We Went to Isla Holbox So You Don’t Have To

Carolinda Beach Club

We thought we had to leave Tulum to return to San Diego so Grant could wrap up some final work things but we were thrilled when we found out that we could stay in Mexico for a few more days. We decided to check out an island near Cancun we had never been to, Isla Holbox. Isla Mujeres is one of our favorites so we thought it would be similar. We booked a last minute airbnb, ADO bus ticket, and hit the road excited for 4 days in island paradise.

Upon arrival we were a little disappointed. Where we thought there would be white sandy beaches and Caribbean clear water there was merely seaweed covered sand and the brown-green Gulf.

However, Isla Holbox does have some charm so here’s the lists of what we loved and what was pretty meh.

holbox island

What We Loved About Isla Holbox

Beach Clubs

While the beaches weren’t as fabulous as expected, there are some nice beach clubs on Isla Holbox. We especially loved La Carolinda Beach Club. It has a very low key vibe. Order a drink or two and you can stay all day! The best part is the lounging area. La Carolinda has picturesque hammocks and swing sets above the sea, a Holbox trademark.

Carolinda Beach Club swings over ocean

On our last day we ventured to the north end of the island and found some very nice resorts with awesome pool areas. We visited the Sushi Sky Bar Day Club, which is part of the hotel Palapas del Mar. The rooftop pool has a nice view and plush chairs.

Resorts

We stayed at an airbnb we loved, but we soon figured out that resorts are the way to go in Holbox. Everyone raves about Casa Las Tortugas but like I mentioned we really vibed with the pool at Palapas del Mar. The rooms have their own mini-pools and they offer all-inclusive options. For the budget traveler, Tribu Hostel is a nice pick.

Tribu Hostel isla Holbox

holbox airbnb

Flamingos

We saw wild flamingos without even trying to! There are several people in town selling the three island tour, which includes a bird island supposedly full of the fun pink creatures, but we stumbled upon some flamingos by the kite boarding beach near Punta Mosquito.

Isla holbox flamingos

Downtown

The downtown area of Isla Holbox is quite charming. The roads are made of sand and there are no cars, only yellow “taxis” that are golf carts. There are several cute shops and restaurants with bright colored signs. We walked everywhere during our stay which is always a plus!

downtown isla holbox

Bioluminescence

Holbox has several bioluminescence tours where you can learn about the glowing plankton and then go swimming with them. We opted to haggle with a taxi driver who took us to the water at night instead of doing a tour. We waded in knee deep or so and it was pretty impressive but not as mesmerizing as the pictures made it appear. The best part was that our taxi was a Polaris which was really fun to ride through the puddles.

holbox bioluminescense

Street Art

The colorful streets of Holbox are filled with impressive street art! These funky murals are everywhere.

holbox street art

isla holbox street art

Sunsets

The sunsets are beautiful on the island. Stake out a spot in the sand and enjoy!

Restaurants

We really enjoyed the food at Viva Zapata and Rosa Mexicana for dinner and we had a yummy breakfast at El CafecitoBásico was one of our favorites. It was the perfect spot for a delicious breakfast and served as a great digital nomad workspace. We also loved the street food marquesitas which are crepe-like treats with nutella and banana!

digital nomads in holbox

holbox island restaurant

What We Didn’t Love About Isla Holbox

Dive Shops

Once we realized Holbox wasn’t all we expected, we thought we would go on an off-shore dive. We soon realized there is not a single dive shop on the island! During whale shark season there are several snorkel tours, similar to those on Isla Mujeres, but there is zero opportunity for scuba diving.

holbox

Restaurants

Restaurants make this list as well. Aside from the aforementioned ones, the food we ate was overrated and overpriced. Such a shame considering we love Mexican food and seafood.

Puddles

On our first day we decided to walk to Punta Coco, the “best beach” on Isla Holbox. However the only way to walk there was to wade through calf-deep mud puddles filled with stagnant water and mosquitos! We asked if there was a recent rain storm but the locals shared that this water is tidal and caused by the lagoon overflowing.

This was the least of our worries. Near downtown there were several green puddles that our taxi driver said were sewage related. We often saw raccoons drinking out of them! Yuck! One restaurant near downtown had a sewage pipe running from the restaurant directly to the ocean, so sad. I’m sure this is a reality in other parts of Mexico as well, but it was pretty crazy in Holbox!

isla holbox sewage

Price

We found Isla Holbox to be on the expensive side. It is definitely catered toward tourists and isn’t “Mexico cheap.” Paying for luxury is understandable when it feels luxurious but Holbox is lacking in that department.

holbox punta coco

Overall Vibe

The seaweed and puddles could have been seasonal and weather dependent. I have seen beautiful pictures of Holbox and read countless blog posts on how great it is, unfortunately that wasn’t our experience. If in the area, swing by for a couple of days and see for yourself but we wouldn’t recommend traveling to the Yucatan Peninsula solely for Isla Holbox. Check out Isla Mujeres and Tulum to get your white sand beach fix.

For more info on Isla Holbox, check out this Lonley Planet Travel Guide.

Hopeful in Holbox,

-Ray

12 thoughts on “We Went to Isla Holbox So You Don’t Have To

  1. Aww this makes me sad that you didn’t enjoy it. We’ve had a big cold spell from the north during December and January, a seaweed problem and lots of heavy rain. It’s not normally this bad but with the increase of hurricanes through the Caribbean during last year, we experienced big weather changes too! There’s also so many cheap places to eat, the tourist traps though are unfortunately pricey! I hope you guys give it another chance in the future 🙂

    1. Hi Lucie,

      Thank you for the comment! We have talked to some people that went at different times and they did have a completely different experience so we will absolutely have to go back.

  2. We went 2 years ago and had the same opinion and have no desire to return. We read so many good things on Tripadvisor about the Island and decided to give it a try. But we found green puddles all over the streets, raw sewage being pumped in the ocean, and the smell of trash being burned on the west side of the island.
    Thanks for the article.

  3. My wife and I have been to Holbox Three times, it really depends on the time of the season, in early May it’s Great but the start of June it gets more rain. If you want a place to sit back no cars and go back in time, Holbox is it. Head out to Punta Coco beach and then later head to town go across the ball field for El Crustaceo Kascarudo best food in town or sit next to the water and eat breakfast at Le Jardian its French very good. also a good pizza in town. Look for guitarists named Leonardo walking the beach let him play and have a drink and watch the sunset. But if you want Blue water head to playa Del Carmen or isla Mujeres or down to Akumal or Tulum. We have other spots but that’s for another time. Have fun.

  4. Fellow travel blogger here! I think Isla Holbox is spectacular! I’m so sorry you didn’t enjoy. To each their own! I love yalls posts. Going back in a week to stay at Villas Palapas Del Mar. Will definitely have to check out the bioluminescence tours.

    1. Hi Ally, thank you for the comment! Have fun on your trip. We will have to go back and give Holbox another try sometime.

  5. We didn’t love it either. I was there in March 2017 and found it to be so expensive and the beach wasn’t nice at all – especially compared to some of the other stunning beaches in Mexico. We had the distinct feeling that the locals were trying to rip us off and the fact that there is only one regular ATM that doesn’t seem to be working often but there are US dollar ATMs everywhere that charge an exorbitant price to use them and then you have to change the money as no one takes US dollars and the exchange rate they give you on the island is very poor – it just left us with a bad taste in our mouths. I wouldn’t go back.

    1. Hi Katie, Thank you for checking out our blog! I am sorry that you had a similar experience with Holbox. I hope you are enjoying yourself wherever you are now. PS. I love your blog!

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