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Holbox Visitors Guide

How to Get There, Things to Do & More

Updated March 2024

Beach in Holbox: Things To Do In Holbox Mexico
Beach in Holbox: Things To Do In Holbox Mexico

Welcome to Holbox Mexico

Holbox, properly pronounced “hol-bosh” is a rustic, tropical island located a few hours north of Cancun. Its crystal-clear blue waters, pristine beaches, and relaxed life pace are enough to attract anyone. With no cars and no worries, Holbox is famous for its bioluminescent waters and whalesharks. It truly is a place to behold.

Holbox, properly pronounced “hol-bosh” is a rustic, tropical island located a few hours north of Cancun. Its crystal-clear blue waters, pristine beaches, and relaxed life pace are enough to attract anyone. With no cars and no worries, Holbox is famous for its bioluminescent waters and whalesharks. It truly is a place to behold.

Holbox Map

Holbox Map

Contents

Holbox Port
Holbox Port
Holbox History

A Bit Of History

In the Mayan language, Holbox translates to “black hole”, the name bestowed on the island when the first recorded inhabitants arrived here, having fled their home city on the mainland (now known as Punta Coco) due to an attack by the Maya during the Caste War of Yucatan. At many times throughout history, the Yucatan and Mexican governments tried to relocate the indigenous inhabitants of Holbox, but to no avail. Once occupied, the settlers stayed put, refusing to leave their new stunning land. The people of Holbox have an incredible reputation for being brave and strong, two characteristics that have helped them preserve their slice of paradise for centuries. Even today, they have strict rules about tourism so as to keep their island a glorious gem.

Holbox Today

Holbox Today

Today, Holbox is a tropical paradise where visitors can escape the mainland crowds of Tulum or Cancun. However, this doesn’t mean there is a lack of things to do. The beauty of Holbox is in the simplicity, the nature and the slow rhythm it exists in. Art, happiness and a sense of calm abound everywhere. When you are here you can’t help but slow down and take it all in. It is a refreshing destination free from congestion and stress. Below is our guide to Isla Holbox with a few tips and tricks to enjoy all she has to offer.

Is Holbox Safe?

Is Holbox Safe?

Holbox Island is a very safe place for tourists to travel. People come here to relax without the worries and the stress of crime like in other parts of Mexico.

Pickpocketing, mugging and drug crimes are all very low risk on Holbox. Typically, any crimes that occur are between locals and don’t involve tourists, but be sure to always use general caution and avoid the beach at night.

Where is Holbox?

Holbox On A Map

Holbox is a small island just off the north coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Holbox is about two hours north of Cancun and is accessed by a ferry from the small town of Chiquila. While the island is technically located on the Gulf of Mexico as opposed to the Caribbean Sea, the turquoise waters and white sands will leave you breathless.

The Best Time to Visit Holbox

Looking for the best time to go to Holbox? The tropical climate in Holbox is quite predictable and easy to make plans around. Without much of a temperature difference throughout the year, (the average temperature lingers around 83 degrees F) it’s the rainy hurricane season that most travelers need to pay attention to.

Looking for the best time to go to Holbox? The tropical climate in Holbox is quite predictable and easy to make plans around. Without much of a temperature difference throughout the year, (the average temperature lingers around 83 degrees F) it’s the rainy hurricane season that most travelers need to pay attention to.

January – April

Perfect weather-wise, but sees the highest influx of tourists. If you are not a people person, consider this.

May – October

The hottest and most rainy months of the year but still plenty of sunshine and fantastic warm water for snorkeling & diving. Also, the hurricane season peaks in September and October so keep an eye on the forecasts and definitely get travel insurance just in case. Fewer tourists mean you can typically expect lower rates at hotels, resorts and tour companies during this time.

November – December

The autumn-winter months are considered by many to be the best times to visit. The hurricane season has passed by this time and the humidity is low. Can be a little “chilly” in the evenings.

