Skip to content

Is Holbox Worth Visiting? What You Need To Know Before Booking

By Jessie Festa. This guide to visiting Holbox Island contains affiliate links to trusted partners!

Is Holbox worth visiting?

With so many worthwhile destinations along Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, most of which are easier to get to than Holbox, you may be wondering this yourself.

I pondered this while considering whether making the 2-hour drive to a 25-minute ferry was worth it, or if I’d be better off going somewhere easily drivable from Cancun Airport.

Luckily, if you’re wondering whether visiting Holbox Island is worth the trek, the following guide can help you decide.

As I’ve made the trip to Holbox myself, I’ll be providing an honest look at the pros and cons—while also sharing some important Isla Holbox tips that can make your travels more enjoyable.

Spoiler: I did have a great time on the island, though I think there are some important things to consider before booking, such as what month you’re looking to visit and how many days you’re working with.

I go over this in-depth below! Note that I’ll be using the words “Holbox”, “Isla Holbox”, and “Holbox Island” interchangeably, as they all refer to the same island in Mexico.

Short on time? My top recommendations for visiting Holbox Island Mexico include:

🏨 Hotel: Hotel Casa Bárbara Holbox. You can also click here for a Holbox map of the local hotels and vacation rentals.

🚗 Airport Transfer: Along with taking the ADO Bus (also bookable on BusBud), you can take a shared shuttle or a private shuttle

🗺️ Tours: Viator and GetYourGuide

📍Recommended Excursions:
Classic Three Island Tour
Isla Holbox Mangrove Kayaking Tour
Whale Shark & Snorkeling Adventure from Isla Holbox

🚶‍♀️ Getting Around: You can walk or bike to most of the main things to do on Holbox Island

🏥 Travel Insurance: SafetyWing (budget-friendly) & World Nomads (more comprehensive)

📞 Staying Connected: Airalo eSIM

Table of Contents

Free Resources For Visiting Holbox Island

But first, before we go over if Holbox is worth visiting, I invite you to grab my free Ultimate Travel Planning Kit—which includes 40+ travel resources from printables to quizzes to itineraries—all meant to help you explore the world beyond the guidebook!

Some highlights of the kit include:

  • Free “Where Should You Travel Next?” personality quiz
  • Budget travel calculators for vacations, road trips, backpacking & more
  • Pre-plotted Google Maps for 45+ destinations
  • Printable travel journal with writing prompts
  • Packing lists for different types of trips
  • And more!

Once you’ve grabbed your copy, keep reading for tips on deciding if Holbox Island is worth the trip.

Where Is Holbox Island Located?

Located in Quintana Roo, Mexico, Isla Holbox sits along the northern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula.

Separated from the mainland by a shallow lagoon filled with vibrant birdlife including flamingos and pelicans, the island is a serene escape.

In fact, it’s also part of the Yum Balam Biosphere Reserve, which is dedicated to preserving the rich biodiversity of the region’s diverse ecosystems—like coastal dunes, mangroves, and tropical forests—while also promoting sustainable development and eco-tourism initiatives.

This is part of the draw of visiting Isla Holbox, though we’ll touch on this more below!

sunset on Playa Holbox in Mexico
One reason to visit Holbox Island is the spectacular sunsets. Photo via Jessie Festa.

How To Get To Holbox Island

One of the main reasons why people ask “Is Isla Holbox worth visiting?” is because of how tedious it is to get to.

Unlike Cancun, which is a quick 30-minute drive from Cancun Airport, or Tulum and Playa del Carmen, which are farther but easily accessible by bus, you’ll need to put in more effort to reach Holbox Island.

While there are a few ways to get to Holbox, I recommend booking a shared shuttle or a private shuttle or taking the ADO bus to Chiquilá, where you’ll board a 25-minute ferry to Isla Holbox for 220 Mexican Pesos.

Ferries run about every 30 minutes until 9pm, though note they are frequently late. If you stay in the Holbox Island town center, you’ll be able to easily walk to your hotel from the ferry port.

Note: if the ADO Bus website isn’t working or if you want to book in English, you can also use BusBud to book tickets.

