A Solo Traveler's Guide to Holbox, Mexico
The island of Holbox in Quintana Roo, Mexico is one of my favorite places I’ve visited. It’s touristy in the best way - there is so much to do and see, but it isn’t overdone like its neighbors Cancun and the Riviera Maya. I headed to Holbox directly after spending time in Mexico City, with the plan to do nothing but drink on a beach, see some flamingos, and relax from the bustling city life. To my surprise, what Holbox offered was way too exciting for me to simply lounge all day. I went snorkling with gigantic whale sharks and manta rays, night swam in the magical bioluminescent tide, got on a boat with spearfishing locals, and took advantage of the insanely fun nightlife.
While my time in Holbox was nothing short of amazing, I did find it somewhat difficult as a solo traveler. Full of honeymooners, family reunions, and groups of friends on vacation, I sometimes felt awkward roaming around on my own. However, through the tips below, I managed to make friends, and have an incredibly memorable experience on the island.
I have mixed feelings when it comes to hostels. On one hand, it’s a great way to meet fellow travelers and have a place to stay on a budget, but on the other hand, it is easy to get lost in the hostel party life rather than truly appreciate what a city has to offer. However, when in Holbox, embrace the hostel life. The island runs off of tourism so instead of avoiding fellow travelers in search of some form of authenticity, just go with it. Even if you don’t want to stay there, most hostels allow non-guests into their bar, so you can just go for a drink. I stayed at Hostel Tribu and had an amazing experience. With nightly happenings at their upstairs bar such as trivia night, live music, and discounted stick-and-poke tattoos, Hostel Tribu makes it easy to meet people from all around the world. I also recommend talking to the workers at hostels. Accustomed to meeting worldly vagabonds, these folks are fun to talk to and can offer insider tips on the island.
Couchsurfer is an app created for travelers looking to meet fellow travelers. In addition to finding free places to stay on a local’s couch, you can also plan hangouts with other solo travelers looking to head to the beach or grab some drinks. I had my first Couchsurfer experience at Holbox, where I spent a night on a local tour guide’s hammock. While having a free place to crash was a great perk, she was also kind, fun to hang out with, and hooked me up with a fantastic whale shark tour. The Couchsurfer app is a necessity for the solo traveler, and this stays true on Holbox island.
Talk to locals
Although I already recommended embracing your identity as a tourist, don’t forget about the locals on the island! Oftentimes moving to Holbox from bigger cities to kite surf and work as a tour guide, people living on the island can be just as fun as the people visiting. By talking to locals on the island I learned the best spot to find flamingos, swam in the bioluminescent tide without booking a tour, and got on a boat with spearfishermen who had me over to their house for a post-fishing feast afterwards. Depending on who you are talking to, you might need to know some Spanish, but almost all of the tour guides working on the island speak English.
Use it to your advantage
The best part about being a solo traveler is that you can always do exactly what you feel like doing. Whale shark tour doesn’t seem like it’s for you? Don’t do it. Want to stay up all night partying and sleep on a beach hammock the entire next day? Great! One of my favorite experiences at Holbox was waking up early, walking a couple miles to Punta Coco, and finding a whole flock of flamingos standing in the shallow water. It was such a beautiful sight. However, after about an hour, several groups of people started showing up and crowding them with their iPhones. Within about 15 minutes, all of the flamingos had flown away. Had I not been a solo traveler, I may not have been able to have the experience that I had. Similarly, those spearfishermen may not have been so welcoming had I been with a group of people. So use being alone to your advantage! Try and do everything that only you want to do.