Holbox 2023 Travel Guide: Everything You Need to Know for an Unforgettable Island Adventure

In this travel guide to beautiful Holbox, Mexico, we give you the island’s best boutique hotels, restaurants, bars, beach clubs and things to do, plus! A slew of helpful x practical intel.


Last updated: August 2023

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Situated unassumingly off the northeast coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula lies Isla Holbox (Maya for “black hole” and pronounced “hol-bosh”): a laid back island paradise awaiting in-the-know travelers looking for a truly authentic, barefoot and beautiful beach escape. Just a 15-minute ferry ride from the mainland takes you to the car-free island, part of the region’s sprawling Yum Balam Nature Reserve.

After traveling just about everywhere throughout this region I have to say, Holbox is really special. Endless stretches of white sand surrounded by calm, sparkling ocean, sandy roads accessible on foot, bike or golf cart only, jaw dropping sunsets, limited wifi capabilities (for better or worse) and a seriously chilled out vibe make this place still feel like a secret – even though the secret’s out.

Related: Transport Yourself to Paradise From Home With Our Original Collection of Escapist Prints & Wall Art

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm

Hailed by some as the “next Tulum,” I prefer to think that Holbox is simply, Holbox. A rising crop of luxury design hotels and boho chic restaurants certainly lend a Tulum feel, but the island effortlessly stands out with a distinct character all its own.

Here, I’ve got everything you need to know for an unforgettable trip to Holbox. Read on for the best boutique hotels, restaurants, bars and beach clubs on the island, boat trips, tours and things to do, plus! A slew of insightful intel: how to get to Holbox in the first place, how to get around, are there on-island ATMs and every traveler’s burning question these days – how’s the wifi?

Related: Tulum’s Best Boutique Hotels & Resorts, Beach Road to Beyond

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click on one such link and make a purchase through it, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.


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Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Under the Palm
But first: travel insurance to the rescue.

Wherever, and whenever, you might be traveling, travel insurance is always a good idea. I personally use and recommend Faye Travel Insurance for their thorough, easy to understand and fair-priced coverage options. Think: emergency medical and sickness benefits in the event of an accident or illness while abroad, compensation for lost luggage and personal effects, and trip protection covering things like unforeseen cancellation, interruption or missed connections.

You can even add optional coverage for your traveling pets, that sweet ride you’ll be renting, extreme sports and accidental vacation rental damage (oops). Plus! A game-changing travel benefit you can add on to your policy: the ability to cancel for any reason. Did I mention a seamless in-app claims process and rapid, on-the-go reimbursements to your digital Faye Wallet? Check pricing here.

Pro Tip: it’s best to buy your travel insurance policy within 14 days of making your initial trip deposit (like when you buy your flights or book your hotel).


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Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
The practical stuff: how do I get to Holbox?

First, you need to get to Chiquilá – the tiny port town from which ferries run to the island. Chiquilá is a 2-hour drive from the closest international airport, Cancún. From here, you have a few options:

1) Rent a car.

Road-tripping is always my favorite option and in Mexico, my husband & I love using Discover Cars to find our perfect ride. This one-stop-shop car rental search engine seamlessly scours and compares all of your best options from the region’s leading car rental providers, available out of Cancún (Airport and Downtown), Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. The platform offers 24/7 multilingual customer service, free cancellation and transparent policy disclosures, including an itemized list of everything included in your rental – look for the green checkmarks in your Discover Cars search results.

TIP: Make sure this list includes Mexico’s mandatory, Third Party Liability insurance. This is required on all car rentals in Mexico and is not covered by your credit card (no matter what country it’s from). The insurance goes by different names depending on the car rental company, but is most commonly referred to as “Third Party Liability,” “Public Liability Insurance,” or “Renters Liability Insurance/Protection.” If you don’t see it listed, this means the insurance is not included in the quoted price and you will in fact end up paying more at time of pickup.

Note: Holbox is a car-free island. This means you’ll need to leave your car in a lot in Chiquilá for the duration of your stay in Holbox. As soon as you enter Chiquilá you will see a number of parking lots – and just as many attendants trying to wave you down. I recommend ignoring these guys and driving all the way to the unmissable palapa at the end. The lots you’ll find here are closest to the ferry. Personally, I parked in (for 6 nights) and recommend Estacionamiento “Los Grillos.” Pricing is fixed throughout all lots here so no need to price shop: currently $100 MXN (approx $5 USD) per day. Cash only.


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Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
2) Book a private transfer.

