Isla Holbox is undoubtedly the closest I have been to paradise, so I thought that a little guide to this extraordinary place was appropriate.
We visited Isla Holbox seven years ago and back then it was my first ever visit to pristine turquoise waters. We were blown away back then.
So now, seven years and many beaches later, we were excited to see what we would find… Would it be the same? Would the beaches be as beautiful as we remembered?
The answer is no and yes. It’s not the same at all. Isla Holbox is much more known by the crowds now, much more visited and there are many more people, golf carts and scooters than back then. But yes, the beaches are still some of the most beautiful I have seen. The waters are transparent in perfect blue shades and from the roof top terrasse of Hotel Las Nubes de Holbox, there is a postcard worthy view to the infinite blue ocean.
Isla Holbox is not what it was, but with more tourism comes also more restaurants and more choices, which can be nice. Back then a smoothie bowl would be impossible to drag up, now they are on every third corner and there are plenty of small boutiques with handmade bags and clothes.
So, if you plan on visiting this part of Mexico, then do go to Isla Holbox, it’s well worth it. Here is a little guide to help you through:
Holbox is quite big, but only a small part is liveable, the rest is a nature reserve. Everything is concentrated around the city center square, from where you can walk to all the shops, restaurants, bars etc. But it’s quite noisy at nights (one of the downsides of it being so popular by now; karaoke and drunk tourism at nights), so I wouldn’t recommend staying in the city center. A hotel on the stretch from the city center and towards Hotel Las Nubes de Holbox would be ideal (Las Nubes is the last hotel). Here are some recommendations:
Hotel Las Nubes de Holbox
This hotel is by the far end of the island. It takes aprox 12 minutes to bike to the city center. It’s nice and quiet and the beach is the best. We have come there for dinner and drinks and plan to come back before we leave Mexico and stay for a weekend.
Only downside of this hotel is that it’s “far” away from everything, so if you plan on going out every night, then it might won’t be the best choice. However if you don’t mind biking or taking a golf cart (or walk along the beach) to get into the action, then it’s perfect.
Visit it here (affiliate link)
Casa Las Tortugas Petit Beach Hotel & Spa
This hotel pretty much embraces everything Holbox is about: Relaxation, stunning interior, delicious food and a perfect location right on the beach and close to the city center.
There is even a little boutique, The Bazaar, onsite selling clothes and other luxurious handcrafted things. A top choice!
Find it here (affiliate link)
During our time on the island back in april, we stayed at an Airbnb called Why Knot. A little complex of three large houses and three small cabanas. As we travelled with my in-laws at that time, we stayed in one of the large houses with kitchen (this one). I can totally recommend this place, mostly because of the proximity to a secluded beach (we could walk barefoot in bikini from the house and down to the beach where we could bathe all by ourselves. Sweet!) and the extremely kind host, Jesús.
Here are a couple of options for some nice and more economical Airbnb’s in great locations: This one away from the crowds or this one closer to the city center.
If your wallet allows it, then I would definitely recommend staying at a hotel by the beach; because after all; you are at some of the best beaches in the world, so having full time access to a sun bed right on the shore is pretty great.
We came for the food and stayed for the drinks and interior… Luuma is a cocktail bar and restaurant open every night from 5 p.m. It is located in the center and has a quite large boutique in connection to the restaurant. They offer exquisite (and strong!) cocktails, delicious tapas-style dinner and fabulous interior. Oh and they have a brilliant wine card (which is rare in Mexico). This is the place for a fancy island night out.
I have recommended Las Nubes as a place to stay in this guide to Holbox, but it is definitely also a place for a sunset dinner. As the hotel is located by the far end of the island it is incredibly quiet and the restaurant has a prime location right on the beach. Start with cocktails at the bar on the first floor and move down to the terrasse for a sunset-dinner. Prepare to get company from the racoons who sneak up every night to catch a bite…
There is only one real specialty coffee shop on Isla Holbox and it’s Clandestino. Seven years back it would have been unimaginable to have a real coffee shop on the island, but now it’s there and what a treat it is to enjoy a proper flat white by people who really know what they are doing. Absolutely a bonus about the growth in popularity over the last years.
