Hidden Holbox: The Mexico You Haven't Met

Words by Laura Samper
Photos by Iago Leonardo

A TURQUOISE JEWEL IS HIDDEN IN THE GULF OF MEXICO AS A PIRATE'S TREASURE.

Some say its name was given by ancient Mayan spirits who assumed the form of elements to share their secrets with the fishermen during the change of seasons. Others say it is not a jewel but a goddess who embodies storms and wild winds whenever she feels it is time for a collective transformation. Some romantics affirm they’ve seen her as gorgeous women seducing wanderers in the summer nights. 

Holbox Island, a beautiful beach in the North of Yucatan, is not only for sipping mojitos while getting tanned but also a place for meeting the unknown. Many travelers talk about their experience as if they were bewitched by some kind of magical energy that keeps them coming back year after year. This “black hole,” as it translates from the Mayan K’iche’ language, has been kept a secret for years, but the rumor of paradise already begins to spread.

Twenty years ago, la isla was the home of less than 500 habitants—mostly fishermen with their families living in palapas, small cabanas made of palm, wood, and stone. Some of the first hotels kept this simple yet elegant feature as a way to blend human life with nature. Mawimbi, Ser Casasandra, Paraíso del Mar, and Casa las Tortugas are a few examples of how Holbox looked when there was no ferry, no internet connection, and all you needed was a map.

Holbox is a place where cultures collide. Europeans and Americans love the boho-chic vibes and the chance to experience something unique, particularly during winter and spring when yoga and meditation retreats are in high demand. The island is going through her own internal transformation as well. More establishments are adopting eco-friendly, plastic-free practices. The restaurants Arte-Sano, Naay, and Painapol are the top three healthy options owned by Mexican millennial entrepreneurs.

The home of whale sharks and dolphins is the perfect refuge for those looking for inner peace. Although tourism is growing at a fast pace with more city-like architecture, the island keeps her mysticism and her desire to remain untamed. The electric storms during autumn and the quietness of the sea in summer evoke a deep awareness of universality. Perception of time and space is suddenly influenced by the dance of the elements in its rawest and most exquisite version. Many come here just to be reborn in her arms without even knowing it until they go back home. 

Holbox is a great guru and a powerful place to truly asses the experience of wellness. Walking on the beach while watching the pink sky at sunset becomes meditation, as does sailing toward Bird Island, bathing in bioluminescence on summer nights, spotting hoards of flamingos, kayaking through the mangroves, and riding bikes instead of cars on the sandy streets. The beauty of this mysterious landscape runs deep in the soul because it invites you to free yourself from old patterns and behaviors, to remain present.

Nobody remembers a day when people slept with closed doors and windows. Nobody can say they use shoes daily or are troubled by traffic jams. Nobody has ever seen the face of the goddess except in the dancing grace of white herons, in the music of crickets at night, in the colors of every flower and every leaf, in the infinite bright sand, in the rain and the night skies. If you are looking for a destination that will definitely give more than an all-inclusive package, this is the place to be.

And this is why I chose Holbox. Or did she choose me? I lived in the big cities of Bogotá and Mexico City as a journalist and producer for most of my life. I took a leap of faith and changed my life completely. A friend of mine invited me to teach yoga on the island, and I couldn’t say no. I was planning to stay for six months because I didn’t know the island’s tantalizing effect. It’s been three years since I moved, and all I’ve received is love and openness.

MUST VISIT PLACES IN HOLBOX, MEXICO

STAY: Hotel Ser CasasandraHotel Mawimbi, or Hotel La Palapa 
EAT + DRINK: Have breakfast at Painapola dream during hot days. Order a ceviche forl unch in the beachfront local restaurant Raíces and enjoy the live music. Have dinner at the artsy-chic Ser Esencia. Have a cocktail at Luuma bar or Viva Zapata.
PLAY: Sweat away tensions and toxins and re-connect with nature in a Temazcal at Hotel Paraíso. If you're visiting during winter try a kitesurfing lesson in Punta Mosquito! Ask how to get to Chamay- it's the quietest beach full of birds and jumpy fish.
YOGI LIFE: Practice yoga every morning with Laura Samper at 10:30 am at Hotel Ser Casasandra! @laurasamper @yogaholbo