Holbox is an island paradise just a few hours but a would away from Cancun. With its white-sand beaches, beautiful seas, incredible bioluminescence and laidback vibe, it’s not hard to understand why visiting Isla Holbox is growing in popularity with domestic and international travellers alike. Unfortunately, getting from Cancun to Holbox is not as simple as other Riviera Maya towns, there’s no direct road and you probably need at least two forms of transport! So, this Cancun-Holbox travel guide explains all your transport options and the costs…
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How to get to Holbox Mexico from Cancun in 2022
Holbox – a small island on the northern Quintana Roo coast – can be reached either by air or by land then sea. Flying to Holbox is the only direct option, all land routes require you to first go to the port town of Chiquila. And, from there you cross the narrow channel to Holbox by boat.
|Cost (One-Way)||Journey Time||Book in Advance?|
|Fly||From 800 USD [16,500 pesos] per plane||35 mins||Yes|
|Bus + Ferry||536 pesos (316 + 220 pesos)||3 hours||Bus: 1 to 2 days if possible|
|Colectivo + Ferry||486 pesos (250 + 220 pesos)||3.5 hours||No|
|Rental Car + Ferry||Dependent on length of hire and company + 220 pesos||3 hours||Car hire: Yes|
|Private Shuttle + Ferry||980 pesos (760 pesos [37 USD] + 220 pesos)||3 hours||Shuttle: Yes|
|Taxi + Ferry||From 2220 pesos (2000 [100 USD] + 220 pesos)||3 hours||No|
|Hitchhiking + Ferry||220 pesos||Possibly all day||No|
Flying from Cancun to Holbox Island
Can you fly from Cancun to Holbox?
Yes! Holbox Mexico has a very small airstrip on the western part of the island that is only big enough for small aircraft to land. In fact, it’s one of an impressive 1714 airports in the country (there’s more Mexico facts where that came from!)
Private charters are available from Cancun International Airport (CUN) all year round. Unfortunately, there is no shared service. So, if you want to take this flight, you’ll have to book the whole plane – which fits up to 9 people.
Time & Cost of Flying to Isla Holbox
The CUN-Holbox flight time is just 35 minutes, making it the quickest way to complete the journey. From the airstrip in Holbox, the centre of the town is just a 5-minute, 450-metre walk away. Or, hop in a taxi directly to your accommodation.
For couples or groups of 5 or less with only carry-on luggage, prices start at around 800 USD one-way or 1600 USD return. This is the cost of chartering the whole plane, so the cost is split between all passengers.
For bigger groups or those with larger amounts of luggage, the cost is around 3000 USD return.
Getting from Cancun to Chiquilá
Bus from Cancun to Chiquilá
Around 7 ADO buses a day currently run from Cancun to Chiquilá, with a journey time of 2 hours and 20 minutes. The cost is 316 pesos per person.
I’d recommend booking the bus at least a day or two in advance as the services can fill up quickly (either online or at the bus station). Currently, the earliest bus leaves at 8.15am with the last bus of the day leaving at 3.30pm.
Alternatively, second-class services such as Mayab and Oriente may also run the route between Cancun and Chiquilá. The timetables for these companies are not available online – neither can you book tickets this way. Instead, you’ll need to enquire at the desks in Cancun’s ADO Bus Terminal.
The difference between ADO buses and those of Mayab and Oriente is not much, particularly for a short journey such as these ones. ADO buses will tend to have TVs, a toilet on board, air conditioning and more legroom. All of which you’ll have to go without on second-class buses.
IMPORTANT: Since 1 October 2021, anyone travelling on ADO buses – including other services that are part of the ADO group such as Mayab – must present photo ID at the time of boarding.
Additionally, all non-Mexicans must also present documentation of their immigration status in the country. For most people, this will be the paper FMM slip given on arrival, which should be in date. Read the official statement here.
Colectivo from Cancun to Chiquilá
Unlike colectivos across many other routes in Mexico, the colectivo from Cancun to Chiquilá only runs 2 or 3 times a day. You’ll need to find the bus outside the ADO bus station in Cancun – just ask around and you’ll be pointed in the right direction.
A ride in a colectivo to Chiquilá will cost you around 250 Pesos per person and although the journey is advertised as taking 2.5 hours, I’d allow for at least 3.
