hamocks on the beach

Unmissable things to do in Holbox – the complete guide

In MEXICO, QUINTANA ROO by Isabella BiavaLeave a Comment

The most complete article on all the things to do in Holbox, the best hotels, where to eat, and how to get to Holbox.

Isla Holbox is one of the most beautiful destinations in the Yucatan Peninsula for those who love nature and a laid back and hip destination surrounded by nature and positive vibes.

There is quite a choice of water-related activities but I am sure you will also enjoy the pristine beach and the comfort of your hotel beach chairs, not to mention the delicious food.

Isla Holbox can be easily reached from Cancun either by car or bus.

Consider only that Cancun-Holbox by car can take about 2 hours versus the 3hrs by bus.

In this post, I will tell you all about Holbox, the things to do, where to stay and eat, and any other practical information to make the most of your trip.

I went to Holbox a few times and the last time it was for 4 days by myself, of courseand enjoyed exploring not only places but also the spectacular hotels so I will be happy to share my thoughts on where to stay in Holbox as well.

Read on and let the journey planning begin:)

FAQ about traveling to Holbox

When is the whale shark season?

The whale shark season is from June through September. You can read more on where to swim with whale sharks if you want to go to Holbox only to swim with whale sharks. Continue to read this post if you want to know many more reasons to visit Isla Holbox.

How long is Holbox Cancun by bus?

In order to get to Isla Holbox, you will need to reach Chiquila’ first, from where you would get the ferry to Holbox. Cancun Holbox (Chiquila’) is about a 3-hour bus maybe something less. By car is about 2 hours. Check out this post to know more in details about how to get to Isla Holbox

Is Isla Holbox expensive?

It all depends on your standard.  I don’t think Holbox is more expensive than Cancun or Playa del Carmen.

Is Isla Holbox worth visiting?

In my opinion, Holbox is one of the most beautiful beach destinations in the Yucatan peninsula. If you love beach life and bohemian culture that it’s still not overdeveloped and preserve its charm and authenticity, this is your place. I hope it won’t change. So, yes Holbox is definitely worth visiting.

How do you pronounce Isla Holbox?

You would pronounce as in “hole”- “bosh”.

Is Isla Holbox safe?

It is a very small island when all the locals pretty much know each other and yes it can be considered a safe place. However, you still need to use the same common sense that you would use anywhere else. Don’t ever leave your belonging unattended and don’t walk alone in dark areas, for example.

Which is better, Isla Mujeres or Holbox?

If a couple of decades ago it would have been a very difficult question to answer, now I can tell you without a doubt that Holbox is 100% much better than Isla Mujeres, for the above-mentioned reasons. Holbox is still preserving its original vibe of a fishing village even with the developments of new restaurants and hotels, it’s still a cute laid back clean place with spectacular deserted white sand beaches.

Does Holbox have seaweed?

While I am writing there are no seaweeds on Holbox beaches and also in the past when the Riviera Maya had to face the Sargasso issue, Isla Holbox was Sargasso free.

Can I drink tap water in Holbox?

Absolutely NOT. In all Mexico tap water is undrinkable. It’s not deadly but if you don’t want to risk spending your vacation sitting on a toilet I would suggest you should use bottled water. If you want to use environment-friendly practice, take your water bottle with you and refill it. Remember to keep hydrated in such hot weather.

Watch the flamingos at Punta Cocos

One of the things you should do when you arrive in Holbox is to rent a bike to explore the island.

It’s a small area but not so small to walk all over the places in the heat. Punta Cocos is one of the most beautiful areas that you can reach by bike or by cart at only 1 mile west from town. It’s a free space with no service so remember to take your water and food if you wish to spend your day.

Once you get to the end of the road when you meet the water, you should park your bike or cart and keep walking south until the end of the beach. There you will find the most beautiful pristine waters and if you are lucky a colony of flamingoes, sunbathing on the horizon.

