To the North of the Yucatan Peninsula, just 3 hours from Cancun, you can find heaven on earth. Its name is Holbox, the country’s last breath, a small island surrounded by the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, located about 10 kilometers from the continent and considered the last point of Mexico within the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean. Holbox is part of the Mayan territory, and the influence of the mythical civilization can be felt in every aspect of the island, its people, its gastronomy, its lifestyle, its warmth and vibration, its sounds and its balance to protect its environment.
The charm of Holbox begins in its geography, the island is full of virgin beaches where the turquoise of its waters bathes every morning the coral sand of the coasts, some of them can even be crossed one after the other by foot thanks to the small lagoons, sandbanks, that are formed during the morning when the tide is lower; in other cases, you will only need a boat trip to explore and fall in love with each one of them, there will be a moment when you will not know where one begins and where the other ends. It is on these beaches where flamingos fly above the water, where whale sharks claim their soft sand floors during the summer, while fish, sea turtles and dolphins swim freely in what has always been their home.
To visit Holbox is to awaken your senses: to discover new colors thanks to its sunsets and the turquoise colors of its waters; to find aromas in its trees, in its atmosphere, in each of the meals prepared in the village; to listen to new bird songs, the murmur of the people; to bring new flavors to your mouth and your skin because, believe it or not, even the breeze tastes and feels different in this corner. The island is a love letter to nature that seeks to appeal to human kindness: to love this place is to take care of it with each of our actions, to be aware of our footprint, and how our actions will impact on the environment.
This small island under the Caribbean sun is part of one of the most important ecological reserves for Mexico and the planet: the Yum Balam flora and fauna protection area. This biosphere of 154,052 hectares is home to the Yalahau lagoon, mangroves, wetlands and low and medium jungles, all of which are home to the richest diversity of species from all kingdoms and which cohabit in perfect harmony. This reserve alone gives refuge to gum, ramon, cedar, tulle and palm trees; as well as ocelots, pumas, spider monkeys, jaguars, sea turtles, manatees and the already famous in our article: whale sharks.
But also, Holbox is an important refuge for the greatest diversity of birds, some threatened or in danger of extinction. On a small islet nestled among the mangroves of the Yalahau lagoon, and known as Isla Pájaros, it is possible to spot several of them in a moment of tranquility. To do so, there are lookouts and walkways where they will not be threatened and you can admire them in their natural habitat: entire colonies of flamingos, gulls, herons, wild ducks, pelicans, among others. Remember that all these birds arrived here long before you did, so you must protect their space and make sure that none of your actions can affect them.
Also part of its biodiversity, and perhaps one of the most beautiful natural phenomena that can be seen on the planet, is the presence of bioluminescence on the island’s beaches, achieved by the bioluminescent organisms that abound in its waters. Around the island there are tour agencies where you can ask and get the best tour to witness it. Most tours leave at midnight from the Marina and take about 2 to 3 hours to be completed. Although it is present all year round, the small luminous beings react better to the warm waters between March and September. Aldo, the darkest nights are the best for observing how nature is full of light.
The island benefits from the unique climate formed by the coalition of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico seas. For years, Holbox was called a hidden paradise because, before the operation of the ferries, few people had heard of this “black hole”, Mayan meaning for Holbox, in the Caribbean. Much of that has changed today with the increasing flow of tourism; however, the island seeks to maintain this fragile balance with limited access to the island, as well as severe restrictions on the establishment of activities that could compromise the quality of life within it.
Since 2019, the people of Holbox have started a series of initiatives to take better care of everyone’s heritage: our environment. Mangroves and beaches are constantly being cleaned up to protect the animals that live in them; the use of plastic bags, unicel and straws has been banned throughout the island; most of the inhabitants seek to recycle the waste they produce to prevent the soil and water from being contaminated, and the wildlife that lives on the island from being affected. This is one of the strongest philosophies of Holbox, all action is aimed at achieving an eco-friendly and sustainable society to sustain the fragile environmental balance.
The essence of Holbox is not different from other Mexican beach towns, its architecture is simple and coastal, its sandy floors are soft to the touch of the feet (did someone say exfoliation?); its facades keep the colors of the Caribbean alive, even though this small global village is being nourished by more and more people coming from all corners of the world. One of the main attractions of this island is the warmth of its inhabitants, with their relaxed lifestyle and that habit of walking around the island barefoot becomes something every visitor wants to experience.
Life in Holbox remains local, a relaxed atmosphere, small shops owned by the islanders themselves, an almost musical rhythm that can be felt from one end of the island to the other. It is common to see on the streets how the bikes coexist with the pedestrians and some golf carts that are beginning to grow in circulation. On these same streets there are plenty of touches of color and joy in the houses and businesses, where the murals that have sprouted between the facades and walls are a highlight. This is another of the attractions that the island of endless wonders has to offer.