Isla Holbox has been the backpacker’s alternative to Cancun for decades – an artsy little island that time forgot. Now discerning travelers are coming to this little slice of paradise looking for upscale things to do in Holbox.
If you’re a traveler looking for a more authentic experience than an all-inclusive stay in the Cancun Hotel Zone, Isla Holbox may be for you. Keep reading If you crave amazing adventures like swimming with whale sharks, kayaking through mangroves, or splashing in a bioluminescent bay on a moonless night but prefer them with a side of luxury.
To reach Isla Holbox, you must take the ferry from Chiquila to Holbox. Chiquila is easily reached from Cancun by bus, car, or taxi. Once there, it’s a short, 20-minute ferry ride across a sheltered bay to reach this tropical paradise. Boats depart all day from 6:00 to 21:30, practically every half hour. Ferry tickets are reasonable and will cost you less than the taxi upcharge to reach the Cancun Hotel Zone.
Holbox has plenty of hostels and budget hotels, but this hand-curated selection is for the upscale traveler who believes paying a little extra for amenities, location and comfort is worth it. Even though these are the best hotels in Holbox, they’re still a bargain compared to similar properties up and down Riviera Maya. This Holbox guide is an extension of our ideas about finding the less touristy options in the Yucatan.
Restaurants in Holbox are as diverse as the people who call this island home. You’ll find traditional Mexican dishes as well as classic European and Mediterranean fare with plenty of fresh and healthy options. If you can’t decide, you could always try a taco tasting and cocktail tour or eight stop food tour.
Isla Holbox is famous for its tranquil island vibe and beautiful beaches. Holbox has six beaches, each one with a little different vibe.
Swimming with whale sharks should be on everybody’s eco-adventure bucket list, and Holbox is perhaps the best place in the world to do it because it has the largest concentration of whale sharks on the planet. Summer is whale shark season, especially from May to September. This is your chance to swim the largest fish in the ocean!
Boat tours are a fun and easy way to enjoy the island’s breathtaking scenery. They depart from the Muelle de Holbox (adjacent to the ferry) but might include hotel pickup. We have Viator and TripAdvisor options for you to shop.
There are sunrise, sunset, and daytime tours available, which leave from the near side of Playa Mosquito. These paddling trips take you along the sandbars and into the miles of channels through the Holbox mangrove reserve. You’ll get closer to the mangrove-dwelling creatures like flamingos, osprey, and pelicans than you would on a motorboat and feel connected to nature, as only human-powered travel can provide and go where bigger boats can not travel. Kayaking in Holbox is a mellow trip suitable for paddlers of all levels.
Would you like to trot along the beach and explore the mangroves on horseback? Guided horse rides let you see the island from a new perspective and cover more ground than you would on foot. They include all equipment, riding instructions, and a knowledgeable guide to show you the island’s secrets.
Horseback riding is the best way to see the Punta Mosquito flamingos without a boat.
The warm, calm Holbox waters give rise to one of nature’s most beautiful light shows – bioluminescent algae. Dinoflagellates are tiny marine algae that produce a bluish-green light when disturbed. They do this to expose the fish that feed on algae to predators. The bioluminescence peaks in spring and summer and is best observed on a moonless night, particularly after a good rain.
Warm tropical water and cool ocean breezes can make more than your spirits soar on Holbox. Kiteboarding schools offer everything from 3-hour courses to full IKO-certified courses. You’ll learn the basics on how to handle the kite and progress as quickly and safely as possible to sliding on the water and flying through the air.
Food is one of the best ways to appreciate cultures, and everybody loves a good Mexican dish. But nothing connects you to your surroundings like learning to cook a traditional meal. La Puerta Rosa offers morning and evening classes to get you chopping, spicing, and cooking fresh and flavorful dishes that will make your mouth water and your heart yearn for Mexico.
In 2014, the first International Festival of Art brought graffiti artists to Holbox. Their skills and vision brought even more color and flair to the island. Since then, they’ve returned yearly to continue bringing public art to this island paradise.
Everything on Earth is connected, and living on an island the size of Holbox makes that truth abundantly clear. The Refugio Holbox Animal Sanctuary rescues, cares for, and re-homes animals from Holbox and the surrounding area.
If you love animals and have ever felt bad seeing stray dogs and kittens on travel, you’ll appreciate this organization. However, you can do more than sending well wishes. The sanctuary welcomes visitors to get involved in loving and caring for the animals they have and helping with ongoing projects. Many people consider walking a rescue dog on a beach one of the highlights of their trip and the sanctuary has dog walking hours in the mornings for 9:00 – 11:00 and in the evenings from 5:30 to 7:30.
Holbox weather is one of the island’s greatest charms. Reading through activities in Holbox, you’ll notice that whale watching is from May through September and bioluminescence peaks in the spring and summer. That puts a window around May before the rainy season starts where bioluminescence and whale watching overlap.
May is the hottest time of the year, so you’ll enjoy splurging on a luxury hotel with ice-cold air conditioning and a beautiful pool. Swimming in the cool waters of the cenotes will also feel refreshing during the heat of the day. Every season has its charm in Holbox, from the whale sharks in the summer to the picture-perfect winter weather.
Some people are saying the best days of Holibox have passed. We disagree. The island is changing from a backpacker destination to a boutique travel center, perfect for discerning travelers. It’s still one of the less touristy options in Riviera Maya. You’re close to diving in Cancun and Chichen Itza but with an island vibe all its own.
On that subject, it’s possible to do some of the Holbox tours from Cancun and Playa Del Carmen, but why would you? You’ll miss out on what makes Holbox unique – sunrise paddles through the mangroves, sunsets at Punta Cocos, starlight twinkling over bioluminescent bays, and all the charming hotels and delicious food!
15 Things To Do in Holbox for Luxury Travelers
Holbox has been the backpacker’s alternative to Cancun for decades – an artsy little island that time forgot. Now discerning travelers are coming to this little slice of paradise looking for upscale things to do in Holbox. If you crave amazing adventures with a heaping side of luxury, this guide is for you!
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