Mexico’s Best Kept Secret – Isla Holbox Guide (2019)

Lying just off the northern coastline of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Isla Holbox is an island paradise that you NEED to visit!

No cars, no paved roads, miles, and miles of pristine undeveloped beaches – this is our kind of place. Isla Holbox is, in our opinion, at the perfect size right now in 2019 and for the next few years.

It’s still largely raw and undeveloped, but it has a nice little town with restaurants, hotels for most budgets, and everything else you really need as a tourist (without the Senior Frogs bar and the rest of the overdevelopment).

Dare we say… Is Isla Holbox the next Tulum?

The tiny island of Isla Holbox has a great laidback vibe to it. Along with the beautiful beaches and glorious sunshine, its glittering Caribbean waters are also home to incredible marine life, with whale sharks being the pick of the lot.

Above water is just as wonderful. There is a multitude of amazing street art for you to check out, as well as many fantastic local restaurants serving up delicious Mexican food. All in all, it really is a dream destination!

If you are looking for something new in Mexico, you need to put this postcard-perfect little island on your list. Isla Holbox is a great place to head if you want a relaxing Mexico getaway with the change for some eco-friendly soft adventures. If that sounds like what you are looking for here is our travel guide to Isla Holbox Mexico!


Isla Holbox FAQ and Quick Answers:

Q: When is Whale Shark Season in Holbox?

A: Mid May to Mid September is Whale Shark Season in Isla Holbox, with the peak of the season coming in late June to Early July. Whale Sharks can be spotted in Isla Holbox during the summer months during their annual migration around the Yucatan Peninsula.

Q: How do you pronounce Holbox?

A: Holbox is pronounced differently you might expect based on how it is spelled. The “x” takes on a “sch” sound, making the correct way to say it: “Hole – Bosch”

Q: Are there cars allowed on Isla Holbox?

A: It is so tiny that there are no cars on Isla Holbox (except a few work trucks), which means you have to either rent a bike or a golf cart to travel around – or it’s small enough to walk just about everywhere! Limits on cars are in place to protect the island’s pristine natural habitat.


long strech of white sand on Isla Holbox Island Mexico

Why you Should Visit Isla Holbox Mexico

While the stunning scenery and laidback island way of life is already reason enough to visit Isla Holbox, one of the main draws is that it is very much an off the beaten path destination, at least for the moment. You’ll also find that there are hardly any paved roads, so you’ll mostly be trundling along dusty tracks when on your golf cart or bike. In addition to this, there are only just over a thousand people that call the island home, so there’s a lovely small-town feel.

Much of Mexico’s glorious coastline has become a bit over-developed in recent years, so lots of places feel a bit crowded with lots of tourists visiting every year. Isla Holbox still remains largely underdeveloped. Add in the idyllic beaches, the amazing underwater life, the beautiful street art, and the welcoming feel to the island, and it all comes together to make the perfect vacation destination!


How To Get To Isla Holbox Mexico

There are only two options to travel to Isla Holbox, the 15-minute ferry from Chiquila or fly to Holbox. If you’ve rented a car in Cancun sadly you can’t drive to Holbox Mexico BUT you can drive right to the town of Chiquila and hop on the Isla Holbox ferry from there.

Don’t let the ferry intimate date you, getting to Holbox is flawless. Make sure to check out our how to get Holbox guide for more details on each option or our Cancun to Holbox article dedicated for those traveling from Cancun.

EASIEST and FASTEST way to Isla Holbox

Want to get to Holbox the easiest & fastest way? A private shuttle is the easiest way, have a driver waiting for you at the airport or pick you up at your hotel. You’ll need to book online in advance to arrange and get the cheapest rates.

Isla Holbox Ferry from Chiquila

The ferry to Isla Holbox from Chiquila is super quick, it takes only 15 minutes. There are two Holbox ferry companies that run ferries daily from Chiquila to Holbox and back. Both ferries charge the same price, you’ll get the same service, they just operate on different schedules.

They both run daily starting at 5 am and leave every 30 minutes, one departs on the hour and the other ferry leaves on the half hour. The last ferry is at 8:30 pm.

Just show up to the Chiquila pier (click here for google maps location) and ask for the next available ferry to Holbox. Holbox ferry ticket prices are:

  • Adults & Children over 4 feet: $150 pesos
  • Children under 4 feet: $100 pesos
  • Children under 2: Free

Traveling to Isla Holbox by Car

You can easily rent a car and drive yourself to Chiquila and catch the ferry. Rental cars in Mexico are super cheap, we typically pay $5 per day from the Cancun Airport. For the cheapest prices click here to get prices on Rentalcars.com, if your travel plans change they offer free cancelations.

Related Article: Things to Know BEFORE Renting a Car in Mexico

  • Cancun to Holbox / Chiquila
    • Toll Road 145 km | 1 hr 55 minutes
  • Playa del Carmen to Holbox / Chiquila
    • Toll Road 123 km | 1 hr 45 minutes
  • Tulum to Holbox / Chiquila
    • Toll Road 186 km | 2 hours 30 minutes

Parking at Chiquila Holbox Ferry

There are several local business and residents that offer parking right across from the Holbox ferry. There will be signs advertising they offer parking and the daily rate. We paid 100 pesos a day and we parked for 4 nights.

Don’t leave anything in your car, take all valuables and leave items you’re not taking with you in the trunk. We only took what we needed to Holbox and locked another suitcase in the trunk and had no issues.

Traveling to Isla Holbox by Public Bus

The cheapest way to Holbox is by public bus. This is usually also the longest way, they take 3+ hours. The local bus company ADO has routes to Holbox. We personally have taken ADO buses all over the Yucatan. Prices and time vary based on where you traveling from.

There are buses to Holbox (Chiquila pier) from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Merida, etc. Click here for the ADO bus schedule to Isla Holbox and to book tickets online. Prices are often cheaper on their app then when booking in person.

Traveling to Isla Holbox by Shared Shuttle Bus

Our least way of traveling is by shared shuttle bus. No one likes waiting for all passengers to arrive or going from hotel to hotel picking up more guests… There are shuttle buses from Cancun and Playa del Carmen to Cancun for $25-40 per person. Check out our how to get Holbox article for more details.

Flying to Isla Holbox

If budget is no concern considering flying to Holbox. There are no shared flights but instead, you can rent a private plane! You need to arrange flights in advance and they can depart from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Cozumel, or Merida. Flights start at $470 per plane and go up based on where you’re departing from.

Click here to check rates or request a booking.


a large surfacing whale shark in Holbox Mexico - Summer whale shark season tour

Swimming with Whale Sharks on Isla Holbox Mexico

One of the most incredible things to do in Isla Holbox is to go swimming with whale sharks – it really is a must if you have the chance! The huge creatures look majestic underwater as they peacefully swim by. You really will come away with a sense of awe at having seen them so up close in their natural environment.

Whale sharks can reach up to a staggering 40 feet in length and weigh up to 30,000 pounds, even with their size they are graceful creatures! These gentle giants aren’t dangerous, don’t let the shark part scare you. Larger than Great White Sharks, these giant toothless fish eat massive amounts of plankton, not people.

Whale Shark Season Isla Holbox

Holbox is one of the best places in the world to swim with Whale Sharks and is one of the things the island is best known for. However, don’t expect to show up not during whale shark season in Isla Holbox and expect to see them, you can only see the whale sharks in this part of Mexico during their migration when the seas a rich with Plankton. A summer visit to Isla Holbox is required if you want to spot these amazing creatures.

  • Holbox Whale Shark Season: June – September
  • Average price: MXN 2-3,000 (so $120+)

Top 10 Things to Do in Isla Holbox

Holbox Mexico really is a beautiful laid back place to visit, with lots for you to do in terms of outdoor activities – if you ever manage to tear yourself away from one of the famous hammocks that look out over the idyllic island scenery.

To help you out with your trip to this magnificent island, we’ve put together a list of our favorite activities on Isla Holbox. Everything from swimming in cenotes to exploring the island’s incredible street art and drinking margaritas in the sun – here are our favorite things to do in Isla Holbox!


Photo of Las Nubes sand bar from a drone - Isla Holbox sand bank island - Turquoise water and thin strip of white sand

1. Walk the neverending sandbar beach at Las Nubes

Another must thing to do on the island is to go for a walk along the seemingly never-ending sandbar beach at Las Nubes. Stretching away into the distance, the sandbank only emerges before your eyes at low tide, when you can walk along it with the glorious turquoise waters of the Caribbean lapping at the sand on either side of you.

It’s a magical experience, and the scenery and views are absolutely stunning – just make sure to get back to firm land before high tide rolls in and covers the sandbar! Be warned the tide comes in quick and can easily sneak up on you.

Once you get back, there are lots of restaurants and bars where you can grab a cocktail and watch a glorious sunset over the sea.


woman standing in front of the famous hammocks on the beach on Holbox Island - with signs spelling out "HOLBOX"

2. Take a nap in one of the famous hammocks!

At almost all of the Holbox beaches on the island, you’ll come across hammocks strung up between gently swaying palm trees. These hammocks are the perfect place to take a well-earned nap! The most famous and photo-worthy ones are located right on the beach, with shallow water lying right below them; these are the ones most people head to.

There’s nothing better in life than lazily trailing your hand in the water as you bask in the sunshine and let a hammock rock you to sleep!

