Let’s talk about Mexico. Wait—we know what you’re thinking. You already did the Spring Break thing a million years ago. This is not the Mexico of jello shots and belly button rings. What if we told you that, only a few hours from Cancun, there was an undiscovered (well, practically) paradise that was incredibly chill, naturally gorgeous, and totally affordable? See you at the airport? K. We’re talking about Holbox (pronounced ‘Holbosh’) Island, located a mere 60 miles from Cancun. A quick drive from the airport takes you to Chiquila, where you board a ferry which will deposit you on the island, which is blissfully free of cars. Surrounded by crystal-clear waters which offer prime whale-shark viewing (basically the island’s biggest draw, which means the visitors that make their way here are way more into quiet beach contemplation than, say, late-night raging), Holbox is also home to thousands of flamingos and pelicans. It’s basically an organic beach paradise, where you can kick off your shoes and go barefoot for your entire stay.

casa sandra 2
Casa Sandra

This is not the Mexico of jello shots

and belly button rings.

The quiet allure of Holbox has brought a unique mix of hosts from all over the world who have set up an eclectic mix of boutique hotels, which range from teeny and cozy rooms to ultra stylish villas which can house an entire family or big group of friends. Casa Sandra, owned by artist Sandra Perez, is decorated with gorgeous art from Cuba and Mexico and outfitted with incredible artisan furniture. Beachfront huts and hammocks offer solace and the optimum place to relax with an icy margarita. Villas Flamingos luxurious pool is rimmed with colorful web chairs, which overlook the lagoon. It’s the perfect spot to finally dig into that novel you keep meaning to read.

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Villa Flamingos

Finally, there’s the food—this is a fishing town, after all, so it’s a no brainer that the catch of the day is always fresher-than-fresh. Simply prepared tacos and grilled dishes bursting with authentic flavors are available practically everywhere. Grab some in the central plaza after a stroll around town. Rustic and unpretentious, locals say that the food at Zarabanda is the best. If your palate needs a break from the Mexican eats, the Italian dishes at Los Pelicanos are the real deal—the couple who run it are imports from Italy who have decided to live la dolce vita en Mexico.

Should you decide to pick yourself up off the beach to actually, well, do something, there are those whale sharks, which are omnipresent from June to September. Kiteboarding is also de rigeur, as the island breezes keep those clear waters moving briskly. But really, you should just find your stretch of sand, kick off your sandals, and stay put, because you’re on vacation. You can do stuff when you go home.