January – April

Perfect weather-wise, but sees the highest influx of tourists. If you are not a people person, consider this.

May – October

The hottest and most rainy months of the year but still plenty of sunshine and fantastic warm water for snorkeling & diving. Also, the hurricane season peaks in September and October so keep an eye on the forecasts and definitely get travel insurance just in case. Fewer tourists mean you can typically expect lower rates at hotels, resorts and tour companies during this time.

November – December

The autumn-winter months are considered by many to be the best times to visit. The hurricane season has passed by this time and the humidity is low. Can be a little “chilly” in the evenings.

 When Is Holbox Hurricane Season?

Holbox hurricane season begins in late May and lasts until early November, with the peak occurring between August and October. The odds of a hurricane hitting Holbox are low (less than half a dozen hurricanes have hit the Yucatan in the past 40 years), but hurricanes traveling near Holbox can still cause inclement and severe weather. Be sure to check weather reports ahead of time and we always suggest getting travel insurance during these months just in case.

Hurricane Season
Holbox Water And Pier
Incredible Holbox Water
Holbox Water And Pier
Incredible Holbox Water

How to Get to Holbox & Around

Important – There are a few ways to get to Holbox. All of them involve taking ground transportation to the town of Chiquila and then the ferry to Holbox. Note that many larger hotels in Holbox provide free transportation to town, so check ahead before planning alternative transportation.

Island Life Mexico

Shuttle to Chiquila

1. Take Shuttle to Chiquila.

Some suggest the easiest way to go is by hiring a shuttle ride in advance. The shuttle company will take you from the Cancun airport directly to the ferry terminal in Chiquilá. An airport shuttle from Terminal 2 at Cancún Airport takes around 2.5 hours and costs $50 one way. You must book your ticket in advance.

2. Take ferry to Holbox (see below)

Buses in Mexico

Bus to Chiquila

1. Take Bus to Chiquila.

The ADO Bus from Cancun takes a little over two hours and costs just under $15 one way. Find the ADO passenger’s booth at the airport and go from there.

2. Take ferry to Holbox (see below)

Taxi in Mexico

Taxi to Chiquila

1. Take Taxi to Chiquila.

If you don’t feel like renting a vehicle but don’t want to take a bus, taking a taxi is an efficient option. Numerous taxis wait outside the Cancun airport or can pick you up at your hotel. Be sure to discuss the prices in advance of taking the ride so you don’t get overcharged. Taking a taxi is an efficient option to reach Chiquila and takes just under two hours, but costs roughly $40 one way.

2. Take ferry to Holbox (see below)

Island Life Mexico

Rental Car to Chiquila

1. Take Rental Car to Chiquila.

Renting a vehicle may be the most convenient choice depending on how much exploring you plan to do on your own. It is an easy and affordable option. You can rent a car from the Cancun airport and drive to Chiquila in just under two hours. Most rental companies are just past customs and average $13/day. There is a parking lot that costs around $5 a day at the Chiquila dock with 24/7 surveillance. We recommend booking your car here for the best prices and service.

2. Take ferry to Holbox (see below)

Colectivo In Mexico

Colectivo to Chiquila

1. Take Colectivo to Chiquila. This option costs a little over $12 and takes a bit over two hours to reach Chiquila. Pick up is in Central Cancun near the Soriana car park.

2. Take ferry to Holbox (see below)

Holbox Ferry

Ferry To Holbox

The journey between Chiquila and Holbox is a 25-minute ferry ride on the Holbox Ferry. It roughly costs between $5-10 to ride the ferry. You can buy tickets online.

Things to Do in Holbox

Holbox's Top Highlights

Holbox is an outdoor lover’s paradise. You can enjoy the sun on the beach, kitesurf, kayak in the mangroves, take a boat tour, or even whale watch. Here are some of our favorites in Holbox!

