Foot loose and fancy free has always been the adventure travelers' credo. Travel light and softly so when you do find your special place in the sun you don't trample it. Isla Holbox is one of those fragile, precious places, a little gem that takes you back to the days of no cars, beach roads and beautiful sunsets. In the Summer don't miss swimming with the whale sharks, while winters bring great breezes for kite boarding.
This small out-of-the-way Mexican island is just west of Cancun in the northeast corner of Quintana Roo, Mexico. The beaches on Isla Holbox are officially located on the Gulf of Mexico, with the Caribbean Sea is just a short boat ride away. It’s hard to believe that a place like this could be so close to the megalithic tourist destination of Cancun and yet be a million miles away in attitude, natural beauty and environmental diversity. The highlight of Isla Holbox is the annual migration of the whale shark, the largest fish in the world, an event that happens every summer in the Gulf of Mexico.
The shores of Isla Holbox are lined with wide beaches that offer plenty of room for sunbathers, beach walkers and kite boarders. The main beach is roughly 2 kilometers (1¼ miles) long with more beaches to walk and discover in more remote island locations.
The roads on the island are the same sand found on the shore, and only travelled by electric golf carts. Taxi golf carts and rental golf carts are the only way to get around town unless you choose the best vehicle, your feet. The island is small enough to walk your way around the small zocalo, beaches and hotels. It is a preferred way to travel.
Laid back simple pleasures like swinging in a hammock, walking through the town, beach combing, kayaking, paddle boarding, kite boarding, or just delighting in the island specialty lobster pizza at Restaurant Edelyn are daily activities. Isla Holbox is a place to unwind and hide from the resort crowd, to re-discover or sprout your tropical roots. Fishing enthusiasts find their own gran slam in the flats, but Holbox’s real claim to fame is its seasonal whale shark snorkeling tours where adventurers can also see manta rays, dolphins, and flamingos in their natural habitat.
In town most of the buildings are the quintessential bright Caribbean colors; a picturesque image of life in the tropics. Golf carts zip around, stopping anywhere they wish. Lazy dogs lounge around, looking on with little interest, and the occasional boat is parked on a side street waiting to be put back in its rightful place.
Community activities are at the center of Isla Holbox ‘things to do’ with visitors welcome to join in the weekend fun or a beach football/soccer game. If community is what you look for in your Mexican vacation, Isla Holbox will draw you into its intimate history and welcoming hosts who live on the island year round.
Getting comfortable for sunset is a daily ritual, and the perfect opportunity to let the tranquility of Isla Holbox sink into your bones. In the late afternoon, make your way to Raices, an old-school palapa restaurant on the beach, to share a bucket of ice cold beer and a plate of fresh seafood ceviche while watching the sun dip into the Gulf – something you can’t do on the nearby Riviera Maya coast, which faces east. Whether you’re gazing out over the sand, or from the main pier, the beauty of the boat silhouettes against the painted sky is a sight to behold.
Getting to Isla Holbox is part of your island adventure. Located on the northern coast of the Yucatan, this destination can be accessed two ways, rental car (fun) or public bus (cheap). No matter which option your choose, all visitors will take a small ferry from Chiquilá, a very small port town that is the final land town before Holbox. The road to Chiquilá can be accessed via Tulum or the free highway out of Cancun. You will pass through a series of Mayan towns and villages, some big, some small, but none the less cool places that you would not otherwise see in the Riviera Maya. Cars cannot be taken to Isla Holbox but there is ample parking in Chiquilá that is inexpensive and secure. Enjoy the ferry ride!