Dream island, paradise, oasis. Holbox is one of those places, which consistently receives high praises in almost every Yucatan Travel Review. The small island situated north of the mainland, has grown exponentially in terms of popularity. While Holbox was still considered a “secret tip” just a few years ago, nobody seems to skip Holbox nowadays.
Holbox did not make the start easy for us. Bad weather, seagrass in masses and accommodation that did not live up to our expectations. While we are on the subject of expectations: it seems we had definitely set the bar too high. At the same time, we are also glad that we did not leave early and gave the island another chance.
In good weather and in the right locations, Holbox really is a paradise, that’s for sure. In this blog article, we’ll tell you what you can expect in Holbox and what you can experience on the island.
1. Holbox Island at a Glance: Facts & Impressions
Isla Holbox is a narrow, elongated island in the north of the Yucatán Peninsula. When we say “narrow”, we are referring to the fact that Holbox is just two kilometres wide, but over 40 kilometres long. Also, if you are wondering how you actually pronounce the name of the island, it sounds more like: Hol-bosch – so the “x” is not pronounced as such.
Only a very small part of the island is inhabited, namely only the west of Holbox. People live in and around the only real settlement on the island (also called “Holbox”). This is where the ferry transfers from the mainland to Holbox arrive.
We apologise now, if we are about to shatter your dreams… but Holbox is no longer the untouched island paradise that you might imagine – at least not the populated part of the island. There are now too many hotels, too many tourists and too many souvenir shops. And by the way, the golf carts, which go around the sand tracked roads, make a crazy noise.
You read correctly: sand tracked roads. On Holbox there are no conventional roads, but rather, only the sandy roads. This has two drawbacks: if it is too dry, a thick layer of dust covers everything that is near the “road”. If it rains too much, this forms gigantic water-based puddles, which you have to cross.
Incidentally, cars also don’t really exist here on Holbox. As a tourist you are not allowed to take your car to the island. The locals sometimes drive and some rather well with their cars. Obviously there are exceptions. Given the level of noise generated by golf cart engines, we find it somewhat misleading to speak of a “car-free” island, as the engine noises are quite prevalent.
If you are looking for peace on Holbox, you should gravitate towards the beach as soon as possible. Because there you will finally find the paradise that you have been looking for.
The best travel period for Holbox
The best time to visit Holbox is during the dry season from December to April. During this period, it does not rain so often and is usually pleasantly warm. We say “mostly” because the tropical weather does not always go according to forecasts: during our visit in December, for example, it only reached a maximum of 24 degrees Celsius during the day, which is rather low for a beach holiday location. In the evening it was pretty cool and you couldn’t get by without long clothes.
From May to June, the rainy season slowly starts to begin. Of course, during the rainy season you can also go to Holbox, but then you have to adjust to a bit more rainfall. The sea can also get a little bit rougher during the rain and hurricane season (around July to October).
How long should I stay on Holbox?
We ourselves spent three nights on Holbox and found this period ideal for a bit of a break. We would not recommend less than two nights due to the rather arduous journey. And of course you can always stay longer – provided you have no problem with the fact that the day consists only of lazing around and swimming in the sea.
2. Activities on Holbox: Things to do and see
Switch off, relax, lounging – that’s what Holbox is all about. Sounds good, right? Most of the time we spent reading a good book and enjoying the sea view. If you have had enough of sunbathing, then we have a few more tips for you.
Marvel at the Holbox Street Art
Admittedly, Holbox can not match the variety of street art in Bacalar. Nevertheless, there are some beautiful pieces to admire on the island. Just keep your eyes peeled: You’ll stumble upon more street art than you initially think. Many of them are conjured up with impressive detail on the walls.
Enjoy the sunset
The quintessential part of an island holiday, is watching sunset from the beach. Not an evening goes by where you would not find us at the beach at this time of the day.
On the western side of the main beach in Holbox, there is a kind of bay, from which you have a beautiful view of the setting sun. We have pinned the location on the map for you – which you’ll find at the end of the article.
If you want to go a little further: A very popular and well-known sunset spot is also the pier at Punta Cocos. We’ll tell you a little bit more about that later.