Please do not get to close because flamingos are very reserved animals and they get scared if the humans get too close, disrupting their natural behavior.

Take a walk on the bank of sands

Opposite to Punta Cocos on the other side of the island, right in front of the prestigious hotel Las Nubes, a 2 km long bank of sand emerges when there is low tide. It’s a silent and peaceful walk while you are surrounded by the turquoise water, it seems surreal. Remember to check the tide before going so you don’t get trapped in the middle of the sea when the water rise. It would only take 1 to 2 hours to go and back depending on how many times you would stop to take pictures.

Check out the colorful and inspiring Holbox murals

The pretty tiny village of Holbox is painted in multicolor beautiful murals representing Holbox life and wildlife and brightening up the otherwise dull white walls. They have become an icon of Holbox and for sure one of the highlights of this top-rated Mexican destination. You can’t miss them while you walk around town heading to your tour or dinner, but it’s worth setting up an itinerary just to spot all the beautiful murals and take a selfie with these joyous backgrounds.

Watch the sunset

Sunsets in Holbox are memorable and there is nothing better than ending your day on a beautiful beach watching the sun go down and the beautiful painted sky. If you also have booked a hotel on the beach on a higher floor the show is even more spectacular.

Take a nap on one of the overwater hammocks

The hammocks on the water have become an icon in Holbox. You will find them almost everywhere but you cannot book them, first come first serve. Please do not fight with other tourists. 🙂

See also Holbox in pictures: 20 photos that will inspire you to travel to Holbox

Unmissable tours in Holbox¡

These tours are available if you are staying on the island for a few days. See the next section for 1 day tour to Holbox from Cancun or the Riviera Maya

Rent a golf cart or a bike

The best way to move around Holbox along the unpaved roads is by bike or golf cart or you can call a taxi but they are not always available when you need them.

If you have your own vehicle you will be free to move around at your pace without depending on anyone. I have rented a bike for my entire stay because I love to explore. And it also helped to fight the heat.

Cart rental costs: 200 MXN/hr (min 2 hours)  Bike rental cost: 20 MXN/ hour

If you wish to get the bike for the entire stay or an entire day it’s way more convenient than renting it per the hour.

Have lunch on the beach

All along the coast on the beautiful white sand beach, you can find many different restaurants that are also Beach Clubs where you can pay a fee for the day to use the beach chairs and facilities. The amount will be used to pay for your meal.

My favorite spot was inside the hotel Mawimbi, which has also spectacular rooms.

Swim with the whale shark (seasonal)

One of the most popular boat tours in Holbox is to go swimming with the whale sharks and originally the only reason why somebody would go to Holbox.

It’s not like that anymore because you can easily join a whale sharks tour from Cancun or Isla Mujeres as well. While in Holbox you can enjoy many other activities and explore the surrounding nature or just relax on the beach.

Admire the local wildlife

There are local tours that you can join and you can book them either from one of the local agencies that you find in town or from the reception of your hotel. I am sure they will be happy to assist you.  Tours normally take you to Isla de los Pajaros (bird islands) known for the bird’s colonies that breed right there, and Isla de la Passion where you can also find other birds.

Take a dip in Yalahau cenote

Yalahu cenote is a natural sinkhole surrounded by lush vegetation. It’s located in the mainland but you can only reach it by boat. Normally the three island tours include a visit at the cenote.

Experience the incredible bioluminescence phenomenon

This kayaking tour will take you on an amazing night adventure around the island to see the bioluminescence phenomenon in the water not far from the shore.

Take a boat tour around the island

This 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 even more transparent waters.

Should you wish to pre-book your tours

If you have only a couple of days in Holbox you might want to make sure you book your tour in advance in order to not to miss anything. See a few amazing options here below.

1-day tours to Holbox from Cancun and the Riviera Maya

In case you are not planning to stay in Holbox overnight but you wish to take a day tour to the island from wherever you are vacationing, you can do that too.

