27 Affordable Beach Resorts
Holbox Island, Mexico
WHAT IT'S LIKE: The island of Holbox (pronounced “Ole-bosh”) is a tiny spit off the Yucatán Peninsula with sand roads. At the chic 16-room CasaSandra Hotel, Cuban-born owner and artist Sandra Pérez wanted the property to feel more like a residence. So she spread CasaSandra out over five compact buildings and filled each of the spaces with one-of-a-kind regional pieces: rough-cut antique wooden tables from Guadalajara; rattan furniture; hand-woven linens; and bath products created by local artisans. Outside, a collection of palapas and breezy bales dots the sand, and the azure water's edge is 50 uninterrupted steps away. The hotel arranges fishing excursions with CasaSandra's chef, Félix Diaz, who will prepare your catch for dinner.
WHAT TO DO: From June through August, Holbox is one of the few places in the world where you can swim alongside harmless whale sharks—the largest known fish in the world. Holbox Tours & Travel (52-984/875-2173 or 305/396-6987; holboxwhalesharktours.com; $90) runs six-hour tours that guarantee time in the water with these gentle giants. —Elizabeth Woodson