Backpackers Guide to Isla Holbox

Isla Holbox, Backpackers Paradise

Isla Holbox is a sleepy island just off the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Three hours north of Cancun, or two sweaty bus rides and one boat crossing, this island has done well to ward off most of the tourists.

I arrived at the tail end of spring break and, miraculously, managed to find a paradise almost untouched by sunburnt students. This doesn’t mean there weren’t young people around, happily I came to find that there’s a lively backpacker scene: think dorm rooms, street food, and plastic chairs. Isla Holbox turned out to be a great place to unwind, with quiet pristine beaches, family owned restaurants and seemingly endless stretches of time It was here that I began my 10-day descent of the lower Mexican coast.

How to get there

The cheapest way to get from Cancun airport to Isla Holbox is by bus. Don’t listen to the pushy taxi drivers that will tell you, in absolute terms, that the only way to get there is to take a 2000 pesos (£200) taxi with them. Instead, find a bus stand, purchase a ticket into Cancun city for around 70 pesos then from there take the next bus to Chiquila (140 pesos).

It’s worth noting that buses to Chiquila are infrequent so check times ahead of when you expect to land. From the drop off at Chiquila, walk towards the coast and catch a ferry for 140 pesos to the island. There are two ferry companies that run from the pier so check which leaves first before buying a ticket.

Accommodation

Accommodation is scarce in Isla Holbox so it’s a good idea book ahead. However, that’s easier said than done as only some of the bigger homestays are listed on the internet. Rumors have it that the best way to book a hotel is on the phone, otherwise, an option is just to do a day trip to the island. Hotels start in the price range of 580 (at Los Arcos) for a private room or 300 for a dorm (at La Isla and Trebu hostels).

Food

If I were to tell you that the local delicacy was lobster pizza I wouldn’t be lying, I also wouldn’t be lying if I said you could get one for £10. There’s something for everyone on the island, from modern, whitewashed cafes to plastic chairs under a canvas.

I recommend checking out family-owned Cariocas Pizzaria. Other good places to eat include fancy breakfasts at Basico Cocina de Playa and cheap empanadas at La Conquista.

Drink

During the week the nightlife in Holbox leaves much to be desired, you’re better to settle with a quiet beer an early night so you can wake up and start another day of doing incredibly little. The weekends are a different story, the town springs to life with drunk tourists and locals visiting from other towns. There are plenty of restaurants and bars selling cocktails and local craft beers (as well as enough tequila to sink half the island into a drunken stupor), and even a decent sized club where you can dance in the sand.

Attractions

The main tourist attraction of Isla Holbox are the whale sharks. There are only two locations to see these beasts in the Yucatan – Island Mujeres or Isla Holbox, so Holbox, being the least touristy of the two, is preferred. Another cool thing to do is a night trip to see the photo plankton, small animals that when disturbed in the water, emit a glowing green light.

Isla Holbox is a hidden gem and definitely worth the trek to get there, but hurry, places like this don’t remain undiscovered for long.

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