For a visual, here is a map showing where Holbox Island is in relation to Cancun Airport:

map showing where Holbox Island is compared to Cancun Airport

What Is Isla Holbox Like?

Isla Holbox is an island escape that blends tropical beauty with trendy vibes.

There’s no denying the influence of nearby Tulum in terms of the boho chic restaurants and beach clubs—many featuring Instagrammable seating and loads of macrame accents.

That being said, you can also relax on the beach, walk on a sandbar, kayak through mangroves, swim with manatees, and have other more tranquil experiences and natural adventures.

There is also a big wellness culture, with delicious vegan cafes, yoga classes, and spas—some of which are right on the beach.

Pro tip: for a dose of Mexican culture, sign up for a salsa class. I took one at Che Holbox Hostel & Bar!

Is Holbox Safe?

According to Travel Safe-Abroad, Holbox Island is safe and your risk of being the victim of a violent crime or scam is low—though do be aware of potential dangers with weather events like hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes.

Personally, I never felt unsafe while visiting Holbox. The island’s town center is also lively and well-lit, with many restaurants and bars staying open until 10pm or later.

woman walking on the sandbar at Mosquito Point in Holbox Island, Mexico
Enjoying the beauty of Isla Holbox. Photo via Jessie Festa.

Is Holbox Worth Visiting?

In all honesty, you’ll find very mixed Isla Holbox reviews online. For those who have visited in the past, it sounds like the island has lost a lot of that quiet, hidden gem feel.

However, as a first-time visitor with few expectations, I really loved my time on this walkable, (almost) car-free island.

There is plenty to do in terms of tours and activities, as well as plenty of coastline to explore and relax on—with soft sand and warm, translucent turquoise waters.

If you love aesthetic restaurants, there are loads of beautiful eateries, wine bars, and rooftops serving delicious food and drink, as well as more local spots. As you explore, you’ll pass loads of colorful street art.

Overall, I would recommend a trip to Holbox—though I highly suggest researching the best time to visit based on the activities you want to do. For instance, visiting during the rainy season or hurricane season can mean a very wet trip.

Additionally, I realize this trip might not be for everyone, so in the next sections we’ll look at the pros and cons of visiting Isla Holbox so you can truly answer the question “Is Holbox worth it for tourists?”

Reasons Why Visiting Holbox Island Is Worth It

There are many reasons why Holbox is worth visiting, like:

1. Holbox has a great food scene

No Isla Holbox travel guide would be complete without mentioning the food!

One of the best things to do on Holbox Island is eat, especially since it’s home to a wide array of delicious and beautiful restaurants—often with trendy interiors and a great ambiance.

Whether you’re looking for Mexican dishes like tacos and burritos or want to go international, you’ll have loads of options. Some of my favorite Holbox restaurants include:

  • Roots Pizza a la Leña, where you can get the famous Holbox Lobster Pizza
  • Barba Negra, which specializes in enormous shrimp and fish tacos
  • Arte Sano, which serves up creative vegan dishes in a hip outdoor space
a plate of fish and shrimp tacos at Barba Negra on Holbox Island, Mexico
A plate of shrimp and fish tacos from Barba Negra. Photo via Jessie Festa.

2. Holbox is safe

I felt completely safe exploring Holbox. While I went with friends, I’d say it’s a great place for solo travel in Mexico and I’d visit again on my own!

3. Holbox is budget-friendly

While I wouldn’t call it cheap, it was budget-friendly.

But, how expensive is Holbox? You can easily find meals for about $10-$20 USD, while group tours cost about $30-$60 USD.

Additionally, my room at Hotel Casa Bárbara Holbox was clean, comfortable, and cute and cost less than $100 USD a night for a private room!

4. You can enjoy vibey beach clubs

When it comes to what to do in Holbox, relaxing in the sun is a must. Luckily, there are some great Holbox beaches to explore.

This is especially true since these stretches of sand are home to plenty of hip beach clubs, particularly along Playa Holbox.

