Isla Holbox

Holbox Island seemed like the perfect secluded island paradise, off the north tip of the Yucatan peninsula, nestled between the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. It was easy to get to from Tulum, a direct 3h-long bus, that Ireen and Timo from Germany also happened to be on. Then a short ferry ride and walk across the Village, and we had arrived.

The weather wasn’t ideal on the first day, it being the end of rainy season this time of year. This, added to the under/over-developed contrast that struck us walking around the town and beach to discover our surroundings, made for a slightly disappointing introduction. The town definitely lacks infrastructure (road, pavements, drainage system), which would be fine if it wasn’t under construction everywhere. When it rains, the water has nowhere to go so large puddles form, attracting mosquitoes, and making it impossible to get around by foot. A lot of independent construction is underway, to attract more tourists, while basic town planning is lacking to address the growing problems of flooding and pollution. Fortunately, outside of rainy season this isn’t so much of a concern, and for an accessible/affordable Caribbean island, it still remains quite peaceful, for now. The beaches closest to town are often covered in seaweed, especially after full moon, or high tide, but the water is still clean and enjoyable to swim in.

It is definitely worth walking or cycling further out of town to get to the more pristine and wild beaches and lagoons at the north-east and north-west tips of the island. This is what we did on the second day, even renting a golf cart for the fun. We didn’t get far because on one side of the island the roads are too bad, and on the other, the nature reserve is only accessible by foot. But the walk to the best lagoons, through the reserve and shallow waters, is only an hour or 2. It was a sunny day, which brought out the beautiful bright colours of the water, beach and mangroves and made for easy bird-watching: our highlight being the pink flamingos which are everywhere on this part of the island and pelicans, cranes and many other types of seabirds, small and large.

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We returned to this beautiful location near Mosquito Point, on our third day, for my (Steph’s) 30th birthday treat: a canoe ride through the mangroves. Another day of sunshine, tranquillity, and bird, crab and even mini alligator -watching, topped off with a mud-bath treatment onshore.

We spent the other days on the beach, tasting Cebiche (fish cooked in lemon juice and cilantro), having cocktails at the only reggae bar in town (Raices Bar) and a few beers on the jetty to watch the sunset.

There is not much to be said about the nightlife in Holbox Village, there being only 2 bars open after 9pm. We did enjoy a cocktail with Ireen and Timo at a beach bar that had swings instead of seats, but it closed early, probably due to it being out of season. On my birthday night we went to the re-opening of our hostel bar (Tribu hostel). They brought in an excellent Ska band from Cancun, called Capitan Pachamama, who got the place packed and dancing in less than 30 minutes!
The following night we tried out sleeping in mosquito-netted hammocks at another hostel. The site wasn’t great (not by the beach and a bit cramped), and Renaud, who’s tall, didn’t sleep well in the small hammock, but the experience was, to say the least, original.

So all-in-all, no regrets about Holbox, although we do recommend keeping clear of the rainy season and maybe investing a little extra money for nice accommodation on the beach. It offers many activities from whale-shark watching to kite-surfing or swimming with bioluminescent plankton at night, but if you’re really into snorkelling, this is not the best spot as the stronger currents disturb the sand banks, meaning the water is not as clear as in Tulum, Playa del Carmen or Isla Mujeres (which are also better known for their nightlife!).

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