Christmas in Mexico 2017, or how I’m months behind on this blog

We had a solid plan for our christmas 2017 week off.  We were going to rent a car, drive down the Washington coast and stay in a cabin right on the beach for a few days.  Super romantic and low key.

Aaaaand 13 days before christmas I found a really cheap airfare deal to Huatulco Mexico.   Westjet has seasonal direct flights every Sunday, and its a decent 6 hour flight straight down

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Huatulco is a tourist development like Cancun, it was developed in the 80s when the government decided to do more to attract tourists to the area.  Now there are loads of all inclusive resorts and cruise ships dock at Huatulco.

Shawn and I aren’t resort people so we decided we would head out of Huatulco along the coast and spend most our time in a small town called San Agustinillo.

Our flight arrived in the evening so we had to spend a night in Huatulco, we stayed at Hotel Casa Danna, a smaller hotel close to the ocean.   It was super easy to get to from the airport, we decided to splurge and get a taxi directly from the terminal.  If you want to save money you can walk out of the airport grounds completely and hire a taxi on the main highway.   I think it ended up costing us around $430 pesos, which was worth it for us to not have to walk down toward the highway in the heat with our backpacks.

IMG_0348The view from our hotel room, you can just see the ocean peeking through the trees.

Our hotel was a easy 15 minute walk into the La Crucecita area.  We tried El Grillo Marinero for dinner and I had the octopus in butter and garlic, and guys, it was amazing! And it was super reasonably priced.img_0311.jpgIMG_0310

We headed to the main square after dinner for some margaritas and to watch some traditional Oaxacan dancing. IMG_0319IMG_0329

We ended the night on our hotel balcony enjoying some Tecates from OXXO and watching the fireworks over the ocean.

I Like Piña Coladas, But Not Getting Caught in the Rain

That song’s stuck in your head now, isn’t it? You’re welcome! We heard it a few times over the course of our trip, along with some other island gems, like Margaritaville.

Anyways, it turns out I do like Piña Coladas, I tried my first one on the beach at Mawimbi.

Our week on Holbox was all about relaxing, which was a first for me.  My vacations usually involve me spending 3-4 very jam packed days in various cities trying to see ALL THE THINGS.   I did that twice in Europe in 2016 and will be doing it again in August, so a week with zero things on my agenda was a much needed change.  Shawn was a little worried I might go crazy, but you guys, I loved it!  I had no idea doing nothing can be so satisfying.  I don’t think I could handle two weeks of it, but 7 days of total relaxation? Yes! Yes! Yes!

So what did a day in the lives of Carly and Shawn look like?

Get up, have breakfast, lounge on beach, read, swim, read, swim, talk about where to have lunch, go for lunch, lounge on beach, swim, nap, watch sunset, walk around town and discuss dinner options, have dinner, have drinks, night time swim, bed.

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The food on Holbox is amazing.  We did not have a bad meal.  The seafood is so fresh, like caught that day fresh.  There were so many different options, mexican, seafood, italian, american, fancy, budget, vegan, sushi… you can find something to satisfy even the pickiest eater.  Which we are not.  There were almost too many options 😉

Las Panchas

Las Panchas was the first restaurant we ate at on Holbox while we waited for our hotel room to be ready.   It was Shawn’s favourite of the trip.  We ate there twice and wanted to go back a third time but they’re not open on Mondays.
We highly recommend the mixed ceviche, fish and shrimp tacos and guacamole.  Oh and the potions are massive.  When they say large, they mean it! The food was so cheap too, the large ceviche was $180 pesos, shrimp tacos $130 and fish tacos $100.  Beers were very reasonable at around $25 pesos I believe.

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Raices Beach Club

Raices was just down the beach from our hotel and responsible for all the terrible island music that got stuck in my head.  They have a stage and a band that sets up around 2 p.m. that plays until the sunsets.  If you don’t like live music this is not the place for you.

Also if you’re super fancy you will hate this place.  The tables are in the sand, with a few waiters who don’t speak much English and service can be slow and I’ve heard the food can be a little hit and miss, but we didn’t experience that.

