Holidays, travel, sightseeing, expeditions, tours, cruises… these the are words that in the times of the pandemic have been taken away from our vocabulary.  Even thinking about them causes frustration, because all those plans to visit another country fell apart during 2020.  

Definitely, in Covid19 times, traveling is not the recommended choice and staying at home is the best guarantee to protect yourself.  

But there are those who spend hours (myself included) checking the cheap flights, hotels with ridiculous low prices and restrictions from each country. And we want to overcome the fear by taking “that” risk. At the same time, there is a business somewhere that needs tourism to survive in the midst of the crisis.  

That’s how in July I arrived at the Riviera Maya in Mexico. After researching what were the safest sites and what protective measures should be taken, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Holbox were the best places to choose from. Days earlier, the area had received the International Seal ‘Safe Travel’, which is awarded by the World Travel & Tourism Council, for complying with high standards of protection.  

The area reopened since June, and until September 6th, has been working with a capacity of 30% to 50% (phase 1), so an agglomeration was unlikely. Its beaches were closed, except Holbox, so I looked for entertainment options with the least danger of contagion.  


We are told repeatedly that the airports are the most insecure places. From my personal experience, it didn’t feel that way. I was stunned as I entered an empty Terminal 4 of John F Kennedy in New York. It was shocking to see it so quiet.  

Checking in online, having carry-on baggage and keeping the ticket on my cell phone helped me avoid the line at the airline counter. At the security gate, officers as well as passengers were required to wear masks. No one comes near you unless the security scanner detects metal and there are wipes in every corner.  

I traveled with Delta airlines. On my flight, 1 or 2 people were seated per line. The crew gave me hands sanitizer when I was boarding, and later, when I got a plastic bag with water and snacks.  

Almost 4 hours with the mask is challenging, but the flight attendants checked regularly to verify that we didn’t take them off. Their key suggestion: wash your hands frequently. 

When I arrived at the Cancun airport, I observed that there were social distance guidelines in place, and everything looked disinfected. On my way back to US, I had to fill out an online form where I confirmed that I had no symptoms and I had not been in contact with an infected person to the best of my knowledge.   


My first destination was Holbox Island. For this trip, I decided to rent a car to the port of Chiquilá and then take the boat. The ferry has limited capacity, and to enter, you have to cross a disinfection tunnel. Even to get on taxis (which are golf carts) the use of masks is mandatory.  

The hotels had a capacity of 30%, so you feel like you’re the only one staying.  The employees shielded their faces with plastic protectors, in addition to their masks, and they also took the temperature of the guests and disinfected their shoes.   

There are activities that do not require grouping. Hotels offer private tours of up to 5 people. The beach is wide, and you may not see another tourist swimming in the sea or tanning at a distance of 10 meters.  


The second destination was Tulum. This time the option was to rent a house on Airbnb. Its owners emphasized that their hygiene standards were rigorous, but they failed to provide disinfectant wipes.  

Restrictions on covid19 and excess seaweed were the reasons why it was forbidden to enter the beaches and their archaeological area, but Riviera Maya has a range of attractions that includes lagoons and “cenotes” (natural freshwater ponds).   

Tulum is one of the most visited Mayan sites in Mexico, but on this trip, I only saw the locals. No matter the size of the crowd, it is very charming. With so many picture-perfect points of interest, it’s worth cycling through them, which is a traditional tourist activity.   

For $8, I rented a bike for the day. Pedaling through the hotel area near the beach was a good option. The area is ideal for taking those perfect social media photos. 

Places that are not be missed: The “Follow that Dream” sign from the Lolita store; Matcha Mama’s swings; the sculpture “Come to the Light” by artist Daniel Popper at the hotel “Ahau”; the entrance of the Selina hotel, and the cenote inside the Clandestino restaurant.  

Another option to enjoy, without any contact with more tourists, was the Kaan Luum lagoon. This giant nature reserve is open from 9am. It is characterized by its watercolor tones, which change as it becomes deeper. In addition, it has hammocks and swings around, making the site very pleasant and relaxing.   

Th entry cost is 50 pesos (3USD). Additional equipment can be rented for kayaking or diving.   

One of the sacred sites of the Maya were the “cenotes”, which are freshwater ponds connected to caves and underground rivers. They are famous along the Yucatan Peninsula.  

In Riviera Maya alone you can dive and swim in about 20 locations.  Near Tulum is Gran Cenote, which is more open and spacious, and makes it easier to follow social distance guidelines. Here, disinfection protocols, our new normality, were applied and employees were diligently avoiding crowds.   


