First impressions: Isla Holbox

To someone who knows a little Spanish, the word “Holbox” might at first seem a bit strange for the name of a Mexican island. It is in fact a Mayan word, pronounced “hol-bosh”, which interestingly enough means “black hole”. It is located on the northern edge of the state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan peninsula.

From the downtown Cancun station, I hopped on a bus destined for Chiquila, a 3 to 4 hour ride with mostly locals as companions. I was told that petty thefts are on the rise, so I had my laptop tucked in my bag by my side. I was exhausted from two consecutive nights with little to no sleep, so I dozed most of the ride, though when I would periodically awake I saw lush green jungle out the window.

At Chiquila I boarded a ferry that brought me to Isla Holbox. As I stepped off the ferry onto the sandy streets I noted the lack of entrepreneurial harassment I am used to experiencing in Latin American tourist destinations. The island has almost no motor vehicles on it, so the “taxis” are golf carts. Whatever they’re driving, the men for once did not yell at me for business. Since it was only a ten minute walk or so, I picked up my backpack and made the journey myself. The roads were a bit muddy as the day before I arrived it had rained.


Isla Holbox, Mexico

The beaches are heavily eroding, with many preventative jetties in place. The erosion is evident as crumbling buildings and piers line the entire northern face of the island.

There are definitely tourists here. When I’m in my hostel, which is completely booked, it feels quite social and there are people enjoying themselves all over town. But, when I’m on the beach, it feels nearly desolate. The best thing about Holbox so far is the the proportion of beach to people.

I was slightly concerned about walking the empty beaches alone, but the girl at the front desk unequivocally told me “walk anywhere you want, anytime you want”. I was surprised by this blank check of safety, which I could never grant someone (who knows what crazy person may have just arrived on the latest ferry?), but I took her confidence as a sign that she has never personally seen or heard about violence on the island. This is a definite first for me in a Latin American beach town (normally it’s the usual good advice: walk in pairs, and don’t walk along beach rimmed by obscuring jungle), and I have to say, I’m rather enjoying the feeling of security.