Snorkel with Whale Sharks in Holbox
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Snorkel with Whale Sharks
Snorkel with Whale Sharks in Holbox
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1. Snorkel with Whale Sharks

Holbox is one of the most famous places in the Caribbean to see the massive (but friendly) whale sharks! These exquisite creatures eat plankton, so no need to worry about getting scarfed down in their presence. Scuba diving with the sharks isn’t allowed so you’ll need to book a snorkeling tour with an operator that will take you out to find the beautiful creatures. Please don’t wear sunblock, use flash photography or touch the whale sharks. Whale Shark season is between mid-May to mid-September.

  To go snorkeling with the whale sharks from Isla Holbox, we recommend this top rated tour.

Bioluminescent water in Holbox
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See Bioluminescent Water At Night
Bioluminescent water in Holbox
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2. See Bioluminescent Water At Night

Have you ever seen glowing blue water? If not, you must check out the bioluminescent waters of Holbox at night. Caused by microscopic phytoplankton, the water glows blue when agitated by waves or splashing. The best ways to experience the bioluminescence are by night snorkeling or night kayaking. Very, very cool!

  Take a look at this highly rated bioluminesence night snorkeling tour.

  This night kayaking experience is also supposed to be wonderful.

  ISLAND LIFE TRAVEL TIP : GET TRAVEL INSURANCE

Travel Insurance is a must in our opinion. Standard health insurance likely doesn’t cover you while outside of the country so travel insurance will cover any emergency medical needs as well as trip cancellation, lost or stolen luggage (it happens), flight delays, missed connections and more. You can easily compare the top-rated travel insurance plans here.

Relaxing on a hammock over the water in Holbox
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Be Lazy
Relaxing on a hammock over the water in Holbox
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3. Be lazy

Enjoy every day. Be lazy. Wander through the town center. Admire the brightly painted buildings. Eat delicious food like the famous lobster pizza. Savor a tropical cocktail. Lounge in a sea hammock. This island should be treasured for its slow paced pleasure. Be sure to check out the fantastic street art. Many an alley and road here have vividly painted monuments, murals, and artistic creations. Many vendors sell handmade artisan pieces too, so you can easily take a piece of the island’s art home with you.

  This affordable street art walking tour takes you around town for several hours learning about the history of Holbox and its art scene.

Kite surfing at sunset in Holbox
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Try Kitesurfing
Kite surfing at sunset in Holbox
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4. Try Kitesurfing

Holbox is famous for this exciting water sport. If you are already experienced in the sport you will easily find your favorite spot to soar along the far-reaching, flat coastline, especially during the winter months. Holbox is famous for its ideal conditions for beginners to learn in shallow waters with no big obstacles, a wide coastline and easy wind conditions. There are classes daily from shops on the island year round.

  This popular private kitesurfing lesson by Kukulkite is the top rated on the island.

Three Islands Tour on a boat in Holbox
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Take a Three Islands Tour
Three Islands Tour on a boat in Holbox
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5. Take a Three Islands Tour

The highly popular Three Islands boat tour off the coast of Isla Holbox is a wonderful way to experience firsthand the nature of the island and its surroundings. Isla Holbox is famous for having an abundance of wildlife, especially birds, and this tour allows you to witness these nimble creatures in their habitat. Your first stop on the tour is the aptly named Bird Island, (Isla Pajaros). You won’t be allowed to walk among the birds as it is a protected area, but there is a dock and viewing platforms for watching and photographing the flamingos, horned bills, pelicans, and many other species.

Your other two stops will be Passion Island (Isla Pasion) where you’ll be able to wander on the island, go hand fishing and spot wildlife, and visit the naturally bubbling Yalahau Cenote. At Yalahau you’ll be able to spend a good amount of time swimming and exploring in the fresh water. The order in which you visit these locations will depend on your guide and how busy each place is.

  Book your private three islands boat tour here.

