Isla Holbox is a small tropical island located on the southeast side of Mexico. Here you can find everything you’re looking for when thinking of a tropical dream island. White beaches, a crystal clear blue sea, great beach clubs, delicious food & drinks and jaw dropping sunsets. Besides this, you’ll have the chance to swim with whale sharks, snorkel with turtles and spot flamingos on deserted beaches. Another plus is that cars aren’t allowed on the island, completing your ultimate island feeling. This paradise can be easily reached within three hours from Cancun by bus or car and boat. Make sure you don’t skip this gem when going to Mexico! This blog will show the best things you should do on Isla Holbox.
1: Start your day with breakfast
Breakfast is not included in most of the accommodations in Mexico. Hence, you have a good reason to get out in the morning to find the best breakfast spots. Our favorite place wasn’t a hard find as it was actually next to our hotel. At Le Jardin you’ll find the best pain du chocolat you’ll ever have (it’s runned by a Frenchman). Everything is freshly prepared and baked, ranging from croissants, fresh fruits & juices, bagels and other sandwiches. You can order from the breakfast menu at the counter and they’ll bring it to your table. Waiting times are short and prices are cheap, making it a popular breakfast spot on the island.
Other alternatives for breakfast are La Tortilleria for the best tortilla’s right at the main square or beachfront Mandarina for a wide variety of breakfast options.
2. Street art walk
Isla Holbox is one of the most colorful places I’ve ever seen, not only because of the colored houses but because of the amazing street art. You’ll find street art on every corner of the street and you could easily spend a few hours exploring the most beautiful paintings and portraits on the walls. The most iconic street art you can find on and around the main square.
3. Visit Punta Coco (by bike)
The main area on Isla Holbox is only small and easy to explore by foot (as long as it hasn’t been raining). However, if you want to explore some of the most deserted and beautiful beaches on the island it’s fun to do this by either bike or golf cart. You can rent a bike for around 200 pesos per day and a golf cart from 150 pesos per hour. On of the west side of the island you’ll find Punta Coco, a small and secluded beach area with shallow but refreshing water. Relax in a sea hammock and buy a fresh coconut from the only drinks stand at the beach.
P.S. if you go here in the early morning there’s a chance of seeing flamingos. You can also go here in the afternoon before sunset. This is the best spot to watch the sunset (make sure to bring a few cold drinks as there aren’t any beach clubs or bars).
4. Sandbank walk to Punta Mosquito
Punta Mosquito is on the far right side of the main area of Isla Holbox and can only be reached by foot. You can take a bike or golf cart until the end of the strip (at Villas Flamingos). From here, it will take you about 1,5-2 hours to walk to Punta Mosquito and can only be reached through the water at low tide. It’s a long and hot walk as there’s no shade but it’s totally worth it if you want a long-stretched beach all to yourself. Also, along the way you’ll have a chance of spotting flamingos or dolphins! Important note: bring enough water and food as there are no shops or restaurant on the way.
5. Chill-time in the iconic sea hammocks
After getting back from Punta Mosquito you can relax in one of the iconic hammocks at the near end of the strip (in front of Alma Bar). Although you’ll find more sea hammocks along the beach, these are the Instagram famous ones. Most of them belong to hotels and/or beach clubs but they’re free and accessible to everyone.
6. Sunset & drinks at a beach club
At the beach you’ll find a great variety of beach clubs, local bars and restaurants. Ranging from simple beach bars with plastic chairs, fairly cheap drinks and live music to more luxury beach clubs with fancy lounge areas. There’s something for everyone, from budget backpackers to luxury travelers.
If you’re looking for a casual beach club, then Raices and Zomay are perfect for you. We loved Raices reggae bar because of the great atmosphere, live music, great sunsets and cheap drinks. We came here almost every night to watch sunset. Another plus: great guacamole! Next door at Mawimbi’s you can also enjoy a great sunset on one their lounge beds. They have a daily happy hour between 5-7 pm. If you prefer a bit more luxury, then Mandarin Beach Club is the one for you.
7. Sunset + drinks at Rooftop Bar Arena
Although it’s tempting to watch the sunset at the beach, you can also watch it from a rooftop bar. At Arena we overlooked the colorful main square and watch the sunset. It was so much fun looking down on the (night) market downstairs, getting busier and busier whilst enjoying the tranquility up high. Spectacular views, great cocktails and they even have a jacuzzi to chill in.
8. Enjoy delicious food
Mexico is famous for its great food and Holbox offers some of the best cuisine we’ve had during our time in Mexico. These are some of our favourites:
- Viva Zapata: make sure to order the shrimp Zapata specialty dish
- ROOTS pizza: famous for its lobster pizza situated in a cosy back garden
- El Crustaceo: a bit further out from the main square but great value for money
- El Sushi de Holbox: not very cosy (felt more like a canteen) but tasty sushi
- Mawimbi: great food at a great location
- Other options to consider: LUUMA, Mandarin, Basico, El Chapulim, TacoQueto (cheap!)
9. Swim with whale sharks
Isla Holbox is one of few places worldwide (!) where you can swim with whale sharks between May and September. They can be up to 12 meters long and aren’t dangerous as they only eat plankton. We booked our tour online in advance with Willy’s Tours as some of the tours get fully booked quickly. Prices are 140 US dollar per person.
You’ll start on a boat with a max. of 10 people and two sailors. Once arrived at the whale sharks, you will get into the water in pairs 2-3 times for a few of minutes. Although there are many boats, we always had so much space as if we were the only ones in the water. It’s a crazy thing: once you jump in and open your eyes, you’re surrounded by at least 10-20 whale sharks and mantas! On the way back you will stop at a snorkel point once and have the opportunity to get out near Punta Mosquito to enjoy freshly prepared ceviche (it was honestly the best we’ve ever had). Besides whale sharks we also saw dolphins, flamingos and snorkeled with turtles and many other fish.
Warning: if lucky, you only have to sit on the boat for 45 minutes. However, most of the time the sharks will be further out on sea and it took us more than 2 hours on a speedboat to reach them. If you get seasick easily, please consider if you want to do this as it can be quite bumpy. We both felt sick at one point, although it was completely worth it afterwards haha!
10. Three islands tour
If you don’t have the opportunity to swim with whale sharks or you just want to explore the area, you can book a three islands tour. The tour will take you to two other islands where you can spot wildlife, visit different beaches and take a dip in cenote Yalahau. The tour will take approximately three hours and costs 25 US dollars per person.
Where to stay on Isla Holbox?
Hotels on Isla Holbox are in general more expensive than on the mainland. Hence, a hotel right at the beach is generally pricy. Nonetheless there are many great options ranging from budget-friendly to luxury boutique hotels. We stayed at Hotel Para Ti and recommend it to everyone! It isn’t located at the beach but it’s only two blocks away. Besides, they have a beautiful pool area with comfy sunbeds (and hammocks). Also, the rooms are beautifully decorated with a lovely balcony looking out over the pool area. Upstairs you’ll find a rooftop area overlooking the island. Another great option is their sister hotel: Hotel El Pueblito.
Book: hotels on Isla Holbox
How to get to Isla Holbox?
Take the bus or car from Cancun to Chiquila, which will take approximately two hours. From here you can take the boat to the island in 15-20 minutes. If you are by car, you can park it easily at one of the parking areas around the harbor.