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TravelBoutique beachfront escape in Mexico: a review of the Mystique Holbox by...

Boutique beachfront escape in Mexico: a review of the Mystique Holbox by Royalton on Isla Holbox


Mystique Holbox by Royalton, A Tribute Portfolio Resort, is a small, contemporary beachfront resort overlooking the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The property opened on Mexico’s Holbox Island in May 2019 and is the first points hotel on the off-the-beaten-path island.

Quiet Isla Holbox sits at the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula and is teeming with wildlife and surrounded by protected nature reserves. I have had this destination on my radar for years, so I was excited to see a points hotel pop up on my recent search for a place to stay.

Still largely undiscovered by American tourists, the island is quite popular with European travelers seeking a relaxing escape and authentic experiences. Although taking it easy on the beach is a prime pastime, there are also local markets, outdoor activities and nature tours, so there’s always plenty to see and do. Plus, the island has a history as a fishing community, with many watermen still active today, so local restaurants offer up fresh and delicious sea-to-table fare.

Here’s what it was like to stay at the Marriott-affiliated Mystique Holbox by Royalton.

What is Mystique Holbox by Royalton?

View from my room on the third floor. BECKY BLAINE/THE POINTS GUY

This hotel offers inexpensive room rates and access to beautiful white sand beaches along with beachfront dining and a beachside spa cabana.

With only 38 accommodations, the boutique, all-suite property fits nicely on the island, nestled between other small local hotels, beach clubs and restaurants. It has a small pool with just eight deck chairs, but walk just past the pool and you’ll be at the beach where you’ll be met with two dozen lounge chairs, white cabana tents and Fresco, the property’s beachfront restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The streets of Holbox Island on the west end of the island are quiet and about a 10-minute walk to Centro, where most of the bars, restaurants and shops reside.

Note that while many Royalton hotels in resort areas are all-inclusive — such as Royalton Antiqua, An Autograph Collection Hotel and Hideaway at Royalton Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic — this particular property only offers a la carte pricing.

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How to book Mystique Holbox by Royalton

I was able to book the hotel directly through the Marriott website. I paid $208 per night, including taxes and fees, by choosing a Marriott Member Exclusive rate. If you want to redeem Marriott Bonvoy points for your stay, award redemptions are available starting from 28,000 points per night.

The resort is also bookable via American Express Travel. You’ll earn 5 points per dollar spent if you book with The Platinum Card® by American Express. It is not a Hotel Collection or Fine Hotels + Resorts member, so the complimentary breakfast perk and other amenities do not apply here. Rates when booking through Amex Travel start at $243 or 34,761 Membership Rewards points per night.

Chase cardholders can earn 5 points per dollar spent on travel booked through the Chase Travel℠ portal. Rates for stays booked through this portal start at $218 per night, including taxes and fees. Holbox Island wasn’t easily searchable in the Chase portal, so keep in mind that you’ll have to specify the hotel name to find it.

Getting to the beachfront paradise

BECKY BLAINE/THE POINTS GUY

Getting to Holbox Island is a bit of an adventure: First, you’ll need to fly into Cancun International Airport (CUN). From there, it’s a 2 1/2-hour bumpy shuttle ride to the ferry station in Chiquila. Shared rides start at $42 per person, and I recommend booking this ahead of time. The $12 ferry ride to the island takes about 20 minutes. Once on the island, you’ll need to hail an all-terrain golf cart taxi for around $12 to reach the hotel.

The golf cart taxi will ask if you want to be dropped off “a la playa” (at the beach) or “recepcion” (at reception or the front entrance). Most pickups and drop-offs are done from the beach entrance because an access road runs between the beachfront restaurant and the back of the main building of the hotel. (During my visit, the main road at the hotel’s front entrance was impassable by golf cart due to a recent storm surge. You could walk, but parts were still a bit muddy.)

Once you arrive, however, the location, with direct beach access and an ocean view, can’t be beat.

Make sure to plan time to relax on the beach, where you can order food and drinks directly to your lounge chair. The vibe of the resort and the island, in general, is laid-back and friendly.

