The most common wish I hear from visitors to Holbox is that they hope it does not turn into another Playa del Carmen. My thoughts are the best way to do this is to keep the locals in business, happy and prosperous to not sell off their families' land.
So what follows is a list of LOCALLY owned businesses that I find to generally be more consistent (meaning the same chefs and employees- mostly because they are family owned) and in the case of the restaurants, to serve the local food as it has been prepared here for generations.
FRUTERIA LA CHAYA: Off the beach in hotel Las Gonzas. Smoothies and cheap breakfasts
OTHER FRUTERIAS; They come and go! Right now there are tons all over so you will find them. The one with the best selection and that usually has juice is just across the road from Restaurant Zarabanda. .
LAS PANCHAS : Directly behind Hotel La Palapa, this family cooks out of their kitchen, providing the best empanadas I have ever had. They also serve tamales, enchiladas, salbutes, etc. Try the empanadas made with cheese (queso) and chaya. For the more adventurous, they should also have Raya (ray) and Cazon (baby shark) empanadas. ***If you like local- don't miss!****
DON JULIO: A little triciclo in front of the new plaza (mall) serving amazing cochinita or relleno negro in tacos or tortas.
POLLO MAGO: On the square, very local. Eggs, etc. and weekend mornings, "mondongo", think menudo.
LAS PANCHAS : Directly behind Hotel La Palapa, this family cooks out of their kitchen, now making comida corrida, or a typical local dish such as frijol con puerco or choco lomo. Big pots made daily sold at 50 pesos per huge serving. Excelent food at a great deal and a great way to sample true local cuisine. Lunch only durning higher season.
BUENA VISTA GRILL: Directly behind Amaite Hotel. Holbox’s best ceviche, cold beer, grilled fish and lobster, octopus, conch, etc. Conch is considered to be an extreme aphrodisiac and fertility symbol. Wonderful place to spend the afternoon looking at the ocean. Note: the view is only blocked by the one wall- not the restaurant in front that is beach front.
POLLO MAGO: In front of the square on the west side. Daily specials and mainstays.
RAICES (THE RASTA PALAPA): On the beach in front of Hotel Casa Sandra. Food changes daily depending on the catch. True local experience with wonderful local fishermen. Grab a hammock and relax…***If you like local- don't miss***
ZARABANDA: One block towards the lagoon from the pizzeria on the square. More seafood, stuffed avocados, Veracruz style whole fsh, and regional favorites such as poc chuc.
COOPERATIVA: Down the street from Restaurant Colibri in an orange building. EXCELLENT home cooked meals- one dish varies daily, very economical- the cook comes from Belize and knows her stuff. Can order to go
AFTER LUNCH TREAT: ICE CREAM!!!! Two blocks towards the lagoon from the Pizzeria on the square- next to "junior's"WORTH THE SEARCH! Homemade waffle cones and natural coconut ice cream…mmmmmmm. Also re-opened paleteria Ancona a half a block from Internet Don Antonio
If you cant find that one Helados Meresa is also local and sold almost everywhere, the main house is on the street behind the church. Just ring the doorbell or purchase in the minisuper across the street…
WONDERFUL LUNCH TO GO:
LA POLLERIA: On the main road a few blocks towards the lagoon from the square. Daily grilled chicken with a simple pasta soup, rice, and cabbage. Sold by the 1/4, 1/2 or whole chicken.
JUNIOR: Two blocks towards lagoon from the pizzeria Edelyn, weekends serves pork ribs on the grill with coleslaw, beans, and tortillas by the pound.
VIVA ZAPATA: 1/2 block west of the square. Local guys who have spent time cooking in Europe. Wonderful grilled seafood and steaks. Owner is fishing daily and selling his fresh catch. Awesome mixed grill platter, live guitar player, and usually handmade tortillas.
PIZZERIA EDELYN (CON CHEFO): On the southwest corner of the square. Famous lobster pizza and other menu options. Great place to watch Holbox at night.
BUENA VISTA GRILL: See lunch- sometimes also open for dinner
SIRENITA: One block towards the lagoon from Internet Antonio. Regional food- WONDERFUL sopes, panuchos, salbutes, chalupitas, THE BEST chicken soup, etc.***If you like local- don't miss***
EL PATIO DEL CEMENTO: Just off the square on the corner of super Moguel- panuchos, caldos, etc.
TAQUERIA TIO NICO: Next to Pollo Mago, lots of salsas to add to your choice of tacos. Excellent grilled veggies.
TACOS (de cabeza): Saturday nights only and some holidays a small taco stand on the square. Don't ask- just try.
MISC: Fresh tortillas in either of the two tortillerias on the main road
MARQUESITAS: stands on the square- try the nutella with cheese, really.
HAVANA NIGHT: Main shopping road next to Viva Zapata
CARIOCAS BEACH CLUB: Next to Casa las Tortugas, beach bar
TIKI TIKI: Tiki bar meets sports bar. Well done with plenty of screens. If you want to see a game while you are on Holbox, just ask, they will be happy to serve you.
DON ANTONIO: One block West of the SW corner of the square. Clean, comfortable, cheap intenet access.
Tony is also the guy to ask about buying land
Half a block further up towards lagoon another local internet cafe too
BABY SHARK: On the road from the hotels to town.
ARTESIANAS LELIA: On the SW corner of the square. Wonderful shells and shell crafts, many made locally by the owner herself at great prices. A must see!
ALI: Next to Willy's supermarket, Shell art- great prices
ARTENESIAS INO: caddy corner from transfer Holbox, mostly clothing and local crafts.
All of the super/mini marts are locally owned. Remember prices will be a bit higher than mainland Mexico. After having made the trip here from Cancun yourselves, think of the logistics of getting everything here!
Nearly all boats leaving from Holbox to see the whalesharks are locally owned. The captains and most guides are locals as well. But, if you reserve through your hotel or another agency they will obviously take a cut. Prices are generally the same but I find it easier to simply reserve once on Island with a local agency (Willy's, Cholecos, Mogels, etc.- some of those also have web sites, your best bet is the worse the English, the more likely they are to be local...) Generally there is room to get on a boat even in the highest of season so no reason to reserve through another agency. This applies to all tours and transport. A huge money maker for the hotels- better to get here and ask the locals.
Hope you Enjoy Real Holbox!!!
Also, there is so much wonderful food on Holbox (if you know where to look!) Be aware that anything that isn't local is going to be expensive and that fresh local seafood isn't cheap anymore as well - rise in gas prices, taxes, etc. Anything that isn't regional is imported and comes a long ways away. Import taxes into Mexico are around 25% so no one is trying to get one over on the tourist- it's just that getting that wine or olive oil to a small island is a project in itself (not mentioning how many bottles break every single time I come over on a ferry). Locals stick to beer and vegetable oil- it's cheaper.