Do expect that your luggage may need to go on the roof rack, so make sure any valuables or items that shouldn’t get wet are on your person!
Colectivos are generally more cramped than the coach-type buses that are the norm in Mexico. Given that you’re only saving 66 pesos (around 3 dollars/£2), I’d recommend taking the comfier ADO bus.
Car Hire & Driving
Driving to Chiquilá from Cancun is pretty straightforward, though there is no direct route. Head west on Highway 108D in the direction of Valladolid and Merida and then take Highway 5 all the way to Chiquilá.
Can you drive to Holbox?
You can only drive as far as Chiquilá. Cars aren’t allowed on Isla Holbox so you’ll need to find suitable and secure parking for your time on the island. The going rate is around 100 pesos per day for parking.
Chiquilá is a very out-the-way town. It’s miles from anywhere and pretty much everyone goes there only to get the ferry to Holbox. Despite its unassuming demeanour you should still find secure parking and avoid leaving any valuables in the car.
Since you can’t drive to Holbox itself, having a rental car is only worthwhile if you are also visiting other cities, towns or landmarks around the Yucatan Peninsula. You definitely do not need to hire a car just to drive to Chiquilá.
Shuttle to Chiquilá
Shuttles are typically a more convenient option for getting from A to B. In the case of getting from Cancun to Holbox, they’re great when the bus times don’t work for you – particularly for those arriving in Cancun late afternoon.
A shuttle from Cancun to Chiquila will cost from 35 USD per person. This price usually includes one full-size, checked-in style piece of luggage and one item you carry on you.
Advance booking is required for shuttles. Also, don’t forget to book your return or onward journey before heading to Holbox as the WiFi and internet are notoriously bad there.
Taxi from Cancun to Chiquilá
If you’re really desperate to get to Holbox Mexico straight away, then take a taxi. But, it will cost you somewhere between 120 and 200 USD one-way depending on your negotiation skills, time of year and time of day.
If you can wait for a bus, colectivo or shuttle, then I’d highly recommend this over a taxi.
Personally, I tend to only hitchhike when there are no other transport options available. As such, I’d definitely recommend all the transport options above before thinking about hitchhiking.
Additionally, hitchhiking from Cancun to Holbox is made more difficult by the fact that Chiquilá is in the middle of nowhere. If you go to Chiquilá, you’re going to Chiquilá – it’s not a town people pass through (other than to Holbox). As such, the number of people (and vehicles) heading there each day is relatively small.
But, it’s not impossible to hitchhike to Chiquilá (you’ll still have to pay for the ferry). Start early and have a Plan B if you don’t find a ride in a timeframe that suits you.
TOP TIP: Don’t let a lack of Spanish put you off hitchhiking. The first time I did it, I’d only been in Mexico for 3 weeks and couldn’t speak any Spanish. We communicated only through Google Translate and had no problems.
Getting to Isla Holbox from Chiquilá (Sea Crossing)
Now you’ve made it to Chiquilá, you need to cross the water and you’ll have reached Isla Holbox Mexico! You have two options: take the ferry that runs every half hour with a fixed ticket price or negotiate with a boat owner for a private trip across to Holbox.
Two ferry companies operate the Chiquilá to Holbox route: 9 Hermanos and Holbox Express. The 9 Hermanos ferries leave on the hour (first: 6am, last: 9pm) and Holbox Express ferries leave on the half-hour (first: 7,30am, last: 9.30pm).
Tickets for both companies cost 220 pesos each way (180 pesos for children). Simply buy a ticket for whichever company has the next departure. No return tickets are available (there’s no saving anyway), so do the same on your return journey.
In Chiquilá, tickets can be bought at the kiosks near the roundabout. Sometimes, you can also buy ferry tickets on the ADO buses. Although there’s no price difference, tickets aren’t transferrable between the companies so make sure you definitely have one for the next departure. Otherwise, you could be waiting an hour!
On the ferry, larger luggage is stored at the back of the boat and seating is available inside and on the top deck. The journey takes around 30 minutes and is not normally too choppy or windy.
Private Boat Transfer
Alternatively, negotiate with a local boat owner around the Chiquilá port for a private Holbox transfer. I’d only recommend this for larger groups as otherwise, it will cost more.