Out of Cancún Airport, I’m partial to Cancún Airport Transportation for professional, reliable and comfortable rides. Pricing starts at $435.00 USD RT for up to three persons. While not the cheapest option, it’s certainly convenient with private, bilingual, door-to-door service from the airport to the ferry. On that note – make sure to input your destination as “Chiquilá” when using their online booking system. If you type “Holbox” a few hotels will indeed pop up, but confirming Cancún Airport Transportation will only take you to the ferry at Chiquilá. From here, you’ll need to purchase a ferry ticket –> more on this below.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
3) Take the ADO bus.

The most budget-friendly option, you can take the clean, comfortable and safe ADO bus to Chiquilá – A/C, reclining seats, on-board bathroom, luggage storage and sometimes snacks included. A head’s up there are no direct Cancún Airport –> Chiquilá buses. You will first need to take an ADO bus from the airport –> downtown Cancún ADO bus station. These depart every 30 mins, run $98 MXN (approx $5 USD) and take about 35 mins to reach downtown Cancún. From here, you can take an ADO bus headed to Chiquilá.

Four buses run this route daily, the first at 8:30am and the last at 2:30pm. (If you have a late-arriving flight, you will need the spend the night in Cancún and grab an ADO bus the next morning.) Ride time is about 2.5 hours; ticket price $298 MXN (approx $15 USD). There is technically a 5th bus that departs at 9am, although I don’t recommend this one as it’s a 3-hour ride with more stops, no bathrooms on board and no luggage storage.

You can also take an ADO bus to Chiquilá from Playa Del Carmen or Tulum.

Please note the ADO website sometimes doesn’t work with foreign credit cards. If you have this issue, don’t fret! You can always purchase your ticket for the next available bus upon arrival at the airport (or the downtown Cancún, Playa Del Carmen or Tulum bus terminals). Foreign credit cards are accepted at these locations and do indeed work.


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Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Congratulations! You’ve made it to Chiquilá, i.e. the ferry to Holbox. Now what?

A quick, 15-minute ferry ride from Chiquilá will take you to Holbox. Ferries run every 30 minutes, operated by two companies. 9 Hermanos runs on the hour, every hour from 7am – 8pm. Returns from Holbox –> Chiquilá run on the hour, every hour from 6am – 9pm. Holbox Express runs on the half hour, every hour, from 7:30am – 9:30pm. Returns from Holbox –> Chiquilá run on the half hour, every hour, from 6:30am – 8:30pm.

Both ferry companies charge the same price: $220 MXN (approx $11 USD) round trip per person. Note it is not necessary to purchase ferry tickets online or through a tour operator ahead of time (nor is there a discount). Upon arrival to the ferry dock you can easily purchase tickets from either the 9 Hermanos or Holbox Express ticket booths. You’ll see both right by the big palapa that you can’t miss. Which ferry to take? Easy. There’s really no difference between the two so you can simply take whichever ferry is scheduled to depart next.

The ferries themselves are modern, clean and comfortable. You can choose to sit indoors with A/C, or soak in the ocean breeze on the open-air top deck. Bathrooms are available on-board and there is plenty of room to safely store luggage.

Once you arrive to Holbox, you’ll see a line of golf cart taxis waiting to take you to your hotel or Airbnb. If you’re staying near the center, this should cost you around $50-$60 MXN (approx $2.50/$3.00 USD). If you’re staying further east or west of the center, expect pricing up to $150 MXN (up to approx $7.00 USD). Note prices increase if it’s raining or has recently rained.


Related: Where to Eat, Sleep and Play in Puerto Morelos: the Mexican Caribbean’s Best-Kept Secret


Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
But wait – can I bypass the ferry and fly directly into Holbox?

Why yes you can. Flights Holbox offers private charters for 1 – 13 people out of Cancún, Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel and Mérida, or you can book a private helicopter from Tulum for 1 – 4 people. AeroSaab is another option, offering private charters for 1 – 5 people out of Cancún, Isla Mujeres, Playa Del Carmen and Cozumel. If going this route, please be sure to read the fine print including weight and luggage limits.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
The practical stuff: how do I get around Holbox?

You’ve got a few options:

Walking.

Much of Holbox can easily be covered on foot – specifically the center, where you’ll find the biggest concentration of restaurants, cafés, bars and shops. The only time walking isn’t so easy is when it’s raining or has recently rained. Drainage systems really aren’t a thing in Holbox and when it rains, the island’s sand-dirt roads turn into stretches of giant, muddy puddles and sometimes – literal rivers.

If you’re planning to visit Holbox during rainy season or when there’s any chance of rain, I highly recommend bringing a pair of rain boots. I brought a pair on my recent trip (when it rained the last two of seven days) and am SO glad I did. Even traversing just one or two muddy, puddle-filled blocks is nearly impossible with sandals or flip-flops. It’s a huge mess and you’ll risk sliding, falling or even losing said footwear in the depths of a muddy puddle. Save yourself the struggle and pack a pair of rain boots – recs below.


Related: These 8 New Luxury Resorts Are Rebranding the Riviera Maya


Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Bicycle.

Bike rentals are aplenty across the island and are certainly more expeditious than walking. Bikes Holbox offers rentals at $150 MXN (approx $7 USD) for 7 hours, $200 MXN (approx $10 USD) for 12 hours or $250 MXN (approx $12.50 USD) for 24 hours. All bikes come with baskets and they’ll deliver directly to your hotel or Airbnb. Credit cards accepted.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Golf Cart Taxi.

As a car-free island you won’t find regular taxis here (and forget about Uber) but you will find plenty of golf cart taxis. These generally charge around $50-$60 MXN (approx $2.50/$3.00 USD) to get anywhere in the center, or up to $150 MXN (approx $7 USD) to go further east or west. Note that when it rains, prices basically double to account for the increased difficulty in maneuvering through the resulting, lagoon-like streets.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Golf Cart Rental.

This is the most expensive option of getting around the island, but arguably the most fun. Punta Caracol offers golf cart rentals from $800 MXN (approx $40 USD) for up to 4 hours to $1700 MXN (approx $85 USD) for 24 hours. Especially if you’re staying east or west of the center – or if it’s been raining – having your own golf cart is an excellent option.


Related: Río Lagartos and Las Coloradas Travel Guide: a Protected Biosphere, Wild Flamingos & Pink Lakes


Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
More practical stuff: how’s wifi & cell reception in Holbox?

Sorry, digital nomads. I wish I had better news here but the truth is, wifi and cell reception all throughout Holbox are less than stellar. Even the best wifi on the island will be maxing out at 10 mbps download speeds and consistent only in spottiness. You’ll be able to send and receive basic emails and browse the web, but I wouldn’t count on uploading or streaming (plan to put your current Netflix addiction on pause). I personally didn’t attempt a Zoom call but imagine this to be a risky endeavor.

Surprisingly, my husband & I did find cell reception throughout the island to be relatively consistent across both our U.S. and Mexico SIM cards. Except for one day when we both lost signal completely. This happened to be a day when it was raining, when we also later lost wifi and power (luckily only for a few hours).

My advice? Come to Holbox with low connectability expectations and you might be pleasantly surprised. Arrive with high expectations and you will be sorely disappointed.


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Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
More practical stuff: how is the cash/credit cart/ATM situation in Holbox?

While quite a few businesses in Holbox these days do, in fact, accept credit cards, many are still cash only. Of those accepting credit cards, most charge a 3-5% cc fee. Don’t forget that credit cards need power and signal to work, so if these go out at any time you’ll need cash as a backup. Both USD and MXN (Mexican pesos) are accepted throughout the island, although it’s always better to pay in pesos. If you choose to pay with USD you will always end up paying more due to the exchange rates offered by businesses.

There are now a few ATMs in Holbox. You’ll see them dotted around the main plaza, or you can try the one on the second floor of the town hall. However, I don’t recommend using ANY of these. First, I say “try” because all of the ATMs in Holbox regularly run out of cash (sometimes for days at a time). If you absolutely must use one, your best bet is to try in the morning rather than at night.

Also, be aware that some of these ATMS only dispense USD. You’ll then have to pay everywhere in USD knowing you’re getting a worse exchange rate at all businesses. OR you can exchange currency here where you will also, inevitably, be subject to an unfavorable rate. On top of this, all of the ATMs charge exorbitant transaction fees. Expect a flat fee per withdrawal (up to $10 USD) and/or a percentage of your overall transaction. This doesn’t include whatever fees your home bank may charge.

TIP: When withdrawing pesos from any ATM, a screen will pop up towards the end asking if you want to “accept the conversion rate.” Always hit DECLINE. ATMs exist to make money, and without fail will always give you a worse exchange rate than your bank will. Depending on how much you’re taking out, you could be losing anywhere from $10 – $100+ USD by accepting the ATM’s exchange rate. If you’re at an ATM that doesn’t give you the option to “decline” the conversion rate, I highly recommend canceling the transaction and trying another.

The verdict? While it’s possible to pay with a credit card at some businesses, and while ATMs do technically exist in Holbox, I strongly encourage you to come prepared with plenty of cash to last you throughout the duration of your trip. Even better if you can arrive to Holbox with Mexican pesos in-hand that you’ve already exchanged elsewhere.


