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Photo courtesy of César Béjar

A Perfect Long Weekend on
Isla Holbox

All the things that make Mexico’s Isla Holbox just a little inconvenient are also the things that have prevented it from getting overrun. There are no private cars on Holbox, just a handful of commercial trucks and lots of ATVs that function as taxis; roads are unpaved and range from beachy/sandy to rugged/muddy. Oh, and there’s not a super reliable ATM within ten nautical miles. The tricky roads, spotty cell service, the mostly cash economy are exactly why you should go.

Because Isla Holbox, stretched next to a placid, magic swath of the Yucatán, with turquoise shallows and palms brushing up against one another in the warm breeze, is the kind of getaway they feature in ads for perfect getaways. There is enough of a pleasant bustle in the center of town to keep you interested—as well as striking street murals to Instagram when you’re tired of swinging in a hammock over the sea—and there’s plenty of solitude on either end of the island, where the real beauty and peace can be found. The key to Holbox is enjoying both. Rent a bike for as little as 200 pesos per day (around $12) and enjoy a car-free island that’s also as hustle- and hassle-free as a tropical getaway can get.

First, some pointers: Bring cash, as the ATMs are finicky and prone to having everything but pesos, and many of the best places prefer pesos. Also: Explore. Get on your rental bike and cruise and wander to your heart’s delight. And if you go in the wrong direction, you’ll still end up on a tropical beach or at a tiny tortilleria counter or a kids’ baseball game across from the Holbox animal sanctuary.

If you go for a private home or an Airbnb rather than a hotel, find a few beach clubs where you can rent a chaise longue or a swinging mattress for the day. Punta Cocos, at the western tip of the island, is worth a trip, even if your hotel has its own beach setup. There’s a little bar and a nature preserve with a cove that’s ideal for a low-key swimming and exploration. Sunsets here are—as they are just about everywhere on Isla Holbox—extraordinary.

WHERE TO STAY

WHERE TO STAY

  1. Casasandra
    Casasandra
    Casasandra
  2. Ser Casasandra

    If there’s a grande dame on Holbox, it is Ser Casasandra. It was one of the first and is still among the most luxurious properties around. But stuffy it’s not. With its tiled interior and Mediterranean accents, it feels like a groovy Greek ex-pat’s Mexican idyll. There’s a poolside bar and restaurant, where the ceviche is tart and fresh and delicious and the horchata is as good as anywhere on the island. There’s a spa, where the massage is capable of unlocking and releasing months of built-up tension, and there are daily yoga classes by the pool. People come here for the Quartz Bowl treatments, but it’s the chaise longues that will win you over. And out by the chaises is the boutique: a tent of heavy, luxurious linens and warm, lovely scents that’s impossible to miss as you walk or ride along the beach.

  3. Casasandra
  4. Casasandra
  5. Casasandra
  6. Punta Caliza
    Punta Caliza
    Punta Caliza
  7. Punta Caliza

    A far more recent arrival is Punta Caliza. This diminutive architectural gem is built entirely in and around a pool, invisible from the hotel’s exterior, that meanders through the red cedar indoor/outdoor lobby. Each of Caliza’s twelve rooms opens to a private wading pool and then, with the slide of an exterior door, the common pool. The thinking of the Muñoz family is that because their property doesn’t have direct access to the waterfront (though they maintain beach cabanas for guests seventy-five yards down the sand), they wanted to offer a watery oasis right there in the hotel. It is a family operation: The father and mother—an architect and ceramicist, respectively—who first came to Holbox many years ago to fish, are originally from Tabasco; their daughter and son are in their twenties. The red cedars the father planted in Tabasco at the birth of his son were cut down and used to build Caliza. They were all put to stunning use: The bar and common

    area would look at home in the Danish woods if there were a white-sand beach with palm trees in all of Denmark.

  8. Punta Caliza

    A far more recent arrival is Punta Caliza. This diminutive architectural gem is built entirely in and around a pool, invisible from the hotel’s exterior, that meanders through the red cedar indoor/outdoor lobby. Each of Caliza’s twelve rooms opens to a private wading pool and then, with the slide of an exterior door, the common pool. The thinking of the Muñoz family is that because their property doesn’t have direct access to the waterfront (though they maintain beach cabanas for guests seventy-five yards down the sand), they wanted to offer a watery oasis right there in the hotel. It is a family operation: The father and mother—an architect and ceramicist, respectively—who first came to Holbox many years ago to fish, are originally from Tabasco; their daughter and son are in their twenties. The red cedars the father planted in Tabasco at the birth of his son were cut down and used to build Caliza. They were all put to stunning use: The bar and common area would look at home in the Danish woods if there were a white-sand beach with palm trees in all of Denmark.

  9. Punta Caliza
  10. Punta Caliza
  11. Punta Caliza
  12. Punta Caliza

WHERE TO
EAT & DRINK

WHERE TO
EAT & DRINK

  1. Roots

    In Holbox, the down-home fish tacos and fruit plates and even sushi will deliver over fancier fare. Roots has an admirable formula for simplicity: It offers around a hundred different types of mezcal and only one type of food—pizza. And not just the delicious thin-crust lobster pizza it’s famous for but the mushroom and the cheese and the black olive with chili peppers. Here, you sit on tree stumps, which makes sense because this is an outdoor restaurant, and listen to the live music while exploring the drink menu (try the Frida Kahlo).

  2. Pizza Roots Resturant
  3. Pizza Roots Resturant
  4. el Cafecito el Cafecito

    Photo courtesy of the.holboxeno.co

  5. El Cafecito

    One little café worth escaping your hotel for is El Cafecito. You’re in for excellent omelets, focaccia sandwiches, and the best lemonade on the island. This is also where you go for an excellent chelada: a Mexican lager served over ice with lime and salt. In Holbox this is a lunch staple. A michelada is a chelada with chilies, spices, and maybe a little tomato juice. It’s also delicious, like a low-key beer-based Bloody Mary, and you will not have had a wholly immersive Holbox experience unless you’ve had both.

WHAT TO DO

WHAT TO DO

  1. HolboXtreme sail tours HolboXtreme sail tours
  2. Sailing

    Arnoldo of HolboXtreme is said to lead the best kayaking tours on the island, paddling into and around the cenotes. HolboXtreme offers bioluminescent tours at night and catamaran rides (there are only two on the island, and HolboXtreme owns both), which are a breezy way to get a whale’s-eye view of the island and watch pelicans dive-bomb into the water. Arnoldo says the best time to be in Holbox is June, when whale sharks and dolphins come out to play. At night, you can watch sea turtle hatchlings make their

    debut, running toward the beach to begin their lives aquatic. Holbox is also a prime spot for kitesurfing, but if you kitesurf, you probably know that. If not, it takes three days to learn, so plan accordingly.

  3. Sailing

    Arnoldo of HolboXtreme is said to lead the best kayaking tours on the island, paddling into and around the cenotes. HolboXtreme offers bioluminescent tours at night and catamaran rides (there are only two on the island, and HolboXtreme owns both), which are a breezy way to get a whale’s eye view of the island and watch pelicans dive-bomb into the water. Arnoldo says the best time to be in Holbox is June, when wildlife like whale sharks and dolphins comes out to play. At night, you can watch sea turtle hatchlings make their debut,running toward the beach to begin their lives aquatic. Holbox is also a prime spot for kitesurfing, but if you kitesurf, you probably know that. If not, it takes three days to learn, so plan accordingly.

  4. Beach at Holbox Beach at Holbox
  5. Swimming

    There are no waves to ride in Holbox, but the water is pristine and as close to a natural swimming pool as you’ll find. It’s also the safest, highest-visibility, most tide-neutral place to swim a long distance in the open water. There are no creatures to fear (you’d see them, of course) and no way to get lost. Just wade in until you get waist deep and swim parallel to the beach.

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