Wheelchair Accessibility on Holbox Island
Holbox Island is one of those off-the-beaten-path destinations with little information about accessibility. I’m writing this as an able-bodied traveler who visited Holbox, keeping a close eye out for accessible features. I’ll share my thoughts on wheelchair accessibility in Holbox with the hope that it’ll give you some insight on whether visiting the island is a good fit for you.
Is Holbox Wheelchair Accessible?
This is probably the biggest question you have. In my opinion, electric wheelchair users and people who can’t easily transfer out of their chair will have a hard time visiting Holbox Island. However, if you’re a manual wheelchair user and can transfer into a golf cart, you’ll have a decent amount of flexibility with exploring.
One of the biggest reasons why I don’t recommend visiting Holbox with an electric wheelchair and those who can’t easily transfer to a golf cart is because the streets flood when it rains. And I mean flood. I’ll talk more about that soon.
The other reason is that sidewalks in Holbox are poor or non-existent. So, if you stay in your chair, you’d have to share the dirt roads with golf carts and scooters, dirtying up your wheels in the process.
Getting to Holbox Island
There are two ways to arrive in Holbox Island—via a private flight (most depart from Cancun) or a ferry. As you’d imagine, the ferry is a cheaper option.
To take the ferry you’ll first need to arrive in Chiquila, a tiny town near the tip of the Yucatan Penninsula. The drive from Cancun to Chiquila takes around 2 hours, 20 minutes. Once you leave Cancun, you’ll get to enjoy traffic-free roads that cut through dense forest.
When you first enter the forest area, you’ll pass by lots of cenote (sinkhole) entrances. Then, between large expanses of driving beside trees, you’ll pass through some adorable little towns.
The town of Chiquila offers good wheelchair accessibility, with the exception of one huge downfall—I didn’t see any accessible restrooms. Aside from that, the town is flat, offers a small but charming boardwalk along the ocean, and has a wide boarding dock and accessible outdoor waiting area for the ferry.
Taking the Ferry
Two ferry companies operate the route from Chiquila to Holbox—9 Hermanos and Holbox Express.
I took the 9 Hermanos ferry, so I’ll comment on its accessibility. However, based on assessing the Holbox Express ferry from the outside, it seems nearly identical to 9 Hermanos.
The ramp leading up to the ferry has about a 3-inch ledge to pop over. It’s a fairly narrow space, so large wheelchairs may not be able to pass over it.
The ramp itself has a gentle incline and lets you off on the first floor of the back deck. There isn’t seating on this back deck, but you could stay there to enjoy outdoor views (the outdoor seating is located upstairs on the second floor). You can also go onto the outdoor front deck where there’s more room.
If it’s raining or you’d prefer to be in the air conditioning, you can head inside the enclosed first-floor seating area. Unfortunately, 9 Hermanos doesn’t offer accessible spots for wheelchairs. However, the aisles are wide, so you’ll have plenty of space to wheel around.
Arriving at the Holbox Ferry Port
The Holbox ferry port is similar to Chiquila’s port. It has a wide dock for disembarking, an accessible waiting area, and a small accessible boardwalk along the water. That said, Holbox’s boardwalk is wooden and appears in need of some TLC, so you might want to stick to viewing it from the dock.
When you arrive in Holbox, you’ll be at the far end of the centermost part of town. Taxi golf carts will line the street, offering you a ride to your accommodation or around the island, depending on if you’re taking a day trip or spending the night (more on this soon).
I highly recommend transferring from your wheelchair to a golf cart at this point. Instead of taking a golf cart taxi, you can also rent one for the duration of your stay.
If you drive to Chiquila, there are a number of parking lots where you can pay to leave your car by the hour or 24-hour period. While I didn’t visit these parking lots myself, it’s probably safe to say that wheelchair accessible parking spaces are scarce or non-existent.
However, you could drive up to the port entrance and get out in the drop-off area there; it’s a wide disembarking area and doesn’t get too packed since tour companies leave their vehicles in a parking lot.
Public vehicles aren’t allowed on Holbox, so there’s no need to worry about parking once you’re on the island. That’s not to say that you’ll never encounter a vehicle in Holbox, though, for construction companies and other locals have vehicles. Nevertheless, 95% of the vehicles on Holbox’s roads are golf carts or scooters.
