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Life’s a beach

Lately I’ve been on the search for the perfect beach, and not because I particularly love beaches. But because I enjoy travelling with my kids, and a good beach is an ace in the hole. Grab a bucket and shovel, and the sand can bring endless hours of creativity and fun. And swimming in warm salty waters offer an excellent way to cool off and a whole other world to explore. Most importantly, it’s true what they say: happy kids, happy parents.

But not all beaches are created equal, especially when travelling with little ones. Sure, there are plenty of wonderful beaches out there, but do they all live up to the exacting parameters I’ve created for my family? No. Beaches can be beautiful to walk on or to play in the sand, but the swimming can be unsafe and we like to play in the water. A surfing beach can be great, but with that comes a great undertow, so no thank you. 

I had heard murmurs of a beach that might tick all my boxes, so last March I set off with children (and grandpa) in tow to check it out. We were not disappointed. I found my family’s slice of heaven in Holbox, Mexico (pronounced Ole Bosh), a small island north of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. It is part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, where the Yalahau Lagoon, home to flamingos and pelicans, separates this small island from the mainland. 

 So let’s see how it holds up to my super scientific parameters…

  1. Is it a warm beach, a moniker my 3-year-old created meaning is the weather warm where the beach is? Check, check and triple check. As I previously mentioned, this beach is in Mexico – expect warm, sunny, blue skies for days. 
  1. Is the water warm? Oh God yes, like bath water.
  1. Is it accessible? Here is the kicker, to reach Holbox it’s a 2-hour drive from Cancun, plus a 20 minute local ferry. But what kid doesn’t like a boat ride? This extra layer of travel is part of the beauty of Holbox that has helped to keep the masses away. Yes, it does take some time to get here, and yes, my child did get car sick on the drive, and yes my other child had to pop-a-squat on the side of the road, but was it still worth it, without a doubt. 
  1. Is the beach swimmable? Clear turquoise water, no under tow, little to no waves, sandy bottom, and long stretches of shallow water, oh yes. My three-year-old and I could have easily floated for days and my 1 year had no problem navigating the water. Is this beach heaven?  

But there is so much more to Holbox I haven’t even touched on. The small island is a mere 41km long and only 1.5km wide and has been relatively untouched by development compared to other parts of Mexico. You won’t find big skyscraper all-inclusive resorts here; the hotels tend to be small and boutique. It is a car-less island, meaning that once you’re here you won’t have to lug child car seats around, there is nothing I dread more than travelling with car seats. You move around by walking, golf carts or bicycle, our favourite being the latter. Need a baby bike seat, no problem, they got it.

Wherever you are on the island, the beach is nearly a 5 minute (in toddler steps) or less walk away. The sandy downtown core is dotted with beautiful street art and has a bustling nightlife – hey, what are babysitters for – but you will see parents toting their kids around at all hours as all the restaurants and beach clubs are kid friendly (some even provide their own sand toys). Everywhere we went my daughter could find other children to play with, and even though they rarely spoke the same language, they had no problem running around the beach together. There is a playground in the centre of town, and wooden swings and hammocks are found dotted along the beach. My daughter surely thought we were on the search for the perfect swing.

Every day we ate fresh mango on a stick from the gentleman who sold them on the beach and would carve the mango into beautiful, delicious flowers. Although personally my favourite (besides the beach of course) is that you can text almost any restaurant to order delivery, which will arrive piping hot via golf cart. I’ll take some $1 tacos please. It’s these little things that make my heart sing while travelling with the kids in tow.

March is fast approaching, and I find myself wondering where I should go this year with the kids, but as I look at different beach destinations, I can’t help but circle back to Holbox. As much as we’d like to try something new, I cannot deny that for my family, Holbox really has it all. 

It is a car-less island, meaning that once you’re here you won’t have to lug child car seats around, there is nothing I dread more than travelling with car seats.

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