Explore the island by bike
Sitting still for too long is not our thing, so we decide to rent a bike by day 2 at the latest. The sand tracks are very shallow, so you can explore the island perfectly by bike. For 24 hours, it would cost you roughly 150 Pesos to rent a bike.
Our first stop took us east to Punta Mosquito. At low tide you reach the beach over a long sandbank. You can park your bike at the end. Get ready for an approximately 1-hour walk. (Note: From the early afternoon, the water level gets higher and you may not be able to walk on the sandbank any more, so you have to cross a small lagoon where crocodiles live.)
If you’re lucky, you might spot flamingos at Punta Mosquito at certain times of the year. The best period for this is probably from April to October.
Back in the direction of the main town, we went west after lunch. There is another beach that is supposedly worthwhile: Punta Cocos. The bike ride takes about 30 minutes.
Unfortunately, the beach on the day of our visit was completely covered in seaweed, so we started the return journey earlier than expected and did not stay until sunset. In good weather and without seagrass, the Punta Cocos is certainly a great place to relax.
3. Restaurants & Cafes on Holbox: Our Tips
The density of restaurants on Holbox is enormous – and felt like new hip eateries were being added all the time. The fact that Holbox is now quite touristy, is also reflected in the food cuisine offered: From pizza to sushi to Mexican cuisine… it’s all there. So we will briefly introduce you to our favourites, so that you don’t feel too overwhelmed by the huge selection.
A great cafe where you can put together your own salad bowl according to your preferences. The menu is not strictly vegetarian, but there are many meatless (and vegan) choices among the ingredients, including falafel (with either lentils or chickpeas), mushrooms, tofu, and more.
Address: Calle Porfirio Díaz, between Calle Palomino and Calle Carito, Isla Holbox
Prizes: 135 Pesos for a bowl
Welcome to what is probably the most hipster restaurant on Holbox. The Luuma is very reminiscent of the in-places in Tulum – both in terms of atmosphere and in terms of price.
The menu features tapas-sized dishes and larger plates. We shared two appetisers and a vegetarian plate, as well as two cocktails. Conclusion: If you want to treat yourself to a great ambience, this is the perfect place for it. It would however, be too expensive to do this every day.
Address: Avenida Damero 310 (corner of Calle Sierra), Isla Holbox
Prices: 800 Pesos for both of us (2 starters, 1 large plate, 2 cocktails)
A very cool rooftop pool bar you can visit during the day or at sunset! The bar is located on the beach – more precisely on the roof of the property called Villas Tiburon.
From the two sun loungers, you have a direct view to the sea. The downer: You can only sit here if you consume at least two cocktails per person. As we did not do so, we were “only” able to enjoy the beautiful ambience of the bar. During the weekends, they usually have a DJ here. Important to know: From 3 pm no children are allowed in the bar, only adults.
Address: Calle Paseo Kuka 150, Isla Holbox
Prices: Cocktails about 150 Pesos
Other restaurants and café on Holbox, which we liked and recommend
ROOTS: this is the pizzeria on Holbox. You sit on logs, which is a bit uncomfortable after a while. The lobster pizza is apparently Legendary. We stuck with vegetarian and still paid 150 Pesos per pizza.
Taco Queto: Cheap and authentic. You sit on the typical red plastic chairs. There are tacos, quesadillas, etc. The service is a bit slow, but rarely is anyone ever in a hurry on Holbox island.
Le Jardin: A very cozy, French breakfast restaurant with many home-made delicacies. There are delicious Croissants, Pains au Chocolat and Sandwiches. Owner and staff are very friendly.
4. Our Accommodation on Holbox: Where to stay
During our time on Holbox Island, we stayed at the hotel El Pueblito. Unfortunately, this is a place which we can only partially recommend. The reason: It is located in the middle of the main street. The noise level is therefore quite high due to the golf carts.
