Mexico has become famous for its high octane holiday resorts but the North American country offers so much more. Explore a little further afield and you’ll unearth some beautifully peaceful pockets of paradise, here’s one of them…
Travellers looking for a holiday on the Yucatan peninsula may only associate this beautiful part of Mexico with the craziness of Cancun and the all-inclusive resorts of Playa Del Carmen but take it from me it’s definitely possible to relax on a peaceful each without losing access to the natural beauty or the unique culture of the Yucatan Peninsula. You’ll have to wander away from the hordes of tourists, corridors of large hotels, and groups of partying college students and visit a Mexican off the beaten track destination – a place called Isla Holbox.
The hippy-chic boho paradise of Isla Holbox (pronounced Hol-Bosch) is located off the gorgeous Northern tip of the Yucatan. The island is small but perfectly formed and is part of the Yum-Balam Biosphere Reserve with its main industry being fishing. Although it’s still under the radar as a major tourist destination, the island does attract vacationers from other parts of Mexico as well as a handful of in-the-know travellers especially those interested wildlife viewing and relaxation. One of my favourite places in this corner of the globe, it’s a very beautiful, private and very laid back place, and the island provides a welcome alternative to the crazily busy resorts in Cancun and the Mayan Riviera.
How to get to Isla Holbox
It takes over two hours from Cancun to Chiquila (the village where the ferry to Isla Holbox is located). There are MAYAB and NORESTE buses that travel from the Cancun bus station to Chiquila and also numerous car and van services take visitors directly from the airport to the ferry. The hotels on Isla Holbox can arrange airport transfers for guests. Once in Chiquila it is a short, but very scenic and pleasant ferry ride to Holbox.
What to do
Isla Holbox is not a place for those seeking spring-break-style liveliness. It is a quiet, almost sleepy place – perfect for an unspoiled destination in Mexico. This is the place to head to if sitting under a palm tree with a good book is your favourite holiday activity. There are, however, plenty of stops in town if you’re looking for cocktails and good food. Casa Las Tortugas is another small hotel (also a popular place to spend the night), and it happens to be home to a great restaurant and bar. Don’t leave without trying the plantain sushi washed down with a great mezcal sour – trust me, it’s seriously delicious!
There are also outdoor activities on offer when you tire of just hanging around relaxing. The island is just 26 miles long but the shallow lagoon which separates the beautiful island from mainland Mexico is teeming with spectacular wildlife from pink flamingos and pelicans to other exotic birds and creatures. It has a protected natural preserve status which ensures it remains as unspoilt as possible, although a little word of warning – it can get humid on parts of the island, especially on trails adjacent to wildlife habitat which can bring out the pesky mosquitoes – so make sure you pack plenty of insect repellant!
While most tourists love to see the flamingos filling up their pink bellies in lagoons on the island, diving, snorkelling and whale shark tours are another popular activity on the island. They congregate here during the summer months and the gentle sea creatures are truly a delight to see!
White sand bars and turquoise waters welcome visitors to this island. They stretch out for what seems like miles and there are no enormous towering (or five star) hotels obstructing the view. Small villas and inns dominate the accommodation on the island, almost all with a fabulous bohemian character and relaxing vibe appealing to those seeking a bit of refuge.
Villas Flamingos has a private oceanfront location further from the town square, and the hotel offers stunning views from nearly every room. A favourite activity here involves climbing into one of their hammocks, located out on the open water.
Another popular destination is Posada Mawimbi, located closer to the centre of town. The hotel feels less remote, but it has a unique, personal touch and is a popular stop for backpackers and families alike.
Villas Paraiso del Mar’s flower-covered bungalows are home to enormous incense-scented rooms decorated with dark hardwoods.
The ocean stretches out in front of all of these hotels, and the warm white sand is only a step or two from the front door of any room.
To those planning a trip to the Yucatan, Mexico I would definitely recommend taking the time to consider alternatives to the busy all-inclusive chain hotels. You may find that Isla Holbox offers a different kind of vacation, one that allows for true relaxation with a scenic slice of what makes the Yucatan such a special destination!