Adorable fishing boats line the pier as stray dogs play with one another and a baby manta ray ripples the water surrounding the ferry. It’s a quick jaunt from the seaside town of Chiquila to Isla Holbox (pronounced ol-bosch). Those in the know have already heard of the charming island of Holbox, just two hours yet a world away from Cancun. The double-edged sword in reporting about Holbox is that by sharing this remarkable, relatively untouched paradise, we may open the world up to this unique hideaway. Fear not, for while this is the first of the newly branded St. Somewhere Resorts in the Margaritaville Island Reserve world, every detail has been scrutinized to not only provide guests with a luxe yet relaxed vacation but also preserve the natural splendor surrounding this salty piece of land.
My travel takes place in the brief rainy season, and while it is not currently raining, upon arrival I see that the sandy white clay dirt roads are for lack of a better word: flooded. This does not faze anyone, and certainly not me. As there are no automobiles on the island save for an occasional delivery truck, everyone gets around via foot, bike, ATV, or mostly golf carts. The sight of golf cart taxis jetting around the soaked dirt roads is surreal, adding to the magic of this island I never knew existed. A friendly driver approaches and helps to load my bag into the back of a souped-up golf cart, which I’m thankful for as we soon splash our way through town. Night has fallen so I don’t get the full views, yet from what I see I’m already in love. The rickshaws wading through the streets look as though I might be in Thailand, while the art and murals passing by scream that perhaps I’m in Key West, and the thatched-roof bars dripping in twinkling lights protest that we must be in Tulum, all the while modern glass mansions whisper that I’m actually crisscrossing the High Line in Manhattan. Where am I?
After a laughing good ride, I arrive at the Margaritaville St. Somewhere Resort behind white coral brick walls of what looks like a sandcastle. I’m greeted by the general manager and his team who offer me delicious green juice and help me get situated. The surrounding jungle emits sounds of nature while bubbling fountains quietly serenade me all the way to dinner at the onsite Harbour House restaurant. Nestled under a little lighthouse next to the sparkling pool, I’m treated to a bottle of Monte Xanic Gran Ricardo wine from Northern Mexico and a delicious mushroom soup that looks like a semi-science experiment with a dropper for syrup resting atop the crostini bridge.
I learn more about St. Somewhere which just opened in March 2022, and continues to expand and improve. While I thoroughly enjoyed my taxi adventure through town, our swankiest of readers who value time above all else will be pleased to hear that the resort will soon offer helicopter rides straight from Cancun, as well as a private dock to be built on site. This is the first in the Margaritaville family to offer a more boutique experience – an offshoot of the St. Somewhere Spa. The folks at Margaritaville snapped up this pristine property on the west end of the island, otherwise known as Punta Coco, arguably the best beach around, and where all the tours travel for nightly bioluminescent shows in the sea. The 39-suite resort (including seven suites with private plunge pools), offers nothing but waterfront views and many with direct access to the main pool and swim-up bar, in addition to the two restaurants and another bar.
Soon a caravan of mini grills burning brightly with charcoals arrive directly to the table, perfect for a group to share, and can even be served on the nearby beach. The feast consists of grilled steak, pork, chicken, shrimp, potatoes, and veggies. It’s as if I’m at a luau without having to leave the chic restaurant.
In the morning, birds chirping outside my window act as the only alarm clock. I open the curtains and take in the room with daylight, noting every nautical detail from lights hanging with gears and ropes, to fish paintings, a porthole-shaped mirror, and countless other essentials and extravagances that one wouldn’t expect on this rustic island (most of all being the only resort around with 24/7 air conditioning). A Tamarind mezcalita cocktail sits on the hand-crafted wooden table with a side of grasshoppers! Fully committing to the Margaritaville mantra of it’s five o’clock somewhere, I give it a try (but pass on the grasshoppers).
After a rinse in the spacious walk-in shower I don my flip flops and greet the sunny day. All the buildings are connected by elevated wooden bridges so as not to disturb nature’s ground below and the mangroves all around. The open-air lobby adds to the inside/outside appeal of the tropics, and the decor reflects the mix of simple yet stately lighthearted fun one would appreciate in the fusion of Hotbox and Margaritaville.
At the Harbour House I try a refreshing Mayan Chaya juice and sunny-side up egg chilaquiles with panela cheese and a side of locally made breads and jam that settle my soul. Afterwards, I’m filled with the energy to take on the high seas, walking to the beach where one of those adorable little boats waits right on the shore for a three island tour. Call me Gilligan or call me Jimmy, but there’s just something ‘bout a boat…
My guide steers us into the great Gulf and a smile engraves itself on my face. With the sun shining and waves bubbling around, I soak in the peaceful paradise. Our first stop is the Yamaha Cenote, a type of nature preserve that offers not only refreshing and healing springs, but also a bar with hanging swings rather than stools. Crabs of all sizes and colors scatter amongst their multitude of holes, perhaps wishing to order a margarita of their own. The crystal-clear water of the springs welcomes me with a cool embrace in the hot morning, and with a life jacket I’m able to simply lie back and float. Just above the springs is a wooden tower which I dare to climb, and at the top it looks in all directions as though I’ve been transported to a safari in the Serengeti.
