By: Rebekah Mullinix
Holbox Island is a small island just 41.84 Kilometers long and 1.5 Kilometers wide in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. It is just north of the city Chiquila on the top of the Yucatan Peninsula. Surrounding the island is 10 Kilometers of the shallow ocean, which makes for a great beach. Holbox features Yalahua Lagoon (created from a freshwater spring) and Yum Balam Biosphere Reserve (Mexico’s largest ecological reserve). This island is home to 155 bird species. To see these magnificent creatures you can go on the 3 Island Tour.
Check out the best way to get to there!
History of the Island
During the Mayan Rebellion, also known as the Caste Wars, settlers from nearby cities took refuge in the islands nearby, one of them being Holbox. In 1854, the island of Holbox was officially recognized. Settlers stayed even through two different hurricanes destroying the island. On November 24, 1902, the Yucatan was split up and Holbox was put in the state of Quintana Roo. After the Mexican Revolution, the lumber companies closed, leaving mostly fishermen on the island.
Tourism in Holbox
Holbox is an up-and-coming tourist location. It greatly values wildlife preservation but allows for a certain amount of tourism. Due to the limited amount of unprotected land on Holbox, it only allows for a certain amount of infrastructure. The community makes sure to keep a balance between tourism and the environment. This makes it a unique destination. Holbox allows for a certain type of tourism: people looking to have experience with wildlife, whether it be birds, fish, or Whale Sharks.
Top Things to do in Holbox
- 3 Island Tour in Holbox, Mexico
- One of the most popular tours on the island is the 3 Island tour to see various species of birds. There are two tours daily at 10 am and 2 pm. The tour lasts around 4 hours. The three stops include Isla Pájaros (Bird Island), Yalahau Lagoon, and Passion Island. We got on a small boat that holds a maximum of 8 passengers and 2 crew members, so the ride was a little bumpy.
- Sand Flats
- The sand flats are basically a sandbar that is so shallow you can walk on it. The entire beach surrounding Holbox is very shallow, however, this area is particularly shallow. This is a wonderful place to enjoy the sunrises or sunsets. Many people enjoy walking along the sand flats, which start right past the hotel, Las Lubes, and go as far as Punta Mosquito.
- Punto Mosquito
- Before arriving on the island, I had read that you can walk to Punta Mosquito to see the flamingos. It is about an hour and a half walk from the central square, but you can take a golf cart to Las Lubes to shave off about 30 minutes of that time. I was told the best time to go is early in the morning, so around 6:30 am I started walking from the center of town. By the time I got to where the sand flats began, I saw that the tide had risen and the flats were in 1-2 ft of water. I decided that I did not want to wade an hour in that for the chance to see the flamingos. It was a lovely walk and very peaceful since no one else was on the beach at the time. However, for those of you that are adventurous enough, I would love to hear about your experience.
- Punta Cocos
- I had heard that Punta Cocos possibly had some flamingos, so I took a golf cart to check it out. I did not find any flamingos, unfortunately, but what I did find was a rather secluded beach. The beach was shallow and beautiful just as on Playa Holbox, but with far fewer people. This area of the island is being built up, so there is not much in the area, besides construction and some hotels. You can also drive northwest of Punta Cocos to find some other nice beach areas. I suggest driving your own golf cart to explore this part of the island as taxis don’t visit as often.
- Playa Holbox
- Playa Holbox is the main beach, where most of the hotels, restaurants, and bars are located. Many of the restaurants have swings and hammocks that you can use throughout the day. The beach is very shallow and the sand is like the consistency of silt. It is a great place to relax and enjoy.
- Swim With Whale Sharks
- Swimming with the Whale Sharks is the main reason people visit Holbox. The Whale Sharks follow the plankton and the season is May to August. The reason they stay around Holbox is that many fish lay their eggs nearby. This tour is available from Isla Mujeres and Cancun. If you are lucky to come during this time, this tour is highly recommended.
- See the Bioluminescence
- The Bioluminescence is not far away; you can access it yourself if you choose. There are two locations to see the bioluminescence on Holbox Island, one is in Punta Cocos and the other is past Las Lubes hotel. Holbox provides a thriving environment for bioluminescence because of the sand flats. On the side closest to the beach, the water is much warmer. Warmer temperatures encourage the presence and reproduction of bioluminescent plankton.
Where to Eat In Holbox
In Holbox, there are some food options. Here are my experiences below which I hope helps you avoid the bad, and enjoy the good like I did. Here are my food highlights of Holbox:
- Viva Zapata
- Viva Zapata was one of my favorite places. The walls tell the story of the Mexican Revolution and they have hand-made tortillas at their Tortillaria. Not to mention, they have amazing cocktails. I had the Passion Fruit Mojito and Margarita. For a starter, I had the cheese with ranchero dip and for the main course, I had a whole fried fish. It was absolutely delicious. I would have gone back a second time if I had more time on the island.
- Captain, Captain
- Captain, Captain, a restaurant and bar, has a great beachfront view as well as hammocks to relax in. It also has this gorgeous swing that many people take pictures with. The Mezcalritas (Margaritas with Mezcal instead of Tequila) was amazing!
- Los Peleones
- Los Peleones is a Lucha Libre (wrestling) themed restaurant, decorated with funny wrestling décor. They even provided a placemat with a Lucha Libre comic on it, which I, as a messy eater, appreciated. The rooftop offers a great view of the town. It has swings that you can sit in and enjoy the view. The food was great. As a starter, I got the pibil style pork tacos, which were really good and similar to BBQ-style pork. For the main course, I got the fish of the day, which was a white fish, with potatoes and my husband got the Chicken Fajitas.
- Street Food
- Definitely try some of the local foods from the food carts in the square. I had a chorizo torta (sandwich). It was amazing! Other vendors had chicken tacos, burritos, potatoes, and hot dogs.
- This was a very popular spot and I actually had to wait for a table. It was well worth it. Everything looked so good, so I ordered the Huevos Rancheros and a smoothie. Yum!
- El Hornito Argento
- I stopped by this fire-grilled pizza place after my long excursion with the whale sharks. I was super exhausted so I ended up ordering the pizza to go and take it to my hotel. They also deliver! I got the pepperoni pizza, a classic. They have many more options like pizza with ranchero, mushrooms, vegetables, etc…
- Moskito Sport Bar and Restaurante
- I stopped by this place because it was one of the few places open at 8 am. It is actually the restaurant that serves a nearby hotel. I ordered chilaquiles which were some of the best I have had. This is a wonderful place, with a great beach view.