We were also unlucky in the that our room (“suite with Queen Size Bed”) was directly facing the street and was therefore much louder than the other rooms. Too bad, because we really liked the design and decor of the hotel. Unfortunately, we were only able to enjoy our lovely terrace to an extent. On the back side of the hotel, there are some rooms facing the courtyard – we imagine those to be much more pleasant and enjoyable, and that is probably why this hotel is so well-rated.
We were annoyed about the breakfast. You can choose from a menu of several dishes, but for many dishes a markup is required. We really do not understand why they couldn’t just include everything here for hotel guests. That did leave a rather negative impression.
Conclusion: We would not stay here again, even though we liked our duplex room very much. If you’ve ever been to an island, you will be able to relate to that feeling of wanting to seek and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Staying overnight on Holbox: Our alternative proposals
Tierra Mia Boutique Hotel: We actually came very close to staying in this hotel, and in the end, we did regret not choosing to stay here instead. We passed by this place out of interest. Conclusion: very welcoming and rather quiet, as it’s off the main road.
Hotel Para Ti: Very nice hotel with pool, which is situated a bit off the main road. Not right on the beach, but very good ratings.
Upper Price Range
Hotel Punta Caliza: Just wow! If we were ever to come back here with a higher budget, we would stay here in a heart beat. The architecture with the many water features is really something special. The hotel is not right on the beach, but only 5 minutes away and has its own private stretch of beach.
Holbox Casa Punta Coco: We have only heard good things about this boutique hotel, which is located at Punta Coco (therefore outside of the main town). From the room terrace you have a great view of the sea. The downside: There are no restaurants nearby and it takes quite a long time to reach the centre by bike.
5. Getting to Holbox
Isla Holbox is best reached by boat. The boats to Holbox start from the tiny village Chiquilá in the north of the peninsula Yucatán.
1st step: Arrival to Chiquilá (ferry port)
The easiest way to reach Chiquilá is with your rental car. We came from Valladolid and spent about two hours on the road. From Cancún, the fastest way is also about two hours. There is however, a toll of 187 Pesos per car along the Valladolid route.
In Chiquilá you have to park your car before you get transferred to Holbox. A rough approximate of the parking fee is currently (as of December 2018) at 100 Pesos for 24 hours. The parking spaces are all adjacent, one after the other – just choose the one that seems best.
There is also an ADO Bus Station in Chiquilá. There are daily bus services to Chiquilá from all major towns. Note: some places (like Valladolid) have only one connection per day. The timetable is available online: ADO website.
2nd step: Ferry from Chiquilá to Holbox
From Chiquilá there are daily ferries to Holbox from 6am to 9:30 pm. The route is operated by two providers: “9 Hermanos” and “Holbox Express”. The timetable is designed so that every 30 minutes (always on the hour and at every half hour) a boat departs from the mainland to Holbox.
There is no significant difference between the providers. When you arrive at the pier, you will automatically buy your ticket for the next time-slot.
Ticket price: 150 Pesos per person (one-way)
There are no scheduled flights to Holbox, but if you want to spend a lot of money, you can still travel by plane to Holbox. There is a runway where small private planes can land. Usually run by Cancún, Mérida, Tulum and Playa del Carmen, among others.
The price for this experience is of course, accordingly much higher: for example, from about $500 (for the entire plane) you can organise a private flight from Cancún to Holbox in a Cessna 206. Sometimes there are also last-minute deals. If this is for you, then you will find more information on this website: Flights to Holbox.
6. Our Conclusion about Holbox
Is Holbox really worth the trip? We would still say yes. The island did not exactly thrill us at the start, but over time we did grow to like it much more. However, we warn you not to set your expectations too high as Holbox is no longer the untouched island paradise it once was.
It’s best to check the weather in advance so that you don’t find yourself in the middle of bad weather, like in our case. When the weather is nice Holbox is a thousand times more beautiful and inviting. It comes pretty close to being that ideal dream island.
And another tip: do not forget mosquito spray. Not only are there many mosquitoes, but also a lot of annoying sandflies on Holbox.
Transparency: Affiliate Links
This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through these links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A million thanks from the both of us!
Have you ever been to Isla Holbox? We would be very interested to hear about your experience. If you have any further tips for Holbox, let us know in the comments below. Many Thanks!