isla holbox one of the last
I had been eyeing Isla Holbox ever sense I did my roadtrip in the area; see that review here, and it was exactly what I hoped for. A gritty but refined get lost kind of an escape. And not for everyone which is what keeps it what it is. I had thoughts of "The Mosquito Coast", an old Harrison Ford film on this trip. As with any place you can find like this, it wont be long before it changes. As for now, humbly enjoy an unforgettable experience.
First things first: travel light, grab bug spray and exchange for some pesos. Then wrap your head around getting to the island from the airport. You could hire a quick prop plane ride, drive or shuttle. For most, a shuttle does the trick and provides you with a perspective of the undeveloped area outside of Cancun. A scheduled time shuttle is a very reasonable price or you can pay double for a private ride. My suggestion is to use the private ride to get there because the fair includes shuttle, boat ride and cart taxi to your hotel. Now that you've had the guided walk through you'll see how simple it is to return on your own with a scheduled shuttle. This is a 2hr drive so if arriving into Cancun later just stay at one of the close hotel options. Next morning you can have your private ride arranged from the hotel or shuttle back to the airport for a scheduled shuttle time.
If driving through undeveloped countryside, then taking a boat ride to arrive on a primitively refined island sounds like your taste, you've just nailed it. So now where to stay. After back-and-forth debating I decided on Tierra del Mar. Bingo. What you have here is the perfect scenario for a visit to the island: value, location and a peaceful size. Its a highly maintained minimalist hotel (more of a bnb) with only 6 rooms with patios, a small zen courtyard, pool and breakfast area. And just outside the courtyard doors you have immediate access to the vibrant pleasure of the primitive town and all its character. Not to mention the beach of course is just an ally away. This as opposed to an upscale stay on the beach made more sense to fully absorb the personality of the island. And that's really how it felt.
Regardless of what you decide everything is walking distance or a quick cart taxi away. After the trek to get here, then quickly checking in and dropping your bags, all you want to do is walk along the amazing waterfront. White sand, pond-calm mint green water and knee deep for a couple hundred feet. Its so eye catching that cloudy days are even more beautiful then blue sky because the grays, blue and mint green is another worldly sight. Sooner or later you'll decide to sit down with your feet up and grab some seafood for lunch at Raices. I had the best sweet-spicy octopus ceviche salad concoction I've ever eaten. And washed it down with a marg on the rocks. Then carried on north to the end to get my bearings for several spots for diner and drinks later on in the trip.
After that I was ready to return to the quiet sanctuary of the hotel. Pool time with a refreshment until dinner. There's a market just steps away for the essentials. That evening I began with my first dinner at Zapata. A hand crafted cave just right off the street with no flooring. The perfect ambiance and grilled fish dinner to start and end the first day. Night cap back at the pool and called it a day. The next morning I awoke to the quiet and newly manicured zen of the small courtyard from my patio. An assortment of breakfast options, and most importantly coffee, is awaiting every morning at 8am. Perfecto. I took my time that morning before heading, now south, along the coastline to the end. Honestly one of the most unforgettable beach walks you'll ever have. The perfect blend of natural beach beauty combined with sections of dilapidated colorful structures. And again best seen cloudy for contrast.
Its about 2-3hrs of walking once you get back to the hotel so pool time once again before dinner. Refreshment in hand again--of course. After a great couple hours relaxing at the pool it was time to get ready for din. A much anticipated steak night at the rooftop of Parrilla de Juan. A nice little walk through the town square to a colorfully tiled staircase leading above to steak heaven. One of the best flavor of meat, no sauce, I've had. And perfectly paired to savor with an Old Fashion to wash down. Take your time here. Enjoy every bite and the open rooftop evening. And with that back to a night cap at the pool and called it a night. Boat day in the morning.
Another perfectly manicured courtyard step over to breakfast and coffee. The quiet minimalist mornings here are calming and very enjoyed. Especially being the last morning to enjoy. The cart taxi would be arriving soon for my boat excursion for the day. I could have simply walked to the beachfront and hired the excursion myself but the prices are so reasonable even booking through the hotel is shocking. (Speaking of price, it really should be noted how great of a value this island visit it. It's very very reasonable. To get the best pricing for smaller business make sure to have pesos. For the fancier drinks and dinner spots at hotels a CC is fine.) For the excursion I went with the multi island tour. Nothing really note worthy except the sandbar stop, which is worth it alone. Other than that its just a great day out on the mint green waters.
Before relaxing back at the pool for my last day I wanted to grab some tacos street side. So I popped over to Barba Negra for an assortment of taco offers. Its everything you'd be looking for: good vibes, great drinks and mouthwatering tacos. From there I was set for my last time by the pool and the big decision. The last night dinner choice along with a comfortable shirt and my leather slip ons. There's a couple choices best for this that end on a fancier note. And to be upfront, honest and fair I didn't make the right choice. I wanted to end with sushi to enjoy the fresh option that seems no-brainer. I went with, what was highly recommended, Tamashi Sky Bar. Unfortunately, being the Covid situation the dinner area was really just a pool area, its back off the beach and the sushi was just ok. My suggestion is to end with dinner on the water at Casa Las Tortugas or Las Nubes. Both are the finer hotel options on the island and offer a very scenic dinner experience on the water.
But hey, no complaints the evening was still very enjoyed and ended with a last night cap back at the pool. The next morning I awoke early and enjoyed the short walk back to the ferry terminal. A last gritty and quiet pleasure that will be remembered forever. The few early streetside vendors preparing coffee and juices and tortilla shops long at work already. Then on to your last ferry ride, on the top open deck, to ponder what you've just experienced. The perfect blend of primitive and refined option with the energy of one of your favorite tropical adventure films. The 7:15am shuttle will be awaiting for your ride back to the airport. Enjoy.
Pro Tip: Have pesos on you for your beach walks, there's several stops to grab a refreshment. Hagel at the beach with the vendors for your boat day, especially with a group. Do grab a dinner night at Luuma. And consider trying different hotels, especially for the last evening along with dinner.
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