Having come to the attention of a rather niche sector of the public for the vast quantity of gentle giant whale sharks that like to congregate off the tranquil turquoise waters of Isla Holbox, it’s since become the place to come for those in the know, who want to escape the typical backpacker route of Mexico’s Yucatán region. And it’s easy to see why. This laid-back island, which is also petite – just 26mi (42km) in circumference – is just a short car ride, plus boat trip, from the high-rise center of Cancun.
Visit Isla Holbox and explore the region’s top highlights by booking Culture Trip’s exclusive, nine-day tour of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.
However, it has rather ominously been hailed as the new Tulum by The Guardian, meaning that if Tulum is anything to go by, Holbox may also become a victim of its own success, overrun by tourists and feeling the influence of chain dining and accommodation options. Right now though, it maintains a blissful mix between upmarket, boutique and ecofriendly hotels and low-key, low-tech campsites that make it ideal for backpackers on a budget and those who want a taste of Mexican island authenticity, which sets it apart from the nearby Cozumel and even Isla Mujeres.
Potential future disaster aside, Holbox remains an objectively paradisiacal island, removed from the reality of day-to-day life. Its azure waters (slightly darker than those in the Caribbean proper, given the influence of the murkier Gulf of Mexico) are ideal for swimming and snorkelling, and the pristine white beaches will have even non-beach lovers converted within minutes. There’s only one cash machine, few cars and, up until recently, almost no tourists.
As you’d imagine for a hidden island situated in a lush nature reserve (Yum Balam) where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean, there is a wealth of animal life to marvel over, from flamingos and the aforementioned seasonal whale sharks to crocodiles and endangered sea turtles. It’s also a fantastic site to learn kiteboarding and try your hand at snorkelling, for which you can rent equipment or book tours pretty much anywhere on the island. As well as wildlife, there’s also a thriving art scene, which is mostly made up of vibrant yet sun-bleached street murals painted by local and visiting artists.
So, there you have it, the hidden island that looks set to be hidden no more. What are you waiting for? Go before it’s too late!
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Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.