Tours on Holbox
The best excursions and tours on Holbox and surroundings
Outdoor Activities on Holbox Island
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If you are looking for a change of pace from relaxing on Holbox, there are numerous options for a wide variety of tours and excursions on the island and its surrounding areas. To give you an overview, we have put together some of the best things to do. You can usually book them at your hotel or hostel, at one of the tourist offices or information booths around the main square, as well as directly with the respective providers.
Whale Shark Tours
Isla Holbox became famous a few years ago because hundreds of whale sharks pass by regularly from the beginning of June to mid-September in order to filter the plankton, which is particularly abundant at this time. Whale sharks are the largest fish on our planet and in the Caribbean can grow up to 43 feet (13 meters) long, reach 12 tons in weight and live up to 100 years. Despite their size, the animals are harmless to humans and other living creatures, as they feed exclusively on plankton, i.e. algae and small crustaceans.
If you are on Holbox at the right time of the year, you should definitely take the opportunity to go on a whale shark tour. There are few experiences more overwhelming than encountering 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 disturb the whale sharks as little as possible in their natural habitat.
To observe the whale sharks, licensed guides drive motorboats with a maximum of 10 people for about 1-2 hours to specific spots on the open sea, mostly in the waters between Isla Holbox and Isla Mujeres. Once they are located there, the boat carefully approaches a whale shark or a small group of the animals and you can swim along with them for a while. Only two people are allowed in the water at a time with a guide.
Usually, the fish come to the surface in the morning and dive down again in the afternoon. They follow the plankton, which migrates to the sea surface at noon in the direction of the sun and then sinks back into deeper water.
Prices for a whale shark tour on Holbox start at 130 USD or 105 GBP per person for group trips and 1,000 USD or 810 GBP for a private trip with up to 5 people. Usually, the trips are combined with snorkeling in Cabo Catoche, fishing and bird and flamingo watching. Depending on how fast the whale sharks can be found and on the current weather conditions, the program will be flexible. In any case, a tour lasts from early morning to afternoon.
The price differences of the individual providers result from the size, comfort and speed of the boat used, the number of passengers, the service and the quality of the guides. Here you should not necessarily save, because such a trip you probably make only once in a lifetime.
The following video from Maapalloilija shows very nicely how this tour works and what you can expect:
Bioluminescence is the glowing of certain microorganisms swimming in the sea, which is triggered by a chemical reaction inside them when touched. The light emitted is faint and can only be seen at night, but it is still a fantastic experience to swim in the glowing sea. The phenomenon is especially strong on Holbox Island between July and January, but tours are available at any time.
Depending on the provider, these last 1-2 hours including transportation and guide. To get to the best places with bioluminescence, you paddle by kayak or paddleboard for about 30 minutes late in the evening to a sandbar where there are no more disturbing lights from the street or hotels. In the dark, on clear nights, you can admire the star-filled sky in addition to the bioluminescence. If you don’t want to paddle a kayak, you can also book a bioluminescence tour by golf cart.
The exact schedule depends on sunset and moonrise and will be communicated upon booking. Prices range from 22-55 USD or 18-45 GBP depending on duration and provider.
Tip: You should definitely pay attention to a good insect protection.
Fishing and Angling
Holbox Island has always been known for its surrounding abundance of fish, and little has changed with the advent of soft tourism. Smaller excursions for fishing or fly fishing, but also boat trips for deep sea fishing are offered.
In the simplest version, you go in small groups with a fishing boat to certain places in the surrounding waters and can try your fishing luck with reel and hook. You don’t have to wait long until the first fish start nibbling at the bait and then you should pull the line at the right moment with a strong jerk.
However, this sounds easier than it is. While you can watch the captain pull one fish after the other out of the water, you don’t always succeed that well yourself due to lack of practice. Nevertheless, in the end enough fish come together so that a delicious ceviche can be prepared. The excursion lasts 4 hours and is bookable in the group rate from about 50 USD or 40 GBP.
For advanced or hobby fishermen, a full day tour for 7-8 hours is recommended. With the fishing boat you go further out to the open sea to favorable fishing spots and have the opportunity to catch dorado, barracuda, mackerel, sailfish, tarpon, wahoo and other bigger fish with professional equipment. Prices start around 790 USD or 640 GBP for a boat with up to 4 people.
Isla de la Pasión, Isla Pájaros, Yalahau
This route is often called the “Three Island Tour” and is available from almost all operators. The first stop is Isla de la Pasión, a small, uninhabited and naturally protected island with shallow beaches, pristine vegetation and wildlife. It is located within sight of the southwestern end of Holbox.
Equally small and unspoiled is Isla Pájaros (Bird Island), located a bit further east in the south of Holbox. There you can observe pelicans, cormorants and flamingos as well as up to 35 different birds. On the island there is a somewhat rickety looking, but stable observation tower, from which one has a good overview of the wild hustle and bustle of the screeching bird population.
At the end of the excursion, head to the cenote at Yalahau, located on the mainland near Chiquilá. At this pristine site there is a clear, cool freshwater pool called Hoyo Negro (Black Hole) where you can swim and bathe. At the site in Yalahau, there is a rest stop where you can get snacks and refreshments. This tour is recommended for a short trip in between, lasts 3-4 hours and can be booked from 600 MXN (about 60 USD or 48 GBP).
By Kayak Through the Mangroves
A very nice afternoon excursion into the winding mangrove landscape can be done by kayak. An experienced nature guide will accompany you to the mouth of the Rio Kuka, from where the round through the lagoon begins. From the water you have an ideal view of the vegetation of the mangroves and you can observe in peace many species of birds and sometimes even crocodiles. At the halfway point of the 3-hour kayak tour, a break with refreshments and snacks is taken, after which we return to the mouth of the lagoon into the beginning sunset. For morning people there are alternatively guided kayak tours at sunrise. Prices start at 950 MXN (about 50 USD or 40 GBP).
Tip: In addition to swimwear and sunscreen, don’t forget a good insect repellent.
Bird Watching Tours
Holbox and its surroundings of the Yucatán Peninsula are a real bird paradise and part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve. More than 350 species of birds live here in the lagoons, by the sea, on the sandbanks and in the jungle, where they can be easily observed in their natural habitat. The most famous birds living here are flamingos, pelicans, frigate birds, herons and gulls, however, many endemic species nest in this area, which are not easily seen elsewhere.
Bird lovers who want to take advantage of this unique opportunity can book various tours to observe the animals. These are organized by Holbox Birding Tours and cover different areas. The routes, which can be booked individually, take participants to nesting sites on Holbox Island or to Chiquilá, but also to the lagoons and cenotes of the nearby towns of Solferino, San Angel and Kantunilkín.
The tours are conducted by certified naturalist guides and cost 100-120 USD (40-97 GBP), depending on the route.
Provider: Holbox Birding Tours
If you go by boat along the northern coast about 28 mi to the east, you will come to the cape of the island of the same name, Cabo Catoche. This place, which is only partly inhabited, has, in addition to pristine beaches and a coral reef, ruins with an interesting history. In 1517, the first Europeans landed here, having set out from Cuba for an expedition, and were driven ashore by a storm. According to legend, there were some language difficulties during the first contact with the native Mayans, which is said to have led to the name Yucatán.
At the local coral reef with only two meters of water depth you can snorkel very well and observe sea turtles, octopuses, lobsters and sometimes even harmless nurse sharks in the colorful underwater landscape. While ashore you can take a walk on the beach or relax in the shade while a delicious ceviche is prepared. The boat trip lasts about 6 hours and costs from 95 USD or 77 GBP.
A bit further away is the national park of Isla Contoy. The uninhabited island is located 19 mi north of Isla Mujeres and can be reached by boat from Holbox in 2 hours. It is 5 mi long, 0.3 mi wide and is home to numerous bird species, sea turtles and coral reefs. On the island there is a beautiful beach, a dock for boats and a museum with a lookout tower with a fantastic view. The visit of the island is limited to a maximum of 200 people per day in order to preserve the untouched nature.
The tour lasts 8 hours and you get a lunch with drinks. As a single person, the excursion costs from 195 USD or 157 GBP. It will be cheaper if you book a private trip as a group of 6 or more people.
Tip: The visit to the island is definitely worth it, however, you are much better off in terms of time and cost if you can start the tour from Cancún or from Isla Mujeres, as you save yourself the long boat ride from there.
Provider: Currently there is no operator offering this tour from Holbox (status January 2023). From Cancún, numerous excursions are offered at GetYourGuide.