Isla Holbox – Losing Time in Paradise

Losing Time

“How long have you been here on Isla Holbox?” She asked

“5 days, no, 6, actually, I’m not sure.” I’ve taken to not wearing a watch or checking the date in beach towns or when I don’t have to be somewhere. It’s easy to lose track of time.

I’ve seen numerous events posted at the hostel and around town, but I’ve never known one to start within an hour of when it was supposed to or best I could tell without a watch. Not only does Isla Holbox run on Latin America time, it runs on Island time as well. The resulting combination can sometimes mean we’re lucky if anything gets accomplished in a day.

As if to emphasize the desire for Isla Holbox to ignore time, I went to the 24-hour mini-supermarket one morning only to find it closed. I could do little else but laugh and find myself an alternate store.

On February 4th I realized I had 3 days before I should call my brother to wish him a happy birthday, the next time I looked at the date it was the 8th. Four days had passed. I could recall that I did things and they were fun, but to be honest, which day was which and how I managed to completely miss my brothers birthday (again), is beyond me. Such is sun, sand, and surf.

Isla Holbox

Isla Holbox

Isla Holbox, pronounced ‘Ea Holbosh’ in the local native tongue is only about 55 square kilometers, less than half of which seems to be populated. The center is where most of the action is, just off the ferry. To the west lie scattered villas, and the east is mostly lagoon. Take a kayak trip to the east lagoon and you might come across one of the large local crocodiles.

The beach on Isla Holbox was spectacular, the shell white sand stretches out for ages and one has to go quite a ways out into the turquoise water before finding waves lapping at anything more than waist height.

A few friends and I spent the better part of an afternoon walking along the beach and through a small lagoon to the west side of the island before swimming a narrow channel to the smaller island known as “La Passion.”  Though barely a few hundred square meters, this island is home to a variety of birds, iguanas, and a nice lookout point. We were told there was a point where we could walk across from Isla Holbox to La Passion, but were unable to locate it. Sadly I didn’t get any pictures from the vantage point as I didn’t want to risk my camera on the swim over.

Walking east along the beach would have taken me to mosquito point to view the flamingos, which however would have been a whole day endeavor. Given the fact that on Isla Holbox I lacked the desire to go much further than a half kilometer from the hostel following our adventure to the west side of the island, I never made it to mosquito point.

The large sand bar is one of the reasons Holbox has become a haven for kite surfers both experienced and learning. I was due to start learning midweek, however a fishermens’ collective of sorts managed to get kiting banned on the island. The best I could make of it was that the locals didn’t like that someone else was making money on their island. I thought it was silly, considering how much money the kiters spend on accommodations, food, and other things while on Holbox, but who am I to argue? I hope things change.

My original intention was to actually head to Holbox for the whale shark diving, however my timing was off as they don’t arrive until May at least. I’d love to stay that long, or perhaps I could come back if I don’t have a chance to see them elsewhere. I’m told Honduras is also a good option.

Tribu Hostel

Tribu - Isla HolboxMost mornings on Isla Holbox found myself on the beach quite early, for although my hostel , named Tribu, wasn’t located beach front, it wasn’t far. I wasn’t the only one feeling the sand between my toes in the early morning either. Not long after sunrise, David, the hostel owner, came to watch the sea with his infant son, a magnificent way to start the child’s life.

The hostel itself is one of the best I’ve ever seen. From the moment you step through the door, it’s apparent that Tribu was set up by a traveler. David and his wife’s extensive adventures gave them a veritable laundry list of what any backpacker would want to see in a truly great hostel.Tribu - Isla Holbox

I was on the roof top terrace that overlooks the ocean speaking to a girl who had never been traveling before, she was just on a short vacation and her experienced friend had brought her to Tribu.

“This place is wonderful,” she remarked, “if this is what all hostels are like I can do this!”

I turned to her well-traveled friend and searched for confirmation. “Honestly, this is by far one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed at. I have to consider this place an anomaly.”

Her friend piped up in agreement, “Yeah, places like this don’t really exist.”

Hostelbookers site or the hostels own website will give you a detailed list of Tribu’s extensive amenities, but what really matters is the atmosphere the place and its staff create. The large communal kitchen, a dining area overlooking the courtyard and the bar give ample space to encourage socializing. The hammock chairs, rooftop terrace, and proximity to the beach allow travelers to escape, relax, delve into a book, or just sleep.

A sign on the wall asks “Have a talent or a skill? Want to teach it at Tribu?” Tribu - Isla Holbox

In the time I was there one of the travelers spent much of his day painting works of art on the walls of our dorm room in exchange for his accommodations. A lovely pair of girls declared themselves to be the social planners of the hostel. One night midway through my time there they organized a “Tribal Party” which found most of the staff and half of the party goers covered in colourful body paint by the time the bar closed. I ended up with a bow-tie and suit of sorts and spent much of the evening attempting to paint Maori-style tribal art on a few of the girls I had met that week. It’s a rough life.

The night was capped off with a fire dancing show where another member of the staff displayed her impressive Fire Poi skills. Later on that week she even held a workshop in which she taught us how to make and use our own Poi. I’m currently practicing though it’s clear I have some work ahead of me before I get to play with real fire. I like my eyebrows and intend to keep them as long as possible.

If it wasn’t for my brother being scheduled to land in Cancun on the 19th, I could have easily seen finding myself at Tribu for a month or two as many of the staff had. Isla Holbox is truly a wonderful place to lose time.

Isla Holbox


Sunset - Isla Holbox


Hammocks Tribu - Isla Holbox



Isla Holbox