“Holbox reminds me of Tulum, ten years ago.”

“Yeah, or Playa del Carmen back in the day, when the Blue Parrot was the only place on the beach.”

Okay, I was eavesdropping; a Holbox Island newbie sitting beside a group of silver-haired norteamericanos in faded board shorts and boat shoes who looked like they would be just as comfortable on Martha’s Vineyard as on this remote Mexican island northwest of Cancun.

Though I half envied them—and others from my parent’s generation who had wandered the Cancun-Tulum corridor before the advent of expressways, all-inclusive resorts, and yoga retreats—I shared their happiness.

Why? Ever since my family moved back to the States from Asia, I’d been searching for a place that reminded me of the castaway beaches we loved so much in Thailand, Burma, and Vietnam.

At last, I thought, as the sun set behind the rickety pier, I’d found it.

Holbox isn’t for everyone, though. If your ideal Mexican beach vacation involves Infinity pools, piña coladas, dressing up for dinner, or getting from point A to point B by gasoline-powered vehicle, you’ll be disappointed.

But if you crave a low-key, low-rise place where hammocks swing from most every palm tree, backpackers drink micheladas with their tacos al pastor, Maya children splash alongside vacationing citizens-of-the-world in the sea, and golf carts ply streets of sand, then look no further.

But pack your biodegradable sunscreen, because ecotourism is the leitmotif here.

The slender 26-mile-long island is part of a vast ecological preserve—Mexico’s largest—called Yum Balam (Lord Jaguar), where the local Maya and their allies have sought to establish and enhance a sustainable and economically viable society.

Today, Holbox (“Black Hole” in Yucatec Maya) is under increasing pressure from those seeking to over-develop this natural paradise. So our family did our best to support local businesses involved in (Read more...)

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