It was a warm day. Salt spray was tainted with the smell of rotting seaweed as I cycled along the almost deserted beach. I stopped under the shade of the mangroves to view the abundant birdlife. This was truely a birdwatching paradise. Within seconds the healthy mosquito population came to feed on my blood. My partner Sonja was not only eaten by the mosquitos, but the equally healthy population of no-see-ums or sandflies joined the feast. This is the reality of Isla Holbox. It is not all expensive hotels and classy restaurants.
Isla Holbox by Bicycle
It is best to see and experience Isla Holbox by bicycle or hiking. There are trails that criss cross the island and when there were no trails, there is always the beach.
On our first day we set off to cycle along the beach with our bicycles. The strong northerly wind was blowing a constant stream of seaweed onto the otherwise pristine beaches. The rotting smell seemed to attract the abundant mosquitoes and even worse, the sandflies. Any attempt at laying on the beach to absorb the suns rays were out of the question.
Our first sojourn took us in the direction of Mosquito Point which was about 5km away, however, the rising tide forced a retreat. We didn’t make it far. Only far enough to observe an instructor teaching a student the physics behind the sport of Kiteboarding. I think I would like to try Kiteboarding one day, however, my budget does not allow me at the moment. I guess once I learned to control the kite I could pick it up quite quickly.
At the other end of Isla Holbox is the little visited Cocos point or Punta Cocos. It is a couple of kilometers ride past many expensive looking hotels with many more under construction. I couldn’t help but think that this place will be overrun very soon. A mini Cancun of the future.
At Punta Cocos there is little other than a small jetty, white sand and some shady trees. The perfect escape on a hot afternoon. By this point our water was all but exhausted so we made our way back to town. Isla Holbox by bicycle is definitely the best way to experience the island.
Hiking Isla Holbox
On the second day we set off to hike as far as we could around the island. The aptly named Punta Mosquito was our destination. It was rumoured that we could find bright pink flamingos in the vicinity.
To be the first ones to see them we set off very early in the morning, 9am. At that hour of the day most normal tourists are still in bed. As expected we saw few other hikers. Unfortunately, the early start had us hiking in water that was often waist deep as we crossed the deep ocean channels to the sandbars. Times like these I was thinking, are there crocodiles on the island? But for the most part the water crossings were fairly shallow.
Frigate birds, Pelicans, Egrets and a plethora of wading birds were easily sighted as we hiked along the beach. There was enough variety of species to keep most birdwatchers happy. I was happy. When we reached Mosquito Point there were no Flamingos to be seen. It was just not our day. It was a total of about 10km of hiking when we returned to our tent to rest until sunset. Hiking on Isla Holbox is a great way to explore the island.
Budget Travel on Isla Holbox
We arrived at Chiquilá on the Mexican mainland via our usual mode of transport, bicycle. Only a couple of days earlier I recommenced my cycling journey from Alaska to Argentina. There were two ferry options for the 10km ride to the Holbox Island. They leave every 30 minutes or so and cost 140 pesos ($9US) for a gringo which is twice the price the locals pay. It cost an extra 40 pesos ($3US) to bring our bicycles.
Once on the Isla Holbox it was refreshing to cycle down the main street of town without the worry of busy traffic. Just gringos, friendly dogs and golf carts on the streets.
Expensive hotels dominate the accomodation menu on Holbox, so when we arrived it was difficult to secure a cheap room. In other words, cheap and room do not exist on this Island. Shared dorm accomodation cost more than a private room in a hotel on most parts of the Mexican mainland. Our best budget option was to camp.
Next to the airport, if that is what it is called, was the cheapest food on the island. A couple of locals vendors have set up shops selling tacos, empanadas and more. Right next store is some of the cheapest fruit and vegetables on the island. Did I mention this place is expensive compared to the mainland.
Camping on Isla Holbox
There were a couple of camping options on the island but we settled on camping at Ida y Vuelta Hostal for 150 pesos per night, which included a basic breakfast. To sweeten the deal there was use of a fully stocked kitchen to cook our favourite large bowls of pasta. The place was secure with large trees to lock our bicycle and storage lockers for the rest of our gear. The only problem, the bugs outnumbered humans by about a million to one. The result was a polka dotted network of bites. Not many people mention how bad the mosquitos are, believe me, they are bad.
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