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Isla Holbox, Mexico Travel Guide

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Incredible aerial views over Isla Holbox
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The perfect mix of relaxation, great weather and bohemian beauty, Isla Holbox in Mexico is the paradise island you’ve always dreamed of visiting! Find out how to get to Isla Holbox, top things to do and where to eat, plus a few tips to make the most of your travels.

Sitting on the pier on Isla Holbox, Mexico

Sitting on the pier on Isla Holbox, Mexico

With Mexico’s Caribbean coast becoming more and more cluttered with vast hotels, all-inclusive resorts and attractions, it’s getting harder and harder to find a place to really get away from it all.

All we want is sunshine, beaches, cocktails and tacos, without the crowds… is that too much to ask?

READ MORE: 9 Awesome Things To Do On Your Cancun Holiday 

Isla Mujeres, just a short hop from the Cancun coast, used to have that charm, but on my visit this year I discovered the island was busier than ever, with ferry loads of tourists arriving, and chilled spots replaced by hotels and restaurants.

While it was still a lovely place to visit, it had lost the ‘untouched’ appeal.

Golf buggies on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Golf buggies on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Isla Holbox really is Mexico’s secret… or not so secret paradise!

Holbox had been on my list for years, and finally we had a few days to make the journey there. I’d seen photos of the colourful murals dotted all over the island. Images of the bright turquoise waters.

The bohemian carefree vibe was evident. The unpaved sandy streets, with golf buggies instead of cars. It looked like paradise.

Colourful Holbox, Mexico

Colourful Holbox, Mexico

I’m happy to say, it was just as dreamy as I’d hoped, 100% living up to the hype, and is somewhere I’d wholeheartedly recommend (even if I do fear it may lose its charm as more people venture there…)

When we were planning our trip, I had a few unanswered questions, so I wanted to pop this blog post together (although Emily Luxton’s Holbox travel guide was a HUGE help!) Hopefully it’ll come in handy if you’re deciding whether to visit or planning a trip to the island. 

Oh and if you want to see a heap of beautiful pics that will probably make you want to visit, check out my post: 18 Isla Holbox Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit Mexico’s Paradise.

Is It Worth Visiting Isla Holbox?

Yes, yes and yes! If you’ve already explored places like Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum, then head to Holbox Island for a sleepier, less developed experience. Colour lovers will feel like they’re dreaming!

There are bright murals adorning many of the island’s walls, and even the bright colours of the ocean look like they’ve had the saturation levels cranked up.

Pier on Isla Holbox Mexico

Pier on Isla Holbox Mexico

It’s touristy, but not in the way that Cancun is. Plus, food, drinks and accommodation are reasonable, so this is somewhere that works for any budget. Anything goes on Holbox.

It’s a place where it’s ok to live in flip-flops or to go for days without washing your hair. A place of no judgement, and that, in itself, is hard to find!

Pretty views on Isla Holbox, Mexico

Pretty views on Isla Holbox, Mexico

Sandy streets on Isla Holbox, Mexico

Sandy streets on Isla Holbox, Mexico

How To Get To Isla Holbox

***2019 UPDATE – I’ve written a really informative post on how to get to Holbox. Click here to find out all the latest info including travelling by bus, ferry, plane PLUS costs ***

While there are small flights to Isla Holbox, the best way to get there is to travel to the ferry port in Chiquila – a small town on the mainland.

How to get to Holbox from Cancun: From Cancun, it’s just two hours by car to Chiquila. Once in the town, you’ll need to find somewhere to leave your car. While none of it feels very official, there are lots of small car parks (i.e. enterprising locals letting you park in their yards/garages for a small fee).

We picked one and paid 100 MXN per day, paying at the end when we collected our car. Everything was fine, but I’d recommend you take any valuables with you, just incase.

If you’re backpacking or don’t have your own transport, check out the ADO buses (Mexico’s main coach service). From Cancun, the journey to Chiquila by bus takes around three and a half hours, and when I looked, tickets were between $180 and $300 MXN depending on dates/times. The buses from Chiquila also go to Chetumal, Bacalar, Playa Del Carmen, Valladolid and a few other places.

Incredible aerial views over Isla Holbox (taken by drone)

Incredible aerial views over Isla Holbox (taken by drone)

Incredible aerial views over Isla Holbox

Incredible aerial views over Isla Holbox (taken by drone)

Incredible aerial views over Isla Holbox

Incredible aerial views over Isla Holbox (taken by drone)

Catching The Isla Holbox Ferry from Chiquila

There are two ferry companies operating between Chiquila and Holbox and funnily enough they offer exactly the same service, and cost the same price. The only difference really is that one runs on the hour, and the other on the half hour, meaning you’ll never wait long for the next boat. The journey time is around 15 minutes. We travelled on the Holbox Express to Holbox, and caught the 9 Hermanos ferry back. When we travelled in January 2018, the ferry cost $140 MXN each way. Check out the times and more info here.

