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Do you want to get out of the fray of popular vacation destinations, like Cancun, Mexico? Had enough Senor Frogs, irresponsible adults, and American influences on your international holiday? Do you have dreams of an authentic and relaxing Mexican experience? Try Mexico’s islands.
You may want to explore the islands off of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. There are many great less-commercialized islands (Cozumel excluded!) of which I explored two of them – Isla Mujeres and Holbox Island (pronounced Hol-bosh)
ISLA MUJERES – A DELIGHTFUL SURPRISE
With the turquoise waters you expect of the western Caribbean Sea and the clean, plush white sand beaches, the sea was delightfully calm and warm all day. If you’re looking to sip a mojito or an ice-cold beer lazily in the warm Caribbean Sea, then look no further to Isla Mujeres. It’s easy to unplug, unwind, un-do, un-everything in Isla Mujeres – here there are no worries – sunbathe, sea, lounge, pool, nap, eat, drink, and play.
The island has many things to offer from water excursions, like whale shark and snorkeling tours, to exploring the island on a golf cart, to eating exquisite shrimps and lobsters in the charming downtown streets lined with local restaurants and street market shops.
To get around the island, simply slip on your havianna flip-flops and safely explore on foot. The quaint town has a handful of streets to wander about. Many people rent a golf cart for a day to explore the 4-mile island on their own private adventure.
The island comes with all the modern amenities of all-inclusive resorts. We enjoyed 3 nights at the
Privilege Aluxes Isla Mujeres Hotel with the all-inclusive rate. The property served up a full buffet breakfast, nice cocktails, and had a very nice Japanese restaurant (make reservations at least 48 hours in advance!). We got a tip from another guest to go to Oscar’s Grill for pizza. We had our first lobster pizza – A-maz-ing! Our taste buds were sparkling in happiness!
Isla Mujeres is easily accessible within a 45-minute drive from the Cancun airport to the port, where by you grab a 30 minute ferry ride to the island. With AGI Tours, they affordably make your Cancun to Isla Mujeres transfer experience a breeze.
After clearing customs at the airport, simply walk through the time-share sharks and outside you will see your name on a sign to meet your AGI Tour Concierge. The Concierge will manage your bags and direct you to your driver. In a private, air-conditioned van, your driver will take you to the port, provide you ferry boat tickets and will safely handle your luggage to the boat. When you land on the island, another AGI Tours driver awaits to take you to the hotel. Their service is consistent, safe, comfortable and with English-speaking drivers you are in good hands with AGI Tours.
Isla Mujeres was such a great experience that she inspired me to explore other Mexican islands. As Cancun airfares are very affordable, exploring the islands makes for a unique vacation without breaking the bank!
HOLBOX ISLAND – A TASTE OF AUTHENTICITY
Ilsa Mujeres inspired me to explore other Mexican islands, so I returned home and began researching online. I learned there are many islands off the Yucatan Peninsula, so why Holbox? My desire was for a more authentic Mexican experience and one that was less touristy. Let me be honest with you! During my research online, I was romanticized by other travel bloggers experiences on the island. Reading about the quiet town with sandy roads, beautiful beaches and water, and an island that catered toward fishing and less on tourism – it sounded perfect!
My reality was insanely different. The reality includes un-neutered Pit-bulls (along with all other kinds of dogs) wandering along the streets, beaches and in the restaurants and stores. You will see trash littered on the dirt roads. You will swat flies and bugs.
You will share the beach with fisherman and who is a fisherman’s best friend? Birds!
If your style is Eco-Travel, then Holbox could work for you. We noticed two types of tourists – a lot of backpackers and surprisingly a lot of Europeans. You won’t see many Americans, at least I didn’t.
Getting to Holbox is part adventure. It’s a 2 hour drive (no-traffic) from Cancun. We had traffic, so our ride was 3 hours. We hired AGI Tours and they were equally consistent, professional and affordable as our trip earlier to Isla Mujeres. Once at Port Chiquilla, there are two ferry boat companies – 9 Hermanos and Holbox Express. We tried both companies and they are fine; the Express boats are newer with reclining chairs in the cabin. You will purchase your ‘boletos’ at the ticket stand, which will cost you $7-8 each way, per person – pesos recommended, tho they will accept US dollars.
When you dock at Holbox, you will take a golf-cart Taxi to your hotel. They are many waiting near to the dock for you!
In general, pesos were preferred on Holbox and many merchants don’t accept credit cards. Make sure you have cash on-hand.
Holbox offers many local restaurants, featuring the daily caught fish – including lobsters, seabass and jumbo shrimp. For dinner, the restaurants operate from a position of supply, not demand. After 8:15pm, you may be turned away because they are out-of-food!
Fruits are plentiful on the island. You will find fresh juices and smoothies all around. Sweetly delicious.
Looking for a great steak? Save this for Ruth Chris Steakhouse or any other steakhouse back in the States.
When eating in Holbox, bring along your hand sanitizer and be diligent to use it before and after all meals. I also recommend brushing your teeth with bottled water. Both my husband and I got a food born illness (on separate days) because we were not as careful as we should have been!
Holbox has a nice artistic style. As you wander about, you will see many murals painted on the side of businesses and homes, like this one here.
Also, for souvenirs, Holbox Island is a treasure of shells. As I was lounging about on the beach, each day I saw at least two large shells surface from the ocean. It’s fun to explore the shells, but you should not take any shells that have living creatures inside!! Many shops and local beach stands sell cleaned shells inexpensively.
After 3 days, we bolted off the island prematurely. The Holbox experience just wasn’t what we expected, so to salvage our vacation we headed back to Cancun for a nice beach day.
You may face similar situations on any vacation you take. If you are not enjoying yourself, simply activate a Plan B. In our case, I scanned through my hotel loyalty programs and booked a night using my points for a free hotel night. I save my hotel points specifically for situations like this one.
Adios to Holbox. Hola to Isla Mujeres. And see you soon, me amigo, Cancun.
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