Isla Holbox, Valladolid, Puerto Morelos Mexico- Sept 2019
Updated: Oct 1, 2019
Gabriel and I were Mexico earlier this year and had to return back to finalize details in regards to our upcoming 2020 destination wedding! If you want to read about how we became a destination wedding couple... click HERE (currently working on it come back soon!) If not, keep scrolling for our four day Holbox itinerary.
Arriving to Holbox from Cancun & Holbox Day 1
Before I start, please note you will have to fill out a Mexican Immigration form on the airplane to bring to the passport counter when you arrive at the airport. To save you time, stress, and having to wait for a pen from your neighbor- fill out your form here not more than 30 days in advance and properly print it out and keep with your passport. This paper is very important and if you lose it you will have to pay a fine when you try to get on your return flight home.
We booked our trip during one of the cheapest times of the year (a week after Labor Day in September when all the kids have gone back to school here in the US) at $250 per person round trip for 8 days. On our last visit, we rented our car from a company called Isis Rentadora which I found on through the Tulum Lovers Travel Tips group on Facebook. Isis was highly recommended by the admin of the group and had many positive reviews from other members.
Renting a car in Mexico is different than in the US. When you look up rental companies, you’ll be quoted prices so low they will raise your eyebrows. That is because they do not include the type of insurance coverages MX requires for its rentals which can triple the price of the rental. Your American insurance will not work, neither will the coverages most credit card companies provide. For more information follow THIS link to get a better understanding of the rental process.
Nervous of being scammed by airport rental car companies, I reached out to Edgar from Isis and could not have been happier with our rental process. He provided us a quote (for an automatic car- make sure to specify otherwise its a manual!) that included all the insurances and taxes and met us at the airport with a Volkswagen Vento in “friends and family” to inspect the car, sign paper work, and take the $250 credit card refundable damage deposit. The process was so easy and quick- we rented again with Edgar for this trip and plan to rent again when we come down for our wedding.
Once we had our car, we took the 305D toll rode from Cancun to Chiquila. The drive was 1 hour 45 minutes and we did not stop anywhere in between. I thought the ride would be complicated and difficult, but it was so easy. It was a one lane highway with a 110km speed limit and few cars on the road. I purchased this GPS from amazon since we don’t buy extra internet or SIM cards when we travel down there and I don’t like paper maps. I had to purchase this Mexico map from Garmin onto a micro SD card but had no issues while traveling.
Arriving in Chiquila, we saw a lot of private residences with “parking here for for 100 pesos 24 hours” listed. We were skeptical and were sure there had to be an official parking garage that belonged to the ferry dock…. nope. We drove around the retondo to see how far we would have to walk and made our walk down the street to find someone who had an open space. What we didnt know is that we arrived on a Mexican Independence holiday where many locals drove, parked, and ferried to Holbox and in general everything was much busier than “normal.” We found parking, and I know enough Spanish from the six years I took it in school that gets us by. The homeowner had a form where she marked all the damage that was on the car so we couldn’t say anything happened in our time away- they are as careful as you are and at no point during our entire trip did we feel unsafe, or scammed. Be smart, be aware, don’t leave valuables out, remove items from your car, and trust your instincts.
We left our car (you pay when you come back) and went to go buy tickets at the ferry dock. There are 2 lines that cost exactly the same, 150 pesos per person one way. What boat you take doesn’t matter, they aliterate each other every half hour. We took the Holbox express there and well…it loud and I thought I would throw up from the fuel smell. Thankfully it was a quick 15 minute ride. We had to wait for the boys to bring out our suitcases and then walked the few steps to the “taxi” area to wait in line for our golf cart to take us to our airbnb- which I will admit we totally splurged on at $250 a night the listing can be found right here
We originally were going to stay here at $50 a night but I found Casa Impala through an old Holbox post on the Girls Love Travel Facebook group when I was researching others experience and once I saw photos, that was it… even with its $897.48 USD for 3 night price tag. We adjusted the budget for the other places we were going to stay at for the rest of our trip knowing we were going to be busy looking for our wedding destination resort- we really wanted to rest, recharge, and reconnect in Holbox therefore were okay with splurging… and my god was it worth it. If you’ve never stayed in an Airbnb before- I cant recommend it enough! We almost never stay in hotels anymore. Use my link to sign up to receive a $40 off a home booking and $15 to use toward an experience worth $50 or more, I get a $30 account credit in return.
