Meet Mexico’s peaceful paradise: Isla Holbox

Meet Mexico’s peaceful paradise: Isla Holbox

Adrienne Jordan, USA TODAY TRAVEL Go Escape

(Photo: Thinkstock)

A clear blue sky and warm turquoise waters complement the pastel-hued buildings in town. Fishermen walk through the colorful village swinging their catch of the day. Calls from sea eagles provide a calming staccato, and a backdrop of tangled red mangrove trees form a picturesque border.

Welcome to Isla Holbox.

Holbox, which means “black hole” in Yucatec Maya, is a 26-mile-long island separated from the mainland of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula by a shallow lagoon. It’s one of the Caribbean’s best-kept secrets, a short ferry ride from the small town of Chiquila, which is a two-hour drive from Cancun.

Adventurers flock here for the kitesurfing and fly-fishing opportunities, and foodies indulge in the quaint restaurants, which serve fresh lobster and grouper caught by locals. Wildlife-watching is unsurpassed (as part of the Yum Balam Biosphere Reserve, Holbox hosts a bounty of horseshoe crabs, white pelicans, flamingos, whale sharks and other exotic species).

The authentic, slow pace of life (instead of cars, golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation) and warm, welcoming locals create a unique destination, truly one of the last sleepy Mexican beach towns.

VIP Holbox Experience, a tourism agency, taking tourists on a whale shark boat tour. (Photo: VIP Holbox Experience)

Marine Encounters

The deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, about 45 minutes offshore from Isla Holbox, are home to the pride and joy of the island: whale sharks. The shark’s double dorsal fin, intricately spotted body and 5-foot-long mouth that seems like a never-ending smile delight locals and tourists alike.

The world’s largest fish, which can reach lengths of 40 feet, is safe to swim alongside. Murals, T-shirts, souvenirs and wooden signs throughout the island beckon people to “Swim with Whale Sharks.”

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