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Holbox Report - Post-Rina

In cooperation with: Visit Mexico
London, United...
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Holbox Report - Post-Rina

Apologies for the length of this report, but please bear with me since the conditions on Holbox need to be contrasted with conditions elsewhere in the Yucatan. So here goes:

My wife and I left for Holbox from Isla Mujeres on Nov. 2. The previous day was a complete write-off as far as the weather was concerned - dark cloudy skies and the fiercest rain storms one could imagine. However, the skies had now cleared, the sun was out and the waters off Isla were a pure joy - clear, warm and brilliantly blue - and the beaches were as pristine as ever - everything we remembered and have come to expect from our previous trips to Isla.

This was our first trip to Holbox - the taxi to Chiquila was a little longer than expected due to fact that the road conditions out of Cancun were bad due to the storms - massive potholes and lots of diversions everywhere (out of Cancun the roads were fine).

On the ferry from Chiquila to Holbox we noticed the waters were distinctly different to what we'd seen in and around Isla and Cancun - dark, brown and murky as far as the eye could see - definitely not as advertised - but not a deal breaker as our hotel was on the other side of the island. The roads in Holbox are still quite flooded, but this was to be expected. For first-timers to Holbox, the reports about aggressive mosquitos are not exaggerated - I counted over fifteen massive bites on just one leg just from the taxi trip to our hotel.

Once at our hotel (Paraiso Del Mar) our hearts completely sank. The waters off the beach were just as brown and murky as we'd seen on the ferry ride. Even worse, the beaches were completely covered in rotting seaweed as far as the eye could see - literally mounds and mounds of it. It was putrifying and the smell was horrible. The dead fish from the marea roja had been cleared, but there were still dead crabs, shells and all sorts of marine life (death?) on the beaches. No one was in the water or on the beach - it just wasn't possible. (see attached pictures). Maybe even more telling was that our hotel didn't serve any seafood that night - only pork, chicken and beef (there was a shrimp dish, but it's my understanding that shrimp are sourced outside of Quintana Roo).

The next morning, the waters off Holbox had cleared up somewhat - there were hints of blue seas, but the water closest to the shore was still a dull murky brown. More importantly, there was no one cleaning the beaches - the same mounds of rotting seaweed were everywhere. According to newspaper reports, the people of Holbox are desperately appealing for aid to help clear the beaches, but none has of yet materialised - and it doesn't look to come any time soon. From the looks of things, it will take weeks to get Holbox back to normal.

Unfortunately we decided to head back to Isla that day. There were hints of what Holbox has been and no doubt will be again - that chilled out island paradise far from the madness of Cancun - but for us the beach is the biggest priority and we weren't prepared to wait for what may or may not come in the two weeks of vacation that we planned.

So for those of you planning to go to Holbox in November, please be forewarned and, if necessary, have alternate plans in place before you go.

holbox
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1. Re: Holbox Report - Post-Rina

I suppose that's why they cal it - Novi-hambre. Low, rainy season can be just that- bummer you got funky days. The water here is never crystal caribbean blue like it usually is Cancun/Isla. It changes a lot, emerald greens to Aquamarine blues- sometimes clear, sometimes a little more murky.

Unfortunately for asthetics, the seaweed has to stay because completely removing it takes away way too much sand along with it . Lots of hotels clear the beach just up to the water but shoreline has to stay put until the water naturally takes it away. The first North wind usually brings it and the second usually clears it. Tonight the second is blowing in so should be cleared up soon. Today the water was murky from the seaweed about 10 meters out and then a clear blue green. It was a lovely day but now it is sprinkling.

New Jersey
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2. Re: Holbox Report - Post-Rina

Ah, Milikis, again you've answered my questions!

In Tulum, the hotels remove the nightly accumulation of seaweed and bury it up on the dune (or sometimes, right there but a few feet down). There is so much sand that this is not apparently risking any kind of depletion at the waterline, just makes the water entry nice and clean.

With Holbox having such a different sand/water pattern, it's good to know that's why the hotels don't clear the seaweed all the way to the water. I've been wondering that for a while, looking at the pictures.

Thanks for the explanation!

Edited: 11:16 pm, November 04, 2011
IHX
Atenas, Costa Rica
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3. Re: Holbox Report - Post-Rina

Good answer, milikis. It would take an army of back-hoes to remove the meters and meters of seaweed that can come in during a storm like that, and then there is the question of where to put it. Digging trenches on the beach to bury that much seaweed is simiply not a good solution. It's best just to adjust to the rhythm of the weather and sea and let the natural course of events unfold.

Cozumel, Mexico
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4. Re: Holbox Report - Post-Rina

And I prefer to just be in a place where nature does its thing rather than a place like the Riviera Maya or Tulum, where the guys are out with rakes clearing the beaches. It may be inconvenient at times but I will take that and enjoy a place like Holbox.

chicago, il
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5. Re: Holbox Report - Post-Rina

Last February, on our first visit to Holbox, the first couple days of our stay were characterized by bad storms and the murky water like Wongowitz speaks of. Following the storms, the beach had massive seaweed in many places. We rented a golf cart to have a drive around the island but could not venture into some areas due to the massive rotting stench. Other areas were not bad in our instance.

Anyway, a day or two later the seaweed had dried out and had been naturally partially buried by sand, and almost the whole island was fine. The water had become beautiful blue green and we were able to swim and tour everywhere with little or no bad smells.

By the appearance and smell of things and the amount of seaweed our first couple of days, you would never have thought things could turn around so quickly.

Texas
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6. Re: Holbox Report - Post-Rina

Anybody around for an update maybe - we are headed over there next week. Thanks

holbox
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7. Re: Holbox Report - Post-Rina

It is a beautiful day here. There is still lots of seaweed on the beach, but I don't notice a smell at all. The water is clear in many parts for swimming. I would say that Tortugas/Mawimbi and La Palapa have the clearest beaches right now- Paraiso del Mar to Delfines have the most seaweed. Get a bike or take a walk and there are plenty of parts of the beach that are fine. Not clean clean like Spring but fine to enjoy for sure IMO.

The part aboutt he road out of Cancun (Lopez Portillo) is spot on. Oh- what a mess. And worse going in- huge huge potholes. Be sure to bypass the city and take the shortcut to/from the airport. They are reconsrtucting the Portillo, however, so hopefully soon it will be smooth sailing.

And many many restaurants and shops have reopened for season so the ambiente is back to typical Holbox. Enjoy.

Texas
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8. Re: Holbox Report - Post-Rina

That is a great update M. We will be at Mawimbi by this time next Tuesday! It's very exciting to hear the restaurants are opening back up too. There are several new ones that we want to try for sure plus a few stds like Los Peliconos, the place on the roof of the 3 story building right off the square, the killer chicken from the guy that cooks right on the street basically (best chicken anywhere).

New Jersey
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9. Re: Holbox Report - Post-Rina

Hopefully the transfer companies all know the best routes to avoid the bad roads! Glad to hear everything's coming back together on the beach. Be there in less than a month!

holbox
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10. Re: Holbox Report - Post-Rina

The transfer companies will always take the shortcut to avoid centro traffic anyway, no worries.

Check out this website for pretty accurate weather:

yr.no/place/…long.html

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