Holbox Visitors Guide
Whale Sharks, Beaches and No Cars!
Welcome to Holbox
Holbox, properly pronounced “hol-bosh” is a rustic, tropical island located a few hours northwest of Cancun. Its crystal-clear blue waters, pristine beaches, and relaxed life pace are enough to attract anyone. In the Mayan language, Holbox translates to “black hole”. The name was originally bestowed on the island when the first recorded inhabitants fled their home city of Holbox (now known as Punta Coco) on the mainland due to an attack by the Maya during the Caste Wars.
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.
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.
Where is Holbox?
Holbox is a small island just off the north coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Located on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (the second-longest coral reef system in the world), Holbox is in a perfect spot for turquoise Caribbean waters, white sand beaches, and world-class diving and snorkeling. This is DEFINITELY the island life!
Northern Islands Map - click to enlarge
When To Visit 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.
December – April is the dry season with low humidity, more temperate weather and trade winds that bring refreshing breezes.
May – November is the rainy season. Hot temperatures, high humidity and intense, although usually short, thunderstorms occur daily. This is the hurricane season too, with peak risk in October generally.
How to Get to Holbox Island
No matter which option you take, you will need to go to Chiquila and take a ferry from there to Holbox. There are no car ferries because the island doesn’t permit vehicles.
CANCUN TO CHIQUILA FERRY
By Group Shuttle: 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.
By Bus: 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.
By Colectivo: This option costs a little over $12 and takes a bit over two hours to reach Chiquilá. Pick up is in Central Cancun near the Soriana car park.
By Taxi: 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.
By Rental Car: 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.
TAKING THE FERRY
By Ferry: 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.
How to Get Around on Holbox
As mentioned above, no cars are allowed on the island, but you won’t need one. Holbox is only 25 miles long and .5 miles wide. The island’s main attractions are all within a 15-minute walk. If you need to reach somewhere a little further away on the island, you can easily rent a bike or a golf cart.
The Top 5
Where to Stay in Holbox
Holbox is a small, laid-back, and beautiful island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. The hotels on the island offer the best of both worlds as it is one of the most stunning islands in the area, and one of the most fairly priced islands to stay on. Most of the hotels are located in the Centro (town center) area.
For hotel recommendations, check out our Holbox Hotel Guide
What to Do in Holbox
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!
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. Whale Shark season is between mid-May to mid-September (peak times are late-June to early-July).
RULES WHEN VISITING WHALE SHARKS
- No scuba diving
- Swimmers must wear lifejackets and maintain a 5m (16ft.) distance from the animals
- No sunblock or lotions on swimmers
- Must visit with a certified tour guide
- No touching the whale sharks
- No lights or flash photography
2. See a Bioluminescent Beach at Night
Have you ever seen glowing blue water? If not, you must check out the bioluminescent beaches of Holbox at night. Caused by microscopic phytoplankton, the water glows blue when agitated from waves or splashing. Very, very cool.
3. Check Out Some Street Art
Another thing you can’t miss in Holbox is 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.
4. 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.
Yucatan Highlights Map
This map shows many of our Mexican Caribbean highlights. To open the table of contents, click on the icon in the top left corner of the map. This will allow you to sort through the different types of highlights! Click on the points of interest or the icons on the map itself to access additional info. You can open the map in its own window to make it larger if you’d like.