Modern rooms with a beachy flair

BECKY BLAINE/THE POINTS GUY

During check-in, each guest is given a bracelet that serves as their “room key” (a first for me!). You hold it up to your door sensor to enter your suite. I could also scan my bracelet at the restaurant to charge my meal to my room.

BECKY BLAINE/THE POINTS GUY

The guest rooms have a neutral color palette with white plaster walls and concrete floors. The whitewashed wood furniture added a beach flair, as did the wood coffee table fashioned from a tree trunk. There was also a vinyl sleeper sofa that was very easy to clean after tracking in beach sand.

I have Marriott Gold Elite status and sometimes get upgraded if available at check-in. This time, upon arrival, I was upgraded from a deluxe junior suite to a premium junior suite (measuring 466 square feet) with sea views and a large patio with a table and chairs. Stairs inside my suite led to a rooftop deck with two lounge chairs. I noticed all the third-floor suites down the length of the building had the same upper rooftop patios.

Garden view room. BECKY BLAINE/THE POINTS GUY

Most suites have balconies with garden or ocean views, as well as swinging wicker egg chairs to enjoy. There is also a “swim-out” suite option on the first floor that comes with a small personal pool on the patio, but the suites face the beachside access road and could potentially be loud at times with the golf cart traffic going by.

My room had a long desk with a 55-inch flat-screen TV hanging above it. A Nespresso coffee machine was on one end of the desk (since the website says there are no coffee makers in the room, this was a nice surprise). The king-size bed had luggage storage drawers underneath, but I didn’t need them since the bathroom, which also doubled as the closet and dressing room, was so large that I could have my luggage out on the luggage rack and still never run into it.

The bathroom’s floor-to-ceiling sliding closet doors concealed the room safe, clothes storage and minibar with minifridge. Behind frosted glass doors were a separate rainfall shower and a water closet (toilet). The large double vanity offered ample counter space for travel and cosmetic bags.

The fan and air-conditioning system near the bedside table took a few minutes to figure out. I kept trying to use the wall panel to turn off the fan, but that only reduced the fan speed. Instead, a button next to the bed by the light switch served as the on/off switch for the fan.

BECKY BLAINE/THE POINTS GUY

If you opened your patio doors, the system was also triggered to conserve energy by turning off the air conditioning.

Fresco Bar and Grill

Entrance to the Fresco Bar and Grill and the beach club. BECKY BLAINE/THE POINTS GUY

Mystique has one restaurant, Fresco Bar and Grill, that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It sits beachside with excellent sea views. I dined here for two breakfasts and one dinner.

The first morning I ordered avocado toast with a poached egg ($12). The bread was very thick but not toasted so it became soggy quickly. I wish it had been a bit more toasted, and I would have preferred not to have lettuce and tomato on top, but I appreciated the generous amount of sliced avocado.

My colleague, Emily Thompson, was traveling with me and ordered the chilaquiles ($11) — her breakfast of choice every place we dined on the trip.

The second morning, I opted for two fried eggs, sausage and hash browns ($11). I’m convinced the sausage was a hot dog, and the hash browns were a bit overdone and too crunchy for my liking, but the service was quick and attentive. Not to mention, the cappuccino ($5) was expertly prepared.

Emily and I popped into the restaurant for a quick dinner prior to our night kayaking tour. We opted to split a Mystique burger and fries ($21), as we weren’t ravenous and it was still early. The burger was cooked to our requested medium temperature, and the fries were seasoned nicely.

Service from the hostess, servers and managers was consistently attentive and friendly each time we dined at Fresco, and the views were always outstanding.

Beach club and cabanas

BECKY BLAINE/THE POINTS GUY

The main restaurant houses the bar that serves the beach club’s lounge chairs and cabanas. The cabanas can be reserved through the restaurant or at the hotel’s front desk. On the day Emily and I rented a cabana, we ordered the mango and strawberry margaritas, both of which were very refreshing.

Towels were provided on every chair, and the servers came around often to check in with guests. Around 4 p.m. the staff came around singing, clapping and dancing, wearing sombreros and handing out nonalcoholic fruit smoothie shots and snacks, creating a festive, playful atmosphere. The entire staff was a joy to interact with.

