Crystal clear, turquoise sea, a wide sky in azure blue. The warm breeze travels through the green leaves of dense vegetation. Snow-white, fine sand to dig your feet in. Cozy hammocks swing at posts standing in shallow water. Does that sound good? Then you are probably someone who could feel very comfortable on Holbox island.
The idyllic island paradise is located in Mexico off the Yucatan Peninsula. Exactly where the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico meet. Only a few years ago Holbox Island was completely unknown to tourism. That has definitely changed, and today the island is known to most travelers in Mexico. However, the inhabitants of Holbox have taken care to preserve the rustic naturalness of their island. And fortunately, they have done quite well so far.
Estimated reading time: 20 minutes
What to expect on Holbox Island
Island Holbox in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo has remained quite untouched by the mass tourism of the Riviera Maya, although it is not far from Cancun. The island is 42 km / 26 mi long and only 2 km / 1,2 mi wide, and it actually consists only of sand. There are also no paved roads on the island. Sandy paths take you everywhere.
Holbox has a very unique flora and fauna and is part of the Yum-Balam Biosphere Reserve. This place is especially known for the whale sharks, the largest fish on our planet. Every year between May and September, they come into the clear waters off the island to mate. Holbox is also home to countless bird species, rays and manatees.
On the northern side of the island there is a 34 km / 21 mi long, untouched sandy beach. On the south side there is the Yalahao Lagoon, which separates the island from the mainland. The island was already settled by the Maya, who gave it the name Holbox: the name means “black hole” in the Mayan language. The reason for this is the water of the lagoon, which gets its dark color from the mangroves that grow there. The lagoon is populated by flamingos, pelicans and many other seabirds and exotic animals. In the 16th century, the lagoon served as a hiding place for the famous pirate Francisco de Molas during 40 years.
The only village on the island is also called Holbox. It is a rather small fishing village, only a few blocks in size, where about 2000 people live. You can watch the fishermen working on their nets, and in the evening the kitchens of the island prepare the fresh catch of the day. The ambience is very relaxed and rustic.
There are some small supermarkets Holbox island, and recently also a bank branch has opened. For such a small island you will find an astonishing number of good restaurants and small tavernas, pretty boutique hotels and cozy hostels.
Most people on the island spend their days on the beach. It is only in the afternoons that life returns to the small town. In the evening, the sunset over the sea is the unofficial meeting point for everyone before continuing on to a delicious dinner and refreshing drinks in the small bars of the island. Of course, the clear starry sky over the Caribbean Sea is particularly spectacular in fine weather.
Know before you go
Climate: Pleasantly warm all year round at around 30°C / 80 °F, high humidity
Currency: Mexican Peso
Credit cards: Cards are not accepted everywhere. The best solution is Mexican cash. In the village there is a bank branch since a short time, where you can also change.
Safety: Holbox Island is very safe for tourists. You can also travel at night without worry if you know how to use your common sense. As everywhere else, however, you should pay attention to your valuables.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Holbox Island is – just like for the whole Riviera Maya – from December to April. This is the dry season, when the weather is beautiful most of the time. Of course, it is also the more expensive high season.
The hurricane season lasts from June to September in the region. During this time of the year, it can often rain, but the showers are usually very short. But they can be quite violent. Sometimes a hurricane can make landfall. In this case, you should follow the instructions of the security forces.
Despite the rainy season it can sometimes get quite crowded even in summer, because this season coincides with the summer holidays in the USA and Europe. The cheapest off-season is probably September. Then you can also find the best prices.
If a visit to the whale sharks is fixed on your agenda, then you have to travel to Holbox Island in the period between May and September. Because only at this time of the year do these gentle giants enter the waters of the island. For the observation of bioluminescence in the sea, the period from June to October is the most favorable. But not at full moon.
How to get to Holbox Island
Holbox Island is located in the northeast of the Yucatan Peninsula. If you don’t live in the region, you’ll probably fly to Cancun or Mérida first. From both airports there is a public bus of the line ADO to the port of Chiquilá, where the ferry to Holbox starts. The bus costs about 260 MXN / 13 USD from Cancun and about 400 MXN / 20 USD from Mérida.
If you are coming from one or even several long-distance flights, I would not recommend this to you. The bus ride takes several hours. In addition, it can of course happen that the bus company cancels your return trip and you have to dodge over a longer distance. If you have planned your time on a tight schedule, then you could miss your flight home.
You can also arrive by taxi. But if you prefer to have it cheaper or more convenient, the best solution would probably be a shuttle service. A very nice service with pick-up from the airport is offered by eTransfer.
Another good solution would be a rental car. City Car Rental, for example, would be a highly recommended provider. At the port of Chiquilá there is a parking lot where you can leave the car under supervision. The parking fee costs only a few dollars per day, and on the island of Holbox you can hardly do much with the car. There are almost no cars there.
The ferry from Chiquilá to Holbox Island departs every two hours, the journey takes about 20 minutes. The ferry is usually a modern catamaran equipped with comfortable seats, sanitary facilities and air conditioning. And at the pier of Holbox Island there will be eager helpers waiting for you who will gladly take you to your hotel.
Island Holbox on the map
Getting around on Isla Holbox
You will be looking for cars in vain on Holbox Island. The sandy roads of the island would not be very suitable for them either. If you want to ride a vehicle in Holbox, take a Golf Cart. You’ll see them on the island at every corner. You can even rent one yourself. Prices start at around 35 USD for three hours and go up to 89 USD for 24 hours.
Many people also like to take a bike on island Holbox. Since the island is flat and not very large, this is not a problem at all. Bicycles are also rented and easy to get. Half a day costs about 14 USD, a whole day 20 USD. You can even ask the bike rental to bring the bike to your hotel.
Since Holbox has only one village that is only a few blocks in size, people there also like to walk. A walk along the sandy paths in the fresh sea air is healthy and gives you time to unwind a bit.
Hotels in Holbox – 5 great places to stay
Not so long ago, the island of Holbox was rather unknown to tourists. At that time there were only a few small, cheap and very simple hostels. As an idyllic natural paradise, the island nowadays has resounded throughout the land. And therefore, it is only natural that a lot has happened in the hotel scene as well.
But you won’t find huge resorts with hundreds of rooms and all-inclusive offers here. It is not allowed to build higher buildings in Holbox. Instead, the island offers extremely chic boutique hotels, which are often beautifully decorated and lovingly managed by their owners.
Casa Cat Ba
Casa Cat Ba is a beautiful boutique hotel on Holbox Island. The hotel is more like a beachfront villa with only five rooms. Peace, relaxation and personal service are very important here and are the motto of this place.
Casa las Tortugas Petit Beach Hotel & Spa
Casa Las Tortugas is an idyllic boutique hotel right on the beach. It bears its name because just before the opening 13 turtles came out of the sea here – to the beach where they hatched. The hotel offers a spa area and a sweet boutique.
Hotel Mawimbi is a charming hotel right on the beach of Holbox Island. Beautifully decorated with natural materials from the region, the hotel also offers a nice restaurant. The menu of the day always depends on what the fishermen just have caught.
Hotel Casa Takywara
Hotel Casa Takywara is located just outside the center of Holbox on a quiet beach. Terraces, hammocks and pure nature with a magnificent view of the sea characterize everyday life here. Spectacular sunsets and a sky full of stars included.
Ser Casasandra Boutique Hotel
Ser Casasandra is a dreamlike boutique hotel at the beach of Holbox Island. The house was lovingly decorated by artist Sandra Perez and artists from Mexico and Cuba. Inspiration for all senses is the motto here.
10 Wonderful Restaurants in Holbox
There are rumors that there were so many lobsters in Holbox Island some time ago that it was difficult to walk the sandy streets without stepping on one of them. This no longer happens today. But the island’s lobster pizza is widely known for being so delicious.
For such a small island, Holbox offers an amazing variety of restaurants. You don’t have to miss the first-class fine dining here either. But one thing would be good – you should like fresh fish and seafood.
