Discover Paradise Before The Crowds Do!
Updated: Nov 11, 2022
When you think of a tropical vacation you probably think of an all-inclusive resort with frosty drinks and large resorts.
They're perfect for quick getaways or family vacations because they take the "guesswork" out of traveling out of the country. And who doesn't like easy? The beaches can be "hit or miss" thanks to seaweed too.
But if you're a "little" more adventurous - you may want to consider Holbox Island in Mexico.
Pronounced "Hol-bosh", this is a rustic, tropical island located a few hours north of Cancun. Unlike some Riviera Maya area beaches - the water here is crystal clear and the beaches are pristine. With no cars allowed on the island: this is a laid-back vacation like no other! (Don't worry - they have golf carts!)
Here's Your History Lesson Of The Day
In the Mayan language, Holbox means “black hole”, and that's the name the island was given when the first known inhabitants arrived on the shores of this amazing island. They escaped their home city on the mainland (known as Punta Coco) due to an attack by the Maya during the Caste War of Yucatan. Similar to Native Americans in the United States, the Yucatan and Mexican governments tried to relocate the indigenous inhabitants of Holbox, but it never worked out. Once they arrived: the settlers stayed, refusing to leave their beautiful land. The people of Holbox have an incredible reputation for being both brave and strong, two characteristics that have helped them preserve their slice of paradise for centuries. Even today, they have strict rules about tourism so as to keep their island a glorious gem.
Holbox is now a refuge from the crowds in Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum. However: Holbox isn't boring by any means. Although it runs at a different pace: it's a destination where you can slow down and "unplug" from your day-to-day life. There is art, culture and friendly people everywhere.
Safety In Holbox
Because it's an island, Holbox is a safe destination for tourists - because criminals have a tough time making a fast escape (unlike busy Cancun). Most crime is "petty" and involves locals, not tourists. Much like any tropical destination, it's best if you stay off the beaches at night (unless it's directly in front of your hotel or an excursion).
Where In The World Is Holbox?
Holbox is located on the northern coast of the Yucatan peninsula. It's about a two hour drive from Cancun plus a 30 minute ferry ride. Air service is available with small turbo-prop planes as well.
When To Visit Holbox
Much like the rest of the region, January to April will be the busiest time with tourists. This paradise is peppered with small, boutique hotels and they will be full. May through October is the hottest time of the year but crowds will wane. Hurricane Season begins in June, so just be aware. November and December are a wonderful time to visit: Hurricane Season is ending and the winter crowds have yet to arrive. The rainy season ends and it's relatively quiet on the island.
How To Get To The Ferry
You'll be flying into Cancun International Airport so I typically recommend two ways: the ADO bus (which is a scheduled bus service) or a transfer via van/SUV. You'll need to get to Chiquila, where the ferry departs. Once in Chiquila, it's a breezy (and beautiful) 25-30 minute ferry to the island and runs around $5-10 USD. The ADO runs around $15USD and a transfer can be up to $100 (if you want a luxury SUV).
Activities In Holbox
You'll probably spend a day or two (or three!) marveling at the water, relaxing on the beach or at your hotel pool and just slowing down. Grab some cervezas or a frosty beverage (stop at Duty Free as you exit the airport in baggage claim!) But after that: there's plenty to see and do.
Snorkeling: Even if you aren't a fan of snorkeling, you have to give this a try in Holbox. The island is home to pods of whale sharks! Don't worry: they eat plankton - not humans! Scuba diving with them is a big no-no, so a snorkeling tour is the way to go.
Bioluminescent Water (only at night, of course!): this is a magical "you have to see it to believe it" kind of adventure. Imagine glowing blue water all around you! The best way to really see it would be a night snorkeling tour or night kayaking.
Kite Surfing: With plenty of steady wind - this is a huge activity in Holbox. Don't worry - there's plenty of shallow water and wide-open spaces to learn!
Tour The Islands: Holbox isn't the only island out there - there are plenty of tours of the three islands that are in the area. Don't forget to check out the cenote on Passion Island!
Dining In Holbox
There are no traditional "all-inclusives" in Holbox and that's not necessarily a bad thing: there are plenty (and I mean plenty) of restaurants at all different kinds of price points that will satisfy ANY appetite.
Many hotels offer a restaurant on-site, which makes breakfast a breeze when you wake up. However, for lunch or dinner, wander the island (or take my recommendations) and take note of all the different flavors and cuisines offered! Many of the restaurants focus on locally-sourced food - so the menus will change constantly with the seasons.
Planning Your Trip To Holbox
First, let's talk airfare: All the major airlines service Cancun International Airport - so getting to the region isn't a problem. You'll need to decide which transport works best for you to get to the ferry.
Now: Hotels. Hotels on this island range from rustic (think: hostel) to more luxurious boutique Instagram-worthy hotels. All hotels are NOT created equal and making that decision will be tough: some properties don't have air-conditioning and lack a restaurant. You might find yourself scrambling if you decide to "go it alone" in choosing.
Trust A Travel Professional
You'll need help from a trusted travel advisor in "putting the pieces" together and helping you select one of the many hotels on the island.
Also: pairing a hotel stay with airfare can help save some money - airlines often offer reduced fares when you book a vacation package.
Want More Information?
Simply click the button below to get more information on Holbox and even set up a quick "discovery call" to see if a vacation to Holbox is for you!