We paid 40 pesos for our taxi ride and met our host, Marco, at the residence. It should be noted- there are no cars in Holbox, or paved roads. The roads are INCREDIBLY bumpy and when it rains water puddles on the street and sometimes you have to walk straight through it. Bring shoes you don’t mind getting dirty- though plenty of locals just walk around barefoot. Marco then showed us around our loft, gave us restaurant recommendations, and helped me with a whale shark diving reservation through VIP Tours
At this point you are probably wondering.. why Holbox? Why travel 2 hours if you’re going to return back to Cancun to look at the resorts anyway? Why not Isla Mujeres which is a lot closer to the airport.
Bioluminescence and whale-sharks… and the fact it is a sleepier, less developed and waaaaaaay less touristy area to visit.
For our 8 day trip, our itinerary was to drive 2 hours from the Cancun airport to Holbox, and return back to the mainland early Wednesday morning and drive 3 hours from Chiquila to Chichen Itza to explore the ruins. Then we would drive 45 minutes to Valladolid and spend the night there before coming back to the Rivera Maya area through Tulum to stay in Puerto Morelos for the rest of the trip for our site inspections. Holbox just fit perfectly into the plan and who could say no to giant derpy fish and blue avatar glowing waters?
Gabriel and I unpacked and made our way down to the beach to explore the area. We walked, taking all the sites around un in and made our way down to Roots Pizza
for a lobster pizza I had been reading about for months and couldn’t wait to try. We got drinks while we waited and downed the entire pie when it came out since we hadn’t eat anything all day. It was great but different than I expected. I thought the lobster would be baked in under the cheese but it was just fire roasted and placed on top- but it was still very yummy and in total was $790 PESOS for drinks and food (tip not included) After, we walked over to VIP Tours and I paid my $120 USD for the whale shark tour- Gabriel would not even consider going. He absolutely hates open waters, small boats, and sea creatures (remember the stingray city story from our cruise?) and wanted to stay behind and catch up on sleep. We typically split during our vacations so that both people could get what they wanted most from their trip- for me it’s adventure, culture, and food for Gabriel is sleep, good drinks, and more sleep, therefore by splitting we both get to do what recharges us. We stopped at Porque No for ice cream that was 50 pesos a cone. After we paid we walked to the center of town to find …more food! We looked for the marquesita/ crepe vendor who I also read a ton about and got the banana, Nutella, peanut butter crepe and a Nutella and cheese
crispy marquesitas (and now I want a street vendor like this at my wedding and it WILL happen!) at 50 pesos a piece. We walked back down to the beach to find a spot on the pier to watch the most vivid sunset painted with colors of pink, orange, and yellow, I have ever seen. They say the sunsets in Holbox are one of the most magical things to witness- it couldn’t be more true and every night is completely different than the last.
As soon as the sun went down we headed back tot the airbnb to shower and knocked out like the dead. We were beyond exhausted from our travels as we were up for more than 24 hours before our flight. We had both just purchased new cars a few hours before boarding the plane. I was actually at urgent care before heading down to the dealer with an allergic reaction to the antibiotics I was taking for strep. Our roof in our condo had a huge leaked and damaged our unit and we still hadn’t had packed. I kept telling myself at the end of all this were buckets of margaritas and the glories hammocks in the water waiting for us. We wanted to go out for the Independence Party in town- music, dancing, fireworks- but honestly slept through it all and our host was shocked we hadn’t heard a thing.