Luuma | Mexican cuisine
Luuma is a very chic restaurant with a great ambience, especially after dark. Exquisite, creative cuisine, very nice service and pleasant music. Especially recommended are the delicious tapas and the tasty cocktails. No reservations will be accepted. It therefore makes sense to come early to get a table.
Address: Avenida Damero, Holbox Island
Opening hours: daily 5:00 p.m. – midnight
Phone: +52 984 875 2129
PiedraSanta Holbox | Mexican Cuisine & Seafood
Great ambience and creative cuisine are offered in the restaurant PiedraSanta Holbox. The restaurant is a bit off the beaten track, but it’s always worth a visit. Especially for the grilled octopus. Very friendly service and great cocktails promise a wonderful evening.
Address: Paseo Kuka Corner Jurel, Isla Holbox Mexico
Opening hours: Daily 4:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Phone: +52 984 114 1722
Medium price range $$ – $$$
Fresco Bar and Grill | Mexican Cuisine & Seafood
The Fresco bar and grill restaurant is a perfect place for a dinner overlooking the beautiful sunset of Holbox Island. Located directly on the beach, the restaurant offers a very nice service, delicious cuisine and tasty cocktails.
Address: Hotel Mystique Holbox, Avenida Pedro Joaquin Coldwell between Chabelita and Paseo Carey, Holbox Island
Opening hours: Daily 7:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m., midday – 5:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Milpa | Mexican Cuisine & Seafood
The restaurant Milpa is a somewhat secluded insider tip for those who want to combine culinary delights with a feast for the eyes. The cuisine is very creative and the dishes are exquisitely presented. Of course, there are delicious wines and cocktails. No credit cards, reservation makes perfect sense.
Address: Calle Palomino S/N, Isla Holbox Mexico
Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m., Monday closed
Phone: +52 984 875 2026
Budget Restaurants in Holbox $
Restaurante La Barracuda | Mexican Cuisine & Seafood
Very rustic small Mexican restaurant for fish and seafood. Outdoor there is Street Art, inside there is extremely tasty food. Friendly service and very fair prices. The restaurant does not have a license to sell beer, but in the shop next door you can get one and bring it to your table.
Address: Calles Esmedregal, Holbox Island Mexico
Phone: +52 984 322 3593
Barba Negra | Mexican Cuisine & Seafood
Cozy restaurant with a street food concept. At different stalls you can choose what you would like to eat. You pay and the food is brought to your table. The drinks are ordered directly at the table. Super tasty and extremely creative tacos and burgers. Credit cards are accepted, but cash payment is recommended as there is a surcharge for cards. Overall, however, the prices are quite inexpensive.
Address: Avenida Dimero S/N, Holbox Mexico
Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants in Holbox
Arte Sano | $
At Arte Sano on the island of Holbox you will find super delicious vegan and vegetarian cuisine. The dishes are exquisite, creative and a real feast for the eyes. In addition, there is extremely nice service and super tasty smoothies. All of it very healthy and fresh. A real experience.
Address: Jeronimo de Aguilar 12, Holbox Island, Mexico
Opening hours: Tuesday closed, otherwise daily 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Telephone: +52 1 998 198 5956
Painapol | $$ – $$$
The restaurant Painapol in Holbox is the right place if you are looking for very tasty smoothies and salads. But not only that, there is much more on the menu. The dishes are beautifully served and the service is very nice.
Address: Calle Tiburin Ballena, Isla Holbox Mexico
Opening hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Phone: +52 984 183 3393
Breakfast & Cafeterias in Holbox
Clandestino Café | $
The Clandestino Café in Holbox is more than just a cafeteria. Actually, it’s a coffee roaster. Therefore, you might really expect a lot from the coffee. In addition, there are very tasty snacks and bowls, they also offer many great options for vegans and vegetarians. The restaurant also scores with an extremely nice service and a unique ambience.
Address: Paseo Kuka 12, Holbox Island, Mexico
Opening hours: Daily 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Phone: +52 984 207 2638
A Mar Café | $$ – $$$
Also, in the A Mar Café you will find very tasty, freshly roasted coffee and good tea. There are delicious snacks and wonderful, refreshing smoothies and bowls. Many great vegan snacks with fresh fruits make the café also a good place to start for vegetarians and vegans. Very nice service.
Address: Avenida Tiburon Ballena between Avenida Damero y PJ Codwell, Holbox Mexico
Phone: +52 984 875 2297
Nightlife in Holbox – 5 places for a great evening
Holbox is an island, and even a small one. Fans of the big party scene are probably better off in Cancun or in Playa del Carmen. But that doesn’t mean you have to go to sleep with the chickens in Holbox. Some really nice locations will provide your entertainment, and several restaurants have evening events with life music.
Some restaurants are so cool and stylish that you’d rather expect them in a big city, not on a small sandy island. And the great cocktails taste a little better in front of the dreamlike panorama of Holbox!
Salma | Beach Bar & Restaurant $$ – $$$
Salma is a wonderful location on Isla Holbox. A pirate bar, which is also a great restaurant. A mystical ambience, cool music, first-class mixology and very nice service await you. There are also regular events with great DJs that are invited from other countries. And yes, location and ambience are also first-class. A great place for the evening.
Address: Calle Palomino s/n on the beach, besides the Holbox sign, Holbox Mexico
Opening hours: Daily 6:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m., Sunday closed
Phone: +52 984 253 1625
The Hot Corner Holbox | Bar & Restaurant $$ – $$$
Pretty little bar with a nice ambience in Holbox. Good music, great cocktails and a relaxed ambience. Very friendly service. Often there are events with live music. Just right for partying in a Caribbean setting as you imagine it.
Address: Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, Holbox Mexico
Opening hours: Daily 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.
Phone: +52 984 875 2293
Viva Zapata | Bar & Restaurant $$ – $$$
Very tasty restaurant and great bar with a super nice ambience. A nice place to sit, the service is fast and friendly, the food great. Often there is live music where you can really enjoy the evening in the Caribbean. Without a reservation, you may have to expect a waiting time for a table.
Address: Calle Damero 67 Solar 14, Holbox Mexico
Opening hours: Daily 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Phone: +52 984 875 2362
Bar Arena Isla Holbox | Roof Top Bar $$ – $$$
Beautiful Roof Top Bar with a pool and delicious cocktails. Super friendly service, great views. A good place to watch the sunset and later the stars with good music.
Address: Hotel & Bar Arena, Tiburon Ballena s/n, Holbox Mexico
Opening hours: Daily 4:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.
Phone: +52 984 875 2169
Alma Bar | Roof Top Bar $
Great Roof Top Bar with a pleasant ambience and delicious cocktails. Especially the selection of mojitos is very convincing. (I love mojitos). Small pool and sunbathing facilities. When ordering two cocktails per person, the viewing platform may be used. Very nice service and spectacular sunset views.
Address: Hotel Villas Tiburon, Paseo Koko, Holbox Mexico
Opening hours: Daily 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Phone: +52 1 984 131 9303
What to do in Holbox
Isla Holbox is a little paradise. The perfect place to relax in a hammock with a cool drink in your hand. Or to slow down, as they say. But even if you want to experience a bit more during your holiday, the island has got you covered. Because there are some incredible things to do in Holbox.
1. Meet the world’s largest fish
Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world. They are about 13 m long, but there are also bigger ones. And they are absolute loners. Except for the mating time.
When whale sharks want to fall in love, they gather in large groups to find the right partner. In only two places in this world. One of them is the waters around Holbox island in Mexico.
The mating season of whale sharks falls in the months between May and September. This is also the time when these gentle giants can be seen in the crystal-clear waters around the island.
There are guided tours where you can swim or snorkel with whale sharks. This is certainly a unique experience. However, the tours are limited to 15 excursions per day for nature conservation reasons. If you’re interested, it’s probably worth booking a tour online in advance.
If you want to limit contact with other people as much as possible, you can also experience the whale sharks as part of a private tour.
