Ladies and gentlemen, I apologise for the delay but we are waiting for the deicer to work and then we will take off. Picking the congealing rice cake from my hair, removing the superhero that wedged in my armpit I wondered, once again, why have we signed up to this?
Every year my husband and I take a month off at Christmas to go away and find some winter sun. It’s a sweetener for the fact that he is away for three months over the summer, plus a chance to sweat out some of the cheese and wine consumed over the festive season. This year’s trip was to Mexico – Holbox Island to be exact.
Holbox Island is a small island of the coast of Mexico, two hours by car from Cancun and then a short ferry ride – better be short I thought as after a one and half hour wait on the tarmac we rose up for what can only be described as eleven hours of pure hell.
My four year old obligingly watched his films, had snacks and enjoyed that the answer to practically any question concerning contraband was an emphatic yes, sometimes shouted from one of his parents as we followed what would best be described as a possessed feral fourteen month old up and down the aisle. We normally only do night flights, which although we as parents get hardly any sleep, we at least get some peace. However, these flights were just too cheap to resist.
I can’t honestly tell you what happened on the flight. It became an out of body experience punctuated only by flashbacks of aching muscles and hissed conversations/threats that you hope the other passengers don’t hear.
Eventually we made it, tired, but elated in a way not dissimilar to post childbirth we dragged ourselves to the luggage hall. Thirty minutes later it became clear that the bag containing all of the summer clothes for myself and the children was lost. Great. ANYTHING ELSE?
Claim form filled out, on the verge of a divorce, we arrived at our stopover hotel. Had a shower and decompressed. It was hot, the smell of grilled smoke and the faint echoes of dubiously dubbed television programmes wafted over us. We had arrived.
The next day having bought a dubious animal print stand in bikini we headed to Holbox. The taxi sped at fear inducing speeds, jerkily squeaking over the speed bumps and occasionally screeching to a halt to miss wayward dog, chicken and children. We jumped onto the ferry to take us to Holbox. It was a holiday weekend and the local ferry was busy. The children’s faces were pink from travelling in a mishmash of whatever clothes we could find but deliverance was at hand. The Captains father had decided to join the crew with his karaoke machine to regale us with classic Latin ballads for the twenty minute crossing. Things were looking up.
Holbox Island doesn’t have a road network. It is entirely navigated by bicycle or golf cart. Jumping on the back of our golf cart at the taxi rank we bumped along the potholed sandy roads and arrived at the hotel.
We had a suite overlooking the beach with sand immediately outside. The kids jumped off and started digging like wild animals. The theme for the next two weeks was set. The bag arrived four days later and we didn’t look back. Holbox Island had us hooked.
Why Holbox Island is great for kids
- The sea – there are no waves and you can walk out for a good 20 metres before it gets to a dangerous depth so even our 14 month old could toddle in and out of the water independently. Very relaxing.
- The sand bar– depending on the tide there is a sand bar that you can sit on, perfect for sandcastle making. You can even walk the whole length of it to the end point of Holbox Island where the flamingos can be seen.
- The wildlife – Depending on the time of year you can see – whale sharks, flamingos, reef fish, pelicans, eagles, lizards and manatees.
- The food – The fish is so fresh, the tacos great and the other main cuisine on the island is Argentinian which is steak, pizza and pasta. Great for finding food for even the pickiest little mouths. Our favourites were:
- Viva Zapata – Great grilled fish, meat and children’s menu. Even better cocktails and most importantly a toy area for kids. Just bring antibacterial wipes for their hand before they eat as they are a little dusty.
- Restaurant Racies – Pretty basic beach bar serving fresh grilled fish accompanied by live music directly on the beach. No kids menu, or chips, if you have a fussy eater like us. But we ordered an extra side of rice, and packed a few beach toys which kept everyone happy.
- Le Jardin – Great for a coffee and pastry to catch your sanity. Really lovely cosy clean children’s area with some fantastic books. And, one of the only places on the island that did good coffee if you are suffering withdrawal symptoms.
For a sun downer
- Casa Las Tortugas – It’s a bit swankier than some of the other places on the island, but it has a great cocktail menu and, most importantly, it has a little playhouse tucked away on the beachfront. Pack a few snacks for the kids, grab a hammock and sip your sun downers in peace.
- The beach – Rent a golf buggy. Pick up some beers from town, juice for the kids and some crisps and head to one of the beaches on the tip of the island.
Tips for travelling to Holbox Island with kids
- Bring a travel cot – you never know what state the hotel ones will be in and it’s a god send not having to chance it if arriving late at night.
- Bring plenty of cash – the cash points regularly refuse to issue money. But if that does happen there are some shops you can go to which give you cash back – Actually is a monosyllabic lady with a bag of cash and a passive aggressive demeanour.
- Bring lots of good quality mosquito repellent and watch out for sand flies – I managed to get bitten when in captivity holding a sleeping child. We stopped counting the bites after we reached 187. Also, apparently breastfeeding women attract mosquitos more owing to pheromones. So essentially, I was the honey pit that stopped the entire rest of the family from being bitten. I deserve a medal.
- Pack plenty of antibacterial wipes – Most of the restaurants have highchairs, but they very in how clean they are.
And remember, however horrible the journey there may be. It will be worth it.