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Holbox Launches Massive Operation To Clean Up Beaches As Tourists Flock To Island

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Officials in the Mexican Caribbean island of Holbox are launching a massive clean-up operation this October to spruce up the island’s beaches. The island destination – recently crowned the best in North America – saw a massive influx of tourists over the summer and is quickly becoming one of the most popular in the region. 

Trashed beach

Holbox, located some 70 km (≈ 44 mi) north of Cancun, is struggling to contend with the effects of mass tourism as thousands of visitors flock to the island daily. One of the more notable effects of its increased popularity is seen on its once-unspoiled beaches. Now, local authorities are taking things into their own hands and have announced a new months-long effort to clean up trash left behind by tourists. 

Holbox sign

For a long time, the rather undeveloped island off the northern coast of the Mexican Caribbean was considered an off-the-beaten-path destination. That changed when the island became a tourist magnet over the summer after its bioluminescent and relatively sargassum-free beaches made the headlines. 

During the peak travel season, the island saw over 60,000 daily visitors, a number far above that of previous years. Although the summer season has ended, officials are gearing up for more arrivals come winter. 

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Glass on beach

To that end, they have unveiled an ambitious plan to deal with increasingly dirty beaches. Treasured by locals and visitors alike, Holbox and its surroundings are home to a stunning array of native species, including turtles, flamingos, and whale sharks. Its geology is also unique, especially its mangroves, which constitute a natural barrier against pesky sargassum seaweed, an issue that plagued beaches in Cancun and the Riviera Maya over the summer.

Sargassum rubbish on beach

The new clean-up plan, announced earlier last week by local officials, is set to last from late October until December 31. The plan includes new investments in research and identifying ways to better conserve the area’s unique natural wonders, as well as more resources to keep beaches clean around the year. 

In a detailed document concerning the issue, authorities say that economic activity on the island generates up to 7 tons of trash and other waste on average per day, with up to 10 tons on peak travel periods. With a potentially record-breaking winter season on the horizon, there’s a high chance the city will face even greater quantities of pollution if proper measures aren’t taken.

Holbox centre

Environmentalists say that the island is coping with a massive number of tourists, considerably above what its lacking infrastructure can handle. They are concerned about wastewater management and residue, which often ends up in the turquoise waters of the Mexican Caribbean. 

Having gone from a rather remote island to a mainstream destination, nowadays Holbox is home to several large hotels, many of which operate their own sewage systems. As such, there is a need to centralize and improve infrastructure across the small island and to prepare it for long-term growth. 

Beach cleaners

Holbox was recently crowned the best island destination in North America by readers of Condé Nast Traveler, a prestigious travel and lifestyle magazine. Visitors were impressed by the island’s cozy accommodations, excellent hospitality, and miles-long white-sand beaches. The island’s numerous accolades will undoubtedly help make it even more popular over the coming months as millions of tourists plan their annual winter holidays. Aside from Holbox, Isla Mujeres and Cozumel are also some of the top-rated Caribbean island destinations in the region.

Holbox Island beach

Tourists can easily reach Holbox from the nearby port town of Chiquilá, where they can take a short ferry ride. With regular departures from morning until midnight, Holbox is a great day trip destination, although visitors can stay for an extended period to fully enjoy the island’s rich offerings.

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Wednesday 5th of April 2023

We have just returned home to Canada after a week on Isla Holbox. We were there 6 years ago and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately the changes we saw on our latest visit were horrendous. Gone is the quiet place we loved on our previous visit (unless you stay somewhere far removed from the town). The town itself (and beaches adjacent) has morphed from a easy going, laid-back vibe into full-on mini Cancun. Traffic is now loud and horrendous. There never used to be any pavements, but I notice these are now necessary to protect walkers from the "road" traffic. The place is now inundated with ear-busting ATV taxis and motorbike racers where as before there were just golf carts. Also why are electric vehicles not mandated on the island? This post describes more of what it's like: LINK It's sad that this has been allowed to happen to the wonderful place that was once Holbox and we won't be back. Regards,