We began our adventure to the Island of Holbox from the Playa del Carmen’s ADO bus station. We had to catch the only bus that leaves daily at 9:30 to the Town of Chiquila. The approximately two and half hour ride in a luxury bus was rather nice.
We arrived at Chiquila, Mexico just before noon. The bus stopped a block from the town center. Rustic shops, restaurants and mom & pop stores lined the part dirt and part asphalt road. There is even a “Banos” station and for a few pesos you can relieve yourself before getting to the ferry terminal.
The small town of Chiquila is a fishing port that just happens to offer ferry services to the island and city of Holbox. You can purchase tickets across from the town center at the local market or from several booths (pictured below – right) that are directly on the pier.
The town’s people are very friendly and are willing to help in anyway they can. They eagerly greeted us as we walked towards the pier. Most were selling their wares along the street and in open markets that were situated between the adobe and brick buildings.
We made our way down what seems to be the only street leading in and out of town. The brick wall edging the town center reads “Bienvenidos – Welcome Chiquila”. Most of the towns or cities we have visited in Mexico have some sort of welcome sign. The Mexican people are very proud of there communities and love to have visitors.
We purchased one way ferry tickets (Boleto) to Holbox (pronounced hole’ – bosh) for $120 pesos each – approximately $6.30. The day was warm and the skies were clear. The passenger ferry(s) aren’t as large as the ones going to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen, however the distance traveled is far less. The ride took twenty five minutes and was fairly smooth.
We arrived on Isla Holbox – translated from Mayan meaning “Black Hole”, around noon. We ventured to a small park that sits at the end of the pier. Here (pictured right) is where we took a couple Kodak Moment photos. We took a few minutes to look back across the Gulf at the town of Chiquila and then moved on.
All the streets on the island are hard packed clay and dirt. The island has had rain showers come across it the last couple of days. Needless to say we have to step around quite a few mud holes.
The City of Holbox doesn’t have any cars for getting around. The local officials believe that the cars pollute and destroy the island’s natural environment. There are several construction and delivery trunks running around town, but beyond that its all golf carts, mopeds and bicycles. The taxis are golf carts as well and only allow three passengers plus the driver at a time. That makes it a little awkward when traveling with couples or a family of four or more.
By the time we reached mid-town Holbox, we were ready to have lunch. We found an all wood constructed, palapa roof restaurant/cantina named Rosa Mexicano (pictured right). We ordered some authentic Mexican food and complemented the meal with a traditional margarita.
After lunch we motivated ourselves to walk around and see the town. The city of Holbox possess a colorful atmosphere with traditional style that blends a bit of modern trend for a touristy appeal. The town’s center has an outdoor venue – sphere shaped stage (shown right), that sets the scene for entertainment under the sun or stars.
We came to one of four main intersections (shown below – left), which straddles the town center’s busy corners. To me it seems to be where most everybody meets and things begin and end. Many of the locals, along with the service vendors hangout and visit with one another in between jobs. This must be where people can catch up on all the latest gossip.
It seems to me that street etiquette in Holbox is very laid back. Everyone gives you a slight nod and casual “Hola” when passing by. People are sitting on their four wheelers or in golf carts (pictured lower – right) waiting for their next assignment. Everyone has a purpose in this seemingly tight community.
We strolled down Avenue Damero towards the north end of the island where our lodging is. We made the initial trek to our hotel via the muddy road and all the while dodging golf cart traffic. There are no curbs or sidewalks to enjoy. We unanimously decided to use a taxi from here on in.
After the 20 minute treacherous walk with baggage in-tow, we arrived at Villas Paraiso del Mar. Finished timber seems to be the popular building material here on the island. Its’ actually pretty cool looking.
Villa Paraiso is a very beautiful hotel. Each balcony has a view of the jungle – garden, and a hammock for those afternoon siestas! We settled into our rooms and then set out for an afternoon exploration of the area.
The Gulf of Mexico with its beautiful emerald colored water is just across the road from our hotel. The day was filled with blue sky and bright sun. We took off our sandals and waded in the water following a shallow sandbar. The weather was a bit warm and the water’s temperature was very cooling. Not a bad way to start an afternoon.
On the way to our destination we noticed an unusual, but comforting site. Braded hammocks posted just above the waving tide. I couldn’t resist trying one out. It seemed others had the same idea as well.
We chose a quaint little place (pictured below) named Moscito Bar Restaurant, Grill, Beach Club & Sports Bar – verbatim! Besides its elongated and catchy name, we like the view from the rustic table and chairs placed on its soft sandy floor. We had a few drinks and than sat back to admire the picturesque scenery.
We finished our refreshments and headed back down the beach to our hotel. We got cleaned up and ordered two taxis – there are four of us and only 3 available seats, to take us into town for dinner.
We found a nice second story eatery that overlooks the town. We ordered freshly prepared dinners which included authentic Mexican food, and a variety of seafood dishes. The entrees were very tasty, especially the lobster. Actually, we have had some exceptionally good meals (pictured below left & right) here in Holbox.
The sun was getting closer to the horizon and the day is about to become night. We walked around downtown for a while to observe the island’s night life. We quickly figured out that it was geared more for the locals than visitors.
The bars provided music and were quickly filling up with groups of young adults. The open air night club’s subtle lighting and ambience seemed to be in tune with the younger crowd and their nightly rituals.
The town starts to close up most of its services by around 10 o’clock. We managed to flag down a taxi to take us back to the hotel. We have a busy traveling day back to Playa del Carmen starting tomorrow afternoon.
We got up that morning and made it to the pier. Holbox’s port services include shuttling people and supplies to places like Cancun and Chetumal, which boarders Belize in Central America. Various water vessels (shown left) make the trip around the peninsula’s broad tip and stop at other port-of calls.
Holbox presents a true Mexican experience. Its no-frills and noncommercial feel retains some of Mexico’s traditions. Don’t expect Americanized restaurants, retail icons and nationally advertised resorts and hotels. You can’t be afraid to get your sandals dirty and let your hair down. Its a place to visit, relax and enjoy the more simple things that life has to offer.
YMATD would like to give a big thank you to Peggy & Craig Schwendeman for coming along on our curious adventure.