Picture this: you’ve spent the day reclining in the shade on a sun lounger, toes covered in white sand, as you gaze across crystal clear water. There’s a light breeze blowing through your salty hair, and you feel a warm buzz as your second spicy mezcalita kicks in. Before you ask, no, this isn’t a ChatGPT description for the word ‘paradise’ (although…), but instead just a casual day on the island of Holbox.
The small island (pronounced Hol-bosh) is situated off the north of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, and is only accessible by passenger ferry. It’s a slice of pure heaven, thanks to the incredible food, chilled vibes and beautiful sunsets. And have we mentioned the mezcalitas?
Where to stay in Holbox
If you’re after an adults-only hotel that delivers on tranquility, style and substance, look no further than Punta Caliza. The modern and airy atmosphere is almost wholly down to the brilliant design, which sets every single room around a gorgeous triangle of cool water. As well as direct access to the main swimming pool, each of the 14 rooms also has a private plunge pool, which matches the minimalist and contemporary room designs perfectly.
Speaking of rooms, the sleek design of the hotel’s shared area also translates into each of the bedrooms. With queen or king size beds, they manage to be both elegant and rustic, thanks to the red cedar wood and vaulted ceilings. The hotel also champions low-level lighting, which at times can make bathroom trips a challenge, but overall adds to the calming nature of the whole space. Essentially, this hotel screams 'boutique', if by 'scream' you mean 'whispers in an incredibly stylish and gentle way'.
Hotel guests are also treated to an authentic breakfast experience each day, which comes in the shape of a daily special (such as chilaquiles), while they also offers incredible food throughout the day. Which brings us to..
Double rooms from US$240 (£186) in low season; and from US$280 (£217) in high. Breakfast included. Free Wi-Fi. Find out more.
Where to eat in Holbox
The food offering at Punta Caliza is genuinely some of the best on the island, and you’d be hard pushed to find a better prawn taco. Made with zesty mango and melted cheese, they manage to be both indulgent and fresh. The tuna sashimi is also phenomenal, as is the classic guacamole and also the popcorn shrimp. If you're not staying at the hotel, you're still welcome to use their beach club facilities, which offer comfortable loungers and full shade (which is an absolute essential.)
For sharing plates, tapas and cocktails, head to LUUMA near the main square. The low lighting and cool music sets the perfect atmosphere for a fun dinner vibe, while their beachside bar also offers sofa seating and candle-side drinking into the early hours.
It might come as a surprise that one of the traditional dishes on Holbox is lobster pizza. Yes really. If you find yourself in the market for something a little different, Roots is the place to go. With live music and a handful of additional options (plus a great mezcal collection), it's a fun and comforting choice.
A laidback mezcal and taco bar with live music and a mix-and-match taco menu which means you can try all different types of fillings. The tuna toast (essentially a tostada) is zingy and light, while the deep fried fish taco is not to be missed.
While on first glance, Salma looks like an intimate place for drinks (and it is that, too), they also serve up some great bar snacks and even dinner. Their woodfire kitchen means everything from the grilled artichoke to the octopus tastes smoky and delicious, while their swings and bench-style seating also feels super casual.
What to do in Holbox
Hang out on the beach. It sounds obvious, but it can be easy to cram your days with activities and forget to actually, you know, chill. Part of the appeal of somewhere as gorgeous as Holbox is just hanging out, reading a book (or not) and sipping on an ice cold tropical cocktail. There are no rules!
Visit The Hot Corner. Something that feels like genuine authentic fun in Holbox is the atmosphere outside The Hot Corner, a bar with live music each evening. Expect dancing, street games - even challenges of chess. People of all ages grab a drink and stand around to soak it all in.
Book a boat trip. Once you’ve lathered on the Factor 50 and put on your best bucket hat, there are plenty of opportunities to head out onto the water. If ceviche is your thing, you can find a guide who will not only (hopefully!) catch fresh fish in front of you, but turn it into your lunch while you’re on the boat. Have you ever heard of something so fresh? Gives a new meaning to ‘catch of the day’.
Go whale shark watching. Though it’s not something we can personally recommend due to the time of year we visited Holbox, the area is famous for its whale shark viewings between June and September. Numerous operators run boat tours promising incredible access to the sea creature, whether on a private trip or in groups.
Watch the sunset. Whether you perch on the boardwalk with a beer or fancy a sunset swim, watching the sky turn from blue to orange is absolutely not to be missed. Can you think of a better way to kick your evening off?
See bioluminescence. The southeastern tip of the island, a beach called Punta Cocos, is famous for its bioluminescence (essentially when living organisms produce and emit light at night.) It’s an incredible sight, and is best viewed during a full moon or on a clear night in the dark. You can either book onto a tour, or head there with a pal, ensuring you only take your essential items that you can wear on your body - as you’re unlikely to have anywhere to put your bag down.
Punta Caliza’s mezcalitas really are the best on the island, and their recipe mixes 1.5 oz mezcal with 1 oz of orange liqueur (like Cointreau), 1 oz lemon juice and 0.5 oz sugar syrup.
Holbox is a two-hour drive from Cancun airport to the port of Chiquila, followed by a 20 minute ferry ride. As the island is mostly car-less, most people get around via bicycle, which you can rent from all over the coastline or in the town. Alternatively, golf buggy taxis are readily available.
Like much of the Yucatán Peninsula, including Cancun and Tulum, Holbox can experience black sargassum seaweed on its shorelines at certain times of the year, due to storms and changing current patterns. It can be a little smelly, but certainly shouldn’t be enough to put you off what is still an idyllic coastline.
Tipping culture is important in Mexico, like much of the US, so you should add 15-20% to your bill if you can.
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