Beach cabanas in Holbox
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Hit The Beach
Beach cabanas in Holbox
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6. Hit The Beach

While not quite as picture-perfect as beaches on Cozumel or Isla Mujeres, Holbox beaches are beautiful nevertheless and a great way to spend the day relaxing, swimming and snorkeling.

Kayaking the mangroves in Holbox, Mexico
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Kayak The Mangroves
Kayaking the mangroves in Holbox, Mexico
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7. Kayak The Mangroves

Holbox is truly a nature lover’s paradise. This protected area offers abundant wildlife as much of the island is wild and undeveloped. One of the best ways to experience Holbox is by taking in the scenery up close by kayaking in the mangroves. Kayaking the mangroves on Holbox also allows you to spot some of the island’s abundant indigenous and migratory bird species, including herons, ospreys, and even flamingos! It truly is an unforgettable experience.

There are a variety of options for kayaking the mangroves including visiting during the day, at sunrise, at sunset, or even at night! One of the most popular choices is to paddle through shallow clam waters in the mangroves on this top-rated 3 Hour Guided Kayak Tour during the day. On the tour, your guide will tell you all about the flora and fauna as you listen to the birds in the mangroves. If it’s the right season, you might even see some sunbathing crocodiles or flamingos.

Also be sure to check out this Sunrise Mangrove Kayaking Tour, this Sunset Mangrove Kayaking Tour and this Night Kayak with Stargazing and Bioluminescence

The famous Holbox flamingos
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See The Holbox Flamingos
The famous Holbox Flamingos
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8. See The Holbox Flamingos

If you want to spot the famous Holbox Flamingos, head to Punta Cocos and Punta Mosquito. These elegant birds tend to appear on the beaches in the early mornings when there aren’t too many people around yet. The graceful pink flamingos are typically on the beaches from April through October. 

Most of Holbox’s flamingos live in the nature reserve and are best spotted from the water. You can also park your bike or golf cart at Las Nubes and walk one hour further following the sand bar to find them.

If you decide to walk to Punta Mosquitos, take marine-safe sunscreen, plenty of water, and a hat. Make sure to bring your camera so you can snap a few photos, but please do not approach the flamingos. 

People taking a cooking class in Holbox, Mexico
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Take A Cooking Class
People taking a cooking class in Holbox, Mexico
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9. Take A Cooking Class

For culinary enthusiasts, is there anything better than learning to cook traditional Mexican cuisine while staying in a tropical paradise like Holbox? Many of the cooking classes offered on the island focus on cuisines of the different regions of Mexico, from Guadalajara and Jalisco to Oaxaca and Yucatan. Each day has a different focus, and each is as delicious as the next. 

One charming little cooking school in Holbox, hidden behind a pink door, is La Puerta Rosa. There are classes every morning and evening. During their cooking classes, you can learn some new tips and tricks in the kitchen and get to eat all of your unique creations. Classes are about 3 hours long and can be booked for 2-10 people. The group classes range from around $65 to $85 USD per person, and private lessons are available for about $105 USD per person.

The Yum Balam Nature Reserve in Holbox, Mexico
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Explore Yum-Balam Nature Reserve
The Yum Balam Nature Reserve in Holbox, Mexico
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10. Explore Yum-Balam Nature Reserve

Yum-Balam Nature Reserve, near Holbox Island in Mexico, beckons nature enthusiasts with its diverse landscapes and abundant wildlife. Visitors can explore a variety of trails winding through mangroves, coastal areas, and dense forests, offering an immersive experience in the heart of nature.

One of the reserve’s highlights is the Yalahau Cenote, famed for its clear waters and snorkeling opportunities. Along the trails, keep an eye out for vibrant flamingos, playful dolphins, and elusive sea turtles. Birdwatchers will find joy in spotting different avian species that call the reserve home.

