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How to Get to Isla Holbox: Everything You Need to Know

How to Get to Isla Holbox: Everything You Need to Know

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Looking for information on how to get to Isla Holbox? This article is just for you. 

Not too far off the beaten path, tucked away on the north coast of the Yucatan peninsula, you will find the dreamy island of Holbox. White sand beaches where the ocean meets the sky. It has easy-going beach bars, great restaurants, boho chic accommodations, and a small-yet-incredibly vibey downtown. 

Isla Holbox has an indescribable beauty and a magical vibe that captivates everyone who visits its sandy shores. When I left I remember saying to myself that I couldn’t wait to return (and this is coming from someone who lives in Cozumel!). 

Where exactly is Isla Holbox? What is the best way to get to it? Because Holbox is an Island where do I park my car? Can I take my Car? Can I bring my dog?…. Wait …..I don’t have a dog. These were questions of mine before making the journey. The good news is that the journey and travel time are not as difficult as it seems. 

For all the information you need to know on how to get to Isla Holbox, continue on and enjoy my article.

Why Visit Isla Holbox?

If you are looking for a Mexican getaway with a secluded feel, this island is perfect for you. Wander the narrow sandy streets and lose yourself in paradise. Prop up against a palm tree and escape into a book. Chill out relaxed in a hammock soaking in the Caribbean sun.

With the grand hotels of Cancun, and the rapid rate of expansion of Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Isla Holbox may be one of the last “untouched” places in the Riviera Maya leaving the feeling of rustic island charm. 

There are no cars on Isla Holbox. Fantastic right?! 

Because of the small size of the island, you can easily explore by foot, bicycle, or golf cart. The island even offers golf cart taxis to take you to farther distances, which I thought was pretty cool. 

How Many Days in Holbox?

You can easily spend a week-long vacation on Holbox escaping reality, reveling in its completely relaxed demeanor, but if you are a traveler on a time budget I recommend visiting a minimum of at least 2 or 3 days. 

This will give you enough time to see the main attractions, enjoy the beaches, and check out all of the cool things to do on the island.

beach with bright blue skies and white sand.

The beaches of Holbox are some of the most beautiful in Mexico.

When to Visit Holbox

The island has so much to offer but tends to draw tourism for two of the main attractions: the bioluminescent plankton phenomenon and the whale sharks. 

Bioluminescence plankton arrives at the sea quite heavily throughout the summer months which also brings the migration of the whale sharks. Whale Sharks are the largest fish in the ocean and they feed on the abundance of the plankton in the waters.

Boat tours are offered to snorkel alongside these magical creatures. Don’t be surprised if you even spot dolphins, turtles, and rays along your boat journey out to whale shark territory.

Where is Isla Holbox Located?

This skinny, slightly L-shaped island is found on the north coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and lies in the state of Quintana Roo. It is 41.8 km long (26 miles) and only 1.6 km wide (1 mile). A shallow lagoon separates the Island from the mainland and is part of the Yum Balam Biosphere Reserve.  

Isla Holbox is located 67 km from Cancun, 103 km from Playa del Carmen, and 148 km from Tulum. 

The way to get to Isla Holbox is by Ferry. The ferry terminal sits on the shore of the small town of Chiquila. The ferry crosses 13 km of water (8 miles) and the ride takes roughly 20 minutes.

white sand beaches and turquoise waters at isla holbox in mexico.

The main reason to come to Holbox is to enjoy the incredible beaches.

How to get to Isla Holbox from Cancun Airport

Coming from an international destination? You will be arriving at the Cancun International Airport and from there you will need to make your journey to Chiquila. Luckily, Isla Holbox is a very popular tourist destination and there are many ways to get there safely and efficiently. 

How to get to Isla Holbox by Car

When I made my journey to Isla Holbox, my family and I rented a car. The journey was smooth, fast, and simple. Also, because we were a group of four, it made the most sense price-wise.

When renting a car in this region of Mexico, I prefer to use Discover Cars. This website is one of the few third-party sites that covers all of the proper insurance and is clear about what you will and won’t owe when you get to the rental desk in Mexico.

Book a rental car in Mexico with Discover Cars here.

