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Imagine being in a small boat in the middle of the ocean. Out of nowhere emerges a massive shark the size of a school bus with 3,000 teeth. Would you:

  1. Wet your swim trunks,
  2. Jump in the water behind it so it won’t see you,
  3. Jump in the water right in front of it, or
  4. Remain on the boat.

According to our VIP Holbox guide, Willy, the correct answer is #3. So that is exactly what we do.

Growing up to 40’ long, whale sharks are the largest fish in the world. Even though their mouths are as wide as a queen-sized bed, they don’t actually eat with them. They eat through their gills, also known as filter-feeding, which is good news for the adventure seekers who flock to Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula each summer for the opportunity to swim with these gentle giants. However, most visitors do so from the over-developed, overly touristy areas of Cancún, Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen, or Isla Mujeres. If those places aren’t your style (or the recent Mexico travel warnings have you worried), then you should check out the Yucatán’s best kept secret:

Isla Holbox

Life sized Holbox Island sign on the beach. The space for the "L" is blank so visitors can stand in its place for photo ops.

Following are five reasons why Holbox (pronounced “hole-bosh”) Island is our new favorite Mexican destination!

1. Beach Perfection!

Holbox boasts the winning trifecta of uncrowded beaches, flour soft sand and crystal clear warm water. An average height person can walk nearly the distance of a football field before the bathtub-warm water is shoulder high.

2. Chill Factor

This tiny island has no paved roads and very few cars. Golf carts function as taxis and family cars. You won’t find Carlos‘n Charlie’s, Señor Frog’s, theme parks, or high rises on Holbox. You won’t get hassled either. Visitors (mostly Mexicans, South Americans, and Europeans) come here to relax—not to party. And we like it that way.

Holbox Island hanging swings over crystal clear shallow beach waterHammocks strung over the shallow, clear ocean on Holbox Island

3. Authentic Charm

Driving the stretch of highway from Cancún to Akumal recently, it felt more like a bizarre mash-up of Orlando, Epcot Center, and the Las Vegas strip than actual Mexico. Holbox Island is authentically charming without actually trying. Unlike most touristy areas of Mexico—that separate the pueblos from the tourist areas–locals AND visitors gather in the main square each evening for a game of pick up basketball, to play in the park, or just to hang out.

Street scene from Holbox Island's town square

4. Dog Friendly

In all my travels, I’ve never seen a more dog-friendly place. There were dogs on golf carts, dogs on bikes, dogs in restaurants, dogs in stores, but all wore collars, were sweet, social and well cared for. I didn’t see a single stray. Two dogs stand guard at a corner market on the main square. Visitors stop by all day long trying to get the perfect pic of the unlikely duo. Many of the hotels are dog-friendly too, so you can take your best friend to Holbox with you.

5. Whale Sharks

Between May and September, swimming with whale sharks is THE main attraction of Holbox Island. We booked our excursion directly with VIP Holbox and were not disappointed. Willy (our guide) and Pablo (our captain) took great care to ensure that each guest had an unforgettable experience. They were professional, responsive, and prepared the best fresh ceviche ever!


Recent reports of tainted booze and drug violence have many families rethinking their travel plans to visit Mexico. If you’re looking for the perfect authentic beach destination, then consider a visit to the Yucatán’s best kept secret. But, shhhh, don’t tell.

From: 4wornpassports.com


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