We ate there twice and ordered their guacamole and whole grilled fish both times.  The fish, oh lord the fish.  I hated fish as a kid.  Over the last 10 years I’ve grown to like it, but this was the first time I had ever ordered or eaten a whole fish and I was pretty freaking nervous about what I was getting myself into.   It was perfect.  Garlic and buttery, caught that day, melt in your mouth.  God I miss that fish.  And eating grilled on the beach fish with your feet in the sand was a dope experience.  Prices were pretty reasonable, the grilled fish for two was around $270 pesos.

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La Isla del Colibri

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One of the few restaurants open on a Monday afternoon, Colbri was a delightful find right on the main square of Holbox.  The decor is very eclectic and bright, filled with art.  The service was friendly, a little slow, but that’s island time.  I think I had the largest margarita ever made.

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Seriously, that thing is like a chalice for kings.  It should be called “The King of Margaritas”.

I had the coconut shrimps and Shawn had fish with mango

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Some other restaurants we ate at that I would recommend are Taco Querto and Taco Gordo for cheap no frills tacos and really fantastic Horchata.

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Miriam

Miriam was the first restaurant we ate at on Holbox.   They didn’t seem to serve any alcohol, so that’s something to consider if you want a drink with dinner, but they have pop.  Its a small place, a few tables outside, a few in.  Salsa that came with dinner was very tasty and very spicy.  Shawn splurged and got the lobster and I had the octopus. And the food was so amazing we both dug in before I took any photos.  Whoops 😉 The lobster was quite spendy, but the octopus seemed reasonable.  Another tourist who was just leaving the restaurant told me I had made a great decision eating there as it was the best restaurant on the island.  I think he was right.  We wanted to eat their more than once, but it was also closed on Monday…

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Getting Your Booze On

There’s really no shortage of places to drink on Holbox.  Most of the hotels on the beach close to town have bars, and in the centre of Holbox there’s so many places within walking distance to get your drink on.  Our favourite was El Mesh

El Mesh

Connected to the eco-hostel, El-Mesh was a few buildings down from our hotel, so we passed it a lot.

Only a few stools at a very lovely wooden bar, they make solid cocktails.  We found the drinks very reasonably priced, the service friendly and the music not the typical “island fare” or club noise.

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Hot Corner

We stopped at Hot Corner to pass the time waiting for Las Panchas to open.  It was a cute little set up with swings to sit in.  Very loud music.  Shawn really enjoyed his Mojito.  My margarita was solid as well.

Isla Holbox

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Isla Holbox (pronounced Ol-bosh) or the Black Hole as it was once known in Mayan, is a tiny island in the Gulf of Mexico that you’ve probably never heard of.  Or you found this blog because you just discovered Holbox and are now trying to find out everything you can about this sliver of paradise.

Shawn and I spent 7 days on the island and I’m already trying to plan our next trip back. It was a perfect week.    Beautiful water, delicious food, amazing cocktails, friendly people.  If you’re looking for a lower key beach vacation in Mexico, I would highly suggest Holbox.   So with that said, here’s some handy info to get you to Holbox.  If you’re looking for stuff to do when there, where to eat, I’m saving that for another post, so stay tuned!

Getting There

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You’ll most likely be arriving via Cancun, the closest international airport.  You could drop some serious cash and take a pre-arranged taxi or shuttle straight from the airport to the ferry to the island, but where’s the fun and adventure in that?  And, if like us, your flight got in too late you’re going to have to stay in Cancun overnight.  ADO buses run every half an hour from the Cancun airport into downtown Cancun, they’ll cost you $72 pesos for a one way ticket.

There are cheap hotels around the Cancun bus station.  We can recommend Hotel Kin Mayab, it was clean, less than 5 minutes away from good restaurants and the bus station, plus a swimming pool and air conditioning.

To get to Holbox from downtown Cancun you can either take another bus, like ADO/Mayab/Oriente or a private or shared shuttle.  The town you’ll be arriving in is called Chiquila, and from there you catch the ferry.

We took the bus to Holbox and the shuttle back and we can easily recommend either.   We took the 9am first class ADO bus that has a bathroom and only makes 2 very brief stops along the way.  The bus is nice because it has a toilet and air conditioning.  Make sure you book the first class ADO bus, Mayab/Oriente do not have toilets or aircon and take a lot longer to arrive.

