A world away from the party central of Cancun, Isla Holbox has earned a reputation as a bohemian enclave for travellers looking for a shock of summer sun in the depths of winter, and a nature-rich haven between June and August.
Once a secret among Mexicans, this relatively untouched fishing town has today garnered a reputation among those more interested in birdwatching than club-hopping. As the island's popularity has grown, so too has its hotel offerings, with accommodation ranging from no-frills campsites to five-star hotels. Aldea Kuka, Holbox's newest boutique accommodation, strikes a perfect note between.
The dream of Aldea Kuka was born almost 20 years ago when Mexican-born owner Marco Z. Garcia Marquez first came to the island during a family road trip through the Yucatan. Unsurprisingly, Marquez fell in love with Holbox and, after visiting religiously for years, purchased his own patch of sandy, seaside land in 2013. That slice of the shoreline has been transformed into Holbox's most beautiful, eco-friendly boutique hotel.
When conceiving Aldea Kuka, Marquez sought to create a cluster of bungalows reminiscent of a Mayan village. The design has been seamlessly executed; simple structures made of bamboo and logs topped with palm roofs open up to the infinity pool and the sea beyond.
Simple, however, is an understatement. Inside, the rustic bungalows are sweeping, lofty cocoons adorned with furniture and accessories that Marquez has collected on his travels across Mexico. Handwoven beach blankets and bags, hand-carved tables and cavernous soaking tubs with hollowed out gourd calabashes give these rooms a feel of luxury glamping at its most appealing. In sourcing the materials and decor for the interiors, Marquez built strong connections with artisans in the Yucatan and beyond.
The hotel plans to introduce a monthly artist-in-residency programme to highlight the cultural and artistic heritage of the artisans and artists.
What's for breakfast?
Aldea Kuka's restaurant serves exclusively fresh local cuisine. A small farm in the port town of Chiquila (from where you board the ferry to Holbox) supplies the produce including milk and eggs.
How about lunch and dinner?
Aldea Kuka's full-service restaurant puts an emphasis on local seafood. Holbox's famous lobster will be among the most fresh you've ever eaten.
Is there a bar?
Bar options include an appealing selection of Mexican beers - a smart choice to enjoy on your balcony hammock.
Look out to sea from the infinity pool or the comfort of a private hammock and you may find little reason to leave - especially with the hotel's luxury spa on hand should you need a touch of pampering. For those longing to explore, the hotel can arrange bicycle rental or transport in the private golf cart.
Things you should know
As Holbox's popularity grows, Marquez hopes to be a leader in a movement to create environmentally friendly, sustainable hotels that leave as little footprint on the island as possible. He's paid as much attention to the mechanics of the operation as the aesthetics with extensive on-site water treatment facilities that will allow the hotel to become fully plastic bottle free - no small feat in a country where safe drinking water remains an issue. Solar panels are being installed and a grove of trees will be added to the property's sandy courtyard to offset the hotel's CO2 emissions.
Within a short walk you'll find…
Within a 30-second walk you're at the beach, where rustic sunshades offer relief from the persistent sun. Join locals who sprawl across their towels, tune their guitars and dive into the water. Wander 15 minutes west down the road to the heart of Holbox's restaurant and bar scene. Alternatively, head east to reach Punta Mosquito, Holbox's most pristine beach that's prime flamingo-spotting territory each April through to October.