Once you reach Holbox you’ll be greeted by a row of golf buggies, ready to drive you to your accommodation. You’ll pay between 20-30 MXN (around £1) to be driven the few minutes across the island to the centre. If you don’t have much luggage, then the walk to the main square takes less than ten minutes.

Find out all the latest info in my new post: How to get to Isla Holbox

Colourful Holbox, Mexico

Colourful Holbox, Mexico

Holbox sign by the ferry port

Holbox sign by the ferry port

Things To Do On Isla Holbox

Do nothing… no seriously! This is a place to seriously chill out. While you could fill your days with boat trips, snorkelling, yoga and more, the best day I had on Holbox was the day I did nothing! I headed to a beach bar, feasted on tacos, drank a few mojitos and lay back and read my book. It was wonderful! 

Beach views on Isla Holbox, Mexico

Beach views on Isla Holbox, Mexico

If you’re staying a while though, don’t worry – there are plenty of activities  

Take Yourself On a Mural Tour – I’m a massive street art fan, so I fell in love with Holbox’s eclectic mix of murals. There are plenty of huge designs all around the island, from portraits to abstract works. I loved stumbling across beautiful art in the most unexpected locations.

Stage in the main square on Isla Holbox, Mexico

Stage in the main square on Isla Holbox, Mexico

Colourful street art on Isla Holbox, Mexico

Colourful street art on Isla Holbox, Mexico

Colourful street art on Isla Holbox, Mexico

Colourful street art on Isla Holbox, Mexico

Rent A Bike Or A Golf Buggy – Head off on your own adventure and explore the island on two or four wheels. There are plenty of places to rent from and you don’t need any previous experience. Costs when we visited were around $20 MXN per hour for a bike and $150 MXN per hour (min of two hours) for a golf buggy. You can often haggle if there’s a group of you and you’re looking for a deal. 

READ MORE: 5 Reasons To Visit Playa Del Carmen 

Swim With The Whale Sharks – Sadly we didn’t visit during whale shark season, but if you’re on Holbox between mid-May and mid-September, this is one activity you won’t want to miss! It’s one of the best places in the world to swim with the enormous gentle giants.

I enjoyed reading this account in the LA Times of the experience. Tours cost around 2300 MXN / £90 per person.
Check the latest prices and book your tickets here

Enjoy The Holbox Sunsets – The sunsets on Holbox are absolutely magical! Head to the pier, crack open a beer and relax as the liquid gold of the sun hits the water.

Sunset from the pier on Isla Holbox, Mexico

Sunset from the pier on Isla Holbox, Mexico

Check Our The Bioluminescent Phytoplankton – We didn’t have a chance to see this, but saw plenty of posters and tours mentioning it. On evenings when the moon isn’t too bright, you can see the plankton glowing – totally magical, and something I’d love to see one day!

Laze At One Of Holbox’s Beach Bars – There are some super cute spots along the seafront with hammocks, sun loungers, beds and chairs, all serving food and drinks. Coquitos was our favourite – food was excellent and the mojitos and micheladas were refreshing and tasty.

Mojitos on the beach at Coquitos Beach Bar, Holbox

Mojitos on the beach at Coquitos Beach Bar, Holbox

Go Wildlife Spotting – There are lagoons, mangroves and small islands close to Holbox. Head off on a tour in search of crocodiles, see the flamingos in their natural habitat, pelicans swooping for fish by the main beach, or just dip your head underwater and see what fishes you can spot!

There’s even Isla Pájaros (aka Bird Island) which is home to over 30 different species of bird. It really is a wildlife-lover’s paradise. I’d recommend this boat tour which will take you to all the key spots.

Visit Yalahau CenoteYou can reach this cenote (sinkhole) in around 30 minutes by boat. If you’ve never been to a cenote, then go! They’re unique to this part of the world and diving into the crisp blue water is an other-worldly experience! This boat tour will take you to the cenote along with some other beautiful spots. 

Where To Eat And How Much Food Costs On Isla Holbox

One of the most refreshing things about visiting Holbox is there are absolutely no chain restaurants or cafes. That means no Starbucks, Subway, McDonalds or Burger King. I fear it might not be long before one of them manages to get onto the island, but for now there’s a plethora of lovely local, independent options, from cafes and brunch spots to gelato shops, taco shacks, pizza places and fine-dining restaurants.

