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Why Isla Holbox, Mexico Rocks for Vacation

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Things to do in Holbox, Mexico — your eco-friendly beach vacation destination

Isla Holbox is a sweet, skinny island just a 20 minute ferry ride north of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, in Quintana Roo State. It's part of the Yum Balam Nature Preserve, where flamingos, hundreds of birds, whale sharks, sea turtles, and scores of marine life make their home. You move around this cafe-free island and the village of Holbox simply by foot, bicycle or golf cart taxi.

Enjoy endless unspoiled beaches. Most people only visit Holbox for a day or two. We encourage you to pull up a hammock and stay a while.

sand-road-to-beach

Holbox, Mexico is sustainable, adventurous travel at its best. This lesser known island makes a great travel destination for ecological travel-minded tourists and families. You can immediately sense a great respect for the area’s ecology. The hotels, restaurants and businesses are working hard to maintain thoughtful, long-term tourism without harming the natural and local cultural environment. 

On this wild island, you’ll feel confident you are making a positive impact as you are dining, shopping, boating, snorkeling, and fishing, as well as when using local transportation and accommodations.

Whether you’re a couple, a group of friends, or a family of six like us, you’ll love Holbox, Mexico for your next getaway travel destination. Outdoor adventure, delicious local Mexican food, and affordable, relaxing accommodations in a safe, picturesque village. Continue reading to find out why you should you be booking your next vacation here.

Everyone loves the beach in Holbox

Isla Holbox marks where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean. The beach appears to stretch on forever — the island is 26 miles long and just shy of a mile wide. Warm, clear shallow waters invite you in for wading and swimming. These shallow waters and sandbars make this one of the best locations to learn the sport of kiteboarding.

Rent a SUP or a kayak to explore the coastline, or hop on a kayaking excursion through the mangroves. Fishing and snorkeling excursions are easy to book, and if you happen to visit May through September, you can swim with the whale sharks who make their home here then. Wild nature at its finest.

kiteboarding-punta-mosquito

Punto Mosquito and Punta Coco

Our favorite spot for enjoying the natural, undeveloped beach was Punta Mosquito. Rent a bicycle or hire a golf cart taxi to take you as far as Las Nubes Hotel, and then walk just a bit before staking your place on the beach. Pack a picnic lunch and watch kite-boarders do their thing. Walk the sandbar. When you’re ready for a break from the beach, walk or bicycle back to town or your hotel for a dip in the pool, or call a taxi to take you back.

Punta Coco is another great spot for enjoying the beach, with access to kayaks and SUP, and mixed drinks! Hire a golf cart taxi here, or hop on a bicycle, as the walk is long on foot. Sunsets here are grand, plus this is a popular bioluminescent beach by night.

Beach Chairs and Shade: a smart traveler tip

If your hotel is not on the beach (like ours!), you will most likely have to pay to sit on shaded beach beds or loungers you’ll see on the way out to Punta Mosquito. Punta Mosquito itself is untouched and natural, so you’ll have to bring your own shade, beach chairs, and beach towels. At Punta Coco, you can pay to rent beach beds or plastic loungers.

Or be smart like my husband and, before you travel, order this light-weight Neso Tent Shade (about 4 lbs.), plus pack-and-carry Eno Lounger SL Chairs (3.5 pounds each) for this trip. No lie, we used them every day! That way, we were able to enjoy the beach wherever we felt like it.

Holbox Town Center

You’ll discover murals on sides of buildings throughout the unpaved streets and sandy lanes of Holbox. I will not show them all here because I want you to discover them for yourself. Your hotel will probably have a town map showing all of the locations of the murals. Embark on a self-guided walking street art tour one evening before dinner.

Shops also line the streets, where you can find fun souvenirs and mementos of your time in Holbox while supporting local families.

Yum Balaam Preserve Boat Excursion

One day, we hopped on a fishing boat for some simple line and hook fishing, followed by snorkeling and a stop at the Yum Balaam Preserve. The captain served up fresh ceviche (using the fish we just caught!) while we explored the quiet Preserve and found a baby mangrove tree! The fishing was our favorite, and the highlight of snorkeling was swimming above several sting rays. Unfortunately, we were not there during whale shark season.

hotel-para-ti-entrance

Where to stay in Holbox

Hotel Para Ti

If you’re looking to book an adults-only trip, a place near the town center, or you need a budget-friendly affordable stay that includes a lot of great amenities, then Hotel Para Ti is by far the place for you! And, they will help you book a private transfer from and to the Cancun airport.

Just two blocks walk from the beach and the town center, this boutique hotel boasts beautiful, clean rooms with perfect little balconies, morning coffee and small pastries, roof-top vistas and shaded lounging beds, and a sweet little pool with several hammocks and beds where you can be served the best afternoon Mojitos in the world. The owner hails from Cuba and claims that’s why her Mojitos are the real deal! The staff are super helpful and accomodating.

Villas HM Palapas Del Mar

If you’re bringing the family, want to be on the beach, and you’re looking for luxurious amenities, like your own private dipping pool and tiered all-inclusive dining options, then Villas HM Palapas Del Mar is where you want to be! This hotel with 52 suites is further out from the town center, but still within an easy walking distance. Here, you can get close to nature in a relaxed and exclusive atmosphere.

