Tips for an effortless trip to Isla Holbox

tips for an effortless trip to Isla Holbox

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Thinking about coming to Isla Holbox?  Our article writes about some great places to eat and activities we did whilst on the island. Tips for an effortless trip to Isla Holbox.

Isla Holbox is a small island at the northern most tip of the Yucatan Peninsula.  Travel by ferry to reach this stunning island to enjoy its wildlife, incredible food and chilled vibe.  Spend your days on the beach, pottering around the island in golf buggies or relaxing in a hammock and enjoying the spectacular sunsets.  Isla Holbox has something for everyone.

How to get there?

Bus

We came from the main bus station in Cancun and got the ADO bus to Chiquila. If they try to sell you your bus ticket and ferry ticket combined, say no as you’ll end up paying more.  Get your bus ticket and buy a return ferry ticket at the port. There are direct buses to Chiquila from all over the Yucatán peninsula and it is easy to get to from Merida, Valladolid, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

Transfer

There are plenty of companies offering transfers from Cancun Airport or central Cancun up to Chiquila. These are mini-vans that are filled and take out the hassle of going to the bus station. We saw transfers from Chiquila to Cancun for 350 pesos advertised at various different vendors on Holbox. They can also do transfers to various other attractions such as Tulum, Chichen Itzá or Coba.

Taxi

The alternative is a private taxi but obviously this is a much more expensive option, but we did see taxi prices ranging from USD $115 or MXN $1950.  The last bus to Chiquila goes early afternoon, so if you want to get to Holbox quicker, this could be an option for you.

Ferry

Once at Chiquila you need to jump on a ferry. There are lots of people selling tickets. As soon as we got off our bus there were people offering to sell us tickets for the next crossing. The ferry leaves every half hour until 8.30pm. Make sure you leave half an hour for the ferry crossing. A single fare is $150 pesos one way or $200 pesos return.

Isla Holbox Ferry, tips for an effortless trip to Isla Holbox
Isla Holbox Ferry
Golf buggy taxi

Once you arrive at the port you’ll find a host of golf buggy taxis waiting to take you and your luggage to your hotel.  At only 50 pesos for a trip to anywhere in the centre of town, it’s a fun way to arrive on the island and be delivered to your hostel.

ATMs

We had read that it is advisable to turn up on Holbox with money because although there are some ATMs, they can run out of cash. We actually saw quite a few ATMs but didn’t need to use them as we’d come prepared.

Near our hotel the ATM only dispensed dollars. Lots of the bars and restaurants take dollars but they dictate the exchange rate you get, so getting out pesos is more preferable.

Paying on card

We were able to pay for a couple of things on card whilst on Holbox – our accommodation, a couple of lunches and our tour around the Islas. We were aware that often a 5% charge will be added if you pay on card. We have found this in various places around Mexico, not just Holbox.

Restaurants

Taco Queto

This budget restaurant was full every time we walked past. Originally a food van (that still sits in the restaurant) they have expanded into a large restaurant. The atmosphere is lively and looking around it’s hard to choose what to eat. It all looks so good. We went here twice and tried their pastor nachos, various different meat tacos, a burrito and some caramelos. The caramelos had a corn tortilla on the bottom, the meat and cheese filling in the middle and another tortilla on top that had been lightly toasted. All delicious and easy on the wallet.

Taco Queto - tips for an effortless trip to Isla Holbox
Taco Queto Restaurant
Roots

The lobster pizza was so good we’ve written a separate article, ‘The Famous Holbox Lobster Pizza‘.  At 600 pesos it’s an expensive pizza but it was worth every bite.

Ceviche la Chingada

This unassuming restaurant next to Roots is a colourful building. It is very laid back and has a lovely relaxed atmosphere. We ordered the guacamole and the hugest portion arrived. It was so moreish, we never wanted it to end. We ordered the fish ceviche and the fish tacos and both were mouth-wateringly good. Extremely fresh, they were full of flavour. Great portions at very reasonable prices.

Cheviche la Chingada - tips for an effortless trip to Isla Holbox
Ceviche la Chingada
Las Empa

This little roadside empanada shop was an absolute find. After leaving the beach we walked into town and suddenly smelt the most delicious cheesy pastry waft through the air. We ordered a ham & cheese empanada and the cheese & onion empanada (on the recommendation of the chef). Extremely light but full of flavour, we loved our afternoon treat and only just resisted the sweet versions.

Las Empa Empanadas
Cueva del Buzo

Found just off the main square we had read some great reviews online about the restaurant. If we weren’t looking for it we may have walked straight past as it’s not too big. We ordered a garlicky fillet of fish and prawns in a chipotle sauce. The plate was filled with rice, beans and salad and a basket of corn tortillas was delivered with the meal. We added the homemade sauces and made our own tacos. Hearty and simple but full of flavour. A huge meal that kept us full until the evening.  Very cheap.

