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The Most Laid Back Island, Isla Holbox

Peaceful Island vacation time!

Isla Holbox Mexico

Our Isla Holbox Guide

Isla Holbox (hole-bosch) is the quietest of the three main islands that are inhabited off the Yucatan Peninsula. It is far enough away from Cancun and Playa Del Carmen that it does not get a bulk of the tourist and only a few escape to Isla Holbox making this a great little secret island to visit. This has always been a small fishing village and super laid back. You can walk around without shoes all over town and soak in the bright sun here (see our video at the end of this article).

How to get to Holbox Island

Your adventure will begin en route to Isla Holbox. On the road leading to the town of Chiquila (where you catch the ferry to Holbox) you might see tarantula spiders crossing the road. The road passes through a lot of rural ranch areas where you will also see papaya plantations and cattle.

Tip: Look out for the town of Solferino where there is a sign for the 1000 year old tree. It is just two blocks off the road and something interesting to stop and see if you are driving there. The tree is huge and the legend goes you make a wish and if it comes true you come back in a year and hug the tree. Across from the tree is a small garden that sells orchids and another 700 year old tree. Entrance is donation and there is a basic bathroom here.

There are three main options for getting there and one extra special way to get o Holbox.

Transportation options to Isla Holbox

  1. Driving yourself in a car. From Playa Del Carmen there is a new highway that leaves from Avenida Colosio and cuts diagonal across the Yucatan Peninsula. You can read about this toll road here. At the end of the highway it is well signed and a straight drive to the tip of the peninsula to the small town of Chiquila. It is 97 pesos each way for this road and takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes to drive. When you arrive in Chiquila you will need to park your car. There are many entrepreneurial people in the town that have created parking lots for guest to the island. Note: Most charge for 24 Hour parking but the rates go from Midnight to midnight, so a one night stay will result in two days of parking fees. Most parking is about the same price and all of it is within walking distance to the ferry pier.
  2. The ADO bus does have one bus daily to and from Chiquila to Playa Del Carmen. It leaves in the morning from Playa Del Carmen and arrive around noon so you have time to arrive on the island and check into your hotel. The bus leaves Chiquila in the afternoon returning to Playa Del Carmen. Currently the bus leaves from the bus station on 5th Avenue at 9:25am and leaves Chiquila at 4:15pm each day. Note: The exact times change  and check which bus station this departs from in Playa Del Carmen as this has changed before. The bus cost 226 pesos per person each way. If you are in Cancun there are bus services by local bus companies. These are slow but the only public bus option. They leave from the main ADO bus station in Cancun. If you are trying to get to Isla Holbox from Valladolid or points west via bus it is hard to do and will require a transfer. This should only be done if you speak some Spanish and can figure out the bus routes and understand how to make the connection.  Not many people come from this direction so it is not really easy.
  3. The other option is a private transfer company. You can go in small vans that dive you directly there. We have teamed up with a reliable transfer company so you can book here. Below are the details and prices. Right now these are just transfers from the Cancun Airport to Holbox but we are hoping to add links to book Playa Del Carmen to Holbox.
     4.  The last option is an interesting way to get there especially if you have a small group. There is a small airport on Isla Holbox that accepts 6 passenger planes that can take off from Playa Del Carmen’s small airport. For more information on flights see our article on the airport in Playa Del Carmen and it’s services.

Once you arrive in Chiquila you will find the pier directly at the end of the main road. Tip: There is a pay toilet just in the entrance of the pier. This is your last chance before the 18 minute or so ride to the island.

Isla Holbox, mexico Chiquila ferry pier

The Chiquila ferry pier where you get the boat to Isla Holbox.

Holbox Island Ferry Information

The ferry leaves often (about every 30 minutes during the day) but if you are in even more of a hurry to relax on the beach, the small boats will take six people and they charge the same per person as the ferry. Just be prepared for more ocean spray and a little rougher ride. The ferry is 120 pesos each way. Locals the price is 70 pesos. There are two ferry companies that alternate service. They are basically the same and just take the one that is good for your timetable.

Ferry arriving in Holbox Island from Chiquila

This is the ferry arriving from Chiquila to Isla Holbox

Holbox Island Taxis

There are not really any cars here but there are yellow gulf cart taxis that will take you and your luggage to the hotel. As soon as you get off the ferry they will be lined up for you. Service is provided from 6:00am-10:00pm. Prices range about 30-80 pesos depending on where you go. You can also hire one for one hour at 150 pesos. Prices are posted on a post by the pier.

Taxi phone number

984-188-2112

Holbox Island Charm

When you arrive on Holbox you will automatically feel like you are somewhere special. You will be greeted by yellow gulf cart taxis, fishermen and the sea air. In fact there are no cars really on Holbox since it is so small. Yes there are a few, but for the most part everyone bikes, walks or drives a gulf cart around. The streets are sand and the buildings are colorful, rustic and eclectic.

The island life centers around  a small park (zocalo or main square) where events are held. The main square is directly up the street leading from the ferry pier. In about 2 blocks in each direction from this square you will find about 95% of the businesses that cater to tourist. You will find shopping, restaurants, small grocery stores and bank ATMs. You will notice the recent arrival of some Italians and Argentinians that are making the island a bit of a culinary delight and adding variety to the restaurant scene.

In the center of town is a “Plaza” for lack of better wording. It is a two story building with shops, eateries, and even has a small palapa roofed movie theater. Don’t get the idea that this development is going to destroy the charm of the place. It is designed nicely with huge tropical timbers and fits in well.

Isla Holbox

The kind of unofficial shopping plaza of Holbox.

Isla Holbox Beaches

The ocean waters around Holbox are very shallow. There are little waves and you can walk out quite far in the water without getting waist deep.

Some of the beaches do not have sandy bottoms below the water. If you are not in a swimming area, bring water shoes because it can be a little squishy. It can be nice walking around though because you can see small fish, octopus or even run into flamingos on some parts of the island.

Isla Holbox, mexico

Activities and Tours on Holbox Island

Here is a list of things to do while visiting the island.

  • Relax and enjoy the tranquility.  This can be done at a beach club, your hotel or by going to the beach with a towel.
  • Take a tour to Cabo Catoche to snorkel, fish and see remote parts of Isla Holbox. This tour takes you about 40 minutes by boat out of town. The snorkeling is good and so is the fresh ceviche you will have on this tour. For more about this Cabo Catoche Tour, see our article here including a video.
  • Swim with the whale sharks. The island is famous for having them swim off the coast. This means getting an official tour with guide. Tip: Book this in Holbox because this can be cheaper.  Tip: Check in advance if the whale sharks are swimming near Holbox or further southeast, it may be better to leave from Isla Mujeres.
  • Take a small boat tour around to see birds.  It provides extra income for local fisherman and supports eco-tourism.
  • Take a kayak tour to see the mangroves of Holbox Island. This is a 3 hour guided tour. Click below for details.
  • Rent a gulf cart or some bikes and tour the small section of the island that has roads. It only takes half a day to explore everything. There are numerous places to rent bikes and golf carts. Both are inexpensive here.
  • Walk the beaches and look for flamingos. Yes, they come here and it can be great bird watching.
  • Visit the cork forests called El Corchal on the mainland. It is a new eco tour spot which benefits the locals. This is done in the town of Solferino.
  • Take photos all over.  Holbox is great for taking photos. If you need to load up on your instagram photos, this is a great place. Recently there have been murals painted around the island. These are great photo ops.
  • Take a tour to Contoy Island, about two hours by boat.
  • Enjoy a nice dinner out, maybe even a good seafood meal.
bicyling on Holbox Island

Colorful bikes parked on a street in Holbox.

Isla Holbox Hotels

All levels of hotels can be found on Holbox. There are hostels, Airbnb, basic hotels, midrange and upscale hotels that feature simple luxury. Prices are a little higher due to the remoteness factor. Everything has to be imported here but you can definitely find your niche from the selection. If you are not coming during whale shark season, it is easy to just come to the island and check around for a place. It is good to let your fingers do the walking on the internet before you go, that way you know what is available and where you might want to stay.