This is our first choice when we take our kiddos back. While on our mom-and-dad-only retreat in Holbox, we happened upon this small hotel on our walk back from Punta Mosquito and stopped in for a drink and an afternoon Mexicana Pizza. Many happy families were enjoying the pool with a swim-up bar and the many hammocks and comfy beach loungers leading out to the beach.

le-jardin-holbox

Where to eat in Holbox

Another thing to love about a vacation in Holbox is how affordable it is to eat good, authentic Mexican food. For two adults, we only spent about $10-$30 (USD) per meal, drinks and tip included (most often $15-$20 for two). We always tipped 20% because the service was fantastic and tourism is the main source of income for families living on the island.

  • Viva Zapata! - This ocean to table restaurant serves fantastic tacos and margaritas, plus live music. We ate dinner here our first and last night. Avenida Damero

  • Le Jardin Panaderia - Scrumptious breakfast served here from 8:30 am - 12:30 pm or earlier if they run out of food. Fabulous fruit plates, omelettes, fresh croissants and baguettes made on sight, coffee, and more! We visited here three times. Calle Lisa 2

  • Villa Palapas Del Mar Bar & Restaurant - Order the Mexicana Pizza for lunch, then order a drink at the swim-up bar while you wait. Calle Paseo Kuka

  • Las Panchas - Get the empanadas, tamalitos, and a mango-pineapple juice drink for breakfast. Cheap, good, and between the beach and town center. Calle Esmedregal

  • La Papalotes - If you love guacamole, you will come back to this place. Just one block from the town center, this restaurant also serves up fresh fish dinners and more from the grill. Avenida Damero

  • Raices Beach Club - If you’re on the beach, closer to town, stop here for cerveza and yummy ceviche served up with live music. Playa Norte

  • Tierra Mia - Great coffee. Better than Starbucks, which you won’t find on Holbox. Av Damero 310

  • Big Fish - Try the tostadas loaded with seafood and the guacamole is quite good here too. Along a side street, near town center. Calle Esmedregal

bicycles-rent

How to get to Holbox

We flew into the Cancun airport and arranged for a private transfer from there to our hotel. We simply told the hotel our flight times and they arranged all of the following. Once we were picked up from the airport (our driver was waiting just outside with our names on a sign), we had a two-hour drive to Chiquilá.

From Chiquilá, Isla Holbox is in sight! We hopped on a ferry called the Holbox Express, which runs daily from 6:00 to 21:30 every half hour. You can buy your tickets on the dock. Ours were handed to us by our driver. The ferry takes about 25-30 minutes. Once we reached Holbox, a golf cart taxi was waiting for us to take us straight to our hotel.

If you’re on a budget and feeling more adventurous, there is also an ADO bus that runs from Cancun to Chiquilá. You can learn more about the buses here.

Pesos and Credit Cards

You are wise to bring cash for spending money. Only a few places in Holbox take credit cards. Be prepared to pay in cash with pesos for most everything besides your hotel. If you need more pesos, there is an ATM on the town center (up the yellow stairs) on the second level from the street.

There are also two ATMs in town that dish out US Dollars. Many places will take US Dollars as well, just ask.

baby-mangrove-tree

Packing list for Holbox

  • 2-3 swimsuits

  • Swimsuit cover-up

  • Lightweight Turkish towel (dries quickly and sand shakes off easily)

  • Small backpack

  • Wide-brimmed hat / baseball hat

  • Tennis shoes

  • Sandals (Birkenstocks were great!)

  • T-shirts and shorts

  • Sundresses

  • Light jacket for evenings

  • Sunglasses

  • Book to read

  • Camera

  • Eco-friendly sunscreen

  • Eco-friendly bug spray

  • Snorkel gear if you prefer your own

  • Inexpensive swimming raft or ring for floating

  • Water bottle to refill with purified water only

  • TruNature Advanced Digestive Probiotics — safeguard your stomach from bacteria your body isn’t accustomed to

  • DiaResQ (Adult's Rapid Recovery Diarrhea Relief) — just in case you get too much of a bacteria that your body can’t handle!

  • LifeStraw Personal Water Filter - if you really want to play it safe!

  • Eno SL Lounger Chair for the beach (if not staying in a hotel on the beach)

  • Neso Tent Shade (if not staying on the beach)

why-holbox-mexico-should-be-next-vacation

Drinking Water and Other Tips

  • Always drink bottled water and brush your teeth with bottled water as well. If a restaurant serves a drink with ice, or water in a glass, make sure it is purified water.

  • Buy bottled water, Cokes, cheap beer and snacks before you head to the beach. Just pop into any of the small convenience stores.

  • If swimming with whale sharks is on your list, visit Holbox May through September. It will be hotter then, but I bet it’s worth it!

  • Ask for the taxi driver’s number or business card so you have access to call one, especially if you are hot and tired out at Punta Mosquito or Punta Coco.

  • Your hotel may have free bicycles! Otherwise, there are many vendors to rent from by the hour, half-day, or full-day.

  • If you are thinking of booking an excursion, there are several vendors on the beach. Compare prices. We liked Xplore for our fishing/snorkeling boating day.

  • Consider renting your own golf cart for the day via Rentadora 2 de Agosto.

  • There’s a park right in the center of town. And ice cream - or helados - everywhere.

  • Learn why else families love Isla Holbox for vacation from Kids Are A Trip.

Curious about more eco-friendly beach vacations? Check out Playa Junquillal, Costa Rica.

All photos in this post belong to Tanya Raedeke. Do not use without permission.

What else would you like to know about Holbox, Mexico? Reply below in the comments, or send me an email at tanya@radfamilytravel.com.

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