The 'secret' is out. Once known for embodying chill beach life and visited only by backpackers and hippies, more and more people are now visiting Isla Holbox. And even though it's now far from being a hidden gem, the mellow vibe on the island makes it a gem nonetheless.
Most of the roads are still unpaved and a golf cart or bike are really your only transportation options outside of walking. The water is a light aqua and the beaches have more or less escaped the plague of seaweed. There are flamingos, dolphins and even whale sharks close by. The ceviche is fresh and the beer is cold. What more could you ask for?
Maybe fewer mosquitos.
You need to take a bus or drive to Chiquila and then take the 30 minute ferry ride (140 MXN). I came from Mérida on a local bus (225 MXN), which took a bit longer.
I think I ate my weight in ceviche. It is possible to eat too much ceviche.
Las Panchas - Ceviche, grilled fish and cold beer at a decent price.
Raices Beach Club - I came here so that I could hang out on a beach chair, since the resorts take up most beach sides and are for guests only. Not the cheapest, but the chair is included if you buy food there and the food is decent.
Surf Bar - Craft beer and tacos.
Edelyn - Most famous for their lobster pizza, it's overpriced (350 MXN) with a pre-made crust. I'm sure there are better places on the island by now. That being said, I enjoyed it for what it was.
Moskito Bar - Beach side restaurant/bar further down the right side of the beach. Great stop after a very long and hot walk to Punta Mosquito.
-Punta Mosquito - To the far right of the island, Punta Mosquito is a beach with no shops or restaurants. The beach is beautiful and you can see flamingos hanging out in the water. However, there is no shade either, so bring an umbrella and snacks. I took a very long, hot walk out there, but you can also take a golf cart most of the way.
-Flamingos - There are tours to see the flamingos, but you can see them yourself by walking to Punta Mosquito. It's really cool to see them in the wild. but don't get too close otherwise they will fly away.
-Whale Sharks - Even though it's expensive and our boat broke down, it's worth it. Whale sharks are incredible. Everyone gets two 5 minute turns to swim for with the whale sharks. There is a guide that basically yells 'SWIM!' at you to help direct you towards the whale sharks. They are massive and it's actually somewhat scary to be that close to them. Bonus: we saw dolphins and flamingos on the way back.
Cost: I paid 1900 MXN (around 100 USD). There are tour operators everywhere on the island and most boats end up around the same area, so ask around for prices. The boat ride is over 2 hours each way, so make sure your boat has a cover. You'll leave early around 7 am.
Tips: Scuba diving actually disrupts the whales, so snorkeling is a better way to view them. You're not allowed to wear sunscreen or touch the whale sharks.
-Chill - Isn't this what you came to do?
I was in full backpacker mode and stayed at cheap but fun hostels that I would liken to a mosquito-filled sweat lodge. I figured this is what Isla Holbox is about, but I think it was the worst sleep of my life. If I could do it again, I would 100% splurge for a nicer boutique hotel/resort on the beach.