Having a car was perfect for us because we were able to pack some of our own food and drinks for the journey and carry it over to the island with us. 

It also provides you the luxury to be able to stop and explore anything exciting you might find in the small towns along the way. 

One of the towns we drove through had a few different vendors along the side of the road selling fruits and wooden products. I had been searching for a crafty wooden cutting board for ages, and I was extremely happy when I found one along the way. 

If I remember correctly, the man was only asking 200 pesos. ($12 USD)  I felt so happy to support the locals’ work and to have a beautiful piece that I had been looking for for a long time. 

Whether you are coming from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum, you will need to drive to Chiquila to leave your car and take the passenger ferry to the island.  

chiquila sign in front of a palapa-topped building which is the best way to get to holbox island.

Chiquila is a tiny little town whose main purpose is to get people to and from Holbox.

How long is the drive from Cancun to Chiquila?

The distance from Cancun to Chiquila is 133 km (82 miles) and will take roughly 2 hours and 20 minutes travel time. 

You will take the Carretera 180D in the direction of Valladolid. Take a right turn onto highway QROO 5 and follow that until you reach Chiquila. 

If you are making your way from Playa del Carmen the travel time is slightly less. You will be taking the Carretera 305D with a cost of 136 pesos (about $8 USD), then proceeding to take the QROO 5 until you reach Chiquila. 

When paying for the toll roads you will need cash in the form of Mexican Pesos. You cannot pay with a card or US dollars. 

All of the highways I mentioned above are very well taken care of and safe to drive. If you are new to driving in Mexico, check out our guide about driving in Mexico for tips and safety advice.

ticket counter at the ferry to holbox island.

There will be people shouting for the next ferry to get your over to their desk. They run every 30 minutes so there’s no need to rush (unless it’s the last one of the day of course!).

Can I take my car onto Isla Holbox?

The answer here is no. Cars aren’t allowed on the Island.

So then what? What do I do with my car?

Luckily the town of Chiquila has many designated parking lots for the daily influx of tourists they receive.

The standard rate is 100 pesos per day (about $5.50 USD). You will find a worker present, taking care of payment and assigning you your parking spot. Yes, these parking lots are “secure” but please do not leave any valuables or important possessions in your car during your stay on Holbox Island. 

Will I find gas stations along the journey to Holbox?

Yes, there are three gas stations I know of along the way to Chiquila. You will find a Pemex just outside the small town of Leona Vicario along the 180D. 

The other two are both in the town of Kantunilkin, 44 km before Chiquila. 

To avoid any unfortunate situations I would recommend having a full tank of gas before starting your trip. You will pay more for gas in these smaller towns.

I also recommend carrying sufficient local cash in Mexican Pesos. You will want it for the island as well since there are very few reliable ATMs and many of the bars and restaurants only accept cash.

little hut on the beach in holbox island mexico.

There are cool little art pieces all over the island that have constantly changing murals on them.

Take the ADO Bus to Holbox

Another popular, budget-friendly, and highly recommend ways to travel around Mexico is to ride the ADO bus. Check out our full guide to taking the bus in Mexico for all of the tips and money-saving tricks.

The ADO bus is a large charter-style bus that offers scheduled departures, assigned and reclining seats, air conditioning, onboard restrooms, and luggage storage. 

ADO buses are easy to utilize and are a safe, secure, and reliable way for tourists and locals to move around Mexico. Tickets can be purchased online, on the ADO App, or in the terminals. 

To guarantee a seat on a bus with a specific desired time I do recommend booking your ticket in advance. 

I love recommending the ADO bus for solo travelers, small groups, couples, or travelers that are not pressed for time.

Getting to Isla Holbox using the ADO bus, you must search Chiquila as your final destination as that is where you will need to take the passenger ferry to Isla Holbox

One-way tickets departing from Cancun start at 250 pesos (about $15 USD) and the journey takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes. 

You will find different scheduled departures leaving from Cancun Airport, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum all at varying prices. 

Tip: There is no direct ADO bus to Chiquila from the Cancun airport. You must catch the ADO from the Cancun Airport to the downtown Cancun terminal and then transfer to the bus that will take you to Chiquila. 

