10 Reasons to Visit Holbox Island in Mexico

beach in holbox island

Holbox(pronounced “Hol-bosh” in English) is an island in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, located on the north coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. As it offers a perfect mix of relaxation, nature, great weather and a laid-back lifestyle, it should be an island in your travel bucket list before it gets packed with tourists.

How to get there when you are in Yucatan Peninsula:

By the ferry;

Ferry to Holbox island is located in Chiquila, about 1 hour and 48 mintues from Cancun Airport. From Chiquila, there are two ferry companies operating boats every 30 minutes to Holbox for the same price, 120 pesos. The water is calm and the ferries have a sun deck as well as air conditioned cabins. The ride takes about 25-30 minutes and you may even spot the flamingos on your way to Holbox Island.

By the air taxi;

Another option is the air taxi. You can fly from Cancun or Playa del Carmen directly to Holbox on a small 5 seat plane with AeroSaab Airline. The airline also offers aerial and panoramic tours over Chichen Itza or Holbox.

By ADO Bus and Ferry;

ADO Bus leaves from Playa Del Carmen and Cancun and arrives in Chiquila so that you can take the ferry from Chiquila to Holbox island. Checking departure times is highly recommended as the times may vary.

When you travel to Holbox, don’t forget to;

  1. Bring enough cash as the cash machines don’t always work
  2. Bring some mosquito repellent as it gets pretty annoying with mosquitos during the sunset 
  3. Take a golf cart taxi when you get off the ferry, it’s only 40 pesos

So here are the top 10 reasons to visit Holbox Island when you are in Mexico:

1- Beautiful Crystal Clear Beaches:

Holbox’s vibe is more barefoot on the beach than late nights at the club. Stunningly beautiful, clean, warm, shallow and flat waters had not a single seaweed when Cancun and Tulum beaches were full of them.

Mexico’s best barefoot beaches come with over-water hammocks, creating a relaxing atmosphere for the visitors.

There are 6 beaches around the island and the Holbox Beach is the most popular one. If you like to discover the remote beaches, head to Punta Coco or Punta Mosquito.

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2- Beautiful (and partly untouched) Nature 

Holbox is rich in marine life such as sea turtles, manta rays and whale sharks, making it a perfect destination for snorkelling. In addition to the marine life, you can spot beautiful birds and flamingos in especially quieter areas of the island. Many of these birds reproduce on the island so it is common to see the nests in the local vegetation. As Holbox is located in the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, you will witness the abundance of wildlife in this beautiful off-the-beaten-track location.

3- Amazing Food and Drinks

There are no chain restaurants or cafes in Holbox Island, but the streets are full of street food vendors where you can eat delicious tacos and local Mexican food. There are also a lot of trendy restaurant options, but our favorite was Taco Queto, which opens only evenings for dinner and gets packed up really quickly. Gringos, quesadillas and guacomole are definitely recommended!

Dining and having cocktails on the beach bars with swinging seats was also a great experience. Have sunset drinks in Raices Beach, and taste the famous Mexican drink ‘Michelada’ made with beer, lime juice, assorted sauces, spices, tomato juice, and chili peppers.

4- Bioluminescence Sea

Punta Cocos is the perfect beach to spend the whole day! During the day, you can float in the shallows,  laze in the hammocks and walk along the perfectly white and sublime sands while at nights you can witness the bioluminescent phenomenon.

If you stay in the center, rent a bicycle, stock up and head to Punta Cocos to experience the sunset and swim in the bioluminescent sea. The road is dark but safe and doable.

5- Nightlife and Entertainment

Holbox is full of laid back beach bars where you can have your drinks in your swimsuits. We liked Zomay Beach Bar and Raices Beach Club for sunset drinks but there are also some hotel rooftops such as Mandarina Rooftop or Los Pedales in the famous Hotels Villas Flamingos.

For the late night drinks and live music, the famous corner is the ‘Hot Corner’. This fun, laid-back, open-air bar offers a rustic hipster atmosphere. During the day the vibe is relaxed, you can chill out on the outdoor sofas or enjoy some yummy snacks, while at night the place comes to life.

