Isla Holbox is an island in Quintana Roo, better known worldwide as the Mexican Caribbean.
Holbox Island, population 2,000, is 38 mi (61 km) north-west of Cancún, where the Caribbean Sea meets the Gulf of Mexico. It is part of the 154,000 square kilometer Yum Balamecological reserve. It is known in particular for its whale sharks. It was largely unknown to tourists as recently as 10 years ago; however, tourism in Holbox Island has recently begun to increase at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, this has also led to a rise in obnoxiously loud golf carts now roaming the once rather quiet island. While tourism may be increasing, it still remains a relatively off the beaten path location with plenty of local charm.
Ferries depart from Chiquilá and take about 25-30 minutes. There are two companies that operate from the dock, with very similar boats, similar prices, and leaving at the same time: Holbox Express and 9 Hermanos. Costs M$140 (one-way) and runs daily at 06:00, 08:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 16:00, 17:00, 19:00, and 21:30. On weekends it also runs at 15:00 and 18:00. The appears to be no official website with the schedule, but see this third-party site the current schedule.
With two or more people you can charter a fisher's boat for the same price.
From Cancún (follow signs on the road), take Hwy 180 (called Merida Libre) or Avenida José López Portillo, direction to Merida. Keep to the right when the road separates. At El Ideal, turn right to Kantunilkin, and you will arrive in Chiquilá, where the road ends.
There are three bus routes daily from Cancún to Chiquilá and back, on "Mayab" and "Oriente" buses run by ADO. They leave from the main Cancun ADO terminal and the price is MXN270 per person as of September 2019. Check ADO's website for the current schedule. The last bus in either direction leaves around 2pm. The first bus in the morning (and any weekend bus) takes 2.5 hours; the other two take 3.5 hours. On "Mayab" (the first two buses) there is no luggage storage under the bus, and you'll need to take it aboard. The bus may or may not be full so there may be a chance to place your luggage in an empty seat, however, that is not always guaranteed.
From Mérida you can take a night bus at 23:30, arriving in Chiquilá at 05:30, passing Valladolid around 02:30. If you prefer traveling during the day, you can take a bus from Mérida or Valladolid to Tizimín and change there to a bus to Chiquilá.
By charter plane
Air Taxi AeroSaab offers on-demand flights from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Merida, Chichen Itza and other locations, to Holbox, starting at USD 500 through an intermediary (Holbox Island). Must make inquiry online, as there are no regular flights. They also offer direct 9am-5pm tours at lower prices - see Aerosaab.com.
The island of Holbox is very small and there are no paved roads, only sandy paths. There are very few cars on the island and most people get around by walking, bicycle, or golf cart.
One can also get around Holbox by taking the local taxi service, which consists exclusively of a fleet of four wheelers. The taxis can be found on the beach and in the town during peak hours of the day (10am-6pm). Taxis can be very limited in the early hours of the morning and late at night.
- Birdwatching. You've got a good chance to see flamingos and lots of other birds if you walk the beach west or east away from town.
- Punta Cocos (Walk west from the town for about 30-45 minutes, or take a taxi, bike, or golf cart). On nights with new moon, when the sky is dark, you can see bioluminescence on the beach. Guided kayak tours are available for ~USD 50-60 including pickup from the hotel and transportation. Other tours may be available from random operators off the street for much cheaper (400 MXN).
- Whale Shark Tours, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 8-14. Tours depart daily from late May through September, with peak season in July and August. Most tours leave at 08:00, returning around 14:00. Requires a one-hour bouncy boat ride, depending on the weather, but passes dolphins, flamingos, and maybe turtles and manta rays. Ceviche lunch included, and snorkeling at a well-used reef with potentially cloudy visibility. Small and cheap tour companies only allow visitors three times in the water with the sharks, no touching is allowed. Standard shared tour price is US$120-133, although cheaper deals may be found. Anyone charging less than the standard rate may not be a completely legitimate business and thus may not be following all regulations designed to protect the whale sharks. US$133.
- 1 Yalahau Cenote (30-minute boat ride south from Holbox). Cool off in the fresh water cenote. There is a palapa (gazebo) but no shops or restaurants.
Credit cards are increasingly accepted but it is best to take along enough cash for your stay. The most accessible ATM is on the first floor of the city hall, on the main plaza.
