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11 Cool Things to do in Holbox Mexico

11 Cool Things to do in Holbox Mexico

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Planning a trip to Isla Holbox and want to know what all of the best things to do in Holbox are?

This island is a true paradise where you can pack your days with activities or sit back and relax and do nothing at all.

There are no cars allowed on the island, so you either have to get around by bicycle, golf cart, or on foot.

Where is Isla Holbox

Isla Holbox is an island that is located in the Mexican State of Quintana Roo. This is the same state where you’ll find popular beach towns like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum.

It’s located to the northwest of Cancun. The ferry terminal that takes you to Holbox is located about 85 miles (140km) from Cancun and it takes about two hours to drive there.

The beaches of Holbox are some of the most beautiful in Mexico and exploring them is no doubt one of the best things to do in Holbox.

Thanks to the location of the island being so close to the mainland of the Yucatan Peninsula, the water is calm for swimming, and in many places, incredibly shallow.

street art of a woman on a building with a thatched roof.

Check out some of the street art while you explore Holbox.

How to get to Isla Holbox

The closest international airport to Holbox is the Cancun Airport. If you are traveling with a few friends and money is not an option, you can take a charter flight right from Cancun Airport to the tiny Holbox Airport.

With Flights Holbox you can charter a small plane for 3-5 people and small amounts of luggage for just under $1,000 USD.

Otherwise, there is a ferry from Chiquila to Holbox that only takes 20 minutes and is available up to 36 times a day. The ferry costs $10-13 USD each way. 

To get from Cancun to Holbox you can hire a private transfer from the airport in Cancun or you can take the local ADO bus. There are six buses a day from Cancun to Chiquila and they cost about $20 USD per person.

How do you pronounce Holbox?

Isla Holbox is pronounced IS-LA (not AY-LA) HOLE-BOSH.

Holbox is a Mayan word that translates to “black hole.” It is believed that the name was given to the island because of the dark color of the water near the mangroves. 

sunset on isla holbox with a golf cart parked on the sand.

You can grab a golf cart rental to get to the far edges of the island for stunning sunsets.

When is the best time to visit Holbox?

November to April is the high season in most of Mexico with peak times on Holbox coming between late-February to late-April.

From February to April the weather is the best with lower levels of humidity, clear skies, and warm evenings.

From November to January it is still very warm during the day, but you may want to pack a few layers for the evenings when the temperatures can drop into the 60s (15-20 degrees Celsius).

From May to September the weather is the hottest and most humid. You can expect to see temperatures well into the 90s Fahrenheit (30+ Celsius) with very high levels of humidity. There is also a risk of hurricanes at this time of year, especially toward the end of the summer months.

Awesome Things to Do in Holbox

When I first moved to Mexico back in 2016, it seemed like Holbox was still under the radar. Since then, like many lesser-known places around Mexico,  Holbox is no longer a hidden gem. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth visiting anymore.

It still remains car and resort-free (for now). Most places on the island are locally owned and operated and thanks to the fact that there is only a limited number of hotels in the town, it can never feel too overcrowded after the last ferry leaves the island.

More tourism has also meant more options for tours and activities. Don’t miss out on these incredible things to do in Holbox on your trip to the Riviera Maya.

whale shark on the surface of the water is one of the best things to do in Holbox

Swimming with whale sharks is one of the best things to do in Holbox.

1. Swim with Whale Sharks

Swimming with whale sharks is without a doubt one of the most popular Holbox attractions. 

You can only swim with whale sharks on a certified tour in Mexico. Whale sharks are very well protected and this is one of the few places in the world where you get the chance to swim alongside these gentle giants.

The whale shark season in Holbox lasts from June 1st to September 15th.

This isn’t the best time of year to enjoy the island because it coincides with the highest temperatures and levels of humidity and there are also risks of hurricanes at this time of year, but this is when the whale sharks are in this region.

This tour with Viator is one of the best options when it comes to ethical tour operators on the island. You will be guided by an expert in whale shark behavior and you will enjoy a light breakfast before swimming as well as a lunch of fresh ceviche. 

The tour costs $195 USD per person and also includes all of your snorkel equipment (but feel free to bring your own snorkel if you are traveling with one). You can book that tour here.

building on stilts over the ocean with blue skies above.

You’ll find beautiful art in Holbox in the most unsuspecting places.

2. Hang out at the Holbox Beaches

One of the best things to do in Holbox is nothing at all.

Grab a book, a towel, and a bottle of water, and take yourself to one of the island’s many stunning beaches.

The sand on Holbox is nearly white and is so fine and soft that you can just sit back and relax all day.

