Cozumel vs Holbox

Cozumel vs Holbox: Which Island is Better in 2024?

Viva La Travelista Disclosure

Planning a trip to Mexico and can’t decide between Cozumel and Holbox? You’ve come to the right guide!

As a travel blogger that lives in nearby Playa del Carmen, I know all about these two popular island destinations and I’m here to share what each one is really like!

While both make amazing destinations for a beach vacation, Cozumel and Holbox have some key differences, and are suited for different types of travelers.

In this ultimate Cozumel vs Holbox comparison guide, I’ll share everything you need to know about how the two island destinations compare when it comes to hotels, beaches, activities, nightlife, safety, costs, and more.

Plus, you’ll learn more about the pros and cons of each one and who they’re best suited for.

Ready to find out which of these Mexican island destinations is best for you? Let’s get started!

Which is Better Cozumel or Holbox?

When it comes to choosing between Cozumel or Holbox, it depends on the type of vacation experience you’re looking for.

With its abundance of coral reefs and marine life, Cozumel is better if you’re a scuba diving or snorkeling enthusiast.

It has some of the best dive sites in the world and is known for its crystal clear waters and vibrant coral reefs.

On the other hand, Holbox is better if you want a more laid-back and secluded island experience.

It’s much less developed than Cozumel and known for its natural beauty, peaceful atmosphere, and lack of large resorts.

Plus, it’s home to bioluminescence where you can swim with glowing plankton at night.

Both offer unique experiences, so it really depends on what you’re looking for in your vacation.

Cozumel vs Holbox: Overview

In my opinion, both Cozumel and Holbox are worth a visit! These beautiful islands are each special in their own way and have a lot to offer travelers.

But if you’re limited on time and are trying to decide where to spend your vacation days, here’s a quick overview of each destination:

About Cozumel

Cozumel is the largest island in the Mexican Caribbean, located about 7 miles to the east of Playa del Carmen, and a 45-minute ferry ride from the mainland.

At 30 miles long, the island is more developed on the west side, where you’ll find San Miguel de Cozumel, the island’s largest town and main city center.

Thanks to its stunning Caribbean beaches, incredible coral reefs, and beautiful jungle landscapes, Cozumel is a popular tourist destination for beach and sun-seekers.

It is also one of the most visited cruise ship destinations in the Caribbean and welcomes millions of cruise ship travelers every year.

Cozumel’s abundant snorkeling and scuba diving sites attract tourists and diving enthusiasts from all over the world.

The impressive coral reefs surrounding the island are part of the Mesoamerican Reef, which is the second-longest barrier reef system in the world, only second to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

A floating water park in Cozumel Mexico

About Holbox

Holbox (pronounced “Hole-bosch”) is a much smaller and less developed island located on the northwestern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula.

To reach Isla Holbox, you must take a 30-minute ferry from the small town of Chiquila, which is located about 2 hours away from Playa del Carmen, Cancun, and the Riviera Maya.

At just 26 miles long and just 1 mile wide, Holbox has a very laid back vibe and feels like a small fishing village with stunning white sand beaches, shallow waters, and beautiful sunsets.

With only dirt roads, cars are not allowed on the entire island, so you’ll have to get around on foot or rely on a golf cart or bicycles.

There’s a small downtown area where you’ll find the majority of restaurants, bars, and shops and most of the hotels are scattered along the beachfront.

Holbox is also known for its bioluminescence–an amazing natural phenomenon that occurs when plankton in the water lights up at night.

The island is still up-and-coming and largely undeveloped so it’s best if you’re looking for a quiet beach getaway but willing to forgo some of the comforts of more developed beach towns.

Hammocks on a beach in Holbox Mexico with palm trees and chairs on a sunny day

Cozumel vs Holbox Map

Here is a map of Cozumel and Holbox to give you an idea of where they are in relation to each other:

Cozumel vs Holbox: Who Are They Best Suited For?

Here’s an overview of the types of travelers each beach town is best suited for:

Who is Cozumel best suited for?

Cozumel is a great destination for those looking for a relaxing beach getaway but still want some options for dining and entertainment.

While still a small island, Cozumel is much more developed and spread out than Holbox offering more options for restaurants, bars, and attractions.

The island tends to attract families, couples, and older individuals to its beachfront all-inclusive resorts and is not really considered a party destination.

