“Welcoming chic bolthole, with an excellent Mexican-Cuban restaurant, artistic flair and stylish suites”
CasaSandra has grown gradually and organically since its opening in the early Noughties. Most of the rooms and suites have sea views and all are individually styled, but all showcase Sandra's excellent taste. Walls are crisp white, floors are cool tiled terracotta, and cushions and runners embroidered by an artist in Mexico City give a sophisticated twist to a traditional craft.
Balconies or terraces are festooned with bright hammocks, beds are often muslin-draped; all are extremely comfortable with 500-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. Larger rooms have luxurious walk-in wardrobes or dressing areas.
There’s both air-conditioning and fans - very necessary in the height of summer. Our only complaint about our lovely suite was that it didn't have enough meshed windows to allow the breeze through, and it did get uncomfortably warm in the afternoons.
The main building houses most of the Superior Deluxe Rooms on the first floor above the restaurant, these share a balcony overlooking the ocean and the beachfront lounging area. The rest of the Superior Deluxe Rooms are in a casita in the garden, close to the pool.
Over time, other 2-storey dwellings have been added. Nicely spaced apart, these are all white with palapa roofs and strong gnarled beams. One houses a Master Suite, which has an additional sitting area and 2 divans that could work well for a small family. It can be connected to a Superior Deluxe Room next door to create a proper family apartment. The palapa next to the main house holds 2 Suites with stunning views across the beach towards the setting sun; their seating areas have built-in sofas with cushions. Another 2 buildings were completed in 2008, housing more suites which we have not seen yet.
Bathrooms feature hand-painted bowl sinks and conch shell shower heads. You get bathrobes, a hairdryer, CasaSandra-branded toiletries, incense and mosquito repellent (although we never saw any mozzies).
The excellent Cuban-Mexican seafood restaurant, Restaurante Gourmet CasaSandra, occupies the whole ground floor of the main house. It has funky star lights, rattan furniture, vivid artwork, candles in hurricane lamps, a bar and sofas for lounging. It's the heart of the hotel, where time slips past as you gaze out to the ocean and chat to other guests.
Breakfast is served from 7am until a very civilised 11am. Included in the room rate are jugs of iced juice, fruit salad, yoghurt, granola, cakes made for drenching with honey, and several variations of coffee and tea. The à la carte menu features eggs served many different ways, including huevos a la mexicana, huevos motulenos and huevos divorciados - we liked leaping into the unknown with these, although we could have just asked the serving staff. 'Divorced eggs' turned out to be 2 fried eggs, each with a different hot sauce, one green, one red. Other options include mole, hot cakes, quesadillas and French toast.
Lunch and dinner share the same menu, which we thoroughly enjoyed eating our way through. Starters included a variety of ceviches, the local speciality, where seafood is marinated in lime and lemon juice, here inventively presented with shrimp and lobster tails resplendent above the dish. You could also try excellent guacamole, fish croquettes, several salads and stuffed avocados with shrimps.
Although main courses sounded deceptively simple - seafood with rice, fish papillote, shrimp with garlic - they were anything but. Cooked perfectly to order and beautifully arranged on the plate, they tickled the taste buds with clever flavour combinations. Service was sometimes slow but always delightful, and we weren't in a hurry to go anywhere, so it gave us the opportunity to get to know our fellow diners. Meals are accompanied by an eclectic range of music, often Cuban.
The pool bar is open until midnight (assuming demand warrants) and serves some of the most delicious cocktails we've ever tried. You can also lounge in a very louche way on the daybeds around the pool or at the front of the hotel and sip your drinks there - bliss.
Children are welcomed at CasaSandra; cots and extra beds are available, and babysitting can be arranged. Only children 13+ are allowed January thru March, July to August, and December. Young children stay for free, while over 12s are charged at adult rates. Sandra has a son herself, and the staff are very charming and helpful with little ones. If your child requires lots of organised activities then Holbox may not be the place for him/her, but swimming, boat trips, birding, cycling, whale sharks, kayaking and splashing about in the pool will keep most amused. The heat and humidity can be very high in the summer, so consider travelling outside May to September.
One Master Suite has 2 divans that could work well for a small family, and can be connected to a Superior Deluxe Room next door to create a proper family apartment.
Babysitting is available by arrangement
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking