It’s always nice to be somewhere nice for Christmas Day. Over the years I’ve spent December 25th on a beach in the Philippines; visiting waterfalls in Laos and hiking in one of the deepest canyons in the world. Last Christmas, I decided to return to the beach. I initially thought about going to Cozumel, just off the coast of Playa del Carmen. However, after hearing stories of Holbox, a paradise island to the north of the Yucatan peninsula, I decided to change direction and head up to see what all the fuss was about. I was definitely glad I did.
From Cancun, the best way to get to Holbox is taking a bus up to the port town of Chiquilá. Several bus companies head there including ADO, Mayab and Oriente. They usually leave about three times a day in the late morning and early afternoon so double check the schedule first. The journey takes around 3 hours and costs around 120 MXN. The bus drops you off right by the ferry terminal where there are two ferry companies which can take you across to the island. The boats alternate between the companies every half an hour but in reality there’s no difference between them. It costs around 150 MXN for the short crossing (around 30 minutes). The terminal is small but there’s a seating area and the crossing is very straightforward.
The island itself is small and walkable. As it was just starting to become ‘discovered’ when I visited, there weren’t loads of backpacker accommodation options just yet, but a few new places were starting to pop up. I stayed in the recently opened Be Holbox Hostel which was still a bit rough around the edges when I stayed but had a great atmosphere and it was a good place to meet other travellers. On Christmas Eve, they even dished out free turkey tacos and we played piñata with an unfortunate Santa.
From the hostel, it was just a short walk to the huge beach which snakes along the odd-shaped island. The beach is picture perfect with oddly shallow water, making it a great beach to walk along. You can wander along the soft sand with cool water lapping at your feet constantly, which is just the best. To the west, you can walk all the way along the beach to Playa de los Flamingos where, as the name suggests, flamingos often gather and can be seen from afar. They weren’t there when I walked down there on Christmas Day though.
To the east, the main Holbox beach gives way to Punta Cocos beach which is a great sunset spot. Holbox had some fantastically dramatic sunsets as the cloud would usually sweep in later in the day. There’s also a small bar here so you can watch the sunset in style – or grab a cheap beer from one of Holbox’s convenience stores and nestle down in the sand yourself. Either way, it’s definitely worth making it across to this side of the island at least once.
In terms of food offerings, Holbox has the usual array of tasty tacos and, unsurprisingly, the focus is on seafood. Barba Negra is a safe bet for delicious seafood tacos whilst, in the main square at the centre of ‘downtown’ Holbox, La Tortilleria Espanola is a perfect choice for breakfast or brunch with pancakes and omelettes on offer. The nightlife in Holbox is often quite fun too. Because of how small it is, various bars blast out infectious Latin American music and everyone gathers to bop the night away on the street. It was almost like being in Cuba again.
Heading up to Holbox was absolutely the right decision, especially at Christmas when the rustic island atmosphere was at its best. It’s definitely worth meandering out of the way of the main peninsula trail and discovering the joys of paradise island life.