The Complete Guide To Isla Holbox
If you are looking for an island where the wifi is weak and the tequila is strong, Isla Holbox is the destination for you!
Isla Holbox (pronounced is-la hole-bosch) is located just off the north coast Yucatán Peninsula, nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Only 26 miles long by 0.9 miles wide, this tiny piece of paradise is being dubbed the "new Tulum" and when you see our snapshots you will understand why.
Let's kick back, relax and explore this hidden gem together...
MEXICO TRAVEL ADVISORY:
• Mexico is open to travelers. The land border between the US and Mexico is closed for nonessential travel but air travel is allowed.
• There is no need to provide a negative PCR test or quarantine on arrival.
• The CDC advises travelers to be fully vaccinated before traveling to Mexico.
• Travelers to the country must complete a health declaration form and scan the QR code it generates on arrival.
• American travelers need a negative Covid-19 test result taken 72 hours or less before travel to return to the US.
HOW TO GET THERE:
We took a flight from Oklahoma City (OKC) to Cancun, Mexico (CUN) with Southwest, stopping for a brief layover in Houston, Texas. Cancun is a popular destination and is accessible from many USA and international airports including:
• Los Angeles LAX
• San Francisco SFO
• Dallas DFW
• New York JFK
• Newark EWR
• Orlando ORD
• Miami MIA
• Boston BOS
• London LHR
• Paris CDG
From Cancun we had the choice to take either a plane to Holbox or a bus or taxi to Chiquila, the gateway to Isla Holbox. We opted to take a private taxi which took 2 hours.
Once in Chiquila we boarded a ferry to the island and arrived in 20 mins. The ferry cost $18 per person for a one way ticket and the service runs daily every 30 minutes between 5am and 8.30pm.
• Adults & Children over 4 feet: $220 pesos
• Children under 4 feet: $100 pesos
• Children under 2: Free
As you can see, it can take quite some time to reach Isla Holbox but trust us, it's most definitely worth it!
WHERE TO STAY:
Although the island is small, there is no shortage of accommodations to choose from. Isla Holbox has a great selection of places to stay for every traveler no matter your budget. Here's a few of our best recommendations.
On our most recent visit to Isla Holbox we had the pleasure of staying at CASA IMOX.
A luxury private villa located between the beach and the mangroves, with the most impressive windows we've ever seen!
The floor to ceiling windows allow the light to beam in making you feel like you're immersed in the surrounding nature.
This property is located just a few minutes away from the main beach and a short stroll from the town and after a day of sight-seeing you can kick back and relax in the cute plunge pool.
Use the code: THESALTLIFEFAMILY to get discount on your stay at Casa Imox.
Soho Boutique Holbox - $60 USD on average per night
This adults-only boutique property is located in the center of the island with a courtyard pool and smaller one on the rooftop boasting amazing views. There is complimentary wifi throughout the property. The rooms are clean and spacious and exceptional value for money.
Mystique Holbox by Royalton - $200 on average per night
This contemporary boutique resort is located right on the beachfront making it the perfect choice for those looking to indulge without breaking the bank. Each of the 38 environmentally-friendly and beautiful rooms are tastefully decorated and inspired by pastoral tropical design.
Aldea Kuka - $630 on average per night
Luxurious private bungalows located on the beachfront where you can enjoy amenities that include two restaurants, spa services, gym, tourist information, daily cleaning, transportation services, tours and much more. Combining Isla Holbox’s intoxicating beauty and laidback, take-it-easy nature makes for a fun and authentic stay – for families too, who’ll appreciate the on-site playroom and safe-for-paddling beach.
We chose to stay at Mystique Holbox by Royalton on our first trip and absolutely loved it!
The amazing staff gave us the warmest welcome and went above and beyond to be hospitable. The hotel itself had great cleaning measures in place and the rapid Covid test is included in your stay. It's super convenient as the doctor came direct to our hotel room to give us the test and we received our results via email the next morning.
We had such an amazing time staying here and would highly recommend it to all our friends.
WHERE TO EAT:
There's no chain restaurants on the island which means there's a plethora of local cafes, brunch spots, taco shacks and fine dining options to choose from instead.
We were completely spoiled for choice but here's a quick run down of our favorite places to eat and top menu recommendations.
Painapol Holbox - This vegan friendly breakfast and brunch spot is a must! They are known for serving up healthy smoothie bowls and the best coffee. We tried the avocado toast, acai bowl and their freshly squeezed fruit juices.
Kukatch - Fresh catches are grilled up throughout the day, alongside generously heaped nachos and other light bites, and they serve a great breakfast too. We ordered the delicious French toast and the Chilaquiles were to die for!
Le Jardin - This cute French bakery is the place to be if you want freshly baked croissants and pastries.
Roots - This unique and colorful Pizza parlor where the cracking of blazing red fire-wood slowly blend multiple ingredients into a perfect harmony of smoky flavors. Famous for Holbox Island’s most representative dish the “Lobster Pizza”.