Personally, my favorite Holbox Island beach clubs include:

  • Mandarina. This upscale beach club is part of the Hotel Casa Las Tortugas and offers great service, delicious food, tasty wines, and plenty of beautiful seating—including near a fire pit.
    Capitán Capitán Beach Club. If you’re looking for a laid-back spot that feels more like a beach bar, this is a top option.
    La Playa de Ñaña. This Holbox beach club is fun, budget-friendly, and serves delicious tiki drinks.
Mandarina Beach Club on Playa Holbox in Mexico
Mandarina Beach Club. Photo via Jessie Festa.

5. You can have unique local adventures in Holbox

There are certain travel experiences you can’t have in many places, and Holbox Island is home to a few of these.

The main experiences I’m referring to include swimming with whale sharks and kayaking and snorkeling in bioluminescent waters.

Additionally, Holbox is a hotspot for kiteboarding due to the island’s consistent strong winds. You’ll see numerous places offering lessons along Playa Holbox, or you can book a kitesurfing lesson in advance here.

6. You’ll get to explore an important ecological reserve

As Holbox is also part of the Yum Balam Biosphere Reserve, you’ll have numerous opportunities to see unique and beautiful birds and other animals around the island.

One of my personal favorite sightings was seeing flamingos near Passion Island (Isla De La Pasión) during a Classic Three Island Tour.

Additionally, during an Isla Holbox Mangrove Kayaking Tour I saw lots of wildlife, including crocodiles!

woman sitting on a sandbar at Passion Island near Isla Holbox, Mexico
Enjoying the beauty of Passion Island. Photo via Jessie Festa.

7. Holbox is walkable

Who doesn’t love not having to spend a fortune on taxis and transportation to get around? In Holbox, you can walk to most of the main attractions—like the beaches—as well as the restaurants and nightlife.

For places that are a bit farther, many visitors choose to bike, opt for the local golf carts, or book a guided tour.

For instance, the Classic Three Island Tour takes you to Yalahau Lagoon, Mosquito Point (Punta Mosquito), and Passion Island (Isla De La Pasión).

At certain times of the year, you might also visit Bird Island (Isla Pájaros) instead of Punta Mosquito.

8. You can visit untouched places

While you’ll find plenty of people relaxing on Playa Holbox and walking the sandbar near Mosquito Point, it’s also possible to visit places that feel remote and untouched.

For instance, Cabo Catoche sits 15 miles east of Holbox in the spot where the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea meet.

You can book a boat trip to Cabo Catoche to enjoy snorkeling and diving vibrant reefs, spot wildlife such as dolphins and nurse sharks, and learn traditional fishing techniques that use a line without a pole.

Bonus: your fresh catch will be used to make a tasty ceviche lunch!

9. It’s easy to visit other Mexican destinations

Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is home to many beloved destinations. Even from Holbox, the ADO bus as well as public and private shuttles make it easy to visit places like Playa del Carmen, Cancun, and Tulum if you’d like to extend your travels in Mexico.

10. You can enjoy a variety of Holbox nightlife

For a more remote destination, Holbox Island nightlife impressed me.

Want to enjoy a glass of wine in a trendy lounge setting? Head to Lazaro Wine Bar.

Looking for a rooftop experience? Soulbox at Hotel Mittoz is the place.

Interested in partying on the beach until late? Dance into the morning hours at Bikini Bottom Holbox.

In short, whether you’re looking for beach bars, a chill upscale setting, to dance in the sand, or something else, you can find it on Holbox Island.

woman holding up a glass of wine at Lazaro Wine Bar on Holbox Island, Mexico
Having a drink at Lazaro Wine Bar. Photo via Jessie Festa.

Reasons Not To Visit Holbox Island

While I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Isla Holbox, here are some reasons tourists may want to avoid this Mexican island destination:

1. It’s tricky to get to

While I mentioned above that Holbox is well-connected to other Yucatán Peninsula destinations, it isn’t exactly easy to get to—especially when compared to other places.

Instead of simply hopping in a 30-minute taxi to get to Cancun or taking the bus an hour or two to Playa del Carmen or Tulum, you’ll need to travel two hours by vehicle before boarding a 25-minute ferry to the island.

