Q-Roo Paul’s Pick: Isla Holbox

My wife and I spend a lot of time exploring the Yucatán Peninsula, but until now, I have refrained from sharing any of the details of those trips with the readers of the blog. The reason is simple – I do not want to turn this blog into a boring site full of my vacation photos. As I am writing these words, I am having flashbacks of a time when my friend’s mother subjected me to watching two hours of slides from their trip to Hawaii – Yes, I said slides. The younger readers may want to Google that one.

You are undoubtedly asking yourself what could have possibly convinced me to deviate from what seems like perfectly sound logic. Well, a friend advised me that it might be helpful to some readers if we shared travel tips about “extra special places” that we find during our travels. Isla Holbox definitely qualifies as one of those.


Isla Holbox is a small island on the north side of the peninsula. Since it is located on the Gulf of Mexico side, the water looks quite different from the Caribbean waters that we have become accustomed to while living near Tulum. Tulum is shown on the south side of the map below.



This island is quite different from the more “touristy” islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres. It is a far more rustic and has a small town Mexican charm. You will not find any huge, all-inclusive chain hotels on this island. Instead, you will find charming boutique hotels, small family owned restaurants, and some of the friendliest locals I have encountered anywhere.

The thing that will appeal to most tourists is that the island is very safe. You will feel comfortable walking back to your hotel after enjoying an evening out at one of the fabulous restaurants.



We took the toll road called Autopista Mayab, also known as 305, from Playa del Carmen up to the coastal town of Chiquila. You will always know you are entering a toll road if you see the Spanish word cuota on the road sign.

The highway is relatively new and the quality of the road is very good. The cost to use the toll road was $97 pesos each way, or about $5.47 USD. As you enter the highway, you will get a ticket and you will pay when you exit.

There are a few overnight parking lots in Chiquila, and the going rate is $100 pesos for a 24 your period. We have been told by several people that it is safe to leave your car there overnight. We left the car for two nights without any problem.

The ferry to the island is $120 pesos per person each way. The bottom deck was enclosed and air conditioned. The trip took about 20 minutes.


We asked several of our friends who had been to the island and several strongly recommended Villas Paraiso del Mar. We decided to follow their recommendations, and we were not disappointed. The rooms were very clean and the staff was friendly and helpful.

If you are disabled or have difficulty climbing a spiral staircase, be sure and request a room on the first floor.



You will not see many cars on the island, other than the occasional police vehicle. The majority of the residents get around on gasoline powered golf carts with all-terrain tires.

Even the taxis are golf carts. A taxi ride for 4 people (it was a bit snug) runs around $40 pesos.



We ate at several good restaurants on the island; however, Babalu Yei Yei really stood out. This is a pizzeria that makes excellent brick oven pizzas. If there is someone in your group that does not like pizza, as odd as that sounds, there are several other items to choose from. The pizzeria shares the space with La Miranda de Rulo and they have a more diverse menu.

Another excellent restaurant is Viva Zapata. My wife said that the pasta with Zapata shrimp was amazing and she wanted to return the next day for more.


We went to the island right after they experienced a three day period of rain. The roads, none of which are paved, were flooded and motorized transportation was difficult. We asked about renting a golf cart but we were told that the rentals were suspended until the flooding went down to avoid damaging the carts.


After a heavy rain, there is often an outbreak of both mosquitoes and flies. The locals told me that this is normal.

Just before sunset, it can be difficult to eat because dozens of black flies are swarming around you. Once the sun goes down, the flies disappear but the mosquitoes come out in force. We live in Mexico all year, but I have never experienced a mosquito population so aggressive. Bring a lot of inspect repellent, just in case.

In spite of the few weather related issues, we absolutely loved Holbox and definitely intend on returning in the near future.

About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. In 2016, they started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) sharing their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border. The blog has been viewed over two million times and the articles have been republished in numerous periodicals across Mexico.

8 Comments on "Q-Roo Paul’s Pick: Isla Holbox"

  1. Your comment about slides made me laugh. I work for the attorney general in Maryland and we recently had a case where we needed to process some pictures that had been processed as slides. Our clients had the slides for 3 weeks and none of them could figure out how to process the slides into usable files that could be shared with opposing counsel. They’re all in their 40’s and 50’s. I’m 32 and I’m familiar with slides mainly due to an episode of the Gilmore Girls. I was able to find a machine on Amazon that would scan the slides to a digital file that could then be bates stamped and shared. I can’t imagine watching slides, even from somewhere as beautiful as Hawaii, for two hours.

    Holbox sounds like a place I’d like to visit. My husband and I spent our honeymoon at Isla Mujeres this past winter and we’re itching to go back. The pictures are beautiful!

  2. We recently discovered your blog as we are considering moving to Mexico soon. I’m a CPA and Holbox has been our destination the last few years for my post tax season relaxation trip. We can’t get enough of that place.

    We have only stayed at Villas Paraiso during our visits and love the hotel. While there this past spring, we met some ex-pats who live in Santa Clara northeast of Merida and they had been to Holbox many times and said the Villas Paraiso was their favorite hotel on the island.

    We loved the ceviche at Raices and the meals at Villa Mar near the pier were excellent as well.

    • Thanks for reading the blog.I agree that Holbox is a great place to go to just relax and get away from it all.

  3. Paul can you explain how the water differs from Tulum? It looks calm and clear–I def. don’t enjoy the Pacific coast.
    Thanks for a great blog!

  4. Write a lot, please. I enjoy our blog every time.

  5. The most important thing you forgot to mention about Holbox. BRING LOTS OF PESOS. THE 1ATM above the police station does not work so bring pesos. Same story every yr

  6. Hi Paul. We appreciate the blog and the time you take to create it. Hey, should the above article state that Holbox IS on the Gulf side? I think perhaps there is an error there since your blog above says it’s not on the Gulf side. I believe it is on the Gulf. Just checking. Is that a typo? Thanks again for the information. We met some friends in the Riviera Maya that go to Holbox regularly. We go to Akumal and Maroma about 3 times a year and have lovely friends there. I need to get you connected to our fabulous Mexican friends who own a catamaran in Puerto Aventuras! Check out their Facebook page Yeyen Sailing Away. We sailed with them a few months ago and we can’t wait to return. Gabi and Sergio are incredibly kind. Best wishes to you and Linda.

    • Q-Roo Paul | March 11, 2017 at 4:29 pm |

      Thanks for catching that typo. I’m still surprised that you’re the first person who noticed…lol. Thanks for following the blog and for the tip on the catamaran tour.

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