Day 2 Holbox
I woke up around 7 am and got dressed and headed out to walk the town to find
restaurants, things for us to do, locate a bike rental shoppe, and find the perfect beach spot. I was out for about 2 hours and came back to find G still asleep. I woke him up and we walked to the animal shelter across the street from our airbnb and hung out with the doggos, kitties, and raccoons! we didnt stay to walk the animals, but you can stay to volunteer and help.
We went to Tortas del Carmen for breakfast and ordered breakfast chicken and
egg burritos, gringas, and a pineapple pork torta sandwich (which was
incredibly gross everything else was SO awesome) We assumed the large juices we ordered would be large glasses like in the US but instead received 1 liter jugs of juice. We had a good laugh about it and took our time to eat and enjoyed people and dog watching. I cant even begin to describe to you how many doggos just roam around the village minding their own business. The island works on Caribbean time- meaning you cant be in a rush- for your food, check, service. Many people bring books to the restaurant to read after eating while waiting for their check.
We walked back towards Casa Impala and stopped to pick up our bike rentals from Bike Holbox at 150 pesos per bike until 6pm. We brought them back to the house and loaded or baskets up beach towels, sunscreen, water and made our way down to Punta Cocos (20 min bike ride)
Punta Cocos was extremely….HOT! There are no waves, no wind, no movement, therefore the water retains the heat and is very warm. Beach chairs and Bali beds cost money and there is not a lot of shade so don’t forget your hat! There is bike parking and right in front of it is a man who sells ice cold coconuts he chops open with a machete. He also has these wonderful mangos he peels to look like flowers on a stick that he sprinkles this red powder on (I believe he said azucar dulce but I
am not 100% sure) and fresh pineapple. Next to his cart is a little bar you could order drinks and beer for cheap and go hang out in the hammocks in the water. We walked all the way left until we found a little hut with swings and tables and asked the locals if it was ok to put our things down they said it wasn’t a problem and we were never asked to pay. Eventually it was just too warm so we hopped back on the bikes and peddled back home to cool off in the cold little pool that was on the airbnb property.
We showered and changed and went to go return our bikes and walked down to find dinner. We went to Barba Negra in the Holbox Food Market for tacos. I found their spot on instagram through Holbox hashtags I was looking up and knew I had to add it to my list. G and tried almost one of each taco and they were some of the best we ever had (Taco Honorio in Tulum takes the cake) we only got 6 (cost 245 pesos) so we could head over to Cafe Luuma across the street for drinks and lamb tacos and dessert that came highly recommended by Marco. It was an absolute wonderful experience and our only regret is that they do not have a location here in Chicago. G had a Mexican toffee cake and I had the grilled chai
pineapple, we drank 2 incredibly delicious gin drinks and that lamb taco was to die for. Our bill came out to be 610 pesos (tip not included). We wandered off to get a good seat on the pier to watch the sun go down again and nestled our way back home to read and snuggle on the rooftop until the mosquitos got unbearable and headed inside for an early night again.
Holbox Day 3
I woke up at 6am to get ready for my 7 am whale shark excursion. I packed my waterproof drypack backpack with water, snacks, a towel, change of clothes, GoPro, phone, glasses, hat, and I took one tablet of dramamine before I headed out and tossed the rest with everything else… just in case. I don’t get seasick, but in my research I kept seeing people were talking about how sick they got on the 2 hour boat ride to go see the sharks and to take the anti nausea as a precaution. You are small, the sea is big. If a teeny tiny pill to size of a tic tac was supposed to help me not feel like crap- I was going to take it- no questions asked.
