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  • Writer's pictureBecca Jackson

A complete guide to Isla Holbox, Mexico | Things to do, where to eat and when to go

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

Beautiful white Caribbean sand, shallow lagoon waters, the most incredible sunsets and you can't forget the flamingos Isla Holbox is the perfect place to relax for a few days. We spent 3 nights here and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves; soaking up the sun, eating good food, and enjoying the nature of the island.


We had heard from other travellers that the island has no motorised transport but instead is over-run with golf carts! We actually did see a few pick-up trucks & motorbikes during our stay but yes, the main mode of transport is the golf carts. There are quite a lot of them but the roads do feel like a shared space, with most drivers being very mindful of pedestrians. Anyway, you can easily escape to the beach and chill in peace!


Isla Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, street are on the beach

 

Table of contents

 

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Best time to visit Isla Holbox


In terms of the temperature, Isla Holbox, being within the tropics, is warm all year round but they have a dry season (January – June) and a wet season (June – December).


Isla Holbox is famous for it’s Whale Sharks who frequent the coast each year around June to mid-September, so if swimming with these majestic creatures is on your bucket list, summer is the time to visit. However, bear in mind temperatures are higher, as is the humidity and you are in rainy season so there is a chance of some tropical storms. July is on average the driest month during the rainy season.


We visited in January and had really lovely temperatures in the late 20°c and only one short rain shower. The days were sunny with scattered cloud and the evenings cool, but not cold (still shorts and t-short temperature).


Average rainfall and maximum & minimum temperatures weather graph for Isla Holbox, Mexico
Average weather graph for Isla Holbox

Average rainfall (mm)

Average maximum temperatures (degrees Celsius)

Average minimum temperatures (degrees Celsius)

January

24

27

21

February

23

28

21

March

22

29

21

April

20

31

22

May

25

31

25

June

68

31

25

July

42

32

26

August

53

32

26

September

83

31

25

October

90

29

24

November

35

28

23

December

25

27

22


Things to do in Isla Holbox


Visit the Flamingos at Punta Mosquito

Don’t let the name put you off, we didn’t see any mosquitos but maybe don’t visit at sundown just in case! You can enjoy a beautiful walk to the edge of a nature reserve and if you are lucky you may see the beautiful, brilliantly pink, American flamingos. We saw 6 on our visit and whilst they were c.100m away their radiant pinkness gave them away 😊


Flamingos in the distance on Isla Holbox, Mexico
I promise there are flamingos over there! They were more visible to the naked eye than our poor camera lens!

Flamingos are migratory birds so technically don’t live on the island all year but make it their home from April to October. However, there are always a few that stay behind and visiting in January we were still lucky enough to spy a few.


How to find the flamingos on Isla Holbox?


To get the best chance of seeing flamingos on Isla Holbox, you need to walk either down the beach or through the town to beach-front hotel Las Nubes de Holbox. From here you can wade through the shallows out to the sandbar. You will see lots of other tourists making the same pilgrimage which will guide your way. The sandbar varies in depth; for the most part you are ankle to shin deep depending on your height but there are some sections where you could be up to waist deep if you are vertically challenged like me (5’2”/155cm)! The walk along the sandbar takes about 45 minutes each way. At the start watch out for the kite surfers and as you reach the final shallows keep your eyes peeled for stingray & star fish. You will reach a small sand island which about 75m across you will reach the boundary for the nature reserve and can go no further. It is from this boundary that you hope to see the flamingos.


Play with the Bioluminescence (Bioluminiscencia)

We had never encountered anything like this before and found playing with the bioluminescence in the dark absolutely fascinating. It was like something out of Avatar! Tiny microorganisms called phytoplankton emit flashes of light when the water is disturbed by waves or even fish swimming. The disturbance causes the protons to pass through their bodies, which creates electrical pulses and triggers a chemical reaction. This chemical phenomenon is visible all year round but it’s easier to see the darker it is; so winter months, when there are fewer daylight hours are best and also avoiding full moon when the moon is bright in the sky is advisable.