‘Mezcalito’ is another option on the island. There is great live music, reasonably priced drinks and a great atmosphere to meet fellow travelers or partying locals. Make sure to get there after eleven because you will be alone before that time.

6- Swimming with the Whale Sharks

Holbox has gained popularity since they offer tours for swimming with whale sharks from around 15th May until 15th September. If you are in Holbox during these dates, this is one activity you won’t want to miss. This ultimate sea safari is offered by almost all tour companies in the island.

7- Amazing Works of Street Art

Holbox participated in the first ever Festival Internacional de Arte Publico (FIAP) or, International Public Art Festival, in 2015 when they invited a group of international artists to come paint amazing works of art all over the town. This definitely gave the island a colorful characteristic.

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8- Doing Nothing

Even though you have the option to fill your days with tours, it is perfectly fine to do nothing in Holbox island. Take your book, lay on a hammock or head to a beach bar, eat tacos and enjoy doing nothing in the paradise. It will be a day to remember. 

9- Laid-back Lifestyle

Holbox is one of the quietest islands of Yucatan peninsula, and it doesn’t get a bulk of tourists yet. Visitors can walk around the town without shoes as almost the whole island is covered with the white sand.

There are bicycles and golf cards as the cars are not allowed on the island. If you want to rent bicycles, many stores in the island offer it for 20 pesos an hour (~$1) or a golf cart for 40 pesos.

10- Beautiful Sunsets

The sunsets on Holbox beaches are absolutely magical! While you can witness the beauty of sunset on almost all of Holbox beaches, I would highly recommend renting a bicycle and getting to Punta Coco one afternoon. Pack some drinks and snacks too, as you may want to stay longer to experience the remarkable bioluminescent phenomenon.

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Rio De Janeiro: Home of Football and Samba

 

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Ipanema Beach

Rio De Janeiro is Brazil’s second populous city after Sao Paulo. Known with plentiful beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema, bossa-nova rhythms, football players, dramatic mountains and of course samba dancers of Rio Carnival, the city is pretty vibrant and it is impossible not to fall in love with it.

Founded in 1565 by the Portuguese, Rio has the largest Portuguese population after Lisbon and the Portuguese cultural influence is still seen in many parts of the city. As Rio was once the capital of Brazil, many global companies have their headquarters here. Brazilians in Rio don’t speak English well but you won’t have difficulty if you speak a bit of Spanish.

Maybe not as much as Australia but Rio De Janeiro is pretty expensive, and it is one of the most visited cities in the Southern Hemisphere. Being the 5th biggest country of the world, Brazil is bigger than Europe and hosts the biggest amount of Catholics in the world (even more than Italy and Spain).

So here are my views about Rio De Janeiro and how you can make the best out of your Rio De Janeiro vacation:

When to visit:

There is really no bad time to visit the city but summer runs from December through the first half of March while the winter months are July, August and September.

Prices are lower in winter even though it only gets a bit chilly at nights (15 C). Don’t expect snow or real cold weather. On the other hand, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Carnival seasons attract the most tourists while the temperatures go up to 40 C.

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Street Art in Rio’s city centre

Where to stay:

We stayed in Rio for 6 nights. All we wanted was to be close to beach so our options were Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon.

Before our trip, we were warned that Rio De Janeiro is not a safe place and we should be careful especially at nights. As Copacabana is more middle class and packed, we selected Ipanema which is a bit quieter and upper class. Leblon on the other hand is also upscale and safe, however Ipanema provides more options in terms of restaurants and shops. Also, it is easy to walk to Copacabana and to Leblon from Ipanema Beach as it is in the middle of the two.

We loved our stay at Best Western Plus Sol Ipanema Hotel. We were upgraded to a high floor sea view room and the beach just across the road was Posto Number 9 which was probably the best beach among all the others. The wide sandy beach was full of people chatting, sun bathing, having cocktails and showing off their bodies. The boardwalk was also fun. You can sit at one of the kiosks, have your coconut drink and watch people passing by with their skateboards, surf boards and bikes.