For those seeking adventure, kayaking is a popular activity to navigate the reserve’s waterways and discover hidden treasures along the coast. With well-marked trails catering to various interests and abilities, Yum-Balam Nature Reserve promises a memorable journey through Mexico’s natural wonders, inviting visitors to connect with the beauty of the outdoors in an unspoiled setting.

a bike on the beach in Holbox, Mexico
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Rent A Bike and Explore
a bike on the beach in Holbox, Mexico
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11. Rent A Bike And Explore

For those who like to stay active while traveling, Holbox is the perfect island to explore by bike. Renting a bike here is also a budget-friendly way to travel around the island, as bike rentals usually only cost around $2.00 USD (35 MXN) per hour. 

Explore the colorful streets of Holbox Village by bicycle, taking in the vibrant murals, quaint shops, and local eateries. Cycling through the village provides an authentic glimpse into island life and allows you to interact with friendly locals.

Cycling around the perimeter of the island provides a leisurely way to soak in the island’s charm. The main road, which circles the island, is flat and relatively easy to navigate, offering picturesque views of pristine beaches and turquoise waters.

Head to the northern tip of the island to Punta Coco Beach, where you can ride along the sandy shores and enjoy panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea. This area is less developed and offers a tranquil setting for cycling.

Visit ecotourism parks like Punta Mosquito and Yum-Balam Nature Reserve, where you can bike along well-maintained paths and discover unique ecosystems teeming with flora and fauna.

Remember to bring plenty of water and sunscreen for your cycling adventures!

One of the murals on Isla Holbox
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Find The Colorful Murals Of Holbox
One of the murals on Isla Holbox
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12. Find The Colorful Murals Of Holbox

One of the things that makes Isla Holbox special is the gorgeous and colorful murals that adorn buildings everywhere on the island. You’ll see themes that honor Diego Rivera, Frida Khalo, and the spirit and history of the island. Holbox is an island of fishermen, and you will find plenty of tributes to the island’s rich fishing history.

Discover beautiful murals of flamingos, hummingbirds, sunsets, and lots of strong, beautiful women. We recommend just wandering and taking in the beauty. Though bicycling is another way to cover more ground. Holbox is a paradise for artists and photographers, and the murals have become part of the island’s identity. 

A sunset in Holbox, Mexico
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Take In A Sunset
A sunset in Holbox, Mexico
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13. Take In A Sunset

Holbox sunsets are really something special to witness. Every evening, locals and travelers gather on the pier or the beach to watch the sunset over the sea. 

The best places to watch the sunset are probably Punta Coco Beach, Holbox Village Pier, Paseo Kuka, or any number of beachfront or rooftop bars. Alma Bar is a local and traveler’s favorite. Halfway from Punta Coco to Holbox town, is also a great place to stop and watch the sunset. 

Also check out this Sunset Mangrove Kayaking Tour.

Wildlife on Isla Holbox, Mexico
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Discover The Local Wildlife
Wildlife on Isla Holbox, Mexico
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14. Discover The Local Wildlife

The climate and wild nature of Holbox support a variety of local wildlife. Between jungles and mangroves, lagoons, and warm coastal waters, you can find animals in the waters surrounding the island and in many protected areas of Holbox. 

The island is a paradise for flamingos, herons, and pelicans, and the waters surrounding the island are perfect for whale sharks, dolphins, and manta rays. Keep an eye out for iguanas and crocodiles during your visit as well. 

This private Holbox Tour is a small group tour that offers flexibility and the opportunity to spot wildlife. The tour also takes you to places that can only be reached by boat and provides pickup and drop-off from your accommodations. 

If you would rather have a more adventurous experience on your own, you can walk to Punta Coco or Punta Mosquito early in the morning, and you will see plenty of wildlife.

Fresh seafood in Holbox, Mexico
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Indulge In Fresh Seafood
Fresh seafood in Holbox, Mexico
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15. Indulge In Fresh Seafood

Holbox has traditionally been a fishing island, which means there is plenty of fresh seafood to indulge in during your visit. Local fishermen still supply incredibly fresh and delicious seafood to the island’s best restaurants.