Tip: Some places have a two night minimum and others here often give discounts for multiple nights. Midweek is also cheaper.
The cheaper hotels tend to be found in the center of town. The higher end hotels tend to be up the beach going east.

For more Isla Holbox hotel deals see the box below. For those of you that don’t know, Booking.com has not only hotels but also guest hours and listings found on airbnb. You can see hotel deals below.

Booking.com

Recommended Isla Holbox Hotels

One hotel that is nice to stay at is Holbox Dream Hotel by Xperience Hotels. Xperience has a good reputation for their hotels in the peninsula. This hotel is nice because it is centrally located so you can walk around town and it is on the beach. It has two pools, a restaurant, air conditioned rooms and free Wi-Fi. Best of all this is your view! (see below).

Holbox Dream Hotel Isla Holbox

The view from the Holbox Dream Hotel.

Isla Holbox Maps

Only the west end of Isla Holbox is accessible  and inhabited. It is easy to walk around or explore on gulf cart or bike. The map below shows the main part of town. As  you see, it is only a few blocks. Along the beach in either direction there are some more remote hotels usually offering upper end casual luxury.

Isla Holbox Map

Map of the center of Isla Holbox

The map below shows places of interest on and around Isla Holbox. Most of the destination you will need to take a tour to see since you need to take a boat

Holbox Island Map

Holbox Island Map


Isla Holbox is a special place and we are glad it is not so close to everything because it just means that it will remain a little more off the beaten path and a special day trip from Playa Del Carmen. Unless you like nothing to do all day except relax on a quiet island we recommend about 3 days here. It might get a little boring after that, but that might just be what you want.

It should be noted that when it does rain here it is especially boring and the streets get filled with huge puddles and the ocean is not scenic and photogenic. But fortunately it is very sunny and perfect most of the year.

Our Video Overview

Photos of Isla Holbox

Isla Holbox

Colorful buildings on Isla Holbox, Mexico

 

Isla Holbox mural

Isla Holbox mural

 

Isla Holbox Swing

Swinging the day away on Isla Holbox

Have you been to Isla Holbox? What did you think? Any tips for other readers you would like to share in the comments below?

51 Comments on The Most Laid Back Island, Isla Holbox

  1. We found your video on Holbox and read your article. Looks great and we are now planning a trip there. Thanks for helping us discover this beautiful place.

  2. I am planning a trip to Holbox because I saw your article. This looks like a beautiful island and somewhere to relax for a few days.

    • Mr.Yucatan // March 11, 2017 at 8:00 AM // Reply

      Hello Jason

      So nice of you to write and we hope you enjoy your time on Holbox. It is one of our favorites!

  3. Holbox I a secret of our. We love going there. It retains much of the charm since there are no large hotels and we hope it stays that way. Thanks!

  4. I am wanting to go to Holbox from Playa Del Carmen. I have bags and two kids. What do you recommend for transportation?

    • Mr.Yucatan // March 13, 2017 at 3:59 PM // Reply

      Hello Kystyna

      The ADO bus is a good option if you are close to the station in Playa Del Carmen and can handle your own bags. A private transportation company will do door to door for you. That is, up to the ferry for Holbox. Then when you arrive you can take a golf cart taxi to your hotel. We hope you have a great time on Holbox.

  5. Wonderful photos of Holbox. We are planning on going for our first time. We would like to experience it before it gets over developed.

  6. Emma Knolls // March 13, 2017 at 3:23 PM // Reply

    Thanks for the info. We are coming to Cancun this Spring and only want to land there and explore the area. We lie the relaxed atmosphere and beach. Holbox looks perfect!

  7. Hello, we are thinking of going to Holbox this June, can you tell me what to expect of the weather there?

    • Mr.Yucatan // March 13, 2017 at 5:58 PM // Reply

      Hello Sady

      June in Holbox Island will be hot. Most days are in the high 80’s or low 90’s. There is a chance of thunder showers but this is not the rainy season. You might want to check to see if the place you are staying has air conditioning if you cannot take the heat especially at night.

