Isla Holbox in southern Mexico – Quintana Roo – is a paradise like you find in the travel guides. White sandy beaches, swaying palm trees, the sea in 50 shades of blue and green, and pelicans that dive into the sea and chill on the fishing boats. With a little bit of luck, you even spot flamingos. Isla Holbox is such a destination you will enjoy to the fullest. And although the island isn’t an undiscovered gem anymore, there are still plenty of beaches you don’t have to share with anyone. Not surprisingly, Isla Holbox is, according to many, the most beautiful island in Central America.
Where is Isla Holbox and how do you get there?
Isla Holbox ( Ole-Bosh in Spanish) is located on the north coast of Mexico, in the Gulf of Mexico. The island is about 30 kilometers long and two kilometers wide at the widest point. The ferry to Isla Holbox departs every half hour from the coastal town of Chiquilá. The crossing takes about twenty minutes. Before you know it you’ll arrive in paradise. There are two companies that sail to Isla Holbox: Holbox Express and 9 Hermanos. For both, you pay 140 pesos per person for a single journey.
The easiest way to travel through Mexico is by rental car. By car you can drive from Cancun to Chiquilá in about two hours. The cheapest car rental in Mexico is Alamo. Once you have arrived in Chiquilá, you can park your car for 100 pesos per day. Taking your car to Isla Holbox isn’t possible. As soon as you enter the village you will see different places where you can park. If you prefer not to rent a car, you can take an ADO bus to Chiquilá. These do take a little longer. You can also take this bus from, for example, Playa del Carmen, Valladolid or Tulum.
No paved roads, few cars and many golf carts
As soon as you set foot on Isla Holbox you will notice the relaxed atmosphere on the island. The reggae bars provide the music, watching the pelicans is a blast and the colored walls of the buildings complete the experience. The unpaved roads ensure that you can walk around bare feeted. The ultimate bounty island feeling. That there are few cars on Isla Holbox is a fact, but this doesn’t mean there is no traffic on the island. At the port taxis in the form of golf carts are waiting for you and you will encounter them everywhere on the island. Not only as a taxi, but you can also hire it as a tourist for a number of hours. So, there are not a few golf carts, but a lot.
The coolest things to do on Isla Holbox
Of course, you do not have to do anything at Isla Holbox. Order a cold corona and pop down in a hammock and the ultimate holiday feeling is present. Do you want to do something during your holiday on Isla Holbox? No worries, there are many amazing spots to explore. Although the island is not very big, there are some nice things to do on Isla Holbox.
Chilling and tanning in one of the iconic hammocks on Isla Holbox
When you’re looking for photos of Isla Holbox you will undoubtedly find photos of the iconic hammocks and swings in the sea. We ourselves thought that there was only one such place with hammocks, but without exaggerating we encountered five cool creations along the coast. Many hammocks belong to a certain resort or restaurant, but everyone is free to use them. The perfect spot on Isla Holbox for the most beautiful Instagram photos.
Explore the island by bike or golf cart
The center of Isla Holbox is not large and is easy to explore on foot. Yet it is nice to rent a bike so you can see more of the island. When you cycle a bit out of the center you have a better chance to find a beach where no one else is. You rent a bike for 200 pesos per day or 150 pesos for seven hours.
Motorbikes and cars are not for rent on Isla Holbox, but for the less active people there is another solution. For 1000 pesos you can rent a golf cart for the entire day or 150 pesos for an hour.
Admire the most amazing street art
O Isla Holbox it’s not hard to be able to admire the most beautiful street art. The coolest artworks can be seen on almost every building. The island is genuinely an open-air museum and sometimes you do not know where to look. Especially in the center, around the square, you will encounter the most beautiful things. But also, when you rent a bicycle or golf cart and drive out of the center you see beautiful artworks. Nowhere else have I seen such beautiful street art in the brightest colors.
Chilling at one of the many beach clubs
Do you like a drink and especially a drink with a good view? Different beach clubs can be found in every price range along the beach. Our favorites are Raices – a relaxed reggae bar with good prices, a nice vibe and live music and Mantarraya Beach Club & Hammocks. At Mantarraya you can chill in a rocking chair at the bar and you will find lovely hammocks in the sea. Especially the sangria is delicious here!
