We love Isla Holbox Island, which is located just off the northern coastline of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. We have been visiting Isla Holbox for the last 7 years and just returned from another trip in 2023.
In this travel guide, we are going to show you everything you need to know before you visit Isla Holbox. We will cover how to get to Holbox, what to do in Isla Holbox, and all of the details on how and when to see whale sharks in Holbox!
If you are looking for something new in Mexico, you must put this postcard-perfect little island on your list. Isla Holbox is a great place to visit if you want a relaxing Mexico getaway with the chance for some eco-friendly soft adventures. If that sounds like what you are looking for, here is our travel guide to Isla Holbox, Mexico!
What’s it like to travel to Isla Holbox in 2023
The tiny island of Isla Holbox has a great laid-back 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 a major draw.
Above the water, it’s 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!
No cars, no paved roads, miles, and miles of pristine undeveloped beaches – this is our kind of place. Isla Holbox is, in our opinion, the perfect size right now in 2023 and for the next few years.
Things have been slowly changing in the time we have been visiting Isla Holbox, but it’s still largely raw and underdeveloped, 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).
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 than 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: 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.
Have ultimate freedom and save tons of money on tours with your own rental car! Don’t worry – It’s safe (we’ve rented 20+ times), the roads are good, and it’s easier than you think! We always rent from Discover Cars, it’s easy & they have the best prices.
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. It all comes together to make the perfect vacation destination!
Related Article: Top Things to do in Tulum
*When looking for the best price and biggest selection of hotels, check prices on Booking.com. We’ve found they are the best option and have a great cancelation policy.*
How To Get To Isla Holbox Mexico
There are only two options to travel to Isla Holbox, the 15-minute ferry from Chiquila or flying 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 intimidate you. Getting to Holbox is flawless. Make sure to check out our how to get Isla Holbox guide for more details on each option or our Cancun to Holbox article dedicated to those traveling from Cancun.
The 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. Two Holbox ferry companies 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 leaving 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. Read our complete Holbox ferry guide here.
Just show up at 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: $220 pesos
- Children under 4 feet: $180 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 to Holbox. Rental cars in Mexico are relatively cheap. We typically pay $30 per day from the Cancun Airport. For the cheapest prices, click here to get prices on Discovercars.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
Several local businesses and residents 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 four nights. We parked at the same parking lot on every trip.
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, 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, and 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 than when booking in person.
Traveling to Isla Holbox by Shared Shuttle Bus
Our least favorite way of traveling is by a shared shuttle bus. No one likes waiting for all passengers to arrive or going from hotel to hotel to pick up more guests… There are shuttle buses from Cancun and Playa del Carmen to Cancun for $25-40 per person. Check out how to get Holbox article for more details.
Flying to Isla Holbox
If budget is no concern, consider flying to Holbox. There are no shared flights; 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.
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 outside of 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 3,000+ ($120+)
- Best Holbox Whale Shark Tour $195 Book Online Now
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 with your trip to this magnificent island, we’ve compiled 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!
1. Walk the Las Nubes Sandbar
A must-do on Isla Holbox is to go for a walk along the seemingly never-ending sandbar beach at Las Nubes. Stretching far into the distance, the sandbank goes for miles and miles on the way from the beach hotels of Holbox all the way to Mosquito Point.
It’s a magical experience, and the scenery and views are absolutely stunning. It’s best to start early and plan your time on the sandbar around the tides.
If you are trying to get all the way to Mosquito point make sure to get back to firm land before the high tide rolls in and partially covers the sandbar! Be warned, the tide comes in quickly 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.
Related Article: Bacalar – Mexico’s Hidden Gem
2. 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:
- Holbox Island Private Tour | 3.5 hours $130 Book Online Now
- Private Holbox Island Tour | 3.5-4 hours $225 Book Online Now
3. 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.
- Isla Holbox Kayak Tour Through Mangroves | 3 Hours $53 Book Online Now
- Holbox Mangroves Tour | 4-5 Hours $60 Book Online Now
4. 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:
- Isla Holbox Bioluminescence Tours: 2 hours Book Online Now
Related Article: Bioluminescence Kayaking in Florida
5. 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 aren’t 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.