  8. Wow! We just got back from Isla Holbox! We loved it! We could not get enough of the colors! The water, the sky and the sunsets! All great We want to go back already.

  9. We could not get enough of Holbox. It is laid back for sure but we are not the ones to go out at night and do not need bars. We loved taking a bottle of wine to the beach at sunset each day. Perfect times. I hope Holbox does not change.

  10. Hello. We just love going to the out of the way spots around the area. Holbox island is so relaxing and it has a nice mix of upscale and small hotels. The restaurant scene is also getting better by the month.

  11. I loved the fact that there are so many birds around. We did the three points tour and loved bird island. It is a must do when on Holbox.

  12. Hello we headed to Holbox this next week. Do you know of any festivals or events going on?

    • Hello Marisol

      There is nothing extra going on as we know of. Just enjoy the island and all of it’s beauty.

  13. Great write-up. We are going to Isla Holbox for our first time this year and cannot wait!

  14. I have seen a cenote that people swim in on Holbox but cannot find it on the map. Is this on the west end of the island? It looks beautiful and I want to visit it when there.

    • Mr.Yucatan // March 15, 2017 at 6:41 AM // Reply

      Hello Mary

      We were confused for a while as well as we kept seeing photos of the cenote. It is actually on the mainland and part of the 3 points tour. This tour is very affordable and something that is a great way to see the birds and local area. We hope you get to do it while on Holbox.

  15. Your video has sold me on going to Isla Holbox! I look forward to visiting this month.

  16. We love going to Holbox each year. The charm of the island won us over. We hope to open a boutique hotel soon but hope we are not too late as values of property have risen. We see lots of potential here and just the sheer beauty of the place.

  17. The new ADO bus makes it so much easier to get to Holbox from Playa Del Carmen. We like to go once a month now!

  18. If you go to Holbox you should go for lobster pizza, super good. It is on the corner of the main plaza.

  19. Do you have any opinion of Hotel Las Nubes? We have heard different things about it and not sure if we should book.

    • Mr.Yucatan // March 16, 2017 at 4:44 PM // Reply

      Hello
      Las Nubes Hotel on Holbox has been there for a while and was one of the original higher end hotels. It has maintained its reputation over time. There are a lot of newer hotels that compete for attention. One thing to note is that this hotel is on the far end of Holbox. If you like remote and less interaction in town, then that is good. Golf carts would be needed to go into town. The beach is nice here but we do like the wider beach just west, or more close to the center. The beach is wider but the hotels are not on the beach but rather the road is in front of the hotels.

  20. We are traveling around the Yucatan for two weeks and want to hit up some the best places to visit. How long do you think we need in Holbox island to give is a good view?

    • Hello Will

      There is so much to see when in the Yucatan. We are sure you are going to hit up some Mayan ruins, Merida, Playa Del Carmen, Tulum, Bacalar and Holbox. Since you have lot to see you might consider at least two nights in Holbox. Depending on time maybe three or four depending on how much you like the beach. There is a lot of beach time and relaxing to do there. If you like to do something everyday you might just spend two nights there. The weather will also effect your opinion. If it is rainy maybe you will have to delay going or stay longer so you see it in it’s full glory.

  21. I love what you guys are up too. I love hearing about out of the way spots like Isla Holbox. I have so much on my list for places to visit next time I am in Mexico.

  22. Keith Southerland // March 18, 2017 at 3:50 AM // Reply

    Thanks for the helpful tips. Working on a trip plan here. I really like your website!

  23. I gotta say the Tribu hostel on Holbox rocks! You have to spend a minimum nights there but of course you should spend a few days on Holbox. Beach front and great activities.

    • We agree with you Joel. This is one of the better hostels in the Yucatan Peninsula. We are glad they are doing so well on Isla Holbox.

  24. We are going for our second time to Isla Holbox. It has been two year since our last time so we are looking forward to seeing what is new and how much has changed on the island.

  25. It’s only 2 weeks before we arrive in Holbox Island. Looking forward to our first time. We will be sure to go on the tour you suggest. Thanks for the info.