We had a briefing of whale shark and boat safety and how to properly get in the water and swim after the shark once we arrived to where they were located. We received our snorkeling gear and headed out to the pier to get into our boat. There was 10 people in our group, as well as a captain, and a diving guide. It was cool and the sun was just starting to warm us up and before we knew it, 2 hours had passed by and we were at the location the sharks were….along with 40 other boats waiting to do exactly the same thing. I booked my trip on the very last day of the season and the guide kept apologize that there weren’t “that many”sharks in the water (umm there was 20…. he said in high season there could easily be 400-800) Quite honestly… all I wanted was ONE! Ha! My new Canadian friend and I partnered up and we were the first to enter the water. GoPro in hand ready, we put our legs overboard and waited for GO GO GO to slide in and swim how we were told by the guide to see this magnificent animal. You get two five minute swim chances and that’s it.
On my first dive, when I went it- because of the hustle, bustle, and frenzy to get in the water- I totally forgot to spit in and clean my mask and it automatically fogged up. The water was very choppy and I inhaled a ton of salt water through my snorkel when I jumped and though I could see the fish, I spent the next few precious dive minutes trying to catch my breath and fix the visibility in my googles to get a better look. I finally gave up and swam to the boat knowing I had one more chance for a better dive.
I got myself ready, less anxious and more prepared now knowing what to expect and the second round went much better. I was able to get closer and really see and swim after the shark. My dive guide had my go pro this time so it was easier for me to swim with two arms and I didnt get any water in my snorkel. At this point, 2 people on our boat got very very sick from the smell of fuel from all the parked boats and the rocking motion from the waves staying in one place. I felt totally fine thanks to the pills but the smell of fuel was very disgusting.
We made our way back to Holbox stopping in Cabo Catoche to snorkel and explore as well as to have a fresh fish ceviche prepared for by the captain. We boated back to Holbox after and arrived a little after 2pm.
I went home and Gabriel was… you guessed it! STILL ASLEEP! I woke him up and we went down to Coquitos Beach Club which was *right* by the Airbnb on the beach… and it was AWFUL! We knew from Tulum beach clubs had a minimum that needed to be met and here it was 300 pesos a person. G wanted to stay since they had wifi and Bali beds and nest eggs to hang out in and we could leave our stuff safely and go into the water. The food and drinks absolutely sucked like I suspected they would and I wish I talked G into going a little further up the road. We still had a lot of fun and he spent hours floating in the ocean while I took a nap post dive.
Since it was our last night, we wanted to go watch the sunset from a roof top pool restaurant Marco had recommended called Spirit Holbox, it is located on the top floor of the Spirit Hotel. Our meal cost us 1245 pesos but it was very well worth it. I had the best drink I had the entire trip and the lobster shrimp ceviche was to die for.
Gabriel ordered grilled octopus and I had the grilled shrimp. The sunset was once again, incredible, but please note the second the sun stops shining the meanest blood thirstiest mosquitos come out and I swear their agenda is to kill you. I have never seen mosquitos cluster bite and not even be phased by big spray. We were each covered in over 30 bites a piece and the worst part of our trip was the itching cortisone nor calamine lotion could help…but still spirit was well worth it.
We walked from the restaurant to the town center along the beach hoping to catch the bioluminescence which beyond a few specs, were unsuccessful. I posted on my two facebook groups, Holboxaholics and I ❤️ HOLBOX asking why we had no luck seeing the plankton.. and we learned it was due to the full moon. It only shows up if it is truly pitch black. Wishing we knew this ahead of time, we probably would have booked a kayak tour that takes you to a different place in the island to see this phenomenon.
In town we went to Viva Zapata for coconut flan and I really wish we made it for dinner here one night! It was 50 pesos and then we had to go hit up the marquesita/ crepe man again before leaving. We stayed out late wandering through all the shops and dancing at Hot Corner before coming to terms we had to go back and pack for our next adventure.
We left the airbnb at 830 am the next morning and caught the 9am ferry back to Chiquila. I went to go pay the 300 pesos we owed for parking our car and picked up G at the main circle and we headed off one the 3 hour road ahead of us to the Chichen Itza ruins.
You can catch the rest of our trip HERE. Valladolid and Puerto Morelos truly deserve their own post.
Let me know if you have any question by posting below or emailing me! Happy to help!
As always xx
The Everyday Girl