Holbox, Mexico. Getting Off the Peninsula.
Updated: Jun 25, 2019
Sometimes the only way to be "in the know" is to know someone that has resided in Mexico for sometime and is in the know themselves. Having spent many days on the Riviera Maya, we were told of a little island called Holbox (pronounced - Holebosh). The island perched just off the Yucatan Peninsula to the north, is set in the Gulf of Mexico. There are a couple of ways to get there, you can fly in from Cancun (prop plane with gorgeous views on a clear day, yes pricey) or you can drive (or bus, ADO) to the ferry located in Chiquila which is what we did. It's a semi scenic drive from Cancun to Chiquila and new toll roads have improved the driving time in which to get there. Small towns dot the landscape on your drive, some of which you might want to explore and some, uh not so much, but life is here no matter what your point of view. Entering Chiquila, keep driving almost until the road ends (you'll come to semi circle right before the ferry). There is cheap parking through out the town. Those expecting valet service might want to think again. If you are parking in Chiquila don't leave any valuables in the car, take everything with you. The ferry, the Holbox Express, is just a short walk away so grab a bite to eat or a drink to quench your thirst and wait for your departure time.
Once you've made the 30 minute crossing and leave the ferry you'll discover that Holbox is a golf cart town, meaning your cab ride into town will be on the back of a golf cart, I loved it. The golf cabbies are a fun bunch and will whisk you directly to your destination.
Holbox is small island, so if you are here it is definitely of your own choosing, you know what you're getting into. Just 26 miles long and 0.9 miles wide, it's a slither of an island but like all things less inhabited, if offers Mexican flavored rustic beach charm. It's what the Riviera Maya used to be before the smell of money permeated the salty Caribbean air. The majority of the island is part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, meaning protected so it has not been subject to the some of the ravages of commercialism. The Holbox beaches are not overcrowded, there are ample restaurants to choose from and a small town square with authentic bites to be had. We chose a hotel (La Palapa) just west of downtown with beach frontage, lovely. There are no BIG hotels here or all-inclusives, just seemingly friendly, low occupancy accommodations.
If you wanted to be on a slower paced island with a decent beach and decent eats, you've found it. Any party going on here is of your own making. It is time out of life in a good kinda way, think of it as the Mayberry of the Yucatan Peninsula. Walkable town, friendly people and serene. Purposely slower, purposely reserved. It's kick your feet up, go barefoot time people.
One of the many things we did was rent a golf cart and take a tour of the island, which will last approximately 30-40 minutes round trip. Most trips end at the beginning of the Nature Reserve, although some adventurous sorts have ventured further. Some with success and others, abject failure (i.e. getting your rented golf cart stuck). Driving your golf cart beach side is beautiful though, feels like the beach never ends and the horizon goes on forever.
There are restaurants and food in abundance, from Italian to sushi to, of course Mexican. On one of our "dine out big" nights we visited Viva Zapata and were treated to an ocean of food, from crustacean to fish, to whatever slunk around on the oceans bottom was on our plate and it was delicious to say the least (see the Food Review on this site for Viva Zapata, Mexico). There are several places like it to fit all budgets, so go and heartily indulge.
Should you go? Looking for an unpretentious good time? Like sun, sand and semi-solitude? Have you answered yes? Then heck yeah. Pack a bag, check your attitude and plan a trip.