all but in fact Hot Corner is one of the liveliest places on the island. In every Isla Holbox travel guide this will be named as a great place to go out at night. There is great music, beers are reasonable priced and you will meet a lot of travelers.
Salma for late night drinks
Right on the beach this is your place to dance to some electronic tunes at night with actually pretty damn good music for an island. I don’t really go out that much anymore, but this open-air-feet-in-the-sand bar was worth staying up late.
Big Fish for ceviche
For the best ceviche in Isla Holbox go to Big Fish. It was one of the Isla Holbox tips I got from one of my followers on Instagram and it was so worth it. The ceviches cost between 150-250 pesos ($8-$13) so pretty expensive for a Holbox restaurant, but super delicious. I went back the day after to have another one.
Edelyn for Pizza
Big pizzas, great prices! This Holbox restaurant on the corner of main square has good views over the bustling main square at night. On top of that a grande pizza is 150 - 250 ($7 - $13) only and you can order 2L homemade lemonade for $5.
Roots for lobster pizza
I feel like I have to mention the lobster pizza in this Isla Holbox travel guide, but I didn’t try it. First off as I think it is way too expensive. A lobster pizza is the local delicacy and most people who travel to Isla Holbox try it. At Roots you pay 600 Pesos ($30) to eat a rather small pizza with a small lobster on top. There is a big garden with live music and it seems like a great joint to go to with a group of friends. Expect to wait 20 minutes for a table!
La Combi best sports bar in Isla Holbox
The best place to watch live sports is on the corner of main square. La Combi Holbox shows Formula 1, Champions League, English Premier League, American Football, Baseball, Basketball and anything on request. They have multiple big screens. There is also a upper terrace with great views over the main square.
29. Where to stay in Isla Holbox
Last but not least let me recommend you some Isla Holbox hotels. There is an endless list of cool places to stay in Holbox, these are just some that I came across when looking for accommodation.
This beach boutique hotel in Holbox is an all time favorite. Great location on the beach, but also very close to the city center. Yet still very secluded and rooms are around the pool with a lot of green. This is also where you will find the Mandarina Beach Club with all its swings, hammocks and lounging chairs.
Another new Isla Holbox boutique hotel with an awesome rooftop pool and just 20 meters away from the beach. There are sea hammocks to chill, a cold little plunge pool on the ground floor and a rooftop restaurant. Non-guests are also welcome to chill at the pool and it is a great place to watch sunset.
This is the hotel where I stayed at. Mostly loved the tranquility of this new boutique hotel in Isla Holbox. It is a couple blocks away from the hustle and bustle but just a couple minutes walk and you are in the center. Rooms are very spacious and there is a little plunge pool to cool down. They also have a rooftop for watching stars at night and offer yoga mats to use for free. Big plus is that Alcobas del Mar Isla Holbox rents bikes to their guests for only 100 Pesos ($5) per day.
One of the most luxury hotels in Isla Holbox located all the way at the end of the road going East. If eco tourism is your thing then you definitely want to have a look at this place. I could see myself having a drink on their large terrace with unobstructed ocean views.
Just outside the center of Holbox on a quiet location next to El Velero Beach Club. They have their own swimming pool and balconies have good views and relaxing chairs. This hotel in contempary style only has suites and interior of the suites is inspired by the ocean. With bright white and blue colors it feels very homey and exotic.
Super central boutique hotel in Holbox, just a few meters from the main square. They have a big swimming pool and rooms come with a small a la carte breakfast. There are many boutique shops, a coffee shop and two restaurants. This is probably where the name comes from, which translates as little village.
Another small boutique hotel in Holbox that is worth mentioning. They won multiple awards throughout the years for being one of the best Isla Holbox hotels. It is right on the beach with a very artistic feel. Its location is unbeatable!
This adults only hotel in Holbox is a romantic retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the island. Rooms are spacious and the outdoor rooftop terrace with ocean views is a real gem. They also have a wellness and spa with private jacuzzi. One of the better boutique hotels in Isla Holbox for couples.
30. What to bring to Isla Holbox
As an easy traveler I would recomend you not to bring that much stuff when visiting Isla Holbox. Basically because you are on an island and life here is simple and uncomplicated. Leave your fancy dress at home and pack a couple loose shirts, some swimwear and flipflops. I did not wear shoes for over 1 month now since I started traveling in Yucatan. What I do recommend you to bring for a trip to Isla Holbox is the following:
Isla Holbox tourism
Best time to travel to Isla Holbox is officially from beginning of December to May, but the whaleshark season is just after that. Basically the most rain falls in September, October and November as it can be hurricane season so those months can be a little tricky to travel to Holbox. Most of the days on Isla Holbox the sunsets will be magical and a highlight of your day
I hope all the above Isla Holbox travel tips were helpful and it made planning your trip to Holbox easier. Im pretty sure you gonna have an amazing time on the island, just like I had. In total I traveled around Yucatan for more than 10 weeks and visited places like: Valladolid, Rio Lagartos, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos, Cancun, Coba, Tulum, Mahahual, Bacalar, etc. Click on the links for detailed travel guides of these places.
If you could please help me in return and share the link of this Holbox travel guide somewhere on the internet I would be forever thankful. Every tweet on Twitter, share on Facebook or pin on Pinterest would be amazing. Thank you very much in advance!