Playa del Carmen to Holbox

The Ultimate Playa del Carmen to Holbox Travel Guide (2023)

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Do you want to visit Holbox from Playa del Carmen? You’ve come to the right place!

I’m a travel blogger that lives in Playa del Carmen, and Holbox is one of my all-time favorite places to escape for a weekend getaway or relaxing few days.

As one of Mexico’s most underrated beach destinations, Isla Holbox delivers unbelievable beaches and calm turquoise waters for a quiet tropical getaway.

In this post, I’m sharing everything you need to know about visiting Holbox from Playa del Carmen, including how to get there, where to stay, top things to do, the best places to eat, and tips for visiting.

Read on for my ultimate Playa del Carmen to Holbox Island travel guide!

Holbox Beach

Where is Holbox Mexico?

Holbox is a tiny island located on the northern tip of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, making it a must-visit destination on any Yucatan itinerary.

To get to Holbox, you must take a ferry or water taxi from the town of Chiquila, which is located about 2 hours away from both Playa del Carmen and Cancun.

Travel times from nearby destinations are as follows:

  • Playa del Carmen to Holbox: 2.5 hours
  • Cancun to Holbox: 2.5 hours
  • Tulum to Holbox: 3 hours
  • Valladolid to Holbox: 2.5 hours
  • Merida to Holbox: 4 hours
Holbox Beach

About Isla Holbox Mexico

Here is some of the basic information about Holbox that you should know before you go:

How do you pronounce Holbox?

The correct pronunciation is “Hole-Bosh”, which means “black hole” in the Mayan language. 

You’ll want to get the pronunciation right because you might get some funny looks if you go around saying “HOLE-BOX” πŸ˜‚

What is Holbox like?

Holbox is pretty much an unspoiled tropical island paradise.  While tourism has definitely grown in recent years, the island is still relatively underdeveloped with no cars and only dirt roads. 

This makes it a beautiful place to vacation, but also means there is less infrastructure and more limited access to resources like healthcare, reliable internet, and cell service. 

Holbox Island

How big is Holbox?

Holbox is approximately 1 mile wide and 26 miles long but only the west side of the island is developed.  There are a few main streets that center around the town square.

This is where you’ll find the majority of restaurants and shops, while the hotels are located on or near the beaches.

The downtown area is completely walkable but you will want to take a golf cart taxi if you are staying further away.

How long should you stay in Holbox?

Holbox is a pretty popular destination for a side trip from Playa del Carmen, Cancun, or Tulum.

I would recommend staying for at least 2 nights.  It takes a good half day to get there so you’ll want to make sure you have enough time to experience the island. 

If you really want a relaxing getaway, you can definitely stay longer or combine it with a trip to nearby El Cuyo

It’s a pretty small island though so you might get a little bored if you stay longer than a week. 

Isla Holbox Sign

How to get to Holbox from Playa del Carmen

Getting from Playa del Carmen to Isla Holbox can seem like a daunting task but trust me it’s not as hard as it looks! 

There are a just few different ways to get there depending on your budget, car situation, and the size of your group. 

Step 1: Drive from Playa del Carmen to Chiquila

When traveling to Holbox, you will first need to drive to Chiquila, which is a small town on the northern coast of the peninsula. 

Once you arrive to Chiquila Mexico, you will then take a quick 25 minute ferry over to Holbox.  To get to Chiquila from Playa del Carmen, you have the following options:

Take a colectivo to Chiquila

If you don’t have a car, the cheapest way to get to Chiquila is to take a colectivo, which is a shared van service that is very common in this part of Mexico. 

This is personally what I used to get to Holbox and it was very easy.  The cost for the Holbox colectivo is around $250 pesos each way (~$12 USD) and the trip takes about 2 hours.

The Chiquila/Holbox colectivo picks up at the main colectivo station in downtown Playa del Carmen near the Chedraui grocery store and the main highway 307 (behind the McDonald’s).

