Somewhere In Time: Isla Holbox, Mexico
Journeying to Isla Holbox (pronounced hol-bosh, not hol-box) feels a bit like going back through time. Our journey began in the car, driving 190 miles from Mexico’s “White City” of Merida to the tiny, coastal town of Chiquila (roughly 2.5 hours from Cancun.) From Chiquila, we boarded a ferry for a quick 30-minute ride to the island. Cars are virtually obsolete on Isla Holbox so we left ours behind under a shaded lot (locals rent these spaces out for under $10 a day.) I knew very little about the island prior to traveling there and for this reason my expectations weren’t lofty. In hindsight this naivety was a gift — isn’t it wonderful to be pleasantly surprised, if not fall in love when you least expect to?
The moment we arrived to the pier, I felt a nostalgic sense of a time bygone. This place is unlike any I have seen before (the closest relative to Holbox in my mind was Isla Mujeres, though this was still something far different.) Roads here are blanketed in soft white Caribbean sand and people are casual, unhurried, present in their lives. Stepping off the ferry, the wind tickled my hair and the sun blanketed our skin in a layer of warm reassurance. After gathering our bags, we walked to a nearby driver (in a golf cart mind you) who carried us off to the island’s interior and to our home for the next few days. We stayed at Casa Las Tortugas, which we loved for its central location and on-site restaurant. The hotel is clean, charming, and features a lovely pool that stretches through the interior of the hotel with the rooms nested all around, plus there are yoga classes and a beautiful beach-front restaurant with lounge chairs and wooden boats-turned-day beds to crawl into with a good book. (Should Casa Las Tortugas be reserved, I’ve heard great things about Casa Sandra.)
While the margaritas were great and the food even better, I most enjoyed my mornings on the beach, walking the long stretches of untouched surf on my own. Most places I’ve visited in my life have felt crowded, pleasant in their popularity, yet found nonetheless. Isla Holbox is something else. I almost didn’t want to share it with friends as I felt a bit like I’d stumbled upon some special, significant secret, a natural treasure that I needed to safeguard. But alas, life is about sharing with those you love and I couldn’t wait to share this one.
Walking the beach those mornings, I felt a sense of inner calm that doesn’t come easily for me. It was a childlike wonder and innocence, a reminder of my complete awe for the world, my deep-seeded dreams, along with a feeling of being present in mind, body, and in spirit. Perhaps what struck me most about Isla Holbox was the quietness that pervaded — only a stirring of air and the sound of the ocean rippling at the sandy shores. Also, the sand here is ground to a pillowy softness like nothing I’ve felt before.
Casa Las Tortugas has a very fun restaurant and bazaar located across the street (walk across with a margarita, barefoot!) called LUUMA. They cook with only local, seasonal ingredients and the cocktails in the bar are top-notch. I bought a black fringed dress at the neighboring boutique and have since worn it from the beach to black-tie galas. Some of our favorite places ended up being the hole-in-the-wall cevicherias and restaurants serving fresh lobster pizzas.
All along the street sides, beautiful seashells, coral, and shell chandeliers were laid out for sale. These remnant of the sea were but a few of the lasting memories I have of this lovely place.
Today, I kick myself for not bringing home one of these sandy shells, or even better, a broken, blemished fragment of one picked up on one of my morning strolls. The memory instead will serve as a reminder of this special journey spent with my husband, a place marked somewhere in time with the one I love most.