Expect the journey to be bumpier as you’ll be travelling in a small, motor-powered boat. Not recommended if you are easily travel-sick or seasick – stick to the ferry!
How to get from Cancun Airport to Holbox
Generally speaking, travelling from the airport straight to Isla Holbox is pretty straightforward and not that different than travelling from Central Cancun to Holbox.
- BUS: No buses run directly from Cancun Airport. You’ll need to travel first to Downtown Cancun. This journey can be done by ADO bus for 98 pesos. Though the last bus leaves Cancun for Chiquila at 15.30, so if you haven’t landed by 13:30 (absolute latest), you’ll probably need to stay in Cancun for the night.
- COLECTIVO: These also only run from Downtown Cancun. Colectivos can’t enter the airport, so take the ADO bus into Central Cancun.
- CAR HIRE: If you’re hiring a car for your entire trip, then collecting it from the airport makes sense. There are lots of car rental companies around the airport so you’ll be sure to find something for your taste, size requirements and budget.
- SHUTTLE: You can book a shuttle directly from Cancun Airport to Holbox (Chiquila). The cost is the same as booking from Central Cancun.
Is Holbox Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! While most of the Quintana Roo coast is full of large hotels, big resorts and western shops, Holbox still has that authentic feel and rustic charm. The sunsets are magical, the island vibe is chilled and the weather is divine (mostly!).
For those that want to lay in a hammock or sunbathe on the beach, Holbox couldn’t be more perfect. And for those looking for something more, there’s plenty of trips and activities to enjoy.
As Holbox is a few hours from Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum, fewer people make the journey to this island gem. As a result, there’s a totally different feel to and crowd on Holbox than the rest of the region. Expect to see more backpackers, young holidaymakers and activity-loving families.
Best Things to do in Holbox
- Walk along the sandbanks to Punta Mosquito – Holbox’s lesser-known beach. Or, head to the western tip of the island and relax at Punta Cocos.
- Swim in the calm, warm sea of Playa Holbox before watching the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
- Take a tour to see the bioluminescence at night, best enjoyed at the new moon or after moonset! Another popular tour is to snorkel with whale sharks during the summer months.
- Borrow a dog at Holbox’s animal sanctuary and take it for a walk around the island.
- Sample the flavours of the island. Roots Pizzas is known for its Lobster Pizza, costing around 600 pesos. While, Ceviches La Chingada has incredible sea food.
- Party at Che Hostel, you don’t have to be staying there to visit the bar in the evening. Then, once everything closes, party on the street at Hot Corner until the early hours!
Where to stay in Holbox
I’ll start by saying Holbox is not the cheapest place to visit. And, in most cases, it’s worth paying a little extra as the very basic options often have limited facilities. Like rooms with no fans or camping in a tent that turns into a massive sweatbox.
However, there are hotels or hostels to suit every budget. Just don’t expect any high-rise buildings, sprawling resorts and mega swimming pools.
HOLBOX TOP TIPS:
1. Prevention is great and all, but you WILL get bitten a lot. Make sure you bring something to treat those mosquito and insect bites before you scratch your skin off!
2. The island’s WiFi is terrible, just accept it. It’s the price for being in paradise. Download Netflix shows in advance, plan your onward/return journey before you arrive and disconnect.
3. Holbox is overpopulated, the population has boomed in recent years and its resources are stretched. Reduce water usage, reuse and recycle where possible and minimise waste.
4. Bring cash with you (more than you expect to need). There are a couple of ATMs on the island but they can run out quickly and have high fees. Places that do take card payments typically add a 5% fee. Pay in cash where possible to save money.
How to get around on Isla Holbox
Isla Holbox is a sandbank and it’s barely above sea level. As a result, its sand roads aren’t suitable for cars – you’ll only find a handful of vehicles on the island, in fact.
Instead, the three most common ways to get around are walking, cycling or in a golf buggy. The taxis on Holbox are the latter, though more golf buggies that are made for off-roading. The sandy streets are often bumpy and when it rains, the streets can flood very easily.
If you bring a suitcase to Isla Holbox, you will need a taxi to get you from the dock to your hotel. Because, you will struggle to wheel it along sandy, puddle-filled streets. Make sure to agree on a price with your taxi driver before you start the journey.
If you have any questions or want any more information, drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you!
Information is correct as of January 2022 but is subject to change in future.
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