Spotting starfish at Punta Mosquito
You have to walk a bit – through the water – but Punta Mosquito is one of the most beautiful places on Isla Holbox. The water here is very shallow and very clear. Look around and when you’re lucky, like us, you can see a number of starfish.
The three islands tour
If you have more than one day to spend on Isla Holbox, it is nice to see more of the area. Tours are offered everywhere in the center to two other nearby islands, Isla de la Pasión and Isla Pájeros. Both islands are uninhabited and the chance of spotting rare birds- such as flamingos – is very big. Another stop during the tour is at Cenote Yalahau where you can swim in a lovely, clear pool.
Enjoy the beautiful sunsets
The sunsets on Isla Holbox are beautiful. The most beautiful place to admire the sunset is Punta Coca, but it isn’t the easiest place to reach. The beach, Playa Isla Holbox, is also a great place to enjoy the sunset while enjoying a cool drink.
Swim with whale sharks at Isla Holbox
Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky enough to see whale sharks around Isla Holbox. But if you are on the island between May and September, there is a big chance you can swim with whale sharks. Isla Holbox is one of the few places in the world where these enormous animals occur.
The best places to eat and drink on Isla Holbox
No lack of restaurants on Isla Holbox. Keep in mind that the prices here are generally slightly higher than on the mainland, but there are some budget options available.
The best pizzas at ROOTS
ROOTS on Isla Holbox is thé place in Mexico to enjoy the best pizzas. You can make your own pizza or choose one of the pizzas from the menu. The drink that, according to Erick, you really have to try is a local Jamaica.
Budget: Mexican food at Taco Queto
Ywill find a lot of expensive restaurants on the island. But even when you are traveling on a budget, there are some nice local restaurants. We went to Taco Queto twice. The prices here are somewhat lower than at the average restaurant on Isla Holbox, but the dishes are at least as good.
Fresh juices and smoothies at Angeles y Diablitos
Having a good time on a tropical island not only includes a cool drink or a coconut, but also delicious fresh juices and smoothies. Our favorite place is the colorful Angeles y Diablitos on the square in the center. Not only the juices and smoothies are delicious, the sandwiches are fine too.
The night market around the central square
Every evening, the central square of Isla Holbox is transformed into a small market. Various stalls with all kinds of dishes are stored around the square. Try at least our favorite, the marquesitas, a kind of crêpes with for example banana and Nutella inside.
Drinks with a view at Hotel Arena
There is no high-rise on Isla Holbox, but there is a place where you can drink a delicious cocktail and at the same time have a great view over the center of the island. Hotel Arena – a bright yellow building, you cannot miss – is located on the central square. Not only is it a nice place to sleep, upstairs they created a nice bar and even a small swimming pool.
Where to sleep on Isla Holbox?
Not only the prices for food and drinks, but also the prices for accommodations on Isla Holbox are generally higher than in the rest of the country. If you want to stay in a reasonable affordable double room with private bathroom, we can recommend Hotel Los Arcos in the middle of the city center. If you have something more to spend then the adjacent Hotel Arena is a must stay. Keep in mind that Isla Holbox is not an undiscovered island and that the music can be heard in the center until the late at night. When you travel as a backpacker and want spend even less on accommodation, you can also camp on Isla Holbox. The coolest place we have come across is Hostel & Cabanas ida Y Vuelta Camping.
Especially on weekends, Isla Holbox is a popular destination. If you want to be sure of a relaxed place to sleep, we advise you to book in advance via Booking.com – at least for the first night.
Extra tips for your trip to Isla Holbox
- There are a number of cash machines available on Isla Holbox. Often however, these do not work or they will only give American dollars. The exchange rate is pretty bad, so I advise you to bring enough cash to the island.
- There are many mosquitoes on Isla Holbox. I certainly advise you to bring enough deet.
- When you sleep in the center, keep in mind that you will definitely hear music until midnight.