It’s best to reserve in advance as the shuttle can fill up quickly.Β  You can reserve via Whatsaspp by sending a message to +52 984-104-6409 or +52 984 188-6604.Β 

Playa del Carmen to Chiquila Colectivo Schedule

Below are the daily pickup times for the Chiqula colectivo:

Playa del Carmen to Chiquila:

  • 8:30 AM
  • 10:30 AM
  • 11:30 AM
  • 3:30 PM
  • 6:00 PM
  • 6:30 PM

Chiquila to Playa del Carmen:

  • 7:30 AM
  • 8:30 AM
  • 11:30 AM
  • 2:30 PM
  • 3:30 PM
  • 6:30 PM

I would recommend getting there 15-20 minutes early so you can ensure you get a good seat on the shuttle.  It is first come, first serve if you do not reserve in advance. 

Playa del Carmen to Chiquila Colectivo

Take the ADO bus

Another option is to take the ADO bus from Playa del Carmen to Chiquila.

Tickets can be purchased on the ADO website (Spanish only) or on Busbud (English).

The price is around $367 pesos (~$21 USD) each way and the trip takes about 2 hours and 10 minutes.

While a little more expensive than a colectivo, the ADO bus is a larger charter-style bus and much more comfortable.

There are daily departures leaving from the Playa del Carmen Turistica ADO station on 5th Avenue leaving at the following times:

  • 9:30 AM
  • 11:40 AM
  • 1:40 PM
  • 3:10 PM

πŸ‘‰ Book ADO tickets to Chiquila on Busbud by clicking here!

ADO Bus Playa del Carmen to Chiquila

Hire a private shuttle

If you have a larger group or prefer more social distancing, another option is to hire a private shuttle to get to Holbox from Playa del Carmen. 

Pricing starts around $180 USD each way depending on the size of your group. 

πŸ‘‰ Book a private shuttle from Playa del Carmen to Holbox by clicking here!

Rent a car

Another option is to rent a car and drive from Playa del Carmen to Chiquila. The trip takes about 2 hours and is a fairly easy drive. 

Once you arrive to Chiquila, there are paid parking lots right outside the ferry where you can leave your car. 

πŸ‘‰ For a hassle-free experience, book your car through my favorite rental service Discover Cars by clicking here!

Step 2: Travel from Chiquila to Holbox Island

Once you arrive to Chiquila, you will then need to travel across the water to Holbox, which is just less than 30 minutes travel time. 

You can do this by taking the ferry or hiring a water taxi.

Chiquila Mexico

Take the Isla Holbox ferry

Taking the ferry is by far the most common way to get over to Holbox Island Mexico. 

There are two ferry companies (Holbox Express and 9 Hermanos) with alternating schedules so one leaves every half hour.  The cost is around $220 pesos ($~11 USD) each way.  

If you take the colectivo from Playa del Carmen, the time you arrive will align with the next departing ferry to Holbox so you shouldn’t have to wait long.  There are kiosks just outside the ferry where you can purchase your tickets.

The Holbox ferries are large and comfortable with an air-conditioned downstairs seating area, and an open-air upper deck. 

If you decide to sit upstairs, you’ll want to have sunscreen handy as there is no shade! There are also restrooms and luggage storage facilities on board if needed.

Holbox Ferry

Hire a water taxi

Another option for getting over to Holbox is to hire a water taxi. Once you arrive to Chiquila you will see rows of small fishing boats lined up just next to the ferry that you can hire. 

These are a good option if you drive yourself or arrive at an off hour and don’t want to wait for the next ferry.  The price is pretty reasonable and isn’t much more than taking the ferry.

How to get around Holbox

Holbox is a remote island that is still relatively underdeveloped so none of the roads are paved and the streets simply consist of dirt roads and sidewalks. 

There are no cars on Holbox, so the only way to get around is by golf carts or bicycles. 