  26. Have a relaxed stroll through town and the beach and relax at your hotel. This is what we did for five days n Holbox. Loved every minute of it.

  27. I have been searching for a dinner restaurant on Holbox. Have you been to the Luuma Restaurant? I want to know more about it before I book. Thanks.

    • Mr.Yucatan // April 3, 2017 at 1:10 PM // Reply

      Hello Betsy

      Luuma is on our list of places to check out next time we are in Holbox. We do only recommend places that we have been to so we have no comment on this restaurant. We will send you a list of restaurants that we have been and you might find that perfect spot for a special dinner out. We hope you have a great trip to Holbox.

  28. Hey there, I have a question about visiting Isla Holbox. Is there sand fleas or mosquitos?

    • Mr.Yucatan // April 4, 2017 at 6:39 AM // Reply

      Hello Dotty

      There are bugs on this island since it is a natural area. At times, often when it is more the rainy season, the mosquitos are prevalent. It seems to be worse on the west end of the island. Sometimes at night they can be along the beach even if normally mosquitos tend not to be near the shoreline. This is just something you have to deal with to be in such a naturally beautiful area.

  29. I visit your article and have a question about transportation to Holbox. The bus from Playa goes to Cancun first and then to Holbox? Can I get on the bus there?

    • Mr.Yucatan // April 6, 2017 at 9:45 AM // Reply

      Hello Anastasia

      The ADO bus from Playa Del Carmen to Holbox is direct and will take the new highway that is more direct then going to Cancun. If you are in Cancun there are local busses that go to Chiquila, the town for the ferry to Holbox. This is a very slow way to go to the island though.

  30. Excellent website. Plenty of helpful info here. We are coming to the Yucatan for the first time and are looking to discover more!

  31. Thanks for sharing your tips on Isla Holbox Mexico. We are planning a trip now!

    Regards

  32. Stephanie Paloutzian // April 9, 2017 at 9:07 PM // Reply

    How long does it take to get to Holbox from Cancun?

    • Mr.Yucatan // April 9, 2017 at 9:40 PM // Reply

      Hello Stephanie

      It takes just about 2 hours driving from Cancun to Isla Holbox. If you take a public bus from Cancun it takes over three hours. In both instances you then will need to take the ferry from Chiquila to the island. This takes about 25 minutes.

  33. Just wanted to email you to say thank you so a lot for all your help organising
    our dinner party on Saturday in Holbox. We had a great time.

  34. We just took three days on Holbox and wish we had allotted more time to relax there. It really is a special island. We liked staying on the east end of the island, I think that is the more popular side and would recommend that.
    Many thanks

  35. Hello! I’ve been following your website for some time now. We are finally going to come from Germany to visit. Your website has been so helpful in our planning. We are especially looking forward to visiting Isla Holbox.

  36. Hello, getting ready for a visit Isla Holbox next month – and it was actually due to seeing your article. Decided to extend our Playa trip by 3 days. I am so very excited to be visiting what I believe will be a little gem! I do however have a question. How often does the ferry run? Some sites show them running every hour while others on the half. Thanks!

    • Mr.Yucatan // April 24, 2017 at 7:42 AM // Reply

      Hello Anne

      The ferry pretty much runs every 30 minutes during the middle of the day and on less busy times once an hour. If you take a bus there, the busses line up with a ferry. Even if you drive there and don’t want to wait 30-40 minutes for the ferry, there are small boats that will take you across. We hope you have a great time! We don’t think it will be too hard to enjoy it there on Holbox.

  37. Hi there! This is my first time going to Holbox and we have a group. Do you recommend a hotel where a group of 8 can stay? We need 4/6 rooms and beach front would be good. We are not looking for super high end and can stay in cabins if there is such a thing on Holbox. Thanks.

    • Mr.Yucatan // April 25, 2017 at 9:04 AM // Reply

      Hello. One option that seems to fit your requirement is the Holbox Dream Beach Front Hotel. This hotel has two pools, is beachfront, has two levels and at least 30 rooms. It is also a more mid range hotel for price. We hope you have a great trip to Isla Holbox an if you need anything let us know.

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