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Isla Holbox: Travel Guide to Mexico’s Most Underrated Beach Paradise

It’s impossible not to kick off your shoes the second you arrive on Isla Holbox – and you won’t need to put them back on again.

While most other travelers are living it up in Cancun, Cozumel, or Tulum on the Yucatán peninsula, this offshore treasure is still considered a bit of a secret, though it won’t stay that way for long.

Isla hollbox crystal clear water
The crystal clear water around the island

That’s not to say you won’t find plenty of people to share beachfront tequila shots with when you travel to Isla Holbox.

After all, it’s not only Mexico City that you can party it up in.

Are you looking for other places to visit on the coast of Mexico?
Here are some awesome things you shouldn’t miss on the Riviera Maya.

Isla holbox mexico
Incredible water

The main town is a colorful jumble of Caribbean-flavored shops, restaurants, cafes, and street art-coated walls. Bars line the sand, and reggae tunes are never far in front or behind you as you cycle over dusty tracks around the island.

Are you wondering what souvenirs to buy in Mexico?

Isla hollbox mexico

Best things to do in Isla Holbox, Mexico

If you want to do nothing at all but laze on blinding-white sand and only lift your head to take a sip from your cocktail, this is the place to do it.

However, for a Mexican island that’s only about 26 miles long and one wide, there’s certainly plenty to do.

Isla Holbox might also be one of the best Mexican digital nomad destinations.


Isla Holbox travel is all about beach-hopping. If you’ve ever seen it on Instagram, no doubt it was an image of the famous hammocks swinging colorfully over the transparent water.

isla holbox beach mexico
beautiful waters and sand

Though it’s touristy, and you may have to hang back and wait for a free spot, wading out into the warm shallows with your drink and sinking into one is worth the effort.

isla hollbox
beautiful waters and sand

However, when you branch off the main beaches stretching across the town, you’ll find perfect pockets of peace all to yourself.

Stroll out on the dock at Punta Coco before splashing in the emerald water.

pure paradise mexico isla holbox
pure paradise

Don’t let Punta Mosquito’s name scare you off and head off towards the horizon along sparkling sandbars at low tide.

Swim, paddleboard, and snorkel to your heart’s content. Then, go back to the beach for the fiery sunsets and try to stop yourself from taking a hundred photos.

isla holbox  mexico
just sit back and relax

Take a boat tour

You’ll find an array of companies offering ‘three island boat tours, and they’re well worth the extra spend. Yalahau is a natural cenote in the middle of an ecological reserve that’s perfect for a refreshing dip and surrounded by the folklore of Mayan kings.

If you love birdwatching, tiny Isla Pajaros is a paradise of flamingos, ducks, pelicans, and rare species.

With its protected status as a wildlife reserve, you can only view them by boat. The third island is Pasion, a tropical haven of sugar-soft sand, birds, and palm trees, far, far away from civilization.

Explore the mangroves

Pelicans isla hollbox
Pelicans resting

Sunbathing Holbox crocodiles lurk on the shores, and elegant flamingos hang out in the uninhabited mangrove forest on Holbox.

Take a kayak tour to paddle your way around the most remote areas and learn about the island’s ecosystem.

Largely thanks to the possibility of crocodiles for company and for the fact that mangroves always seem to hold secrets, the experience is beautifully eerie and a great way to work off the sunset margaritas.

Discover bioluminescence

The full moon is a wonderful sight over the beaches, but if you visit Holbox from July to January, you’ll wish for moonless nights. Then, you can enter the hypnotic world of otherworldly, blue-glowing plankton that illuminates the shore with incredible light.

The phenomenon of bioluminescence – miniature organisms that light up like fireflies – covers the southern beaches.

It’s possible to take tours with locals to all the best spots or trek out on your own for a nighttime adventure.

Swim with whale sharks

If swimming with whale sharks is on your bucket list, travel to Isla Holbox from June to September. These great giants of the sea swim through the Gulf of Mexico to feed on phytoplankton and can grow up to 45 feet long.

To get up-close and personal, take a boat tour, pop on a snorkel and mask, and get ready for the thrill of a lifetime.

While I didn’t see any whale sharks while visiting Isla Holbox, I have swum with Whale Sharks in Indonesia and in The Maldives.

If you want to do some Scuba diving while exploring the Riviera Maya, check out this guide for the best dive spots.

Learn To kitesurf

Isla Holbox is fast becoming an ideal place to learn to kitesurf. Conditions are suitable for beginners, as the beach has shallow waters.

There are also no big obstacles on the wide and long beach, many days of wind during the winter months, and a nearby school with professional instructors. 

Advanced riders can also find very good conditions when the north or south winds reach 25 knots or more.

Eat, eat and eat some more

Isla Hollbox main street mexico
main street on the island

No matter when hunger strikes, you’ll find mouthwatering tacos, fresh seafood, and multicultural dishes centred around the sandy streets of the town.

