If you want to escape the cluttered all-inclusive resort towns, but still enjoy a tropical vacation, let me suggest Traveling To Isla Holbox. Keep reading for all my suggestions on visiting the area.
Top 5 Reasons For Visiting Isla Holbox
- The beautiful blue/green waters. The island is surrounded by a long sandbars, so the water near shore is calm, gentle, and shallow. You really need to get pretty far out to get into rougher waters. I would feel very safe bringing young kids to this beach town.
- As of yet, it has not been overrun by tourists. In fact, we noticed that this area seems to be where many Mexicans vacation. Why does this matter? For us it matters because when we travel to a new country, we want to experience the culture of that country, not just the prettiest side they show in resort towns! Isla is the perfect blend of all of it. Also, I should note too, there are no chain restaraunts or cafes. It is all local!
- It is afforable. In the all-inclusive type towns, lodging is expensive, as are activities, and food. This is a very reasonable place to vacation.
- It has everything you could need. If you want to chill at the beach and relax your whole vacation, that is totally acceptable. Looking for some adventure sports, they have that too. Or maybe you love to do eco tours? Yes, they have that too.
- It is very small town. Almost everything is accessible with a few minutes of walking. I will explain more about this in a section below.
Is Isla Holbox Safe?
There was never a time I didn't feel safe in this area with my family. We were traveling as 2 women with my boys (the hubs called to work last minute before the trip).
We were out both late at all times, during the day, but also late nights and morning. I never had any concerns.
I would say you always need to be mindful of your surroundings and area, that is just common sense. But, this is a safe town.
Another thing to note is that while Spanish is the main language spoken here, we didn't have any problems navigating with our little Spanish. Google translate was the best.
How To Get To Isla Holbox
You cannot drive to the island. You have to come by boat or plane. This might feel stressful to you, but it was something we loved the most!
If you have a rental car, you will need to park in Chiquila. I think we paid about $20 pesos per day for our parking place. The parking places are on either side of the road, and although they look a little sketchy, I have never heard any complaints from other travelers.
Our rental car was just fine. My only recommendation would be to make sure you take everything out. No sense in tempting anyone to break in.
We came across on the Ferry. They have a great ferry system that is easy to purchase tickets for and travel on. There are actually 2 different ferries you can catch in Chiquila. They use the same route and are the same price. The only difference is one run on the hour and one on the half-hour.
The ferry ride across takes about 20-30 minutes. If it isn't too hot, it was fun to ride up top.
When you exit the taxi, there are tons of golf cart taxis lined up ready to take you where you need to know. Most drivers are at least partially bilingual.
Getting Around The Island
As mentioned above, there are very few cars on the island and most vehicles are work trucks. The main mode of transport is golf carts.
Also, as you can see in the photos, all the streets are dirt. There are no paved roads. I actually like this, but if it isn't your thing, keep it in mind.
There are golf cart rentals, but also TONS of golf cart taxis. We did not rent golf carts as there weren't any available each time we needed one. I think we were just trying during busy times.
Walking was our main mode of transport when we were there. It is really is such a small area, and most activities and restaurants are pretty close to each other. I also always overeat on vacation, I need the extra steps.
Tips For Vacationing In Isla Holbox
The main language spoken on the island is Spanish. We have very, very limited Spanish abilities, but still were able to do what we wanted to do with no problem. Google Translate was a great app to have on hand too though, it saved us a few times when we got stuck.
There are only a few ATMs on the island. There are plenty of places that accept credit cards, but also a lot that doesn't, remember it is a small non-touristy island.
We didn't have any issues, but I have heard plenty of people say sometimes the ATMs run out of cash.
So, make sure you come with cash on hand before arrival for meals, activities, etc.
How To Get To Isla Hobox From Other Parts Of Mexico
We had a rental car, so we just drove ourselves to Chiquila. By the way, Google Maps works great in all the areas we visited. Just make sure you start the trip in an area with service.
If you are not renting a car, I heard the bus systems work great in Mexico. You can easily pick up the ADO Bus from Cancun, Merida, or really anywhere else you are traveling from.
You can buy your tickets online, or in person at the bus depots.
What To Do In Isla Holbox
Okay, here are some activity recommendations we have. For starters, I am not going to link to companies here in the post. The reason for this, I found it was much less expensive to book the excursions and activities on the island.
If you like to plan, this might stress you out, if so, you can always book online. But, here are the price differences for example.
A 3-island boat tour, one of their most popular, was $80/per person, booked online. We had decided against it as it was too expensive, but when we got to the island, we found the same tour for about $20/person. That is a big difference!
How do you do this? Head down to the Playa Holbox, the main beach in Holbox. Walk down the street and you will see TONS of little storefronts with tour options.
I would go and visit with these people- all English speakers and all ready to make a deal. Make sure you get a bilingual guide if needed.
Here is what I recommend for activities:
- Bioluminescence Kayaking Tour- the island has the coolest Bioluminescence plankton. You can always walk down to the shoreline and see these, but I really felt they were best viewed a little further out in the kayak. There was something so magical about the clear dark sky covered in stars, shining down on the darkened water glowing with the tiny plankton. It was so cool! We spent about $15/person for this tour. You will actually get out of your kayaks for this, but don't freak out, the water was barely up to our knees.
- Kayaking- You can also rent kayaks during the daytime hours for exploring the waters around the island or even take the daytime tour through the mangroves. It is a great workout.
- Three Island Tour- This was one of our favorite things we did on the island. It lasts about 2 hours, and you cover a lot of ground! You will visit Isla Pasion, Isla Pájaros, and the cenote on Yalahau. Each location was beauitful and our captain and guide were awesome. We used a company run by Holbox Adventures. There are other boat tours as well- snorkeling, diving,etc.
- Horseback Riding- We did not do this, but plenty of people said they loved it.
- Swimming with whale sharks- This looked really cool and we would have loved to do it, unfortunately it was really expensive. I think it would be a great activity though.
- Kiteboarding- Isla is a great location for kiteboarding. Unfortunately we ran out of time for lessons. This is one that next time we would look into earlier to get in.
- Hanging at the beach- Just having a day to relax was also really nice. We did not get a beachfront hotel, we chose Coconut Cabanas in town as it was much more economical for us. What we did was go one day to Las Nubes. It is a beautiful hotel. You can rent an area on their beach with chair, hammocks, beds, etc. It costs $600 pesos/per person, but with that cost you get $500 pesos worth of food per person as well. So, it was a good deal for us. We got a killer beach view, and food for the price.
Where To Stay
We were on a budget, so our stay was in town. Coconuts Cabanas was perfect for us though. It was close to all the activities, restaurants, etc in town.
I like to decide what is most important to me when I am booking, in this case, it was the location, price, and reviews. Coconuts Cabanas hit all of them and we enjoyed our stay. I am not being paid to say this.
There are plenty of options to choose from though. I love to use booking.com, not an affiliate, it is just a simple service to use.
Where To Eat
Let me start by saying, Isla was not my favorite foodie destination. Maybe we were eating at the wrong places, but I only have 2 I can recommend.
The first is Roots Pizza. Lobster pizza is a thing on Isla and for good reason. It was delicious. We also loved the shrimp pizza as well though. For an app, go with the bruschetta. You won't' regret it.
Viva Zapata is also a restaurant we loved in Isla. They had a really great variety of foods, and every dish we ate was awesome. We got the queso fundido for an app, and tacos, etc.
Is Isla Worth Visiting?
Without a doubt, yes. Not only is the natural beauty of the area worth the trip, but so is the climate, people, and atmosphere.
I just hope it stays the way it is, we have plans to come back soon!