Villa Los Mangles Apartments
Holbox Island in Mexico is famous for one thing: Whale Sharks. However, if you are determined to see them, you should give yourself plenty of time. We waited four days for Hurricane Ernesto to pass before we could go out on our whale shark tour. For that reason, we were thankful to be staying at Villa Los Mangles Apartments. We chose Los Mangles because it had everything we wanted for the best price: air conditioning, wi-fi internet, easy beach access, and our own kitchen. This allowed us to ride out the storm in comfort and enjoy some of the other local creatures in the meantime…
Watching Wildlife from Los Mangles
Los Mangles is nestled in the mangrove forests (Los Mangles means “the mangroves”) a couple hundred meters from the beach, and is surrounded by wildlife. Bird lovers will enjoy the Osprey nest visible from the top patio, and the family of Common Black Hawks who hang out in the palm trees across the street. One day we watched the juvenile black hawk learning to catch giant land crabs, their primary source of food, and it looked like a very dangerous business.
Strolling on the beach, you can’t miss the ever-present Brown Pelicans and Magnificent Frigatebirds soaring overhead. Watch closely and you’ll see how the pelicans dive headfirst into the water to snatch their fish, while the frigatebirds will only dip their beaks on the wing. That’s because frigatebirds have a terrible time taking off from the water. They must perch in a high place in order to take to the air again. Even more entertaining is watching the frigatebirds trying to steal food from each other in mid air, a habit that gave them the nickname Pirate Birds.
Rent a bike from Los Mangles and take a ride down the beach to the east in order to see Holbox’s big birding prize: American Flamingos. Follow the sandy path all the way to the river and muck your way out into the mud flats. There you can see large congregations of flamingos doing their little dances and stirring up food from the bottom.
On the ride to the river you should stop off and peer into the mangroves to your right. Follow the scuttling sounds and discover hundreds of crabs including tiny fiddler crabs with a single claw as big as the rest of their body, and giant land crabs in an array of dazzling colors from blue to purple to orange. Also, we were told that by taking a kayak tour (which Los Mangles can arrange) you can paddle up the river and occasionally see crocodiles in the lagoon.
Right in front of Los Mangles as you walk out to the beach, you can watch a large group of ctenosaurs that sunbathe on the cement ruins of an old foundation. They range in size from tiny green babies to huge, dark, spiny adults.
At dusk, a new shift of creatures takes over at Los Mangles. You need merely step outside your door to watch the hordes of large toads patrolling the grounds at your feet, the dozens of geckos crawling along the walls and ceilings of the patio, and the bats snatching mosquitoes from the air in between. When the mosquitoes have thoroughly driven you crazy, head inside, open the screened window in your bedroom, lie down, and let the chattering of raccoons in the mangrove forest lull you to sleep.
One of my favorite wildlife moments occurred while lounging on the beach. Directly in front of us we spotted a pod of dolphins leaping straight out of the water.
After all that, it was finally time to see the creature that we had come all the way to Mexico for in the first place, the Whale Sharks. We set up our whale shark tour through Villa Los Mangles and were picked up right on the beach by Turistica Moguel. We had an amazing day swimming with dozens of gigantic sharks and it was definitely worth the wait. (read more about it here)
Great Value, Cozy Hideaway
Villa Los Mangles has four units available. There are two apartments that include a full kitchen and a queen bed and AC (our choice), one room with three single beds, and on the top floor is the Palapita del Amor, which includes the huge rooftop terrace all for yourself (but no AC). Ours was comfortable and clean and well designed. We cooked all our meals from home and could have easily lived for months in our little apartment. We walked a few block up the road to a small shop for all our grocery shopping needs. The owners, Antoine and Liliana, are friendly and attentive and live with their little boy and two sweet dogs on the second floor of the building. All in all we spent a very cozy five days at Villa Los Mangles.
Besides offering kayak tours and whale shark tours, Villa Los Mangles has a host of other services to keep you entertained and on the move. First of all, you can arrange to be picked up straight from the airport in Cancun. Holbox Island is not the easiest place to get to, but arranging a transfer makes it a snap. A driver picks you up at the airport and takes you on a two hour drive to Chiquila. From there, a twenty minute ferry ride gets you to the island where a golf cart taxi will be waiting to pick you up and bring you to your cozy home away from home. Doing it on your own (via a public taxi, then public bus) can take nearly twice as long.
Once in Holbox, you can rent a bicycle right from the hotel and avoid unpredictable hours at the rental shops in the village. Most locals use gas-powered golf carts, which can be rented, but they are hardly necessary due to the small size of the village and hardly seem worth the cost. Plus there is always a golf cart taxi around if you need it.
Swimming with whale sharks is not the only excitement on the water. The owner, Antoine, is also a kiteboarding instructor. If the wind is right, you can enjoy one of the Caribbean’s premier kiteboarding destinations, right on the beach in front of the hotel. Visit their website for a full list of other available services.
Staying at Villa Los Mangles was a great value. We found everything we wanted for the best price on the island. A cozy, private getaway, outside of the village but close enough to walk, easy beach access, and all the comforts of home. for more info, visit Villa Los Mangles’ website at Villa Los Mangles .com. (Our video review is also available with Spanish subtitles here.)
Disclosure: We received a discount on our lodging in exchange for this review.
Brindley is an American conservation biologist, wildlife photographer, filmmaker, writer, and illustrator living in Asheville, NC. He studied black-footed cats in Namibia for his master’s research, has traveled to all seven continents, and loves native plant gardening. See more of his work at Travel for Wildlife, Truly Wild, Our Wild Yard, & Naturalist Studio.