Ser CasaSandra

Isla Holbox, The Yucatan, Mexico Book from Book from £206 per night

Welcoming chic bolthole with an excellent Mexican-Cuban restaurant, artistic flair and stylish suites
When Cuban music producer, poet and artist Sandra Pérez first came to the Yucatán, she felt an instant affinity with its people, colours, sounds and scents. Friends advised her to visit unspoiled Isla Holbox, the last vestige of uncommercial living on the Maya Riviera; she fell in love with its raw beauty. When she bought a plum spot of land on the Playa Norte, then covered only with fine white sand and coconut palms, the local fishermen threw a 3-day party to celebrate.

Ser CasaSandra is her passion project and it shows. Sandra's influence is evident in the carefully sourced Cuban antiques, the bespoke colonial-style furniture from Guadalajara, and 18 romantic guest rooms. Little details - lights made from conch shells, Mexican fabrics given a contemporary twist - contribute to the stylish and welcoming ambiance. Add the best restaurant on the island, vast double loungers, palapa daybeds and a pool, and you have the perfect formula for lusciously lazy days.

Highs

  • Lots of fun activities included in the price: sunrise yoga lessons, kayak trips, evening entertainment
  • The delicious seafood was some of the best we had in Mexico
  • Charming staff provide warm service that makes you feel part of the family
  • A stylish mix of rustic Mexican features (palapa thatched roofs, hand-embroidered cushions) and original artwork, some by Sandra herself
  • Isla Holbox is a serene and romantic destination. Think blissful beach strolls, shells and sunsets

Lows

  • It’s expensive to stay, and the food isn’t cheap, but you get top-quality meals and there are lots of extras included in the price
  • There's no internet in the rooms - only in the common areas - and no TVs (except in Villa Sueños)
  • Rooms get pretty hot by the afternoon so we needed to use the air conditioning a lot
  • Holbox does attract mozzies; make use of the complimentary insect repellent in your bathrooms
  • The island is 3 hours from Cancún and you need to take a ferry. There's little nightlife and limited activities - a high for us!

Best time to go

May to September is best for seeing nature's wonders, including flamingos and whale sharks, but this is also the hottest time of year - temperatures peak in August. The low season is September to November, when the island tends to be less crowded, but be aware that there can be heavy downpours and a strong northerly wind. Late November and early December are good times to visit, after the rainy season and before the onset of the busy and pricey Christmas period.

Our top tips

Bear in mind that there are only 3 ATM machines on the island, so you will need to bring cash; not all restaurants and shops take credit cards. Note that the wind and glare can be very strong so sunblock up accordingly.

Great for...

Beach
Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 17 rooms, 1 villa
  • Breakfast included, self catering, restaurants nearby
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

Ser CasaSandra has grown gradually and organically since its opening in the early Noughties. Each of the rooms and suites is individually styled, but all showcase Sandra's excellent taste. Pillowcases are embroidered by hand and beds are often muslin-draped; all are extremely comfortable with 1000-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. Mexican artworks adorn the crisp white walls; terracotta floors and air conditioning keep rooms cool and comfortable.

The main building houses most of the Superior Rooms, some of which share a lovely balcony that is festooned with bright hammocks. 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 Garden Suites with private balconies, another holds 2 Ocean Suites with stunning views across the beach towards the setting sun.

There's a Master Suite, which has an additional sitting area, and can be connected to a Superior Standard room next door to create a proper family apartment. For yet more space, Villa Sueños has 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, along with its own kitchen/dining room, making it a dream option for famililes.

Bathrooms feature hand-painted bowl sinks and conch shell shower heads. You get bathrobes, a hairdryer, organic CasaSandra-branded toiletries, incense and mosquito repellent.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Nespresso coffee machine
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries

Eating

The restaurant, Ser Esencia, is the heart of the hotel, where time slips past as you gaze out to the ocean and chat to other guests. Head chef Robert Solis - one of Mexico's finest - is the brains behind the operation, and his cuisine is an invigorating blend of Cuban and Mexican flavours.