There are a few beach clubs if you would prefer to rent a chair and an umbrella and be able to order food and drinks throughout the day.

Located on the edge of town is Las Nubes Beach Club. This place has comfortable sunbeds, great staff, strong drinks, and some of the best food that you can get at a beach club in Holbox.

If you simply want to explore the best patches of sand around the island, don’t miss these top beaches in Holbox:

  • Playa Holbox – This is the main beach in Holbox and is located right in the center of the town, so you have all of the amenities like hotels, restaurants, beach bars, and shops for snacks and drinks available. It’s also the busiest beach on the island.
  • Playa Mosquito – This is where you’ll find the beautiful sandbar on the island. It is much more isolated, so be sure to bring everything you will need for the day, including, as the name suggests, some bug spray.
  • Punta Cocos – Located at the far western edge of the island, this little slice of paradise is home to a beautiful beach club by the same name and tons of hammocks to relax on. It’s a popular spot to head for the sunset.
bioluminescence in Isla Holbox.

Seeing the Bioluminescence is a fun thing to do in Holbox at night.

3. See the bioluminescence

If you aren’t familiar with bioluminescence, it is when an organism emits light due to a chemical reaction. In this instance, when the water is agitated, the different microorganisms call the lagoon in Holbox home light up.

The best time of year to see the bioluminescence is between July and September with August being the peak time. During these months, it looks like the water is sparkling.

If you visit at other times of the year, you will likely still be able to see the luminescence, but it won’t be quite as defined. It will be like whole pockets of water are lighting up rather than individual sparkles.

You can visit the lagoon on your own, but be sure that you have bright flashlights to see the road. You can only see them at night and the road there is not lit at all in some places.

The best option if you don’t want to navigate to the lagoon on your own is the take a tour. There are tons of tour options that can take you here since it is one of the most popular things to do in Holbox.

If you want to get out on the water and see the bioluminescence up close while also learning more about the stars above your head, this kayaking tour is a great option

You’ll be able to learn about the constellations, possibly see some shooting stars, and then jump into the water to see the bioluminescence up close. The tour costs $58 USD per person. You can book that tour here.

kayaking in the mangroves of Isla Holbox.

Kayaking in the mangroves of Isla Holbox is one of the best things to do in Holbox for active travelers.

4. Kayak through the mangroves

For a kayak trip in the daylight, this tour will take you through the mangroves that surround the lagoon in Holbox.

It’s an early start, but you’ll get the chance to watch the sunrise as you paddle along the calm waters between Holbox and the mainland. The mangroves in Holbox are a protected natural reserve and it’s best to visit them with a knowledgeable guide.

Thanks to the protected status, the mangroves are rich with bird life. You’ll also get the chance to see flamingos, pelicans, osprey, cormorants, and if you keep your eyes on the water, maybe even some crocodiles. The tour costs $58 USD. Book the kayak tour here.

aerial view of the beach with turquoise waters.

The beaches in Holbox are some of the most exquisite in all of Mexico.

5. Walk on the Sandbar of Punta Mosquito

The sandbar at Punta Mosquito is one of my personal favorite things to do in Holbox.

Walk out of town with the beach to your left and the town to your right and keep going until you see it in front of you. It takes about 15-20 minutes to walk from the town to the sandbar, but it is well worth it.

The water is shallow in most areas of Holbox, but it is particularly shallow at this edge of the island. You can walk from the beach out to the sandbar and for the most part, the water doesn’t come up past your stomach, but it at its highest it can be up to 3 feet or 1 meter deep.

The sandbar is big enough to feel like you are on a beach in the middle of the ocean. The water around this part of the beach is home to tons of marine life, so be sure to pack a pair of goggles.

There is also a chance of seeing flamingos at this beach, but if it is too busy, they will likely fly away to calmer waters.

Don’t leave any of your bags on the beach. I recommend checking the tide times and planning your visit for when the tide is lower so that you can easily carry your bag with you out to the sandbar.

6. Rent a Bike

Renting a bike is one of the best and cheapest ways to get around Isla Holbox.

Since there are no cars, you can pretty safely navigate the sandy roads with a rusty beach cruiser that is available outside of most shops, hostels, and bars.

If you want to have a bike for your whole trip, you will get the best daily rate and you can even negotiate a little bit depending on how long you plan to rent the bike for. 

If you are just renting for the day you can expect to pay around 250 Pesos for 24 hours (about $15 USD). You can also rent the bike by the hour, but you will likely pay much more for this than simply renting it for the whole day.

Renting a bike allows you to easily get around town as well as over to the different beaches along the island. If you are only on the island for a day or two, you’ll be able to cheaply explore pretty much the whole island in that time if you have a bike on hand.

golf cart taxi driving on the street.

