Forget Cancun or Playa del Carmen (the latter unless you go for the BPM festival in Jan); there is a little slice of paradise on the Yucatan peninsula, as yet untouched by the tourist hordes: Isla Holbox (pronounced “Holbosh”). Only 45mins by car and a short boat ride away from Cancun, yet a world away from the tourist nightmare, Holbox is not featured in many guides and I only heard about it by word of mouth. They say it is like Isla Mujeres (another island close to Cancun, but now over-touristed) was 15 or 20 years ago.
The island lies on the Gulf of Mexico, west of Cancun, where the sea is a beautiful emerald colour as opposed to the turquoise of the Caribbean. The sea is completely flat and the beaches are deserted. Golf carts are the only transport on the island. There is an incredibly laid-back vibe on the island, which is the home of many artists’ studios. There is absolutely no hassle from touts, sellers of any variety. That includes the ubiquitous argentinian unwashed hippies selling cakes and rastas selling coke who had started to drive me crazy on the beaches of Belize and Costa Rica. A perfect place to relax, enjoy the fabulous seafood including Mexican Ceviche, and watch the spectacular sunsets at night. There are also activities, such as kayaking, bird-watching and, if you are luck enough to be there in season, you can take a boat trip to swim with whale sharks (May to Sept).
Accommodation is mostly slightly upmarket, but there there is one high-quality hostel run by travelers for travelers which I highly recommend, the Tribu.