Once you arrive to Holbox, you will be greeted by a line of golf carts waiting outside of the ferry that you can rent or hire to get to your hotel.   

If you don’t have much luggage, it’s also possible to walk from the ferry to the town center, which is less than 10 minutes away.

Travelista Tip: Holbox a beautiful island but be prepared to smell a lot of exhaust from the golf carts and inhale dust from the dirt roads, especially in the town center.

Holbox Golf Cart Taxis

Where to stay in Holbox

Even though the island is small, there is still a wide variety of Holbox hotels to meet every budget. 

If you can, I would recommend staying on the east side of the beach.  This area of the beach is nicer, more widespread, and usually has less seaweed.

Below are a few Holbox hotel recommendations:

  • LUXURY: Aldea Kuka offers the ultimate luxury experience in Holbox with its thatched-roof private bungalows. This luxury adults-only eco hotel is one of the best hotels in Holbox on the beach with a trendy outdoor swimming pool, 2 restaurants, and fitness center for guests to enjoy. 

  • MID RANGE: Villas HM Paraiso del Mar is a mid range hotel with a great central location and cute Mexican palapas, swimming pool, and on-site restaurant.

  • BUDGET: Villa Los Mangles Boutique Hotel is a value hotel located a little further away from the town center but is still beachfront and has some great prices.

  • PET FRIENDLY: Hotel Zomay is a pet friendly hotel on the west side of the beach.  This is where I stayed as I was traveling with my friend’s dog.  Hotel Zomay is an older Mexican style hotel with excellent staff and a nice beach. 
Where to Stay in Holbox

Top things to do in Holbox

There are a ton of fun things to do in Holbox whether you want to be adventurous or simply take it easy.

Here are just a few of the top things you can do on the island: 

Relax on the beach

Number one thing to do in Holbox? Nothing! This is how I spent most of my time in Holbox – just laying around on the beach and enjoying the beyond gorgeous views. 

I would recommend staying at a hotel directly on the beach so you can take advantage of their beach loungers and umbrellas. Otherwise, you can rent chairs from one of the Playa Holbox hotels or beach clubs. 

If you’re feeling up for a picturesque seaside walk, take a stroll along the natural sandbar to the Punta Mosquito nature reserve, where you might be lucky enough to spot some flamingos in the wild.

Playa del Carmen to Holbox
Holbox Beach
Holbox Island

Go swimming with whale sharks

If you want to be more adventurous, you can swim with whale sharks in Holbox, which is one of the most popular tours on the island. 

Whale shark season in Holbox is between the months of May-September, when you can get up close and personal and snorkel alongside these gentle giants. 

I swam with whale sharks in Isla Mujeres and it was truly an unforgettable experience! 

πŸ‘‰ Book a Holbox whale sharks tour by clicking here

Whale Sharks Holbox Mexico

View the bioluminescence

One of the most totally unique activities in Holbox is going on a tour to see the bioluminescence, which is a phenomenon caused by the phytoplankton lighting up under the water. 

These night time tours typically depart around 9:00PM and allow you to kayak or swim in the glowing water under the stars.

πŸ‘‰ Book the best Holbox bioluminescence tour online by clicking here!

Watch the sunset

With beaches on the west side of the island, Holbox is one of the best places in the Yucatan peninsula to watch the sunset over the ocean. 

The sunsets in Holbox are really incredible! You simply won’t find that in Playa del Carmen or on the east coast of Mexico.

In Holbox, the sunset is a highly anticipated event that everyone prepares for.  In the evenings, you will see crowds of people gathering at beach bars and setting up chairs to get a good view.  It really shouldn’t be missed!

Holbox Sunset

Where to eat in Holbox

Even though Holbox is small, it still has a good amount of restaurants, offering a variety of cuisines.  Below are my favorite restaurants in Holbox:

Painapol Holbox

Painapol Holbox is a healthy breakfast and lunch restaurant serving acai bowls, smoothies, and healthy meals. 

