Holbox Isla is truly the hidden gem of Mexico. I can imagine Holbox is what Tulum was like 10 years ago before it was raided by the jet-set Instagram elite.
Just a few hours from Cancun, Holbox is the perfect place to relax and unwind in perfect blue waters. It’s truly paradise!
What is Isla Holbox
Isla Holbox, pronounced Hol-bosh, is a tiny little island just northwest of Cancun.
There are no paved roads and more than half the island is protected jungle. Only one side of the island is developed for tourism, and honestly, that’s what makes Isla Holbox such an amazing destination.
Why Visit Holbox Instead of Tulum
Tulum has become a bit overdeveloped in the past 10 years or so. With Instagrammers from all over the world descending on it for its easy access to cenotes and reputed laid-back hipster vibes.
But those days of Tulum being a backpacker’s paradise are pretty much gone. Now you see lines of people waiting to take their pictures at all the instagrammable locations in Tulum.
Isla Holbox is a great alternative to Tulum if you are looking to get away from the crowds. I never waited in line even once to take any of my pictures!
How To Get to Isla Holbox in Mexico
Isla Holbox is not the easiest to get to, which is probably why it’s not as popular as Tulum. But don’t worry it’s not hard either.
To travel to Isla Holbox you would fly into Cancun Airport, then take land transportation to Puerto de Chiquila (about a 2-3 hour ride) and catch a 20-minute ferry over to the island.
Book Private Transportation
The easiest way to make the journey from the Cancun Airport to Holbox is to book a private transfer that includes a car to drive you and ferry tickets. This is how we got to the island. Because we were traveling in a large group private transfers made sense for us!
The private transfer is also faster than taking public transportation as you will see below.
Book Private Transfers Here.
Take the Bus
You can also take the ADO bus from the Cancun Airport to downtown Cancun. From there catch the ADO bus to the ferry terminal at Chiquila and buy your ferry tickets to Holbox.
The bus from downtown Cancun to Chiquila ferry port takes about 3 hours. This would be the most complex method of getting to Isla Holbox but it will be the most cost-effective.
Flying to Isla Holbox
You can also fly to Isla Holbox from Cancun airport, but this can be quite expensive at $400+ per ticket.
Where to Stay in Isla Holbox
Isla Holbox offers a variety of accommodations for all budgets. We stayed at Villas Flamingo, on the side of the island away from the main city center. This was actually because the hotel I originally wanted to book was sold out.
In the end, though this was a great choice because it put us right in front of the amazing sand bar Holbox is known for!
Villas Flamingo – CHECK PRICES
Flamingo has some truly unique rooms and our stay was flawless! The hotel has 2 pools (one of them is adults only) and is beachfront.
The food and drinks at the hotel were amazing as well. Flamingo is well suited for both adult groups, couples, and families that are looking for a quiet respite.
How Much Money to Bring to Holbox
You may have heard there are only 2 ATMs on Isla Holbox and most of the time they are either not working or out of cash! This is true, my friend tried to get money out and the ATM just kept giving her an error.
There are cash exchanges that will exchange USD to MX pesos but the rates are horrible!
Credit cards are not widely accepted on the Island, except maybe at the higher-end hotels and restaurants.
For your trip to Holbox, I would get cash out at the ATM in the Cancun airport (though there is a limit) or at a bank ATM in Cancun city. Because we booked private transfers, the driver offered to take us to a bank first before we started on the drive to the ferry port.
So how much money should you bring to Holbox? From my research, I’ve seen about $1000 MX pesos per day per person.
This is not include booking activities, transfers, rentals, and hotels which will probably be the most expensive part of your stay. We pre-booked all of these so we only needed cash for food, drinks, and souvenirs.
This ended up being a bit low for us because we did quite a bit of shopping including buying some excellent mezcal to bring home. But if you don’t plan on any big purchase that should be about right.
Internet Access in Isla Holbox
Internet, wifi, and cell service are quite iffy on Isla Holbox. There was one whole day where ALL internet was down for EVERYONE! I’m talking no cell service, no hardline service, and no wifi for the ENTIRE ISLAND!
So if you are planning on a working vacation, this may not be the best place for you. Even when the internet came back, we could only get hotel wifi in certain spots.
In town, I managed to get some cell service from T-Mobile, but this varied from full service on one side of the street to no signal on the other side of the street.
How to Get Around Holbox Mexico
There are no cars in Holbox, instead, your modes of transportation include walking, biking, or driving around one of the many golf carts on the island.
The golf carts serve as taxi services too when you first arrive on the island. I suggest taking one to your hotel.
As soon as you hit the island there is a map with prices in MX pesos on how much a ride will cost you depending on where you are going.
I had planned on renting a golf cart, but our hotel came with free bikes so we just used those instead.
When it rains in Holbox though the roads get incredibly flooded so be prepared to get a bit muddy!
Swimming with Whale Sharks in Isla Holbox
Swimming with Whale Sharks was the number one reason I wanted to visit Isla Holbox 7 years ago and it is one of the most famous activities on Holbox.
This was right when I got pregnant and had to put those plans on hold! But finally, 7 years later I have finally checked this bucket list item off my list!
When is Whale Shark Season in Holbox?
Whale Shark Season runs from June to September in Holbox and you have to book a tour for this tour.
Group Tour – CHECK PRICES
Private Tour – CHECK PRICES
We ended up doing a private tour because we had such a large group.
