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Isla Holbox is pronounced i-la holebosh - "x" in Mayan is pronounced "sh".
A well kept secret not known to many Mexicans outside of the Yucatan - Isla Holbox was settled by pirates who intermarried with local Mayans living in the area.
The descendants of the original 8 families still reside there today. Sort of like Pitcairn Island.
Isla Holbox has 1600 +/- residents. It is a true island 7 miles north of the top tip of the Yucatan Peninsula about 40 miles NW of Cancun. It's approximately 7 miles long & 1 mile wide.
Its northern shore [facing the placid waters of the warm Gulf of Mexico] has become a secret hideout for Europeans, Canadians & Americans alike. Its like stepping back in time to the 50's or 60's.
Airport Transfers - Cancun Airport to Isla Holbox [VIP Private]
ISLA HOLBOX HOTELS
For current Isla Holbox hotel and resort information including rates, availability and secure on-line reservations please see:
We only offer VIP Transfers - Cancun airport is Isla Holbox.
HOLBOX - ISLAND IN TRANSITION
Isla Holbox was for years was a sleepy fishing village. Now its entering the 21st Century. Why? Tourism, and particularly the discovery six years ago of the migrating Whale Sharks who gather just off the coast of Holbox each May through September to feed on the plankton rich waters created by the nutrient currents of the Gulf, Caribbean, and the Atlantic.
Holbox has now been designated THE top place in the World to see/swim with the ocean's largest fish; the Whale Shark Tiburon Ballena in Spanish.
The Fishermen of Holbox still ply their trade daily going out every morning to catch the islands former #1 cash crop...fish. Species captured fresh include, Grouper, Snook, Red Fish, Sea Trout, Rock Fish, Pompano, and the king of the cash crop, LOBSTER!
All captures have declined over the years due to a variety of factors including over fishing. Time will tell how this plays out for the local economy. Adding to the mix there are not too many sons of the fishermen going out with their fathers to learn the trade. They are too busy with video games, motorcycles, hanging out late in the park etc etc. A new Stone Crab operation is taking form now as the Islanders seek to diversify their catch.
Now the emphasis is on T-O-U-R-I-S-M. For years Holbox was off the beaten track and was known mainly to Europeans and backpackers. They were attracted by the kick Back lifestyle and LOW prices as an alternative to the madness of Cancun. Now Americans have discovered Holbox and there's lots of English spoken here.
THERE ARE NO CARSAll transportation on the island is by golfcarts, motorbikes, bicycles and of course walking!
The 1600 locals who make Holbox their home are mainly fishermen who ply their trade every morning before sunrise. The days catch includes Lobster $12lb for fresh caught tails, Grouper $2lb, Baracuda, Yellowtail, Red Snapper, Speckled Trout, Conch, Octopus, and many more "Fruits of la Mer". FRESH EVERY DAY!
A growing number of Americans & Europeans have discovered Holbox and make it their year-round or part-time home. Small boutique hotels that reflect the islands tropical nature have been built in the past 3 years to accommodate a growing tourist sector. However, there are NO HIGH-RISE HOTELS here like Cancun.
There are local markets selling chicken, pork, beef, fresh fruits & vegetables, a bakery, lots of cerveza, & more. The local Internet Cafe is a meeting place for travelers keeping in touch as well as the local young joveneses [Teenagers] chatting, playing games etc all in the internet age. All for $2 an hour!!!!
Chat, do e-mail, surf the web, heck we know of one American who runs an International AutoParts business on the web who sips Pina Coladas, does Ebay auctions... all from his beachfront home!
BIG TIME "Game Fishing" is close at hand where the local skippers who know "Where The Action" is will take you to Cabo Catoche just a short distance from Isla Holbox. This is where the currents from the Gulf Of Mexico & Caribbean actually meet, bringing with them.... PHENOMENAL FISHING!
The favorite pastime on Isla Holbox is "RELAXATION". Explore the 7 mile long Gulf of Mexico beach with its white sands & crystal clear turquoise greenish warm waters. The Gulf of Mexico gently rolls in quite unlike the dangerous Caribbean with its undertows & sometimes monster waves.
Windsurfing is becoming a big thing on Isla Holbox as the favorable winds propel you through the water with grace & ease. Read a good book, write your novel. Some days the biggest decision you'll need to make is - "What's For Dinner" !!!
Isla Holbox's primary means of transportation is the GOLF CART [there are no courses on the island]!
There are numerous "Rentadoras" [Rental Agencies] who will cheaply rent you a GolfCar by the day or by the hour.
You may bring your own car via the twice daily ferry service that brings everything to the island. Food, beer, refreshments, building materials etc, along with the delivery trucks.
Local Taxi's on Holbox.......4-6-8 passenger golfcars of course..... will take you anywhere you want to go. Rent a Motor Scooter, walk, commune with nature.
ISLA HOLBOX RESTAURANTSHolbox offers a Wide Variety of Restaurants. Almost all Feature FRESH SEAFOOD.
There are also small Mom & Pop stands selling tacos, hot dogs and burgers scattered around town. There are also numerous Comida Corrida... spots where locals serve you in their family kitchens [cheap & good]! Just look for the little hand-made signs on peoples houses. The smell of good food is a universal advertisement.
Specifically here's a rundown of Holbox's BEST Restaurants as of January 2009.
You'll get your best meals from the local restaurants vs the hotel restaurants. The hotel restaurants tend to be over-priced and not as tantalizing as the local eateries and are not as imaginative. Because of the islands small size walking to a restaurant from your hotel anywhere on the island is not a problem.
Chef Miquel and his wife Mary with their experienced crew prepare an excellent variety of fresh fish, Ceviches, Spaghettis, and Pizza. Their Signature Pizza is the scrumptious Lobster Pizza. An abundance of chunks of succulent garlicky lobster are heaped on a large thin hand tossed Italian crust, swimming on rich tomato sauce and gobs of cheese! $350 and WORTH every peso!
Other combo Pizzas: Hawaiano, Pepperoni, Veggie, Shrimp and Octopus round out the Pizza list. Another favorite here is Spaghetti Del-Mar in either a red or white sauce. Here you get a heaping pile of seafood. Shrimps, Crab, Mussels Octopus and Lobster. This comes with a basket of hot Italian bread for mopping up the sauces. $150 pesos. You'll pay 2 times as much in Cancun!
Don't forget Miquels Ceviches, Tacos, Tortas and Dynamite Margaritas and ice cold cerveza. Sit outside in one of the street-side table, or upstairs where the Pizza oven sends out heavenly smells! Serving from Noon till 11-12pm.
Pellicanos has Fresh Home Made Pasta [we've heard New Yorkers claim it is better than Little Italy in New York]! Their sauces are made from scratch and are excellent. You won't be disappointed.
Parilla de Juan
Parilla de Juan serves great seafood and meats with a Continental flare. His sauces are unique and lively. His Lasagne is quite different and very very good. Great music and a friendly wait staff await you up stairs. Juan is on duty nightly in his kitchen for dinner only.
Here, Italian trained Chef Guimer has a great Mex Grill menu of fresh grilled Yucatan Style seafood & lobster as well as great monterrey steaks. The Guacamole is to "die for".
The best Spaghetti is the Shrimp... lots of big shrimp swimming in a fresh homemade red sauce. Best drink is the Pina Colada! Great Upstairs location with lots of stuff about the history and lore of the popular Mexican Freedom Fighter Emiliano Zapata!
Cuerva de Pirata
Best Beach Bar
Cariocas is a beachfront disco at night, but serves the BEST Ceviche in town. Shrimp and Caracol [Conch] are the hot tickets here; $120 pesos for a heaping platter. Washed down with an ice cold Cerveza SOL or Dos Equis...Ahh Nirvana!!
That's the A List of Holbox Restaurants you don't want to miss if you're here for a short stay. If you've got more time then you can either "Double-Up"" or try some of the lesser choices not detailed here.
THINGS TO KNOWThere is NO bank on Isla Holbox and only one ATM located upstairs in the Mayors Office [it is frequently out of cash]. Even exchanging money can be a hassle and sometimes not possible.
If you run short of cash there is only one place to get a cash transfusion and that is the TELECOM office next to the Mayor, or Alcalde's office. There, IF you have a Mexican BANK DEBIT CARD you can get cash on the spot. But not from the U.S. or any credit card.
Credit cards are accepted somewhat on the island at the larger restaurants & hotels. They ALL charge a significant premium for using the debit or credit cards at their establishments.
Bring Mexican Pesos or U.S.D., nothing else works.
Many businesses do not accept credit cards or travelers checks, cash only.
It is cheaper to bring your own food if you plan to cook.
You can eat the fish you catch!
You can of course buy water on the island.
The island residents are prepared for tropical storms and all precautions have been taken to ensure total safety for ALL island residents and visitors. In the advent of a natural weather occurrence you would be evacuated or if you stayed you would be taken care of, even if you were on the island alone. We stayed on the island for Hurricane Ivan so we know this as FACT!
Cell phones now work everywhere on Holbox. No more standing at the public phones with the Telmex cards!
The people there are very laid back.
Isla Holbox is the jump-off point for tours to see the Whale Shark, the worlds biggest fish!
The Annual Summer migration of Feeding Whale Sharks near ISLA HOLBOX @ the top tip of the Yucatan peninsula has become one of the "MUST SEE-DO" Attractions during June-July & August each summer.
We've researched this phenomenon and have found what we feel is the BEST Tour operator running Tours to SWIM With Whale Sharks in the "Open" Gulf of Mexico.
Imagine snorkeling within 3 feet of a Gigantic Harmless plankton eating Whale Shark!
Holbox Whale Shark Tours has been conducting High Quality Public & Private "VIP" Whale Shark Tours since 2003, the first year they were discovered. Their Captains "KNOW" where they are......in fact Holbox Whale Shark Tours GUARANTEES it!
They offer Convenient services directly from your hotel in Cancun or Riviera Maya areas.
They will take you either to Holbox Island, or depart from an area north of Cancun. It all depends "WHERE" the Whale Sharks are feeding in Mother Nature's Aquarium!
New for 2010 is a New "AERO TOUR" where they transport you in 4-5-6 Passenger aircraft for an Exciting Low Level (1200') trip over the Feeding Whale Sharks. Watch this on UTUBE Go To: www.youtube.com/watch?v=8O5LAfQAjzs here you'll see exactly how it looks from 1200'. EXCITING & such a beautiful ride!
INTERNET CAFES & LONG DISTENCE TELEPHONE
Isla Holbox has 3 Internet Cafes where you can keep in touch with family and friends back home. Surf the web, or chat for just 20 pesos an hour.
The best known and nicest is Internet Don Antonio located 1 block west of the mayors office and the Central Park. Look for the flashing yellow light on top of the building. Tony is usually on duty and is quite helpful. They also have an economical Long Distance Telephone Service to call home.
Cell phones now work everywhere on Holbox.
GETTING AROUND ON HOLBOX
Besides walking and bicycling, the primary means of transportation is GOLF CAR.
These handy machines carry four comfortably and can go to both ends of the island.
They rent typically for 80 pesos per hour, four hrs for $250 or $500-600 pesos per 24 hr day.
There are five major golf car rental operations on Isla Holbox.
The best is Monkey's [on the main street coming into town from the Pier] and Rentadora Glendy next to Don Antonio Internet Caf�, one block west of the Park and Catholic church.
PEOPLE OF ISLA HOLBOX
Isla Holbox was founded by pirates over 150 years ago. The pirates came to the fresh water spring/cenote on the mainland Yelahau to take-on fresh water for their long journeys. Some of these Pirates decided to stay and married some of the local gals and the results are the original seven families are still here on Holbox generations later and have all intermarried!
They view all outsiders [even Mexicans] as Non-Islanders.
They're all basically friendly but everybody understands the real pecking order. Most islanders are friendly and laid-back. At night you'll see families in the park chit-chatting or catching up on the latest gossip, while the teenagers hang out to see & be seen by the opposite sex or are busy chatting at the Internet Cafes.
Daily there is a Kindergarten, a Primary School grades 1-6 and High School or Secondaria School Grades 7-10.They all start at 7:00am and are done by 1:00pm in the afternoon. The Schools are very casual.
REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT
Holbox is growing and new residences and hotels are starting to emerge, especially on the West end. Several big resorts are in planning and development stage as well as some Grand Castle Style Private residences.
To the East of Holbox is a pristine 35km stretch of virgin beach that has been tapped by big developers like Fernando Ponce, Vicente Fox, the current Governor, Felix Cantu, and others. It is going to be called Peninsula Maya. Kind of like Riviera Maya, Costa Maya etc.
The Peninsula Maya development is slated to break ground in late 2009 early 2010.
Eventually there will be a road directly from Cancun to the eastern gateway (Cabo Catoche), which will shorten the drive time to that eastern terminus to about 30 minutes from Cancun. This development is being master planned by EDSA of Ft Lauderdale Florida (They planned much of Dubai).
Plans for the development include 12,000 units, 2 Golf Courses, 6000 ft. airstrip, major shopping plazas and a separate Ferry Terminal.
This is still a long ways off and still light years away from Holbox. We hope the development stays there and away from Holbox!
REAL ESTATE OPPORTUNITIESThere is only so much land available on a small island like Holbox and it's value has been increasing dramatically. Beachfront is obviously at a premium, and it's now sold by the square meter.
Most of Holbox's lands are still EJIDO which is a very complex form of ownership.
Currently these lands are becoming "regularized" whereby "Titles" are being issued which is the preferred method of ownership. If you'd like to get a "slice" of paradise see Roddrigo Sidney on the Island at Casa Iguana Hotel. He's always got the Pulse of what's available.