Everything you need to know about the island in the Gulf of Mexico. Go soon. In few years, it will be as touristy as Bali and the magic might be gone…
The Black Hole in the Sea of Green
Holbox is an island that will stay on your mind… no cars, but bikes, gold buggies and mopeds or a lot of walking, which is what I opted for, because the deep green and turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico will attract you to dive in at so many different spots that it is just best to walk around in your bikini and a waist scarf, dive in, walk, dive in…
Holbox (“black hole“ in Yucatec Maya) is approximately 42 km long and 1.5 km wide, and it is separated from the mainland by 10 km of shallow lagoon that is home to flamingos, pelicans, cormorants, herons, wild ducks, frigatebirds and other rich birdlife. Some parts of the islands are inaccessible in certain months of the birds breeding.
The place where you can experience some of the most beautiful sunsets, where time flows slowly, where the vibes are chilled and carefree and where the hotels and eco resorts remind you of Indonesia and other exotic locations – that is Holbox.
The island’s main industry is fishing but it is developing a growing tourist industry in the form of whale shark viewing – and even swimming (from June, or mid-May to mid-September). Many of the dishes made on the island centre around lobster or other seafood.
The island is accessed by a ferry from the mainland town of Chiquila (150 pesos one way). If you come from Cancún or Playa del Carmen, you can fly onto the island via a small airline.
The streets are unpaved and sandy and can get huge puddles of water after the rain has fallen. During hurricane season, the island is often evacuated as it can get badly damaged by the winds.
If you are keen on bird watching, don’t give a miss to “Isla Pájaros” (Bird Island), a small island covered in mangrove swamps and cacti, located on the Yalahau lagoon, where there is a large diversity of birds, including several endangered species that can be observed from two specially designated viewpoints. You ought to follow appointed walkways that are provided to minimize direct contact with the birds.
Holbox has one of the safest beaches for learning kiteboard. The long and wide beaches have shallow waters, and there are many days of wind during the winter months. Many school with professional instructors can be found on the island.
As the island is truly magical and bohemian in its own sense, it is sought by many adventurers and travellers. Thus, the demand creates the offer: a night in a hotel or an eco resort would not cost you less than 160 USD! There are Airbnb places but they do not get much cheaper and start at about 130 euros per room.
Renting a bike or a buggy gets pricy too. The bikes are around 20 pesos per hour and the buggies around 150. You can – of course – always try to haggle, but usually the price does not change much, even if you are staying for a few days and plan to be renting regularly.
Unlike Tulum, Playa del Carmen or Isla Mujeres, Holbox is not crowded and nobody will be hunting you to buy their products. There are not many street vendors, neither ATMs, so just be prepared for that. The beach cafés and restaurants often do not offer Wi-Fi and you might not be able to pay with your card in the reasonably priced bistros.
If you are – like me – a fan of street art, you will fall in love with Holbox’s eclectic mix of murals. There are plenty of varied designs all around the island, from portraits to abstract works. I loved stumbling across some truly beautiful art in the most unexpected locations. Just take yourself on a swim and art tour someday.
The laid-back, almost sleepy atmosphere in some parts of the island will allow you to just enjoy relaxation in a hammock, snorkelling, drinking coconuts, mojitos and micheladas. As for the night life, best is to spend the evenings watching the sunsets having a little picnic or going for dinner and then popping into a beach bar with chillout music and cool staff for a few drinks. You can also try out the marquesitas sold by the street vendors in the main market in the evenings.
You can also spend a few hours of the night by going on a boat trip to see the bioluminescent plankton.
If you come to the island for a longer period of time and you run out of ideas what to do, give a try to Yalahau Cenote (around 30 minutes by boat), go wildlife watching (yeap, the famous crocs) and just spoil yourself on food, drinks and the local artisanal products…