Holbox Food Market

This is an area with a couple of stalls selling food. Barba Negra and Pin-Up Wings, which we describe below, can be found there. Decorated with festoon lighting, the area is very cool. It has lots of different sized tables so be prepared to sit with other people.  This is great because you can ask them what they’ve ordered!

There is a Happy Hour from 6-8 pm on certain drinks. You buy a drink and get another free, but if you’re going in a couple you both have to order one drink & get a second free. No sharing. The margaritas were limey and zingy and were huge. Great value at 105 pesos for 2. You order your food at the individual stalls and waiters bring your order once it’s ready. It was very busy when we went and had a lively atmosphere with loud music playing. It was great to have a couple of food options under one roof and take our time eating in such a lovely setting.

Barba Negra

Barba Negra is one of the stalls in the Holbox Food Market. After Ceviche la Chingada we weren’t sure anyone could beat their fish tacos, and then we had the fish tacos here. Packed high with yummy ingredients, we loved the Baja style fish and the Diabla shrimp tacos.

They didn’t have any octopus the day we visited so we didn’t get to try the crunchy octopus (which comes highly recommended) but the pork taco recommended in its place was fantastic. Topped with crispy onions we loved the ingredients in these tacos and the huge choice of hot sauce available.

Barba Negra Fish Tacos
Barba Negra Fish Tacos
Pin-Up Wings

This is also found in the Holbox Food Market. As we were eating our tacos we couldn’t help but notice the two couples sharing our table had ordered the wings. They looked so good, at 100 pesos for 6, we thought it would be silly not to try them. We ordered the buffalo wings and they were crunchy on the outside but juicy on the inside. They were properly hot and had so much sauce that you had to get involved with your hands. Not elegant eating but so enjoyable.  Remember to grab some napkins before you tuck in!

Viva Zapata!

For our last lunch on the island, we needed to find somewhere nice where we could pay on card. We headed to Viva Zapata and ordered the guacamole, garlic fish fillet and the absolute highlight of the meal, the diabla octopus. Spicy and extremely tender, it was cooked to perfection. Accompanied by a variety of homemade chilli sauces and tortillas, we made our own tacos.  Generous portions that required a midday snooze in a hammock afterwards.

Punta San Telmo

Right opposite the pier, this bar is set up for relaxing. With hammocks and swings set within the bar, you will often see people chilling in a hammock with a drink. They play loud 90s music and also offer food. Being right in front of the Holbox sign and the beach, there’s always great people watching.

Activities

Head to the beach

A lot of the beachfront belongs to the hotels but you can find some areas that are still available for you to sunbathe and enjoy the sea. Or else they are plenty of beach bars where you can rent a sun lounger and order food and drinks.  Racies Beach Club is a good option for this, but beware there is a minimum spend of $350 pesos per person.  It was quite thundery when we visited so we didn’t get much beach time as we hoped. There was also quite a lot of seaweed in the water whilst we visited but it was clearer up near Punto Cocos.

Walk up to Punto Cocos

If you go to the eastern most point on the island there is a small bar on the beach. We walked along the beach to get here because most of the roads were waterlogged. Here you can pay for a sun lounger or a hammock in the sea. We got ourselves some beers and lay in a hammock in the sea. Suddenly we realised that there was a pat of flamingos standing not too far away. Absolutely gorgeous and a highlight of our visit.

Flamingos in Punta Cocos - tips for an effortless trip to Isla Holbox
Flamingos in the sea
Hire a golf buggy or bike to explore the island

It’s easy to rent bikes and golf buggies to get around the island.  The rentals are often offered either hourly or daily.  There were some impressive thunderstorms whilst we were on the island, so golf buggies were ideal for navigating the water-logged streets and getting you to some of the areas further away like Punta Cocos.  

Check out all the street art in the town

We loved walking around town and seeing all the street art. It really gives the place colour and character. It’s found throughout the town so you can spend your time deciding which is your favourite piece of street art.

Isla Holbox Street Art
Isla Holbox Street Art
Watch the sunset from the end of the pier

Take a beer or two and get there around 5.15 pm to take your place for sunset. Any later and it will be full. After a day of thunderstorms, it cleared and we headed down to the pier. The sky turned various shades of pink, purple and red and as the show on that side finished, we turned round to see the most magnificent full moon rising in the sky behind us. Breath-taking.