The only vehicles allowed on the island are golf carts so you can rent one of your own or hop in a taxi to get somewhere with your luggage.

7. Rent a Golf Cart

If you are traveling with a group of people (up to four), this is a great option. It’s an even better idea if you packed too much luggage or you brought lots of food and drinks for a long weekend on the island and you want to transport it to your Airbnb or to the beach.

Golf carts are of course, more expensive than renting a bicycle, but it holds a lot more and requires much less physical exertion on a hot day (especially on those thicker sand roads).

Most of the golf carts on the island are gas-powered, not electric, so you’ll also need to pay for fuel that you use if you opt for this type of golf cart.

A golf cart rental on Holbox costs about 2,000 Pesos (about $110 USD) for 24 hours. You can also opt to rent it for half a day or for as little as two hours if you just want to have a quick exploration of the island.

There are also golf cart taxis available all over the island. If you arrive on the ferry and you just need help getting your luggage from the port to your hotel, then it may be cheaper and easier just to grab a taxi for the journey rather than renting a cart of your own for the day.

swings over the ocean.

There are swings and hammocks in the water all over Holbox.

8. Visit the Mercado Municipal

This palapa-style building in the center of town is a great place to explore during your trip to Holbox. You’ll find vendors selling fruits and vegetables if you want to self-cater.

But the main reason to visit the market is not to go shopping, it’s to go eating. There are tons of food stalls inside and outside of the market where you can have smoothies, fresh juices, ceviche, fried fish, carnitas tacos, and so many more gems worth discovering.

It’s best to come either for breakfast or an early lunch. The market is open every day except Sunday from 6:30 am until 2 pm and by about 1:30 pm most of the stalls are starting to close or have run out of the best food options on the menu. 

food at a restaurant on the beach with palm trees and the ocean in the background.

Enjoy lunch on the beach while you visit Holbox, there are some great food spots around the island.

9. Enjoy the Nightlife

While Holbox may not have the nightlife scene of Playa del Carmen, it definitely has some fun spots to spend your evenings while you’re visiting.

Whether you want to enjoy some live music, do some salsa dancing, or dig your toes into the sand while you sip a high-quality cocktail, there is something for everyone in this tiny beach town.

  • Arena Lounge Bar is the place to come for sunset views and great live music. Its location means it sits above most of the island. It’s located in a hotel and is one of the classier spots on the island, but flip-flops and casual attire are still welcome.
  • Hot Corner is true to its name as one of the hottest nightlife spots in Holbox. There is nightly live music, DJ sets, good cocktails, and cold beer, and it draws one of the biggest crowds on the island.
  • Bar Tribu is one of my personal favorite spots with a tiki-bar-inspired decor, fantastic cocktails, and great live music most nights of the week.

10. Take a Food Tour

Holbox is not the foodie capital of Mexico like you may find in places like Merida or Mexico City, but it does have a few little local spots where you can enjoy some seriously delicious and authentic Mexican tacos.

If you want to thoroughly investigate the taco scene in Holbox, book yourself onto a tour like this one. This taco tour includes four of the best taco spots in Holbox alongside an interesting walking tour of the town of Holbox. 

You’ll get to talk all about the most delicious bites, learn why it’s so popular here, and also get some tips for other places to eat on the island from a knowledgeable guide. 

The tour also includes cocktails at each of the stops, so it’s a nice way to have a fun afternoon or evening out on the town, especially if you are traveling solo and want to get to know some fellow travelers.

The tour costs $92 per person. Book a spot on the taco tour here.

beach clubs on the island of holbox with blue skies and turquoise water in the foreground.

Relaxing at one of the beach clubs here is one of the best things to do in Holbox.

11. Go on the Three Islands Tour

Last, but certainly not least, the Three Islands Tour is one of the most popular things to do in Holbox.

You can find vendors selling this tour all over the island from the moment you arrive. In fact, there will probably be a few guys at the ferry terminal when you arrive to Holbox trying to sell you this tour for your time on the island.

This boat tour includes stops at Passion Island, Isla Pajaros, and Yalahau Spring.

You’ll learn about the bird migration that takes place here and perhaps do a bit of bird watching depending on the time of year you are visiting. 

You’ll also get the chance to see some flamingos and swim in a cenote at Yalahau. The day trip includes transportation by boat to all of these locations, which in itself makes for a fun day out. 

The tour cost is for up to 6 people and includes your own private boat and driver for the day. The cost for up to six people is $225 USD for the whole boat (so not bad when divided by six!). Book that boat tour here.