Where to find the bioluminescence on Isla Holbox

If you are feeling flush (we found the taxi golf carts to be very expensive) or lacking energy you can jump in one of the many taxi buggies, just tell the driver you want to go and see the Bioluminescence and they will know exactly where to take you. They will drop you off on the beach at Playa Punta Cocos and point the way for you.


If you would like to walk; from the centre of town head out to the south-west tip of the island to Playa Punta Cocos. The most direct route from the central square is 2.7km along the roads & will probably take you around 40 mins. If you want a more scenic route you can walk along the beach as far as possible (just after Nomade Holbox) before heading inland and then turning right at the first crossroads. This road will take you straight down to Playa Punta Coco (about 4-5 blocks).

Once you reach the beach, facing the sea, turn left and make your way along the sand. The sea will be on your right, but after about 5 minutes after walking through Holbox Magico (a bar) the water will also appear on your left as well. It is on this stretch of the lagoon that you can wade out and disturb the water to see the wonderful bioluminescence.


Watch sunset at Playa Punta Cocos

Playa Punta Cocos is also the best spot to watch the sunset. There are a couple of bars here if you want to buy a drink but we, like many others, bought beer from the supermarket (nearest one is next door to La Cabana restaurant) and sat on the sand.


Sunset at Playa Punta Coco, Isla Holbox, Mexico
Sunset at Playa Punta Coco, Isla Holbox

Watch the sunset at Columpios Casa Punta Cocos

If you don’t want to venture out as far as Playa Punta Cocos you can still get a really good view from Columpios Casa Punta Cocos. Again, there are bars here to enjoy a sundowner or you can visit the supermarket near La Cabana and buy your own!


Party on the street outside The Hot Corner

The Hot Corner is a lively bar and restaurant in the centre of town (one block from the main square, Parque Central). They had live music each night we stayed on the island and seem to encourage people to dance in the street outside! There is a late night supermarket conveniently located just across the street, with the biggest beer fridges ever! Grab a drink, get your dancing shoes on and enjoy!


Enjoying a beer outside The Hot Corner, Isla Holbox, Mexico
Enjoying a beer outside The Hot Corner

Check out the food carts around Parque Central de Holbox

Located around Parque Central are a collection of permanent food trucks offering tacos, soup, burgers, burritos, crepes & marquesitas. We followed the basic principle that if there is a crowd of locals, it’s probably good. See ‘where to eat in Isla Holbox’ below for our recommendations.


Enjoy the beach

You are on an island so this one kind of goes without saying! Along the north/north-west coast of the island you will find the iconic white Caribbean sand and shallow calm waters. Grab your suncream & a book and enjoy!


Swim with whale sharks

June to September is whale shark season and the island offers many tours that take you out to sea where you may get the opportunity to swim with these incredible gentle giants. We were not there at the right season for this but I have read blogs describing other’s experiences and it does sound incredible. It’s also a fantastic time to see dolphins and the flamingos should be in town also so no doubt you will have a fantastic day if you choose this excursion.


Whale shark, Media from Wix
Whale shark, Media from Wix

Take yourself on a street art tour

It's hard to walk anywhere on Isla Holbox without seeing street art, even on the beaches!! The street art revolution started in 2014 when the IPA (International Public Art festival) came to town with a festival named "Dreaming of Holbox", when 12 artists were commissioned to come to the island to create the murals that embody the vision on the island for the future. Since then, there are new murals being created all the time.


How to get around the island


Walking

The inhabited area of the island is really not that big, we were staying out on the south west tip of the island and from our accommodation to the centre of town was about 2km (1.2 miles) so we walked everywhere.


Taxi golf buggy

As I’ve mentioned we found these to be quite expensive and so didn’t take any. They quoted 200 pesos from the port to our accommodation which was only 2.25km (1.4 miles). However, if you are unable to walk those kind of distances then you will have no problem grabbing one of the many taxis.


