If perfect bliss involves piña coladas, white sand beaches, epic sunsets and an ample dose of exotic wildlife, Mexico’s got you covered. Oh, did we mention it’s an island that offers all this and much, much more? Yes, Mexico has islands. They’re just a little off the beaten path.
Isla Holbox is the paradise a 40 minute ferry ride off the northern coast of the peninsula that Cancun calls home. It’s a little bit like Tulum, but in many ways it’s much better. More intimate, romantic and definitely more wild. People don’t drive cars, they tool around in golf carts and on beach cruisers. Its proximity to other honeymoon-ready destinations—think Mayakoba on the Riviera Maya, Cozumel and yes, Tulum—makes it a no-brainer to pair for a bit of a high-low (or maybe refined vs. rustic) vibe. But it’s also got plenty to keep you lovebirds occupied for days and days.
CasaSandra, a boutique hotel owned by Cuban artist Sandra Pérez and filled with art by herself and many others, alongside Cuban antiques and handmade Mexican furniture (not to mention so many hammocks you’ll feel you’ve entered heaven), is the epitome of what’s great about Holbox (pronounded Hol-bosh). Rooms and suites are all unique and, maybe it’s the artwork, but have an erotic air to them. Honeymooners can also indulge in a candlelit flower bath and private dinners under the stars. The pool area is perfection, the lobby restaurant is how you wish your living room looked, and the beach is exactly what pops into your head when your daydreams drift off to island idylls—snowy sand that’s so bright it could hurt your eyes, with clear baby-blue water gently lapping at the edge, and palapas galore. (Of course the beach bar makes a mean piña colada, along with margarita and, most likely, everything else.)
Beach bums can laze, cuddle and float to their heart’s content—the hot sun makes it the perfect place to wear next to nothing and just chill, after all. But there are also plenty of things to do on the island: bike and trek down one side of it in search for a flamboyance of wild flamingos, book a boat tour that will take you swimming with 35-foot spotted whale sharks (the unofficial mascot of the island, seen everywhere either in mural, statue or trinket form) or snorkeling with other exotic tropical creatures, or wade out into the dark night to experience the fairy dust–like bioluminescence that’s a natural phenomenon. Those life-affirming sunsets can be best seen at Punta Coco, but watch out for the pesky mosquitos (there’s never been any Zika, locals promise, on the island).
Alongside CasaSandra’s mouthwatering fare—don’t miss their weekly prix fixe Cuban night on Saturdays—there are casual and also slightly more dressy options for dinners, which all come off just as charming as the island itself. Try the Italian at the eco-friendly Casa Las Tortugas (and their morning yoga, if you’re so inclined), fresh juices and smoothies at Tierra Mia, coffee and desserts at the pocket-sized cafe Maroc, and sup on roasted sea bass and tapas like crispy lamb tacos and chaya croquettes at Luuma, which could easily be at home in Tulum, with its creative modern cocktails and drool-worthy attached boutique selling the best of Caribbean style. It’s so easy to slip into chill vacation mode here, you might just be leaving in his-and-hers sandals and kaftans by the end.