We left on a Tuesday afternoon and boarded a ferry with no more than fifteen other travelers all headed for the sleepy beach town, Isla Holbox (it’s pronounced hole-bosh). I was eager to experience what some have dubbed Mexico’s last hidden beach town, especially when compared to its more popular nearby beach destinations such as Cancun, Tulum, and Playa Del Carmen. I was looking for something less resort-like, and Isla Holbox encompassed everything I was looking for and more.
Once on the island, you may as well turn your phone off because you won’t need it for much. Restaurants post signs informing you there is no wifi and advocate talking to one another while sipping on tequila. Also, there no is point in overpacking; only the essentials are required: sundress, swimsuit, sunhat, and sunblock. Shoes are optional. More often than not, I noticed locals and travelers alike walking or cruising around on their bikes barefoot.
Life moves slowly on the island. You won’t find a single stoplight, chain restaurant, and you certainly won’t see any of the over-the-top all-inclusive resorts. What you will find are small treehouse-like boutique hotels with hammocks all over the grounds, from the pool to inside your hotel room. We booked ourselves at Hotel Para Ti and, upon arriving, the message from the hotel was loud and clear… “leave your suitcases and start to be free.” The message was painted on a large wooden sign by the reception desk. My sister and I were quick to drop off our bags and be free.
After a day of traveling and settling into the hotel room, my sister and I were starving, so we headed to Viva Zapata a restaurant recommended to us by our hotel. The island is known for its fresh seafood especially the ceviche. Viva Zapata, like many of the bars and restaurants on the island, offered swing seats at the bar and an assortment of fresh seafood dishes. In my opinion, Zapata didn’t just have the best ceviche on the island but the best ceviche I’ve ever tasted! My sister who claims she doesn’t like ceviche instantly became a fan after tasting theirs. We ate at Viva Zapata at least once a day during our stay.
Our first full day on the island, we headed out to Punta Coco—a forty-five-minute walk from the center of town. Punta Coco is quiet and relatively untouched with no beach club services it is just you, some birds perched on wooden posts, and the water. The water is clear and warm. Aside from my sister and I, there was a couple on the beach that day. Punta Coco is the go-to spot for spectacular sunsets as well as the spot to check out the bioluminescent plankton at night.
The bioluminescent excursion was one of the most fun nighttime adventures I’ve had in a long time. Taxi drivers on the island pick you up in their golf carts around 11 pm, and then a trail of golf carts heads out to Punta Coco for the night. It had rained the day prior, and so most of the road was flooded. At times it felt as if we were in a boat, but instead, we were in a golf cart driving through the mangroves. As for the actual plankton, that was exciting to see as well. My sister would shout, “Watch my legs when I walk.” I, on the other hand, couldn’t stop marveling at the night’s sky. While everyone else was looking down at the glowing plankton, I stood there staring at the stars it was just so bright I couldn’t help but marvel at the sky. After an hour out in the water, we hopped onto our taxi and headed to town. It was after midnight when we got back to the center of town.
Isla Holbox is all about that hammock lifestyle. For those of you who want a day of beach lounging head to Holbox beach. This strip of beach on the island offers a few beach clubs and hammocks that hang from wooden posts out in the ocean. The water is warm, clear, and relatively shallow as you walk out to the sandbar. My sister and I spent our days lazily sipping on Sol beers and reading our books. The occasional vendor would bike up with his fresh coconuts and cut one open for us. Other vendors sold popsicles, but for the Mexicana, in me, I was all about the vendor who sold churro chips with chile sauce.
Beach lounging was followed by visits to Alma Bar a rooftop lounge on the island with a bohemian atmosphere and zen-like decor. The pool has two side cabanas, and two hammocks and the bartenders serve up some refreshing island cocktails. I loved everything about this bar, especially the view!
Again, the island is slow and mellow. If you are looking for a place that offers a lot of excursions or activities outside of hammock lounging, then Holbox may not be for you. During the summer, travelers flock to the island to swim with whale sharks. The island also offers a classic three Isla tour, which takes you to Isla Pajaros, Yalahua—a cenote said to have been a watering hole used by pirates—and Passion island a tiny island that has been deserted but offers a great spot to see the flamingos.
Isla Holbox was my idea of heaven. Having traveled to many island destinations, I appreciated how untouched this island is. I loved being with other travelers all who shared a similar appreciation for my Mexican culture and a carefree pace of life.