Destination Focus: Isla Holbox, Mexico

Already explored Mexican hotspots like Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum? Isla Holbox should be your next destination. Offering a sleepier, less touristy experience, this laid-back island is dotted with colourful murals, surrounded by white sands and just two hours by ferry from Cancun. As if that wasn’t enough, here are 16 more reasons to put it on your 2020 travel wish-list…
Casa Las Tortugas

Where To Stay

Casa Las Tortugas is a family-run hotel right on the beach. Interiors are inspired by the Caribbean’s relaxed vibe: picture bohemian colours and textures, fine-woven hammocks, rattan furniture and white-washed walls. If you’re a fan of the look, you can head to in-house boutique Le Bazaar, where every item of homeware and clothing is handpicked for its chic, boho credentials. Make sure to book in a treatment at the Agua Spa, where all rituals are based on ancient knowledge and Mayan practices.

Also on the beach is Ser CasaSandra, a 17-bedroom hotel overseen by artist Sandra Perez, the villa’s owner. Over the years, she has handpicked different pieces from artisans from all over the world, including antiques, bohemian crystals, linen brought from India and sheets with a 1,000 thread-count. Soaps, shampoos and body creams are made with local, organic ingredients and delivered to your room daily. This rustic spot is big on yoga and provides plenty of peaceful spaces across its grounds, from leafy gardens to shady beach huts.

For a more familiar style of hotel, head to Mystique Blue Holbox. Just a ten-minute walk from the main square, the 38-room hotel is a contemporary, boutique beachfront resort with modern interiors inspired by tropical architecture. We love the look of its huge, beach-facing pool. A lovely range of suites are perched on the beachfront, while others come with their own private pools.

At the other end of the beach is Las Nubes de Holbox. This smart hotel suits honeymooners or families who don’t necessarily want to be in the thick of things. An eco-chic hotel, each bedroom is surrounded by amazing views of the ocean, canals and mangroves. In the afternoons, its bar is the place to have a cocktail or two and watch the sun disappearing into the Caribbean sea.

Where To Eat And Drink

Luuma, one of the restaurants within Casa Las Tortugas, is among the coolest spots on the island. A tapas-style restaurant using only local and seasonal ingredients, this is a great place for dinner or drinks and does a fine turn in tropical cocktails. On the seafront of the same hotel, you’ll find Mandarina, a lovely restaurant and beach club serving great seafood and organic local veg.

Holbox’s local restaurants tend to offer the most delicious dishes, but be prepared for them to be served in basic surroundings – think alfresco plastic tables and chairs. Don’t let this put you off: some of the best food comes from Las Panchas, which is well known for its ceviche. Excellent fish can also be found at Raices. This is considered one of the best places to watch the sun set, something of a ritual in Holbox as the whole island heads to the beachfront to watch the spectacle each night. The Raices kitchen shuts at 8:30pm, so make sure to get there for an early supper.

For real Mexican fare, head to Antojitos Abuelo Tom. All the locals eat here. The staff don’t speak English and there are no menus so you have to go with the flow, but supper costs about £2 a head and is excellent. Bear in mind it’s BYOB. Elsewhere, Viva Zapata Grill also offers an authentically Mexican experience. Run and owned by local chef Rosendo Avila, it serves the likes of grilled seafood and antojitos (traditional street food) against a backdrop of painted murals depicting historical figures from the Mexican Revolution.

If you’re in the mood for something other than Mexican cuisine, Basico is the place to head. It’s a bit more expensive than some of the other restaurants on the island, but the steak and pasta is great and the wine list is very good too. Best of all is Roots, a pizza restaurant with a live band and lively bar. Make sure to order the Insta-famous lobster pizza – perfect for when you don’t fancy any more guacamole.

Las Nubes de Holbox
Luuma, Mystique Blue Holbox

What To Do

There are no cars on the island – people get about via golf carts and bicycles instead. Given that Holbox is a small isle with a popular of 1,000, it’s an easy place to explore over a couple of days. Most hotels will be able to organise bike hire, alongside yoga classes and a variety of tours, including boat trips, kayaking, whale watching, kite-boarding, paddle-boarding, snorkelling and horse riding. The best time to see the island’s famous whale sharks is mid-May to mid-September, so make sure to factor this into your travel plans.

Island highlights include kayaking via Holbox Mangrove Tour. We recommend booking a private tour at around 8am to have the peaceful mangroves to yourself. Remember to keep an eye out for a crocodile or two. Come evening, visitors should head to HolboXtreme, which organises sailing trips on Hobie Cats. The two-hour sunset sail gives guests the chance to sail in the daylight before watching the sun set from the catamaran.

Ser CasaSandra, Manderina

Viator is another tour operator offering visitors the chance to see the island by boat. As well as stopping by Yalahau Cenote for a swim, the tour will take you to a couple of nearby islands. On Isla Pajaros you’ll spot the brightly coloured birds – such as yellow-lored parrots and painted buntings – the region is famous for, while Passion Island promises a glimpse of flamingos wading through the shallows. Finally, there’s Three Point Tour, which runs a full-day trip where visitors will snorkel, fish, then sample ceviche prepared by a chef using the ingredients they’ve caught themselves.

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