Fitness center

Located on the second floor, the fitness center is nicely equipped with free weights, bikes, a treadmill and a bench press. For a hotel with only 38 rooms, the property is definitely a generous size and offers plenty of equipment for guests to enjoy a solid workout during their stay.

Relax to the sound of the sea

Massages are provided in a private beachfront hut where you can unwind while listening to the sea. Since there isn’t any information on the hotel’s website about spa services (other than the property having a spa), you’ll need to call the hotel before you arrive for advance bookings. However, the spa cabana wasn’t busy during my stay, and it was possible to book a last-minute appointment.

BECKY BLAINE/THE POINTS GUY

The spa menu includes massages (reflexology, deep tissue and aromatherapy, to name a few) and an after-sun treatment. Prices start at $69 for a 25-minute reflexology massage and go up to $165 for an 80-minute Mystique massage that is customized to your preferences.

Additional amenities

The hotel has a small lobby boutique that sells beachwear, swimsuits, flip-flops and sunscreen. It was open for a few hours each day but seemed to be staffed by the front desk employees nearby.

Nexus Tours is also on-site with an outpost in the lobby — the company arranged our airport shuttle and transfers on the ferry and golf cart taxi. The group’s communication via the WhatsApp app was efficient and helpful. I suggest calling the hotel directly to request their on-site contact for Nexus Tours and to arrange transportation. The company also provides tour options for the island, but we had booked a three-island boat tour and nighttime kayaking adventure ahead of time on Viator.

Reasons Mystique Holbox by Royalton might not be for you

While I enjoyed my visit to the rustic paradise of Isla Holbox, I realize it might not be for everyone. Here are a few things to know if you are considering a visit:

  • It definitely takes some planning to get to Holbox Island and the hotel, so if you are looking for a destination or resort within 30 minutes of an airport, this location would not be an option for you. It’s more than three hours of travel time from Cancun’s airport.
  • The streets all around the hotel and the island, in general, are not paved. There was quite a bit of mud and storm damage from a previous weather event, causing golf cart taxis to take a detour to the beachside hotel entrance for pickup and drop-off. If you are looking for a more manicured resort town experience, then consider a stay elsewhere.
  • If you are looking for a larger hotel or resort with multiple restaurants or bars, look at other destinations like Cancun or Tulum. But if you are willing to go a few blocks in either direction, you can find wonderful local restaurants to enjoy here.
  • If you travel with your pet, be aware that this hotel does not allow pets. Only service animals are permitted.

Accessibility

The hotel does have accessibility features, including an elevator, ample interior hallways and wide doorways. There is a concrete ramp from the street to the hotel’s main lobby entrance, but the beachside entrance has a flat, paved sidewalk; guests can request that golf cart taxis drop off either beachside or at the hotel lobby.

Fresco Bar and Grill’s beachside tables and palapa dining area. BECKY BLAINE/THE POINTS GUY

For any guests requiring a wheelchair, know that to access the hotel’s only restaurant, Fresco, you have to cross beach sand to reach a handful of dining tables (shown above), and the restrooms at the restaurant would require climbing three stairs to enter the palapa and main dining area. The closest accessible restrooms would be off the main lobby (where there is one step up to enter the lobby) or your suite.

As for the suites, accessible features include closed-captioned TVs, kits for guests with hearing impairments, lower bathroom vanities and self-closing doors.

Checking out

BECKY BLAINE/THE POINTS GUY

Service at the hotel was amazing, attentive and friendly. Everyone I encountered during my stay was helpful and genuinely hospitable, and the majority of the staff, especially at the front desk and the restaurant, spoke English.

Throughout my stay, the housekeeping staff was very friendly and prompt each day with service and refreshing rooms while I was out. And Ari, the hotel’s general manager, was out and about — and always visible — checking in with staff and chatting with guests.

Holbox Island is a little rustic, but it’s a slice of paradise nonetheless. I can’t wait to return (hopefully over the summer season when I can swim with whale sharks).

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