For breakfast there 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 - 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.

The lunch menu features a selection of light and fresh options, such as salads, tacos and ceviches: the local speciality. The choice for dinner is a little more limited, but the mains are all so tasty it really doesn't matter. There's lobster and carefully selected cuts of meat on offer, all cooked to perfection and beautifully arranged on the plate. Service was sometimes slow but always delightful, and we weren't in a hurry to go anywhere. Meals are accompanied by an eclectic range of music, often Cuban.

The poolside Blue Bar and beachfront Bar Mojito serve some of the most delicious cocktails we've ever tried; don't miss their famous mojitos, thought to be the best on the island.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Wake at sunrise for your free yoga lesson in the gardens (Wed-Sun only)
  • If you're here from May to September, take a whale shark tour; this is one of the few places in the world where you can swim with these harmless gentle giants
  • The mini fishing trip is excellent. You'll visit 3 islands, lunch on ceviche of fresh fish, and grill your catch of the day for a sumptuous dinner
  • Take a Classic 3 Islands tour to visit Passion Island, Bird Island, and Yalahau Island - where you can swim in the fresh bubbling cenote (sink well) of Yalahau Spring
  • Go riding along the blissful beach, or hire a bicycle (available 300m from the hotel) to explore the island
  • Snorkelling is best on the other side of the island - you get taken around in a motor boat
  • Back on the mainland, you can visit Nuevo Durango (a Mayan village) with a bilingual guide, discover Mayan culture, see the ceiba (the Mayans' sacred tree), visit an orchid sanctuary, or venture deep into the jungle to climb a 20m watchtower
  • Ser CasaSandra also arranges day trips to the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá
  • Back at the hotel, there's a whole host of evening entertainment, including beach cinema nights on Fridays and Latin nights on Wednesdays

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Historical sites
  • Horse riding
  • Kayaking
  • Kayaks to borrow
  • Kitesurfing
  • Private guided tours
  • Sailing
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Whale watching
  • Wildlife
  • Windsurfing
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are welcomed at CasaSandra. Sandra has a son herself, and the staff are very charming and helpful with little ones. Young children stay for free, kids aged between 6 and 12 are charged at reduced rates, while over 12s are charged at adult rates.

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.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

The Master Suite can be connected to a Superior Double room next door to create a proper family apartment. Villa Sueños is also a great option, as it has 2 bedrooms (double and twin) and 2 bathrooms, as well as its own kitchen. Cots and extra beds are available.

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement

Baby equipment:

Baby cots

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

Location

Ser CasaSandra is set on Playa Norte on Isla Holbox, a sandspit island located off the northeastern tip of Quintana Roo on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula.

By Air
Cancun International (160km away) is the closest airport. Alternatively you can fly to Mérida (259km away).

From the Airport
The hotel can arrange a transfer in a minibus from the airport to the small coastal village of Chiquilá. There are also direct buses thrice daily from Cancún and daily from Mérida. From Chiquilá, you then take the scheduled 9 Hermanos ferry on the 25-minute voyage to Isla Holbox (the ferry runs 9 times each way every day). If you're travelling outside of ferry hours, a private boat can be arranged. The whole journey takes about 3 hours from Cancún.

By Car
There are no cars on the island, but if you're on a tour of the wider region you can self-drive to Chiquilá and leave your car there - charges are per day. See our car rental recommendations.

Getting Around Holbox:
Walking is the preferred mode of transport, but you can also rent golf carts if you want to explore as much of the island as possible.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.

Airports:

  • Cancún International 150.0 km CUN
  • Mérida Manuel Crescencio Rejón International 259.0 km MID

Other:

  • Beach 0.1 km
  • Shops 1.0 km
  • Restaurant 0.5 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

9/10
Room
10/10
Food
8/10
Service
8/10
Value
9/10
Overall

Stylish and understated. Great food and service.

9/10,

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