How Much Is Food And Drink On Isla Holbox?

(Approx prices Jan 2018)

Breakfast: 75 MXN
Cocktails: 90 MXN
Tacos: 70 – 100 MXN
Main Course Meal In A Restaurant: 100 – 300 MXN

Where To Eat On Isla Holbox 

Coquitos Beach BarAs mentioned above, we enjoyed a great afternoon at this beach bar, located just in front of Holbox Dream Hotel. The décor was cool and they had a big menu of delicious Mexican food. The tacos and tostadas were excellent, topped with super fresh fish. There were comfy beds to relax on and the atmosphere and music was just right too.

Tostadas at Coquitos Beach Bar, Holbox

Tostadas at Coquitos Beach Bar, Holbox

El Chapulim – This fine-dining spot doesn’t have a menu. That’s how fresh the food is! Chef Erik Winckelmann cooks four main dishes each night, visits your table to describe each one in detail and then takes your order.

We enjoyed excellent (and huge!) steaks, but the seafood and lobster options sounded appetising too. When we visited mains were 350 MXN (£14 approx.) so if you’re on a budget, ask for the prices before ordering.

Marquesitas – Head to Holbox’s main square in the evening and you’ll see several street vendors luring in customers with sugary scents. They’re making marquesitas, which are a kind of crepe that’s filled with ingredients including dulce de leche, nutella and cheese, then rolled up. They go crispy and chewy, and are to die for!

Marquesitas in the main square on Isla Holbox

Marquesitas in the main square on Isla Holbox

Where To Stay On Isla Holbox

There’s a great mix of accommodation on Isla Holbox, suitable for every budget… from luxury eco-lodges and beachfront villas to funky hostels and hammocks on the sand. I’ve popped together a helpful accommodation guide to help you decide where to stay in Isla Holbox.

Useful Info For Visiting Isla Holbox, Mexico

WARNING: Money and ATMS – There are only a few ATMS on Holbox, and they’re unpredictable! Prepare for them all being out of service whether that’s for technical reasons, or that they’ve literally run out of cash.

For this reason it’s important to stock up on money (ideally Mexican Pesos) before arriving on Isla Holbox. We also discovered that Chiquila didn’t have a working ATM, so it was a long drive to get any money.

You can pay on credit and debit cards at plenty of places on Holbox, but there’s no guarantee that will work either. We learned the hard way! Yes, the main ATM in the square broke while my card was in it, and I’ve since had to file a claim to get the cash back as the ATM never dispensed it.

There are also currency exchanges around the town, but the exchange rates were dreadful, so I wouldn’t recommend that if you can avoid it.

Get lots of cash out before visiting. T.H.E. E.N.D!



Booking.com

WiFi – There was WiFi at a lot of bars and restaurants. None of it was super quick, but it was enough to upload photos, send a few emails and keep in touch with people back home.

Packing Tips – Definitely pack mosquito repellent and lots of suncream. 

Isla Holbox is genuinely one of my favourite places I’ve visited in the last few years. It’s colourful, cheerful and has a laid back charm that is hard to find!

Don’t forget to read my other blogs about the island… 

INSPIRATION: 18 photos that will make you want to visit Isla Holbox

HOW TO: How to get to Isla Holbox

HOTEL GUIDE: Where to stay in Isla Holbox

Hammocks on Isla Holbox, Mexico

Hammocks on Isla Holbox, Mexico

Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll try my best to answer them!

Enjoyed this post? Pin it for later…

Isla Holbox Mexico Travel Guide


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40 comments

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40 comments

Amita Kundlani 3rd May 2018 - 11:03 am

Isla Holbox looks amazing! I’ve never heard of this place before. If I ever do visit Mexico I’ll make sure to visit. The beaches look so pretty xx

amerzwithlove.com

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Wanderlust Chloe 4th June 2018 - 10:36 am

They’re SOOOOO stunning! I really want to plan a return trip soon!

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bobbi jo 27th November 2018 - 9:59 pm

Went to Holbox in 2016 and it was unreal. We loved the laid back feel and felt safe night or day. We are going back May2019 and are very excited. Its really easy to get to from the ADO bus station in downtown Cancun. If your thinking of going…..GO. You won’t regret it. One thing is a must is to rent a golf cart and grab a cooler and a few drinks and just drive and explore.

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Chloe Gunning 6th December 2018 - 10:12 am

Thanks for your insight!! I love Holbox so much!

