Ready and Roam / Holbox, Mexico
Best time to GO: December- April
A much-anticipated Spring Break trip to Isla Holbox, what Condé Nast Traveler calls one of Mexico’s last secret beach towns. Our family of four took a non-stop flight on Delta Airlines from Minneapolis to Cancun. Cancun International Airport is small and easy to navigate. However, it can get a bit crowded so be prepared to wait in line to get through customs. Once you clear customs it is a quick walk outside to connect with ground transportation. If you have been here before you know this area is a bit of bottleneck, it is crowded with transportation companies coming and going. We coordinated our transport to Holbox through our hotel but you can also schedule direct. After a few minutes of searching through the crowd we found our driver holding a sign with our name. He quickly loaded us up in a van for the 2 hour ride to the Port of Chiquilá. In Chiquilá we were dropped off with our luggage at the ferry dock where you purchase tickets for the 20-30 min ferry ride to Holbox. The ferry’s travel to the island every ½ hour from 6:30am- 9:00pm so there is no need to buy tickets in advance but if you choose to use a company such as VIP transport they will purchase these tickets as part of your package and save you the hassle. There are no cars allowed on the island. Once you arrive, a row of golf cart taxis will be waiting to take you and your luggage to your resort. The fares are cheap, expect to pay only a few dollars with tip. The ride is quick, it only take a few minutes to get everywhere on the island. Climb aboard, sit back and enjoy your first glimpse of Isla Holbox, its vibrant colors and sandy streets.
RTip: Take the earliest flight out so you arrive in Holbox in the daylight.
Holbox pronounced ‘Hol-bosh’ is about 26 miles in length and located two hours Northwest of Cancun in the Yucatan Peninsula. Holbox in Yucatec Maya translates to ‘Hoya Negra’ in Spanish, meaning ‘Black Hole’. It is thought that the Island was referred to as such because of its natural springs and shallow lagoon which was considered by the Mayans to be a fountain of youth. Holbox Island is said to have first been inhabited by eight Mayan families. It is now home to around 1,800 fortunate residents.
Palapas del Sol / reservations
We choose this quaint resort based on a recommendation from our children’s Spanish teacher, who travels to Holbox annually. We stayed in room 13, which they now called the Penthouse. This room offers a main floor bedroom, a separate loft space for additional sleeping, a large common space and a lovely balcony with an incredible view of the ocean. And yes, it was the perfect spot for reading and drifting off into afternoon naps. I do want to mention that there is an air conditioner in the bedroom on the main floor but no air in the rest of the space. Because the room is on the third floor there is a great breeze but the loft area gets a little toasty at night, even with the ceiling fan. We prefer the sound of ocean waves to the hum of an air conditioner so this was not an issue for us. The other rooms at the resort that I would suggest, if you do not want to scale the stairs to The Penthouse (they are a bit steep for little ones) take a look at the Double Queen or The Suite Superior but you really can’t go wrong. This resort is relaxed, lovingly maintained and the staff treats you like family. There is a pool on the property that is perfect for a quick dip, but the real splendor is the beach. Soft white sand and calm, crystal blue waters, you can walk into the ocean over 100 yards and only be waist deep.
This impressive family-run, boutique hotel sits on a prime spot at the edge of town. They offer daily meditation and yoga classes, an on-site spa and a top-notch restaurant called the Mandarina Beach Club. Casa Las Tortugas is credited for putting Isla Holbox on the map. People began traveling here just to see this stunning property, where every last detail is exquisite.
Rtip: We have friends who highly recommend Hotel Villa Flamingos, a beautiful property near Punta Mosquito, a large sandbar on the east side of the island.
Stroll through the Main Square
This little town is easy to navigate as everything centers around the town square. Make sure to stroll through the park in the middle of the square and take a look at the surrounding shops and vendors. If you get a chance, try a homemade crepe from one of the food carts.
Shop for Souvenirs
You can find many great, independent shops surrounding the main square and all around town. My favorites; Hecho Con Amor, Lolita Boutique, El Huacalito and Euphoria but there are many more. Not all can be found on my maps (below) or have websites to point you to, so if you are interested ask directions. I am confident you will find them when touring the town.
Watch the Sunset
Spectacular sunsets and soft, rhythmic ocean sounds bring people together in the evening. Isla Holox sunsets are not only magnificent, but complimentary. You can catch the view from anywhere on the main beach but make sure to head to the The Pier during your stay to watch the sun say goodnight.
Rent a Bike / +52 1 984 212 5941
Head to one of the secluded beaches or bike through town and do a tour of the murals that adorn the buildings. These works of art are part of an initiative with the International Public Art Festival, a collaboration of artists around the globe. They are well worth a look! We rented our wheels from Bikes Holbox but most hotels offer bike rentals, or will point you in the direction of where to find them.
Walk along the Sandbars
When the tide is low a sandbar will appear off the main beach, making a perfect trail to the end of the island. One of our favorite past times on our trip was walking along the sandbars, collecting shells and looking for sea life.
Rent a Golf Cart / +52 1 984 875 2049
Grab a map from your hotel and tour the far points of the island, or use it to transport tired kids back to your resort after a great dinner out. You can rent one by the hour, day or for your entire stay. We rented ours from Rentadora El Cachorro at the pier for $17 an hour or $70 per day.
