Travel to Holbox, Mexico

The most common way to travel to Holbox is to take the bus from Cancun (or Merida) to the town of Chiquilá and then catch a ferry to the island. Once there, you’ll be greeted by golf cart taxi drivers for the short ride to your hotel. If you arrive in Chiquilá and decide that you don’t want to wait for the next ferry (operated by the 9 Hermanos company), you can also hire a ponga style boat for a water taxi ride across. But the ferries run almost every hour so no matter when you arrive, it won’t be a long wait for the next one.

  1. credit: rbrands on Flickr
  2. credit: malias on Flickr
  3. credit: rbrands on Flickr

Buses depart the main bus station in Cancun for Chiquilá at 4:30am, 6:00am, 8:00am, 12:40pm, 1:30pm and 2:15 pm. The bus will drop you right at the ferry pier for the 20-minute ride across the Yalahua Lagoon to the island.

Buses run from Chiquilá to Cancun at 5:30 am, 7:30am and 1:30 pm. The 1:30pm bus waits for the arrival of the ferry that departs from Holbox at 1:00pm before heading off for Cancun.

The bus is an “intermediate” class vehicle run by the Mayab company. The ride can take anywhere from 3 to 3-½ hours depending on how many stops it makes. There is open seating and while the bus is air-conditioned; it does not have rest room facilities.

The driver will stop for anyone standing along side the road who waves him down and will drop off passengers anywhere a traveler wants along the route. During the course of the ride, venders with various food and drink offerings will hop on at one stop and after walking the isle and serving passengers, hop off at the next stop.

On our last trip (in July 2006), the bus from Cancun costs $62 pesos  each way. The 20-minute ferry ride between Chiquilá and Holbox was $40 pesos each way.

In addition to the people ferry, there is a car ferry that also crosses to the island but it almost exclusively transports service vehicles. Once on the island, there are two main forms of transportation; walking or travel by golf cart. It is very rare to see a personal vehicle other than golf cart, scooter, bicycle or ATV traveling the sand packed streets. Even the beer delivery trucks are mounted on golf cart frames.

Golf cart taxis are inexpensive to hire and carts can be rented for $80 pesos an hour.

If you have a car, you could also drive to Chiquilá and leave your car in the parking lot nearby the ferry pier.  In fact, if you have a group of 4 and are only planning to stay a couple nights, even hiring a rental car just for the drive won’t cost that much more than taking the bus (particularly if you have to take a bus to Cancun to start your journey).  You will also cut your travel time both going and coming as well as having the luxury of traveling whenever you want rather than relying on the bus schedule.

The drive from Cancun to Chiquilá is roughly 2½ hours.  From Cancun, follow the signs to Mérida on Freeway 180 (aka (Mérida Libre).  Take a right turn towards Kantunilkin in El Ideal.  From there, you have a straight shot of 80 km to Chiquilá, where you will find parking lots near the pier for the ferry to Holbox Island. Parking should run you roughly 30 to 40 pesos per day

From Mérida, the drive is roughly 4-hours.  Start out on Freeway 180 (aka (Mérida-Cancún road).  Take a left turn towards Kantunilkin in El Ideal.  From there, you have a straight shot of 80 km to Chiquilá.

It is also possible to take a flight on a small commuter plane from Playa del Carmen or Cancun directly to the island.

On our trip from Cozumel to Holbox we took the 9:00am ferry to Playa del Carmen and walked across the square to the bus station. On the far left of the waiting room is an ADO ticket counter exclusively for travel to Cancun. The Playa to Cancun service operates like a shuttle. There always seems to be one loading and departing at short intervals.

The bus will put you at the central Cancun bus station at around 11:15am leaving time to buy your ticket and grab something quick to eat before the 12:40pm departure.

Our ride was mid-week and we encountered relatively few stops along the way arriving in Chiquilá in 3-hours. It is a very short walk to the ferry pier, which departed at around 4:00pm. The ferry arrived in Holbox 20-minutes later and we were checking in to our hotel at around 4:30pm.

On our return, we took the 1:00pm ferry back over to Chiquilá. When we arrived, the bus for Cancun was waiting at the end of the pier. The bus left at around 1:40pm but almost immediately began to make stops much like a local city service. The return put us in Cancun just before 5:00pm. We bought our ADO bust ticket to Playa (the Playa shuttle counter in Cancun is at the far right of the terminal) and immediately boarded a waiting bus. We took the next ferry departing Playa at 7:00pm and walked into our house in Cozumel around 7:45pm.