Harvey's Travel Views

This is my pros and cons on my last vacation to Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula during the last of June and the first of July 2007. This is my opinions/advice and any advice is like all advice in that it is worth what you pay for it and this is, of course, free. Just a little more info than you get via the companies, governments, and other web sites. I am getting tired of being ripped-off and not having it bother those responsible. And the BLOGS are so hard to find on the web -- I hope I can stand out a little more on the web and help my fellow travelers.


The island of ISLA HOLBOX is almost primitive compared to even ISLA MUJERES. You get there by ferry, or by a very expensive CESSNA 184 (about $600 one way, for four people and 50# of luggage total???). The people ferries are official (2) and semi-official (9 Hermanos boats (2)) and the schedules are even harder to follow. The car ferry is really for construction vehicles and amounts to a barge with a push-boat, and the Chiquila to Isla Holbox car ferry doesn't run on Sunday -- even though the schedule implies daily. So forget the "auto ferry" and if you have a car, you can park it in one of the car parks for about $3.00 per day (a Jeep Wrangler 4x4 would be the only vehicle of any use, anyway). I parked in the Chiquila lot on the Town Square at Chiquila, next to the white Catholic Church (Iglesia Católica). It is only about 50 yards from the Chiquila ferry pier and it is covered parking -- and don't worry. The boats of the 9 Hermanos Company do about 17 MPH and are air-conditioned with a toilet. Count on 30 minutes per trip. There are speed boats for hire (2 - 250 HP outboards) if you are in a real hurry - and you can probably arrange for them to drop you off and pick you up on the beach in front of your hotel -- real cute. There is an agency (about 2 blocks off the Square) on ISLA HOLBOX that will arrange for transfers to almost anywhere, by almost any mode of travel: e.g., Chiquila, Cancun, Merida, etc.

Once you get to ISLA HOLBOX, you can rent a gas-powered Golf Cart for $50-$65 per day, and they go about 10 MPH and if you have, at least, one good headlight, one good taillight, and no brakes, it is typical: otherwise, find another to rent. I liked Willy's - about a block off the Square - Ingrid will take good care of you. One trick I learned is that since all the Golf Carts look alike and all the keys are interchangeable, I tied one of the American Airline's disposable bag tags to the steering wheel with my name on it. People were always taking the wrong cart and you had to guess which one was theirs, and "borrow" it. Check the gas, and if you get low, take it back to the rental agency for a fill-up.

An incident of some note and to illustrate an earlier point about honesty: to get me and my luggage to the ISLA HOLBOX to Chiquila ferry, I packed up a golf cart and headed down the bumpy road (and bumpy is not a word that does justice to the streets on ISLA HOLBOX). On the way, and unbeknownst to me a bag dropped off containing a hundred CDs and a SONY Walkman. I noticed it missing when I got to the ferry. So I unloaded and hurriedly started retracing my path back to Villas Paraiso del Mar without much hope. Almost all the way back, a young man sweeping off his porch, yelled at me and told me in Spanish that another guy had found the bag and was headed to the Isla Holbox ferry on a motorcycle. Just as I turned around, here comes the other guy on a motorcycle and he stopped to tell me that he had given the bag to my wife at the Isla Holbox ferry pier. And he would not except any money for his good deed.

The other thing about this time of the year is the heat. It was getting to 95F during the day before the clouds, and sometimes rain, would come in the afternoon. So plan on a siesta.


The food and restaurants are pretty good. I especially liked ZARABAND about one block off the Town Square -- almost everything is on, or one block off, the Town Square. ZARABAND has the best seafood cerviche and cocktails, that I can ever remember having: the taste is both great and unique. They serve an ISLA HOLBOX drink favorite (Michelada) that is usually a Corona beer that you pour over ice and a dark, spicy, or non-spicy mix (your choice) on the bottom of the glass, that you mix up for a unique taste. Lobster season starts on July 1, so mid July is the best time (and best price) for lobsters on ISLA HOLBOX. It is illegal to take Conch, so forget the Conch Cerviche.