Palmetto is a little bowl bar 50 meters from the beach. Stop by for delicious açai bowls on your way to the beach.
Yet another great place for a healthy bowl during your Holbox holiday. Painapol is a restaurant and has a large and healthy menu. I ordered a mango-smoothie bowl and it was as sweet and creamy as icecream. The coffee here is good too!
Every town has a place for pizzas and at isla Holbox it is Roots. They have some interesting combinations and the option for creating your own pizza. The most popular choice is their lobster pizza. Everything is served in their very laid back garden, but you can also take them to go and enjoy by the beach for a little sunset picnic.
Stand Up Paddle
Holbox is a superb place to paddle surfe for newbies. The waters are nice and warm, not too deep and it feels very safe. For the more advanced people, then there are SUP tours at night where you’ll paddle out to see the bioluminescence. Must be an extraordinary experience!
There are various places to rent boards, but if you go down to the beach then the rental closest to the city center will charge you 100 pesos more per hour than the one located just 100 meters further down the beach (heading towards Raices beach club).
Depending on where you stay on the island, then I would recommend renting bikes for your entire stay. It’s the easiest way to get around and you don’t have to worry about parking your golf cart. We rented bikes from Bikes Holbox and it was fine. I believe many hotels also offer bike rentals onsite.
Rent a golf cart
We rented a golf cart 7 years ago and it was a fun experience. However, I would definitely chose bikes instead to get around. But a golf cart can be fun, so do it one day for the experience.
Holbox is a little luxury-hippie paradise and you’ll find many opportunities for yoga classes. I took one at Casa del Viento, which was good (facilities were great, but the teacher that day was “just” fine) and cost around 150 pesos / 7€.
Take a boat tour
There is a classic tour called Las Tres Islas where you’ll see (surprise!) three islands. One with birds, one with a cenote for swimming and one with flamingoes. It is a nice half day tour and I would always recommend it to people who are visiting for the first time. Various tour operators offer it, so just go where you feel comfortable. We had a good experience with Willy’s Tours.
Go fishing and enjoy your own fresh ceviche onboard
Now this is a fun one if you enjoy fishing! I didn’t do this tour myself, but my husband and father in-law went on a half day private fishing tour and they had a great great time. Captain Carlos was such a nice person, they catch plenty of fish and when they finished fishing they came as close to the shore as possible so we could walk out to the boat, jump onboard and enjoy freshly made ceviche. The price was around 4500 pesos / 200€ in total. A bit pricey, but given the fact that it was a private tour then it was worth it. We booked at Willy’s Tours.
Nice to know
Getting to Holbox
Ferries depart every 30 minutes from Chiquilá and the transfer time is around 25 minutes. There are also small private boats that will take you immediately. We took a private boat when going there as the ferry had just left and we had tons of baggage (we had stocked up on wine and beer from the mainland – total unnecessary btw!). The price was 1000 pesos / 45€ so fairly cheap and as we were four it was only a tiny difference from what we should have paid taking the ferry.
TIP: Don’t take the private boats on windy days unless you want an “experience”.
Getting to Chiquilá
You can get to Chiquilá by bus from Cancún, Playa Del Carmen and Mérida. There are obviously also transfers, but if you are more people travelling together a car rental can result cheaper than a transfer. We rented a car and parked it in a secured parking lot in Chiquilá. One week parking was only 700 pesos/32€.
It’s advisable to bring a lot of cash since many small restaurants don’t accept credit cards. The places that do accept credit card will often charge an extra fee for it, so if you can, bring cash.
SHop at the market
If you plan on cooking yourself, then go to the only market on the island and do the grocery shopping. It is much cheaper than in the city center (and it’s only 5 minutes away by bike). It’s located right next to the little airport and you’ll find fruit and veggies of better quality than in the center.
We quit our job by the end of 2018 to travel and work online in Latinamerica. read about our decision here