Far away from the massive resorts of Cancun and the scene of Tulum, there's an under-the-radar Mexican destination that only the most savvy travelers know about...it's called Isla Holbox.
This secret island off the Yucatan peninsula is only 26 miles long and 1 mile wide. It’s home to roughly 2,000 lucky residents, and everyone knows everyone here.
There are no big resorts. No cars. And the locals don’t want any of this to change. They’re focused on preserving the island’s authenticity and natural wildlife, and they’ve fought hard against the mainland’s requests to pave their roads and commercialize the island.
Because of this, Isla Holbox is refreshingly untouched by tourism.
It's the kind of place that brainwashes you into quitting your stable job and moving here to open up a coconut beach bar so you can become one of the locals. (Yes, we seriously considered it.)
When we were planning our trip to the island, we stumbled across a small boutique hotel called Casa Las Tortugas. The hotel looked promising from online reviews:
Beachfront - check.
Local charm - check.
Not too pricey - check.
So we booked a room, packed our bags and hopped on a direct flight to Cancun.
From Cancun, it's only a 2 hour car ride north and a 30 minute ferry to Isla Holbox.
When we arrived at the Isla Holbox port, a taxi (read: golf cart) loaded up our bags and dropped us at the doorstep of Casa Las Tortugas.
The hotel strikes the perfect balance of being a design hotel, but without ever feeling manufactured or pretentious.
An archway of bougainvillea at the entrance opens up to a handful of pink, blue, white, and yellow palapas that surround a gorgeous inner pool with sandy paths that lead around the property.
Much of the decor is handcrafted by local artisans, including the bed linens and light fixtures, while communal areas have Mexican, Guatemalan, and Balinese influences.
The rooms are simple, but thoughtfully decorated. Frida Kahlo quotes are artistically painted on a few of the palapa walls.
The real charm of Casa Las Tortugas is in the little details - so practical and thoughtful you wonder why every beach hotel doesn’t pay attention to such minor things.
The walls in the rooms have lots of little hooks for hanging wet bathing suits, towels and sandy items. A bucket of fresh water sits outside each bungalow door to wash the sand off your feet before heading inside. The reception staff not only hand out fresh beach towels, but also large beach bags from Yucatan's Dutzi Design to carry them in (genius, if you ask us!).
Just past the pool, the hotel’s open-air restaurant Mandarina has killer views of white sand and turquoise water.
The restaurant is boho-chic and comfortable. Instead of cheesy island tunes, they play cool indie music in the background. The best seats in the house are a set of comfy love seats with tables facing the ocean.
Breakfast is included in the room rate for all guests and it's one of the best parts of staying here: fresh coffee, juice, bread & jams served with your choice of the chef's hot or cold dish of the day.
Mornings are perfect when spent lingering here for hours, sipping on one too many cups of coffee and watching the island wake up.
The beachfront is the real draw at Casa Las Tortugas, and it’s the nicest on the island by a long shot.
Large swing beds, beach chairs, and palapa umbrellas are scattered around a meticulously maintained beach (we even saw someone sifting the sand one morning to remove little rocks and shells). Yellow hammocks hang between chairs and perfectly match the color of palm trees overhead.
The sea is calm, warm and shallow even a hundred yards from shore. It’s easy to lounge in the water, sitting on the soft sand while fish swim around our feet and pelicans swoop above. Wade in and you'll be hard pressed to find a reason to come back to shore.
That's the magic of Casa Las Tortugas - time passes just slow enough, but every day goes by much faster than you want it to. You're just lucky to be a resident for a few days.