27.05.2017 - 03.06.2017
After a breakfast of fresh papaya juice and egg casserole with rustic potatoes and vegetables (and copious amounts of buttered bread), we decided to spend some time exploring the island.
Today was the only day that low tide was mid-day, allowing us a chance to visit the beautiful sandbar that we had heard about on the other end of the beach.
We rented a golf cart and set about our mini-adventure.
A short ride down the beachfront took us to the “end of the road.” We found ourselves at Punta Mosquito, an endless shallow sea of impossibly clear water, sundrenched hammocks, and soft, sandy beaches with virtually no one in sight.
We spent the morning lounging in the clear water, chasing schools of tiny rays, and walking the extensive sandbar as far as we could go.
This was the most activity we had encountered in 5 days, so we had to follow that with a trip to Barquito for cold beverages with a side order of blue-eyed puppies.
A ride through town took us past the colorful art that wove its way into every street corner and across every building.
We followed the road as far as it went in the opposite direction and found ourselves at Punta Coco, another shallow, deserted beach.
It seemed this tiny island had no limit to the sleepy beaches one could find a hammock and endless clear water.
As we made our way back through town, we stopped for lunch at Viva Zapata. The restaurant was brightly painted with colorful murals and swings hung from the bar.
We grossly over ordered and found ourselves faced with a table full of food we couldn’t possibly eat: ceviche and chips, queso fundido with spicy chorizo, garlicky shrimp, chicken nachos covered in melty cheese, and a pile of guacamole.
We did our best, but eventually threw in the towel. Who were we kidding?
We waddled back to our beach and collapsed.
When we finally roused ourselves, we strolled into town for cocktails at Bar Arena, a rooftop bar in the center of town.
The drinks were creative and wonderful, the décor was very cool, and the breeze was a welcome respite from the evening heat.
They also served these wickedly addictive candy coated peanuts that we simply couldn't stop eating.
With no actual plans for dinner, we simply wandered through town looking for something that caught our eye.
We decided to stop at La Parilla de Juan, which I had heard good things about.
As we climbed the stairs to the upper floor, we really weren’t sure what to expect.
We were pleasantly surprised by a very elegant, open-air restaurant with an outdoor terrace.
We chose to sit outside where we could watch the chef prepare the meats on the open fire.
While the restaurant is known for its pasta, the smell of grilled steak was almost more than we could bear.
We compromised with a lobster linquine and surf and turf, served with their amazing grilled bread and a caprese salad.
We continued to be amazed by the food offerings on Holbox.
Matt was ready to call it a night, but I had spent all week smelling the delicious crepes and marquesitas on the square each night as we passed by. When La Parilla informed us that they had run out of the apple pie, I knew tonight was the night.
Matt has always been perplexed by my inexplicable fondness for street food. If it comes out of the trunk of a car or is being whipped up on a greasy grill on the side of a highway, I’m all over it.
Sure, it has led to more than one bout with some serious digestive distress, but it has also resulted in some of my favorite food experiences.
My very soul needed a marquesita.
The combination of cheese and chocolate inside a crispy sweet crepe was more than I could resist. It sounded delicious and terrible all at the same time.
I took a bite.
It was a perfect combination of sweet and savory, crispy and soft at the same time. It was the best $1 I had ever spent.
My stint in the long marquesita line had made Matt thirsty, so we popped into Luuma for a couple of cocktails before heading back to Casa las Tortugas.
It was officially time to call it a night.
It was my favorite time of day: breakfast.
“What day is it?” Matt asked lazily, taking a sip of his fresh watermelon juice as we waited for breakfast to arrive. I watched as a big drip of condensation lazily made its way down the side of the glass.
“Wednesday. No, wait, Thursday. Friday?”
We had discovered that it was easy to lose time on Holbox.
The name means “black hole.” The name originally came from the very deep, very dark lagoon found on the island, but I think the name more accurately describes the way you can simply vanish here. I felt like we were disappearing into a void of sunshine and chilled tequila….never to be seen again.
We had settled into the languid rhythm of the island. Days seemed longer. Nights seemed later. Our hair was getting lighter. Our skin was getting darker. The water felt warmer. Drinks tasted colder.
Life was sweeter.
There was sand and sun, but something was different. Something really set this place apart from anything I had ever experienced…The people. The food. The sounds. The slow warmth of it spread into your limbs until you felt you could simply fade into the soft cotton of your daybed.
It really seemed that time had stood still here on Holbox. Maybe that was why we weren’t even sure what day it was.
I spent the entirety of our last day at Casa las Tortugas in my bikini. I never put my shoes on. I wasn’t even sure where they were at this point. I smelled like honey and coconut oil.
I tried to keep a cocktail in my hand at all times. If I felt too lazy, someone from Mandarina would bring it to me.
Our day was spent on the horizontal, alternating between a hammock, a soft shady daybed, and a thatched-roof palapa near the beach.
It was official. We had come undone.
In the late afternoon we roused ourselves long enough to grab some cocktails at a nearby beach bar and find some lunch.
We enjoyed a late afternoon lunch at Pizzeria Edelyn to try the famous “lobster pizza” that the island claims you can’t leave without sampling.
Our consensus was that we probably could have left the island without sampling it.
It was fine, it just wasn’t worth prying ourselves off our beach chairs for.
It was worth the walk, however, simply to find the only salon in existence that specializes in that "Duran Duran" look.
We enjoyed our final sunset with cocktails at Casa Sandra’s small beachfront bar. A mariachi band strolled down the sand. Dogs played at our feet.
It was bittersweet.
We had decided to have our final dinner at El Chapulim.
Rated #1 on nearly every travel site for Holbox that existed, I felt certain this place would be overhyped.
And we were late.
Everyone knows that if you want to eat at El Chapulim, you show up early. They don’t take reservations and the chef prepares a set amount of exactly 4 entrees each night. When you arrive, if you are lucky enough to be seated, the chef comes out to tell you what he has prepared. Your order is taken, and your food is brought out to you in minutes.
I had read that you must arrive by 6:30 if you wanted to get a seat. It was almost 8:00. I knew we would be turned away in shame.
As luck would have it, we were seated. And we were the last ones that got a table.
It was Holbox magic.
We had eaten a lot of good meals on the trip. Matt and I both agreed that this was easily one of our best overall food vacations, with the only exceptions being Greece and Italy. The meals had been outstanding.
El Chapulim was the best meal of the trip.
It really lived up to the hype.
Maybe it was the chef’s dog laying under our table. Maybe it was the glow of candlelight that made everything seem magical. Maybe it was just the remnants of the tequila haze that I had lived in for the past week.
But everything about our dinner seemed perfect.
It was the perfect way to end this trip.
We couldn’t believe it was our last Mandarina breakfast. We went big, not only ordering the fruit and the omelet, but tackling a giant plate of banana and Nutella waffles too.
We had to leave Mexico.
We were getting fat.
We had time to take one last look around.
We had arrived a week ago not really knowing what to expect. We had not found cookie-cutter luxury. It was not a Four Seasons.
Holbox’s edges were rough, but the simple beauty of it shone anyway. There was a gypsy sensibility, an undercurrent of rustic stylishness, and a touch of “beach chic” everywhere we looked. It’s an island of sleepy days and mellow sunsets.
Holbox was lazy. It was vibrant. It conjured images of colorful art, wild flamingoes, and endless palapas rustling in the breeze.
I could still taste the smoky mescal and tangy ceviche and feel the gritty sand between my toes.
We had found an unspoiled island that combined awe-inspiring encounters with nature, true Mexican hospitality and a laid-back European vibe. We found fishermen and wooden boats falling apart at the water’s edge, random dogs lying under our feet at even the nicest restaurants, and an uncomplicated simplicity that we found irresistible.
As I packed to leave, I realized I didn’t even know where my shoes were, and that made me happy.
We’re back home now and Holbox is a distant memory, fading more with each workday.
But somewhere, on a remote stretch of underdeveloped paradise on the Yucatan Peninsula, a swaying hammock waits for my return.