One of our favorite things to do in Isla Holbox, the famous hammocks are definitely worth checking out, whether you want to snooze the afternoon away or take a memorable vacation photo. A few of our favorite places for the famous Holbox Hammocks:


two kite surfers in the water at punta mosquito - kite surfing Isla Holbox - top tourist Things to do

3. Kite Surfing on the Northern Shores of Isla Holbox (or just watching)

The unique geography and position of Isla Holbox works well for kite surfers providing consistent winds making it one of the best places in Mexico to go Kitesurfing and other wind-related watersports. Even if you are getting on the board yourself it’s fun to lounge on the beach and watch the kites and surfers twirl in the wind.

One of the most popular places for the sport is on the far end of the Las Nubes sandbank away from the town. It’s a gorgeous walk or you can arrange transport most of the way on the island. The place you are looking for is just past the point of the island called Punta Mosquito (don’t worry, during the day we didn’t have trouble with mosquitos). Here the beach opens up into a stretch of undeveloped sand so long you really cannot see the end. See map for Punta Mosquito.


Large open sinkhole - Cenote Yalahau Hoyo Negro - Top things to do in Holbox

4. Swim Yalahau Cenote

Another very popular thing to do in Isla Holbox (and with good reason) is to go for a swim in Yalahau Cenote – we’d recommend it if you have the time. We love checking out and swimming in cenotes, there are over 6,000 cenotes in Mexico. Make sure to read our best cenotes in Mexico article!

Yalahau cenote is actually located on the mainland in Yum Balam Nature Reserve, you will have to take a half-hour boat trip to get there. On the way, you may even see dolphins swimming around if you’re lucky. Add in the beautiful sea views and the boat trip alone already makes the visit worthwhile!

The cenote itself is just as marvelous. Tucked away in a mangrove forest, the crystal clear water is ideal for swimming in. It really is a lovely setting, which is what makes taking a dip in the cenote such a unique experience. After drying off in the warm sun, you can explore the rest of the wonderful natural sights the nature reserve offers.

Holbox Tours Stopping At Yalahau Cenote:


small remote island surrounded by clear water near Isla Holbox Mexico - things to do in Holbox

5. Take a Holbox Boat Tour

As Isla Holbox is blessed with beautiful beaches, stunning scenery, and a wealth of incredible wildlife, a great way to explore its many sights is to jump on board a boat tour that takes you around the island.

This enables you to bask in the glorious sea views, Isla Holbox looks terrific with its beautiful palm trees towering over its sandy beaches. We went on one with Viator, which was very well organized and took us to a ton of places that we wouldn’t have otherwise seen by ourselves.

As well as stopping by Yalahau Cenote for a swim in its welcoming waters, the boat tour also took us to a couple of different islands that lie not far from Isla Holbox. Isla Pajaros was great to visit for all the amazing, brightly-colored birds we saw, while at Passion Island, we got to see pink flamingos wading through the shallow waters.

All in all, it was a lovely day out that was the perfect combination of nature, wildlife, sea views, and swimming! Suggested Holbox boat tours:


large green strech of mangroves on Isla Holbox - East of the town of Holbox

6. Kayak through the Magnificent Mangroves

If you want to explore Isla Holbox’s magnificent mangroves, there is no better way to do it than by kayak! A kayak lets you immerse yourself in the abundant nature all around you. There is lots of wildlife in Holbox to see; while you’ll definitely get to see lots of different types of birds, you may even come across a crocodile or two!

Paddling peacefully through the mangroves was one of our favorite things to do in Isla Holbox, and is a great way to spend an afternoon if you’re up for a little bit of exercise! We suggest going on a kayaking tour through the mangroves as the guide will lead the way and point out wildlife along the way.


7. Experience the Incredible Bioluminescence Phenomenon

One thing that you don’t want to miss out on when visiting Isla Holbox is experiencing the incredible bioluminescence phenomenon that lights up the waters around the island.

On dark evenings, at some beaches on Isla Holbox, you’ll see the water shimmering with little blue lights. These are actually microscopic plankton glowing. It is a magical sight and is a must when vacationing on Isla Holbox!

To best see the bioluminescence in Holbox, you want the night to be as dark as possible. Hopefully, you are visiting when there is a new moon. You may want to ask around town where you can best view it, or take a guided tour. Usually, it is quite late at night when you can see the lights glimmering in the waters around the island.

Don’t forget to bring your swimwear so you can hop in and swim among the tiny stars glowing all around you! However, skip the cameras. The Bioluminescent is very hard to photograph unless you have very specific camera equipment. So, leave the camera behind and just experience the moment here on Isla Holbox.

