I have a confession to make.
I didn’t completely fall head over heels in love with Isla Holbox.
I was kind of nervous about telling you guys this. Holbox is one of those places that people totally RAVE about. It would be like if someone told me they didn’t like Bali. I’d be all, “say what now?”
But we each have our own experiences, different weather, we meet totally different people, we find ourselves in different moods. There are so many factors that come into play when you visit somewhere new, especially somewhere that is as beloved as Isla Holbox.
The trouble was, I thought I would seriously love it. I really did. I thought it was going to be somewhere that was right up my alley.
I thought the lack of cars, the unpaved roads made of sand, and the hammocks in the sea would be everything I’d ever dreamed of.
All that stuff was there. It was beautiful. The waters were crystal clear and so shallow you could walk out over 100 meters and still only be about ankle deep.
There really were hammocks in the ocean. The roads weren’t paved and they were covered in sand, just like I’d read.
But something wasn’t quite right.
It’s Not All That “Eco”
I think one of the biggest let downs was that it was nowhere near as eco-friendly as I thought it was going to be. I’ve stayed in hotels in Mexico City that are more eco-friendly than anything I saw on Holbox.
All that I’d read about getting around by bicycle and the island being well looked after were, well, kind of a lie.
Most places where we got street food or drinks gave us plastic utensils, styrofoam cups (I literally cry every time I’m given styrofoam), and plastic straws. And guess where most of that ends up?
There’s a Lot of Garbage Around
Not quite as much as Isla Mujeres, but that’s for another post. There’s garbage on the beach, garbage on the streets, and sadly, garbage in the water.
Isla Holbox is a tiny island and all this waste has to end up somewhere. I was really, really disappointed to see the way some tourists and locals simply walked past a plastic bag blowing in the wind or styrofoam cups floating in the water.
I hope more is done to help prevent this getting worse as more tourists flock to “paradise.”
The Golf Carts are Kind of a Hindrance
Forget bicycles, golf carts rule this island. You can rent them for about $50 a day and they are a much quicker way to get around the island. Even the taxis are golf carts.
Drunk tourists head from the bars back to their hotels in them every night. Since there aren’t really roads, there obviously aren’t any road rules. I lost count of how many times I literally had to jump out of the road so I didn’t get knocked down, both during the day and at night.
When you lay on the beach, you might expect to hear music, a bit of wind through the trees, perhaps the sound of the sea lapping against the sand. Nope. The only thing you can hear is the roar of the golf carts as they zip past the beach front.
Not exactly the sounds of paradise that I’d imagined.
It’s Not All Bad
I don’t want to sound like prima-donna or lead to you think that this place is just one big landfill full of gas-guzzling golf carts.
I had a great time on Isla Holbox. We stayed at a nice hotel, we ate amazing seafood, and the water really is insanely beautiful.
It’s not some terrible place that should be avoided.
I think I was just so disappointed that it was so vastly different to what I had imagined. It’s partly my fault for not doing more research, for perhaps being so naive about “paradise”. But I also think it’s important to highlight what it’s really like so that YOU don’t feel the same disappointment.
I also think it’s important to shed some light on the problems that I saw so that if you DO decide to go to Holbox, you can do your part to leave a smaller footprint.
What Do You Think?
Have you ever been to Isla Holbox? What was your experience there? Do you think I’m just being overdramatic or kind of naive for thinking it would be so perfect? I’d love to hear how you handle these sort of let-downs!
Thursday 4th of August 2022
I couldn’t agree more with your article! We went July 2022. I was completely disappointed in what us humans are doing to our earth. I was so excited to go there and then…..the trash! Everywhere!!! The mass amounts of mosquitos, I get it, it is part of the island. Roads flooding because of the rain, that’s ok too. Rudeness, unacceptable. This island has so much potential, it just needs the right humans to take care of it. The food, I can’t rave about. All in all, I have been there done that and most likely won’t be going back or at least anytime soon.
Saturday 4th of June 2022
I went in April 2022, so just recently. I hated it. I looked like Amazon land. The whole decor looked like ordered from amazon or tiktok must haves. They tourists were obnoxious. Every girl looked like an Instagram basic bitch, everyone wore the same things. I saw people glued to their phones, recording Insta stories all day lon. Cringy neon signs everywhere. Bars selling smoothie bowls and „instagrammable food“ instead of Mexican food. Very expensive, too. Weird pop music covers in the bars. No party feeling at night, everyone just sippin alc and being cool. The cringy af tinder meet up point. The island has so amazing. We went 15-20 min to the right, away from the tourists. It was much nicer there!
Tuesday 14th of December 2021
I have been to Holbox 3 times now and I love it completely. Yes, the trash makes me sad but everywhere I have been I haven't been given any plastic or a straw unless it was metal or 'pasta'. Yes, the golf carts can be a pain but if you stay outside of town they really aren't a nusiance on the beach. I have never found the water to be dirty or trashy. I have been twice in February and never experienced mosquitoes. Most recently I was there after Thanksgiving and did have some bites but didn't actually see a mosquito. Tourists must have respect for the places they visit and never leave trash...only footprints.
Friday 10th of December 2021
I was on Holbox about 15 years ago. If I remember right, there were no motorized vehicles at all. Taxis were a tricycle-type bike with a board seat for passengers to sit on. What I remember most is that in June, the place was overrun with mosquitos. The locals burned green wood to cause smoke and carried towels with them everywhere they went to slap the mosquitos away. It’s hard to separate the beauty and the fun from the mosquito misery in my memory.
Monday 16th of August 2021
I am doing research on where to next and I appreciated this about Holbox. Have you been to the Isla Mujeres?
Thursday 19th of August 2021
Yes! I really loved Isla Mujeres, especially the far side of the island where the lighthouse is. It's a beautiful spot!