Everyone makes a beeline to Roots Pizzas to bite into their lobster specialty in a fairy-lit outdoor garden. Park yourself on a wooden stump and enjoy the busy atmosphere, or else you’ll find lobster pizzas in numerous, less busy, Isla Holbox restaurants.

For a taste bud surprise, head to the menu-less El Chapulim for contemporary Mexican cuisine that often features the catch of the day. For a pirate vibe by the sea, follow the electronic music to Salma and sip on mezcal.

Half the fun of Holbox is choosing a new place every night, so simply let your nose lead you to whatever you feel like and however far you want to stretch your budget on food.

Best time for visiting Holbox

There’s not really a bad time to travel to Isla Holbox. On average, the hottest month is August, and the coolest is January, but it never really gets cold.

Like most spots on the planet, the high season coincides with Christmas and Easter. For the cheapest prices, check out deals from September to November.

Travel guide to Isla Holbox, maybe Mexico´s most underrated destination.
Travel guide to Isla Holbox, maybe Mexico´s most underrated destination.

How to get to Isla Holbox

Ferries to Isla Holbox leave from the town of Chiquila and usually depart every 30 minutes, and take about 30 minutes to get there.

It’s an easy process to simply show up, buy a ticket and go.

The best place to fly into from most major cities in the world is Cancun. From here, it’s a two to three-hour drive with the GPS or a bus ride from the ADO station.

However Isla Holbox does have it´s own tinny airport, but with no scheduled flight here, Aaero Saab do offer chartered flights with small Cessna airplane with seats for up to 5 people from all over Yucatan.

Isla holbox airport mexico
The tinny Holbox airport
Isla holbox airport mexico
Isla Holbox airprt

There’re a few buses a day from Cancun to Chiquila; the ride takes about 2 hours.

If you are heading to Cozumel next, be sure to check out this guide, so you get the best time at Cozumel.

From Chiquila, take a short ferry ride to Isla Holbox. The ferry ride takes no more than 25 min and costs 100pesos. The ferry leaves Chiquila every hour during the day.

Buses, private transfers, and taxi rides to Chiquila are also available from Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

If you hire a car, Chiquila has a range of car parks within easy walking distance of the ferries.

Though you may find people flagging you towards their car park, check out a few of them to get the best price before you drive in.

Getting around Isla Holbox island

One of the best things about Isla Holbox is that it’s car-free. Get set to stroll, cycle or hire a golf cart to take you from one end to the other across unpaved paths blanketed with sand.

If you do decide on the golf cartway, just remember that pedestrians and cyclists have the right of way. 

Isla hollbox mexico
Golf cart on the island, the only way of transportation around the island.

Isla Holbox hotels

There are no massive hotel developments on the island – yet. For now, choose from great-value hostels, charming boutique hotels, romantic villas, and beachy cabins.

Check out the relatively new Che Holbox hostel for a party atmosphere, Casa De Daniela to chill out in hammocks, and the vibrantly colored Hostel Tribu.

Holbox guide to money and costs

The biggest expense you’ll probably come across is getting to Chiquila from where you fly into. Once there, spend as many Mexican pesos or as little as you like.

If you choose to spend all of your time on the beach, it’ll only be your room, bike rental (about 30 pesos), and food that you need to budget for.

The edge of is holabox
The river that splits the island in half

Eating at the trendy restaurants will set you back, but bakeries, grocery stores, and smaller eateries will fill you up with tortillas for small change.

ATMs are pretty scarce (there are two on the island, but they are often empty), so it’s best to take sufficient cash to the island with you.

Isla Holbox travel tips

First up, Holbox is pronounced ‘Holebosh.’ You’ll feel like you’re in another world here, and one that’s chilled out and the epitome of ‘no worries.’

The only problems you’re likely to encounter are mosquitoes at dusk, so be prepared. You’ll also often find yourself in the burning sun without a shady tree insight – so be sure to pack in tons of sunscreen and a hat. Other than that, feel free to kick those shoes off and fall into true Mexican island bliss.

Conclusion of our Holbox travel guide

There is so much to see and experience on the island of Isla Holbox; you’re sure to go home with blissful memories along with your sun-kissed skin.

You’ll spend your days lazing on the sand, swimming with whale sharks, kitesurfing, exploring, eating, and drinking refreshing cocktails. Does it get any better than that?

As we’ve seen, it’s a dreamy place to spend a vacation for any traveler looking to relax. So pack your bags, stick in a swimsuit and some flip-flops, and get ready to unwind. 

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Isla Holbox is Mexicos best beach, forget the tourist magnet Cancun or Playa del carmen
Isla Holbox is Mexicos best beach; forget the tourist magnet Cancun or Playa del carmen.
Travel Guide to Isla holbox in yucatan
Travel guide to Isla Holbox, maybe Mexico´s most underrated destination.


Wednesday 11th of March 2020



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