10 Best Things To Do in Holbox, Mexico

Things to do in Holbox: Holbox street art of a young girl

Last updated on January 25th, 2022 at 07:46 pm

During my road trip along the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, I had to decide between two islands to visit, Isla Holbox and Isla Mujeres. Tough decision, right? After reading that Isla Mujeres, while beautiful, had become a bit overrun with tourists, I decided on Isla Holbox. Turns out, this little island off of the coast of Mexico is a secret paradise and the antidote to my crazy Tulum experience. Even though it’s a small island, there are plenty of things to do in Holbox on a budget. Get to Holbox before it turns into Tulum!

Just FYI, some links in this post are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through the link.

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Why You Should Visit Isla Holbox

I believe the reason Isla Holbox isn’t as popular with visitors as other Mexican islands like Cozumel or Isla Mujeres is that it is slightly difficult to reach. So, only those have the time and interest in venturing somewhere a bit different will put in the effort to figure out how to get there.

Once they do, they are rewarded with colorful streets, a relaxed vibe, inexpensive food, and beautiful beaches.

There are a number of activities for every type of traveler on Holbox. During the day you can learn to kiteboard from the sand bar, swim with whale sharks (during the right season), or simply relax in a hammock over the sea. After a stunning sunset, you can witness the Bioluminescence or enjoy a Isla Holbox nightlife in the island’s main square.I

sla Holbox is a place where you can come as you are. You can go days without washing your hair. Wear any clothes you desire. It’s a place where you can still interact with locals who welcome you to their island. Isla Holbox is a little slice of paradise and I hope it remains that way.

Things to do on Isla Holbox, check out the pier.
The Pier

How to Get to Holbox

There are actually a number of ways to get to Isla Holbox, it just takes a little planning. No matter how you get there, all roads lead to Chiquila where a ferry will take you across the bay to Holbox.

By Bus

ADO services much of the Yucatan and is the bus company I took from Tulum to Chiquila. The ride was about three hours long. In Chiquila, I purchased my return bus ticket upon arrival to ensure I had a seat. Depending on the time of year you visit, you could do this the day of your departure.

For more information about the ADO bus schedule, departure cities, and prices visit their website.

Safety Tip: Quick piece of safety advice for buses in Mexico, put your luggage securely underneath the bus. Anything you carry on board should remain on your lap.

By Car

If you’ve decided to rent a car (first read about my experience renting a car in Mexico) you can drive to Chiquila. In Chiquila there are parking lots for a daily fee. I can not speak to their safety or cost per day as I did not use them.

By Hired Car or Van

This is by far the most expensive option. There is a private van company, VIP Holbox, that provides door to door transportation to and from Holbox. You can find more information at their website.

The Ferry from Chiquila to Holbox

Once you arrive in Chiquila, you will find a small port town. There are no hotels here In Chiquila so don’t plan on staying. There are two ferry companies, 9 Hermanos and Holbox Express, that whisk you across the sea to Isla Holbox.

The ferries depart every hour, however, their schedule alternates. One company leaves on the hour, the other leaves on the half-hour. So really, every half hour from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm there is a ferry available. As they both cost the same, $150 pesos, I simply took the next departing ferry and 15 minutes later I stepped foot on Holbox Island.

Where to Stay in Holbox

There are a number of accommodation options for every budget and travel style in Holbox. The great thing about Isla Holbox is that no matter where you stay, you’re only minutes from the beach!

Hostels in Isla Holbox

I stayed at a hostel called Hotel Beach Inn run by very welcoming sisters. The rooms were large and clean, each with its own restroom. The kitchen is across the street from the hostel and just a few steps away is a fruiteria where you can pick up fresh produce and eggs for breakfast. Plus it was only a 3 block walk away from the beach.

A few other hostel options that I considered where Be Holbox and Che Holbox (has a pool)!

Hotels in Isla Holbox

If hostels aren’t your jam, these two hotels are super cute and I’ll likely stay at either of them next time I visit are Casa Frida Holbox and Casa Sirenas Holbox.

Check out all of the places to stay in Holbox here.