Related: Your Ultimate Travel Guide to Beautiful Isla Mujeres, Mexico


Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
More practical stuff: can I fly my drone in Holbox?

You cannot. My husband & I only discovered this ourselves after sending our drone up one morning, and shortly after being told to take it back down. Flying drones in Holbox – anywhere throughout the island – is strictly prohibited. We learned that this is due to not only the shuttle flights entering and exiting Holbox, but mostly out of protection to the wealth of birds inhabiting the island and its encompassing Yum Balam Nature Reserve. Take a lesson from us and leave your drone at home.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
More practical stuff: be a conscious traveler.

Holbox is part of the surrounding Yum Balam Nature Preserve, and as such operates off a very delicate ecosystem. Remember to be a conscious traveler during your trip to the island. Don’t touch, pick up or take any wildlife you may spot, whether birds, turtles, fish, starfish or even the tiniest seashell. Take nothing, and leave nothing – except footprints in the sand.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
The calm before the storm. / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
More practical stuff: what time of year should I visit Holbox?

I’m glad you asked, because the weather will greatly affect your experience in Holbox. No one likes a rainy vacation at the beach. But in Holbox, rain affects your experience even more due to the aforementioned mess of muddy, puddle-filled streets, some of which turn into literal rivers. Not to mention the potential for power, wifi and cell reception outages that even non-severe rain can cause.

If you want to visit Holbox with the lowest chance of encountering rain, you should go during the dry season: December – March. As this is the time of year boasting the best weather, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that this is also when prices will be at their highest.

April/May is shoulder season which is also a good time to go. Prices are lower and rain is typically spotty at most. June – August ushers in rainy season, and is also the hottest and most humid time of year to visit. Even so, prices tend to creep back up as summer is a popular vacation time. September – November is low season and along with it, the lowest prices. Why is this? Because it’s also hurricane season when you’ll have the greatest risk of bad weather.

Can you still have fun in Holbox when it rains? Yes you can! You just need to come prepared and the below checklist will help you with just that.


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Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Final practical stuff: what must I absolutely bring to Holbox?

To maximize your trip no matter what time of year you’re visiting, I highly recommend bringing along the following. Think of this as your Holbox Survival Kit of which I’m certain you’ll thank me later. (You’re welcome.)

Flashlight.

Remember how in Tulum 10 years ago you had to use a flashlight to navigate your way down the beach road? This is what it’s still like in most of Holbox. A small flashlight will save you from stumbling around in the dark (not to mention your phone battery). Especially if it’s rained, you do not want to be walking even one or two muddy blocks without light. These travel-friendly flashlights pack a punch and are exactly what you need.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Bug Spray.

Mosquitos are alive, well and rampant across Holbox. Unless you want to be eaten alive, I highly recommend bringing along repellent. (Don’t wait and purchase on the island – you can find it but will be paying premium prices.) I personally am a mosquito magnet and swear by OFF Deep Woods with 25% DEET. Bring along a can or these travel-friendly wipes.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Biodegradable Sunscreen.

Especially when swimming, only wear biodegradable sunscreen to help keep the delicate ecosystem of the island – and its surrounding nature reserve – in tact. I personally love Sun Bum’s Original Reef-Friendly, Water-Resistant Sunscreen Lotion to consciously battle the elements, and am literally obsessed with SuperGoop’s matte, Reef-Safe Unseen Sunscreen for the face.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Rain boots.

A local gave me this tip prior to my visit and I am forever grateful to her for it. That said – I get it. Who wants to take up precious packing space in your suitcase with clunky rain boots? Trust that when and if it rains during your visit, you will be SO happy that you’re not one of the struggling, flip-flop wearing tourists trudging, sliding and/or getting stuck in the muddy sludge that will become of every street on the island.

A mid-calf pair like these (women’s) or these (men’s) are exactly what you need. OR to save packing space, skip the boots and bring along a pair of these genius, waterproof shoe covers.

Rain Poncho.

Trust me, you won’t be the only one wearing one if it rains. Ponchos take up minimal packing space and are arguably more effective and less cumbersome than umbrellas. These hooded options have got you covered.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Beach Towel.

Chances are your hotel or Airbnb will provide beach towels, but if you’re like me and always like to bring one “just in case,” minimize your packing space with a Turkish Towel like these. They’re stylish, lightweight, quick-drying and can even double as a sarong. You’ll never go back to packing a regular beach towel again.