The boat glides me a short distance to the next island where it appears an impromptu sandbar party has broken out. A dozen or two boats rest right on the sandbar while groups of people and I wade around in the knee deep waters, with the blue sky breeze blowing wind through my hair. I follow a school of needle-nose fish shimmering in the sun and wish there was more time. It’s a quick stop, but I take a mental note to return sometime soon with a cooler for my own sandbar party next time.
The final stop is mosquito island (I prefer bird island) on the other side of Holbox, which one cannot actually gain access to as it’s off-limits to humans. This preserve is home to countless flamingos and other birds and wildlife, all suntanning on the sand and can’t be bothered. The boat lets me off at a pier downtown where I pass by dozens of cute waterfront shops, bars, and cafes. Art seems to sprout not only from the ground but even from the water with sculptures and more murals. I plop down at the nearest wooden table right on the sand and order a Pacifico beer. I sit for a while, people-watching while a DJ housed in a booth over the water plays a song whose lyrics I can’t translate but can feel all the same.
I stroll around town, stepping into one cute shop after the next. I reach a locals favorite pizza joint called Roots, with simple picnic tables surrounded by lush trees, hanging straw lanterns, and of course plenty of art. I order a local lager agave beer and don’t even need to look at the menu to order their famous lobster pizza.
Later in the day, I walk back to the resort and cool off in the pool before rain clouds appear. I take mother nature’s cue and return to my cozy room for a siesta. When I awake, I get dressed and head down to the Sand Bar restaurant to watch the pink cotton candy sunset stretch across the sky. Dinner begins with a “Who’s to Blame” margarita, followed by another rich and creamy butternut squash soup. An extraordinary entree soon appears: baked chicken stuffed with ham, then blanketed with cheese as the Chef and his team introduce themselves, along with a torch lighter, to melt the creation together right before my eyes – dinner and a show!
After a passionfruit cheesecake tart ornamented in berries and icing, we take a tequila-fueled expedition down to the peaceful darkness of the beach under cellphone lights to the Bioluminescent Bay. Similar to tracking the Northern Lights, successful viewings depend on a number of mother nature’s whims including the time of year, weather, waves, and moon phase, but given the right conditions one can see the blue lights in the water upon disturbing the sea organisms. Disturbing them sounds negative, so instead I dance into the calm waves and shake my feet around, inciting small sparkles of what can only be described as sea fireflies. Regrettably, tonight they’re not bright enough for my camera, so you dear reader will simply have to dance your way down here yourself.
In the morning, I climb to the crow’s nest above the Harbour House for more revitalizing juice and a gouda and curd cheese quesadilla on blue corn tortillas and a side of tater tots to boot. Somehow, it’s even sunnier than yesterday so I return to the beach and cast a kayak out to sea. I follow along the shore for a while, passing by one gorgeous waterfront home after the next. After the aqua workout, I return to a plush beachside bed and order a well-earned frozen margarita. As of this writing, a driftwood style beach club is under construction and will provide even more luxurious fun, and if Mr. Buffett felt so inclined for an impromptu concert, I humbly ask for a heads up to return upon its completion! Sipping the refreshing margarita under the hot sun, I watch pelicans dive for fish until I’m ready for a lunch of my own.
I’m in for yet another pampering poolside treat – I don’t even have to leave the water because at St. Somewhere lunch sails to you! A sailing tray to be exact, a table-sized flotilla carrying armaments of mezcalitas in copper chalices, shrimp tacos, the freshest ceviche, chips and guacamole and much more. Many of the suites have step-in access to the pool, thus Margaritaville is redefining room service as these pool trays can float right to you. I soon see the contagious appeal as other guests spot my lunch and order trays of their own.
As a big supporter of the island’s local businesses, the general manager and his chef take me on a tour into town not only to try a pink cheesecake ice cream for dessert, but we also visit the local bakery where the resort’s breads are baked. While the term ‘Margaritaville’ may stem from my favorite American singer/philosopher, this is a Mexican resort through and through. It is just as important by the benefits and on property, staff housing, eco-renewal, and other charitable projects, not only on the property but the island itself that keeps with the mission statement, and island charm.
The resort offers sunset yoga to all the yogis wishing to sign up for a class, however I’m sorry to admit that I need another siesta on my balcony overlooking the pool, lighthouse, and beach before my next margarita.
I join the management team for a goodbye dinner with an impromptu tequila tasting test. Forget the limes! Instead, I’m taught to smell the tequila by my chest, then take a taste, swish it around so that my tastebuds can open and acclimate, then continue to sip. With a renewed interest in tequila, I pair the freshest sushi and sashimi with a Paloma. Tonight’s soup broth bursts with so many different flavors that it’s impossible to discern them all, and the flame torch returns, this time to light up the salmon sushi. All of these delicious treats could have been enough on their own, but the chef and his team appear with an amazing baked salmon encircled by a moat of passionfruit pink dots.
One could say that I took off for a weekend to try and recall the whole year, all of the faces and all of the places…But my quick trip is coming to a close, yet I managed to do so little and so much. I thank the entire staff for their generosity and kindness – truly going out of their way to make every guest feel welcome. Tanned, full, and having enjoyed just a taste of the Margaritaville luxe lifestyle, I will carry these memories with me until next time, as I now have a Caribbean soul I can barely control and Holbox hidden here in my heart.