You could do it on your own, but in order to save time I would suggest you take a one day tour that usually includes transportations to Chiquila’ and a boat tour to Holbox and then holbox Cancun back to your hotel.

I warn you it is going to be a very long day but all worth it.

Holbox Weather

The weather in Holbox is sunny all year round and very hot. However, consider that summers are very humid and with a better chance of rain, attracting more mosquitos. If you are particularly sensitive be equipped when you go.

Winters are cooler with a gentle breeze that makes the heat more bearable. Rain is less frequent but possible.

Having said that it is a destination all year round, but if I had to choose I would go in June, exactly when I went the last time. In June it’s still not extremely hot and you still have the opportunity to take a tour to swim with the whale sharks which are around only from June through the beginning of September and it’s something you don’t want to miss.

How to get to Holbox

In order to get to Holbox, regardless of where you are coming from, you would need to get to Chiquila’ to take the ferry. In this post I will tell you all about it in detail.

Getting to Chiquila’ by car

From Cancun to Holbox (Chiquilà) it’s about 2 hours drive if have your own car, 2hrs 30 minutes from Playa del Carmen, and 3 hrs from Tulum.

Once you arrive in Chiquilà you will need to find a car park where you will need to leave the car for the entire time you are in Holbox, since cars are not allowed on the island.

There are privately-owned parking lot where they charge around 100 MXN per day which you would pay at the end of the service when you go and pick up your car.

They are normally reliable, but it’s better not to leave any of your belonging in the car, just to be on the safe side.

Getting to Chiquila’ by bus

If you are traveling by bus there are busses from Cancun Playa del Carmen and Tulum or Merida or even directly from Cancun Airport you can check the times and prices on the ADO site the local transportation company. Rates vary depending on the time of the day.

The bus from Cancun would take around 3 hours to get to Chiquila’, sometimes longer.

Private transportation to Chiquila’

If you want your own private transportation, this is possible too. You could either hire a taxi or book with a travel agent. This company offers private luxury transportation from Cancun airport to Chiquila’.

Ferry Chiquila’ Holbox

From Chiquila’ there are two companies that run the ferry to Holbox at alternate times. You don’t have to worry because there are boats all day long. Here below in the pictures, you can find the schedule.

However, if you are a group of 5 or 6 it will be more convenient to hire a fishing boat to take you at your desired time, and if you have time, for a few extra dollars they include a tour around the island.

Read alsoHow to get to Isla Holbox where I explain it in more details

Isla Holbox Hotels

If I think about Holbox a decade ago I cannot believe how much it has developed over the years.

I remember where there was only one exclusive hotel, Las Nubes which used to have outrageous rates and only a few other very rustic small hotels. Nothing in between.

The island has developed a lot, but, as I was mentioning before, it has conserved the laid back hippie look while catering for a variety of customers.

You can find here many different hotels of any budget and style, but luckily they haven’t managed to build the huge all-inclusive monster that you find in Cancun.

Here is a totally different concept of hospitality and architecture. And that’s one of the things that make Holbox a very special place.

In this post, I will share with you my favorite hotels for different budgets.

If you want to know about more hotel options you can check out this article I wrote about my complete reviews on the many Holbox hotels. Yes, I have been visiting hotels during my stay, because that’s what I love to do. It’s part of the fun for me. 

Budget Hotel

Casa del Viento

This lovely hotel is where I have stayed. I was looking for a nice cozy place with personality without having to break the bank and this was perfect. Casa del Viento is an adult-only boutique hotel with spacious white rooms with wooden rustic decorative arts. The hotel has also a palapa where they offer yoga lessons in the morning and evening. The kind receptionists will help you book your bike and any tours besides answering all the questions you have about the island. The hotel is not right on the beach, but at only one block, close enough to walk to the beach any time you want and far enough to make its rates cheaper than others.

