This upcoming weekend, we’re escaping the hustle and bustle of Playa del Carmen and Cancun and visiting a small island on the Gulf of Mexico. Holbox Island is located just at the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, surrounded by beautiful blue waters. With a no-cars-allowed policy and offering golf carts to move around, this beautiful and magical island make for a perfect weekend getaway. Are you ready? Let’s get moving!
How to Get to Holbox
Holbox is an island located in the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, technically belonging to the state of Quintana Roo. However, due to its northern location, it is no longer the Caribbean, but rather the Gulf of Mexico. To get to Holbox is quite easy if you have a car. From Playa del Carmen you must take the new Merida highway, which will cost you $107 Mexican pesos. Follow the signs that say Chiquila – you’ll be driving straight. It will take approximately two and a half hours to reach the port of Chiquila.
Once in Chiquila, you will find many parking options. Most of them will charge a $100 Mexican pesos fee to keep your car for 24 hours. Once you’ve parked, you will need to walk towards the ferry. This will take you a couple of minutes. You can expect to pay $300 mxn for the round-trip ticket. The ferry ride takes about 20 minutes each way. Ferries run every half an hour from 6am to 9:30pm.
Where to Stay
Holbox is a very small island offering different boutique-style hotels. You can find from small one-room spaces listed on Airbnb to slightly larger, more luxurious hotels. You will not find big-brand names nor all-inclusive resorts on the island. Homeowners often rent out properties here for days, weeks or even months, for anyone wanting to go for more than a weekend getaway. The island is quite small, which means that a centrally-located accommodations are only 3 blocks from the ferry and 3 blocks from the beach on the other side. There are certain more laidback and less-populated areas in the island, also lined with more luxurious hotels.
If you’re staying at a central location, you can quickly reach other areas by renting a golf cart or taking a golf cart cab for $40 mxn. It takes minutes to get from one point to another. Staying at the central areas is better for those looking to be within walking distance to the main square and the main street with shops, restaurants and bars.
What to Do in Holbox
There are many things to do in this charming island. From visiting the endless sand banks near Mantarraya to walking by the little shops and restaurants, the options are many. During the summer season, you can take beautiful and natural tours to see the migrating whale sharks who swim by the island. These gentle giants of the ocean are a sight not to be missed, slowly gliding through the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and making their way down to the Caribbean.
During the day, you can visit one of the many sand banks where you can walk for miles in shallow clear waters. You can visit the Mantarraya beach restaurant to enjoy hammocks in the ocean under letters that spell out Holbox. We highly recommend you also check out the bioluminescence tours, where microorganisms in the ocean react to movement by lighting up. This is done at night and costs approximately $250 mxn per person. Bathe in the warm waters while tiny plankton light up creating amazing starred-like shapes in the ocean.
There are also other tours you can take to snorkel in certain parts around the island. As soon as you get off the ferry, many vendors will approach you offering accommodation, taxis and tours. However, the best thing to do in Holbox is lay your towel down and sunbathe.
Shopping and Eating
Because Holbox is such a small island, there are not many options for shopping or eating. There is a main street lined with delicious little restaurants ready to serve up breakfast, lunch and dinner at very accessible prices. If you head onto the other side of the island where the sand banks are, you will find an array of beach restaurants offering fresh fish and other local delicacies.
For shopping, the main street is where you will find the most shops. There are many locally-sourced shops selling souvenirs and other cute crafts perfect to take home as a reminder of your weekend getaway. Most things in Holbox are quite affordable in comparison to big restaurants in Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Although some range slightly higher. Make sure you visit Mantarraya Restaurant for a delicious fresh mixed ceviche to share.
Holbox requires driving and a ferry. So, if you’re visiting from Cancun or Playa del Carmen you should definitely head out early in order to be able to enjoy the day at the beach. We recommend you get on the road around 9 or 10am to be reaching the island around 1pm. That way you can enjoy the afternoon and the next morning there.
Bring cash with you. Not many places on the island accept credit or debit cards. Although there are some ATMs (such as Banamex) on the island, it is best to have cash with you. Bring Mexican pesos to avoid high exchange rates and prices. Plan your activities in advance – especially if you’re taking tours. That way you know how long it will take you to go from one place to the other to not miss out on anything you want to do.
To move around, rent a golf cart. You can rent one for 24 hours for $1,500 mxn. You can use this to explore places on the island you would otherwise need to pay a cab to see. Renting a golf cart will give you the freedom to move around and go wherever you wish at your own time.
Most importantly, bring an open mind and be ready to live experiences you can only imagine. Enjoy the laidback lifestyle of the island, the clear waters and the shining sun. There really isn’t another island quite like Holbox.