You may have heard of the island’s signature dish, the infamous lobster pizza, but Holbox has many excellent restaurants that serve up the freshest ceviche, sushi, octopus, coconut shrimp, and phenomenal fish tacos as well! 

Las Panchas is one of the best seafood restaurants on the entire island. The casual atmosphere and simple seafood-forward dishes are beloved by locals and visitors. We also love Ser Esencia and recommend trying the multi-course menus there. 

Where To Stay In Holbox

There are all types of wonderful accommodations in Holbox. From all-inclusive resorts to boutique hotels and more. Location and amenities are the two top things to look for. For information about the different neighborhoods and great hotel recommendations, check out our Holbox Hotel Guide.

Holbox Hotel Guide. Where to stay in Holbox

For hotel recommendations for every budget, check out our Holbox Hotel Guide

What To Eat In Holbox

Whether you’re looking to just grab a bite or go on a culinary adventure, there are some great restaurants all over Holbox. For some awesome restaurant recommendations at any budget, check out our Holbox Restaurant Guide.

Holbox Restaurant Guide

For great restaurant recommendations, check out our Holbox Restaurant Guide

What To Pack For Your Trip!

The Mexican Caribbean is an enchanting wonderland of relaxation and adventure, one can easily have the trip of a lifetime here. Packing for such a vacation shouldn’t be hard, so we’ve put together a list to help you pack and included some of our favorites as well. Check out our What To Pack For Your Mexico Vacation Guide.

What to Pack For Your Mexican Vacation

Check out our Packing List For Beach Vacation!

Find The Best Holbox Flights

Finding the best flights to Holbox (via Cancun) shouldn’t be hard. We think the Kayak travel search engine is the best way to start. We’ve put together a quick guide to searching for the best flights using Kayak. Check out our Finding The Best Flights Guide.

Kayak Flights

Check out our Finding The Best Flights Guide!

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This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Ginelle Vogt says:

    We are coming from Canada and would like to visit, Tulum, holbox, Isla mujeres, three island tour or Xcaret.

    We are coming for about 2 weeks, wondering if these are some of the places wed like to visit how do we plan.

    Also we are a family of 6 with 4 teenagers two boys and two girls. Would this be safe

    1. Daniel says:

      Hey there Ginelle. It is very safe in these areas you want to visit. Definitely take a look at our Tulum Visitors Guide and Isla Mujeres Visitors Guide for additional recomendations of things to do. Have a great trip!

  2. Tracy Palms says:

    Holbox was the perfect place to relax after spending a few days in the busy Cancun. I would have never even known about Holbox without finding this website.

  3. Jameson Family says:

    My family wanted to thank Island Life Mexico for coming up with this guide. We recently took a trip for my son’s graduation. He really wanted to swim with whale sharks, which we found out about because of this guide.

    1. Daniel says:

      We are very happy to have helped make your trip extraordinary. Thanks for the kind words.

  4. Sammie's Bachelorette Party says:

    My friends and I recently took a girl’s trip to Mexico and visited Holbox. We hired the shuttle and it was super easy. It was nice to know we had a ride waiting for us at the airport. I highly recommend that. Thank you for this guide for the suggestion.

  5. Liliana and Family says:

    Wow, this place looks like the perfect alternative to Cancun. My family is planning a beach getaway later this year, and I think I’m sold on Holbox now.

  6. Nicole's Graduation Girls! says:

    We wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t Cancun for our girlfriends graduation and after reading your visitor guide we knew we had to come here. This is truly a gorgeous place for a getaway. Thank you so much for posting!

  7. Candace says:

    Just the perfect amount of information. Easy to read and very useful . Thank you!

  8. Jocelyn K says:

    I loved reading about the history of this place. Very interesting. Great post, I look forward to my visit even more now.

  9. Darnell Jones says:

    This has to be the most efficient guide I have found about the area. I only wish I had found it before I wasted so much time on other websites. Thank you!

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