My wife and I spend a lot of time exploring the Yucatán Peninsula, but until now, I have refrained from sharing any of the details of those trips with the readers of the blog. The reason is simple – I do not want to turn this blog into a boring site full of my vacation photos. As I am writing these words, I am having flashbacks of a time when my friend’s mother subjected me to watching two hours of slides from their trip to Hawaii – Yes, I said slides. The younger readers may want to Google that one.
You are undoubtedly asking yourself what could have possibly convinced me to deviate from what seems like perfectly sound logic. Well, a friend advised me that it might be helpful to some readers if we shared travel tips about “extra special places” that we find during our travels. Isla Holbox definitely qualifies as one of those.
Isla Holbox is a small island on the north side of the peninsula. Since it is located on the Gulf of Mexico side, the water looks quite different from the Caribbean waters that we have become accustomed to while living near Tulum. Tulum is shown on the south side of the map below.
WHAT MAKES IT SO SPECIAL?
This island is quite different from the more “touristy” islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres. It is a far more rustic and has a small town Mexican charm. You will not find any huge, all-inclusive chain hotels on this island. Instead, you will find charming boutique hotels, small family owned restaurants, and some of the friendliest locals I have encountered anywhere.
The thing that will appeal to most tourists is that the island is very safe. You will feel comfortable walking back to your hotel after enjoying an evening out at one of the fabulous restaurants.
We took the toll road called Autopista Mayab, also known as 305, from Playa del Carmen up to the coastal town of Chiquila. You will always know you are entering a toll road if you see the Spanish word cuota on the road sign.
The highway is relatively new and the quality of the road is very good. The cost to use the toll road was $97 pesos each way, or about $5.47 USD. As you enter the highway, you will get a ticket and you will pay when you exit.
There are a few overnight parking lots in Chiquila, and the going rate is $100 pesos for a 24 your period. We have been told by several people that it is safe to leave your car there overnight. We left the car for two nights without any problem.
The ferry to the island is $120 pesos per person each way. The bottom deck was enclosed and air conditioned. The trip took about 20 minutes.
We asked several of our friends who had been to the island and several strongly recommended Villas Paraiso del Mar. We decided to follow their recommendations, and we were not disappointed. The rooms were very clean and the staff was friendly and helpful.
If you are disabled or have difficulty climbing a spiral staircase, be sure and request a room on the first floor.
GETTING AROUND ON THE ISLAND
You will not see many cars on the island, other than the occasional police vehicle. The majority of the residents get around on gasoline powered golf carts with all-terrain tires.
Even the taxis are golf carts. A taxi ride for 4 people (it was a bit snug) runs around $40 pesos.
We ate at several good restaurants on the island; however, Babalu Yei Yei really stood out. This is a pizzeria that makes excellent brick oven pizzas. If there is someone in your group that does not like pizza, as odd as that sounds, there are several other items to choose from. The pizzeria shares the space with La Miranda de Rulo and they have a more diverse menu.
Another excellent restaurant is Viva Zapata. My wife said that the pasta with Zapata shrimp was amazing and she wanted to return the next day for more.
WEATHER RELATED ISSUES
We went to the island right after they experienced a three day period of rain. The roads, none of which are paved, were flooded and motorized transportation was difficult. We asked about renting a golf cart but we were told that the rentals were suspended until the flooding went down to avoid damaging the carts.
After a heavy rain, there is often an outbreak of both mosquitoes and flies. The locals told me that this is normal.
Just before sunset, it can be difficult to eat because dozens of black flies are swarming around you. Once the sun goes down, the flies disappear but the mosquitoes come out in force. We live in Mexico all year, but I have never experienced a mosquito population so aggressive. Bring a lot of inspect repellent, just in case.
In spite of the few weather related issues, we absolutely loved Holbox and definitely intend on returning in the near future.