From tanning on the beach to swimming with whale-sharks or bio-luminescent plankton, there are plenty of things to do in Holbox. Most of the island is part of the Yum Balam protected area, making it a paradise to spot wildlife, especially birds. It’s also a great place to relax at the beach, taking in the island’s laidback vibe.
You should plan to spend at least three full days there, to really enjoy what the island has to offer. If you’re wondering what to do in Holbox, keep on reading to discover all the best things to do there.
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Things to do in Holbox
1 – Cycle around the island
Holbox Island is a thin but long island, it’s around 50 km long, but only 5 kilometers of it are inhabited. The rest of the island is a protected area, and you cannot go there. So it’s relatively easy to rent a bicycle for the day and just explore Holbox. Alternatively, you can do everything on foot, take a cab or rent a golf cart for the day.
A great walk to take is through the huge sand bar going all the way to Punto Mosquito. You can start from the city center, going east on the beach, you’ll see the sandbar. You’ll have to cross the water, so don’t bring too much stuff, and start early because of the tide. At some point, you’ll see signs forbidding you to go further (it’s the protected area). You can cross over to get back to the main island (this part of the sea is deep) or just go back from the same way you came.
With a bicycle, just follow the road near the beach and then you’ll see signs telling you to leave the bike. You can then trek to Punto Mosquito. It’s around 1.5 km.
The beach in Punto Mosquito is nice, and it’s often deserted, they were no seaweed at the tip of the island when I was there. Contrary to the rest of the island, the water gets really deep really fast.
Located at the western tip of Holbox, Playa Coco is the perfect beach to relax for a while and to watch the sunset. You can park right in front of it, so there’s no trekking involved. You can easily find a quiet spot if you stray a bit from the entrance of the beach.
Both places are isolated, bring plenty of food and water. In Playa Coco, there’s a bar and a food truck, but it’s super expensive.
2 – Bio-luminescence watching
Holbox is famous for its plankton that lights up when touched. To witness this rare phenomenon head for Playa Coco after dark. It’s best to go when the moon is at its darkest. You can either go on your own or take a tour.
You’ll need to get into the water, the bio-luminescence is activated by movement/contact. If you see photos of the beach at night with the sea filled with lights, it’s Photoshopped. It will only light up around you. It’s a great experience, truly amazing.
3 – Kayaking or Paddleboarding through the mangrove
A great way to visit the mangrove and its many inhabitants is to rent a kayak or paddleboard for a couple of hours to explore this spectacular landscape. You can easily find hotels renting them, or you can go through a tour if you prefer to go with a group and a guide.
4 – Three islands tour
The three islands tour is actually 2 islands: Isla Pasion and Isla Pajaros, the third stop is at the Yalahau cenote on the mainland.
Isla Pajaros is a great place to spot birds; around 150 different species live on the island. It’s also the perfect place to see pink and white flamingos (from May to October).
Isla Pasion is known for its white-sanded beach, perfect for taking pictures. Yalahau cenote is the last stop and a great place to relax for a while. The cenote is open-aired, and you can enjoy the view from the surrounding mangrove while taking a dip in the fresh water.
Price of the three islands tour: ~ 400 pesos
Duration : 3 hours
5 – Cabo Catoche Tour
Cabo Catoche is where the gulf a Mexico and the Caribbean sea meet. It’s a great tour because it includes a lot of activities and sightseeing.
You start the day by fishing your lunch. Don’t expect anything fancy, you won’t get a cane, just a string, and a hook, but it’s fun. Next stop is snorkeling, while the staff makes a ceviche with what you fished.
The snorkeling is nice because you’ll get the chance to see huge rays and turtles, but there are not many corals, and the visibility is so so.
Then you’ll head for Cabo Catoche and have lunch on the beach. The last stop is at a nearby hidden lagoon. It was my favorite part of the tour. The landscape there is breathtaking, there are tons of birds, especially flamingos if you’re there during the right season (May to October but some stay on the island year-round).
On your way to or from Cabo Catoche, you might see dolphins as well.
Cost of the Cabo Catoche tour: ~1000 pesos
Duration: From 8 am to 1-2 pm
6 – Whale Shark Watching
Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the world, and contrary to what their name suggests they’re totally harmless. In Holbox, if you’re there between mid-June and mid-October, you’ll get the chance to be able to swim with these giants. It’s one of the best things to do in Holbox.
The tours are strictly regulated to protect the whale sharks. Each day, only a limited number of people are allowed, and only two people plus the guide can be in the water at once.
It’s a unique experience, the size and the beauty of the whale-sharks are impressive.
About tours in Holbox: all companies offer the same itinerary and activities, make sure what’s included and what’s not and shop around to find the best prices.
If you don’t have much time and just want to take a day trip from Cancun or Playa del Carmen, you might want to check out these tours:
How to get to Holbox
Boats from Chiquila to Holbox run every 30 minutes. Several companies are offering this route; all are the same price: 150 pesos.
If you come to Holbox from Playa del Carmen or Cancun (or if you go there after visiting Holbox), you’ll easily find transportation to Chiquila either via public buses or with a shared private transfer from tour companies.
Coming from Valladolid or Merida can be a bit trickier as there are not many direct buses. From Valladolid, Oriente buses leave at 2 am, 11:30 am, and 4:45 am and cost 135 pesos. There’s also one ADO bus at 9:50 am for 200 pesos. From Merida, there’s one ADO a day and one Noreste. You can also do Merida-Tizimin-Chiquila.
ADO, Oriente, and Noreste all have buses going to Chiquila. Only ADO has a website. For the other companies, you’ll have to check at the bus terminal, they’re usually way cheaper than ADO, but they don’t always operate from the same terminal.
For more bus schedule, you can check out this website, it’s not 100% updated, but it’s the most complete you’ll find on the internet.
Where to stay in Holbox :
Holbox offers a broad range of accommodations, from budget hostels to luxurious resorts. Here are a few you can choose from :
- Hostel Che Holbox: 8 to 10-bed dorms all with AC, breakfast included, bar and pool. Prices start at 10 USD per night. They also offer private double to quadruple rooms for around 40 USD.
- Be Holbox: 4 to 10-bed dorms, some with AC, kitchen, rooftop, friendly staff, bathroom in each dorm. Prices start at 10 USD per night.
- La Casa de Ñaña: Close to the center but in a quiet area, all rooms have a kitchen, AC and a flat-screen TV, some have a balcony. Garden and private beach. Prices around 60 USD.
- Hotel El Pueblito: Tastefully decorated, conveniently located, all rooms have AC and a flat-screen TV, outdoor pool, spa, friendly staff, good breakfast. Prices start at around 80 USD.
- Villas Caracol: beachfront hotel, comfortable contemporary rooms, some with a private pool and a view on the sea, private beach, breakfast included.
- Hotel Punta Caliza: interesting design, with the pool going around the rooms, great food and drinks, near the beach (they have a private beach).
- CASA CAT BA: best hotel with a view, all rooms have a balcony facing the sea, the beach is the first thing you’ll see when you open your eyes in the morning. Great breakfast included, soundproof rooms.
Related articles to help you plan your trip to the Riviera Maya:
- Best things to do in Mexico
- Valladolid complete travel guide
- Mayapan, a day trip from Merida
- Izamal – The golden city
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