Holbox Island, a few hours from Cancún on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, is a paradise for all travellers. Holbox is the ideal place to take a break from the hectic pace of life. The mobile signal is very poor and you can dream of stable internet here, yet nobody wants to leave. Or maybe that’s why. If you’ve always dreamed of a holiday on a snow-white beach, this is the place to make it happen. In this article you will find out what to do at Holbox, how to get there, where to eat and where to stay.
What is Holbox
Although Holbox is slowly gaining popularity, don’t expect a touristy place full of trinkets and kitsch. The locals try to take good care of Holbox and create an environment that benefits both locals and tourists. Most of the locals either fish for a living or are tourists.
The residents of Holbox even have a Facebook group where you can read that if you were here years ago and you think “it’s too touristy now”, you have to accept that everything is changing gradually. Change is inevitable, but the people of Holbox are trying to make it for the good and they would be glad if you could contribute.
Most of the restaurants and accommodation are slightly more expensive, but it’s nothing dramatic, like in the hotel zone of Tulum.
The word “holbox” (read holboš) means black hole in the Mayan language. This probably has nothing to do with today’s island anymore, as it is now perceived as a tropical paradise with sand that is softer than plain flour. (But in the case of internet availability it fits)
Holbox is located in the north of the Yucatán, 145 km from Cancún in the Yum Balam Biosphere Reserve, it lies exactly where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean Sea, so the water is not as turquoise as on Isla Mujeres. Don’t worry, it’s still crystal clear and, most importantly, pleasantly warm. The most beautiful beaches are on the northern coast of the island, those in the south at Yalahao Lagoon are wildly overgrown with mango trees, but with a bit of luck you can also spot dolphins.
Relax in the famous hammocks on the beaches
If you’re worried you won’t find a place with hammocks on the beaches, you don’t have to. They’re all over the island. Just walk around for a while and you’re sure to find an empty one. The best ones are those that are partially in water, because only in such can you last for hours. You will forget the time very quickly, so be careful not to get burned.
Take a trip to the plankton luminary
You’ve probably heard of glowing plankton, it was one of the reasons we wanted to get to Holbox and it was worth it. Our accommodation helped us book a trip to Punta Coco, where it is dark enough at night to see the luminous plantains on the beach. At nine o’clock in the evening, a taxi driver picked us up in a golf cart and half an hour later we were walking in the glistening water.
And how come it’s lit? Plantcon has a pigment called luciferin in it, which is released by irritation and lights up. But it is only visible in absolute darkness, so you won’t normally see it, even if it is in water.
How to take a photo of a luminous plankton?
If you want to take a picture of it, set your camera to high ISO and long exposure, but we decided to enjoy the magical experience this time, sailing in the star-studded water and leaving our camera in our backpack.
The whole trip lasted only about an hour and cost 250 pesos per person (about 300 CZK). If you’re wondering if it’s worth it, I’m telling you straight out: absolutely YES.
Explore the island by bike or in a golf cart
The best way to explore the island is by bike or golf cart. A bicycle will cost you about 200 pesos per day (250 CZK), with a golf cart you can expect to pay several times that price.
A trip to the Three Islands (Tres Islas) to see pink flamingos
One of the most popular tours is the Three Islands Tour. It will cost you 450 pesos per person (500 CZK), you will see the island of birds, swim in the Cenotes and see pink flamingos. This is a boat trip, so there’s a good chance you’ll meet dolphins along the way.
Swimming with several meter sharks
If you arrive at Holbox between May and September, don’t miss the biggest attraction – swimming with the basking shark (whale shark). They are the largest sharks in the world and are between 8-10 meters long. They are the largest known pariba in the world and are characterised by their bright spots and stripes. They are not dangerous to humans because they feed on plankton.
Horse back-riding tour – explore the island on horseback
If you are one of those who prefer to see the world from the saddle, you can go on one of the organized tours where you will be taken on horseback around the island.