The downside to the bus is it goes slower and they show very loud movies.  The cost for one way tickets on the first class bus was around $270 pesos.  We bought our tickets the night before, but its probably safe to buy them day of as well.  The bus was not even half full.

Once you get to Chiquila there are two ferry companies that run ferries every half an hour.  The cost is the same for either company, $140 pesos one way.  Its about a 20 minute ride to Holbox and it can get pretty bumpy and rocky on the boat.

33349383493_52f236a23b_oWhew, I’m exhausted just recounting all that.  But you guys, all that travel is so worth it to get to paradise.

If you decide to use a shuttle service we can recommend Cancun Shuttle.  They depart twice daily from Chiquila and twice from Cancun.  Its $200 pesos each.  You don’t need to reserve ahead, you just look for them at the Commercial Mexicana across from the ADO bus station in Cancun or once you get off the ferry in Chiquila.  They leave Cancun at 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and leave Chiqulia at 7:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.  The shuttle has room for around 10-12 people and has air conditioning.  Taking the shuttle saves you about half an hour of travel time.

A great resource for information on getting to and from Holbox is: https://the.holboxeno.com/getting-to-holbox-transfers-ferries-buses-and-flights#–chiquila-cancun

Where to Stay

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There are so many hotel/hostel options on Holbox which means you have a lot of control over how much you want to spend on accommodations.

Shawn and I decided that this was an area we were willing to spend more money on since we saved on airfare and local transportation.

We stayed at Posada Mawimbi and if you can you should too.
http://www.mawimbi.com/

Its the number one related hotel on Trip Advisor, but not the fanciest or most expensive.  Its a boutique hotel with only 11 rooms.  Its right on the beach! We stayed in the basic room and it was perfect.  Large bed and air conditioning is really all I need.  No we didn’t face the ocean, but whatever, we could go sit on the beach if we wanted to see the ocean.

Mawimbi has a restaurant and bar that serves delicious drinks and well made food.  Your stay includes a continental breakfast of fresh fruit, toast and jam as well as juice and coffee.

They have a large beach area with many different chairs, bed and hammocks to choose from.  The beach itself was clean, pretty much devoid of seaweed and great for swimming.

The staff at Mawimbi were lovely, they learned our names and were happy to book day trips for us.

I don’t think I could stay anywhere else now that I’ve experienced Mawimbi.

Oh and if you pay in cash you get a discount! Who doesn’t love that??

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Day 12 -Lazy Independence Day 

We got wet last night.

Almost as soon as we got to the Alhondiga thunder and lighting started and the skies opened up.   We stayed for almost an hour, watching dancers and then a 13 piece band.

It got too wet for us and we went home and listened to the fire works going off around us until well after midnight.

This morning it was back to the Mercado for breakfast.    Enchiladas Mineras for me again.

  And a donut for dessert.


All the museums are closed today so we’re just walking around,  stopping for drinks.  Last night before heading to the big celebrations we stopped at La Clave Azul for more tequila.

The man who owns the bar wanted us to try a “little piece” of the special he had last night.   It was a giant plate of roast baby pig.   And it was amazing.

And then he brought us cake! All for free.

We had an amazing time with the owner and the bartender.  They were both so happy we came back a second time.

So it only makes sense to go back a third, right? It is absolutely the best bar in Guanajuato.   We had 6 beers, and got 5 plates of free food! And not crap nuts or popcorn, but actual appetizers that left us full.  Jimca and cucumber tossed in lime and chili salt, roasted baby potatoes, tomatoes with oregano and cheese, soup and flautas.

I will miss this bar a lot.

We had drinks at a different outdoor patio, met a gal named Nancy and a man Juan and tried to converse with them.  Maybe 40% of our conversation was understood.

We met our airbnb host’s Mom last night.    She invited us in for some tequila and we ended up talking for a few hours about travel, Mexico and Canada.

We are leaving a day early to spend an extra day in Leon, get our shopping on.   Leon is apparently quite the leather shopping destination and I want some boots and a jacket.

Day 11 – Mummy Dearest

Our first stop today was the Mercado for breakfast at one of the little booths.  

There were 12 or 13 of them all competing for our money.  We had ladies yelling at us and waving menus.  

  
We choose booth 6. I had the local enchilada speciality – Enchilada Mineras and Mikil had cheese enchiladas covered with mole sauce 

    
   
From there we hiked up a giant set of stairs trying to find the Mummy Museum

Something about the air and humidity here has caused dead bodies to mummify.  

       

  It was pretty awesome. 

We think the bodies all came from this cemetery. 

  
   
It’s a very important day in Mexican history, the Grito. 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grito_de_Dolores
We are planning to head down to the Alhondiga de Granaditas to watch the President of Mexico give the Grito from the palace in Mexico City. 

There has been pretty much non stop fire works today.  It’s going to get very very loud! 

Day 10 – Let’s Get Drunk! 

We had an early night last night, which really worked in our favour as our airbnb owners dogs (3!) started barking at 630am and went until at least 7.

No idea why.  Just for fun?

We headed down into the Centro and then up to the El Pipila Monument.   It was a hell of a lot of steps.

  
  
 We bought some local hand crafted souvenirs and then wandered back down into Centro.

We had lunch at a chicken rotisserie restaurant.   For $15 we got all this


  
Then we found our way to the amazing bar La Clave Azul.

It was suprisingly easy to find, many cause of all the blogs I’ve read about it.

Go to San Fernando Plaza.  Find the Bossa Cassanova Restaurant.  Take the tiny alley behind it.


  
  
We highly recommend this bar.  The bartenders were a delight.  Super friendly and helped us order the Bandera – the flag.  It’s tequila, lime and sangrita (tomato juice and spices).  They are the colours of the Mexican flag so that’s why it’s called that.    We also got free snacks.   
After a few rounds of tequila it was back out into the town.

And to the famed Alley of the Kiss.  Legend has it that two lovers lived across from each other and kissed on the balconies.   They were found out by the girl’s father and she was murdered and the young man committed suicide.

We went and played a few rounds of pool.   Mikil is really good.    I am awful.

I also think I got hit on.  But I’m not sure as it was in Español.

Mikil says it’s cause of my pool stance.   But I just have too much legs.

We have crap wifi at the house so I imagine we’ll spend the rest of the night drinking and having the fun.

Day 8 & 9 – Bus, Bus, Bus

We spent our last half day in Xilitla sleeping in.   We partied hard the night before with our new pals at The Jungle.   

They’re really great dudes who love music. If you’re in town stop by, it’s right next to Hotel Guzman, across from the awful restaurant Cayos.  

When we finally got out of bed we taxied to Las Pozas for one last look around and swim.    

 The air was cooler, it was raining, which ended up making the water less cold (for us) to swim in.   
Most of the Mexicans we saw were shivering from being in the water.  

Mikil impressed a bunch of teenagers by jumping off the high rocks again.    Soon he had a handful of them joining him.   One girl, Jessica, was showing up all the boys.  She was first to jump off and went a second time before a few of the boys made a jump.   

I will very much miss Xilitla.  I could have spent weeks there.  Next time I will rent a car.  

We caught the 3pm bus, I popped some gravol and slept for most of the ride.  

We got to Queretaro late, like 9pm.  Then it was a 20 min cab ride into the Centro to our Hotel.   

Do not stay at Hotel Hidalgo.  It is crap.  Over priced.  Tiny little windowless room. So fucking loud and bright despite the no windows.   

We were up early thanks to our room so we sorted out bus tickets out at an Oxxo store. 

Then it was breakfast time.   And the best meal of the trip – Tikua Sur Este.  

We tried grasshoppers! They’re really salty. 

Mikil had the “small” torta.   I had amazing mole enchiladas.   

The hot chocolate was incredibly rich and had cinnamon added in.  

 
  

  

  

   

 It’s rated the #1 restaurant in Queretaro and I can see why.   
We wandered the Centro did some shopping and then it was back to the bus station to get to Guanajuato.  

   
 

After another long bus ride (well only 2 hours) we arrived in Guanajuato   

Our little house is cute.   At the top of a hill, so we’ll be working off these cervesas.  

We’ve hit the town for dinner and drinks.   

Probably an early night thanks to that crap hotel last night.   