Hire your own buggy

Golf buggies are available to hire but expect to pay quite a lot for the pleasure of driving around in one yourself for the day. Prices advertised on the island were as follows:

  • 1 hour MX$350 (£15/$18)

  • 2 hours MX$600 (£26/$31)

  • 4 hours MX$1000 (£42.50/$52)

  • 12 hours MX$2000 (£87/$104)

  • 24 hours MX$2500 (£108.50/$130)


Bike

There are a few bicycle rental places in town and many of the accommodations also offer bike hire. It was MX$200 (£8.50/$10.50) a day at our camp.


Where to stay on Isla Holbox


There are not many budget-friendly options on the island. If you are able to splash out a little more there are plenty of beautiful, beach-front rooms. Sadly, our budget would not stretch that far, and we were trying to find something for less than MX$690 (£30/$36) a night and could only find camping as an option.


We settled on Balam camping, paying MX$460 (£20/$24) for the two of us in a three-man tent with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities. We were a little dubious, mainly due to the heat as the tents do not even have a fan! However, having visited in January & finding that all tents were pitched in the shade we didn’t have any problems. The camp was basic but lovely, it did have only cold showers, but the staff were friendly and welcoming and we had everything we needed.


Where to eat on Isla Holbox


La Cabana Pizzeria

La Cabana have two restaurants next door to each other, I would say they are more mid-range than budget in terms of price, but if you want to spend a little more one night this is definitely the place to do it. The larger of the two is the pizzeria and it is fabulous! Delicious stone baked pizzas and good salads. I can also recommend the house wine here too. We shared a pizza, a salad and a portion of chips, Dave had a beer and I had a glass of red. The total bill was MX$570 (£24.50/$29.50) including tip.


'Mexican' pizza at La Cabana pizzeria, Isla Holbox, Mexico
'Mexican' pizza at La Cabana pizzeria

La Cabana Taqueria

Right next door is the taco side of the business. Again not as cheap as some places on the island but delicious tacos in a lovely setting. Being on an island we thought we’d give the seafood a go here; Dave tried the fish tacos and I had the prawn, both beautifully presented and tasty.

Taco Queto

This is a great cheap eat in the centre of town. A busy place that is often full but you won’t need to wait long for a table. We sampled their Nachos de Pastor & Gringas here and both were delicious.

Los Tacos de Barbacoa

This is a popular food truck that can be found on the edge of the main square. We only tried their Tacos de pastor as we had actually already eaten but they were delicious. I had wanted to try the soup too as the reviews are fantastic but just couldn’t fit it in and it was our last night on the island! Ah well, another time!


Los Tacos de Barbacoa food truck, Isla Holbox, Mexico
Los Tacos de Barbacoa food truck

La Conquista Empanadas

Open only during the day time, closing around 4pm this is a great spot for lunch. Cheap and tasty no frills empanadas.


Top tips for the island/things to consider


  • Wi-fi is limited, not all accommodation has it. We had Mexican SIM cards and were able to get 3G & 4G signal across the island (although some parts had no network at all!).

  • Most establishments are cash only and do not accept card (or if they do they will charge an additional commission).

  • ATM’s are few and far between. I saw two in the town but one of them only dispensed US Dollars, which although most places will accept, you will receive a poor rate on when trying to spend. I also heard they are notoriously breaking down so it is best to bring enough cash to cover your stay.

  • Mosquitos are present at night so bring the Insect repellent. They weren’t too bad in January but I imagine they are worse in summer.

  • The island is expensive, whilst you can find cheap eats and there are lots of activities you can enjoy for free, you don’t want to have to buy things like toiletries or sun cream there so bring enough of what you need to last your stay.


Getting there and away


As Isla Holbox has become more popular it has become easier to get over to the island. We didn’t really do any forward planning or booking other than a quick google to see if it was possible and had a smooth journey there and back.

Read our ‘How to get to Isla Holbox’ post for the details.

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