- La Serenita (The Little Mermaid) (off the main plaza, on the northwestern corner.). Very local place, specialized in antojitos (panuchos, sopes, tacos, chalupes, all M$10 each).
- Las Panchas (next to the Palapa hotel, north of the main square). 08:30-18:00. Large portions of homemade Mexican food - mostly seafood (ceviche, lobster, shrimps, etc.) but huge tacos also. beer M$25-30, guacamole $40, grilled fish $100.
- Los Peleones (on the central square). 16:30-23:30. With a rooftop terrace overlooking the central plaza, this friendly, lucha libre-themed place serves fresh seafood, Mexican classics and home brewed beer at very decent prices. Margarita M$65; mains M$130-490.
- El Hornito Argento, ☏ . 12pm-11pm. Pizza place in the main town square. It serves a variety of thin-crust pizzas including Holbox's famous lobster pizza, which is a must-have for any tourist visiting the island. It also has a rooftop which overlooks the main town square.
- Casa Sandra, Calle Igualdad s/n, ☏ . Boutique hotel. US$228 and up.
- Holbox Dream, ☏ . US$60-88.
- Hostal Y Cabanas, Calle Plutarco Elias Calles s/n (At the very end of the fifth street from the pier.), ☏ . Unique, fresh and cozy, the campground is 80 m from the main beach and offers to backpackers the possibility to sleep on hammocks or beds in small wooden cabañas protected with mosquito nets, as well as within tents on the soft sand of the garden. Includes all basic comforts such as hot water, electricity, and ventilators. Additional to communal kitchen, laundry, BBQ grill and toilets, the camping provides also a fully equipped house for families and small groups who desire a bit more privacy. Starting from: tents, US$8; hammocks US$10; beds US$12; private cabañas US$45.
- Hotel La Palapa, Av. Morelos 231, ☏ . It offers island-themed rooms and suites, all of which have balcony/deck, Internet connection, and private toilet and bath. Massage service, restaurant and bar, and recreational activities (whale shark viewing, sunbathing, snorkeling, and windsurfing). US$69 and up.
- Ida y Vuelta, Calle Plutarco Elias Calles s/n Entre Robalo y Chacchi (Near Elements), ☏ . Nice palapa huts with fan and hammock, sand floors, shared bath (M$300), air-con rooms (M$400). Dorm beds (M$100). Shared kitchen. Free Wi-Fi. The owners are Italian, multilingual, and can help arrange tours and other activities. M$300.
- Tribu Hostel, Av. Joaquin Coldwell (3 blocks from the pier and 40 m from the beach), ☏ . Brand new hostel with dorm rooms, private rooms, kitchen, Wi-Fi, book exchange, cinema, bike rental, tours, laundry. US$28-40.
- Villas Flamingos, Calle Paseo Kuka s/n, ☏ . US$139-606.
- Hotel Mawimbi, Igualdad Manzana 1 Lote 1, 77310 Holbox Island, Q.R., Mexico, ☏ . Hotel Mawimbi is a small, intimate, boutique hotel on the beach with only 11 rooms. It has been run by a husband and wife team since 1998. It has a very stunning tropical and rustic vibe that appeals to both adventurers and individuals looking for a laid-back vacation. Mawimbi's beachfront is gorgeous and provides a great view of the sunset. Mawimbi also has its own restaurant/bar located on the beachfront called Barquito which serves all kinds of food including seafood, steak and pasta.
The ferry from Holbox to Chiquilá runs at 5:00, 7:00, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 15:00, 16:00, 18:00 and 20:00, and on weekends also at 14:00 and 17:00.
Buses from Chiquilá:
- To Cancún: 05:30, 07:30, 13:30. The trip takes 3.5 hours and costs about M$83.
- To Merida: 05:30. The trip takes almost 7 hours and costs M$150.
- To Valladolid: 05:30.
- To Tizimín: 05:30, 07:30, 13:30, 16:30. The trip takes 3 hours and costs about M$70.
Tizimín has two bus stations where you'll find busses to several destinations, including Valladolid. In Valladolid you can catch plenty of buses to Mérida, so you can consider spending some hours here and move on in the evening.
The buses are run by Autobuses del Noreste en Yucatan, are second-class and stop at a lot of places during the journey.