Isla Holbox (pronounced: whole bosh) is one of the few remaining unspoiled islands along Mexico’s Yucatan coast. Three hours west but a world away from Cancun, Holbox is a gem. Development has so far been restricted to budget hotels, a few small luxury boutique hotels, tiny restaurants and a couple of backpacker type places. The streets are sand, people drive golf carts instead of cars and there is a feeling of unhurried relaxation in the air. The buildings are brightly colored, the roofs are thatch and in July when I was there the air was hot. The beaches are mostly shell and the water is an agreeable emerald color as opposed to the usual Caribbean blue.
It is a cosmopolitan place where French, Italian and Spanish expats blend with the locals to form what is a welcoming and convivial community. I arrived a few days after heavy rains and the streets were strewn with mud puddles that oozed a grey mud between my toes when I walk through them. I imagine at the same time somewhere else on the planet other people were paying big bucks to get the same treatment in the form of a special Caribbean mud foot massage.
Walking along the shore I saw small flocks of fuchsia colored flamingos, numerous schools of tiny fish scrambling to get away from whatever lurked beneath the surface and huge prehistoric pelicans diving into the water. The tiny town square at night looked like a 1970’s version of a Mexican Mayberry with kids playing foosball and classic video game machines in small makeshift stalls, whole families walking the street together hand in hand and old men sitting at small table reminiscing about their lives.
I had remarkable ceviche in the local restaurants, excellent street food and an assortment of fresh fruit juices and licuados (Latin American smoothies) and some of the best Empanadas I have ever eaten. The laid back atmosphere, beautiful scenery and friendly people made the effort of getting there worth it. But we were on a mission; to see the huge Whale Sharks that school in the waters offshore from June to September.