You’ll still find plenty of adventurous things to do in Cozumel, but it is best suited for those who truly want to escape to an all-inclusive resort.

And with its incredible coral reefs, Cozumel is also an extremely popular destination for scuba diving enthusiasts, as there are many dive sites around the island suitable for beginner or experienced divers.

Plus, with an international airport and easier access from the mainland, it’s pretty easy to get to Cozumel from anywhere in the world.

A terrace with chairs and a railing overlooking the ocean at Hotel B Unique in Cozumel Mexico

Who is Holbox best suited for?

Holbox is best suited for those looking for a secluded getaway where you can truly unplug–the wifi and cell service on the island is pretty spotty!

Although the island does have some restaurants, bars, and attractions, you won’t find the same level of development as in Cozumel.

Holbox is great for travelers looking to relax away from crowds and enjoy nature or do simple activities like lounging on the beach, kayaking, or riding bikes.

The island is a paradise for beach lovers, as its stunning white sand beaches with shallow turquoise water are some of the best in Mexico.

Holbox is not as popular with families, but more suited for couples and younger travelers looking for a low-key beach getaway.

So if you’re someone that likes more off-the-beaten path destinations away from the touristy crowds, Holbox will be perfect for you.

Additionally, Holbox is a bit harder to get to so it’s typically better suited for travelers that are planning a trip around Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, rather than flying in from an international destination.

A beach in Holbox Mexico with blue water and clouds

Cozumel vs Holbox: Pros & Cons

Here’s a look at the Cozumel and Holbox pros and cons to help you make your decision:

Pros of Cozumel

  • More developed with better infrastructure
  • Better snorkeling and scuba diving
  • More restaurants, bars, and things to do
  • International airport – easier to get to
  • More accommodation options

Cons of Cozumel

  • More expensive
  • Need a car to get around
  • Beaches are more rocky
  • More touristy
  • More crowded
The colorful Cozumel sign in downtown San Miguel de Cozumel

Pros of Holbox

  • Beautiful beaches
  • Less expensive
  • Walkable
  • Bioluminescence at night
  • Less touristy

Cons of Holbox

  • Less infrastructure
  • Poor wifi and cell service
  • Harder to get to
  • Not much to do when it rains
  • Need cash
Things to Do in Holbox

Cozumel vs Holbox: Safety Comparison

Next, let’s take a look at how these two destinations compare when it comes to safety.

U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory

The official U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory for both Holbox and Cozumel is currently “Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution” due to the high levels of crime and violence in the overall state of Quintana Roo.

The United States Mexico travel advisory mentions that criminal activity and violent crime may occur in popular tourist destinations such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum, but does not specifically list Holbox or Cozumel as areas of risk.

U.S. State Department Travel Advisory Levels

Crime and Safety Index

Holbox is too small a town to have a Crime and Safety Index, however, Cozumel currently has a crime index of 34.54 (low) and a safety index of 65.46 (high) on a 100-point scale as reported by Numbeo.

When compared to other destinations in Mexico, both Cozumel and Holbox have much lower levels of crime and cartel activity.

That doesn’t mean that crime can’t happen but you should feel very safe walking around the islands during the day, and at night if you stick to the main tourist areas.

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A girl standing in front of a street mural in Cozumel Mexico

Is Holbox safer than Cozumel?

When comparing safety in Holbox to safety in Cozumel, both islands feel very safe to visit and I have never had any safety concerns when visiting either one.

They are both low-key beach towns where you can find a bit of evening entertainment if you go looking for it, but they don’t have a wild nightlife scene.

Holbox probably feels safer than Cozumel due to its small size and remote location, but you should still take basic safety precautions.

As in any destination, it is important to be aware of your surroundings, avoid illegal activity, and never leave personal belongings unattended.

And if you are traveling alone, it is also best to avoid walking alone at night and never leave drinks unattended.

A street in Holbox Mexico

Cozumel vs Holbox: Cost Comparison

When it comes to costs, Cozumel is typically a more expensive destination than Holbox.

Cozumel caters to tourists and cruise ship visitors so prices there are a bit inflated for hotels, restaurants, and activities.

But at the same time, the island of Cozumel does offer better infrastructure, as well as more accommodation and dining options.

A Disney cruise ship on the water in Cozumel Mexico

On the other hand, Holbox is more up-and-coming so prices tend to be lower, but the infrastructure is less developed and there are fewer restaurants, hotels, and attractions.

You’ll also want to factor the costs of getting there into your budget planning as both islands take a bit of work to get to.

Cozumel has an international airport and there are direct flights from the U.S., or you can fly into Cancun Airport, drive to Playa del Carmen, and then take the ferry over to Cozumel.

A ramp leading down to the Playa del Carmen to Cozumel Ferry

To reach Holbox, you’ll need to fly into Cancun Airport, then drive to Chiquila, and then take the Holbox ferry across to the island.

So you’ll need to add up the costs of flights, transportation, and ferries to get a sense of what your total trip will cost.

But both islands do offer a range of accommodation and transportation options so there are definitely ways to make either destination work for your budget.

The Holbox Express ferry from Chiqula to Holbox Island

Cozumel vs Holbox: Beaches Comparison

When comparing the beaches, Cozumel and Holbox both have really nice beaches with clear turquoise blue waters.

However, due to their close proximity to the coral reefs, the majority of the beaches in Cozumel tend to be more rocky.

Plus, it’s important to know that the beaches on the eastern side of Cozumel have large waves which make them unsuitable for swimming.

A floating water park in Cozumel Mexico

But you still can find white sandy beaches in Cozumel, like Playa Palancar for instance, which is located on the southwestern side of the island.

But the real charm of Cozumel’s beaches lies in the ability to snorkel straight off the shore, where you can spot tropical fish and a variety of marine life.

Playa Palancar Beach in Cozumel Mexico with umbrellas and palm trees

On the other hand, Holbox boasts dreamy, widespread white sand beaches with really shallow, calm waters that are bright turquoise in color.

The water is so shallow that you can walk a fair distance off shore, making it a quintessential tropical paradise.

A beach in Isla Holbox Mexico with turquoise water

However, it’s worth noting that there can sometimes be seaweed present in Holbox. But I’ve always found that beaches on the eastern side of the island (just to the right of downtown) typically have less seaweed.

So whereas Cozumel appeals to the adventurous snorkelers, Holbox is ideal for those seeking the classic, idyllic beach experience.

A beachfont in Isla Holbox with chairs and a decorative boat

Cozumel vs Holbox: Hotels Comparison

Next, let’s compare the hotel options in Cozumel and Holbox. Both islands have a range of accommodations options to fit any budget.

So whether you’re looking for a cheap hostel, a luxury hotel, or an all-inclusive resort, you can find them on both islands.

But with it being larger, Cozumel just has a lot more to choose from. The island offers everything from luxury beachfront all-inclusive resorts to budget dive hotels and VRBO options.

An oceanfront pool with lounge chairs at Cozumel Palace Resort

Holbox is a little more limited, but there are a lot of new hotels opening up as the island becomes more popular.

Hotels on the beach in Holbox are much more expensive so if you’re looking for a more affordable option, you’ll want to stay in the downtown area which is just a short walk to the beach.

A pool in a courtyard at Madre Holbox Hotel

Where to Stay in Cozumel

If you’re wondering where to stay in Cozumel, here are a few options to consider:

Travelista Tip: If you’re looking for the best beaches, I would recommend staying at a hotel on the southwestern side of the island, as the beaches here are less rocky.

The view of the ocean from Hotel B Unique Cozumel

Where to Stay in Holbox

If you’re wondering where to stay in Isla Holbox, here are a few options to consider:

Travelista Tip: If you’re looking for the best beaches, I would recommend staying at a hotel on the eastern side of the island, as the beaches here are more widespread and typically have less seaweed.

Villas HM Palapas del Mar Review

Cozumel vs Holbox: Activities Comparison

When it comes to activities, Cozumel definitely has the edge over Holbox!

There are numerous activities and excursions in Cozumel like snorkeling tours, scuba diving, kayaking, and paddleboarding, as well as land activities like ATV tours, jeep tours, and ziplining adventures.

A girl driving a jeep in front of the beach in Cozumel Mexico

There are also many different beach clubs and water parks in Cozumel, as well as cultural attractions like ancient Mayan ruins, the Cozumel Museum, and historical sites like El Cedral.

Holbox is much smaller and quieter so there aren’t quite as many activities to choose from.

There are some unique things to do in Holbox like wildlife watching, whale shark tours, and bioluminescence tours, but it tends to be more of a relaxing destination than an action-packed one.

Wooden swings in front of the beach in Holbox Mexico

Best Things to Do in Cozumel

Here are some activity highlights exclusive to Cozumel:

  • El Cielo: A popular snorkeling spot, El Cielo is a shallow sandbar known for its unbelievably crystal clear water and abundance of giant starfish. On the El Cielo tour, you’ll get to visit El Cielo, as well as snorkel at the famous Palancar and Columbia Reefs.
A boat on the water at El Cielo Cozumel
  • Punta Sur Eco Park: Marking the southern point of Cozumel, the Punta Sur Ecological Park spans a whopping 247 acres of pristine beaches, natural lagoons, coral reefs, and low forest eco-systems. With activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, and even a small history museum, there’s plenty to do and see at this popular Cozumel eco-park.
View from the Punta Sur Lighthouse in Cozumel Mexico
  • Cozumel Submarine Expedition: The Cozumel Submarine Expedition is Mexico’s only submarine dedicated to tourism, diving up to 100 feet beneath the sea. While on the 2-hour submarine expedition, you’ll see the Felipe Xicotencatl sunken ship and pass near “La Pared”, a vertical drop that plummets to more than 2,000 feet deep at the edge of the island.
Atlantis Submarine submerging from the water in Cozumel Mexico
  • San Gervasio Mayan Ruins: The San Gervasio Mayan Ruins are some of the most well-preserved and extensive ruins on the island. Visitors can explore the main plaza, temples, and other structures, which were originally used by the Mayans as a sanctuary to Ixchel, the goddess of fertility. While not as grand as the Tulum Ruins or Chichen Itza, they are still worth a visit.
San Gervasio Ruins in Cozumel Mexico
  • Cozumel Pearl Farm: The only active pearl farm in the Caribbean, the Cozumel Pearl Farm lets visitors have an exclusive look at the pearl farm and lab and learn about the cultured pearl business. You’ll also have the opportunity to take a boat ride out to see the pearl hatchery and snorkel.
A pile of clams in a container at the Cozumel Pearl Farm

Best Things to Do in Holbox

Here are some activity highlights exclusive to Holbox Island:

  • Punta Mosquito: Punta Mosquito nature reserve can be reached by walking along the sandbar from Playa Holbox and you might be able to spot some flamingos in the wild.
Pink flamingos walking in the water at Punta Mosquito Holbox
  • Bioluminescence Tours: During a nighttime Holbox bioluminescence tour, you’ll get to observe the incredible phenomenon of bioluminescent plankton lighting up in the dark waters.
Holbox Bioluminescence Tour
  • Whale Shark Tours: From May to September, whale sharks gather in the waters off Holbox and near Isla Mujeres to feed on plankton, providing a unique opportunity for a whale sharks tour, where you can have an up-close snorkeling encounter with these gentle giants.
A whale shark swimming in the water
  • Isla de la Pasión: Isla de la Pasión (Passion Island) is a little island located just off the coast of Holbox. Most Holbox boat tours include a stop at Isla de la Pasion where you can see the tropical island and possibly some flamingos.
A beach with trees at Isla de la Pasion near Holbox Mexico
  • Watch the Sunset: The sunsets in Holbox are a real spectacle and every night visitors gather on the beach to watch it dip below the horizon.
A sunset over the water in Holbox Mexico

Cozumel vs Holbox: Restaurants Comparison

When it comes to dining, both Cozumel and Holbox offer a variety of culinary experiences that cater to different budgets and tastes.

Cozumel, being larger and more developed, boasts a broader selection of international cuisine, from authentic Mexican to Italian, Asian, and American.

A street in downtown San Miguel de Cozumel with orange buildings

Trendy restaurants like Kondesa offer upscale, gourmet experiences and there are also more options for oceanfront dining.

Plus, you can find street food and taco joints like Guisado’s in downtown San Miguel for a cheaper and more local experience.

Tacos with blue tortillas at Guisados Tacos Cozumel

On the other hand, Holbox provides a more casual and local dining experience, with a lot of fresh seafood dishes.

A lot of the restaurants in Holbox are in the downtown area and have dirt floors, which adds to the rustic charm.

The restaurant scene in Holbox is definitely up-and-coming and every time I go there are new restaurants popping up!

People dining at Luuma restaurant in Holbox Mexico

Aside from seafood, you’ll be able to find classic Mexican, Italian, lobster pizza, and international restaurants.

Plus, there’s a lot of cute cafes, smoothie bars, and breakfast spots like Painapol that are definitely Instagram worthy.

A girl eating a smoothie bowl at Painapol Holbox

Cozumel vs Holbox: Nightlife Comparison

When comparing the nightlife in Cozumel and Holbox, the two islands are both pretty sleepy at night and you won’t find a wild party scene like you would at the nightclubs in Playa del Carmen or Cancun.

But there are bars that are open late if you go looking for it. Cozumel has bars and restaurants in downtown San Miguel de Cozumel, and fun tiki bars like Cocomama Tiki Room.

A tiki cocktail at Cocomama Tiki Room Cozumel

And in Holbox, there is one popular spot known as “The Hot Corner” which is pretty much the liveliest spot on the island after midnight.

Here you can find live music, and everyone just gathers in the street to drink, dance, and enjoy the music.

But overall, the nightlife on both islands is limited, making it ideal for those who prefer tranquility over wild nights of partying.

Holbox vs Cozumel: FAQs

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Holbox vs. Cozumel:

Is it worth it to go to Holbox?

Yes, Holbox is definitely worth visiting! Holbox is a stunning island with beautiful beaches and an incredibly relaxed atmosphere. It’s perfect for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy a tranquil beach escape.

Why is Holbox so popular?

Holbox has gained popularity due to its untouched natural beauty and serene atmosphere. Its unique attractions, such as bioluminescent plankton and whale shark tours, coupled with tranquil beaches and stunning sunsets, make it an idyllic getaway for those seeking a relaxed and intimate vacation experience.

Is Holbox a party island?

No, Holbox is not typically considered a party island. It’s more of a tranquil beach escape, known for its laid-back vibe and natural beauty.

What’s so special about Cozumel?

Cozumel holds a special appeal due to its world-renowned coral reefs which are a paradise for divers, and wide range of water sports and activities, making it an ideal destination for those seeking both adventure and relaxation.

Is it worth it to go to Cozumel?

Absolutely! Cozumel is well worth a visit not only for its beautiful beaches and world-class diving opportunities, but also for its unique attractions, such as its Mayan ruins and Punta Sur Eco Park.

What is the best month to go to Cozumel?

The best months to visit Cozumel are from December–February when it more dry and the humidity is lower.

This is also high season in Cozumel so if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, consider visiting during the shoulder months of high season (October/November or March/April).

Is the snorkeling good in Holbox?

Not really. Holbox is not known for its snorkeling, so if you’re looking to do some serious snorkeling, head to Cozumel which has world-class diving and snorkeling experiences.

Can you dive in Holbox?

No, there aren’t really any dive sites in Holbox. So if you are an avid scuba diver, Cozumel is definitely the best option.

Is Holbox expensive?

Holbox is less expensive than nearby destinations in the Yucatan peninsula including Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum but it can still get pricey if you’re not careful.

But the island has many different accommodation and restaurant options so you can easily find something to fit your budget.

What is the best time of year to visit Holbox?

The best time to visit Holbox is from December-April during the dry season. The rainy season runs from May-October where chances of flooding are much higher.

A beach with palm trees in Holbox Mexico

Final Thoughts: Holbox vs Cozumel

So, which is better Cozumel or Holbox? I hope this Holbox vs Cozumel comparison guide has helped you to decide which island is the better choice for your vacation!

Both islands offer a unique and unforgettable experience, but ultimately it comes down to personal preference when deciding between them.

If you’re looking for a more developed beach destination with plenty of attractions and activities, then Cozumel may be the right choice for you.

I love that Cozumel offers a bit of everything–from snorkeling and scuba diving, to exploring Mayan ruins and relaxing at a beach club.

On the other hand, if you’re seeking a more tranquil and laid-back beach escape with fewer crowds and stunning beaches, Holbox is your best bet.

You’ll be blown away by the island’s dreamy beaches but just keep in mind Holbox has a less stable infrastructure with spotty cell service and wifi so be prepared to be unplugged!

But no matter which island you choose, both have plenty to offer and are great options for a Mexican beach getaway!


🇲🇽 Traveling to Mexico soon?

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