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Lynsey || One More Slice 8th May 2018 - 6:44 pm

I’ve just returned from Mexico and Holbox was the highlight of my entire trip! I am *desperate* to return! xx

Lynsey || One More Slice

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Wanderlust Chloe 4th June 2018 - 10:36 am

I’m not surprised! It was the highlight of our trip too!

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Pat @ Travel ETA Australia 18th May 2018 - 4:39 am

These pictures really make me want to travel to Mexico one day! Isla Holbox looks absolutely amazing and it seems like there is so much to do there!

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Wanderlust Chloe 4th June 2018 - 10:36 am

Ah it is a corner of paradise!

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Lindsey 26th July 2018 - 2:24 pm

I just returned from a Holbox solo trip! I stayed at the Villas HM Palapas which was STUNNING! Perfect for rest, relaxation and great food. A lot of their rooms have ocean vies and private pools for a fraction of the cost of other tourist destinations! It’s surely not a sleepy beach town anymore in the sense of a lack of people…in 5 days I only met 1 American- everyone else was on vacation from other parts of Mexico or mainly from Europe. So you really need to know the basics of Spanish (which I do not!) but I got by 🙂 The sunsets are stunning, the people are SO kind, the margarita’s are ON POINT and it’s incredibly cheap to survive there. I gave myself a budget of $100 a day USD ($2,000 MXN) and had splurged on gifts/handmade items and still came home with over $100 USD! It’s a truly great place. Perfect place to relax, recharge and eat incredible food! There are a ton of pizza, sushi spots now but I still think to stick to the true local fare at El Chapium or Casa Zapata. The Cenote is a MUST. ALSO – I counted 5 ATMS in July of 2018. Only one looked to be out of service during my stay but yes- bring lots of pesos!

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Chloe Gunning 27th July 2018 - 10:17 am

Ah Lindsey – this is so great to hear! Thanks for letting me know and I’m sure my readers will find this useful if they’re visiting too. It really is an amazing place!

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MaggieMay 10th December 2018 - 5:07 pm

Hi! I was looking into going to Holbox solo.
Did you find it safe?
Were you able to meet people to hang out with?
How long did you stay for?

Thanks for any info!

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Michelle Page 30th September 2018 - 5:51 am

Hi there. This was a great read thanks. We are heading to Isla Holbox in October. Any recommendations on where to stay? Ideally we’d like beachfront but will be travelling on a budget.

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Chloe Gunning 12th October 2018 - 11:40 am

Thanks Michelle! Glad you found it useful. I’ll have a think about where to stay – did you find somewhere yet? Our pad was pretty basic as we were on a budget but we passed lots of beautiful looking hotels and villas!

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Georgina Powell 7th October 2018 - 10:30 am

Hi
Great informative blog wanderlust Chloe. Whats your opinion on the weather in December. Wanted to go 15th to 29th December, but some of the comments I have had on Tripadvisor have not been very encouraging

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Chloe Gunning 12th October 2018 - 10:08 am

Hi Georgina, I think that would be a good time to go. I know the high season for Mexico (esp for European travellers) starts in Dec. Nice temperatures!

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Leigh Barnes 23rd October 2018 - 10:19 am

Hi, We were thinking of going early part of January 2019 but does anyone know what the weather like then?
Thanks

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Chloe Gunning 13th November 2018 - 8:49 am

It should be pretty good then Leigh! I know one of the peak seasons is around Xmas in Dec – Jan.

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Ronnibear 20th November 2018 - 3:18 pm

We are going January 2019. We haven’t booked a place but we are trying to stick with a budget and just relax. Does anyone have recommendations for a place to stay, I just want a private washroom.

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Ms. Marie 15th December 2018 - 9:19 pm

Can you jet ski here in Holbox?

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Chloe Gunning 18th December 2018 - 1:07 pm

I’m not too sure. I don’t remember seeing any but maybe there were!

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Wendylou 28th December 2018 - 4:06 am

Hi there. I’m looking for a place that’s fairly safe for a single woman to travel to. I’ve travelled a fair bit but not alone. How was it to get to the bus from the airport, easy to find etc? Are there safes in the rooms? Any extra info that would be good to know I’d appreciate. Thank you.

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Chloe Gunning 2nd January 2019 - 9:42 am

Hi Wendy, I’d say it’s very safe in Holbox, so long as you have common sense (don’t wander to the beach on your own at night, or to unlit areas etc). I went by car then ferry, but I’ve taken the main buses in Mexico from Cancun and they’re very easy. Just watch your bags as there are reports of people having stuff stolen. Just keep your valuables (passport, money etc) on you and you should be ok. It’s an AMAZING place and I’d definitely recommend it.

