Holbox – Your Local Travel Guide to Mexico's Island Paradise
We almost skipped this section of the island after making a lengthy hike out to the sandbank and Punta Mosquito the previous day, but our jaws dropped when we reached the postcard perfect beach at Punta Cocos. On arrival, you will find the most gorgeous turquoise waters, swings, hammocks, sun loungers, and cold coconuts to quench your thirst. If we could only do one thing on Holbox, this would be it!
Overview – Located far from the crowds in Cancun just off the north coast of the Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, Holbox is sure to impress with it's slower pace of life, bohemian vibes, and friendly locals. It's long and thin, measuring 26-miles long by just 1-mile wide, with most of the island protected as part of the Yum Balam Biosphere Reserve. In addition to its amazing beaches, Holbox is perhaps best known for the whale sharks that arrive here each May to September to feed in these nutrient rich waters. You can organize a tour to swim with the whale sharks from a respectful distance as well! Not only is Holbox an adventurer's paradise, it's also a great place to simply relax.
Top 10 Things To Do in Holbox
Relax on the beach -Life slows down once you arrive on Holbox, and the beaches are the best place to relax. See below for our top picks of the best beach bars and clubs in Holbox! You'll also find beach vendors selling everything from massages to cold brews to coconuts.
Walk out to the sandbank -One of the top things to do in Holbox is to walk out to the sandbank at low tide. For a few minutes, it looks like people are walking on water from the main beach! It's another don't miss experience here.
Catch an amazing sunset -The best place to watch the sunset nightly is the main pier behind the Holbox letters. It's an extremely popular place to grab your beverage of choice, sit back and relax, and watch the sun go down.
Rent bikes and explore the island -A fun way to get to Playa Punta Cocos or closer to Punta Mosquito (you can't bike the whole way there) is to rent bikes. You'll find bike rental shops all over the island.
Discover street art in town -The abundance of beautiful street art is one of our favorite things about Mexico, and Holbox is no exception. We found some impressive examples in town, at our hotel, and even right on the beach.
Kayak through the mangroves -A great way to experience the incredible local flora and fauna in the Yum Balam Biosphere Reserve is to get up early and kayak through the mangroves. You'll spot tons of birds, including flamingoes, and other amazing wildlife!
Learn to kite surf -Holbox is one of the best places to learn to kite surf as the shallow waters are perfect for beginners. If you're not game to give it a try, it's still fun to watch the kite surfers from the sandbank near Punta Mosquito.
See the bioluminescence -Join a kayak and swim tour in the evening to see this incredible natural phenomenon where tiny organisms in the water light up at night. We were blown away the first time we experienced the bioluminescence!
Swim with the whale sharks -From May to September each year, whale sharks, the largest fish (and shark) in the sea, travel near Holbox to feed on plankton and reproduce. Your hotel can book a thoughtful operator locally for you.
Visit Playa Punta Cocos -It's worth mentioning again this don't miss experience in Holbox for that iconic beach experience you've no doubt seen in photos. It's also extremely popular at sunset.
When to go – Late November through April is when the weather is at its best with lower humidity and mostly sunny skies. For the best whale shark sightings, we recommend July and August.
Getting here – It takes a little planning and effort to get to Holbox, but the payoff is definitely worth it! You can take the luxury ADO bus from Cancun or Playa del Carmen like we did to Chiquilá, which is the departure point for the ferries.
Alternatively, you can fly, arrange a private transfer from Cancun airport, take a taxi or shuttle, or drive yourself.
If you decide to fly, it's definitely the quickest option but please note the prices start at between $400-500 USD per person, one way from Cancun and even more from Playa del Carmen and Merida. On the plus side, the small airport is within walking distance or a quick golf cart taxi to anywhere in Holbox.
You can also drive yourself to Chiquilá and we found tons of options for around 100 pesos or $5 USD per night for secured parking. We ended up with a little extra time on our hands before our ADO bus back to Playa del Carmen, so we walked the entire main strip and found Parking Los Delfines. This is where we will park when we return as it appears the best, most secure option to us.
For ferry tickets, there are two companies making the quick 20-minute crossing. You do not need to organize these in advance of your arrival in Chiquilá. We took 9 Hermanos on the way over to Holbox and then we took Holbox Express on the way back. Both were super fast, friendly, and efficient. Tickets are 220 pesos or $11 USD each way per adult. The ticket window is also only open at the departure area for the company operating the next ferry, and they are directly across from each other. The two companies also alternate departures so there are ferries every half hour from Chiquilá to Holbox from 6:00am to 9:30pm and then departing Holbox for Chiquilá from 5am to 8:30pm at the time of this writing.
Where to stay – In terms of the best hotels in Holbox, Hotel Para Ti, which in Spanish means 'hotel for you,' came highly recommended to us by two fabulous ladies in our Spanish class in Tulum. We are so glad we listened to them and gave it a try!
We stayed in Room Vida, a Superior King Room, with a spacious balcony and a view of both pools at this small boutique property. Our room came equipped with a hammock, king-size bed, and an ensuite bathroom with a lovely conch shell faucet and shower head. Breakfast was also included at the restaurant and bar which also offered a daily happy hour from 4-6pm. Specials included 2-4-1 margaritas and two beers plus guac for only 180 pesos or $9 USD. We definitely took advantage!
