Secret Destinations, Holbox, Mexico
With dazzling beaches, cosmopolitan cities, world-class food and more art and cultural sites that can be named, it’s no wonder that Mexico has fast become a must-see destination over the past year. While tried and true resorts such as Cancun are not to be visited by the faint of heart, even ‘secret’ Tulum has been taken over by weekend warriors looking for an easy escape and a party atmosphere. For a slice of relaxation away from the maddening and ever-increasing crowds of tourists, we suggest looking to the northern limits of the Yucatan, on a small unassuming strip of land called Holbox.
Separated from the mainland by a beautiful lagoon of water, the 20 minute ferry to get to tiny Holbox from Chiquila ensures that the mass day trips that occur on Isla Cozumel and Playa del Carmen are (literally) kept at bay. Crossing the lagoon is a serene experience, the flat expanse of water is so placid you feel that are gliding to your destination - a perfect introduction to a restful escape. The island also boasts a tiny airport with 25 minute transfers from Cancun on a four-person seaplane for romantic getaways or time-pressed travellers.
The beauty of Holbox lies in its simplicity: pristine white beaches, crystal-clear waters, flamingos, rays and even crocodiles keeping to themselves in the lush mangroves. One main thoroughfare runs from one side of the L-shaped island to the other, while the beach stretches parallel, providing a more romantic journey from downtown to the peripheries. Unsurprisingly the seafood is fresh and ceviche, fish tacos and grilled camarones are abound. Lizards of all shapes and sizes rule the roost, reminding you that you’re in their territory and colourful birds soar overhead whistling and chatting as they go.
Located in the Yam Balam nature reserve, Holbox is home to beautiful white-spotted whale sharks who migrate close enough to shore during the summer months that you can swim alongside them. On dark nights a trip to the edge of the island to witness the bioluminescent plankton is a must - the sea lights up spectacularly to create a starry scene reminiscent of the Milky Way. Being part of Mexico’s largest ecological reserve means that tourism on Holbox has evolved more sustainably that some of it’s Yucatan neighbours. Smaller, boutique hotels that provide all the luxuries you could desire make sustainability a priority. Biodegradable straws abound, glass is used over plastic and LED bulbs power the lights - just some of the small touches that are rarely seen elsewhere in the country.
Check into Casa Sandra, an artist residence with rustic yet elegant decor and relaxation running through every detail. Soak up the sun on the silky smooth, white sand beach, eat your fill of seafood at any one of the beach shack restaurants and finish off the day with a sunset hike from downtown to one end of the island. With a beach so pristine within easy reach of Cancun airport, Holbox may not stay this way forever, but for now, there’s no better place to live out your desert island fantasies (while still being able to order a margarita and shrimp taco).