Holbox island: a black hole, or is it?

Filed under: Places to Visit - by Louise Hennessy

Have you ever heard of phosphorescence of the sea? Paddling about late at night at the very edge of the shore of Holbox is the first time we’ve ever had the opportunity to witness this weird and wonderful phenomenon…….

Any  sudden movement of the water makes the bio-luminescence of organisms,  in the surface layers of the sea, light up momentarily in the darkness,  producing an x-ray-like effect. It’s a bit unnerving at first, but is a strangely addictive experience, and one of those things you will probably only ever get to see a handful of times, if that.

It is blatantly obvious that nobody is in a hurry to get anywhere once you disembark on Isla Holbox. Even the ‘taxi’ drivers are laid back, and when we say taxis we mean golf carts, with extra segments of seats to accommodate larger groups. To be honest though, if you’re not carrying a load of luggage, the more inhabited part of the island is fairly small and easily walked around. 

Holbox Island Beach

Strictly speaking, the island is located just outside what would be the border of the Caribbean Sea (where it meets the Gulf of Mexico), but it is hard to tell, as the feel of the place is completely Caribbean.  So much so, that the tiny streets are sandy, rather than paved, and it is extremely rare to see any kind of vehicle there, apart from bikes and golf carts; being, perhaps, the main reason that life is so wonderfully  slow-paced here!

So, why Holbox, meaning ‘black hole’ (in Mayan), if it is beautifully peppered with pure white sand………..? Fear not, you won’t mysteriously disappear into oblivion if you cross over to the tiny paradise! The name actually alludes to a lagoon in the southern part of the island, which has a seemingly black bottom…..

Of course,  if you do actually fancy disappearing for a few days then Holbox is most certainly  the place to do it…We found it no problem at all to quickly disconnect from the world outside, sinking our feet into  the immense stretch of mainly deserted beaches, occasionally stooping down to pick up some of the millions of tiny shells which had been washed up,  each time becoming more certain that this shell was even more perfect than the last…….just what is it that makes shell-collecting so relaxing?

Holbox Island by Night

For those who love the water, there are a number of lovely boat trips you can take, including a visit to the Isla de Pasión (Passion Island), with its virgin strips of beach,; Isla de Pájaros (Isle of Birds), where you can catch a glimpse of various species in danger of extinction; and of the course the famous whale shark tour (May -September).

One of the things we had no intention of missing, and can thoroughly vouch for, was the famously-recommended pizza de langosta (lobster pizza) at the pizzeria on the main square.  After a day where the sun beat down on us relentlessly, we quite  literally devoured this amazing pizza, which was much less expensive than expected. Lobster fishing in general is very popular and very good around Holbox, and it is not uncommon to find lobster at great prices in the restaurants.

Other moments to cherish for a lifetime….? Waking up at dawn to witness a flamboyance of flamingos flying over the water at sunrise; discovering a delightful fresh fruit market in the morning, in the town square; learning to fish off the small pier (with the help of a couple of local lads, a bit of bait, fishing line and hook); and being startled by flashes of light shooting off in different directions as fish disturbed the luminescent plankton, close to midnight…..

Holbox Island Pink Flamingos

Crucial tip: Don’t forget to bring your biodegradable mosquito repellent, they can be savage here, especially at sunrise and sunset!

Are you tempted to visit? Write in with your comments!

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