Holbox’s Road Situation
And what a situation it is.
Once upon a time, a few of Holbox’s main roads appear to have been paved. However, Mother Nature has long since eroded them. Nowadays, pothole-filled dirt roads greet visitors.
I don’t recommend attempting to explore downtown Holbox by wheelchair. It’ll be an uncomfortable situation at best, and a messy situation at worse if it rains.
Holbox’s Sidewalk Situation
And what another situation it is.
Holbox isn’t devoid of sidewalks, but the ones that are there offer painstakingly few areas suitable for wheelchairs.
Most of Holbox’s sidewalks are narrow and many are overgrown with vegetation or have electrical poles and other objects blocking the path.
Rain in Holbox
We all want the weather to be nice when we’re on vacation. But in Holbox, a lack of rain makes a difference in how easy it is to pass through the streets.
Since Holbox is a sandy island, I had assumed that after 45 minutes of torrential rain that the masses of water that turned streets into deep pits of standing water would absorb quickly.
However, by the time I left the island over 24 hours later, I was still waiting for the streets to return to normal. Since words don’t do it justice, here are some photos:
Here’s the theory I have: There’s a small cement factory near the port, and it makes me wonder if over time the dust from it has mixed with the dirt roads, reducing absorption rates. It would certainly explain the brown-grey mush on the edges of puddles as the sun slowly worked through sapping up the water.
Thankfully, there’s a silver lining—golf carts can breeze through these puddles, saving you and your wheelchair this hurdle.
Accessible Hotels & Restrooms in Holbox
I’m grouping these two together since I didn’t come across accessible restrooms in Holbox in stores or restaurants (that’s not to say there aren’t any, though—please leave a comment if you go to Holbox and find a public accessible restroom. Our readers will thank you!).
So, if you’re going to visit Holbox as a wheelchair user, your best bet is to spend the night so you have access to an accessible bathroom at your hotel.
Since Holbox is so small and remote, it doesn’t offer any U.S. chain hotels that are more reliable for their accessibility.
However, according to Booking.com, Villas Palmar Holbox offers accessible rooms. You’d have a private kitchenette and be right by the beach.
Wheelchair Accessibility at Holbox’s Shops & Restaurants
There are very few shops and restaurants in downtown Holbox that are accessible, as most have a step to get into or are located on a sidewalk so narrow that it would be impossible for a wheelchair to pass through.
However, there are a strip of mostly accessible restaurants on the road facing the beach and directly on the beach itself. In fact, you can rent a comfy shaded beach chair for the day and have waiters serve you food and drinks right on the beach.
Accessible Things to do in Holbox
When it comes to Holbox, doing nothing is one of the biggest “things to do.”
The beach is Holbox’s pride and joy. If you bring a beach wheelchair, you’ll be pleased by how packed the sand is. The water also stays shallow for a long way out, making it a great place to float around.
There’s a wooden dock in the central beach area that will take you quite a ways out over the water. It’s a great place to get views of the shore and watch fish jump in the water, if you get lucky. Just as a word of caution—the wood is in need of repair, especially towards the end of the dock.
As mentioned above, there are lots of hotels and restaurants that offer nice beach chairs and shade (think six-inch cushions and private or shared cabañas).
Aside from beaching it, the other main thing to do in Holbox is to explore the island by golf cart. This is a great way for you to see the town, although you should keep your expectations low—the beach is Holbox’s main draw. Nevertheless, it’s fun to check out the many pieces of street art around downtown.
You can also explore the quieter parts of the island in a golf cart, enjoying nature views and keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife. Don’t forget to also take a golf cart ride along the sandy path beside the ocean. You’ll encounter occasional stop signs and speed bumps made out of rope!
Will You Be Heading to Holbox?
If you end up going to Holbox, it would mean a lot to us if you dropped by this page after your trip. You’d be helping so many people out by leaving a comment about your experience, recommendations, etc. Thank you in advance!
Psst! Wheeling Around the Yucatán?
We’ve put together several other accessible blog posts on destinations around Mexico’s Caribbean peninsula. Check them out below:
Laura’s love for traveling started with a trip to Jamaica. Since then, she’s spent over five years living in Latin America and four years wandering the globe. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.