Related: The Best Oversized Beach Towels From Turkish to Round to Classic Cabana Stripes


Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Casa Las Tortugas / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm

Where to Stay: Best Boutique Hotels in Holbox, Mexico

Casa Las Tortugas

Boho chic at its finest. This luxury boutique hotel is an easy choice for its central, beachfront location, airy, neutral-hued rooms, sprawling swimming pool and array of exceptional on-site dining options. Plus, a comprehensive wellness program including spa treatments, energy healing and yoga & meditation classes. Price point: luxury

Villas Caracol

Head east of the center and you’ll find a stunning stretch of sand dotted by beach clubs, boutique hotels and lush, island vibes only. Here you’ll find Villas Caracol: a true tropical escape boasting stylish, contemporary rooms, idyllic pool complete with swim-up bar, hammock-lined beachfront and excellent on-site restaurant. Price point: luxury

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Beachfront Hotel La Palapa / Photo: Under the Palm
Beachfront Hotel La Palapa

I personally stayed here five years ago during my first visit to Holbox and loved it. This adults-only boutique hotel is not only beachfront, but literally right in the center of the island just steps to everything in town. Expect tropical-chic rooms (some boasting oceanfront balconies), an on-site spa with heated jacuzzi, rooftop solarium for sunbathing (and stargazing), plus an on-site beach bar churning out island-inspired cocktails & bites. Price point: mid-range

Hotel Para Ti

On a quiet street in town just 2 blocks from the beach lies this laid back, tropical oasis. An adults-only boutique hotel, all 11 rooms at Hotel Para Ti offer a king bed, in-room hammock and balcony – some overlooking the central pool and palm garden. Price point: mid-range

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Casa Mar / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Casa Mar

Zen vibes only at this Airbnb-meets-boutique hotel. Tucked into an oasis of wind-rustled palms and swaying hammocks, the property is located just two blocks from the beach and steps from town. A set of eight spacious, one-bedroom suites all feature calming hues and boho chic touches, plus balconies and the strongest, hottest, water pressure I think possible on an island (personally tested). Each suite comes equipped with a kitchenette as well, perfect for extended stays. Price point: ballin’ on a budget

Casa Peregrino

There are a lot of things to love about this boutique hotel in Holbox, namely it’s ideal location: right in the center of town, just one block from the beach, and perched atop my favorite coffee shop on the island (more on this below). Only a handful of rooms are offered here, all equipped with plenty of thoughtful touches and some with a balcony and/or kitchenette. Plus, a shared rooftop complete with dipping pool, sundeck and sunset views. Price point: ballin’ on a budget

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Naranjas / Photo: Under the Palm

Where to Eat: Best Breakfast Restaurants & Coffee Shops in Holbox, Mexico

Naranjas

My pick for the best Mexican breakfast in town. Head to this popular open-air eatery for heaping portions of traditional faves like Huevos Rancheros, Molletes and (the BEST) Chilaquiles. Plus, a range of pick-me-up beverages from coffee to fresh-pressed juice to signature smoothies.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Painapol / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Painapol

Another popular breakfast spot in town, expect masterfully presented smoothie bowls, sandwiches and sweets in a rustic-chic setting. If you’re looking to ‘gram your breakfast in Holbox, this is where to do it.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Another Clandestino / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Another Clandestino

The best coffee shop on the island where you can expect excellent brew in addition to a nice selection of light bites ranging from bagels to smoothie bowls. There are two locations: Clandestino and the aptly named Another Clandestino. I prefer the latter. Choose to sit in the spacious indoor café with A/C or outdoors in the back garden. For those looking to plug-in, this is also your best work-from bet with plenty of tables, outlets and wifi (free for the first 30 minutes, then a fee applies). A head’s up that you’re still on island wifi so do not expect rapid speeds.


Related: In the Yucatán Jungle, This Celebrated Netflix Chef is Giving Travelers a Taste of Rooted Maya Culture


Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Ceviches La Chingada / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm

Where to Eat: Best Lunch Restaurants in Holbox, Mexico

Ceviches La Chingada

Your go-to for the best, fresh ceviche on the island, not to mention battered fish tacos, shrimp nachos and fire-grilled whole fish. Located in town just a few blocks from the beach, this unassuming spot is an excellent option at any time of day.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Holbox Foodie Market / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Barba Negra

One word: tacos. Located inside the Holbox Foodie Market you’ll find this laid-back spot churning out an impressive selection of mouthwatering tacos. Options range from sea to land to plant-based, including my faves: the Taco de Camarón a la Diabla (spicy shrimp taco), Taco de Chicharrón de Pulpo (octopus and fried pork skin) and Taco de Champiñones al Ajilllo (mushrooms with garlic).

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Las Panchas / Photo: Under the Palm
Las Panchas

Just steps from the beach you’ll find this Holbox staple serving everything seafood in a casual, open-air setting. Known for its authentic vibe and heaping portions, this place is fittingly popular with both locals and tourists – don’t be surprised if there’s a wait.

*For more lunch spots, see Best Beach Clubs below.*


Related: These Are the Best & Most Unique Dining Experiences in the Mexican Caribbean


Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Luuma / Photo: Under the Palm

Where to Eat & Drink: Best Dinner Restaurants and Cocktail Bars in Holbox, Mexico

Luuma

One of the island’s most hyped-up restaurants, I’m happy to report that Luuma at Casa Las Tortugas (mentioned above in Best Hotels) is absolutely worth it. Expect hip, boho-chic vibes with creative plates and craft cocktails to match – not to mention welcoming and efficient service. It’s hard to pinpoint the cuisine exactly, but think elevated island fare with international influences seen in shareable, tapas-style dishes. The Kebab de Camarón (shrimp kebab sandwich), Croquetas de Chaya (chaya croquettes), Panceta de Cerdo (pork belly) and Boulevardier cocktail are all standouts.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
ROOTS Pizza / Photo: Under the Palm
ROOTS Pizza

Two words: pizza + mezcal. This place does both in spades with perfectly wood-fired, thin crust pies washed down with the most extensive selection of mezcal I’ve seen on the island. TIP: Holbox is known for it’s signature lobster pizza, and this spot is an excellent place to get it.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Hinata / Photo: Under the Palm
Hinata

Japanese comfort food served with love in a casual, beachfront setting. This place wins as the most unexpected find on the island and easily a top-favorite meal. Expect friendly service and authentic, flavorful dishes such as the smoky Chashu Don (braised pork belly) and my favorite – the savory Sukiyaki (rib-eye hot pot). Don’t forget to wash everything down with a carafe of sake or soju.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Las Hamacas / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Las Hamacas

Vacay vibes only at this charming beachfront restaurant serving up elevated international cuisine. Part of Villas Caracol (mentioned above in Best Hotels) you’ll find this unassuming spot located along the beach east of town. Open from breakfast to dinner it’s a great choice at any time of day, although I loved Las Hamacas most for sunset drinks and bites. The atmosphere is magical, views beautiful and dishes just as inventive as the cocktails – including my fave, the “Just Beet” mezcal concoction.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Casa Nostra Rooftop / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Casa Nostra Rooftop

Could this be the island’s best-kept secret? Possibly. I loved this intimate Italian restaurant for its cozy, palapa-covered rooftop setting, friendly service and most importantly – perfectly prepared pasta that I’m still dreaming about (specifically, the Pasta Boscaiola). Plus – excellent cocktails, desserts to tempt and everything at some of the most reasonable prices in Holbox. TIP: There are only a handful of tables here so it’s best to either arrive early (before 8pm) or better yet, make a reservation.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
El Chiringuito Bar / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
El Chiringuito Bar

This tiny beachfront palapa bar (part of Hotel Zomay) has grown more and more popular over the years – particularly at sunset. Come at this magical time of day and you’ll find a bustling scene here. Grab a seat in one of the coveted bar swings or at a beachfront table, order your fave libation and enjoy the spectacular show that is a Holbox sunset. A respectable menu of island fare is further offered (think ceviches, tacos and salads) making this a great choice for a beautiful, if not romantic, toes-in-the-sand dinner.

Piedra Santa

Hip jungle vibes await in a spacious, beautifully designed space located on an otherwise quiet street a few blocks east of town. A thoughtfully prepared menu of elevated surf & turf fare offers plenty of plant-based options too, exuding hints of regional Yucatán as well as Italian influences. Can’t make it for dinner? Craft cocktails here are on point, and make the bar at Piedra Santa a destination of its own for a pre or post-dinner drink (or two). Try the Ámbar de Mexico, with mezcal, hibiscus and tepache (a fermented pineapple concoction originating in Jalisco).

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Tacos Árabes / Photo: Under the Palm
Tacos Árabes

Who needs a seated dinner when you can go on a taco crawl? My husband & I did just this one night, hitting the number of taco carts that pop up around the main plaza after dark. The hands down fave of them all? Tacos Árabes, serving up deliciously marinated meat on freshly grilled pita. It doesn’t come up on Google Maps but you’ll find the cart next to Lecmu Barbacoa Tacos – also notable and our second favorite of the options in the plaza.

The Hot Corner

No Holbox guide could possibly be complete without including The Hot Corner. An island original, head to this popular late-night spot for drinks, bites and live music in a casual yet hip setting. As the name suggests, it’s located on arguably the hottest corner in town – that becomes a scene of its own as the night progresses.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Salma / Photo: Under the Palm
Salma

The newest late-night haunt on the scene, you won’t want to miss Salma for post-dinner revelry or dinner itself. A menu of grilled land and sea fare is just as excellent as the craft cocktails, all served in a moody, dimly-lit space lined with flickering candles, sugar skulls, and more enigmatic influences. As the night progresses both the mezcal pours and tribal beats increase, spun by live DJs in a space where you’ll want to see and be seen.

Sip Local: Solferino Gin and La Holboxeña Craft Beer

One of my fave finds on Holbox? The local-distilled, small batch Solferino Dry Gin, made with love by master distiller Christian Javier Taraborrelli in namesake Solferino – a tiny Maya village located in the jungle just 15 mins from Chiquilá. It’s part of the small yet growing made-in-Mexico gin scene, and the only gin producer in the state of Quintana Roo (where Holbox, as well as the neighboring Riviera Maya coastline, are located).

A number of restaurants, bars & beach clubs in Holbox now carry the jungle-born gin, including ALMA Pool Bar, Barba Negra, Capitán Capitán, Ceviches La Chingada and ROOTS Pizza (all mentioned throughout this guide). Whether at any of these locales or elsewhere, be sure to sip local and request Solferino for your gin-based cocktails – or just to try. If said bar doesn’t currently carry it, hopefully the next time they will.

Not stopping at small-batch spirits, Taraborrelli also brews La Holboxeña: an outstanding Coconut Porter that may as well be the artisanal cerveza of my dreams. You can only find it in Holbox, so keep your eyes peeled for the island vibe bottle and enjoy while you can. Cheers!

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
La Playa de Naña / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm

Where to Chill: Best Beach Clubs and Rooftop Pools in Holbox, Mexico

La Playa de Naña

The perfect blend of hip yet laid back, head here for a relaxing day of beachfront bliss on the island’s main (and arguably most beautiful) stretch of sand – just east of town.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Punta Caliza Beach Club / Photo: Under the Palm
Punta Caliza Beach Club

There are many reasons to love this unassuming, palapa covered haven, but for me it was the best shrimp tacos I had on the island, perfectly shaken carajillos (an espresso cocktail) and a commitment to zen vibes only.

Mandarina Restaurant & Beach Club

In my mind Casa Las Tortugas can do no wrong, and neither can their seriously chic beach club – complete with refreshing craft cocktails and creative, island-inspired bites.

Capitán Capitán

No frills, just fun. Head to this lively spot for excellent seafood, tropical cocktails and plenty of sunshine in a good vibes only setting.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Café Del Mar / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Café Del Mar

In search of paradise? You’ll find it at Café Del Mar, a hidden gem located just west of town. Head here for a truly tranquil beach day complete with the sound of gently lapping waves, endless stretches of white sand, friendly service and a made-with-love menu of island inspired café fare – including fresh ceviches and the best, homemade focaccia sandwiches.

ALMA Pool Bar

Located east of town (almost to the end of the hotel zone) is another of the island’s best-kept secrets. Climb the wooden staircase of Villas Tiburon to reach ALMA, where a hammock-dotted rooftop pool, stunning sea views, daybeds and hip vibes await. Plus: Live DJ sunset sessions on the weekends.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Soulbox Rooftop at Hotel Mittoz / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Soulbox Rooftop

This chilled out rooftop located right in town offers 360 degree island views, a pool, creative tropical fare (still dreaming about the garlic shrimp), 2×1 happy hour and epic sunsets. Need we say more?


Related: Valladolid Travel Guide: Best Things to Do, Eat & See in this Bohemian Yucatan Enclave


Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Under the Palm

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Under the Palm

What to See & Do: Best Activities, Experiences and Excursions in Holbox, Mexico

Best Things to Do in Holbox: Explore

One of the best things to do in Holbox is simply exploring the island. You can easily cover the center on foot, where you’ll be privy to a colorful street art scene, tempting souvenir shops and plenty of places to stop for a drink or bite.

To explore further out of the center you’ll want to rent a bike or golf cart, either of which you can take all the way west to Punta Coco or east to (the starting point of) Punta Mosquito.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
A lone fisherman at Punta Coco. / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Best Things to Do in Holbox: Punta Coco

Here you’ll find a virgin beach boasting nothing but endless white sand, calm turquoise water, one lone beach bar (which isn’t always open) and possibly the most stunning sunsets on the island. If you’re looking for an off-the-grid beach day you’ll find it here, although given the lack of amenities it’s best to BYO and come prepared.

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
The beginning of the sandbar trek to Punta Mosquito. / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Best Things to Do in Holbox: Punta Mosquito

This is a beautiful nature reserve where you can see pink flamingos, rare bird species and more tropical wildlife. Reaching Punta Mosquito is a bit of a journey, but it’s worth it. Here’s your step-by-step guide:

1) Take your bike or golf cart as far as Hotel Las Nubes. Park at the very end of the hotel, look for the Nature Reserve sign, and continue on foot.

2) After a brief walk you’ll emerge onto the beach. Look out into the ocean and you’ll see a sign sticking out of the water. This is situated on a sandbar which is the route you’ll take to reach Punta Mosquito.

3) Walk out through the (shallow) water until you reach this sign and hence, the sandbar. From here, you’ve got about a 1 hour – 90 minute walk ahead of you until you reach Punta Mosquito. (Yes, this does mean it’s an equally long walk back to Hotel Las Nubes.) You’ll know you’ve reached Punta Mosquito when you see the white buoys. These indicate the furthest point you’re allowed to go within the nature reserve, so do not continue past them.

4) It’s important to note that tides vary and you really only want to attempt this at LOW tide. At best you can expect a long, meditative walk along an ankle or shin-deep sandbar. At worst, a grueling trek through knee or even waist-deep water. Either way, reaching Punta Mosquito is certainly an effort and not for the faint of heart.

5) Plan ahead. Check the tides and be sure to come prepared as you won’t find any services, amenities or shade in/around Punta Mosquito.

6) Alternatively, you can reach Punta Mosquito on this guided, sunrise kayak tour.


Related: This Bohemian Hideaway is Giving Tulum Vibes on Yucatán’s Under-the-Radar Gulf Coast


Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox, Mexico / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Best Things to Do in Holbox: Whale Sharks

During the season from May – September you can embark on the incredible adventure of swimming with these majestic giants. (Note it’s snorkel only; scuba diving is not permitted.) This is easily the island’s most popular activity and also the most expensive – but worth it for a once-in-a-lifetime encounter. This full day excursion has you covered for the surreal swim plus, a stop at Cabo Catoche (more on this below).

Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
The dock at Isla de los Pájaros. / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Best Things to Do in Holbox: Three Islands Boat Tour

This boat tour takes you to three locations just off the coast of Holbox: Isla de los Pájaros (Island of the Birds), Isla de la Pasión (Island of Passion) and Yalahau Lagoon. Located on the mainland close to Chiquilá, Yalahau is not in fact located on an island, but hey, semantics. The tour typically takes around three hours and is offered via shared or private boat.

TIP: If you can splurge for the private boat, I highly recommend it. You’ll have a flexible departure time which means you can leave earlier or later than most of the other boats, giving you a chance to avoid the crowds (especially at Yalahau which can get packed mid-day).


Related: 9 Best Things to Do in the Mexican Caribbean (Cancun Through Tulum): Cenotes to Ancient Maya Ruins to an Uninhabited Island


Best Things to Do Holbox, Mexico
Isla de la Pasión / Photo: Alberto Lama for Under the Palm
Best Things to Do in Holbox: Cabo Catoche Boat Tour

Stretch your sea legs further with an approx six-hour boat excursion to nearby Cabo Catoche. This stunning virgin beach happens to be the point where the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea meet. During the tour you’ll have a chance to fish, snorkel and relax on the beach, where you’ll enjoy freshly prepared ceviche from the day’s catch. Keep your eyes peeled – you may even be lucky enough to spot a few bottle-nosed dolphins throughout the day. You can embark on the tropical adventure either in a shared or private boat.

Best Things to Do in Holbox: Bioluminescence

There are a few locations throughout Holbox where you can view the magical, glittering phenomenon of bioluminescence: water that appears to be “glowing” due to the phytoplankton that live there (a type of floating, microalgea). When agitated due to water movement created by waves, swimming fish or in this case – swimming humans – the tiny microbes emit a soft light giving the appearance of glowing water. To best experience bioluminescence you want to go on a very dark (if not pitch black) night. Timing your visit just after, and not during, a full moon is a wise move.

How to find these magical locations? Well, you can attempt to DIY it by asking around, but I feel it’s much easier to hire a guide. You’ll be picked up from your hotel/Airbnb at night (typically around 9pm) then taken to your guide’s preferred spot. Once here you’ll simply wade into and swim around in the water, stirring it up to see the resulting, glowing phenomenon.

Or, you can embark on a more immersive experience via a guided, nighttime kayak tour.