Holbox, the Carless Dream Off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula


Life is full of adventures, and our travels abroad even more so; what better prologue, then, for this simple story about the thousand and one wonders of Holbox Island, my beloved tropical paradise, than the story of when I forgot my passport in a safe in Cancún?

“Irene, I think I left my passport in the hotel room…”

“Oh, no! What are you going to do?”

“Well, get off the bus, run back and hope you’re still here when I get back. If not, go on to Holbox, I’ll catch up with you.”

As you might expect, I had to find my way to Holbox on my own. But it wasn’t complicated to get to this tiny, skinny island a 15-minute high-speed catamaran ride off Yucatan Peninsula, with the port of Chiquilá, boats leave for a place where the rhythm of life is different, where stress is erased without leaving a trace. Just stepping on its soft white sand, you feel all the tension in your body fly far, far away.

Holbox Island is special for many reasons. Time passes when it wants, the light is bright and intense, the rhythm is magical. The hours of your day will disappear between freshly squeezed tropical juices, turquoise waters, cabins by the sea and walks along unpaved streets that seem to have stopped in time. Not to be left behind, swimming and diving are also a highlight of any visitor’s day, as is stopping to photograph pelicans or watch local fishermen in action. There isn’t any traffic to break the spell: the best way to move around the island is by bike or golf cart, known hereabouts as “boogies.”

Steven Zwerink

I remember how I longed to explore Holbox. Getting behind the wheel of one of those fun vehicles, after crossing mangroves and small lagoons, we reached a remote spot where a great colony of pink flamingos had decided to gather. The show, without anyone in sight, made our hair stand on end… nature in its purest form! No surprise, then, that Holbox is part of the Yum Balam Flora and Fauna Protection Area and Biosphere.

Other popular activities are sport fishing, kitesurfing, swimming with whale sharks, witnessing giant hawksbill turtles laying their eggs on the beach (in summer), and just hanging out at the chill bars and restaurants lining the sandy streets of the village here.




They tell me that Holbox has changed, but that it happily refuses to give up its magic. In addition to the allure of the place itself, there’s also spirit of the people who inhabit it – fewer than 2,000, a mix of locals who still largely make their livings via fishing and expats who said enough to the stress of modern life and who came to make this tiny corner of Mexico their refuge and their paradise.

Holbox was my island without traffic but with sips of tropical juices – that authentic corner of my trip through Mexico, one in which there was neither space nor time for boredom.

More info: HolboxGuide.comHolboxIsland.com, HolboxTourism.com.