Additionally, the ferry service ends at 9pm, which can be a big headache if your flight is delayed. This happened to me and was very stressful, though I ultimately made it in time to catch the last ferry.

2. The roads get washed out frequently

During the rainy season, particularly during the hurricane season, Holbox’s sandy roads can become washed out. While this typically isn’t the end of the world, it can make it more unpleasant to get around.

I actually experienced this issue when visiting during Holbox’s dry season in February, as they’d just had a very big and unexpected storm.

Despite visiting during the dry season in February, I still experienced washed-out roads. Photo via Jessie Festa.

3. Garbage can be a problem

Among other reasons, the island’s tourism has grown so rapidly that infrastructure hasn’t been able to keep up, leading to issues with pollution.

When visiting, it’s worth going beyond simply throwing your trash in the garbage. For instance, this could be a good trip to go plastic-free—such as swapping your mini shampoo bottle for a biodegradable shampoo bar.

4. Holbox can feel touristy

While I don’t mind touristy destinations, Holbox Island very much feels like a trendy destination that caters to tourists.

With this in mind, it can be worth seeking out more local and cultural experiences—like a cooking class with La Puerta Rosa or a salsa class at Che Holbox Hostel & Bar.

Additionally, I asked my friend and local Holbox tour guide, Willy of @from_Holbox, what his favorite local restaurants are. He suggests Tacos Santiago, La Barracuda, and Taquería Mateo.

5. Sargassum can be an issue

While the sargassum in Holbox is nothing compared to how bad it gets in Cancun and Tulum, the smelly seaweed still lines the beach at certain times of the year.

When I visited there was some, but I was able to easily walk over it to get into the warm, turquoise waters.

While sargassum seaweed levels fluctuate, consider visiting June through September for clearer waters.

sargassum along Playa Holbox on Holbox Island, Mexico
Seaweed along Playa Holbox. Photo via Jessie Festa.

6. It doesn’t feel as remote as you’d think

While it takes almost three hours to reach, you’ll likely still find that it’s relatively crowded, especially if you visit during the high season from December to April.

This may not bother some people; however, as Holbox is often described as a “laid-back island paradise” you may be picturing a quieter island.

How Long To Stay In Holbox Island

Because Holbox takes extra effort to reach, I recommend spending at least four nights.

If you can spend a week there, even better—though do check to see what tours and activities you want to do to map out how many days you’re filling. Personally, I think at least two full beach days is a good idea.

woman swimming in clear turquoise waters from Holbox Island, Mexico
Leave time in your Holbox itinerary to enjoy the warm turquoise waters. Photo via Jessie Festa.

Best Time To Visit Holbox Island

When deciding if Holbox is worth visiting, the month you decide to go will play a huge factor. Because while Holbox Island is a year-round destination, not all seasons are created equal.

June-September

In my opinion, this is the best time to visit Isla Holbox thanks to the sunny weather and comfortable temperatures—not to mention this coincides with whale shark season.

If you’re worried that seaweed will ruin your trip to Holbox, this is also when the island typically sees clearer waters, though this can change year to year.

If you do visit Holbox Island during this time, just be aware that it’s also hurricane season in the Caribbean, so you’re more likely to encounter rain and storms.

That being said, the tradeoff tends to be more flight deals, cheaper hotels, and fewer crowds.

December-April

As the weather is drier, this is Isla Holbox’s high season, meaning you’ll see more tourists and will pay more for your trip.

That being said, I visited Holbox in February and have had a great time—though I was disappointed to miss out on swimming with whale sharks.

There was also some sargassum, but not enough to ruin the trip. It was actually pretty easy to step over it to get to the clearer part of the water.

kayaks at Mosquito Point in Isla Holbox, Mexico
Seaweed on the beach on Isla Holbox. Photo via Jessie Festa.

Tips For Visiting Holbox Island

To help you have a great trip to Holbox, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Get cash at Cancun Airport. While there are ATMs on Isla Holbox, they are occasionally out of service, which can also make the lines for them longer when they do work.

