Getting from Cancun to Holbox: A traveler review

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Must-know tips for traveling from Cancun to Holbox. Details on shuttle and ferry options, travel times, and how to prepare.

Holbox Island port, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Cancun has a lot to offer visitors seeking a tropical vacation, but a quiet atmosphere isn’t one of them. So, if driving a golf cart down dirt roads and basking on sand without strangers within an arm’s length of you sounds appealing, Holbox could be a great fit for you. 

When looking at a map, Holbox appears relatively close to Cancun. However, the island takes a bit of effort to get to, so pack a bag and some bug spray—I’ll explain the best way to get there based on my trip.

How far is Holbox from Cancun?

Holbox is approximately 153 kilometers from Cancun, although the distance would be less than half of that if there were a road that connected it to Chiquila. Instead, you’ll need to drive southwest before heading north to the small port town of Chiquila.

Assuming that traffic is light leaving Cancun and you don’t make any stops at the many cenotes (sinkholes which have an important history in Mexico) you’ll pass along the way, it takes about two hours by car and 20 minutes by ferry to travel from Cancun to Holbox. In reality, my trip took about 3.5 hours, including the time I waited for a ferry after arriving in Chiquila.

While taking a vehicle to Chiquila and transferring to a ferry is the most popular way to arrive in Holbox, you can also fly from Cancun. As you’d expect, this is a more expensive option, and you’ll need to be comfortable flying in a small Cessna 208 plane. It can hold up to five passengers and is a private flight for your group.

Travel journey: How to get to Holbox

I traveled by land to get to Chiquila with Transfer Holbox, and my driver picked me up from the Cancun airport. However, it’s often possible to take a shuttle from the ADO bus station if you’re staying in the Zona Hotelera or downtown Cancun area. Transfer Holbox’s vehicles are clean and well maintained. My drivers were friendly and checked in during the ride to make sure we were all comfortable.

For those who enjoy getting out of the city, the drive to Chiquila is a blissful change from Cancun. You’ll be surrounded by dense vegetation and pass by small towns along the way. If you need to go to the restroom during the 2+ hour trip, your driver will make a stop for you.

Before you hop in the van, it’s best to get into the mindset that your drive from Cancun to Chiquila is an opportunity to disconnect from the outside world, for cell phone reception is scarce. The reception usually comes back in the small towns, but it’s slow and spotty. Long story short, it’s best to call home and sign off on social media before you leave Cancun, as Holbox’s cell phone and WiFi are also largely unreliable. 

Arriving in Chiquila

Chiquila is the kind of place that seemingly has more boats parked at its port than it does residents in its town. I found its little seaside boardwalk charming, and it has a few restaurants if you want to grab a bite to eat before crossing over to Holbox. 

Although Chiquila doesn’t give off the appearance of a new town, the port stands out as exceptionally well maintained. As a solo female traveler, I felt perfectly safe wandering around Chiquila (and Holbox, for that matter) before catching the ferry.

My driver dropped me right off at the port, although if you travel on your own, you won’t have trouble finding it—the port is located at the end of the main road that passes through Chiquila. There are restrooms at the port and a place where you can purchase your ferry ticket to Holbox if you didn’t already buy one online. You can also take advantage of an outdoor waiting area with whichever ferry company you’re traveling with.

Taking the ferry

Two ferry companies operate rides from Chiquila to Holbox—9 Hermanos, which I took, and Holbox Express. Don’t be fooled by Holbox Express’ name; neither ferry would win a speed race. But since the ride is only 20 minutes, you’ll likely appreciate every minute you have to soak in the scenery.

Holbox Express is slightly more economical than 9 Hermanos, and it runs every hour on the half-hour from 7:30 am – 4:30 pm. Since 9 Hermanos departs on the hour, choosing the Holbox Express ferry is ideal if your anticipated arrival is near the half-hour.

My 9 Hermanos ferry had two floors. The lower deck was air-conditioned, and the upper deck was completely open to the outdoors, offering fantastic views as you approach Holbox. I recommend sitting on what would be the driver’s side of a vehicle. That way, you’ll get better views of the island as you approach it.

Landing in Holbox

Holbox’s port is right by the center of town, making it easy to walk to your hotel if you’ll be staying in the area. That is, of course, unless it’s raining—even a little rain can turn Holbox’s dirt streets into a grey-brown pool. 

Luckily, locals line up at the port with golf cart taxis to drive passengers to their accommodation. Even if it’s not raining, a golf cart will be your best option if your hotel is outside of town.

The day trip conundrum 

With all this talk about hotels, you might be wondering—is it possible to take a day trip from Cancun to Holbox? In short, yes, it is. However, it makes for a long day.

I personally don’t recommend visiting Holbox in a day. The island doesn’t offer a plethora of things to do like Cancun, but it’s a beautiful destination to relax in, and by taking a day trip, you’ll feel rushed for time. At the very least, I’d aim to spend one night on the island. 

Holbox is waiting for you

Holbox and Cancun are opposites in just about every way you can think of, which is why it’s a wonderful idea to visit both during your time in the Yucatan. Although Holbox isn’t next door to Cancun, it’s easy enough to get to by shuttle and ferry. And once you arrive, quiet beaches and friendly locals might inspire you to extend your stay! 

Posted May 17, 2021
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Laura Olds
Laura Olds of A Piece of Travel is a digital nomad who adds twice as many destinations to her bucket list with each one she checks off. She's a full-time writer and part-time street dog whisperer. In her free time, she enjoys running, yoga, and taste-testing her way through the world.
image of blog writer Laura