Whale Sharks, Street Art, and Lobster Pizza: The 4-day Weekend on Isla Holbox

Mexico, Holbox Island,
Mexico, Holbox Island,  Westend61 / Getty Images


To call Isla Holbox the new Tulum isn’t quite right. This 26-mile-long, one-mile-wide sandbar off the Yucatán peninsula’s north coast, where the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico meet, has a charm all its own.

 

 

While Tulum has become a bit overrun with people who want to be “seen” on the right white-sand beach, Isla Holbox (that’s Hol-BOSH, by the way) has retained the sleepy vibes of the fisherman’s port it’s always been.

While Isla Holbox isn’t exactly remote—it’s only a 15-minute boat road from Chiquila, which is a two-hour drive from Cancun—it feels like you’re stepping off the grid. Only three or so miles are inhabited; a nature preserve, pristine beaches, and a colorful town make up the rest. Wi-Fi here is spotty at best, cars are few and far between, and there’s only one ATM on the island.

If you’re thinking there’s not a ton to do, you’re right—and that’s a good thing. If there was ever a place to succumb to island time, this is it. Follow this Thursday night through Sunday night itinerary, and you’ll see why Isla Holbox is the chillest spot on the Mexican coast. Here’s our ultimate four-day weekend guide.

How to Get There

Morning: Hop on an early flight to Cancun; from the east coast, nonstop routes take less than six hours. Once you land, take a bus or rent a car to make the two-hour drive up to the port of Chiquila. From there, it’s just a 20-minute ride over to Isla Holbox. (If you have enough people to make the price worth it, book a private air taxi for the 20-minute direct flight.)

Where to Stay

While much of Isla Holbox is bright and bohemian, Punta Caliza—the island’s newest hotel—has a distinctly minimalist look. Made from concrete and red cedar, the eco-friendly property has 12 rooms, starting at $240 per night. The vibe is earthy and clean, with white accents, natural wood decor, and thatched roofs. Each one is connected via private plunge pool to a spacious, triangular, sea-green pool hidden at the center. Run by a Mexican architect and his family, the boutique hotel leans more toward glamping (with an emphasis on glam) than high-end resort, but given its location within the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, that’s a major selling point.

Friday

Afternoon: The hard work is over—now that you’re on the island, all you really need to do is relax. If you’re motivated, rent a bike for the weekend (it’s typically less than $10 for a 24-hour rental); there’s no better way to start exploring the island. There isn’t much ground to cover, but you’ll want to take your time scoping the local street art. Graffiti covers everything from business walls to beach palapas, and the bright colors really pop against the sandy streets and blue skies.

Private air taxi to Isla Holbox
Private air taxi to Isla Holbox Courtesy of Flights Holbox

 

Evening: On a Caribbean-esque island like this, seafood is a no-brainer. After catching the sunset, head to El Sushi for seafood that was swimming mere hours ago. All the dishes—from lobster to shrimp sashimi—have a Mexican twist. Then grab drinks at The Hot Corner, an open-air bar known for its live music, or Carioca’s, a quiet beach bar that turns into a disco on Wednesday through Sunday nights.

Saturday

Morning: From mid-May and mid-September, giant whale sharks migrate in huge numbers to the Yucatan Cost right off Isla Holbox—which makes this a prime location for shark diving. Don’t be scared off by the word “shark;” these gentle creatures (despite growing to be 45 feet long and weighing up to 15 tons) are totally harmless and feed only on plankton. Book a tour with Holbox Whale Shark Tours to get up close and personal with them. The day-long adventure also includes a snorkel stop at Cabo Catoche and a break at Santa Paula for ceviche.

Afternoon: If you’re ravenous after all that time in the water, grab tacos at TacoQueto, where the Mexican food is as authentic as it is cheap. If you’re mostly thirsting for a beachfront cocktail, head to Coquitos Beach Bar, located just in front of Holbox Dream Hotel (there’s also a full menu), or Raices Beach Club & Marina (where seafood is served with a side of reggae music).

Holbox Dream Hotel
Holbox Dream Hotel Courtesy Image

 

Evening: Catch the sunset at the roofdeck of the Mandarina Restaurant & Beach Club at the Casa Las Tortugas hotel. Then, head downstairs to dine at the beachfront restaurant. While the prices are higher than other restaurants, the location—romantically lit by fairy lights—is worth the final bar tab. Stop by LUuma, next door, for post-dinner cocktails.

Sunday

Morning: Start your morning with breakfast at the bright pink La Isla Del Colibri in the center of town. Next, join a tour out to Yalahau Cenote, a sinkhole that’s 30 minutes from Isla Holbox by boat (you can get tickets in town). The Yucatan Peninsula has over 6,000 cenotes, and you can’t visit Mexico without stopping at one. Yalahau was once a haven for pirates, and it’s often called “the fountain of youth.” There’s no science on whether a dip will actually make you look younger, but the views are worth the trek. Most tours also stop at Isla Pasion and Cabo Catoche, too.

Afternoon: Stop by the food truck Et Voila in town for a late lunch. There are a few tables out front where you can nosh on tacos. Then, lounge in the hammocks in front of Villas Flamingos hotel or the Hotel Villas Tiburon. They’re an iconic photo spot, and even though they’re technically for hotel guests only. You can also seek out the water swings in front of Ensueño Holbox or La Carolinda Beach Club.

Hotel Villas Tiburon
Hotel Villas Tiburon Courtesy Image

 

Evening: After sundowners on the beach, walk into town for two local delicacies. First: lobster pizza. Weirdly enough, it’s a thing here, and you can get it at restaurants like Roots, Edelyn, Carioca’s, and El Hornito Argento. For dessert, grab a marquesita—a rolled-up crepe filled with ingredients like dulce de leche, nutella, or cheese—from one of the vendors making them right in the main square.

Monday

Morning: Before you leave, get one more dose of sun and sand by seeking out Isla Holbox’s famous flamingos. Once of the best places to see them is on the eastern end of the island at Punta Mosquito. It’s an hour walk from Las Nubes de Holbox hotel. You can also walk out to Isla de Pasion to the west (if you didn’t already visit by boat). It’s not necessarily an easy walk—you’re wading through water the entire time—but you’ll be walking parallel to the island itself, which makes for great views.

Afternoon: Start the trek home. There are two ferries that operate from Isla Holbox. Check the departure times and make sure you leave plenty of time for the bus or drive back to Cancun.