Days 4 – 8: Isla Holbox. Our adventures and experiences on the beautiful island of Isla Holbox.
We got our bus from the central bus station and trundled up to Holbox. Outside the bus, the landscape became less built up and more rustic. As did the roads!
As we disembarked at Chiquila we were told the ferry to Holbox was leaving in 5 minutes so we converted our bags into backpacks and sprinted up to the port with heavy loads on our backs.
At the port, we showed our tickets and jumped up top to see the view. Once the ferry was at full pelt we were getting a lot of spray in the face which in 30-degree heat was very welcome!
The approach to the island was very different from Isla Mujeres. Isla Holbox is surrounded by mangroves and the lush vegetation is the first sight of the island before the port comes into view.
As we landed we saw the famous golf buggy taxis waiting in the port. Our hotel was on the other side of the island so we decided to make the 10-minute walk there.
Soon we were navigating puddles of epic proportions. We’d had experienced some heavy rain whilst travelling up on the bus and it seemed it had rained in Holbox too. Although only a short walk, the heat was intense and we arrived at the hotel rather sweaty and batting off the mosquitoes which were already swarming around us.
We checked in quickly and headed up to the roof terrace with some beers we’d bought at the local corner shop. There were four hammocks set up overlooking the most beautiful view of the beach near the pier. We relaxed after a long day of travelling and looked out over the view as the sky turned from bright blue to sunset pink. It was the most incredible introduction to Holbox and we knew we were going to enjoy it here.
Getting rather peckish, we decided to head out and explore the town. We turned left and had walked about 20 steps when we found a busy restaurant, packed with people and meat being cooked on skewers over BBQ coals. Looking at each other we knew that we’d found where we’d be eating that night.
We were directed to our table and everything looked appetising and was so cheap. We decided to share their special pastor nachos and a variety of tacos, deciding on the steak, pork and chorizo options. All the tacos were between 19 – 23 pesos, which is excellent value.
Not fully aware of what we’d ordered, we were blown away when the food arrived. The pastor nachos were piled high with the ‘pastor’ topping (a sort of spicy, crunchy pork), cheese and guacamole. We piled the additional toppings of onion and coriander, a red spicy sauce, a green spicy sauce and limes, onto the nachos. They were devoured.
The tacos were served on corn tortillas and were piled high with ingredients. When eating tacos you need to realise that you are never going to look elegant. Once you’ve got over this, pick them up and dive right in. And don’t wear white. An error, as we’ve already discovered.
The next morning, we set off to explore the island. Our hotel is on a street behind the beachfront and we headed down towards the pier to look at the Holbox sign and get the obligatory tourist snap. We headed left along the beach but found a lot of the beachfront belonged to hotels, so we headed inland and found the roads were waterlogged and thus quite hard to navigate.
We decided to head back to the pier and walk the other way down the beach. We walked in the white sand and looked out to the blue sea, enjoying the beautiful views. Holbox has a lot of seaweed on the beach at the moment and the smell of it was lingering in the air. By the time we’d walked to the point where people leave their bikes to walk to Punta Mosquito, we decided to head back as the sun was extremely hot and we’d run out of water.
We headed back into town and having skipped breakfast decided that today would be the day to try the Holbox speciality, Lobster Pizza. It was so good, we’ve written an article about this lovely meal but also had to add an apology to all our Italian friends who we’ve unwittingly insulted! 🙈 It was just so good (sorry!)
As we headed home, the rain started and we headed back up to the roof terrace to relax. The rain really started coming down so after a while we retreated to our room to relax. After a fantastic day of exploring the island and eating great food, we were in bed early.
We awoke in the morning to grey skies and decided to have a slow start. We decided to head out for some lunch with the specific aim of finding some fish tacos or ceviche. Heading to Ceviche la Chingada we were able to have both. The ceviche was zingy and fresh and the tacos were cooked to perfection. We had guacamole to start, which was the hugest serving. After all that food we needed to move to work it off.
A lovely Brazilian guy in our hostel had told us about some beaches to the west of the island that aren’t connected to a hotel and can be used for free. He told us to head along the coastline, walking in the water, in the direction of Punta Cocos. This was great advice as most of the roads were now totally waterlogged due to the rain the day before.
Walking along the coastline we kept seeing some fantastic wildlife. Firstly we saw a beautiful white egret near some abandoned structures next to the sea. Standing tall and proud next to some graffiti of a toucan, he looked so regal.
A few steps later we found a 2-foot iguana. Ads named him Jeff. He was very friendly and allowed us to take lots of pictures of him – he was very chilled, just soaking up the rays. Both of us had never seen an iguana in the wild before and to see such a large one was an absolute thrill.
