Isla Holbox & Valladolid

March 18, 2016, Trip: ¡Viva México!
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On our way to Cancun, we missed a few things we wanted to see in the north Quintana Roo (as we had a deadline to get to Cancun) and a few on the eastern side of the state of Yucatan so this is where we set for course for upon leaving our friends in Cancun. We began driving west and then north to the small port town of Chiquila where the ferry dock for Isla Holbox is located. We had planned to catch the boat the next morning figuring we’d just do a day trip but it was only 3pm and after speaking with someone who just got off the ferry, we decided to pack an overnite bag and head over now.

When we returned to the dock, the next ferry was not for 45 minutes but a man with a boat asked us if he’d like him to take us over for the same price! Well of course we said, yes! Upon boarding we saw another couple about to buy ferry tickets and called them over to join us. The ride over took about 30 minutes. The water here is a sort of straight between the northern part of the Yucatan Peninsula and the island. It is not a lovely aquamarine like the Caribbean side. The weather was partly cloudy but quite warm.

island map - really two islands and a spit

Upon arriving at the island we walked into town, which was not far and headed to the beach to scope out a cheap hotel for the night. We walked west but found nothing under $100USD so we walked east looking for the place the couple who came off the ferry told us about; turns out it was quite far down the beach and we were too hot to go that far. We stopped at a little place on the beach that was a hotel with tent camping, kinda like a hostel, and their price was just over $80USD so we took a room there; it had AC and wifi and had some beachfront. We cooled off a bit in the AC and then went for a dip in the ocean. This north side of the island is on the Gulf of Mexico, just before it meets the Caribbean and the water is a crystal clear sea foam green. It was warm and the shoreline is very shallow and you can walk out quite a ways without getting in over your head. We enjoyed a few drinks at the hotel bar where they have swings at the bar and then went out for some food for dinner. We met a Canadian at the bar from Quebec, a Mexican name Manuel and an Italian guy named Patrick. He has his two buddies and they are travelling taking photos of people, printing the pics on the spot and selling them for 50 pesos each to support their travels. They were sleeping in a tent on the beach at the hotel where we were staying.

 

To our dismay, there was a nightclub/bar nearby that played music that seemed to start a 1AM and went till 3AM! We are definitely not still in our 20’s!

 

Next morning we went out for a huge breakfast at a place the bartender recommended that was quite reasonable but so much food we could not finish it. The owner, Rosy, was very gracious and helped us to try and found a cheap place to rent a golf cart from to explore the island. It turned that out every place charges the same so we just headed out to find one. You cannot bring a car over to the island so people get around on golf carts and scooters mostly. There are trucks for services and supplies. We enjoyed almost two hours exploring the town and the beach as far east as the off roads would take us; we were stopped by a river that separates this island from the spit of land that comes northwest off the mainland. It is a national park area and on the north side of it is where they take you out to see the whale sharks in season (May to Sept.). There are some empty beaches once you pass the three resorts out this way and we could see a sand spit in the water that you could follow out to the point of the other land. This island is way less commercial than Isla Mujeres, with less tourists/people and more beach access.

creek crossing in a golf cart

After we returned the golf cart, we went back to our room, checked out and left our bags behind the bar so we could walk that spit. It was lovely to walk in the water to keep cool. The tide was coming in slowly so parts of the spit were no longer exposed but the water never got higher than just about our knees. We saw starfish and small schools of fish, a few horseshoe crab shells and lots of birds. It was about a 7 mile walk return and we, like mad dogs and Englishmen, did this in the noon day sun! you’d think we’d know better, huh? Fran was feeling like some heat exhaustion was coming on before we got all the way back so once we returned, she sat at the swing at the bar while Doug went to buy bottled water. The hotel had showers out back so after we felt rehydrated, we showered and changed and enjoyed a couple more drinks at the bar, read a bit and then headed to the ferry for the return voyage.

sandbar

 

 

We had parked Tigger near the ferry terminal in a guarded lot for 100 pesos for 24 hours and since it was late afternoon when we got back, we paid a bit more and spent the night there. It was very hot though and there were spotlight type lights in the lot which did not help either of us sleep much.

DSCN0127

Friday morning we packed up and drove back inland, crossed the state line into Yucatan where we drove into Valladolid, the third largest city on the peninsula and the home of the start of the Mexican revolution – nicknamed the Heroic City. They have a lovely town square and a Catholic Church and convent that was built back in 1552 – the first catholic church in the country, actually. There is also a park right in the city with a cenote called Zaci. We paid the 30 pesos and walked down into it deciding that we might come back a bit later for a swim as it was very hot today and quite muggy. It was quite nice but we ended up not swimming here as the water was not too inviting although it was apparently cool and there were people swimming in it. We wandered to the El Centro area and over to find the old church. This was a very steamy walk and we were glad to get into Tigger and turn on the air conditioning!

We drove a little southwest of town and got to a spot where there were two cenotes in one site: X’keken and Samula which we had intel that you could camp at as well (just in the parking lot but it was free). We parked near the back end of the lot, got into our swimsuits and went to see the cenotes. You pay 60pesos to see one cenote or 90 to see both. We did both and swam in both. They are both a good size, with cool refreshing water, not very deep but with lots of stalactites and stalagmites, both have a hole in the ceiling (one larger than the other) and both have little fish swimming in them. Fran brought the waterproof camera with and after feeling quite refreshed and cooled, we went back to get dressed and bring the new camera with to take better shots.

DSCF1924 hanging Vines

As it was still rather early, we thought we’d go a little further east and camp where we had camped a few weeks ago which offered power so we could use the air conditioning.

When we got there, they wanted more money than we paid last time and on principle, we left. Today is the first day of Semana Santa (Holy week) and most of the country is taking holidays so accommodations are more expensive and it can be harder to find vacancies. We had been told this back in Cancun before leaving but we figured we could always boondock somewhere so we didn’t want to be stuck in Cancun for another ten days considering we had only a couple of weeks in Mexico left. So we went even further down the highway to another place we’d read about just off the highway with another cenote but this guy wanted 200 pesos for the night with NO services. So we said forget that too, and at the next town X-Can we stopped and parked for the night on the town square after asking some people if it was allowed. This meant no electricity but at least it was free! There were no glaring lights, there was some loud music part of the night and it was quite warm but we managed.

 

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