Pages Navigation Menu

Holbox Island, Mexico – Where time slows.

Holbox Island

Holbox Island

I got lucky leaving Akumal.  I had planned on walking to the highway, catching a collectivo to Playa del Carmen and taking a bus from there to Cancun where I would board another bus to Chiquila where I would board the ferry to Holbox Island.  I knew complications could arise as I could not find any timetables for buses anywhere online or otherwise.  The couple that had just married (who met in February), were in the parking lot of the hotel just as I was setting off.  They asked if I needed a ride and I said a ride to the road would be great.  Turns out they were going to Cancun so I rode with them the whole way.  While I appreciated the lift, I am not sure it was worth it to listen to the incessant chattering of the new wife.  Watching the dynamic between the two was alot like watching the Jerry Springer show.  Sadly, I give the marriage 3 months.

I arrived in Cancun and was lucky that the bus left in 30 minutes.  It was a second class bus, meaning it smelled like hell and had the dirt of two decades ground into the seats.  There were only five passengers.  I sat in front and ate peanuts and cake like a monkey.  Occasionally, the bus would stop and pick up a young child who would walk the aisle with a laundry basket full of some snack for sale.  Making no sales, the small boys would stand in the front and talk to the busdriver like they were old friends. The child would get off miles down the road.

I was in Chiquila before I knew it (3 hours from Cancun).  Deposited at the port, I walked 50 yards to the ferry and boarded.  I opted to be on the outside upper deck but that didn’t last long.  The wind and cold was intense.  The water was a cold grey-green which did not look inviting at all.  I went downstairs and sat inside with all the people that knew better.

After 30 minutes I arrived on this sandy island.  Which I am told is not really an island.  Even looking at maps, I seem to get differing information as to whether it is really an island or a peninsula. The receptionist at my hotel said there were no maps of the island. The name is pronounced Holbosh Island because the name is Mayan and “x” is pronounced “sh”.

I gather from a mural that the town was founded in 1892, and got electricity in 1962.  I have read elsewhere that the town was originally founded by pirates and that the original eight families that interbred with pirates still live here and consider all people to be outsiders, including Mexicans. Now the “island” is most famous as the best place in the world to see and swim with whale sharks.  Unfortunately, for me, that is a summer season activity.

Holbox Island

Holbox Island

The town is located on a small portion of the island and the rest is jungle. It has been a fishing village always.  My first evening I walked around on the white sand streets. Everyone drives a golf cart or bicycle.  There are only six trucks that I have seen.  Everyone wears flip-flops and I have tried to join in but my feet are uptight and will not accept flip-flops, without considerable pain.

The air smells like the sea.  Moisture and wind are a constant.  Mosquitoes torment me. I had a delicious dinner the first night at an Italian place ( incidentally, there are a lot of Italians in the tourism industry in Mexico). I have pretty much been eating one meal out a day and this one was delicioso.

The next day, the cook at the hotel, who works in an outdoor kitchen swarming with flies, decided he was in love with me seemingly at first sight and has been bugging me since.  It is clear to me that learning how to deal with unwanted men calling me “sweetie” and asking for my attention is one of the challenges I have to face and learn how to deal with.  Because hiding in my room is not an appropriate response.

I walked to the ocean and walked for miles and miles.  The beach has many seashells and huge piles of seaweed (that comes in neat strips) on the shore to traverse.  I watched as people seemed to be walking on water and discovered that a sandbar in the distance allowed people to walk for miles a good 200 yards off the shore.

The further I walked the more creeped out I got, wondering if there could be crocodiles around.  My imagination is ridiculous.  The sun was blazing.  So I turned around and stopped into a remote hotel for a Caipirinha, which is a lot like a mojito but without the mint.  It is made with lime, sugar and Cachaca, which is a liquor made from fermented sugarcane juice. It’s a very refreshing drink.

I walked back to the hotel and the cook was there and asked where I had gone.  I told him I walked all day and he asked if he could walk with me tomorrow after he got off work at 4PM. He is from Guadalajara, works everyday, and has been on the island for two months so it is likely that he has never been where I went, but in any case, I was sort of taken by surprise and instead of saying “no”.  I said “maybe, I will meet you at 4 tomorrow but I may be busy.”  Well tomorrow was today and I basically hid from him since breakfast and was a no show at 4 PM.  Hopefully, that will get the message across or else tomorrow I will just tell him I want to be solo. Annoying.

And tonight I have returned to my Italian place (Sapori Italiani) and had an outstanding pizza made in a wood burning oven by the owner who came here from Sicily two months ago. He said the pizza was made with his grandmothers recipe.  Mama mia! It was good.

So far, this is what I can say so far about Holbox Island.  If you are seeking a place to disappear, flee from the authorities, or drop out of life, I think this might be the place.  Apparently, there is a major hotel group out of Cancun that will be funding a road from Cancun to Chiquila and has plans to develop the island.  So I imagine it will be a different place in five years.  If you want to visit a quiet little slice of paradise, now is the time. Next year may be too late.

Some photos:



  1. I love caipirinhas! It looks amazing here. Those ugly trilobite-looking mothers are horseshoe crabs. I don’t know what that other thing is. Take more pics of hot dudes for me 🙂

    • I’ll work on it Magee!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons