Ser CasaSandra

Isla Holbox, The Yucatan, Mexico Book from Book from £210 per night

Welcoming chic bolthole with an excellent Mexican 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.

Information provided by Ser CasaSandra on 17/07/2020.

Cleaning and hygiene
Hand and shoe sanitising stations on arrival. Temperature measuring on arrival. Disinfectant gel tissues available throughout. All rooms deep cleaned and disinfected between stays. All luggage disinfected before delivery to guest’s room. All high-touch points (light switches, door handles, etc.) will be regularly disinfected.

Common areas
Staff use hand and shoe sanitising stations on entry to hotel. PPE worn for all cleaning tasks. Staff practicing continuous hand washing (every 30 minutes). Staff temperature taken daily. Beach beds cleaned and disinfected daily. Beach furniture arranged to allow healthy distancing.

Food and drink
Tables and chairs spaced for social distancing. Menus disinfected after each use. All dining areas disinfected between use.

Highs

  • Lots of fun activities included in the price: sunrise yoga lessons, bike hire, 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 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
  • WiFi only reaches some of the rooms and is a bit patchy, but there's a good connection in and around the main building and pool
  • Rooms get pretty hot by the afternoon so we needed to use the air conditioning a lot
  • The sand road that runs between the hotel and beach takes away total privacy, but traffic is usually only bicycles and golf carts

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

There was only 1 ATM machine on the island dispensing pesos when we last visited - although a new bank was being built - 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
Great Outdoors
Romantic
  • 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.

On our most recent visit, we stayed in a Garden Suite on the ground floor with a huge bathroom - we even had our very own giant iguana who'd taken up residence on our terrace, which overlooked the garden and pool.

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 families.

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
  • 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 modern take on local Yucatan dishes.

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 loved the huevos rancheros.

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 always delightful, and we weren't in a hurry to go anywhere. Meals are accompanied by an eclectic range of music, often Cuban. Dinner is taken outside under the palms, which are lit up with fairy lights, with the sound of the sea - it’s impossibly chilled and romantic. The big, rustic wooden tables were perfect for larger groups.

The poolside Maiz 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, and the mango smoothies are a must.

If you're staying a little longer, there are lots of small bars and restaurants within a 5-minute stroll into town or the beach - the bar next door had a band playing on the weekend with welcoming, mellow Caribbean vibes.

Features include:

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

Activities

  • Wake up in time for a 10.30am free yoga lesson in the gardens (Wed-Sun only)
  • The onsite spa offers massages, aromatherapy, quartz bowl therapy and yoga
  • 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 - complimentary bicycles are available for guests to use and 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, evening entertainment is often on offer - check with staff when you arrive and see what's planned

    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 very welcome at Ser CasaSandra but note that it is primarily a hotel for couples.

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.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Master Suite can be connected to a Superior Double room next door to create a proper family apartment. Villa Dreams is also a great option, as it has 2 bedrooms (double and twin) and 2 bathrooms, as well as its own kitchen, and can take an extra bed. Note that only Master Luxury Suite, Ocean Suite, Master Suite and Garden Suite (main house) can take an extra bed, these suites can take 2 adults and 2 kids if the children are less than 12 years old.

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • High chair

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

Families Should Know:

The heat and humidity can be very high in the summer, so consider travelling outside May to September. The hotel is right on the beach but the seas are shallow

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
9/10
Food
9/10
Service
9/10
Value
9/10
Overall

Stylish and understated. Great food and service.

9/10,

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