Tours on Holbox

The best excursions and tours in Holbox and surroundings

Outdoor Activities and Tours on Holbox Island

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If you are looking for a change from relaxing on Holbox, there are plenty of opportunities for a wide variety of tours and excursions on the island and in the surrounding area. To give you an overview, we have put together some of the best activities. You can usually book them at your hotel or hostel, or at the information booths around the main square and on the beach. Online bookings can be made through GetYourGuide or directly with the operators.

Holbox Whale Shark Tour

Isla Holbox has been known for several years for the hundreds of whale sharks that regularly pass through from early June to mid-September to filter the plankton that is particularly abundant during this time. Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world and can grow up to 13 meters (43 feet) long in the Caribbean, weigh 12 tons and live up to 100 years. Despite their size, they are harmless to humans and other creatures because they feed exclusively on plankton, algae and small crustaceans.

Whale shark tours on Holbox Island
A Whale Shark

If you are on Holbox at the right time of year, you should definitely take the opportunity to go on a whale shark tour. There are few experiences more overwhelming than meeting these huge, majestic fish in the ocean and swimming with them. This trip is guaranteed to be one you will remember for the rest of your life! By the way, the tours are strictly limited as the local conservation authorities are keen to minimize disturbance to the whale sharks in their natural habitat.

For whale shark watching, licensed guides take motorboats with a maximum of 10 people for 1-2 hours to specific spots on the open sea, mostly in the waters between Isla Holbox and Isla Mujeres. Once spotted, the boat will carefully approach a single or small group of whale sharks and you may swim with them for a while. Only two people and a guide are allowed in the water at any one time.

Whale sharks usually come to the surface in the morning and disappear in the afternoon. They follow the plankton as it rises to the surface towards the sun at noon and then sinks back to deeper water.

The following video from Maapalloilija shows how this tour works and what to expect:

Prices for a whale shark tour in Holbox start at 3,300 MXN (196 USD / 261 CAD / 153 GBP) per person for a group trip. Excursions are usually combined with snorkeling in Cabo Catoche, fishing, and bird and flamingo watching. The program is flexible, depending on how quickly whale sharks can be spotted and weather conditions. In any case, a tour lasts from early morning until late afternoon.

Prices vary depending on the size, comfort and speed of the boat, the number of people on board, the service and the quality of the guides. This is not the time to save money, this is a once in a lifetime experience.

Tour Operators: Mawimbi Tours, Holbox Adventure, Holbox Travel, VIP Holbox Experience

Bioluminescence Tour at Night

Bioluminescence is the glowing of certain microorganisms swimming in the sea, triggered by a chemical reaction inside them when touched. Although the light emitted is weak and can only be seen at night, it is still a fantastic experience to swim in the glowing sea. The phenomenon of bioluminescence is particularly strong on Holbox Island between July and January, but tours take place at any time. The best conditions for observing the glowing plankton are around the new moon. Full moon nights are less suitable as it is too bright.

Bioluminescence Tour on Holbox island

Depending on the operator, the tour takes 1.5 to 2 hours, including transportation and guide. To get to the best spots for bioluminescence in Holbox, you paddle a kayak or paddleboard for about 30 minutes at night to a sandbank where there are no disturbing lights from roads or hotels. In addition to the bioluminescence, on clear nights you can also see the beautiful starry sky in the dark. If you don’t want to paddle a kayak, you can alternatively book a bioluminescence tour by golf cart.

Tip: Be sure to wear a good insect repellent.

Exact times depend on sunset and moonrise and will be advised at the time of booking. The night kayak tour costs from 1,000 MXN (59 USD / 79 CAD / 46 GBP), while the much shorter golf cart tour is available from 400 MXN (24 USD / 32 CAD / 19 GBP).

Tour Operators: Kayaking Holbox, VIP Holbox Experience, HolboXtreme

Fishing and Angling Tour

Holbox Island has always been known for its abundance of fish and this has hardly changed with the advent of soft tourism. There are small-scale fishing and fly-fishing excursions, as well as deep-sea fishing boat trips.

The simplest option is to travel in small groups on a fishing boat to specific spots in the surrounding waters and try your luck at fishing with a reel and hook. You don’t have to wait long for the first fish to nibble at the bait before pulling on the line with a powerful tug at just the right moment.

