Photo by Luna Gainza
If you visit the sleepy, Pacific-coast resort area of Huatulco, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, chances are good you’ll be tempted to spend most of your time lounging on one of its 30-plus beaches. Situated along nine distinct and scenic bays, Huatulco features vast stretches of welcoming golden sand, but it also offers plenty of reasons to venture off the beach and explore. From ancient archaeological sites and tropical jungle paths to charming towns and great watersports, this area at the base of the Sierra Madre Mountains is the perfect destination for a mini-escape.
Morning Hydrate with a fresh juice from a local vendor at the Santa Cruz Marina in the town of Santa Cruz, where coconuts from the morning’s harvest are cut to order. Next, climb aboard a boat with Amstar DMC Tours for the half-day “Sea and Sun Diosa” excursion that explores Huatulco’s bays and the Parque Nacional Huatulco, which protects the area’s 119 square kilometres of land, sea and shoreline. Your first stop will be Bahía Chachacual (or Chachacual Bay), a quiet spot perfect for snorkelling. Further down the coast, at Bahía Cacaluta, you’ll have the chance to explore that bay’s secluded beach, which is featured in the celebrated movie Y Tu Mamá También.
Afternoon For your midday meal, your Amstar DMC tour will bring you to Playa Maguey on Bahía Maguey for made-to-order guacamole, a lime margarita and fresh seafood. Post-lunch, you can nap on the lounge chairs on the beach or learn to stand-up paddleboard in the calm waters. Your tour boat will return mid-afternoon to bring you back to Santa Cruz, with the captain pointing out the cara de piedra, Huatulco’s famous rock face, along the way.
Evening Head to Huatulco’s “downtown” area of La Crucecita. Located just off the main square is El Sabor de Oaxaca, where you can try mole, a slow-cooked, spicy sauce that’s considered a Oaxacan delicacy. Other tasty menu items to try: avocado salad, stuffed chilis and made-to-order sangria. For a sweet finish, order the popular coconut ice cream at nearby Terra-Cotta Restaurante & Café.
Mercado Orgánico de Huatulco
Morning Start with a stroll through La Crucecita’s zócalo (plaza), where you can browse the locally made products sold by shopkeepers and outdoor vendors. Two Saturdays each month, the Mercado Orgánico de Huatulco joins the regular vendors here, offering up a wide range of organic produce, as well as edible souvenirs like honey, jam and hot sauce. After browsing the plaza, pay a visit to La Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, which features one of the world’s largest paintings of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Afternoon Drive an hour southwest from La Crucecita to the village of Mazunte, known for its protected turtle population (which includes hawksbill, green and leatherback turtles). Visit the Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga, a turtle-research centre and aquarium that offers fascinating daily tours, to learn about the gentle sea creatures. Next, take a 10-minute walk to the Cosméticos Naturales de Mazunte for a selection of sustainable beauty products made from locally sourced ingredients such as aloe vera, coconut, lime and seaweed.
Evening Head to Tangolunda, east of La Crucecita, for dinner at the open-air Don Porfirio restaurant. Try the shrimp mezcal, a grilled seafood dish that includes vegetables, rice and chayote (a Mexican gourd) in a butter garlic sauce. For a nightcap, take a taxi into La Crucecita to El Tonel Mezcal & