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.
What We Loved About Isla Holbox
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
The colorful streets of Holbox are filled with impressive street art! These funky murals are everywhere.
The sunsets are beautiful on the island. Stake out a spot in the sand and enjoy!
We really enjoyed the food at Viva Zapata and Rosa Mexicana for dinner and we had a yummy breakfast at El Cafecito. Básico 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!
What We Didn’t Love About Isla Holbox
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.
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.
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!
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.
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,