Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.
“It’s an escapism hotel,” said Mario Dorantes, general manager of Margaritaville St. Somewhere, which PAX visited last month. “It’s for travellers who want to reconnect with themselves, in a very interesting ecosystem.”
A 39-suite boutique hotel that Karisma Hotels and Resorts opened last year on rustic Holbox, Mexico – a 42-kilometre-long island of white-sand beaches and car-free roads north of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula – St. Somewhere is a whole new flavour of margarita mix.
As PAX reported earlier, the new beach house-inspired brand marks a departure from the tropically-flamboyant décor Margaritavilles are known for, opting for nautically-calm décor, from prints of sail boats to lofty suites with wood-and-rope elements.
READ MORE: On Location - Lunar parties & floating tacos: St. Somewhere, an upscale way to see rustic Holbox
An open-air oasis of ash-white wooden boardwalks and bridges, the compact property in bohemian Holbox (pronounced “Hole-Bosh,” not “Hole-Box”) is comprised of seven three-storey buildings built into mangroves.
The hotel’s centrepiece, anchored at the base of a miniature, rectangular swimming pool, is a lighthouse, which can be seen from the property’s 180 metres of beachfront, which is adjacent to a pristine sandbank.
All of the suites are connected to water in some way – 80 per cent of the accommodations are on second and third floors, translating into full or partial ocean views.
READ MORE: St. Somewhere Holbox turns 1; direct ferry, all-inclusive packages announced
Ground floor suites have swim-outs – some have private pools, others launch directly into the main pool, which is lined with cozy cabanas.
As we learned during our stay, St. Somewhere is a hotel with everyday luxuries – like air conditioning, good water pressure, reliable power and strong Wi-Fi – that aren’t universally seen at all Holbox hotels.
For clients who need the comforts of home, this can go a long way. Electricity only reached the island in 1987, and local infrastructure, at times, can be fragile.
There’s no gym at St. Somewhere, but the hotel has two outdoor bars/restaurants: the beachview Sandbar and the poolside Harbour House, which has a second level for prime sunset viewing at cocktail hour.
Ever try lobster pizza? You can here (it’s a Holbox speciality!)
And although a different tone compared to traditional Margaritavilles, signature experiences remain – such as floating taco bars.
These are giant trays, stacked with meat and fish tacos (with all the dips and sauces), served directly to guests in the pool. They can also be built with pizza, burgers and wings.
St. Somewhere is a European Plan hotel (with all-inclusive packages available for purchase).
As a guest, you may, at some point, want to taxi cart or cycle into “downtown” – it’s just a few blocks of sandy streets – where mural-painted restaurants, open-air eateries, grab-and-go food carts and beach bars serve authentic Mexican dishes and tequila-laced cocktails.
Outdoor adventure is everywhere in Holbox, which sits in a lush section of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve.
Simply getting to St. Somewhere – the name takes inspiration from the early explorers who once named Caribbean islands after saints – is all part of the experience.
From Cancun, it’s about a two-and-a-half-hour vehicle transfer to the town of Chiquila, where guests board a ferry to the island.
On arrival, you collect your luggage and board a golf cart taxi (remember, there’s no cars), which takes you about 10 minutes inland, along a bumpy dirt road, to Punta Coco, the western point of Holbox where St. Somewhere is found.
Beyond the hotel, there are eco-focused tours, like speed boat rides to Yalahau cenote, about 30 minutes from Holbox, where you can swim. You can also bask in the warm waters of a sun-kissed sandbar on Passion Island.
But you’ll want to stay at St. Somewhere on some days. The hotel, this year, launched special events that range from food and music-based to borderline spiritual.
One monthly activation is a Lunar Celebration, a grill-style BBQ beach party that begins with artisan cocktails (like mojitos with red wine) at sunset and transitions into nighttime with a Full Moon Party and ancestral Mayan ritual.
On another night, we gathered a few feet away from the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico – on a seaweed-free shoreline – to participate in a full moon ritual, which included a group meditation around a fire pit.
As we stood along the shore, at sunset, we were invited to express thanks and gratitude. The emotional release of it all brought some members in our group to tears (the good kind).
It’s authentic experiences like this that make St. Somewhere a stay infused with local traditions and flavour.
Other on-property initiatives include a “Forgotten Mexican” experience, which tells the story of Mexican spirits, from tequila to mezcal, and a cochinita pibil night (slow-roasted Yucatan-style pork, wrapped in banana leaves, that’s cooked in hot coals for 24 hours in an underground pit – an “earth oven”).
Sundays have poolside DJs, and there’s even “bioluminescent bay parties.”
Bioluminescence is a phenomenon that occurs on beaches in Holbox, steps from St. Somewhere. The waters of the seashore illuminate (on cloudy nights) when micro-organisms light up when hit by waves.
Future plans for St. Somewhere – which welcomes families, but is better suited for adults – include a new dock, which will allow for direct ferry transport (set to be completed by the end of April), helipad service, as well as a 200-seat beach club (currently under construction) that will serve hotel guests and the public.
Curious? Go behind the scenes of Margaritaville St. Somewhere, and Holbox island, with PAX in this exclusive bonus video!
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