Our view from dinner is AMAZING

  
    
 

Day 7 – Welcome to the Jungle 

The part of the trip I have been looking forward to the most was the magical gardens, Las Pozas, of Edward James.

And it happened today.   And I don’t have the words or the photos to share what a fucking phenomal experience this was.

It was worth the 6 hour bus ride, the awful motion sickness and the poops I was struck with this morning (probably from that awful meal last night).

3 imodiums, two giant swigs of pepto and some grapefruit seed extract got me out the door and into the jungle.

We grabbed a taxi from our hotel in Xilitla to the entrance of Las Pozas for $50 pesos.  The entrance fee was $50 pesos each.

And then we walked into a surreal, magical garden that couldn’t exist anywhere else.

Not only because the cement structures seem to fit in so well with the jungle surroundings, but there is no way in hell Canada or the U.S.A would allow it to exist.

It seemed like we were in an Indiana Jones movie.

There were butterflies everywhere   Orange ones, black ones, grey ones and my favourite, giant blue ones.  Unfortunately they didn’t want to pose for me.

We wandered around for a few hours and then got our swim on.

We met a lovely local family, the dad Jose could speak some English.   Mikil showed one daughter how to jump off some rocks.   And we ended up in their family photos at the end of the day.   They told their daughters they would water them so they’d grow up to be tall like me.   The mom and the aunt got a kick out of standing next to me, they both came up to my armpits.

We ate our dinner at a cute little cafe down the road from the garden, it was built into the side of rock.

And now, I leave you with the photos from today.

Start planning your vacation here.       
  
  



  

  

Day 6 – Trying Not To Barf 

Guess what everyone? I have insanely bad motion sickness.   I had no idea it was this bad.  Before I just used to get a headache.  I would kill for that headache to come back.   Instead I am fighting the barfs.

Another early morning finishing our packing and cleaning up our airbnb. I also got to call for a taxi which was hilarious.  Joy wrote out what to say.   And I screwed it up.  Eventually the lady put someone on who could speak English.

The first bus we took to get from SMA to Queretaro was with ETN.  A super first class bus.   We paid about $20 Canadian for two one way tickets.   The seats were huge, they reclined, and had a foot rest.   I could actually stretch out my legs.    We also had touch screen tvs that had a small choice of movies or tv.  And we got a drink and a snack.



Once the ride startered I discovered my new found motion sickness.   I popped a few homeopathic pills but they did nothing.

But I made it to Queretaro barf free.

We had an hour in Queretaro bus station to kill, so we had some food and I tried to mentally prepare for the 6 hour bus ride ahead.      Pastor Torta

For some reason the second bus wasn’t as bad as the first one.

I managed to stay drug free until we reached the town of Pinal de Amoles.  It was at the beginning of the 3 hours of switch backs.


It seemed like the scenery changed with one turn.  All of sudden there was greenery.   And we started to feel the humidity.

I took my gravol and slept on and off for the next three hours and Mikil enjoyed the scenery.     We arrived in Xilitla a little after 6.  Had a guy approach us the second we were off the bus to offer to take us up to Los Pozas for 80 pesos.  I’ve got his number and we’ll see about calling him.

Our hotel, Guzman, is pretty adorable.  And quite empty.   It seems like it’s just us and the bus drivers that got us here.    We also discovered that the bed platform for our bed is made of concrete.   Mikil is very happy, he loves a hard mattress.
We wandered the town then went and had dinner behind our hotel because it was recommended by the hotel owner.

I had read before hand, and Joy warned us last night, that the food here isn’t great.   And that is the hard truth.

This was probably the worst meal we’ve had so far.   And the waitress hated us.   No smiles, no de nada after our gracias.  But she was nice to the mexican couples seated around us.   Maybe it’s my tattoos.

The view was totally worth the bad food and crap service.   I think the view is spectacular no matter where you are in town.

It’s 33 outside with 60% humidity.  We are sweating like crazy.  Luckily we have air conditioning in our room.

As we headed home after dinner we found a bar next to our hotel called the Jungle.   It’s a rock bar.  The kids running it couldn’t be more than 25 and really dig classic rock.    
Tomorrow we hope to be up earlyish and at Los Pozas for close to when it opens.  I think I am most excited for this adventure!