Las Nubes - If you are looking for a unique meal with an incredible view, this is the spot for you. We tried the hummus appetizer and delicious authentic beef tacos.
Fresco Bar & Grill - This barefoot beach bar and restaurant serves up bright flavors with the finest ingredients - from healthy smoothies to grilled specialties. The Auga Chile, lobster pizza and shrimp pasta were our personal favorites.
Luuma - Described as a magical oasis, this modern boho-chic bar and restaurant captures the laid-back spirit of the island. The shrimp empanada, the incredible meat board and the decadent Choco Blue dessert are a must!
Capitán Capitán - This beach club is all about the good vibes which is exactly what you want when you are on vacation right? They serve a good mix of dinner and drinks and the staff are super friendly.
Mandarina Seaside Restaurant - The smell of the freshly baked bread and view of the ocean will draw you to this seafront fine-dining restaurant. We feasted on Huitlacoche Brioche, a traditional French bread filled with mushrooms and parmesan cheese, and the Rib Eye Steak which was cooked to perfection.
Salma - This contemporary tavern is described as a fire kitchen and mystical pirate bar. We loved the ambience here and everything that came out of the wood-fired grill smelled divine! We tried the Smoked Beet Salad & Wood Fired Skirt Steak and both dishes did not disappoint!
Swimming with whale sharks - This has been on our bucket list for a really long time and we can honestly say it was totally worth the wait! Getting up close and personal with these majestic creatures was an experience that we will treasure forever.
We went on guided tours with Elguia De Holbox and Denso Garcia. Both spoke English and were very knowledgeable and followed all the regulations to keep us and the whale sharks safe.
Each boat trip lasted around 7 - 8 hours. It takes approximately 2 - 3 hours to find the whale sharks and we did 2 - 3 swims on each boat trip.
Whale shark season runs from June 1 to September 16 in Isla Holbox so keep this in mind when booking your trip.
Bioluminescent Tour - Our guide, Willy Rosado was amazing! He told us all about this incredible phenomenon that occurs in the southern beaches of the island. It can be observed when there is no moonlight at night and gets so bright that you can even see the fishes swimming in the water. Due to this phenomenon only being visible on certain nights, make sure you check when there will be no moonlight before booking your tour.
Isla Holbox is car-free which means no traffic jams or pollution here!
So you may now be wondering how exactly we got around?... By golf cart of course!
You can hire either a golf cart for around $7 per hour, a scooter or the most eco-friendly way; bicycle.
We highly recommend the golf cart mode of transport as you can really explore every inch of the island and driving along the sandy roads is pretty fun too!
THINGS TO SEE AND DO:
• Experience the bioluminescent phytoplankton
• Swim with whale sharks (June - September)
• Admire the murals and colorful street art
• Visit the Ecological Reserve Yum Balam
• Stroll along the sand bars at low tide
• Take a 3 island tour with My Holbox Tours – includes swimming in Yalahau Cenote
• Kite Surfing on the Northern Shores (just watching is fun too)
• Kayak through the mangroves
• Take a day trip to Cabo Catoche - with My Holbox Tours
BEST BEACH BARS:
Las Nubes de Holbox is a MUST! For only $36 you can purchase a day pass which includes a $30 credit towards food and beverages.
We spent the entire day just lounging around, relaxing in our very own private cabana with beach bed, feasted on a two course lunch plus drank three cocktails each and we only spent the grand total of $87 USD!
If you want to watch a magical sunset from a rooftop pool bar... Alma Bar is the place to be! It costs only $12 to rent a bed for the day. The views are incredible, the atmosphere is laid back and the cocktails taste even better when sipping them while lounging in a hammock!
Our daily spend varied during our trip but here's a breakdown of the average price per person per day.
• Food - $18
• Beach - FREE
• Golf Cart Rental - $70 (10 hours)
• Street Art - FREE
• Happy Hour - $36
• Sunset - FREE
• Hotel - $92
• Quality Time Together - Priceless
TOP TIPS AND FUN FACTS:
• The best time to witness the bioluminescence is between late March and December as this is when it's at it's brightest. Avoid full moon nights as the darker the sky the more visible it is.
• You don't need a license to drive the golf carts.
• The local currency is Mexican Pesos (MXN) 100 MXN = $5 USD
• There are no paved roads on the island. Only sand/dirt roads.
• The island is separated from the mainland by a shallow lagoon which is home to pelicans and flamingos.
• The name Holbox translates as Black Hole.
If you want to go off-grid and truly unwind, Mexico's best-kept secret, Isla Holbox is the place for you! Our advice is if you want to experience a quintessential island paradise that still has the charm of a "sleepy fishing village", go there NOW before this place gets taken over by mass tourism... Hopefully this won't happen but you just never know!
Will you be adding Isla Holbox to your bucket list?
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