Bracing ourselves for the bus from Cancun, we told ourselves it better be worth it… There are a few options to travel from Cancun to Holbox – the splash out option is to taxi all the way to the ferry port which will out you back $140 US each way, or the bus option from the ADO (the local major bus station) in Cancun. With rumours that they overbook the coaches and you may have to stand for the 3 hour journey we arrived an hour early and paid our $120 pesos each (around £5) and waited. Luckily we got seats and the air-conned bus journey was actually as pleasant as they come. After arriving at the ferry port Chiquillla, the ferries go regularly and 20 mins across the water later we were there.
I knew we’d like Holbox the minute we stepped foot on the island. When you get off the ferry, there’s a taxi rank just 20 metres from the port, with a queue yellow golf buggies with the word TAXI emblazoned on the roof. We hopped in and had our first little scenic tour of Holbox on the way to our accommodation. The first thing we noticed was the water; true to the endless instragammed versions we’d seen, the reality of the turquoise waters lived up to the rumour. And it’s so shallow you can walk out 200m or so and it can still be knee-high and warm. There are also numerous sandbanks meaning the horizon is dotted with people walking and sitting in the water and lying in hammocks just skimming the sea.
WHERE TO STAY
CASA SANDRA – Casa Sandra is a beautiful hotel converted from the home of the owner, Sandra, who always loved entertaining and decided to open her doors to the public for people to “create art in front of the sea, enjoy friends, family, among birds, mangroves and marine species.” There’s a lovely relaxed charm about the place, offering a homely comfortable feeling alongside the decadence of a luxury hotel. Upon arrival, we were welcomed by the Concierge and taken to the beach where we were given a welcome mint and cucumber cocktail and told about the where, what and how of Holbox before checking in to our room. Each of the rooms is unique and bespoke and there’s a real sense of ‘home’ here – the owner Sandra even personally puts a new book she’s recommend in each of the rooms daily.
LAS NUBES DE HOLBOX – Firstly, the location of this hotel is second to none as it’s set apart from the other hotels so is away from any hustle and bustle, if you want complete relaxation and serenity. It’s one of the more upscale hotels the island has to offer, with two pools and a beautiful beach club with cabanas where you can wile the day away. It also has a stunning terrace overlooking the water and facing the famous sandbank of Holbox so the view is unrivalled and the sunset is second to none.
WHERE TO EAT
NAAY SALADS – Craving fresh healthy food (and needing a break from shrimp tacos) we stumbled across a Naay Salads and we’re so glad we did. This little tucked away restaurant offers a build-your-own-salad menu where you choose a protein, a grain, three vegetables, a topping and some dressing, plus the options of extras, and each salad comes with a free hibiscus-infused water. A standard salad will set you back $140 pesos (about £5.50 pesos which may sound expensive but we thought was well worth it). I went for the tuna and Phil chose the chickpea falafel which I think was the winner.
BASICO – This beautiful restaurant pops out of nowhere on one of the side streets off of the square. We only made it here for lunch (and had the shrimp tacos and octopus ceviche) but the breakfast menu looked especially amazing, with options of pancakes with fresh fruit and cream, chilli eggs with avocado and sourdough bread, and a range of smoothies to wash it down. It’s not especially cheap, with our lunch for two setting us back just shy of $500 pesos (approx £20.)
TERRA MIA – This is more of a where to drink, this little side of the road kiosk offers smoothies and some great coffee, the best we had on the island. It also does fruit smoothies and juices. It also has wifi which was something of a rarity on holbox, so picking up a coffee here was a good excuse to get back and connect with the rest of the world (sometimes…) The only drawback is it’s opening hours as it’s only open from 9am-1pm and then after 5pm so it’s not a place for the afternoon.
EL SABOR DE LAS NUBES – This is based at Hotel Las Nubes and was one of our best dining experiences in Holbox – great food with fresh ingredients and a stunning view. We arrived just in time for sunset and had a table right on the corner of the decking overlooking the water and the sandbanks. We had the house speciality cocktail and then the three-course taster menu which included a starter of ceviche, lobster in a tequila salsa and a fillet of fish in black pepper sauce and then a collection of deserts to share. The view, food and service make this unmissable when visiting the island – make sure you book a table early enough to get the sunset to really get the best out of the experience.
LUUMA – This is unmissable if you visit Holbox – set on the corner about 200 yards from the main square, this restaurant is set in a little courtyard adorned with fairy lights and candles. I am a sucker for anything with a fairylight (Phil says I’m easily pleased when it comes to this) but the food lived up to our expectations and it was so good we visited twice during our stay. The tapas-style menu serves up dishes such as xx, xxx and xx, and the cocktail menu is as appealing. At the more expensive end of the dining spectrum of Holbox, a meal for two with a drink each will cost about £40 but I would say for a one-night blow out it is worth. Also set within the restaurant are some little boutiques selling beautiful hand-made swimwear and pieces (if you fancy spending some more money while waiting for your food….)
WHAT TO DO
PUNTA MOSQUITO – If not put off by the name, then we’d definitely recommend donning yourself with mosquito repellent and heading to this part of the island (the bottom of t if looking on a map). This is where at the right time of year you can see flamingos and whale sharks. You could taxi here or you could walk to it on the sandbank, which takes about an hour, surrounded by the ocean which is quite an experience. Just be careful you don’t go too late as we went towards sunset and the tide was closing in on the sandbank meaning that for the last 10 mins of the walk we had to hold our backpacks above our heads and wade back to shore!
PUNTA COCO – My fave part of the island, this is at the top of the island and is where you’ll find the famous group of hammocks in the water and the jetty. Park up your bike or golf buggy and spend the afternoon here. There’s one little bar serving fresh coconuts and canned drinks, but you’ll have to go back to the main path closer to the square for food.
CYCLING – Most hotels in Holbox will have free bikes for guests and this is definitely something worth checking before you book, as its a great way to get around if you don’t always want to be getting taxis.
HIRE A GOLF BUGGY – You’ll usually be able to flag down a golf-buggy taxi but if not head to the square where there’s a rank (or ask a hotel to call you one.) A taxi journey from the square to either Puna Cacos (the very top of the island) or to Mosquito Island (bottom) will cost approx 100 pesos (£4), so if you’re planning on doing lots of exploring it might be more cost efficient to hire a golf buggy, which is approx £20 for 4 hours. Phil’s never been in a car with me driving before in our 4 years and after being in my golf buggy says he never will…. But I enjoyed the freedom of being able to drive around and stop off where we wished rather than having to get taxis everywhere.
WORK OUT WITH EMILIANO – Every morning and evening, a local certified fitness instructor called Emiliano (bilingual Spanish/English) holds bootcamp sessions in the main square. Costing approx 90 pesos per session (apex £3.50) they last an hour and consist of circuit-based routines including both cardio and weight-based exercises. I tended to do the morning ones at 7-8am as this meant only the last ten mins or so were in the blazing sunlight!! The eve one were at 6-7pm so again when the sun is waning, but I tended to be beach side with a cocktail watching the sun go down by this point…