Best Things to Do in Isla Holbox
In addition to swimming with Whale Sharks, there are quite a few other things to do on Isla Holbox.
These were all of our favorite activities we did on Holbox on our trip!
We didn’t have to travel far for the famous Holbox Sandbar, it was right outside our hotel! You can walk all the way to point Mosquito from here. We saw so many people trek right by our villa with their backpacks.
Though we never made it to Mosquito, we love the sand bar and turned it into a real bar by borrowing a paddleboard from our hotel!
Bioluminescence is plankton that glows at night! Puerto Rico and the Cayman Islands are one of the best-known places to see the phenomenon.
We experienced it right outside our hotel at night without going anywhere. Because we stayed on the end of the beach with very little light and nighttime activity we were able to see bioluminescence right on the beach at our hotel!
There are a few tours though that offer this as well:
Walk the Beach at Night
Because our hotel was at the far end of the Holbox, when we went out at night, instead of getting a taxi back, we walked along the beach to and from town. It was a beautiful experience because of the huge moon and all the stars. Because the island is so tiny there isn’t as much light pollution, so you really can see all the stars.
Party at Hot Corner at Night
Hot Corner is literally the name of a street in Holbox. And it’s called Hot Corner because, on Saturday nights, this corner turns into a street party. EVERYONE dances in the street!
If you are on a budget, this nighttime activity in Holbox is free! And definitely get some drinks at the corner store that’s right on this corner!
Lay Around in a Holbox Hammack
Isla Holbox is known for those colorful hammocks in shallow waters, but unfortunately, we never got to sit in them. The government had taken them all down because of the pandemic.
But if they put them back definitely have a sit and snap a picture!
Bike or Drive Around Town
Rent a bike or a golf cart and drive around to explore the town for a day. Our hotel booking came with free bikes so we had fun riding them down the beach path and around town.
Though if there has been rain of any sort be prepared to get muddy and dirty because the streets are unpaid and turn into mud pits!
One of the best parts of downtown are all the pretty murals everywhere! You can’t miss them, they are all over the walls.
Shopping in Isla Holbox
Right around Hot Corner, there’s a little street market full of souvenirs and my favorite, straw hats and bags!
The one thing people always ask on my Instagram is where my straw bags are from. Well, they are all from either Thailand or MEXICO! Definitely pick up a straw bag, hat, and some little textile purses. I also love the little pom tassels that are abundant here.
And get some of the stuffed toys for the kids!! I bought both a lion and a unicorn that my daughter loves.
Plus get a straw hat, my absolute favorite straw hat is from Holbox, the best part is it’s a ton cheaper than Lack of Color straw hats!
Experience Sunset on the Beach
You should not miss the sunset on the beach on Isla Holbox. Because we were right on the sandbar we experienced every magical sunset right from our hotel.
Another magical spot for sunset is Punto Cocos, but we never made it there because it was so perfect from our hotel!
Visit a Beach Bar with a Swing
Beach bars with bar and beach swings seem to be synonyms with Isla Holbox. It’s actually HARDER to find a bar that didn’t have a swing!
Our hotel had bar swings!
There are also plenty of FREE beach swings. I never had a problem sitting on a beach swing and snapping a quick picture. No one even batted an eye and no one seemed to care if I was a guest, buying a drink, or anything! And yes I even used my tripod.
This is probably the best part of Holbox, the unapologetically laid-back vibe! Sure your food may take a bit longer to arrive, but will someone harass you for taking a photo of their bar, nope!
Visit a Beach Club
I’m going to tell you we walked by tons of beach clubs, but we never went to one, because our hotel was on the beach. If you chose to stay in town the beach clubs are worth a visit and a great way to relax.
Most had beautiful day beds and hammocks! Raices Beach Club came highly recommended and it looked like a lovely experience when I walked by on the way into town.
3 Island Tour Holbox
The 3 Island Tour is the main tour you can take besides swimming with whale sharks. This boat tour takes you to 3 different islands around Holbox Isla and is a great day on the water.
The tour includes a visit to Isla Pájaros, Isla Pasión, and Yalahau which is on the mainland.
This tour is about half a day and an absolute delight. Our favorite part of this tour was the stop at Holbox’s beautiful lagoon. The views here were breathtaking!
They even fed us some fresh ceviche on the tour.
Have a Dip in Yalahula Cenote
Yalahula is technically NOT a cenote, it’s actually a freshwater lagoon on the mainland and not on Holbox Isla.
It looks very similar to a cenote though and offers a refreshing dip!
A visit to Yalahula Lagoon is included in the 3 Island Tour.
Where to Eat in Holbox
There are tons of tiny and affordable restaurants in Holbox.
We ended up eating at the hotel quite a bit because the food was good and affordable, and breakfast was included in our stay.
This is by far my favorite taco place on the island! Get the tacos el pastor here. It’s also super affordable and open late. Taco Queto is the place to go lunch and dinner if you are on a budget.
Holbox is famous for lobster pizza apparently and every local we talked to recommended Roots. Personally, I would skip the $30 lobster pizza and get the tacos at Taco Queto instead. I would say the pizza here was meh compared to the tacos!
I would give you more recommendations on food but we didn’t make it to that many restaurants because breakfast came with our hotel stay. And we ate lunch mostly at the hotel because it was affordable and delicious. They even had buy one get one free margarita during happy hour at our hotel bar, which is why we never felt the need to go to a beach club.