A Quick Guide to Holbox

A guide to Isla Holbox: the tiny island off Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula

WHERE — Holbox, Mexico
PHOTOGRAPHY — Jessie Bush and Sam Flaherty on 35mm

Where to stay, eat, swim, explore and then eat some more on the idyllic island of Holbox.

 

Isla Holbox is a teeny tiny island north of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula that encapsulates pretty much everything you think of when you imagine a Mexican oasis. Small hotels that open directly onto white sand beaches, with nothing but idyllic turquoise waters stretching as far as the eye can see. Friendly locals serving up authentic home-cooked Mexican food. And then to make it feel even more like you’re on island time, Holbox doesn’t actually have any cars (or paved roads). Locals get around on quad bikes, whilst tourists explore on bicycles. Yep, it’s pretty much heaven.

 

HOW TO GET THERE

Like any island, getting there requires multiple modes of transport and is a bit of a shlep. Obviously a very worthwhile shelp – but you’d want to go for at least 4 full days to make the travel worth it.

After flying into Cancun you can book a driver who will pick you up from the airport and take you to the ferry at Chiquila. The drive usually takes around 3+ hours (even though Google says 2), and there are plenty of services available online that offer car-share to keep the costs down. Then once you arrive at Chiquila, you need to take the ferry across to Holbox, which takes half an hour. The important part to factor in is that the last ferry runs at 8.30pm. So if you’re flight lands any time after 4ish, you’ll need to stay the night in Cancun and head off in the morning.

WHERE TO STAY

Whilst Tulum is lined with uber chic, gram-worthy hotels, Holbox has a much more colourful, bohemian feel. One thing I would say is that you come to Holbox for island living; to stay right on the beach and never put on any shoes. So whatever hotel you do opt for, defintely go with one right on the beachfront.

We stayed at Casa Las Tortugas in one of the beachfront rooms and it could not have been more perfect. They may just have the best spot on the beach, plus the resturant could honestly do no wrong. Would recommend to anyone in a heartbeat, which I think is pretty rare; usually we all have one or two things we wish a hotel did differently.

WHERE TO EAT

One of the few fancier spots on the island is LUUMA – although when I say fancy, the floor is sand and there’s no roof, so it’s hardly pretentious. I guess what makes it fancy is that you often need a booking for dinner, but more importantly, the food is incredible and definitely worth booking for.

Another favourite spot of ours was Barba Negra which is an open air street food market, where you can order from a few different spots and then find a table to have a beer while you wait for your food to be ready. The best option is by far the tacos (obviously) – easily some of the best tacos I’ve ever had. 100% recommend.

WHAT TO DO

Holbox is the kind of place where you go to relax, and essentially do very little but read your book, swim, and walk along the beach. So there’s no need to make an itinerary.

But do hire a bike – sure, biking in sand on salt-rusted wheels is hard, but that’s half the fun.

And you can use your bike (or grab a ride on a quad bike) in the evening and bike out to see the phosphorus. There’s a point on the island where there’s a lot of phosphorus, so you can splash around whilst the sea lights up around you which is pretty otherwordly.

The water is (obviously) incredible, so if you fancy you can hire anything from a little fishermans boat to a catamaran (which in true Holbox style is also very low-key) to head out for a day on the water, and hopefully spot some flamingos if it’s the right time of year.

You can also head out to Holbox’s only cenote, Yalahau Lagoon. Sure, it’s not as impressive as some of the epic cenote’s near Tulum, but the water is fresh, clear and beautiful.

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