I love the unusual, the creative, the interesting things in life. Things that stimulate my mind and stir up my soul. During my stay in the Mayan Riviera I asked around to find out if there was a place that I really MUST go to. Turned out, Holbox Island was the place to visit. So we did. And we stayed at the unexpectedly beautiful CasaSandra Boutique Hotel. Here’s what’s unusual about it – it is a hotel quite unlike any other we have ever been to, and we have been to many! Owned by a Cuban artist who fell in love with the unspoiled beauty of this island, Sandra Perez built a home infused with her work and paintings by other Cuban artists. She, in effect, turned it into an exquisite space for Cuban culture and art and then decided to share it as a boutique hotel. A veritable paradise on this paradisiacal island.
After all the enthusiastic recommendations, I arrived at Holbox Island with high expectations. A few hours by car and ferry brought us to this delightful island and I was not disappointed! Holbox is quite unique, it is a place where time seems to have stood still, and I will tell you why in a bit.
On our arrival at the island we were pleasantly surprised not to be swamped by taxi drivers vying with each other for our fare. In fact, we only needed to go up to where they waited to get one to take us to our destination. I wish taxi drivers were like this the world over! Nobody likes getting chased around by taxi drivers, right?
Interestingly, the taxis here are golf carts and we got one to take us to Casa Sandra. It was a lovely ride that took us through the captivating little town that the island consists of. The roads are covered with sand (which is why golf carts make sense, I suppose), and that only added to the uniqueness of the island. Ten minutes later we arrived at Casa Sandra Boutique Hotel and as we stood outside taking our surroundings in, I felt transported back in time. And I also had this strange feeling of being on the sets of The Young Riders! I can’t think why!
And so there we were, standing outside CasaSandra, appreciating the detailing of the woodwork, the curtains, the palapas, so much to see…when a chirpy lady opened the door and waved to us, her beautiful Mexican skirt and the red flower in her hair grabbing my attention. She called out to us to come in and to leave our bags where they were as they would be taken care of by the staff. It was such an unusual welcome and really added to our impression of the quaintly laid back culture of the island.
As we entered the lobby, we both went ‘Wow’! There were paintings and flowers everywhere! Paintings by Mrs. Perez and other Cuban artists, in all sizes and colors. Everything was placed perfectly, creating a very cozy ambiance. We moved on into the reception area….and giggled, for, right in front of us was this large painting of the back of a naked woman with the kind of ass that demanded our attention! Well, keeping a straight face and trying to carry on a serious conversation was a bit of a challenge for us, although apparently not for the receptionist. Ha ha.. Perhaps it was a well placed painting that made one loosen up with a giggle. Who knows!
We did get the paperwork done, downed a very refreshing welcome drink – the signature CasaSandra drink made of mint, lime, sugar and cucumber. Delicious! The receptionist walked us to our room, gave us the key and left us to explore our suite. Most other places we stayed in, we were given a little tour of our suites to familiarize ourselves. So this was a bit unusual. But then, everything about this island is unusual!
As I usually do, I looked for little details that make each suite/hotel room different. Here it was the wonderful fragrance of incense. I love incense. I know that some could find it annoying. But for me, that made my day! I always carry some incense sticks and essential oils when I travel. Yes, I love it that much! It turns out that incense is very much part of the CasaSandra experience. So you should expect to have the turn down service leave you some when they come to clean your room.
I’ll let you have a look at the layout of our suite for yourself in this 360° virtual tour.