The beaches were closed, but the hotel restaurants in front of the sea were still worth it. It was still allowed to have a margarita and eat some tacos, enjoying the breeze and the view.  

This is how in hotels such as The Mi Amor, in Tulum and Mamitas, in Playa del Carmen, you could even enter the pools without worries. Due to the limited number of allowed visitors, they were practically empty.    

In Playa del Carmen, restaurants were coming back to life. Upon entering, the fully protected servers apply hands sanitizer to each customer and take their temperature. In addition, each table has signs to notify them that they have been cleaned, and the menus were barcodes that are scanned on the cell phone.   

Playa del Carmen


On my last day in the Mexican Caribbean, I decided to take a tour of Isla Mujeres on a catamaran. These trips had their capacity reduced from 50 persons to 12.   

Upon entering the docks in Cancun, our temperature was taken, we were offered antibacterial sanitizer, and once in the catamaran, our shoes stayed in a box, which the crew disinfected.   

The crew never took off their mask, but visitors could, as long as we were apart. We receive disposable equipment for snorkeling. 

During my week in Riviera Maya, I could see that the local tourism industry continues to get ready for this new normal and for the time when the area reopens a 100 percent.   

Tourism is considered an essential job in Mexico, so its community follow every rule and make us visitors be fully compliant with health protocols so that the danger of contagion is minimal, and all travelers feel confident to travel despite the uncertainty that the world is currently experiencing 


  • The parks of the Xcaret group are open to the public, but with reduced schedules. It’s best to check your www.xcaret.com  
  • As of September 7, the beaches of Riviera Maya (Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and other municipalities) have already entered the phase two. Its beaches began to reopen by 60-70%.   
  • Cancun Airport and Cozumel are open.   
  • There is no quarantine required upon arrival to the Riviera Maya, Mexico. But for more information about restrictions and epidemiological risks, you can enter  https://reactivemosq.roo.gob.mx  (Spanish only).





We were getting into the water, in the middle of an absolute darkness. Just following the steps and the voices of Gilmer and Alfonso, our tour guides. Scared? Not even for a minute!

My five friends and I were so excited to be in a such a peaceful place,  around of an extraordinary show of stars and also, we were about to watch the surprise of the night.  

We were walking and the water barely cover our knees. Gilmer told us to move the water as strong as we can. Suddenly the performance started. The sea lighted up with thousands of turquoise lights. They were impregnated in our hands for seconds. 

If that could happen with our hands, why not just try the whole body? So, we dipped and immediately were glowing as star. This was our moment to filled our souls with all the energy that the mother nature was giving us. 

We wanted to keep this moment but it was too dark to recorder our experience with the famous bioluminescence plankton, a tiny marine organism that can sometimes cause the surface of the ocean to sparkle at night.  

Courtesy of the Hotel Association of Holbox

Holbox, Mexico 

To live that experience, it only took us: a plane to Cancun, a car rented at the airport, a ferry taking from the port of Chiquila and a golf cart… That was how Mexico welcomed us. We were at the Yucatan Peninsula and specifically to the island of Holbox. 

Hol-bo-(sh) as pronounced by Mexicans is the best kept secret of the country, although in recent years its paradise beaches and its advertising on social media have made it the new destination for those who visit the Riviera Maya.  

This little island has a green soul, it’s eco-friendly. You won’t find pretentious hotels, a bustling nightlife or luxuries. Also, there are not paved streets or cars, you will see golf carts and bicycles instead. 

That’s its charm. Feel away from the noise, surround yourself with pelicans and flamingos, and enjoy a wide turquoise beach, while having a beer, a margarita or a mojito. 

However, Holbox does have a wide range of accommodation. Its hotels are comfortable and elegant, but maintaining a rustic décor. We arrived at Soho Boutique Holbox. Due to the Pandemic by the Covid19, only days earlier the island had reopened, so its hosting capacity was 30%. 

What to do?  

Here we go! First stop, of course, the beach. Holbox is not a massive destination and due to the global quarantine, we had miles of fine sand, and crystal-clear water with no waves just for us. Can we ask for more?

This was the real paradise, despite the high temperatures and the sun of shimmering. A few months earlier, the hammocks and swings along the water were an attraction but, because of the lock down, they were removed.   

One more time, Gilmer and Alfonso, offered us their almost 4-hour tour. This time would be by boat around three smalls islands. The service was complete: a bottle of Don Julio 70 tequila, grapefruit soda, bottles of water, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and music. We are ready! 

The first excursion  to explore was the  “Isla de los Pájaros”  or the Bird Island, which is home to nearly 100 species. Passion Island or “Isla Pasión”  was the second spot. It was an islet that can be walking by the sea (along the way, the water reaches your ankle).  

And, the third island was the Yalahau cenote, a sacred site for the Mayan Culture. The natives say that their waters are healing and immersing themselves there will rejuvenate you 5 years. So, after one-hour bathing, we were 20 years old.   

Feeling as teenagers, we kept discovering Holbox. It was the time to walk around the downtown. Its sandy streets were with large wells due to a previous rain. Dodging the water, we got to see some of its famous and colorful murals. Alongside them, souvenirs stores and houses with vibrant colors.   

It was almost time for my happy and favorite hour: the sunset. The best place to enjoy it was Punta Cocos. On our way, we found two beach clubs in front of the beach. Coralina and el Chiringuito. Both were the right and more comfortable places to see the mosaic of colors. Of course, with some shrimp tacos and a perfect paloma (drink with tequila, lime and grapefruit soda). 

Holbox has so many more attractions what is worth it to do it. Ride a bike to Punta Mosquito (east side of the island), watch the whale shark (between June and August), dive, fish and swim along the flamingos.  

At the next day and before take the ferry, our last stop was the restaurant Roots, recommended for its the best lobster pizza of town. The pizza was made in a wood-burning oven. A thin dough topped with bits of the crustacean melted in our mouth. Between 5, we ate 4 family size pizzas. Oh! And for a good farewell, it’s worth joining the meal with the Frida Kahlo cocktail (tequila with cucumber, mint and lime) 

Holbox, which in Mayan means “Black Hole”, was our perfect place to get away and disconnect from all the news. Its people also live from tourism so we rigorously observed how all the disinfection and sanitizing protocols were followed at the right way. They gave us the confidence that we were in the best hands. And, the atmosphere, on the best island.  


  • Holbox is located at the north of the Yucatan Peninsula, in Mexico.   
  • It’s at the Golfo de México and part of Yum Balam Natural Reserve.  
  • The island is 24 miles long. and almost 2 miles wide.   
  • Language: Spanish.   
  • Currency: Mexican pesos. Better to carry cash because there are just few ATMs and by noon are out of money.  
  • Transportation: bikes and golf cars.   
  • How to get there? There is a ferry departing of the port of Chiquila. The price is 200 pesos (9$). You can find also private boat for the same price per person. Other option is taking a private jet for 550 to 1,200 USD, according to the capacity.  


Holbox: El paraíso mexicano


Nos adentrábamos al fondo del mar. En medio de una completa oscuridad, solo seguíamos los pasos y las voces de nuestros guías Guilmer y Alfonso. ¿Miedo? ¡Jamás! Lo contrario. Mis 5 amigas y yo nos sentíamos emocionadas por la absoluta tranquilidad, por el maravilloso espectáculo de estrellas del que éramos espectadoras y de lo que veríamos tan pronto avanzáramos unos pasos más.  

Caminamos casi 300 metros y el agua apenas cubría nuestras rodillas. Guilmer nos indicó que agitáramos el mar con nuestras manos (lo más fuerte) y fue ahí cuando el show inició. Miles de lucecitas turquesas se desplazaban en el mar y nos iluminaban, y cuando sacábamos las manos se quedaban impregnadas por unos segundos.  

Si así eran nuestras manos, ¿Por qué no probar todo el cuerpo?, nos preguntábamos. En ese instante, nos dimos el chapuzón y dentro del agua nuestro cuerpo brillaba como si tuviéramos estrellas. Era inevitable no llenarse de la energía que la naturaleza nos regalaba.  

Queríamos registrar ese momento. Lástima que en la oscuridad fue imposible una foto o vídeo con estos llamados plancton bioluminiscente, unos diminutos microorganismos que, como las luciérnagas, emiten su propia luz azul. 

Cortesía de la Asociación Hotelera de Holbox.

Holbox, México 

Para vivir esa experiencia, solo nos tomó:  un avión a Cancún, un carro rentado en el aeropuerto, un ferry tomando desde el puerto de Chiquilá y un carrito de golf… Así fue nuestra bienvenida a México. A la Península de Yucatán y específicamente a la isla de Holbox.  

Hol-bo-(sh) como la pronuncian los mexicanos es el secreto mejor guardado del país, aunque en los últimos años sus playas paradisiacas y sus publicidades en Instagram la han convertido en el nuevo destino para quienes visitan la Riviera Maya. 

Esta pequeña isla tiene alma verde, es ‘eco-friendly’. No encontrarás pretenciosos hoteles, una vida nocturna bulliciosa o lujos. Tampoco calles pavimentadas ni autos, ya que en su lugar hay carritos de golf y bicicletas.

Ese es su encanto. Sentirse apartado del ruido, rodearse con pelícanos y flamencos, y disfrutar de una amplia playa color turquesa, mientras tomas una cerveza, una margarita o un mojito. 

Sin embargo, Holbox si tiene una oferta de hospedaje amplia. Sus hoteles son cómodos y elegantes, pero manteniendo una decoración rústica. Nosotros llegamos al Soho Boutique Holbox. Debido a la pandemia por el Covid19, solo días antes había reabierto, y al estar la zona de Riviera Maya en semáforo naranja, su capacidad debía ser del 30%.

¿Qué hacer?  

A lo que vinimos: La playa. Al no ser un destino masivo y estar en cuarentena mundial, teníamos kilómetros de arena fina, y el agua turquesa cristalina y sin olas solo para nosotras. Era el paraíso, a pesar de las altas temperaturas y el sol tan resplandeciente. Meses antes sus hamacas y columpios eran un atractivo, pero debido a la pandemia fueron retirados.  

Gilmer y Alfonso una vez más nos ofrecieron su tour de casi 4 horas. Esta vez sería en bote por tres islas pequeñas. El servicio era completo: una botella de tequila Don Julio 70, soda de toronja, agua, protector solar, repelente de mosquitos y música. ¡Estábamos listos!  

La primera fue una excursión para explorar la Isla de los Pájaros, que es el hogar de cerca de 100 especies de aves. La Isla Pasión fue la segunda parada, que es un islote que se puede rodear caminando por el mar. En todo el trayecto el agua te llega al tobillo.  

Y, la tercera es el cenote Yalahau, un sitio sagrado para la cultura Maya. Los nativos dicen que sus aguas son curativas y sumergirse ahí es rejuvenecer 5 años. Así que luego de 1 hora bañándonos teníamos 20 años. 

Sintiéndonos adolescentes continuamos descubriendo Holbox. Era el tiempo para pasear por el centro. Sus calles arenosas estaban con grandes pozos debido a la lluvia de días anteriores. Esquivando el agua, alcanzamos a ver algunos de sus famosos y coloridos murales. Junto a ellos locales de artesanías mexicanas y las casas también con colores pasteles. 

Mi hora favorita de acercaba: la de la caída del sol. El mejor sitio para disfrutarlo era Punta Cocos. Esta vez encontramos en nuestra ruta dos bares en la playa: Coralina y el Chiringuito. Eran los lugares indicados para disfrutar los mosaicos de colores comiendo unos tacos de camarón con una “paloma” (bebida hecha con tequila y refresco de toronja).  

Holbox tiene otras atracciones como andar en bicicleta por Punta Mosquito (extremo este de la isla), ver al tiburón ballena (entre junio y agosto), bucear, pescar y bañarse junto con los flamencos.  

Al otro día y horas antes de subirnos al ferry, nuestra parada obligatoria era en Roots para probar la mejor pizza de langosta hecha en horno de leña.  Una fina masa cubierta con pedacitos del crustáceo se deshacía en nuestra boca. Tan recomendada que entre 5 nos comimos 4 pizza familiares. ¡Ah! Y para una buena despedida, vale acompañarlo con un Frida Kahlo (tequila con pepino, menta y limón).

Holbox, que en Maya significa Hoyo Negro, fue nuestro lugar perfecto para escaparnos y desconectarnos (con todas las precauciones debidas) de todo lo que ha ocurrido en este 2020. Sus habitantes viven también del turismo por lo que observamos rigurosamente cómo siguen al pie de la letra todos los protocolos de desinfección e higiene. Ellos nos dieron la confianza de que estábamos en las mejores manos; y su atmósfera, en la mejor isla.

Para Anotar:    

  • Holbox está ubicado al norte de la Península de Yucatán en México.  
  • Lo rodea las aguas del Golfo de México.  
  • Es parte de la Reserva Natural Yum Balam.
  • Es una isla de 40 kilómetros de largo y 2 km. de ancho.  
  • Idioma: español.  
  • Moneda: El peso mexicano. Es mejor llevar efectivo pues hay pocos cajeros automáticos en la isla y ya al mediodía no tienen dinero.  
  • Transportación: Bicicletas y taxis que son carros de golf. 
  • ¿Cómo llegar? En ferry, que sale desde el puerto de Chiquilá y vale 200 pesos (9USD), botes privados por el mismo precio por persona o tomar vuelo privado que vale entre 550 y 1200 USD.