8 Tips for Isla Holbox in Mexico

Isla Holbox is a beautiful tropical island that has miles of pristine white beaches, plenty of colorful street art, and a laid-back atmosphere. When you’re here, you’ll forget about the rest of the world and truly live in the moment. Whether you’re sipping on cocktails at a beach club, lounging in a hammock, or snorkeling with whale sharks and turtles, you’re sure to have a great time. Since cars aren’t allowed on Isla Holbox, you’ll see everyone getting around on bicycles or in golf carts. It’s the perfect place to unwind, soak up the sun, and get a lovely tan. Welcome to one of the most relaxing islands in Central America!

How do you get to Isla Holbox?

To get to Isla Holbox, you need to take a ferry from the town of Chiquilá. In Chiquilá, a boat to Isla Holbox departs every half hour, and you don’t have to book it ahead of time. The ferry ride takes about 15 minutes to reach Isla Holbox, and once you arrive, you can take a cab (golf cart) to your hotel. Alternatively, the village is quite small, so walking is also an option.

Parking in Chiquilá

Cars aren’t allowed on Isla Holbox, so you won’t be able to take it there. However, if you’re traveling with a rental car, you can park it in a paid parking lot in Chiquilá. You’ll find these parking lots along the road to the port of Chiquilá, but be sure to ask about the price carefully, as some lots may charge more than others.

From Tulum to Isla Holbox

It is 2.5 hours by car and 3.5 hours by bus + 15 minutes on the ferry

From Cancun to Isla Holbox

It is 2 hours by car and 2.5 hours by bus from Cancun Airport or Cancun bus station + 15 minutes on the ferry

From Valladolid to Isla Holbox

It is a little over 2 hours by car and 2.5 hours by bus + 15 minutes on the ferry

What to do on Isla Holbox? 8 Great tips!

You won’t easily get bored on Isla Holbox, as there’s plenty to do and experience despite its small size. Of course, you can enjoy the beaches, but you can also participate in various fun activities or tours.

Tip: Make sure to bring plenty of cash with you to Isla Holbox, as the ATM there often doesn’t work. Although there are small entrepreneurial ATMs available, they only dispense dollars, and the exchange rate is expensive. If the official ATM above the police station in the square is working, you can use that, but it’s still best to bring enough cash with you.

#1 Explore Isla Holbox by bicycle

You don’t necessarily need a bicycle to explore the center of Isla Holbox, as it’s incredibly small. However, renting a bike for an afternoon can be a fun way to discover more of the island than you would on foot. If you cycle just two kilometers out of the village, you can have the beach all to yourself.

#2 Walking a dog from the shelter

If you love animals, be sure to visit the Refugio Holbox Animal Sanctuary when you’re on the island. They take in neglected dogs and cats, some of which have disabilities such as missing an eye or paw. The staff at the sanctuary have limited time to give all the animals attention, so you can lend a hand by taking a dog for a walk. As soon as you arrive, the dogs will already know it’s time for a walk and get very excited. You can request a quiet or more energetic dog, but it’s best to take the dog that’s available. Don’t take more than one dog per person, as they can pull quite a bit on the leash, and not all of them listen equally well. You can walk the dog through the village, or take a nice walk on the beach.

#3 Wading and flamingo spotting at Punta Mosquito

The sandbar at Punta Mosquito is perhaps the most idyllic spot on Isla Holbox. During low tide, the water is so shallow that the sandbar forms an island, and you can reach it by walking through a thin layer of clear blue water. Once you arrive, you’ll be in paradise, and if you’re lucky, you might spot flamingos, which are usually found between the sandbar and the island. Bring plenty of drinks and a hat or cap, as you’ll be standing in the sea without any shade. The location of the sandbar at Punta Mosquito looks very far away on Google Maps, but the starting point for the sandbar is much closer. You can enter the water at this point during low tide and walk to the sandbar at this location. If you look at the satellite images on Google Maps, you can clearly see the situation. You can walk a long way, but the scenery is beautiful from the start.