Fishing Tour Holbox Island
Catching fish with a reel and hook

However, it sounds easier than it is. While you watch the captain pulling fish after fish out of the water, you won’t always be as good as he is due to lack of practice. Nevertheless, in the end you will catch enough fish to make a delicious ceviche. The excursion lasts 4 hours and can be booked at a group rate starting at about 1,000 MXN (59 USD / 79 CAD / 46 GBP).

A day trip of 7 to 8 hours is recommended for advanced or amateur fishermen. The fishing boat will take you out to the open sea to good fishing grounds where you can catch dorado, barracuda, trevally, fanfish, tarpon, wahoo and other large fish with professional equipment. Prices start at around 12,000 MXN (710 USD / 950 CAD / 560 GBP) for a boat with up to 6 people.

Tour Operators: Kayaking Holbox, VIP Holbox Experience, My Holbox Tours

The 3 Island Tour Holbox

Excursion to Isla Pasión, Isla Pájaros and Cenote Yalahau

This route is often called the “Three Island Tour” and is the classic Holbox tour offered by most operators. The inexpensive boat tour takes about 3.5 hours and is a great excursion for in-between in almost all weather conditions. The route takes you to the islands of Isla Pasión and Isla Pájaros as well as to the Cenote Yalahau on the mainland. The order is not always the same and depends on the tour operator. Due to the large crowds, the boat captains try to split up as much as possible so that not all the tourists are in one place at the same time.

Boat with tourists at the 3 Island Tour Holbox
Boat with tourists ready for the 3 Island Tour Holbox

The first stop of the Holbox 3 Island Tour is usually Isla de la Pasión, also known as Passion Island, a small, uninhabited and naturally protected island surrounded by sand with knee-deep water, original vegetation and fauna. It measures only 100 meters in diameter and is located in sight of the southwestern end of Holbox, where it is clearly visible from Punta Cocos and Punta Ciricote.

Isla Pasión has only a very small jetty, so the tour boats often drop tourists off at the other end of the island and pick them up again at the jetty after a short walk along the beach. There is a lookout tower from which you have a great view over to Isla Holbox. There used to be a turtle hatchery here, but it has since been abandoned. The stop at Passion Island lasts about 20 minutes, after which the tour continues to the next stop.

Isla Pasion at the 3 Island Tour Holbox
Jetty at Isla Pasión

Isla Pájaros, also known as Bird Island, is an equally small and unspoiled island located a little further east and south of Holbox. In addition to pelicans, cormorants and flamingos, up to 35 different species of birds can be observed living and nesting here. There are two rickety but sturdy observation towers on the 500-meter island, connected by a wooden walkway. From there you have a good view of the wild hustle and bustle of the bird population. The island itself is not accessible, so the stay is quite short.

Isla Pajaros at the 3 Island Tour Holbox
Observation towers on Isla Pájaros

At the end of the Holbox 3 Island Tour, the boat will take you to Cenote Yalahau, located on the mainland near Chiquilá. At this natural site there is a clear, cool freshwater pool called Hoyo Negro (Black Hole) where you can swim. There is also a snack bar on the grounds of Yalahau. Here you can buy snacks and refreshments. The entrance fee to Yalahau is 100 MXN (6 USD / 8 CAD / 5 GBP) and is charged separately for the mandatory life jackets and restroom facilities.

The water in the cenote is really cold because it is constantly coming up from underground. Especially at noon it is a welcome cool down and you can even see small colorful fish while snorkeling in the crystal clear water. However, it can get a bit crowded during the peak times of the day. Next to the cenote there is an observation tower from where you can see the surrounding jungle.

Cenote Yalahau at the 3 Island Tour Holbox
Swimming in the Cenote Yalahau

A special highlight of Yalahau is the presence of two Holbox crocodiles that settled here some time ago. At the border between the fresh water coming out of the cenote and the sea, many fish congregate, providing the crocodiles with a convenient and abundant source of food. When they are on the prowl, they can be seen hunting just a few meters from the tour boats. Apparently they have gotten used to the constant presence of tourists.

A crocodile in the mangrove in Yalahau on the 3 Island Tour Holbox
A crocodile lurks under the mangrove tree on the right

The 3 Island Tour Holbox can be booked twice a day, in the morning at 10:00 and in the afternoon at 14:00. It is recommended for an excursion in between, lasts 3.5 hours and costs from 750 MXN (44 USD / 56 CAD / 35 GBP), depending on the operator and the service offered.