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Kirsty 17th January 2019 - 5:33 pm

Hi there, I’ve been looking at going somewhere in March to chill and do yoga, did you find there was places to practice yoga there? Thanks

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Chloe Gunning 18th January 2019 - 4:36 pm

Hi Kirsty, Thanks for your question. I didn’t do any yoga there but The Holboxeno is really good for up to date listings. It looks like there are plenty of options so no doubt there’ll be one that suits you. Have an amazing time – I miss that island a lot!

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Jessi 5th February 2019 - 7:56 pm

I’ve heard a lot of mentions of mosquitos on the island. Mosquitos tend to love biting me and my 5 year old so I’m a little nervous. I’m curious how your experience was? We’re going in March, the non-rainy season if that makes a difference.

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Chloe Gunning 8th February 2019 - 9:23 am

Hi Jessi, they also LOVE me!! I’m usually covered in bites. I actually didn’t have many problems with them in Holbox, but I’d recommend taking bug spray!

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Alyce 7th February 2019 - 10:13 pm

I had never heard of Holbox until very recently and your article has just sold me. I’m travelling to Mexico in July and we had been researching the option of Isla murejes, but now we might consider Holbox. Have you got an comparisons? We unfortunately don’t have the time for both. I am sold for tacos, tequila, sun and beach!!!!!

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Chloe Gunning 8th February 2019 - 9:22 am

Hi Alyce, if you have time, I’d definitely pick Holbox over Isla Mujeres. It’s more of an effort to get to which means fewer tourists and a more authentic experience. It’s less built up and has more character in my opinion! Hope you can make it work out 🙂 It’s SOOO beautiful!

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Pollyjean 4th July 2019 - 11:42 pm

Hi Chloe! Thanks a lot for your post, your enthousiasm is contagious😊 we’ll go there in the very begining of august ( with 2 kids 6 and 11) we are so excited! I wonder if you had been to lagoon Yalahoa?

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Chloe Gunning 18th July 2019 - 9:39 am

Hi Polly, I haven’t been there sadly but it’s on my list if I return soon! It looked great there!

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willy 25th March 2019 - 1:10 am

Bonjour Chloe,

i really enjoy reading your artlicle sorry if my english is not on point :). i m planing a vacation with my 3 yrs old daughter in mexico and i really considering Holbox and i was wondering if she would enjoy it and if 9 days there would be not be tomuch for her thanks in advance for your answer and we are planing to go there from the 14 to the 22 of may. merci de ta reponse bsxxx

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Chloe Gunning 25th March 2019 - 9:43 am

Hi Willy, Thanks so much for your email! Holbox is beautiful – you’ll love it. I think it’d be great for kids, but I worry 9 days would be too long as it’s tiny! There’s not that much to see and do. The beaches are lovely though, so if you want somewhere quiet, relaxed and lots of beach time it’d be great. Have a little think – you could always do a mix of Holbox and somewhere else nearer to Cancun. Thanks!

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Sara 10th May 2019 - 11:34 am

Hi Chloe, thanks so much for your blog! It’s so so useful!

I’m planning on visiting in July! However, a little worried as I’ve heard it’s the wet season and that the weather is very humid and wet. Just wandering when you went and how you found the weather?

Thanks so much!

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Chloe Gunning 22nd May 2019 - 9:33 am

Hi Sara, Thanks for your message. We visited in January and the weather was great. I can’t be sure about July, but I’ve been to Mexico in Sept before and it was great! Sometimes a crazy downpour but they never last long!

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Anita 12th July 2019 - 2:53 pm

Hi Chloe,
May I ask how is the Sargasso/seaweed situation in Holbox?
Thanks for your answear! – Anita

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Chloe Gunning 18th July 2019 - 9:37 am

Hi Anita, hope you’re well! I’m afraid I’m not based there so can’t give you an update. I heard there had been some problems and when I visited there was lots of dried seaweed on the beach.

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Tanya Raedeke 30th July 2019 - 3:20 pm

My husband and I loved Isla Holbox in April! We would love to take the kids back when the whale sharks are there . Your post is excellent!

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Chloe Gunning 12th August 2019 - 9:14 am

Thanks Tanya – so happy you found it useful! I’d love to return for whale shark season too!

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Jonalee 25th August 2019 - 9:19 pm

Hi there. Holbox looks very much like Belize ( caya Caulker) wondering if you’ve been there and how it compares?

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Chloe Gunning 20th September 2019 - 9:16 am

Hi Jonalee, Yes I have been to Caye Caulker too and would definitely recommend Holbox more. I preferred the Mexican chilled out feel, plus the art everywhere made it quirkier! Let me know where you decide to go.

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