Trip Report: Tulum & Holbox Island, Mexico

By CrustyCanucks - June 21, 2017

tulum mexico ruins

Being from Western Canada, we are always on the lookout for a warm winter escape, and Mexico has been one of our favorite places to go for a few years now. This last winter we visited Tulum and Holbox Island, and here is a report from our trip. 

When we were doing our trip research, it seemed to us that Tulum was the type of place that many people ended up just simply passing through while viewing her famous ruins, but not staying over and this intrigued us. Well, and the fact that Tulum is home to some of the most beautiful rental mansions in Mexico didn't hurt either. 

We booked ourselves one not too far from the beach, and then after a couple days of eating, cycling to the beach, and taking it easy, it was time to check out the famous Tulum ruins for ourselves. The ruins were pretty much as advertised in our guidebook in that they were very humble in size and set against an absolutely breath-stealing teal backdrop of Caribbean Sea. 

Unfortunately, we went right in the middle of the day (just like our guidebook told us NOT to do) and were crushed by lots of other fellow tourists. If we were perhaps a slight bit underwhelmed by our ruins experience, we were absolutely overwhelmed at how tasty the food and drinks were in Tulum - and you know that's half of the reason why we travel. Not really known as a culinary center, we couldn't find a bad meal or drink if we tried in Tulum. Some of our favorites were El Camello (fantastic fish tacos), Taqueria Honorio (great place to eat with the locals and at local prices), and the bar at the El Jardin de Frida (try the mezcal margarita, you won't regret it!)

Without a doubt, the highlight of our entire experience in Tulum was discovering a little out of the way taco stand whose name we still can't remember but know that it roughly translates to 'The Carriage' in English. From the moment we stumbled upon this place down a dusty road, we knew our stomachs were into something good. The first impressions were fabulous as these guys set up their cart to look like an Old West American stagecoach and had chorizo links just hanging from the roof, kind of like what you would see in a  deli. Yes, they took things that seriously. I mean, these boys were smashing salsa and guacamole to order, their chorizo was to die a zesty death for, and they garnished their food with the type of flair and style you would expect out of a hipster food truck in Vancouver. It was so nice, we tried it three nights in a row and it was there at The Carriage speaking our Spanglish with locals and chowing down on taco after taco where we truly fell in love with Tulum. 

Feeling very full and a little tan, it was off to the tropical hideaway of Isla Holbox (pronounced Hole-bosh) for a few fun days. 

isla holbox

We had read an article about the island a few years back, and like certain places have a way of doing, it just stuck with us. Maybe it was the oddly exotic name that did it or maybe it was phrases like 'colorful', 'chilled-out', or 'sandy streets' that littered the article that did it, or maybe it was just simply the word Isla in front of its name. Either way, we tucked Isla Holbox away and waited until the time was right - and it was right last winter. 

Isla Holbox is a tad bit isolated, and that no doubt helps create some of its magic. You have to take a bumpy and rough bus three hours from Cancun to Chiquila, then from there take a ferry across to Isla Holbox. All the effort is worth it though, for when you arrive on the island, you enter into a Mexican and Caribbean swirled world that is home to a small population of full-time residents, lazy beach dogs, and a giddy bunch of tourists who walk around smiling knowing they've discovered a little gem off the coast of the Yucatan.

The streets are all made of sand, and there are only a handful of automobiles on the island, and those are usually just beer delivery trucks. The most common mode of transportation is golf cart, and from what we have heard, traffic can get pretty bad around Semana Santa each year. Our Isla Holbox guidebook had described the dogs that inhabit the island as 'sun drunk', and that was the best way to say it as these dogs would lounge around all day in shady cool little spots in the sand and then spend their nights playing around the town square or like one little fella we saw, sleeping on their back in the middle of the street. 

The beaches and the buildings were very reminiscent of the Caribbean, but the street food and drinks were all Mexican. We became really good customers at a place called La Colibri where we enjoyed some mouth-melting mango margaritas. After eating unbelievable hotel breakfasts, we frequented a little fruit store where we would pick up afternoon snacks that would fuel us all the way through admiring sunsets on the beach. The quality of the food at restaurants was a bit of a sore point though, as it always seems to be on small islands. It’s the trade off you make for a bit of isolation and when we spent our last night in the hammocks on the roof of our suite watching some shooting stars over the sea, it was the last thing on our mind.

Can we go back already?

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