2. Experience the sunset in all its colors
On Holbox island, the sun sets in the west. Just like anywhere else. But it also goes down over the sea. With incredible splendor and in all colors you can imagine.
The sunset by the sea has therefore become something of an unofficial meeting point for the people on the island. It is best to watch it from the western side of the beach at Holbox village or from the pier at Punta Coco at the western end of the island.
3. Try kitesurfing
Kitesurfing is a very popular sport on Isla Holbox. The island is also ideal for beginners due to the favorable wind conditions and the shallow water especially during the winter months. On site there are several surf schools that will gladly introduce you to the secrets of this wonderful adventure.
Advanced kite-surfers will also find the best surfing conditions due to the many times stronger wind from the north with wind speeds of more than 25 knots. So, what are you waiting for?
4. Explore the island by bike
Isla Holbox is perfectly flat and easy to explore by bike. And bicycles are rented at every corner.
A great destination for a bike ride is Punta Mosquito. At low tide you can reach the beach there via a sandbank. Sometimes you can watch pink flamingos at Punta Mosquito.
In the early afternoon, however, the tide is rising and the sandbank for the ride back disappears into the water. You still get through, but crocodiles also live in the lagoon. Therefore, be careful.
You can also easily get to Punta Coco in the west of Holbox by bike. If the weather is good, you should definitely watch the sunset there.
5. Discover modern arts in Holbox
Art is inseparable from everyday life on Isla Holbox. If you stroll through the village, you will see the great street art that adorns the walls of many shops and restaurants. There are also some extravagant boutiques, for example at Luuma.
Holbox has set itself the goal of taking first place in Mexico in terms of street art. For this purpose, international artists were even invited to the island as part of a festival. You can explore the street art of Holbox yourself or get to know it as part of a guided tour.
The international art festival in Holbox island takes place every year in April („International Public Arts Festival”). During this event, artists from all over the world flock to the small island and fill the sandy streets with live – and with their artwork.
6. Marvel at the bioluminescence of the sea
Isla Holbox is not only beautiful during the day in the light of the sun. It also holds another secret. The nights.
In addition to a wide sky full of stars, there is also this mysterious glow from the sea. Bioluminescence caused by phytoplankton. The sea then glows magically blue. It looks like an enchanted world. As if the stars had fallen into the water. And when something moves in the water, it glows all the more.
The bioluminescence in Holbox is best seen in the period from June to September. This is also the time when the whale sharks come to the island. Sure, they feed on this plankton.
You can watch the bioluminescence especially well during moonless nights, preferably in quiet places like Punta Coco. If you don’t want to look for the phenomenon yourself, you can also take a guided tour. The local guides also know exactly where and especially at what time of the night the bioluminescence is best observed.
7. Watch the birdlife of Isla Holbox from a kayak
One of the greatest natural wonders on Holbox Island is the incredible diversity of the bird life. Flamingos (from April to October), ospreys, herons, whistles, frigate birds, cormorants and many more. It’s best to watch these animals as you paddle through the quiet waters of the mangrove swamps on a kayak.
With a bit of luck, you can also see crocodiles sunbathing. Or wild boas. All of them are animals that probably don’t cross your way every day at home. Here on the island, you can observe them in freedom and be close to them in their natural habitat. A local guide will show you the best places and make sure that nothing happens to you.
8. Paddleboard in Holbox
If you don’t want to row in a kayak, you can also discover the secrets of Island Holbox with a paddleboard. They are available for rent and you can explore the lagoon and the mangroves. You will not believe all the wildlife you can see there. You can even do yoga on the paddleboard.
Well, you see, you probably won’t get bored on Holbox Island. And if you have nothing to do for a moment, just remember – the peace far away from the daily routine is probably the greatest gift that this island can give you.
Holbox Island is a largely untouched spot of earth and known for its intact nature. However, this also means that the infrastructure on the island does not necessarily correspond to the high level of development of the Riviera Maya. Especially when it comes to electricity and Wi-Fi.
But this is unlikely to be a problem. Because the island will enchant you with its rustic charm and beautiful surroundings and let you forget everyday life for a while.
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