I’m going to let you in on a little secret about the most beautiful island in the Yucatán… Unspoiled by commercialism and tourism is Isla Holbox. It means ‘black hole’ in Maya and has been dubbed ‘the new Tulum.’ At barely 30 miles long, and 1 mile wide, you can easily get around by bicycle and golf cart. In fact, you’ll hardly see a car on the island. I randomly decided to travel here after spending a weekend at Excellence resort in Cancun with a group of girlfriends. I can’t bare spending money to fly out of the country just to head right back a couple of days later. Needless to say, as they headed to the airport to go back to the States, I hopped in a cab and was Holbox-bound. The drive was 2 hours from Cancun to Chiquila, plus 30 minutes on the ferry from Chiquila to Holbox, and a 5 minute ride in a golf cart taxi to my hotel. If you tend to get seasick, bring dramamine, and sit outside on the upper deck if possible. After so much traveling, I was anxious to be outside enjoying the sun and the breeze causing what was a 30 minute ferry ride to feel like 10 minutes. When I arrived, there were a couple of golf carts readily available to take me and my luggage to my hotel at Casa Tortugas about 10 blocks away. I chose to stay at 3 different hotels which is totally normal for me. It’s a hassle to be so nomadic, but I like the experiences. First, I stayed at Casa Las Tortugas, then one night at Tribu Hostel and then Hotel La Palapa. See info below for pricing and contact information. One of the questions I get asked the most is ‘What in the world do you do when traveling all by yourself?’ I had to travel alone a few times before I got comfortable doing it, and now I thoroughly enjoy myself. It is beyond liberating. It’s still sometimes weird eating alone, but with a drink in hand, this is where I got most of my activity planning accomplished. There was so much to do an explore. I laid out on the beach as much as my fair skin would allow whilst listing to my Spotify ‘island playlist.’ I swam in the pool at Casa Tortugas, rented a golf cart to explore the whole island, borrowed a dog from the local shelter to play in the water with, enjoyed playing Loteria with the locals (Mexican Bingo), watched a live band from a bar which was such a hit that people were watching from their couch in the street, chatted with the locals as they unloaded Conch off the boat and then blew beautiful tunes from them at sunset, ate almost an entire Lobster pizza by myself, cycled down the wide-open sand-paved beach roads, lounged in the hammocks in the sandbanks of the ocean, visited the iguanas in their homes (see photos), had a margarita with a friendly local at the ‘pink’ restaurant, admired the many murals around town, saw flamingos on Isla Passion, and watched the incredible sunset which had me absolutely swooning.
One thing about this island that had me in awe at their generosity and love towards animals. All animals on the island look very well taken care of. There is even a local shelter for animals that have a disability or do not have a caregiver. It is highly recommended that you stop by to take an animal out for a stroll, so I loaded up a dog named Nana on my golf cart and drove her down to the beach to splash around in the water.
Fly into Cancun International Airport (CUN), transport 2-4 hours to Chiquila via local bus/taxi/tour bus depending on mode of transport (taxi is quickest), then 30 minute ferry ride to the island, and a 5-10 minute golf cart ride to your hotel.
I took a taxi, solo, from a resort in Cancun to Holbox, then on the way back, I scheduled a pickup for transport to the airport with Jesus Pech from Holbox Adventure, email@example.com, +52 984 135 6451. Cars are not permitted on the island. You can also take a small plane from the Cancun airport straight to Holbox, or a private boat service, but I’m sure the cost is astronomical. Make sure to have cash for the transport. The taxi is between $80-150 USD (2,080-2,400 pesos) depending on your negotiation skills and where you are being picked up from. You will be charged more if your pickup is at the airport or some prominent resort. The ferry ticket is about $5 USD (80 pesos), and the golf cart taxi is $1.25-$2.50 USD (20-40 pesos).
Holbox is on Eastern Standard Time which is the same as Cancun, power is 110V which is the same as the States, cash is needed whether it be pesos, Euros or USD. There is only one ATM on the entire island so it doesn’t always have sufficient funds, is not always working, or may have a long line. The ATM is located on the main road above the police station. Be prepared to speak some Spanish since not everyone understands English.
WHERE TO STAY:
Tribu Hostel, one block from the beach, on Av. Pedro Joaquin Coldwell. Rate per night was $12.20 including taxes with an additional 12% required as a deposit. +52 984 87 52507, firstname.lastname@example.org, . This hostel has to be the best on the island. It is very nice for a hostel, and offers a ton of activities.
Casa Las Tortugas Petit Beach Hotel & Spa, right on the beach off of Calle Igualdad. +52 984 87 52129. Rate per night approx $215/night including 16% VAT. Hotel books quickly! Card was accepted. Owned by an Italian couple.
Beachfront Hotel La Palapa $78.45/night, accepts visa, master card. Includes 3% service fee and 16% VAT applied. 5% discount if paying with cash. Cards do not always work since the signal is spotty.
CasaSandra, beachfront off Calle Igualdad, $270+ USD/night with rooms up to $1,000 for 5+, +52 984 875 2171, email@example.com, owned by a Cuban artist and writer.
WHERE TO EAT:
Milpa Restaurant – fairly new, opened early 2016, gluten free and vegan options
El Chapulim – Nicer restaurant, first come first served, no menu only chef selections.
Restaurant Colibri (or La Isla del Colibri) – the vibrant color of the restaurant will catch your attention; owned by a very sweet family
Hotel Zomay Beach Bar – join others by claiming a swing or a hammock at the bar.
El Jardin – French bakery especially great for breakfast, vegetarian friendly, cash only
Mandarina Restaurant & Beach Club – this is the restaurant at Casa Tortugas. Includes gluten free and vegan options, and accepts credit cards.
Basico Cocina de Playa – fun atmosphere and super cute
Go to Passion Island for flamingo spotting
Visit Isla Pajaros (Birds Island) where you can spot many different birds in their natural habitat. It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise (Flamingos, grey egrets, Frigate birds, Ibis, Cormorants, Canadian White Pelican, etc).
Swim with whale sharks
Eat a Lobster Pizza
Borrow a dog from the local shelter
Ride around on a golf cart
Rent a bicycle and ride up and down the sand-paved beach roads
Listen to live music, even if it means sitting on a couch in the middle of the street. Anything goes in this little place.
Yoga on the beach
Play games with the locals
Visit the Yalahau springs otherwise known as the Fountain of Youth.