Another great restaurant is CHONCHY's, one floor up on the Square. The chef will make you a seafood extravaganza, that starts off with layers of lettuce and tomatoes, followed by layers of fried, filleted fish, followed by a fried, whole baby Nassau Grouper (my favorite), and topped by a lobster split in two: it serves two, of course. The chef will also fix you some pasta dishes of your choosing, and which he is rightfully proud of.

Another restaurant that is a half-block off the Square is Los Pelicanos: it seems to be run by two Italian (?) ladies. It is almost Italian Haute Cuisine and they prepare very rich, very tasty, very expensive (for ISLA HOLBOX) dishes. They make fresh pasta every day, and their Four Cheese pasta is a take-off on an Alfredo sauce and really nice. The Spinach and Cheese Ravioli comes with a free EKG. They usually include a tray of Bruschetta, gratis, as an appetizer. Don't order seafood, for seafood's sake.


The fanciest hotel on ISLA HOLBOX is the Villas Paraiso del Mar hotel, and they know it!  The Villas Paraiso del Mar hotel even has telephones in the rooms and air conditioners (only one of the two we had in a 2 floor suite worked). The Hotel Sandra is the only other hotel I found that has A/C and a good reputation, and is right on the beach, as well. But the Villas Paraiso del Mar hotel had an Internet room with a fast connection, but only one of the two computers worked. A half-hour was only $2.00. Breakfast comes with the room, but doesn't start until 8 AM. Most trips for whale sharks and fishing start at 7-8 AM, so you can ask them at night for a box lunch (really box breakfast: juice, apple, and ham and cheese sandwich with lettuce, tomato,and mayo). The tour boat will usually provide a box lunch for after swimming/snorkeling. The suites are 2 floor affairs, with a single room rental on the first floor (not a great design feature). So you will have to climb 3 flights of circular staircases to get to your king-size bed, but only 2 to get to the bathroom and living area. There are two cable TV's and two-two line telephones. The Villas Paraiso del Mar hotel on ISLA HOLBOX is fancy, but the service and maintenance are lacking. The are the big Kahuna and they act like it. Don't get me wrong, everyone acts pleasant, just nothing gets done, especially in a timely manner. Food at the restaurant is so-so: for breakfast, it is a buffet, with custom omelets, For lunch (late) it is a buffet with varying prices, if you didn't book the all-inclusive, as it is for dinner (7:30 - 10:30 PM, as I remember, and usually about $15.00). Meals are later than USA normal. If you didn't book the all-inclusive, don't buy a drink at the bar, they are bad and cost $6.50 for a 6 ounce plastic cup. Bugs and lizards are everywhere. In my room I had a pet lizard that came out in the evening to feast on the ants and spiders. Outside during the day, the gnats were bothersome, but the stinging sand flies were horrible: bring the OFF and the RAID!!!!


Of course, the reason to go to ISLA HOLBOX is to swim with the whale sharks (the season for this is considered to be June to September). Book your tour at one of the ISLA HOLBOX major hotels: it may cost you more, but you will get the best, or most professional, company (and the most successful at finding the whale sharks). When I went and there were at least 5-6 whale sharks swimming around, and you had to watch out for them. The whale shark trip is worthwhile, even if you don't snorkel with the 30-40 foot whale sharks. The whale shark boat captain uses a GPS to find the spot where the Gulf and the Caribbean come together, which is where you find the whale sharks feeding. The whale sharks are quite gentle and seem to play along with the game. If the whale sharks see you swimming with them, the whale sharks will slow down so you can keep up -- and the whale sharks can study you. It is about an hour ride on a fast, rough boat and the captain and the guide are very friendly. Wear a shorty wetsuit (or skin) if you have one: more for protection from the rough skin of whale shark and the sun, than the cold of the water (78-80°F maybe). A sandwich and soft drinks are provided, for the trip back. You will probably get a short tour of the island before beaching at the hotel. Tip, if you enjoyed yourself.


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