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-km² Yum Balam ecological reserve. It is known in particular for its whale sharks. It used to be largely unknown to tourists; however, tourism in Holbox Island has boomed. This has also led to a rise in obnoxiously loud golf carts now roaming the once rather quiet island. While tourism may have grown, it remains a relatively off-the-beaten path location with plenty of local charm.
Ferries depart from Chiquilá and take about 25-30 minutes. The ferries run from 6:00h to 21:30h every half hour. Where the "half-hour-times" are served from Holbox Express and the "whole-hour-times" are with 9hermanos (M$220 for both operators) (Aug 2023).
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 M$350 per person as of August 2023. Check ADO's website for the current schedule. There are several busses around the day. They take around 2,5 - 3,5 Hours. On "Mayab" 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[dead link] offers on-demand flights from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Merida, Chichen Itza and other locations, to Holbox, starting at US$500 through an intermediary (Holbox Island). Must make inquiry online, as there are no regular flights. They also offer direct 09:00-17:00 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 (10:00-18:00). 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 ~US$50-60 including pickup from the hotel and transportation. Other tours may be available from random operators off the street for much cheaper (M$400).
- Punta Mosquitos for a unique beach experience. Reachable by a short journey from town, witness spectacular bioluminescence on new moon nights. Choose from guided kayak tours, or walking tours.
- Isla de la Pasion (boat from Holbox, or take islands tour from Holbox). Very small island off the southwestern point of Holbox. Sandy beaches and very shallow water. Thousands of frigate birds, herons, pelicans, cormorants and other marine birds nest in the trees. Flamingos at certain times of year. At low tide you can walk/wade between Isla de la Pasion and Isla Holbox.
- Whale Shark Tours, ☏ , email@example.com. 08:00-14:00. 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 1,5 - 2,5-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 two times in the water with the sharks, no touching is allowed. Standard shared tour price is US$150-170 (Aug 2023), 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), bathroom (M$5 for use) and a stand selling beers, water and small snacks. It is M$25 per person to enter the cenote area.
Credit and debit cards are almost accepted everywhere but it is best to take along enough cash for your stay as most of the shops charge a 3% - 5% fee for using the card. The most accessible ATM is on the first floor of the city hall, on the main plaza. (Aug 2023: This ATM is closed with a sign "No Money")
In the Main Street (Calle Tiburón Ballena) is a CIBank with an ATM and there are several ATM around which are only giving out USD.
- Arte Sano, Calle Gerónimo de Aguilar s/n, Centro, 77531 Holbox, Q.R., Mexiko. Vegan Restaurant.
- 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 M$40, grilled fish M$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, ☏ . 12:00-23:00. 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.
- 1 Ser Casasandra, 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.
- Art Maya Rooms, Av Damero Mz. 69, ☏ . Air conditioning (each room), shared kitchen, free Wi-Fi. Very close to the airport and about 3 min on foot by the sea. Owners can help arrange tours and other activities. Taxi fare from the main square is M$50 (pay attention: they could try to charge M$10-20 more). US$ 50-70.
The ferry from Holbox to Chiquilá runs at 5:00 and from 6:00h to 21:30h every half hour. Where the "half-hour-times" are served from Holbox Express and the "whole-hour-times" are with 9hermanos (M$220 for both operators).
Buses from Chiquilá:
- To Cancún: 8 busses through the day, first 10:15, last 18:30. The trip takes 3.5 hours and costs about M$350.
- To Mérida: 10:45 and 13:45 (each 2 busses: Terminal paseo 60 and Centro Histórico). The trip takes around 5 hours and costs M$450.
- To Valladolid: 10:45, 13:45. The trip takes around 2 hours and costs M$270.