Kayaking on Holbox
One of the things we didn’t know about, but would probably reach for with all ten hands. At Holbox, you can book a kayak or paddle board trip, where they take you out to sea after sunset, and then paddle through the plankton at night. If anyone goes on this trip, be sure to let us know in the comments how it was!
Go dancing tonight at the Hot Corner
Hot Corner is a popular bar with live music almost every day and often has events like: free first drink for women. We caught a great Colombian band and had the opportunity to dance salsa, cumbia and bachata.
Explore every aisle
If you stay on the beach for your entire stay and don’t explore the streets of Holbox, you’ll miss out. Not only are there cute shops, beautiful cafes and stylish restaurants, but you’ll also find local shops, hairdressers you might be afraid to go to and, most importantly, beautifully decorated walls with local street art.
Take a yoga class
There are several places where you can practice yoga at Holbox. Most of the time you just need to walk around your accommodation and you will find a place. One of the better ones is in
Amaite Hotel and Spa
where you do yoga on the terrace overlooking the sea. But it is also one of the more expensive ones.
The best restaurants and cafes in Holbox
One of the most popular places for breakfast is definitely
. If you like avocado toast, you’ll love it here.
El Hornito Argento
If you’ve had enough of tacos, head to the delicious pizza at
El Hornito Argento
. Those who eat meat can try the famous specialty – Lobster pizza.
Clandestino Coffee Shop
If you are looking for quality coffee and a quiet environment, Holbox has plenty of them. We liked this one
where they have delicious cakes.
Where to stay
If you are looking for cheap accommodation in Holbox, I recommend booking early. Hostels are quite expensive here, it’s much better to invest in a cheaper hotel or Airbnb.[lgc_column grid=”33″ tablet_grid=”33″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”false”]
Stylish accommodation with a private beach at a comfortable price. Beware, it sells out fast. It is the ideal choice for those looking for the best value for money. Plus, you can cook here, which is always a plus when you’re getting sick of eating out or want to save a little money.[/lgc_column] [lgc_column grid=”33″ tablet_grid=”33″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”false”]
Tasteful hotel with an outdoor pool, which is normally priced at 4500 CZK, but you can find it for 2000 CZK on booking! The hotel is for adults only, so it is not suitable for families with children[/lgc_column] [lgc_column grid=”33″ tablet_grid=”33″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”true”]
One of the most luxurious and best rated accommodations in Holbox, where breakfast is included and most rooms have a balcony overlooking the beach.[/lgc_column]
Other hotels we liked a lot
Accommodation, which Lukas and I had to at least look into, as it was out of our budget. The hotel is again very stylishly equipped, with an outdoor pool and hot tub.
Adults-only accommodation that is designed so that you can really relax on your holiday. All rooms have a sea view.
Map of Holbox
How to get to Holbox
There are several ways to get to Holbox, by car, bus or plane.
Yucatán has a very well-functioning public transport system, so one of the best ways to get to Holbox is to take the ADO bus to Chiquila, where you change to the ferry. You can go from Cancun or Playa del Carmen. If you have somewhere to print your tickets, buy them online and save 10%, otherwise you’ll have to go to the station. Tickets can be bought together with a ticket for the ferry to Holbox. The ride with the ferry takes about 3.5 hours from Cancún and a little longer from Playa del Carmen. ADO buses are very comfortable, with air conditioning, wifi and charging sockets.
The faster way is of course by car, but you will have to leave your car in Chiquila and pay extra for parking. Therefore, most people choose another mode of transport if they want to stay longer in Holbox.
You can fly to Holbox from Cancun and Cozumel, but the ticket is very expensive, around 10 thousand.
Tips and tricks for travelling in the Yucatán
What to pack
Take a look at our
Where to get tickets
We commonly use a grader
Reservation of accommodation
Don’t forget about insurance
Travel insurance is an absolute must. For shorter journeys, choose AXA (
Recommended Lonely Planet Yucatanguide