My cousin had mentioned seeing crocodiles on her visit to Holbox and we hoped that wasn’t the next creature we’d encounter as we started to wade through the mangroves. As we navigated the mangroves the mosquitoes came out in force and on went the skin so soft. The sun was still very hot, so it was effectively like slathering yourself in cooking oil but instantly the nibbling stopped, so it was good to know it was working.
When we got to Punta Cocos we relaxed in some hammocks in the sea with some beers, purchased from a small bar on the beach. Enjoying the cool water we suddenly realised there was a pat of flamingos feeding in the water just in front of us.
After admiring the stunning flamingos from afar we decided to get a bit closer with our camera. There are signs all along the beach asking people not to disturb the flamingos in their habitat. Suddenly we saw a tourist, wading quickly in the water, iPhone in hand, straight towards the flamingos. As he splashed around and got closer and closer, they sensed a threat and before he could take a photo, they upped and flew away. Seeing the flamingos in flight was magical and down they landed, far enough away that he couldn’t get a photo.
We noticed the clouds rolling in and although we wanted to see the sunset, we decided to head back. We walked through a couple of huge muddy puddles but it got to the point where the mosquitoes were too much. We headed back to the beach to walk through the water. That’s when the heavens opened and the wind picked up.
We were being pelted in the face with stinging rain and the sky was gradually turning black, so we picked up the pace. After half an hour of speed walking, we headed into town and finding some shelter, suddenly the smell of cheesy pastry wafted in front of us. We found a lovely shop selling sweet or savoury empanadas. We opted for the cheese & ham and on the recommendation of the chef, the cheese and onion empanadas. They were so full of flavour – a great little afternoon treat.
The rain continued, so it was another relaxed early night. In the morning we wanted to set off early to walk to Punta Mosquito and after being eaten after walking to Punta Cocos, we decided an early walk would be best to outsmart the horrid mosquitoes.
It was raining so much that it actually woke us up. Looking outside the window the wind was blowing, the sky was black and the rain was coming down like a sheet. A proper tropical storm. The walk to Punta Mosquito was off.
It rained for so long that by the time it stopped at midday, the roads had become rivers. Keen for some lunch we popped on our water shoes so we could walk around with no issue. We were pretty glad we did as we saw people in flip flops slipping all over the place and others totally submerging their trainers.
Keen to have some fish, we headed to a seafood restaurant we’d read about online. Even though we were looking out for the restaurant, we nearly walked past because it was so small and simple. The menu was cheap and we opted for the garlic fish fillet and spicy prawns. Both plates came piled high with rice, beans and salad. A variety of homemade spicy chilli sauces were given and a pile of corn tortillas.
We started to create our own tacos and they were fantastic. A lot of tourists seemed to walk past, put off by the red plastic furniture and lack of decor. What the restaurant lacked in ambience, the fantastic food made up for and when the bill came we were astounded by the value. It seems it’s hard to have a bad meal on Holbox.
With huge storm clouds overhead, we decided to have a walk around town to admire the cool street art. Street art appears on lots of buildings, displaying many different styles and subjects. Local flora and fauna, local heroes and Mexican legends adorn the walls. We loved the character this gives the small town and enjoyed finding our favourite art.
Soon though, the rain started again and we headed back to the hotel. We’d come to Isla Holbox to relax and so the rain didn’t bother us. It meant more time in the hammock on our roof terrace, enjoying the view.
As the afternoon crept on, the clouds started to clear and the sun came out. We realised it would be a great sunset, so we headed down to the pier to catch the sunset. It was already busy when we arrived and we found a spot and opened a beer to enjoy the show. The clouds in the sky really set off the sunset.
As the sunset in the west, we turned to the east to see the moon rising. The sky was pink and the being a full moon it almost looked like the sun was rising. We stayed for ages, watching the colours change and the moon move higher in the sky.
After a while and somehow having built up an appetite, we headed back to the first restaurant we’d visited for some cheap and cheerful food. Ads tried a carmelo which is a corn tortilla, then cheese and filing and then another corn tortilla on top, lightly toasted. We’d never heard of it before but tasted absolutely fantastic. All the toppings were added, obviously.
Before we started on our journey we had decided we needed at least 5 days in Holbox to unwind and gather ourselves before moving around too much. Somehow it was already our last full day on the island, but we’d accomplished what we’d wanted and been extremely relaxed.
We had booked a boat tour to go and see some of the birds that flock to Holbox. Surrounded by nature reserves, hundreds of species of birds flock to the reserves in the area surrounding Holbox. The tour left at 10am and took us briefly to Punta Mosquito first. We were so happy about this because we’d not managed to walk there ourselves. We saw so many flamingos, pelicans and egrets. A great start to the boat trip.