As you can see, the suite is pretty spacious with well chosen furniture and accent pieces. But….there seemed to be something missing. Ah yes, the tea and coffee essentials. We’ve always had them provided in our suites, wherever we stayed. It really saves us the hassle of having to get ready and pop into the restaurant just for a cup of coffee. Apart from that, the suite was perfect for us. We’re the sort of people who barely watch TV, so not having one in the room was fine with us. Oh, but then we do tend to use the internet quite a lot and not being able to access a WiFi connection actually turned out to be great. Why?? Because we got to spend quality time together, without the distraction of our laptops! We hadn’t done that in a long while…
The view from our shaded balcony reminded me of a place in Thailand where I’d gone for a meditation retreat. Although we didn’t have a good view of the ocean, we loved it! The perfect place to relax in the hammock wearing the really comfy dress provided by the hotel. Little birds would perch on the rooftop in front of us, iguanas would slither up to sun themselves. Iguanas, ha ha, I was rather scared of them initially, but I got used to them in time.
The minute attention to detail and creating a cozy atmosphere extends to the bathroom too. Mexican tiles, pieces of wood around the wash basin and light fixtures made of shells all go to make the bath area intimate and inviting, especially at night. We soaked in the tub over a couple of drinks, bathed in romantic candle light and pamper ourselves with the indigenous organic toiletries provided by the hotel. Ooh…a simply super experience.
We ate at the CasaSandra restaurant a few times and found the food to be superb! We did try a couple of other restaurants during our stay in Holbox, but the food at Casa Sandra wins hands down! No matter which meal it was – breakfast, lunch, dinner – always top quality. Mexican eggs for breakfast – ooh yes! I hear the lobster is out of this world, but alas, I am allergic to seafood….But do let me know how you find it!
The surroundings and facilities
CasaSandra Boutique Hotel is a relatively small property, so don’t expect the sort of amenities you would find at a bigger one. Remember, this boutique hotel started out as Sandra Perez’s private residence. You do have a pool and a little bar at the back of the main building, and across from it are a few beach beds. The restaurant extends to the main road (which barely has any traffic) and there are more amenities across the road – a rustic bar, more beach beds and some sun beds on the beach. Oh the beach here was the most serene I’ve ever seen, with fine white sand and, surprisingly, the water was a clear shade of green and not the Caribbean blue I expected.
You have 18 rooms to choose from at CasaSandra. And here’s a little something else about the hotel. We all have our beliefs and superstitions, right? Well, Sandra Perez considers the number 13, bad luck, and so, you won’t find a No. 13 room here! No siree!
The hotel manager, Eva, is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. She manages a staff that has a contagious energy. We did run into a problem during our stay with water and power supply issues. Truth to tell, it was pretty debilitating, but from what I gather, unusual to the functioning of the hotel. I could see that they were working to fix it. However, I feel they could perhaps have a better contingency plan so that guests are not inconvenienced.
Where is Holbox ISLAND?
Holbox island is located on the north cost of the Yucatan Peninsula. Click here to see a map.
How to get around Holbox Island
Holbox Island is a small, laid back, undeveloped island. You will find the streets are not asphalted, but just sandy tracks. No modern buildings around, only rusty wooden shacks that have been converted into restaurants, boutiques and stores selling local craft. As I mentioned, it is almost like time stands still.
How you get around is pretty easy. Walk, rent a bicycle or hire a golf cart – these are the main modes of transport on the island.
I would recommend that you make time to see the sunset at the pier. In fact, I’d say that catching the sunset is worth the whole trip to Holbox Island. I heard that seeing the flamingos is an unforgettable experience. We didn’t have the privilege, but apparently June is a better time for it.
Would I recommend CasaSandra Boutique Hotel?
Oh yes, in a heartbeat! I’d recommend a stay here, despite our experience with the power and water issues, which, as I mentioned, were unusual. This is probably one of the nicest boutique hotels I’ve ever seen or stayed in. I would like to emphasize that this is a small hotel for art lovers, those who just want to unwind and ideal for those looking for a romantic spot. A timeless place, everything about it, the unpaved roads, the laid back atmosphere…takes you back to a time gone by.
For more information about the hotel rates and types of suites, please visit their official website.
Rates : Start from USD 240/night.
Disclaimer: CasaSandra Boutique Hotel hosted our stay, but all opinions herein are my own and have not been influenced in any way by arrangements we made with the hotel.
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