Where to stay in Holbox: The Courtyard of Hotel Beach Inn
The Courtyard of Hotel Beach Inn

Top Things to Do in Holbox

Before we get into the what to do in Holbox we need to address the fact that Holbox is home to a wildlife preserve, Yum Balam. Some of these wild animals, flamingos and whale sharks come to mind, are used for tourism. This can pose a massive problem to the environment and the well-being of the animals.

It is my understanding that the companies that provide whale shark tours from Holbox do so in a way that would not alter their migratory patterns ie: they do not feed them. They do not even guarantee that you’ll see them, and only two individuals are allowed in the water with them at a time with a guide. IF any tour company states they feed the animals, do not utilize their services!

For other animals you see on the island – give them space. Flamingos don’t like selfies as much as you’d think!

Alright, let’s get to it!

Hunt for the Holbox Street Art

The small island of Holbox is quite colorful. As soon as you step off the ferry brightly colored homes will greet you. But as you venture further into the island, you’ll discover beautiful street art on every corner. This street art is the result of an arts festival in 2014 that brought street artists from around the world to Holbox. There are some very popular murals, like the young girl with her piercing eyes pictured below. Wander about town and find your own favorites.

Holbox activities: check out the Holbox street art
Holbox is a hot spot for street art – this one is very popular
turtle street art in Holbox Island, Mexico
this reminds me of Squirt from Nemo
things to do in Holbox: find good street art
One of my faves!

Go for a Bike Ride around the Island

No cars are allowed on the island, which is why you’ll see specialized golf carts as taxis. The island is small and very walkable, but if you’d like, you can rent a bike from your accommodation or a place in town to see more of the island, faster! For a few of the activities below, I recommend renting a bike, so check around town for the rates, but it shouldn’t cost more than $10 per day (always subject to change). I rented from my hostel, but Bikes Holbox has excellent reviews if your accommodation does not provide rentals.

Walk a Rescue Dog on the Beach

I learned of the Animal Refuge on Holbox from other guests at the hostel where I was staying. They told me you could walk dogs from this refuge along the beach. After being bitten by a dog in Quito, I’d become newly skittish around dogs, I figured this would be a good opportunity to overcome this newfound fear.

The next morning I walked to the Animal Refuge to discover a number of animals in various stages of disability and recovery. One pup had no hind legs, but a makeshift wheelchair that allowed him to happily greet me upon my arrival. A raccoon slept soundly underneath the bench with a napping cat overhead. The owner, Morelia Montes, greeted me while feeding a baby raccoon from a bottle.

I explained, as best I could in Spanish, that I wanted to walk one of the dogs. She walked to the kennels holding the dogs. There were at most two dogs per kennel with plenty of space to wander around.

I can’t recall the name of the pup she let me walk, but I do remember how timid she was at the beginning of the walk. The sound of the loud golf carts driving by on the side of the road frightened her. So I decided to take her to the beach where she immediately perked up. She frolicked in the water and at one time even jumped up on me out of excitement.

Visit Holbox's animal refuge and take a pup for a walk on the beach
The pup I took for a walk on the beach!

I let her play in the water for quite some time before deciding it was time to take her home. When we reached the gate for the Refuge her body language made it clear she was not ready to return. We continued to walk a bit more through the town. I got myself an ice cream and her some water before returning to the shelter. This time she happily jogged back inside.

This was not just one of my favorite Holbox activities, but it’s actually become on of my all time favorite travel memories. I highly recommend paying a visit to this refuge and volunteering a bit of your time.

Watch the Sunset from Holbox Pier

Grab a beer or a coconut and join the festivities on the pier for an epic sunset. Really anywhere on the beach is a good spot for sunset, but the atmosphere on the pier is lively and fun. It’s a great way to transition from a day of exploring to a night of eating!

What to do in Holbox: watcj sunset from the Holbox pier
Sunset from the Holbox pier

Witness Holbox’s Bioluminescence at Punta Cocos

At night, head to Punta Cocos to witness the bioluminescence. You could take a taxi here although I don’t recommend it for two reasons.

First, they charge more for this ride at night and the loud noise from the golf cart is disturbing on an otherwise peaceful place along the ocean.

Second, they drive into the water killing those tiny micro-organisms you came to see light up.

I rented bikes from the hostel and rode there with two of my hostel roomies. The road is totally dark, so bring a flashlight. You could also walk there, but it will take around 30 minutes from the center of town.

