Just a scenic drive north of Playa sits the protected tropical oasis of Holbox Island, home to a host of delightfully authentic restaurants, seasonal flamingos, & friendly whale sharks that are more than happy to share the water with lucky swimmers.Secreted away 1.5 hours north of Playa del Carmen sits a sleepy village of 3,500 fishermen, artists, and their families. Holbox Island (or Isla Holbox) is a laid-back wonderland for nature-lovers and anyone curious what a rustic Mexican-Caribbean fishing village might be like today. Just how rustic is it? To start, there are no paved roads, just streets of compressed white sand for pedestrians, bicycles and golf carts. As far as what you will find, prepare to savor the best meal of your vacation after swimming with whale sharks, fishing for ceviche, and watching flamingos feast.A Vibrant Oasis of Wildlife
The reason Holbox Island attracts such a diverse cast of exotic creatures is its location, where the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea meet in the heart of Yum Balam Nature Reserve (measuring 380,000+ acres). Mayan for “Lord Jaguar,” the protected jungle is home to not only to its namesake animal, but four other species of wild cat. As for the lagoon between Holbox and the mainland, flamingos are just one of 150+ migratory and local bird species that feed here. And last but not least, local waters are also prime for swimming with whale sharks (May-September), dolphins, rays, and turtles. For a truly unforgettable experience (camera and fresh-caught ceviche feast included), book with Holbox Whale Shark Tours.Paradise for Your Taste Buds, Too
You may not think that a place so quaint would have such stellar dining options, but Holbox more than delivers. Hands-down the most special restaurant on the island is El Chapulim (123 Main Street), where the chef prepares the day’s catch without a menu to speak of – just heartfelt cooking, personal service, and some of the tastiest food in all of Mexico. As for other options, the grilled fare at Viva Zapata on Av. Damero is a local treasure, as is the ceviche at Raices on the beach.