Isla Holbox Travel Guide (Things To Do, See, & Eat 2024)

written by local expert Isabella Biava

I travel for the sake of traveling and to have new material for my photography. After living in the Caribbean and then Mexico for 15 years as an expatriate, I decided to leave and explore the world, starting from Mexico, with lots of bags and a camera. I have no specific travel goals and no rush to arrive anywhere because the journey is the destination. On I share travel guides, practical information about the nomadic lifestyle, and of course my photography.

Looking to spend a few days in paradise? In this article, I will walk you through some of the best things to do in Isla Holbox.

The founders of this blog spent a year living in Mexico and Isla Holbox was one of their frequent getaways so this guide is full of helpful tips to make sure you have the best time.

Located in the North Coast of Quintana Roo in the Yucatan Peninsula, Isla Holbox is one of the best beaches in Mexico and for a right reason! Between its unique laid back vibe and beautiful beaches off the Mexican Caribbean Sea, Holbox is a must add to your Mexico trip.

You see, only a decade ago, Isla Holbox was just a tiny fishing village with only a couple of exclusive hotels accessible only to wealthy tourists. 

However, in the past few years, more and more hotels for different budgets and styles were built along its pristine coastline, and the island has become more accessible to all kinds of travelers and has now become everyone’s paradise. 

Traveling around? Check out our in-depth Mexico Travel Tips guide for more on traveling in Mexico!

Holbox beach bars

Now, Isla Holbox is one of the most visited destinations in the Yucatan Peninsula, attracting visitors from all over the world to enjoy its laid back vibes, the stunning pristine beaches, and the numerous outdoor activities.

Isla Holbox is, in fact, a paradise found for both adventurous travelers and nature lovers.

The roads are still unpaved and cars are not admitted. If you are not willing to ride a bike, you can rent a golf cart or call a taxi (which is also a golf cart). You can live in your swimsuit and flip flops. 

Wifi is an issue, but who cares if you have an immaculate white sand beach, turquoise crystal clear sea, and a hammock? Instagram can certainly wait. 

How to Get to Isla Holbox

There are several ways to get to Isla Holbox. In this list I will walk you through all the different ways:

The Best Way to Get to Isla Holbox

The fastest and easiest way to get there is by booking a shuttle.

You can reserve a shuttle ahead of time online that will pick you up from the airport and take you to your destination. This hassle-free mode of transport brings you straight from the airport to Chiquila where you will catch the ferry.

The total journey is under 2.5 hours and is pretty straight forward if you get private transport.

Rent a Car from Cancun Airport to Chiquila

Another option is to rent a car in Cancun airport and leave it in the parking docks by Chiquila. Doing this method has its cons as there are NO vehicles allowed in Isla Holbox. How cool is that? Parking by Chiquila docks will cost you around $5-10 a day.

We actually opted for this transport method before and found the parking lots to be very safe and organized. For rental cars, we recommend Discovery Cars which helps you compare car rental prices from multiple companies.

Check out the link above for price options for car rentals.

Shared Shuttle from Cancun to Chiquila

Another option would be to get on a shared shuttle. These shared shuttles on Viator are pretty straight forward and will take you directly to the port of Chiquila where you can catch a ferry.

Private Plane Charter

Unfortunately, there are no airlines that fly directly into Isla Holbox, but if you are dead set on enjoying the convenience and speed of flying to your destination, you can book a private charter plane.  Keep in mind, however, that these flights are not cheap, but it IS the fastest way to get there.

Not to mention, the scenery along the way make it an experience to remember.

If luxury travel isn’t your cup of tea, and you are looking for the most budget-friendly option possible, consider traveling to Isla Holbox is by public bus.

ADO Bus from Downtown Cancun to Chiquila

While you will have to sacrifice your time in exchange for the monetary savings, as these bus rides can be rather long depending on your starting point, this is definitely the cheapest option available. 

Keep in mind that the ADO bus from Cancun to Holbox isn’t as easy as you will have to go to the ADO bus terminal in downtown Cancun THEN get on a bus to Chiquila.

That being said, tickets are fairly cheap. The ADO Cancun Downtown Station to Chiquila ADO bus has six daily departures from 8:30am, 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3:30pm.

Ferry from Chiquila to Isla Holbox

Once you’ve reached Chiquila, the Isla Holbox ferry is very easy and is only a quick 15 minute ride! They begin at 5am and run every 30 minutes. No need for reservations. All you have to do is show up at the port, ask when the next ferry is and buy tickets.

There are a few restaurants by the dock that serve basic food and drinks while waiting for your ferry.

There are two ferry boat companies that operate in Holbox. They are equally efficient and offer the same service, at different schedules, for the passengers’ convenience. 

If you are a group of more than 5 people, you might want to get a private ride from one of the fishermen at the marina instead.  

Tip: If you’re short on time, consider taking a guided day trip to Holbox so that you can see the island’s highlights. Check out this tour that includes round-trip accommodation from your hotel, boat ride, and lunch, in addition to all the sightseeing with a local guide!

things to do in holbox island

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How to Get Around in Isla Holbox

Currently, Isla Holbox is unpaved and as mentioned, there are no vehicles on the island so renting a car will not be an option for this trip.

While this may seem like it could be frustrating, it is really a great thing because it really sets the island’s vibe and helps visitors feel like they are escaping from the hustle and bustle of modern cities. 

Of course, you will need to get around somehow. A common way to do this is by golf cart. This will cost about $70-85. It’s a fun way to see everything!

If you enjoy being active, you could also opt to rent a bike and cycle around the island, as it is a small island that can be traveled end to end by any generally healthy person.

We suggest renting a golf cart of bike as they are the best ways to move around Holbox along the unpaved roads.

  • Golf Cart rental costs: 300 MXN/hour (min. 2 hours)
  • Bike rental cost: 35 MXN/ hour. If you wish to get the bike for the entire stay or an entire day, it’s way more convenient to agree on a price for the entire stay than hourly.

You can always call a taxi-golf cart but they are not very reliable and you might need to wait for some time even if you book it in advance, depending on the time. 

Holbox Island Mexico

Holbox Things to Do Highlights

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Best Things to Do in Holbox (Updated 2024)

1. Watch the Flamingos at Punta Cocos

Located only one mile west of town, Punta Cocos is a public beach with nothing there but palms and flamingos.

Those graceful pink creatures love to hang out just off the bay at a very close distance. 

Because of the shallow water, you can easily walk very close to them but we respect the environment. Flamingos love to be admired and photographed but at a fair distance; otherwise, they get stressed. And we don’t want that.

I would suggest bringing your camera with you with a good zoom lens so that you can take some good close-ups without disturbing them. 

The best way to reach this beach is by renting a bike. It’s only one mile from the center but it’s really hot and there is no shade along the way. At least riding the bike makes it breezy and bearable!

2. Enjoy the Beautiful Holbox Sunsets

It seems a simple thing but watching the sunset is one of the best things to do in Holbox.

Halfway from Punta Coco to town, you can stop by the beach. It’s my favorite one from which to admire the sunset. But anywhere along the beach is perfect – the most important thing is that you don’t miss it! 

Sunset watching is a must do for any visit to Isla Holbox.

Holbox sunsets
Tom taking a photo of the incredible Isla Holbox sunset

3. Chill at the Local Beach Bars

Who wouldn’t love the idea of lazing around at the beach with a drink in their hand without a care in the world? If this sounds like your idea of a good time, you’re in for a treat when you visit Holbox. Holbox is home to several cute beach bars, complete with relaxing hammocks, lazy chairs, and fantastic food and drinks. 

One such beach bar that you MUST make a point to visit while you are in Isla Holbox is Coquitos beach club. Their food and drinks are good, and their scenery is even better!

If you are visiting Cancun and Tulum as well during your trip, you will likely find the relaxing beach bars of Isla Holbox to be a nice change of pace compared to the bustling clubs in the other two cities. Relaxing at a beach bar in Holbox truly feels like the pinnacle of paradise!

The best part? You can relax even more knowing that your drinks in Isla Holbox will cost far less than those in many other countries, such as the US. 

relaxing at isla holbox
Enjoying some reading and down time in one of the many beach bars in Isla Holbox.

4. Take a Walk on the Sandbanks 

On the opposite side of the island from Punta Cocos is where the sand is whiter and softer and when the tide is low, you can even walk in the water. 

In reality, a stretch of sand will emerge from the water offshore right in front of the iconic Holbox hotel Las Nubes. 

Just make sure you consider when the tide will be back up so that you won’t get wet, especially if you are walking with your camera on you.

5. Go Kite Surfing

Calling all water sport lovers! Holbox is ideal for kite surfers because of the favorable winds. Further north from Las Nubes Resort, you can find a kite school where to rent equipment or take a class. 

If you’re looking for something active to do, this is one of the best things to do in Isla Holbox.

6. Follow the Murals

Street art is pretty common in Mexico as a way to express the artists’ minds or to show their artsy skills. One of the elements that make Holbox so beautiful is the colorful houses, most of them displaying beautiful creative murals representing Holbox marine life and local people.

Holbox murals have become one of Holbox’s attractions and part of the island’s identity. So make sure you keep an eye on the walls when you walk around. 

Holbox Town

7. Swim with Whale Sharks (Seasonal)

Swimming with whale sharks is the most popular tour in Holbox and usually the main reason why tourists used to flock to the island.

The sea around Holbox is in the middle of these gentle giants’ migration route which happens to be in the summer. Whale Shark season lasts from June through September. The local fishermen know where to find them and they will take you to swim with them.

The whale sharks are protected animals and therefore there is a limited number of people that can go at a time. Local authorities try to keep it controlled but I always wonder if we are not invading their space too much.

I did this tour once a few years ago and it’s amazing how close they can come by.  They seem to ignore you and mind their own business. You absolutely cannot touch them, though and you need to wear the life jacket as a mandatory rule.

8. Discover the Local Wildlife

There are many other tours organized by the fishermen to take you to Isla de los Pajaros and Isla de la Passion (Passion Island), especially loved by birdwatchers.

This tour takes you on a boat tour to visit Pájaros Island, Pasión Island and Mosquito Bay. It’s a great way to get to the best beaches in Holbox while getting insight into the local wildlife around you.

You will have plenty of time to swim and enjoy some complimentary beers and juices while on the boat ride.

If you want a DIY experience, walk towards Punta Coco or Punta Mosquito early in the morning and you will see tons of wildlife.

holbox island bird watching

9. Experience the Incredible Bioluminescence Phenomenon

There are adventurous kayaking tours to take you on a night adventure and experience the spectacular natural phenomenon of bioluminescence.  Some specific microorganisms produce a glittering effect when water moves. This is a local tour that is done early at night.

Do not miss it and make sure you pack some mosquito repellant! 

10. Take a Full-Day Boat Tour

The three islands tour is the most complete tour that includes the Isla de los Pajaros, Isla de la Passion, and a stop at the Yalahu cenote. It’s a full-day tour immersed in nature and you will also have the opportunity to spend some time on untouched beaches and swim in pristine transparent waters and sandy beaches.

A visit to Yalahu cenote is also included which is great because it’s only reachable by boat. This is one of the things we did during the last time we visited Holbox and we highly recommend it.

11. Rent a Bike

For those who like to stay active while on vacation, exploring the island by bike can be a fantastic way to keep busy, have fun, and see tons of beautiful sights in the process. Renting a bike can also be a cheap way to travel around the island, as bike rentals usually only cost around 35 MXN per hour. This converts to about 2 US dollar per hour. Not bad at all!

Renting a bike during your trip to Isla Holbox can both take care of the necessity for in-island transportation and the desire for vacation entertainment at the same time. 

Why not make this even more fun by using your bike as an opportunity to give yourself a self-guided tour of the island? After all, sometimes grabbing a map and going on an adventure can be even more fun than joining a group of tourists on a guided tour.

Isla Holbox

12. Kayak Through the Mangroves

The mangroves are one of the can’t-miss beauties of Holbox. And what better way to experience these beauties than by paddling along the glassy stream underneath them in a kayak? Not only will this allow you to experience the beautiful mangroves, but you also might get to see some crocodiles and flamingos along the way. It truly is an unforgettable experience!

Luckily, this must-do experience won’t break the bank, as kayaking tours in Mexico are relatively cheap. Mangrove kayaking tours in Isla Holbox usually range from $40-$50 per person. This is much cheaper than similar tours in other countries. The local tour above is highly rated by other travelers!

This is also another great way to get some exercise on vacation, while also having fun! Kayaking through scenery like this is both relaxing and exciting at the same time!

Where to Eat in Isla Holbox

Editor’s Note: Being massive foodies, no trip to Holbox will be complete without some information on the best places to eat! Here is a list of some of the must-try restaurants in Holbox

Roots Pizza – Eating lobster pizza is a thing in Holbox…and if you’re going to do it, might as well hit up the spot that does it the best! Aside from their lobster pizza, their other items on the menu are equally as delicious (and a lot more affordable!).

Taco Queto – For delicious greasy tacos, look no further as this stop is your place. The tacos here are simple, delicious, and so cheap! Their tacos al pastor is delicious – worth visiting for a few late-night eats.

Raices – If you’re looking for a delicious seafood lunch, Raices is a great option. Located right by the beach, they offer delicious grilled seafood, fresh ceviches, and ice-cold beers.

El Chapulim- If you’re looking for a fancier meal, El Chapulim by downtown is great. They don’t have menus and only serve whatever local ingredients that they have available. We had their lobster dinner there and was one of the best things we’ve eaten all weekend!

where to eat in holbox lobster pizza

How Much is Food and Drink on Isla Holbox?

Of course, this will vary from place to place. A cheap meal in Isla Holbox will cost around 80-100 MXN, or 4-5 USD. A nice meal will be more in the 100-300 MXN range, or 5-15 USD.

Either way, I think it’s safe to say that food won’t be a huge factor in your budget when visiting Isla Holbox, as you will likely spend significantly less than what you would spend in the US for similar meals. 

If you are trying to budget how much you will spend on food in Isla Holbox, a good estimate would be $20-$25.

If you are on a budget, you could probably get away with spending around $15 per day, and if you prefer to dine luxuriously for all of your meals, you should prepare to spend about $40-$50 per day. 

things to do in Holbox

Where to Stay in Isla Holbox Island

Holbox offers a great variety of accommodation from budget hostels to world-class luxury hotels. The choice is yours. 

In any case, to enjoy Holbox to the fullest, I would pick a place right on the beach. Imagine the views from your room, or getting your toes in the send as soon as you wake up. 

However, if you wish to save some cash, you might want to stay in the town where you can find cheaper options. You won’t be that far from the beach, anyway.

Holbox is so tiny that the center of the town is two blocks from the sea. Everything is pretty much within walking distance. 

Some luxury hotels, though, are located at the two opposite ends of the island, right on the beach. If that is your choice, you can rent a golf cart or just call a taxi any time you want to get to the center. 

Below, I share my favorite hotels for different price ranges:

Top Luxury Hotel: CasaSandra 

Elegant high-end hotel located right on the beach, with exceptional personalized service. 

Mid-Range Hotel: Hotel Mawimbi

Located on the beach but very close to the center, this hotel is ideal for those who love comfortable and nice accommodation without breaking the bank.  

Budget Hotel: Tribu Hostel

Colorful and lively hostel located on the beach. Private rooms are also available, but they are very tiny.

Editor’s Note: We stayed in this awesome Rooftop Hotel the last time we were there and had the most INCREDIBLE view of the island. This hotel came with a private rooftop which overlooked the mangroves and the ocean.

airbnb holbox where to stay
Image courtesy of hotel

Places to Visit Before and After Isla Holbox Mexico

In order to get to Isla Holbox, you will have to fly into Cancun, as Isla Holbox does not have an airport of its own. Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is home to a ton of incredible places to visit like:

  • Playa del Carmen
  • Tulum
  • Cancun
  • Merida

Cancun is full of exciting experiences that you won’t want to miss, including its white sand beaches and world-class resorts. 

After all, if you have to pass through a gorgeous hub of Central American Tourism like this anyway, why not do some exploring while you are there?

Another great place to visit while you are in the area would be Tulum. Tulum is known as an “Instagrammer’s paradise” because it is a beautiful area with plenty of great photo ops. Tulum, like Cancun and Isla Holbox, contains several beautiful scenic beaches.

Chilling in the beach clubs in Tulum are also a great way to spend a couple of days during your holiday. Tulum is also a great place to see Ancient Mayan ruins as well. 

From Tulum and Cancun, you can take a quick taxi ride to Playa del Carmen which is another popular beachside destination in the Mayan Riviera.

Aside from beaches, there are also tons of cenotes in the Mayan Riviera that are worth visiting.

If you are going to be in the country for a long period of time, you could even venture out to some of the other iconic locations in Mexico, such as Mexico City. Alternatively, you could discover the best time to explore Cancun for a completely different experience.

Of course, this is a huge feat, so you might not want to add that much traveling into your agenda unless you are planning on spending at least a couple of Mexico. If you are planning a lengthy backpacking trip, however, it’s safe to say that this cultural hub is something that you definitely can’t leave out!

Cenote Cristalino

FAQ on Isla Holbox

Is Isla Holbox Worth Visiting?

Absolutely! Isla Holbox is a beautiful hidden gem in Mexico that you definitely don’t want to miss. It is one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico and is worth adding to your Mexico itinerary.

Can You Swim at Isla Holbox?

Of course! Isla Holbox is home to several beautiful, crystal beaches that are great for taking a swim. The waters are shallow and very swimmable!

Is Isla Holbox Cheap?

Isla Holbox is relatively cheap. Like most Central American vacation spots, the costs of food, hotels, and activities are pretty cheap. The largest expense in visiting Isla Holbox will most likely be your plane ticket.

How Many Days Should I Spend on Isla Holbox?

When deciding how much time to spend in Isla Holbox, 3 or 4 days should be enough to see the whole island. However, if you have time to spare, 5 days would be a good amount of time to sightsee, relax, and more.

What is Holbox Known For?

People from all over the world travel to Holbox to enjoy its many beautiful beaches and laid back vibe. Aside from that, Isla Holbox is mostly known for its whale sharks, as well as its bioluminescent waters.

Is Holbox Cheaper than Tulum?

Because Tulum is a more well-known vacation spot, it is more expensive to visit than Isla Holbox. We found restaurants in Tulum to be massively overpriced and at par with US prices while in Holbox, you can still visit restaurants on a budget.

How Much Money Do I Need in Holbox?

This will vary depending on what you are doing and how nice your accommodations are on the Island. On average, budget around $1000-$1500 MX per day which is around $50-75 a day. This should be enough for food and transport.

What is the Best Time to Visit Holbox, Mexico?

The best time to visit Isla Holbox is between December and March. This is when the weather is not too hot.

Can I Drink Tap Water in Holbox?

Definitely not! Because of the high amount of unsafe minerals in the water, it is recommended that visitors only drink bottled water while visiting the island. As a general rule, you cannot drink the tap water in Mexico.

As you can see, there are enough things to do in Holbox to keep you occupied! Whether you’re just there for the day or if you have an extended stay, Holbox is a charming and relaxing island that will totally win you over.

For more on Mexico, check out these articles

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