It’s best to go around midnight (and when there is no moon) so you can see the light better. Don’t expect to see the ocean lit up or anything. You’ll have to wade in a bit and stir the water lightly to see the lights. It’s definitely worth the trek out there, even if you just marvel at the starlit sky.

Punta Cocos, Holbox where at night you can see the Bioluminescence
Punta Cocos, where at night you can see the Bioluminescence

Holbox Snorkeling Spots

The water surrounding Holbox is calm and warm – perfect for snorkeling. You could really snorkel off of any Holbox beach but there are two points that were highly recommended to me.

The first is Punta Cocos which is where you saw the Bioluminescence. This area is much easier to reach so there will be more people.

But if you’re up for an adventure, then head the opposite direction for Punta Mosquito. It’s a very long walk, so I suggest starting in the morning. Rent a bike and ride until you can’t ride any further. Then walk out to the sandbar and follow it away from the kite surfers. Be careful where you step, there are small animals that look like stingrays in the water below. You’ll see them scuttle away as you approach.

You’ll come to a river, that I crossed only to learn that’s where I should’ve stopped. Crocodiles live here, so this is your ending point! There is a little beach here that is quite beautiful and there won’t be many other people around.

Things to do in Holbox, walk the sandbar to go snorkeling
Walking along the sandbar to Punta Mosquito in Holbox

I suggest bringing plenty of water and sunblock for this walk. You could also bring some snacks with you. The tide might come in at some point during your walk, so be prepared to carry what you bring overhead so it doesn’t get wet!

Relax in an Overwater Hammock

What’s the best thing to do on an island? Relax! Where’s the best place to relax on an island? An overwater hammock, obvy!

At multiple places in the water, there are hammock stands. You can lay claim to one of these hammocks and relax with your body half in and half out of the water. Or at the very least, take a fun photo with them. Heading to the left of the pier you’ll find fewer crowds and a number of overwater hammocks. To the right, there are usually more people and fewer hammocks. But both directions are just as beautiful. Wander a bit until you find your spot.

overwater hammocks on Holbox, the perfect things to do in Holbox is relax in an overwater hammock
the perfect spot to chill

Eat the Street Food

Mexico has amazing budget eats and Isla Holbox is no exception! At night, the main square in town comes alive with street vendors. You can find crepes, tacos, and other delicious treats along this square. You could also check out some spots for excellent tacos such as La Panchas or Taco Queto.

Take Kitesurfing Lessons

If you’ve ever wanted to try Kitesurfing, Isla Holbox is just the place to give it a go. Lessons are held from the sandbank so you have a place to rest while they instruct. My hostel roommate was taking lessons and she said the instructors were lots of fun and very knowledgeable. If it’s not in your budget, it’s quite enjoyable to watch the novice kitesurfers and the pros. It seemed to be a very positive atmosphere.

Things to do in Holbox Enjoy a coconut on a Holbox beach
Enjoy a coconut on Holbox

Swim with Whale Sharks

May through September, Whale Sharks migrate through the Gulf of Mexico and you can book a tour to see them. Unfortunately, I visited Isla Holbox just before the season began so I did not get to experience this. Although I’d love to someday soon!

Please do your research of the tour company before booking. Whale shark tourism has increased over the years and it’s vital to keep these creatures safe. Ensure that the company you choose does not engage in practices what would affect the natural migration of the Whale Sharks or cause them unnecessary stress during the experience, such as allowing overcrowding.

Like any island, prices are a bit higher in Holbox than other parts of Mexico but there are so many budget-friendly options that make this a great place to visit while you’re in Mexico. Plus, it’s a bit hard to reach making this paradise less crowded with tourists! You’ll feel right at home and completely relaxed in the colorful streets and on the beautiful beaches of Holbox, Mexico.

Need help planning the rest of your Mexico Itinerary? Check out these resources!

The Best Things to do in Loreto, Mexico

8 Day Yucatan Peninsula Road Trip Itinerary

Why You Should Skip Tulum, Mexico

Your Guide to Bacalar, Mexico

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4 thoughts on “10 Best Things To Do in Holbox, Mexico

  1. stellymm says:

    Awww I would have loved to have walked a dog on the beach. Seems like a fun time! I also loved the sunset pictures. Beautiful picture 🙂

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