Bioluminescence Tour in Holbox:


large mural of a man fishing on the beach of Isla Holbox Island Mexico

8. Check out the Island’s Fantastic Street Art in Holbox

Although we’ve mainly mentioned the island’s beautiful nature, wildlife, and outdoor activities until this point, Isla Holbox is also known for its fantastic street art, which you’ll see everywhere you go.

The beautiful murals, monuments, and artistic creations light up the town with their bright colors; it is in large part this street art that gives Isla Holbox its unique feel and look.

Wandering around town and checking out the amazing pieces is a lovely way to explore the island – you may find yourself returning home with a couple of local art pieces to brighten up your home. Every time you head out of your hotel to wander around, you’ll come across some new and interesting street art which you hadn’t noticed before.


a line of golf carts for rent parked on Holbox island - Things to do in Holbox

9. Rent a Bike or Golf Cart and Explore the Island

As there are no cars on the Island, your only option to explore Isla Holbox is to take a golf cart taxi or rent a bike or golf cart yourself. Both cycling or bumbling along in your own golf cart are lots of fun.

It’s impossible to get lost or tired as the island is so small! Cycling along the beach is a dream, with the waves lapping at the shore and the white sands lying before you. Golf carting your way around is also lots of fun, and is one of the quickest ways to get from Point A to Point B on Isla Holbox.

  • Price to rent a bike: MXN 20 – 30 per hour. MXN 150 – 200 per 24 hours
  • Price to rent a golf cart: MXN 150 per hour. MXN 1000 per 24 hours

If you’re renting for more than one day try and negotiate for a better deal for a longer duration. Some good deals can be found on one-week rentals. There are tons of rental places in town just shop around for the best prices.


Drone photo of beach clubs on Isla Holbox Mexico - Small white tents on the beach with aqua colored water

10. Spend the day at a beach club drinking margaritas soaking up the sun

After all that kayaking, swimming, and cycling, you’re certainly going to want to kick back and relax in the sun at some point. What better way to do that than lounge at a beach club drinking margaritas!?

With Isla Holbox being a paradise island, there are lots of great bars and restaurants that hug the coastline. Most of them offer fantastic views of the sea. Hanging out at a beach club and enjoying a refreshing cocktail (or two!) really is one of the best things to do in Isla Holbox.

The best margaritas on Isla Holbox that we found were at El Velero Beach Club. The views on offer from their little patch of the beach are pretty stunning too! This is where we spend many days and all of our sunsets.


two hammocks hang from a ceiling with a thatched palm roof - Where to stay Isla Holbox Island Mexico

Where to Stay in Holbox

There isn’t one best part of the island to stay on. The island is small and you can walk just about anywhere in 15 minutes. We stayed at Hotel Puerto Holbox which is outside of “downtown Holbox” but only a few minutes walk. We would definitely stay here again. Here are a few other hotels we visited that we’d recommended:

  • Luxury $250+
  • Mid-Range $100-$200
  • Budget <$75
    • Casa Blatha – Check Rates Now

Best Restaurants Isla Holbox - Pink building at night and sand covered streets - Holbox at night

Best Restaurants in Isla Holbox

While we could go on and on about all the fantastic restaurants on Isla Holbox, here are just a few of our personal favorites that stood out!

Rosa Mexicano

Very centrally located, Rosa Mexicano is a wonderful open-air restaurant that serves up delicious food, whether you go for breakfast, lunch or dinner! While the menu is packed full of traditional Mexican dishes, there is a modern twist to most of them, and we enjoyed everything we had.

As well as the fantastic food, the extensive cocktail menu made it one of our favorite places to go in Isla Holbox. Try and get a seat outside on the swings, it’s a great place to enjoy a drink and people watch.

Los Peleones

A very friendly and welcoming place, Los Peleones in the center of town and has a great atmosphere. You immediately feel at home there. The food is tasty and fresh, and the menu offers everything from Mexican staples from around the country to authentic Italian pasta dishes and Japanese Peruvian fusion! Make sure to save room for some of the fabulous desserts – the chocolate cake is the perfect ending to a meal.

El Velero Beach Club

Located in Hotel Puerto Holbox, El Velero Beach Club is delightfully situated – as you might have guessed – on a beach. As such, watching the sun go down while eating a delicious meal or sipping on a cocktail is a lovely experience.

There is a very relaxed feel to the beach club, and the menu has a wide range of different dishes for you to try out. We enjoyed breakfast and lunches at the beach club. Definitely one to come back to time and time again!


Places in Mexico to Visit Before or After Holbox

If you’ve got more time to explore Mexico there are some amazing places nearby you should check out. If you can’t it on this trip consider them on your next trip. Make sure to check out some of our other Mexico articles to fuel your wanderlust.

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woman standing in front of wooden posts in the waters of Isla Holbox - Pinterest pin for Isla Holbox Travel Guide

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