2. Be particular about when you go. Holbox Island is a beach destination with seasonal activities, so not every month is created equal.

Tip: Consider visiting during the shoulder months of November or May, or planning your trip around your preferred activities, like visiting in July or August if swimming with whale sharks is important to you.

3. Book your shuttle back when on the island. While I loved having a private shuttle to get there, the public shuttle was perfectly fine for the way back. You can easily book this at one of the many transportation booths on the island.

4. Avoid single-use plastics. This is a good idea for any trip, though it’s especially important when visiting an island that is also a natural reserve.

5. Pack mosquito repellent. Mosquitos can be an issue on Holbox Island, so bring repellent—especially if visiting during the rainy season when they are more prevalent.

woman walking Playa Holbox at sunset
Walking Playa Holbox at sunset was one of my favorite activities. Photo via Jessie Festa.

Best Holbox Island Tours

One of the best ways to have fun in Holbox while learning about the island is to book top-rated local tours like:

➡️ Click here for a full list of top-rated tours on Holbox Island!

Where To Stay On Holbox Island

Best areas to stay in Holbox

The two main areas to stay in Holbox are:

  • Holbox Town, which is like a small city with restaurants, bars, rooftops, and shops
  • Playa Holbox, which allows you to stay right on the beach

Holbox Town is walkable to Playa Holbox, though note if you stay on the far west of Playa Holbox it’ll be at least a 30-minute walk to Holbox Town.

Recommended Holbox hotels

🏨 Hotel Casa Bárbara Holbox. I loved this budget-friendly and tropical boutique hotel, which featured comfortable rooms, free WiFi, an outdoor pool, inclusive breakfast, and beautiful outdoor spaces with plants and hammocks to hang out.

🏨 Hotel Casa Las Tortugas. Situated on the beach but also a short walk to the town, this luxury hotel offers the perfect location. Plus, along with beautiful rooms, you’ll have access to loads of amenities like an infinity pool, a sumptuous spa, and numerous delicious restaurants to choose from.

outdoor pool at Hotel Casa Las Tortugas on Holbox Island, Mexico
Hotel Casa Las Tortugas. Photo via Jessie Festa.

Holbox vs Other Yucatan Destinations

Isla Holbox vs Isla Mujeres

One question that consistently comes up is whether travelers should visit Holbox Island or Isla Mujeres.

I’ve visited both, and while each offers beautiful beaches and warm waters, I found Isla Mujeres to have much more of a party vibe—almost to an over-the-top extent, at least in my opinion.

While you can certainly party and have a good time on Holbox, it’s more about beach clubs and bird-watching than bachelor and bachelorette parties.

Isla Holbox vs Playa del Carmen

When compared to Playa del Carmen, Isla Holbox offers a quieter and less developed setting. You’ll find a lot more to do in Playa del Carmen and there are also many all-inclusive resorts if you want that experience.

However, if you want a laid-back island vibe over something more bustling, Holbox is the way to go.

Isla Holbox vs Tulum

Tulum is known for its ancient ruins overlooking the Caribbean Sea and a trendy beachfront scene, while Isla Holbox offers a more rustic and off-the-beaten-path experience with fewer crowds.

Also note that while Mexican beaches are supposed to be public and free, the pricey beachfront resorts and beach clubs in Tulum have made it nearly impossible to just walk onto the sand due to their tall gates and security guards.

Additionally, unlike Holbox which is very walkable, it’s tricky to get between the town and the beach in Tulum, and you’ll likely end up spending a lot of money on pricey cabs and sitting in a lot of traffic.

Isla Holbox vs Cancun

While both offer access to stunning beaches and water activities, Cancun is a bustling tourist hub with loads of enormous all-inclusive resorts and a loud and crazy nightlife district with blaring clubs and people dressed up as The Mask on the sidewalk outside of Coco Bongo.

You’ll find more options for things to do near Cancun, though it’s a place that feels 100% made for tourists, particularly in the Hotel Zone. If you’re looking for a quieter and more eco-conscious experience, Holbox is the better choice.

Holbox Island port with boats docked and birds flying above
Holbox Island port. Photo via Jessie Festa.