Walk to Punto Mosquito

Further to the west is a place called Punto Mosquito which is a protected area where lots of flamingos, pelicans and various other birds nest. You can walk (for 25 minutes) or hire a bike and cycle for 15 minutes until you reach the end of the road. From there you walk out into the sea where you’ll hit a sandbar. You walk across and after about 25 minutes there will be signs showing that you are in a protected area. Please don’t enter the designated area to get that perfect photo – respect the birds and this area that they call home.

However, if you do a trip to Isla Passion and Isla de Los Parajos and you go in the morning, they may take you via Punta Mosquito, as they did with us.

Tours

There are lots of tour operators offering different tours. In season you can go swimming with Whale Sharks who appear off Holbox every year.

Another option is to do a snorkelling and fishing trip up to Cabo Catoche. You go to a couple of areas, catch some fish which the captain later prepares into fresh ceviche for your lunch, so you get to eat your own catch. In various other spots, you get to snorkel and see lots of different wildlife. This was offered at 1000 pesos for a full-day tour.

The tour we did took you to 4 points around Holbox. First to Punta Mosquito to see the wildlife there and then to two small islands, Isla de la Pasion and Isla de los Pajaros, where an abundance of bird varieties could be found. On Isla de la Pasion we walked around the island in the sea.  Isla de los Pajaros, you aren’t actually allowed to step on the island as it’s a sanctuary for the birds but it had some viewing platforms that allow you to view the birds. 

Tips for an effortless trip to Isla Holbox
Birds in Isla de los Pajaros

Bring mosquito repellent & even is it’s the middle of the day put it on. The mangroves are beautiful but teeming with mosquitoes. The last stop is a freshwater lake called Yalahau. The legend is that pirates used to swim in this freshwater oasis.

Nestled among the mangroves, it was an enjoyable swim.  The bottom is a little slimy so we were glad we were wearing beach shoes. Tip: If you have a DSLR camera, this is the tour to bring it on. You are viewing the birds in a protected area, so at a distance. It’s incredible to see all the varieties of birds found on these islands but the iPhone can’t really capture the birds, so a better lens is needed if you want to record your visit.

Lie in a hammock

Relax. Lie in a hammock. At your hotel. In a bar. Or even in the sea. The options are endless and it’s so relaxing. Read your book, look at your photos, drink a beer and stare at the view or have a snooze. Lying in a hammock was a favourite past time of ours whilst on Holbox.

Relax in a hammock
Relax in a hammock
Eat everything!

The food on Holbox is incredible. From fish tacos to lobster pizza there is something for everyone. There are also restaurants to suit every budget. The seafood is caught fresh so tastes absolutely phenomenal. Eat it all.

Chipotle Prawns

Accommodation

Hotel – La Chaya

Hotel La Chaya was found near the pier in town. A great location, with stunning sea views, we absolutely loved this hotel. At USD $50 this is a great mid-range option if you’re coming to Holbox.  Tourism has exploded on Holbox and we were asked to take into consideration that electricity and WiFi aren’t always available as the infrastructure is catching up with demand. Therefore when the WIFI isn’t as quick as you’d hope, enjoy the time away from your phone and the outside world and take the opportunity to relax.

Pros
  • Lovely big room, huge bed and two excellent pillows
  • Huge safe to lock away all your valuables
  • Drinking water available outside – cold & hot
  • Incredible roof terraces with hammocks and wonderful sea views
  • Friendly, helpful staff
  • Great location, close to the sea and all the great restaurants in the centre of town
  • Air conditioning and a fan in the room
  • Big bathroom
  • Ample luggage storage
  • Table and chairs in the room
  • Had a restaurant attached to the hotel so if it’s raining you don’t have to go anywhere
  • Let us store our luggage and use the roof terrace after we’d checked out and whilst waiting for the ferry to catch our next bus

Cons
  • No breakfast included in the room rate
  • We noticed that they seemed to ignore the towels hung up means we want to keep them and they changed our towels all the time. Even though they had a sign about conserving water and towels!
  • Had to run the hot tap for a while before it went hot.

We loved our time on Holbox and it’s a very chilled vibe made us really relax.  If you like wildlife, beautiful sunsets and great food, then Holbox is for you.  We hope our tips for an effortless trip to Isla Holbox helps you to enjoy the island as much as we did.

Have you been to Holbox?  What are your top tips and suggestions for people visiting the island?

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2 thoughts on “Tips for an effortless trip to Isla Holbox”

  1. Hi you both!!!! How are you?

    I get hungry just at looking at your pictures. I love tacos and seviche!!!

    1. eatwithwalker

      Hi Ewald,

      Glad we are keeping you entertained 🙂 We can’t wait to visit Guatemala, everyone we have spoken to on our travels says it is beautiful. Thank you again for all your recommendations.

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