I’m going through so many firsts with you guys! After the pedicure and the unforgettable vajacial, I finally went where sunburns are as frequent as coconuts and where responsibilities vanish at your first sip of margarita. Everybody: I finally took some vacations in the South.
When my boyfriend and I were looking for where to go, we had three criteria:
- It had to be kind of quiet and not too touristy
- Somewhere where we could spoil ourselves without spending millions
- Food must be as fabulous as the scenery
So we ended up going to a two-star hotel in Cayo Coco. I’M KIDDING. We went to Holbox, an island two hours north by car + half an hour of ferry from Cancun. I’ve never been to Tulum, but I feel that it looked exactly like Holbox 10 years ago. It’s not too busy (but we went at the end of January), cool but not #TooCoolForSchool (not everything looks like a Pinterest board) and where renting an hotel by the sea is still affordable.
When I was sharing my Instagram stories, many of you showed interest in learning a bit more about that 1500-habitants peaceful haven where only bikes and golf carts are allowed. So here is my Isla Holbox guide for those of you looking for an unexplored spot where to wind down without necessarily wanting to drown your liver at the open bar of an all-inclusive.
Sleeping in the Clouds
Before planning our trip, Ben and I knew we wanted to spoil ourselves – we needed time off so bad that we didn’t want to spend energy on a hostel oozing with a hippie traveller scent or a hotel room with a panoramic view of the parking lot.
We finally picked Las Nubes, which can be rightfully translated to “the clouds”. Luxurious yet not pretentious, the hotel is located in its own little nook, set directly on the ocean, and composed of small residences with super cute straw roofs where intimacy is preserved through strategic placement of tropical plants. Wanna know what’s really cool? The establishment is all about ecotourism. The rooms are filled with little notes printed with advice on how to be respectful of the environment and biodiversity of the island. For example, every communication is printed on recycled paper and all the products provided (shampoo, conditionner, soap, mosquito repellent*, etc.) are all organic and made with local ingredients. I also want to mention how nice, generous and helpful the hotel staff was.
*Side note about the mosquito repellent: SPREAD IT ON YOUR BODY LIKE THERE IS NO TOMORROW. The mosquitos aren’t the worst, the real evils are the sand fleas, which can be found everywhere on the island. I guess it’s a given for any exotic destination, but as the rookie that I am, I was literally devoured like a walking churro.
Eat, Eat, and Eat Some More
If I lived in Mexico, I would probably weigh twice as much. And my body wouldn’t be made of 75% of water, but of 75% of tacos and guacamole. Our first stop was Barba Negra, where we ended up going three times, not because the island lacks in yummy places, but just because it was just too good to not be enjoyed multiple times. If you’re looking for gourmet ceviches and tacos (hello freshness!) yet still affordable, this is THE place.
For a mucho auténtico restaurant, you’ve got to go to Antojitos Abuelo Tom for a meal that barely costs anything served in what looks like the backyard of the family who owns the place. Watch out: it’s only open at nighttime. Two friends of ours (Marconi restaurant’s owners, so they know what they’re talking about) told us we ABSOLUTELY had to try the chicken soup with the bones (which is normally only served to the locals). Hurry up because when we tried ordering it, they were already out.
Another place that doesn’t look like anything special, but that will make me drool for months on is Taco Queto. I advise you to go with an empty stomach and order a pastor burro (it’s like a seasoned pulled pork fajita).
Another major favourite of ours was Roots, a Mexican-inspired pizza restaurant where you wish you were friends with all the waiters and where tequila and mezcal-based cocktails should please the finest of the connoisseurs. They also serve a locally microbrewed beer that is famously known for listening to Beethoven for 60 days straight. The only down side: we got the lobster pizza, which was (strategically) not on the menu, thinking that it was in the same price bracket as everything else. Fools, we were! It cost 40 $ CAN, which considerably boosted our bill. It was so so so delicious, but if we had known, we would have ordered something else.
Doing Nothing or Barely Doing Something
We were warned before booking our trip to Holbox: there’s not much to do. Based on the size of our dark circles, it sounded like heaven on earth. The two most popular activities on the island, other than swimming with the whale sharks (we weren’t in the right season unfortunately) and taking a night tour to see the fluorescent corals, are to bike around the island (the bikes were included with our hotel room) and take a boat ride to the Yalahau cenote. For that part, we got extremely lucky! Chatting with Bruno, our waiter at Roots, he was able to organize us a tour with a local fisherman with whom we ended up fishing in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and who, while we were swimming, cooked us the most delicious ceviche with the fish we had just caught. Did you say “fresh”?
Would I Go Back?
Yes, yes, and yes again! And I strongly recommend it for anyone looking for really relaxing vacations. I admit it, it’s a bit complicated to get there, but that extra effort filters all the undesirable people you would have to deal with in all-inclusives (I know, it might sound a little snob, but you know who I’m talking about). So on that note, hasta la vista!
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