Holbox Island Travel Insurance

When visiting Holbox Island—or anywhere else in the world—it’s wise to get travel insurance.

For this, I have two recommendations:

SafetyWing. If you’re looking for something straightforward and budget-friendly, you can’t beat SafetyWing. They offer one global policy that you can cancel at any time or continue paying for long-term coverage (making it the perfect option for digital nomads!).

Their plan includes medical coverage, trip interruptions, personal liability, unplanned overnight stays, lost luggage, and more.

World Nomads. For something more comprehensive, World Nomads is a great option. While you’ll pay a bit more, you’ll typically get higher coverage maximums as well as additional inclusions—like trip cancellation.

For this, I have two recommendations:

SafetyWing. If you’re looking for something straightforward and budget-friendly, you can’t beat SafetyWing. They offer one global policy that you can cancel at any time or continue paying for long-term coverage (making it the perfect option for digital nomads!).

Their plan includes medical coverage, trip interruptions, personal liability, unplanned overnight stays, lost luggage, and more.

World Nomads. For something more comprehensive, World Nomads is a great option. While you’ll pay a bit more, you’ll typically get higher coverage maximums as well as additional inclusions—like trip cancellation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting Isla Holbox

Now that we’ve answered the question “Is Isla Holbox worth visiting?” let’s go over some other frequently asked questions about visiting Holbox Island.

Q) Is Holbox walkable?

Yes, the island is home to a walkable town near the main Playa Holbox beach. To get to farther places, you to bike, take a golf cart, or book a tour.

Sleepy dogs in the sandy streets of Holbox Town on Isla Holbox, Mexico
Sleepy dogs in the sandy streets of Holbox Town. Photo via Jessie Festa.

Q) Why is Isla Holbox famous?

Isla Holbox is known for its beautiful beaches, trendy restaurants, and location within the Yum Balam Nature Reserve—which also allows for some amazing bird-watching and wildlife spotting.

Holbox is also home to unique experiences like kayaking through bioluminescent waters and swimming with whale sharks.

Q) Is Holbox cash only?

Most establishments accept credit cards, though not all, so it’s wise to carry cash. Plus, you can often score discounts on dining and tours when you pay in cash.

Q) Is Holbox expensive?

While it may be expensive compared to certain Mexican destinations, I found it to be cheaper than Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen.

Q) Is the water in Holbox clear?

Yes, the water in Holbox is a beautiful translucent turquoise color. You’ll experience the clearest waters during the dry season from December to April.

Q) What is better Tulum or Holbox?

While it depends on personal preference, I would say Holbox is better as it’s more budget-friendly, less commercialized, and has easier public beach access.

Q) What is better Cancun or Holbox?

If you’re looking for a Mexico all-inclusive experience or loads of nightlife, opt for Cancun. If you want something more laid-back, choose Holbox Island.

palm trees along Playa Holbox on Isla Holbox, Mexico
Palm trees on Playa Holbox. Photo via Jessie Festa.

Q) Is Holbox a party island?

While Holbox has nightlife options, you’ll find Mexican destinations like Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum to have more of a party culture.

Q) Is Holbox safe at night?

Holbox is generally safe at night, but it’s always wise to take standard precautions and avoid walking alone in poorly lit areas. I also always travel with these safety essentials.

Final Thoughts: Is Holbox Worth It For Tourists? Final Thoughts

While I loved my time visiting Holbox, the Mexican island destination may not be for everyone.

If you decide to go, I highly recommend planning your trip around the seasons as well as the activities you want to do, like swimming with whale sharks. This will help you have the best experience possible.

And if you do decide to go to Holbox Island, make sure to check out:

Is Holbox worth visiting? Share your thoughts below!

Jessie Festa standing in front of grafitti wall

Hi, I’m Jessie on a journey!

I'm a conscious solo traveler on a mission to take you beyond the guidebook to inspire you to live your best life through travel. Come join me!

Blogging Courses

Want to live your best life through travel?

Subscribe for FREE access to my library of fun blogging worksheets and learn how to get paid to travel more!

.

Leave a Comment