#4 Watching the sunset at Playa Punta Cocos

If you’re in the mood for a romantic moment, head to Playa Punta Cocos in the far west of Isla Holbox for the sunset. From here, you can watch the sun sink into the sea while the sky turns warm hues. Just be sure to bring mosquito spray, as there can sometimes be many mosquitoes around at sunset

#5 Chilling at beach clubs

At the beach, you’ll find plenty of cool beach clubs where you’re sure to spend more time than you planned. Some are nice and basic, with hammocks and cheap drinks, while others are super hip, with luxurious seating areas and culinary delights. On Isla Holbox, there’s something for everyone. Be sure to try some local drinks, like the mezcal margarita or a jamaica (a deliciously refreshing drink made from hibiscus flowers) if you don’t drink alcohol. Las Tortugas is a great beach club with comfortable beds, good food, and a cozy atmosphere. It’s a hotel, but they also offer beds for non-guests.

#6 Street art spotting

Isla Holbox is perhaps the most colorful island in all of Central America. Wherever you look, you’ll see beautiful street art with cheerful colors. This is just one of the things that make Isla Holbox so unique.

#7 The 3 islands tour

What makes Isla Holbox even more unique is its wide variety of wildlife. Only about 10% of the island is inhabited and accessible, making it a great habitat for many bird species, such as flamingos and pelicans. During the 3-island tour, you’ll visit the Cenote Yalahau and two other islands where you’ll have a chance to spot these birds. This tour takes about 3 hours and is a great option if you want to explore more of the area. However, if you’re not particularly interested in birds, the tour may be less interesting, as the islands themselves aren’t particularly scenic. You can book this tour downtown at one of the many stalls.

#8 Swimming with whale sharks, turtles and manta rays

It’s not just birds that love visiting Isla Holbox. It’s also one of the few places on earth where you have a 95% chance of seeing whale sharks between mid-June and mid-September. These giant animals can grow up to 12 meters (40 feet) long, and it’s a unique experience to swim with them. Don’t worry, though – even though the word ‘shark’ may sound a bit scary, these giants only eat plankton. During this tour, you’ll also have a chance to encounter turtles and manta rays. The whale sharks may sometimes come close, but it’s important to have respect for nature and not touch anything underwater.

Best restaurants on Isla Holbox

There are plenty of great restaurant options on Isla Holbox.

ROOTS – Our favorite is ROOTS, where you can enjoy delicious pizza and often listen to live music in the evening starting around 8 o’clock.

Painapol –  For a tasty and healthy breakfast or lunch, you must visit Painapol. The bowls and smoothies here are super good.

Holbox Foodie Market – If you want to try different cuisines, the Holbox Foodie Market is a must-visit. You’ll find various stalls where you can get sushi or tacos, for example. We tried the tacos, and they were delicious!

Escape Holbox – If you’re in the mood for fresh fish at the beach, check out Escape Holbox, a restaurant with a Dutch owner and a relaxed, casual atmosphere. They also have a Happy Hour at sunset from 4 till 8 pm with live music. Besides that, they serve Corona from the draft and they have cocktails at the lowest price on this beachside.

Arte Sano Vegan Restaurant Holbox –You can have breakfast, lunch and dinner at this vegan restaurant. You sit in a cosy garden and there are lots of tasty burgers and various Mexican dishes on the menu.

Las Panchas –Local seafood restaurant serving great food at a friendly price.

Important note: Pizza with lobster is a popular dish on Isla Holbox, but unfortunately, there’s a troubling story behind it. The lobsters used in these pizzas are actually baby lobsters, caught illegally. Lobsters should not be fished until they’re at least 13 cm in size, to allow them to lay eggs. However, due to the popularity of lobster pizza on the island, baby lobsters are being fished out of the sea in large numbers, which means they can’t reproduce. So please don’t order this pizza and help save the lobster!

Our favorite places to stay on Isla Holbox

A stay on a tropical island like Isla Holbox naturally includes a great hotel. While hotels and hostels on Holbox can be a bit pricey, there are some really cool options that are well worth the money. We’ve searched for the most beautiful accommodations and found three places we can recommend. Hotel El Pueblito is an absolute gem for couples, with a lovely pool and just a minute’s walk from the beach. The rooms are very nice and some are very luxurious, with a hammock, comfortable bed, and nice shower. If El Pueblito is a bit too expensive for you, check out Alcobas del Mar. This boutique hotel with a pool has super stylish decor and a top-notch location. On the other hand, if you’re looking for lots of fun, parties, and other travelers, then Che Holbox Hostel is the best choice on Isla Holbox. Isla Holbox has become increasingly popular in recent years, so be sure to book early when you see something you like.