Holbox – The island paradise away from the crowds of Cancun

If you want to get off the beaten path in Mexico’s Caribbean coast, Holbox is the answer. Get back to nature and away from the crowds. Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel can feel a little tourist heavy. But make the extra effort to get away from the crowds and you are rewarded with a quieter side of Mexico.

Holbox Island Mexico Sunset

Getting there

Grab an Ado bus from Cancun to Chiquila. It takes around 2 hours then jump on a ferry, either Nine Hermanos or Holbox Express, it doesn’t matter: at the time of writing, the companies sell at the same price (200 pesos per person).

Why go

Holbox is most famous for its residents. From June to September it’s nearly guaranteed to be able to swim with whale sharks as they congregate here on mass. Flamingo’s frequent the beaches, turtles nest in the sand, frigate birds and pelicans fill the skies. Manatees, manta rays and dolphins swim in the warm nutrient rich waters. The reason there is so much wildlife on Holbox is that it lies within a huge national park. The Yum Balam reserve covers the north eastern tip of the Yucatan peninsular.

Holbox Bird

But the wildlife isn’t the only reason Holbox is getting attention. In the 2014 International Public Art Festival a group of international artists came to paint beautiful murals all over the island. At night live music can be found throughout the town. Boutique and local shops with handmade artisans dot every other corner. Street carts and trendy restaurants sell delicious Mexican and international cuisine.

Holbox Street Art Mexico

Getting around

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With no real roads golf carts are the main way to get around, plus the occasional quad bike and delivery vehicle. Golf cart taxi’s cost around 50 pesos to get from the port to the town but it’s an easy walk. Hiring a golf cart costs around $50 a day: well worth it if there’s a few of you plus a lot of fun! Bikes are a much cheaper option though at just 150 pesos for a day.

Things to do in Holbox

Taking a taxi down to Punto Coco’s will set you back 150 pesos but saves a 30 minute walk. In the day lounge in the sea hammocks, spot flamingo’s or paddle in the lagoon. Come back at night to see the bio-luminescence. Tours cost 400 pesos or taxi to the same spot. Snorkeling isn’t really a thing due to all the plankton: the same thing that feeds the whale sharks and other sea life.

Holbox Bird Mexico

The three islands tour is the most popular on the island. It includes Isla de la Passion, Yalahau cenote and Isla de los Pajaros. It usually Costs around 300 pesos and everyone and their wife seems to be offering this trip. It’s not unheard of to spot dolphins whilst on the boat.

Holbox Tres Islas Tours Mexico

Photographers are sure to fall in love with Holbox. Street art and colourful buildings are everywhere. The sea hammocks in front of Villas Flamingos are great for Instagram. Ensueño Holbox have some great water swings too at the corner of Calle Caguama and Calle Charal.

Holbox 2021My favourite thing to do on the island was a daily walk with one of the dogs from the Refugio Holbox animal sanctuary. It was set up after a raccoon pup was rescued and could not be returned to the wild due to poor eyesight. Mickey was the first in a long line of rescued, rehabilitated and rehomed animals at the sanctuary. Help out by walking or bathing a dog, feeding and petting the cats or cleaning out the enclosures. You know any donation is going towards good work. And who knows you might even go home with a new pet!

Animal Refuge Holbox  Mexico

Great places to eat in Holbox

Naay – for a healthy lunch bowl with a Jamaica: a hibiscus cordial drink, possibly my new favourite beverage (excluding wine obviously).

Alma bar- for drinks and a swim near Punta Mosquitos.

Ceviche a la chingada – Ceviche and seafood, some of the best shrimp tacos around.

La Tortillera Espanola and TacoQueto – Good Mexican food at great prices. Tacos al pastor are the tasty pork tacos popular all over Mexico and don’t forget to try Chilaquiles.

El Cafecito- Out Favorite spot for breakfast, half decent WiFi and great tea and coffee. The fresh baked bread is also to die for!

Casa Nostra – An Italian rooftop bar with an Italian owner, meaning delicious food and great wine.

Holbox Island Food  Mexico

Where to stay

Air BnB’s are all over the island at various rates. Keep in mind you pay for what you get and the island isn’t cheap. Water pressure is poor and WiFi and Air-con come at a premium. Hostels are a great option for a backpacker, Hostel Tribu and Che Holbox Hostel are good choices. If money isn’t an issue Casa Los Tortugas is a beautiful beachfront resort on the edge of town. Even if you don’t stay here spend a day sipping drinks in the comfy beach sofa’s, and the best WiFi we found on the island (hoteltortugas 1234512345).

Holbox beach Island Mexico Yucatan

So if you want tranquillity, wildlife and a bit of an adventure Holbox is the place to go in the Yucatan. It might not be as cheap as other places. But it definitely makes up for it with character and some of the best food on the peninsula. Backpacking in Mexico? Check out these posts on the rest of the Yucatan, Mexico City and Oaxaca.

Golf Cart Holbox Island Mexico
Mexico Map Lost Wanders
Check out all of the best stops in Mexico here on Google Maps.

How to travel better for less

These are the companies I use to travel the world for less. The reason long term travel is cheaper than you think is often down to shopping around for a great deal, here I’ve done the hard work for you!

Skyscanner – For flights at the best prices this is my go to site. I have also started using them for car hire and they can’t be beat!

Booking.com – I always book with this site if looking for cheap accommodation as the filters are so easy to use. Become a genius member after five bookings and get great discounts too!

Air BnB – Sometimes you can find great local places to stay on Air BnB. In some countries, like Cuba, it’s the only way to book!

Transferwise – A debit card you can use all over the world and get great exchange rates with no hidden fees. This bank has saved me £100’s in bank fees!

Monzo – A similar travel card to the above with additional features like joint accounts and bill splitting.

World NomadsTravel insurance is one of the most important things you can have while travelling. Don’t leave home without it! World Nomads provide the very best cover.

What to pack – Here is my ultimate list of what to pack for every trip, available on Amazon. Plus eco friendly alternatives to your toiletries.

Omio – The place to go for all of your public transport needs in Europe. Save a bundle!

G Adventures – A sustainable, fun, responsible travel company. I’ve travelled with them many times and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of their amazing trips of a lifetime.

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Jo Williams

A Brit that got fed up of the 9 to 5 corporate life, I sold everything to become a full time wanderer. Having travelled to over 70 countries so far, I share my money-saving tips and secrets from inside the travel industry. Hoping to inspire you to work less and travel more.

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