6. 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:
- Eco Classic Tour Holbox | 2-3 hours $40 Book Online Now
- Holbox Island Priave Tour | 3.5 hours $130 Book Online Now
7. 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. A large part of this street art 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 that you hadn’t noticed before.
Related Article: Where to Stay in Tulum – Read before booking accommodation
8. Take a nap in one of the famous Holbox hammocks!
2023 update – the government ordered all hammocks removed. Hopefully, this gets reversed, but for now – there are no in-the-water hammocks in Holbox.
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!
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 1,000 for 3 hours. MXN 2,800 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.
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 to 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.
- Address: Av Pedro Joaquín Coldwell, Holbox, Q.R., Mexico
- Hours: Daily 7:30 am – 8 pm
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 recommend:
- Luxury $250+
- Holbox Dream Beach Front Hotel – Check Rates Now
- Mid-Range $100-$200
- Hotel Puerto Holbox – Check Rates Now
- Budget <$75
- Casa Blatha – Check Rates Now
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! Make sure to check our complete list of the best restaurants in Holbox for a more detailed post.
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.
- Address: Calle Tiburon Ballena, Holbox, Q.R., Mexico
- Opening hours: Daily 8:30 pm – 10:30 pm
- Average prices: $$ – $$$
A very friendly and welcoming place, Los Peleones is 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.
- Address: Av Benito Juárez S/N, Centro, 77310 Holbox, Q.R., Mexico
- Opening hours: Daily 4:30 pm – 11:30 pm
- Average prices: $$ – $$$
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!
- Address: Av Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, Holbox, Q.R., Mexico
- Opening hours: Daily 7:30 am – 8 pm
- Average prices: $$ – $$$
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 fit 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.
Tuesday 14th of February 2023
A very handy article, thankyou!
Saturday 25th of September 2021
We are planning a trip for a week in March and would like to stay on the island and explore elsewhere as well. How does that work? do the locals leave their cars at the ferry dock? Is there easy/affordable access to a daily rental car? Is it easy to get back and forth from the mainland or will it be too stressful? Your thoughts? Thanks!
Monday 25th of October 2021
You can park a rental car very close to the ferry on the mainland, and it would theoretically be possible to use Holbox as a base and explore from there but it's not very close to anything else (2 hours from anything really). You'll have a lot of hours in a car every day you go exploring. A day or two off the island would be ok, but anything more you'd be better off enjoying your time in Holbox and then move at the end of your trip closer to the other areas you want to explore. Have a great trip to Holbox and Mexico!
Monday 5th of July 2021
Thank you so much for this worthwhile article. We are planning a trip in the fall, hopefully after hurricane season. As of this writing are there still NO banks, one ATM machine? Does any place have live music?
Friday 27th of August 2021
I just returned from 2 days in Holbox to see the whale sharks. There is plenty of music everywhere. Music is a huge part of Mexican culture! Bring cash in pesos (your money goes further). Don't depend on ATM's. Surcharges are huge anyway. Charge cards are also taken many places.
Saturday 21st of August 2021
You can find live music every night of the week at a restaurant/bar on Holbox. There are no banks on Holbox as of 2021, there is for sure 1 ATM and I think possibly 2. BUT the ATMs often run out of money, so we advise traveling to Holbox with a good amount of pesos.
Wednesday 24th of February 2021
Great article. Many thank you 🙏🏽
Saturday 27th of February 2021
Thanks, glad we could help plan your trip to Holbox!
Saturday 26th of September 2020
Are these prices in US dollars? What type Of currency is used in the island?
Tuesday 3rd of August 2021
You'll generally get better prices if you pay in pesos, IMHE.
Thursday 11th of February 2021
Prices listed for the tours are in US dollars, however, on the island Mexican Pesos is more commonly used. US Dollars are still widely accepted and many sites to pre-book tours and accommodations may use USD.