For the most luxurious and central beachfront option, Casa Las Tortugas is our favorite hotel. The hotel hired Casona, the best interior design firm in the Riviera Maya, and it shows. The rooms are all unique and include beachfront options. Casa Las Tortugas also offers a beautiful spa, two bars, and the Mandarina Beach Club and Seaside Restaurant which we absolutely loved for our first meal on Holbox. The hotel is also very popular with the LGBT+ community.
For the best new hotel on Holbox, we discovered Margaritaville St Somewhere which just opened a couple of months ago. As we were walking around the point by Punta Cocos, we saw white umbrellas and thought maybe we could find a nice cocktail. We had no idea what would be in store for us when we headed up the boardwalk from the beach! The signature margaritas were the best we had on Holbox and the service was also impeccable. Rooms that impressed us included both swim up pool options or those with your very own private plunge pool.
Where to eat and drink – We knew our first stop on Holbox had to be Mandarina Beach Club and Seaside Restaurant at Casa Las Tortugas. It’s definitely the most luxurious spot on the main beach in Holbox. Mandarina serves up delicious cocktails and food combined with cool breezes and spectacular views or the Gulf of Mexico. With this view, you would surely think you are next to the Caribbean Sea but surprisingly you are not.
For lunch at Mandarina, we ordered the mouthwatering Baja-style cauliflower tacos, hummus with eggplant, and grilled vegetables with a tasty aioli. To quench our thirst, we enjoyed a couple of margaritas as well.
Perhaps the most famous lunch or dinner spot on Holbox is Roots. It's hard to find anyone who has been to Holbox that has not enjoyed a pizza here, especially their signature lobster pizza. The pizza crust at Roots is super yummy and crunchy to boot.
Back at Casa Las Tortugas (or across the street actually), Luuma, the hotel's super popular bar and tapas venue, does not take reservations, so we recommend arriving early. It's definitely one of the best bars in Holbox.
For dinner and dancing afterwards, Salma is sexy, fun, and romantic all at the same time. At the entrance, you will find a few tables and a small bar, but for dinner, you definitely want to sit further back by the open kitchen to watch the magic. You can move to the front bar which gets busier later.
Where to find the best beach bars and clubs – On the main beach, Playa Holbox, we recommend Mandarina Beach Club or Mojito Beach Club for a fabulous day to relax under a palapa with full service. We're not sure why it wasn't busier, but we also had amazing drinks and service at the rooftop pool at Alma Bar. For a more rustic experience, hire loungers at Punta Cocos or walk around the point to the beach club at Margaritaville St Somewhere for the ultimate in beach, pool, restaurant, and bar indulgence.
Banking – There is one convenient CIBanco Branch & ATM on the main road leaving the Holbox Ferry Terminal in the direction of the beach. Please note we hear its frequently out of cash during high season, so it's best to come prepared! Most places we went accepted credit cards, but of course, not the beach vendors with their handmade local goods or Roots Pizza which was 'solo effectivo' or cash only.
For ATM withdrawals at many machines in Mexico, one thing to note which we learned the hard way last year when it was implemented: there will be an option to decline the conversion on the ATM, and you're going to want to decline this because you want your bank to process the foreign exchange. We thought this would cancel the transaction, BUT it does not and it saves you anywhere from 5-12% additional fee on top of the ATM use charge. INSANE! So definitely hit decline on that conversion at the ATM, and you'll get the best exchange rate.
Lastly, if you travel a ton like we do, look into the Schwab checking account where they reimburse all foreign ATM fees! We've saved thousands in ATM fees over the years with this account.
Covid testing – Most hotels will organize for you. Alternatively, there is a Covid testing facility directly across from the Holbox Ferry Terminal.
Latest Blog Posts
Gay Mexico City - Your Complete LGBTQ+ Travel Guide
For the best of Gay Mexico City, including the best hotels, where to eat, our top 10 things to do, and how to find the best gay nightlife, read on for our complete LGBTQ+ travel guide.
10 Best Gay Nude Beaches in the World
For the 10 best gay nude beaches in the world, join us as we take you on a journey around the globe to countdown ten of our favorites.
3 Best Gay Hotels in Puerto Vallarta
For the 3 best gay hotels in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico's gay beach capital, we have you covered from luxury to budget options. Read on to find your perfect stay in gay PV!
Gay Cancun – Your Complete LGBTQ+ Travel Guide
With dazzling beaches and incredible nightlife, Cancun ranks as one of the most visited international travel destinations in the world and is a top gay travel destination in Mexico.
Hi! We're Two Gay Expats
Hola amigos and welcome to our gay travel blog! We are Andy and Trai, a gay couple traveling the world with PRIDE 🌈 …and our rescue dog, Pattie!
After meeting in San Francisco in 2018 and later moving to Chicago, we decided to quit our jobs in 2021, sell everything, and become Two Gay Expats!
If you’d like to follow our adventures, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel and add us on social media using the links below. We’d also love to hear from you and meet up if we’re in your city!
❤️ Andy + Trai