Great Things to Do in Holbox, Mexico

Holbox Island boasts a Bohemian vibe, vibrant murals, and dreamy beaches, feeling like a little slice of paradise. These are the best things to do during your trip to Holbox…

Holbox Island is undoubtedly one of my favorite places in Mexico.

I love this island where you can walk barefoot along car-free sandy paths through the town. On this island, almost every building plays music, and you can dine on the beach while watching the sunset, listening to the waves lap at your toes. Everything here moves at a slightly slower pace, as I am on island time!

I’ve come to Holbox in various traveler roles. From being a budget backpacker—staying in the cheapest hostels and surviving on fried tortillas and beer—to my current travels, indulging in a nice hotel and dining at some upscale restaurants on the island.

This means that at this stage, I’ve truly gotten to know the ins and outs of this island. I’ve almost checked off everything Holbox has to offer, dined at all the top restaurants, and discovered what I believe could be the best beach bars on the island.

Holbox Town is a small fishing village with a grid-like layout, centered around a lively square. Getting around is convenient: it only takes ten minutes to walk from one end to the other, and there are no cars on the island, so there’s rarely any traffic to worry about.

Relax on the beautiful beaches of Holbox

You’ve arrived on a paradise island with white sandy beaches, swaying palm trees, and an irresistibly laid-back atmosphere! Of course, one of the best things to do in Holbox is to unwind on the beach!

Rent a hammock or sunbed (you’ll find them scattered along the beach) or simply find a spot on the sand.

If you’re willing, you can choose one of the many beach bars along Holbox Playa’s coastline. Most will allow you to use a bed or hammock in exchange for a per-person minimum spend. If you’re on a budget, Capitán Capitán is a good choice – great seafood and reasonable prices – but there are also some more upscale restaurants (I like Villa Flamingos).

Swim with whale sharks

One of the most popular activities in Holbox is the opportunity to swim with whale sharks. These beautiful and harmless creatures are the largest fish in the world, making swimming with them a truly unique experience.

The whale shark season in Holbox runs from May to September, so if you visit the island at the right time of year, you can book a tour.

Just make sure you find someone with strong ethics. Tour operators should not feed the animals or allow tourists to touch them. Most tour operators in Holbox only allow a maximum of two people to swim with the whale sharks at a time.

Explore the vibrant street murals

What I love most about Holbox is its colors! Like much of Mexico, it’s a vibrant little island town. One of the best things in Holbox Town center is a self-guided tour of the colorful murals that adorn the streets.

They are easy to find: it feels like there isn’t a street without murals! Walking through this little town doesn’t take more than ten minutes, making it easy to explore. Some of the best mural-filled streets are in the blocks around the main square and along the avenue Pedro Joaquín Coldwell, parallel to the beach.

Take a stroll to Holbox Sandbar

Holbox Sandbar is a stretch of ice-white sand that extends from Holbox Beach (near Flamingo Villa Hotel) all the way to Punta Mosquito.

Even when the tide comes in, the sandbar is usually no deeper than ankle-deep, so you can walk all the way until you reach the boundary of the nature reserve. Playa Mosquito beach here is a popular spot for sunbathing and cooling off, but there are no facilities or shade.

On the contrary, there are plenty of birds here, including pelicans, frigatebirds, and flamingos when they appear at the right time of the year. Just make sure you haven’t passed the marked boundary sign of the protected area!

There’s a waist-deep sheltered lagoon between the sandbar and the main island, perfect for observing marine life. I saw baby stingrays there last time.

Explore the Yum-Balam Nature Reserve

One of the best activities in Holbox is visiting the Yum-Balam Nature Reserve, which you’ll find at the northeast end of the beach, just behind Hotel Las Nubes.

Take a leisurely stroll through the marshland reserve, wading through ankle-deep streams, sheltered by tangled branches, all while observing local wildlife like lizards, sandpipers, and herons. The path meanders and can sometimes be challenging to spot, making it feel like a mini-adventure! As you follow the coastline, you can also discover your own private beach.

The farthest point you can walk to is a wide river (the confluence of this river with the sea is almost opposite the Playa Mosquito marker on Google Maps). I’ve heard there are crocodiles in this river, so attempting to cross it is not advisable.

Upon reaching the river, you can wade across to the Holbox Sandbar. The lagoon is typically waist-deep, and you can reach the sandbar in about 5-10 minutes.

Join the 3-island tour

One of the classic tours on Holbox Island is the Three-Island Tour. It’s a half-day boat trip that takes you to three islands: Punta Mosquito (ideal for flamingos and wildlife), Isla Pasión – Passion Island (known for its expansive white sandy beaches), and Isla Pájaros – Bird Island (a natural bird sanctuary).

Most tours also include swimming in the mainland’s Yalahau Natural Spring, which is said to have been used by pirates to replenish their freshwater supply.

There are several travel agencies in town, so it’s advisable to compare them and find a company that suits your preferences.

Enjoy lobster pizza

The signature “local” dish in Holbox is lobster pizza. Fresh local lobster (only in season) is paired with a thin, crispy pizza crust. The original is said to be made by Pizzeria Edelyn, but many consider the best one to be found at Roots, where I’ve tried it.

This is a beautiful outdoor restaurant where you can sit at tables on the sand, surrounded by lanterns hanging from the trees, and watch the chef toss pizza dough by hand. The lobster pizza is delicious (749 MXN).

Watch the sunset

The sunsets in Holbox are truly special. Every day, tourists and locals gather at the small pier on the beach to watch the sunset over the sea.

One day, the sky may turn orange and vivid red, while the next day it might be pink with fluffy cotton candy clouds. Grab some beers from the shops and then sit down on the beach to watch. Great spots include the wooden pier near Holbox Letters or the “corner” in front of El Chiringuito Bar Zomay.

