Laidback Minimalism at Punta Caliza, Isla Holbox

An island sanctuary in Mexico where guests can surrender to seclusion

The ever-so-slightly complicated route to Mexico’s Isla Holbox means that those who make the journey truly want to be there, and want to experience all that the vibrant but tranquil enclave has in abundance. The tiny island (just 26 miles long and one mile wide) is part of Yum Balam Nature Reserve, a lush area comprising wetlands, beaches and forests replete with Everglades palms and mangroves. To get there, many visitors fly into Cancun, then drive (in a private car or airport shuttle bus) about two hours to Chiquilá, where the ferry crosses the Yalahau Lagoon that separates the island from the mainland. On the other side, golf cart cabs line the dirt road that joins the main town to the marina. There are no high-rise buildings, no huge resorts, no banks, very few ATMs and, despite most hotels and restaurants having WiFi, coverage is limited. There are, however, pristine beaches and a laidback energy. This all leads to visitors disconnecting, but a stay at the idyllic Punta Caliza further encourages individuals to surrender to quiet bliss.

Located at the far end of the main town and just 300 feet (around 92 meters) from the beach, the 14-room hotel is owned and operated by the Munoz family who collaborated with Estudio Macías Peredo on the design. Informed by palapa structures and the triangle-shaped plot of land, the main hotel takes shape with three sections, each housing guest rooms that border the angular pool. Opening in 2017, the hotel utilizes thatched roofs (an echo of traditional Mayan techniques), limestone and cedar wood—materials that have weathered over the years, adding a little rustic charm to the minimal design.

The structures are framed by the turquoise pool, blue skies and leafy surrounds, while sandy pathways leading to rooms ensure guests always feel ensconced in nature.

Inside, the water and plant life are still visible and accessible. Guests can open up their quarters and paddle in the pool, but the wooden gate can be closed and locked to create total seclusion complete with a private plunge pool. Thanks to the A-frame structure, every room feels airy. While spaces are minimal, they offer everything necessary: carafes of purified water, air-conditioning, ceiling fan, robes and bathroom amenities. Towels for the beach sit on each bed, so guests can grab one and head straight to the laidback Punta Caliza beach club—about a five-minute walk away.

Small but splendid—like the hotel itself—the beach club comprises a bunch of lounges, some under a palapa and some in the full sun, but all on soft white sand facing the calm, aqua-to-emerald sea. There’s a little bar with all the essentials (icy cold water, soft drinks, beers and margaritas) and snacks available from the hotel restaurant.

While hammocks replace a few tables during the day, the open-air restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, snacks, cocktails and dinner every day. Breakfast—which is included for hotel guests—includes fruit plates and a special hot dish every morning (from chilaquiles to zopes), along with fresh juices and coffee.

For lunch and dinner, there are expertly made classics like guacamole or salsa with tortilla chips, ceviche, lobster, moles and phenomenal prawn tacos. Whether you’re seeking a spicy tequila drink, fruity rum beverage or a zesty mezcal cocktail, the friendly bar staff are skilled and open to experimentation—and there are plenty of typical tropical options available too. (The hotel also owns Temoc, a small restaurant with an adjoining store, located in town.)

Beyond sunbathing, indulging and imbibing in the sunshine, Punta Caliza offers massages (on the open-air terrace of the tower) as well as off-site activities including kayaking, fishing, sailing and mezcal tours. The fishing trip is especially memorable as guests try line-fishing, potentially catching fish (small and inedible ones are set free) that the captain turns into delicious, citrusy ceviche on board.

It’s simultaneously low-key and lavish—which summarizes the Punta Caliza experience as a whole. For those avoiding chaotic party lodgings, rushed mega-resorts or stuffy and chichi hotels, Punta Caliza provides a relaxing retreat from the rest of the world.

Images by Sandy Noto, courtesy of Punta Caliza