Check out the full schedule of departures and pricing here on the ADO website

parking sign in spanish.

You will see parking signs like this near the ferry terminal. These prices are in Mexican Pesos (they also use the $ sign).

Getting to Isla Holbox via Private Shuttle

Private shuttles are a relaxed and comfortable way to arrive to Chiquila. You have the luxury of direct pick-up from your pre-determined destination, air conditioning, and a trusted driver. 

Private shuttles are usually in the form of sprinter vans. For the best price, it is recommended to book online in advance on websites like GetYourGuide

Your shuttle will provide bathroom breaks along the way. Some companies even provide refreshments and snacks.

Shared private shuttles begin their pricing at around 800 pesos. Book a private shuttle to the ferry here.

Taxi Service to Isla Holbox

Riding in a taxi to Chiquila is possible, but not something I would recommend. Fares are pricey and the drivers will be able to name a price fitting for themselves due to the long journey. 

Taxi drivers start their quotes at $160 USD, and don’t be surprised if they ask for more than that once you arrive.   

Getting from the Cancun Airport to Isla Holbox via taxi will take 2.5 hours of travel time 

Now that we have gone over all the ways to get to Chiquila… onto the fun part! The ferry ride to the Island!

ferry terminal with a boat to the left and the ticket hut to the right.

It is very clear where to buy tickets to take the ferry to Holbox.

Taking the Ferry to Isla Holbox

Bags in hand and smiles on faces. You will want to make your way over to the ferry terminal ticket booth in Chiquila.

There are two different ferry companies that offer service to Isla Holbox: 9 Hermanos Holbox Ferry and the Holbox Express. There is basically no difference between the two companies. It’s just a matter of taking whichever ferry is leaving next.

The ferry ride normally takes about 20 minutes but can take longer if it is windy or if the waters are rough. 

The boats are Catamaran style boats with indoor air-conditioned seating below and outside seating on the upper deck. There are bathrooms on board as well.

If you choose to sit on the upper deck, be sure to hold onto your hat as it can be super windy. You can even expect to be splashed from the salty waves, so if you want to stay dry take a seat in one of the middle aisles or below in the indoor cabin. 

Ferries to Isla Holbox begin their first ride at 6 o’clock in the morning with the last boat departing at 9:30 pm. Both companies offer the same service and pricing. The only difference is one company runs on the hour and the other company runs on the half hour.

Because the ferries run every 30 minutes, it is very easy to simply arrive in Chiquila, and board a boat. You do not need to book your ticket in advance. 

Adult tickets cost 220 pesos for a one-way ride (about $12.50 USD). Please have cash on hand as cards are not accepted with either company.  

Can I Bring my dog to Holbox?

Yes, you can. If you plan to bring your pup to Holbox be sure to have their leash. You are allowed to travel with your furry friend on the top deck of the boat with either ferry company.

dog on the ferry to holbox.

Dogs are allowed to come on the ferry to Holbox.

Cash or Credit Cards on Holbox Island?

Cash all the way. I know. No one loves traveling around with a huge wad of cash in their pocket, but for Isla Holbox I recommend it. Or at least carry sufficient cash to last during your stay on the Island.

A lot of the restaurants and bars work on a cash-only basis. You will find restaurants and shops that accept cards but know that sometimes a service charge is added to the purchase. 

You can find ATMs on Isla Holbox but I wouldn’t rely on them completely for all your cash needs. Frequently, the machines will be out of service or have simply run out of cash, especially during the peak seasons of Christmas, spring break, and whale shark season. 

Getting to Isla Holbox by Air

For an exhilarating and totally memorable experience, head to Isla Holbox by air. This is the fastest most direct way to arrive on the beautiful island.

There is no commercial airport on Isla Holbox so you must fly by private charter plane.  Flights are completely private, with the smallest plane holding up to five passengers with bags. 

Private charter flights start at $650 USD and move upwards from there. The flight from the Cancun airport to Isla Holbox takes 40 minutes. A fast, fun, and bougie way to get to Island Paradise.

If you are traveling with four other friends, it’s only $130 USD per person, not extortionate for how quick and luxurious of an experience you will have.