Tour Operators: VIP Holbox, Holbox Travel, My Holbox Tours, GetYourGuide

Mangrove Tour by Kayak

A very nice afternoon excursion into the winding mangrove landscape can be undertaken by kayak. An experienced nature guide takes you to the mouth of the Rio Kuka, where the tour through the lagoon begins. From the water, you have an ideal view of the mangrove vegetation and can observe many bird species and sometimes even crocodiles in peace and quiet.

Mangrove Kayak Tour on Holbox Island
Kayaking through the mangroves

Halfway through the 3-hour kayak tour, there is a stop for refreshments and snacks before returning to the mouth of the lagoon as the sun begins to set. For early risers, guided sunrise kayak tours are also available. Prices start at 1,000 MXN (59 USD / 79 CAD / 46 GBP).

Tip: In addition to swimwear and sunscreen, don’t forget to bring a good insect repellent.

Tour Operators: Kayaking Holbox, VIP Holbox Experience

Bird Watching Tours

Holbox and the surrounding area on the Yucatán Peninsula is a birdwatcher’s paradise and is part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve. More than 350 species of birds live here in the lagoons, by the sea, on sandbars and in the jungle, where they can be observed in their natural habitat. The most famous birds are flamingos, pelicans, frigate birds, herons and gulls, but many endemic species nest here that are difficult to see elsewhere.

Birdwatchers who want to take advantage of this unique opportunity can book several bird watching tours. These are organized by Holbox Birding Tours and cover a variety of areas. The tours, which can be booked individually, take participants to nesting sites on Holbox Island or to Chiquilá, as well as to the lagoons and cenotes of the nearby towns of Solferino, San Angel and Kantunilkín.

Tours are led by certified naturalist guides and cost 100-120 USD (135-160 CAD / 79-93 GBP) depending on the route.

Tour Operator: Holbox Birding Tours (+529841646324)

Cabo Catoche Tour

Sailing east along the north coast of Holbox Island for about 35km (19 nautical miles), you will reach the cape of the island of the same name, Cabo Catoche. This partially inhabited place offers pristine beaches and a coral reef, as well as ruins with an interesting history. In 1517, the first Europeans landed here on an expedition from Cuba when they were washed ashore during a storm. Legend has it that the first contact with the indigenous Maya led to language difficulties, resulting in the name Yucatán.

The coral reef at Cabo Catoche, which is only two meters deep, is excellent for snorkeling. You can see sea turtles, octopus, lobsters and sometimes even harmless nurse sharks in the colorful underwater landscape. Afterwards you can take a walk on the beach or relax in the shade while a delicious ceviche is prepared. The boat trip takes about 6 hours and costs from 1.500 MXN (90 USD / 120 CAD / 70 GBP).

Tour Operators: Grupo Cadu, Holbox Adventure

Boat Trip to Isla Contoy

A little further away is the National Park of Isla Contoy. The uninhabited island is located 30 km (19 miles) north of Isla Mujeres and can be reached by boat from Holbox in 2 hours. It is 8 km (5 miles) long, 500 m (0.3 miles) wide, is home to numerous species of birds and sea turtles, and offers amazing coral reefs. The island has a beautiful beach, a jetty for boats and a museum with a lookout tower that offers a fantastic view. Visits to Contoy Island are limited to a maximum of 200 people per day in order to protect the pristine nature.

The tour lasts 8 hours and includes lunch and drinks. As an individual, the excursion costs from USD 200 (267 CAD / 157 GBP). It is cheaper if you book a private tour as a group of 6 or more people.

Tip: It is definitely worth visiting the island, but it is much better in terms of time and money to start the tour from Cancún or Isla Mujeres, as the boat ride to Isla Contoy is much shorter from there.

Tour Operators: There are currently no operators offering this tour from Holbox (as of April 2024). Several tours to Isla Contoy from Cancún are offered online at GetYourGuide.


Here you will find answers to frequently asked questions about Holbox tours:

The official whale shark season runs from early June to mid-September. With a little luck, you can see them as early as mid-May.

There is no good snorkeling in Holbox itself, as the shallow water around the sandy island is mostly murky. The closest place for snorkeling is the coral reef at Cabo Catoche, for which several boat tours are offered.

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