As we arrived the hotel pretty late, we were welcomed with Caipiroscas near the pool at the terrace of the building. It was a perfect place to be for the upcoming 7 days, before our trip to Salvador De Bahia.

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Favelas

Beaches:

The 5 main beaches of Rio from east to west are Leme, Copacabana (posto 2 to 6), Arpoador (posto 7), Ipanema (posto 8,9 and 10) and Leblon (posto 11 and 12). The largest and crowdest one is Copacabana, however Ipanema Beach is more trendy. Postos 8 and 9 are LGBT friendly, and you can see rainbow flags marking the area. As these two are full of open minded people, it felt like the most friendly and fun beach to me. There are caipirinhas in huge cups are being sold, and beach vendors are all around selling colorful beach towels and souvenirs.

If you are looking for a more exclusive and laid back beach, go for Leblon. But if you want to be in the heart of everything, go for Copacabana.

You can easily spend your days around Ipanema and Copacabana. If you wake up early, you will see men with sea beds and umbrellas making the beach ready for the day. You can go for a walk on the beach and see people working out or walking their dogs on the beach. It starts to get crowded around 9-10am and the quietness gets replaced by the crowds, hot men and women getting sun tan and beach vendors. A Jamaican vendor asked if we would like to buy magic cakes, and when we asked if it is legal – he replied that he creates his own rules. Then another vendor came and asked if we would like a huge cup of caipirinha or caipirosca. One huge cup of Caipirinha is like 4 Euros so we said why not!

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What to see:

I wouldn’t recommend spending a lot of time in the city center but there are places you shouldn’t miss to see when you are in Rio De Janeiro. The cone-shaped Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian was pretty impressive. The famous Escadaria Selarón and Botanical Garden are not so far from the cathedral and are just walking distance. The streets are full of beautiful street art so don’t miss to take a few pictures of them.

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At nights, you can go to Lapa area which is famous with its nightlife. Go for small laid back bars or check out Rio Scenario. Rio Scenario is a perfect place for a fun night out. There was a queue at the door, however it was worth the wait. The menu is delivered at the entrance and payment is done at the exit. You can dance, eat, drink and have an amazing night in this building’s different floors.

Other than above, I strongly recommend taking tours to see one of the seven wonders of the world – Christ De Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, Tijuca Forest and famous colorful favelas. If you get a chance, you can also watch a football game at Maracanã Stadium.

I was impressed by the number of tunnels I saw in the city. This is because the city was built in mountains and there are around 28 tunnels in Rio De Janeiro.

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Food:

When it comes to Brazilian food, the 1st thing that comes up in minds is Churrascaria restaurants. These are basically places where meat is cooked in churrasco style (barbecue in Portugese). All you need to do is to take your salads and side dishes from the open buffet, and the meat will be served to your plate until you are full! Maybe not for the vegetarians but I love the idea of unlimited meat, all in different tastes.

We went to a restaurant called Carretao do Lido before watching the Platoforma Samba show. It was pretty good but if you ask for recommendation – go for CT Boucherie in Leblon area.

When it comes to drinks, Caipirinhas and Caipiroscas are everywhere. Caipirinha is made by mixing the famous Brazilian Cachaca, lime and sugar. Cachaca is a distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice and they also mix it with rum. The most famous local beers are Skol, Brahma and Anctartica.

What to buy from Rio De Janeiro:

While you are in Rio De Janeiro, you should treat yourself with a locally-made souvenir. A typical Brazilian bikini, the colorful Brazilian sarong called Canga, Cachaca to make Caipirinhas when you go back home, a pair of Hawaianas, coffee or jewelry if you’d like to spend a bit more.

After spending a week in Rio De Janeiro, we were all tanned and happy, and ready to move to our second stop in Brazil – Salvador De Bahia.