We then headed to Punta de la Pasion. We were advised not to walk through the mangroves but around the island to avoid the mosquitoes. Soon we came across a great white Heron, standing in the shallows, barely taking any notice of us taking its picture.
We quickly realised that although we were in the water, this was not deterring the mosquitoes. Soon the whole group was frantically slapping their arms and legs to kill the monster mosquitoes that were landing on us. To get to the boat which was parked next to a viewing platform we had to walk through the mangroves. Basically a mosquito breeding area that you have to navigate quickly with constant buzzing in your ears.
Everyone would appear out of the bushes, running and flapping their arms around their head. One girl jumped onto the pontoon and nearly went into the water she was rushing so much! We all felt that maybe a little bit more warning about the mosquitoes probably should have been given!
We climbed the rickety wooden structure to look over the island, but the mosquitoes had followed us up. As more and more people started to climb it, the structure started to sway, so we headed down to the boat and further away from the vicious bloodsuckers.
The boat leaving the island was most definitely the highlight of that stop and we were glad to move on to Punta de los Pajaros. No one is allowed to step on Punta de los Pajaros as it would disturb the nesting birds and after the last island, we weren’t too upset about that! They have built wooden viewing that juts out into the sea and allows you to look into where the birds’ nest.
There was an abundance of wildlife and it was incredible to see so many different birds. Having to keep a distance, the iPhone can’t really cope and so we were very glad to have the DSLR. We managed to get some great shots of the birds and this was the highlight of the trip.
For the final stop, we headed to Cenote Yalahau, which is said to be the fountain of youth by making you look 10 years younger, so I was keen to jump in and try this natural anti-wrinkle tonic. A freshwater lake set in the middle of the mangroves, we jumped into the freshwater which was very refreshing after being in the sun. Ads put his drone up and got a great shot of how remote the lake is, nestled in the middle of the mangroves. A great way to end the tour.
For our last night, we decided that we wanted fish tacos again whilst we were on an island. We’d been told about Barba Negra and as we walked along the road the restaurant was on, we saw a sign saying ‘Holbox Food Market’ and the Barba Negra sign beneath it.
We walked into a large area, decorated with festoon lighting to find 3 different food stalls set up. There were lots of tables and waiters bringing drinks and food to the crowded area. Lots of large tables filled the space and we ended up sharing a table with two other couples. We’d arrived in time to catch the end of happy hour and ordered our first margaritas of the trip! They were huge and zingy and everything we’d hoped for.
To order you have to go up to the stall to order and it is then delivered to you. We ordered 3 different tacos to try and when the Baja fish taco arrived, we had to concede that perhaps this was the best fish taco we’d tried on the island. All the tacos were delicious and the variety of hot sauces was a dream for anyone that loves a condiment!
Having spied our neighbour’s food choices, we decided to also have some chicken wings from another stall. They looked enormous and were coated in sauce, so thought why not. We chose the buffalo wings and when they arrived they were crunchy on the outside, smothered in hot sauce and succulent on the inside. A messy choice, but a great one.
Visiting the Holbox Food Market was a great way to spend our last evening on Holbox. Tipsy and full we headed back to the hotel to start packing and plan for the next day.
The morning was spent packing up our bags, which now we’d taken things out and moved bits around, were no longer so streamlined and seemed to be a bit bulkier. Not ideal.
We relaxed on the roof and looked at the incredible view we’d enjoyed all week and grabbed some delicious lunch. The spicy octopus was the highlight of the meal. The hotel had kindly let us store our things until we needed to head to the port. With the roads still underwater we got a golf buggy taxi to the port.
I absolutely loved racing through the city in a golf buggy, our bags balanced precariously on the front. The driver went quickly but carefully, but the roads were so full of water we inevitably splashed a lot of tourists trying to avoid the water.
We arrived 5 minutes before the boat was due to leave, got our tickets and jumped up top. We watched the boat pull out of Holbox and as we left discussed our favourite memories from our time on the island.
This conversation stopped abruptly as we saw that very shortly we would be hitting a wall of rain. We ran downstairs to shelter. The rain seemed to take everyone else a while longer to work out and about 5 minutes later everyone poured in from upstairs, absolutely soaked and dripping with water.
We arrived and headed to the bus station, but when we tried to order the tickets, we were told the bus had sold out. Panic. Luckily there was another bus, half an hour later and half the price. Win. We got a quick coffee and soon it was time for our bus to arrive. The Oriente bus arrived and looked much like the ADO one and was thankfully air-conditioned. We soon realised that the Oriente bus seems to stop a lot more and hence takes longer, but we were just relieved we were on our way and heading to Valladolid.
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