Enjoy some Fresh Fruit
La Calabaza y El is a small market about a block from the town square that has a great selection of fruit and will make you a fresh smoothie. We bought mangos and took them back to our resort where the chef at Papalas del Sol insisted on cutting them up for us and served them Yucatan style- a little chili powder, salt and lime juice. Yum!
Los Potrillos offers horseback riding tours into the interior of the island or along the beach and out to a remote lagoon. The bi-lingual guides are kind and knowledgable and the horses are beautiful and well cared for. Although we don’t often choose horseback riding as an excursion, this was recommended to us by both locals and tourists on our return trip to the island. A hit with the whole family.
RTip: It is blazing hot during the day, if you are planning an excursion that is not in the water it is best to avoid the hottest part of the day. If you do venture out wear a hat and bring sunscreen and plenty of water.
Make your way to this sleepy beach on the very southern tip of the island. Order drinks from the tiki hut and relax in the sand or rent a lounger for $5. There are hammocks in the water if you need cool off and an ice cream cart that roams the beach. Be sure to check the tide before going.
Palapas del Sol / website
The restaurant at our hotel Paplas del Sol provides a daily made to order breakfast with your stay. They have a little kitchen and dining room at the back of the property, with a fantastic staff who will whip you up anything your heart desires. After a week of trying all the breakfast options we settled on this as our favorite; two eggs over easy, topped with sliced avocado, tomato, a dash of homemade hot sauce and a side of bacon. Kids choice? Homemade pancakes with Nutella or scrambled eggs with cheese. If you do not want to leave the hotel property in search of food during the day you can order lunch, snacks and dinner from the hotel, I suggest the shrimp enchiladas with salsa verde.
Mandarina Beach Club / website
Sea Shell hunts along the beach was one of our family’s favorite early morning activities; taking a break from the hunt at the Mandarina Beach Club was another. The kids would order a De La Playa smoothie or fresh squeezed juice and we would have coffee and admire our treasures. We also made reservations and returned for dinner one evening. The food is delicious and the property is stunning. Take a look at the menu and prices before you go, it is a bit expensive.
El Hornito Argentino / +52 81 8143 9020
Not in the mood to eat out? Craving a pizza and a quiet family night alone? Take a ride to town in a golf cart and order a lobster wood-fired pizza at El Hornito Argentino. Grab drinks at the market next door, pile back into the golf cart and head back to your room to eat, drink, and watch the sunset on the deck.
Viva Zapata Grill / website
The NCAA tournament was on during our trip and my boys really wanted lunch and a TV to watch a game. Finding good food was easy; however finding food and a TV in Holbox was not easy at all. Finding Viva Zapata was one of those happy accidents. They serve a delicious Ojo Rojo, Sour Mezcal and out of this world ceviche.
On a quiet corner at the edge of the town is Luuma. When we peeked inside the candlelit restaurant, I was not at all sure my family was prepared for what appeared to be a fancy dining experience. But Luuma staff ushered us into an outdoor lounge that was as warm, inviting and lovely as the people who took care of us. We ordered the seafood platter, spring rolls and fish croquets. If you aren't up for dinner, stop in for a cocktail. They are seriously delicious. On our walk back through town to our hotel we would swing in for their signature Luuma cocktail and dessert for the kids. If you do stop be sure to check out Luuma Le Bazaar a high-end boutique within the restaurant.
Los Peleones / +52 984 120 9685
In the mood for pasta? Los Peleones has a kitschy, wrestling theme and rooftop seating overlooking the town square. They make homemade pasta, five daily specials and a good beer selection. The beer is actually cold and served in a cute can Koozie, which we ended up purchasing to take with us. My husband pointed out that this is the first place in Holbox that served an honest-to-goodness cold beer. The Cilantro Mojito, which is excellent and not too sweet, is one of their specialties. Oh, and if you have a 13 year old that cringes when mom and dad do something strange, take them up on a picture wearing their wrestling masks.
Raices / website
Raices is a super casual restaurant on the beach with plastic chairs and tables planted on the sand. This was recommended by a couple we met at the resort, outstanding food but the wait can be lengthy. While our kids were busy in the pool, my husband walked down the beach and placed our seafood platter order. When we arrived an hour later, our meal was just about ready to eat. The service was exceptional and our meal was delicious and inexpensive. Our table on the beach was an ideal spot to watch the sunset and enjoy the catch of the day.
Repeat visitors to the island highly recommended this family-run restaurant with an exceptional menu. Make sure you go early in your trip so you have time to enjoy it a second time.
RTip: We bought snacks and drinks at a mini-super (referred to by locals) near the main square and kept them in the small fridge in the room. You can also find a good wine selection at Yo Amo Mexico, just bring your own opener (and not in your carry-on).
A flashlight or packable lantern, the island has occasional power outages, which means you should also make sure you have enough cash, as access to an ATM may be limited. Flip flops, Holbox is super casual, a lightweight dress, bug spray (a must), lots of Supergoop sunscreen and a great book- below is a favorite.
Next time we plan to to take advantage of the calm ocean waters and rent paddle-boards or kayaks now that our kids are older.
Click to see everywhere we explored in My Maps