Check rates & availability:  Booking.com I Agoda I Hotels.com
Read reviews 
on TripAdvisor

Mid-range Hotel

Hotel Mawimbi

This pretty hotel little hotel is located in the heart of Holbox right on the beach on a beautiful stretch of sand and close to all the restaurants and bars. The rooms are beautifully decorated with colorful pieces of art. The beach bar and restaurant provide a cozy corner for your delicious meals on the beach. Beach chairs are available as well for the hotel guests to use.

Check rates & availability:  Booking.com I Agoda
Read reviews 
on TripAdvisor

Luxury Hotel

Hotel Spirit Holbox

Hotel spirit is a stunning property on the west coast of the island, at a few hundred mt from Playa Cocos. The large comfortable rooms are elegantly decorated with pastel colors and wooden art pieces to create a cozy and yet sophisticated atmosphere. From the rooftop, you can enjoy spectacular sunsets.

Check rates & availability:  Booking.com I Agoda I Hotel.com
Read reviews 
on TripAdvisor

Where to eat in Holbox

There are so many restaurants in Holbox that you really have one for each day, although I kept going to the same one Painapol for my breakfast, and lunch, as it was particularly cozy.

If you are vegan or vegetarian this is the place for you. Too bad is only open for breakfast and lunch, until 4 pm.

Otherwise, there are many other great options for dinner too.

Here below I am listing a few.

Painapol

As I mentioned before this was my favorite spot in Holbox, for its delicious breakfast and lunch and great vegan choices. Forgive me if I am repeating myself but I wanted to make sure you didn’t skip it.  You will thank me later.

Read the reviews on TripAdvisor

Arte Sano

A cozy little restaurant with an internal patio. I had the best vegan hamburger and juice there. The friendly staff is awesome too.

Read the reviews on TripAdvisor

Fresco bar and grill

For the seafood lovers this is the perfect spot, be it for lunch or dinner, Fresco bar is the best-rated beach restaurant for the amazing location and the world-class cuisine. They do have vegan options as well and they are open for breakfast too

Read the reviews on TripAdvisor

Le Jardin Panaderia Cafeteria

I didn’t try this place just because I loved the Painapol, but it was close to my hotel and always crowded. It must have been good and the reviews confirmed it, so I have included it here. Only open for breakfast.

Read the reviews on TripAdvisor

Luuma

A trendy place for your night in  Holbox. Great Mexican food in an elegant casual-chic environment. Very popular for dinner and drinks.

Read the reviews on TripAdvisor

How to move around in Holbox

In Holbox there are no cars, except for some trucks. People move around on golf carts or bikes.

And you can do it too. You could even walk around the center but in order to reach the beautiful beaches and the best spots, it would be too hot.

I have rented a bike for the entire time I was there and it was perfect. If you want to be more comfortable a golf cart would do for you

Bike rental for 1 day should be around 100/150 MXN

Golf Cart for 1 day is around 1200 /1500 MXN

You can also rent by the hours

There are also TAXIs in Holbox but they will be on carts max 3 pax per each cart without luggage.

Is Holbox safe?

Holbox is safe indeed, so far, if you don’t count petty crime as anywhere in the world.

Just bring your commonsense with you when you travel and you are just fine.

By common sense I mean simple things such as:

  • don’t leave your valuable unattended either on the beach or on your golf cart or on the chair at the restaurant.
  • don’t leave your laptop or valuable object close to the window of your home.
  • just don’t be naive

It’s a small village where everything is pretty much under control, especially with the navy base on the island.

So, no worries and start packing

What should I wear in Isla Holbox

Holbox is a very laid back island where you can hang out all day in your simple beachwear unless you love to go fancy all the time. It’s really up to you.

There are nice restaurants where you might love to show off your pretty dress for dinner but remember it’s no place for heels.

There are a few things though that you cannot do without in Holbox, such as a good (ecofriendly) sunscreen, a nice beach towel, an ID if you want to rent a golf cart, a hat, a camera. Good vibes!

I have put together a full list of things that you need to take with you when you travel to Cancun, and it applies to Holbox too.

Holbox Map

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