Speaking of Bar Zomay, it’s one of the best beach bars in Holbox to watch the sunset. Others include Escape Holbox, Alma Bar (the rooftop bar of Villas Tiburon), and the rooftop restaurant at Spirit Holbox Hotel.

Kayak in Bioluminescence

Bioluminescence is the production of light by living organisms, and Holbox is one of the places where you can witness this phenomenon along the coastline. On the beaches in the southern part of Holbox Island, bioluminescent plankton emits a bright blue glow when the seawater is disturbed. This is particularly noticeable on clear, moonless, pitch-black nights.

After dark, you can witness it by simply taking a taxi to Punta Cocos, although this may be more expensive than a basic tour. The typical tour costs around 300-400 Mexican pesos and includes round-trip transportation to the southern end of the island, as well as about 30 minutes of boating and observing bioluminescence on the beach.

For a more exhilarating experience, you can try a nighttime kayaking tour to witness bioluminescence. Being on the sea after dark offers you the best chance to closely observe the glowing plankton with minimal light pollution. You can also enjoy an incredible starry sky with a view of several planets overhead.

Enjoy a massage on Holbox Beach

There’s nothing better than enjoying a massage by the sea, listening to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, and completely relaxing. You’ll find many places offering massage services around Holbox (after all, it’s a resort island), ranging from open-air wooden “palapas” on the beach to luxurious spa centers within hotel resorts.

I really enjoyed Selene’s Mayan massage. They have several branches, and I went to the one next to Ehuan Beach Bar (just before Casa Iguana). It’s a rustic palapa, and you do hear the noise of passing golf carts and the music from the beach bar as it faces the beach road, but the Mayan massage is excellent!

If you’re looking for a more private spa experience, you can try the spa at Spirit Holbox Hotel, where treatments include access to a pool, waterfall, and massage tub.

Rent a golf cart to explore Holbox

One of the best ways to explore Holbox Island is by renting a golf cart and embarking on an adventure. There are hardly any cars on the island, so everyone rides bicycles, mopeds, or golf carts (carrito de Golf) along the sandy streets of the island.

You can rent them from several places in town. I have rented from Rentadora Monkeys (near the main square) in the past, but there are several different options. It’s not cheap – the last time I checked (February 2023), prices started from 350 Mexican pesos per hour or 2500 Mexican pesos for 24 hours. But it’s a very fun way to get around, and you can explore most drivable areas of the island in about 2 hours.


If renting a golf cart feels too fast-paced for island life, you can also rent a bicycle to explore. It’s a great way to tour the island and take in some different sights.

Distances aren’t particularly far: you can bike from the town center to the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, or (in the opposite direction) reach Punta Cocos in less than 10 minutes. But biking is not just a quick way from point A to point B; it’s also an excellent way to explore Holbox Island and appreciate the tropical scenery.

Kayak Through the Mangroves

Holbox is a paradise for nature enthusiasts. The island is a wildlife-rich sanctuary, with much of it being undeveloped and wild. Join a guided kayak tour through the mangroves for a chance to get up close to some of the island’s most precious wildlife, including flamingos, pelicans, and ospreys. Even (rarely) crocodiles!

Kayaking is the best way to explore because it’s more eco-friendly than motorboats. It’s also quieter, which means you’ll be able to get closer to the wildlife without disturbing them. Give the Sunrise Mangrove Kayak Tour (starting from $56) or the Tandem Kayak Mangrove Tour (starting from $53) a try.

Enjoying seafood

Before becoming a bohemian-style tourist paradise, Holbox was just a small fishing village. Today, local fishermen are supplying the island’s best restaurants with super fresh and delicious seafood.

I’ve already mentioned the lobster pizza (a must-try), but there’s also ceviche, sushi, pulpo (octopus), coconut shrimp, and my favorite, fish tacos! While you’re exploring, consider trying these restaurants…

  • Las Panchas – Possibly one of the best seafood restaurants on the island. Casual, simple, and loved by both locals and tourists.
  • Sister Beach Club – Great for fish tacos.
  • Ser Esencia – A high-end restaurant known for its tasting menu. One of the best restaurants in Holbox.
  • Roots – Known for lobster pizza.
  • Restaurante Hinata – Serving delicious sushi.
  • El Ma.Carmita – A fresh seafood bar concept, famous for oysters, ceviche, and seafood. I had the best meal of my trip here (fresh fish slices with Italian seasoning rice)!
  • If you want the chance to go fishing yourself, consider trying a private fishing and sightseeing tour. Eat the fish you catch and experience the freshest ceviche!

Party at the Beach Bars

Want to bury your toes in the sand while sipping on a cocktail? Holbox boasts a plethora of fantastic bars, ranging from chic beach clubs and rooftop terraces to rustic beach bars and lively party spots.

  • The Hot Corner – A lively party bar with a fantastic atmosphere.
  • El Chiringuito Bar Zomay – One of the best beach bars for enjoying sunsets.
  • Luuma – Offering a Bohemian and chic atmosphere along with delicious cocktails.
  • ALMA – A rooftop bar with a small pool and scenic beach views.
  • Salma – A cool and trendy beach bar with a Tiki atmosphere.
  • Crónicas Taproom – A great spot on the main square serving craft beers.

Horseback Riding on the Beach

Enjoy horseback riding? In Holbox, it’s the perfect way to “get away from it all” and see things that may be unreachable on foot or by bike/golf cart.

You can join guided horseback riding excursions to explore the beaches and mangroves of Holbox Island from different perspectives. It’s one of the pricier tour options on the island, but if you’re looking for a unique adventure, it’s worth it.

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