It’s one of my favorite restaurants in Holbox and I loved it so much I went multiple times during my stay! 

It’s a must-visit for a healthy breakfast, lunch, or a smoothie bowl that is just too pretty to eat.

Painapol Holbox
Painapol Holbox

Luuma Holbox

Luuma Holbox is a trendy restaurant and cocktail bar at Casa de las Tortugas featuring tapas and small plates. 

The atmosphere is very hip and the menu offers traditional Mexican dishes made with eclectic ingredients like chaya croquettes and black octopus empanadas. 

Luuma Holbox Restaurant

Viva Zapata

Viva Zapata is a popular dinner restaurant in Holbox with some of the best Mexican food on the island.

Featuring a restaurant and bar, the casual environment is a popular spot for a late night dinner. The menu offers traditional Mexican dishes like tacos and fajitas, as well as pasta and meat dishes.

I ordered the chicken fajitas which were tasty and best of all were served with handmade tortillas!

Viva Zapata Holbox Restaurant

Holbox Travel Tips

Follow these tips to make the most of your Holbox experience:

  • Stay on the east side of the beach: If you can I would recommend staying on the east side of the beach, which is nicer, more widespread, and has less seaweed.  Near Casa de las Tortugas is a prime location with a stunning beach but still close to town. 

  • Bring cash: Bring as much cash as you think you’ll need for your transportation and daily expenses.  Some hotels and restaurants will accept credit cards, but access to ATMs is very limited on the island so it’s best to have enough cash on hand just in case. 

  • Be prepared to be unplugged: As I mentioned, the basic infrastructure on Holbox is not the best so the cell service and wifi is extremely spotty.  Don’t expect to have reliable internet service and wifi at your hotel may only be available in common areas.

  • Bring biodegradable sunscreen: You’ll definitely want to wear biodegradable reef-safe sunscreen anytime you are swimming in the ocean in order to protect the coral reefs.

  • Don’t wear nice shoes: Since all of the roads in Holbox are made of dirt, I wouldn’t recommend wearing nice shoes as your shoes will get dirty easily.  Also, for women I wouldn’t even bother bringing heels as the roads are uneven and the whole island is pretty casual. 

Getting back to Playa del Carmen from Holbox

For the return trip to Playa del Carmen, you can basically just reverse the transportation process. 

If you’re taking the colectivo or the ADO, I would definitely recommend booking in advance as the spots fill up quickly. 

You won’t need to book your ferry tickets in advance as those tickets are usually readily available.

Visiting Holbox: FAQs

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about visiting Holbox:

How far is Holbox from Playa del Carmen?

Holbox is located about 2.5 hours away from Playa del Carmen. First, you need to take 2-hour ground transportation to Chiquila, then a 30-minute ferry ride from Chiquila to Holbox.

How long is the drive from Playa del Carmen to Isla Holbox?

The drive from Playa del Carmen to Chiquila takes about 2 hours, followed by a 30-minute ferry ride over to the island.

How long is the boat ride to Holbox?

The ferry ride to Holbox takes about 30 minutes.

Is Holbox like Tulum?

Holbox is not like Tulum because it is not yet overly commercialized. You’ll still find a relaxed, barefoot luxury kind of vibe, but it’s not as bohemian as Tulum.

Is Holbox worth it?

Visiting Holbox is definitely worth it for its calm tranquil beaches and a quiet island getaway. Just be prepared to be unplugged.

Conclusion: Playa del Carmen to Holbox Travel Guide

I hope this Holbox Playa del Carmen travel guide was helpful if you’re planning a trip to Holbox from Playa del Carmen or the Riviera Maya. 

Even though getting to Holbox from Playa del Carmen can take a while, it is so worth it!

It’s honestly one of the most stunning beach destinations I’ve ever seen.  Plus, it’s laid-back vibe will leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed.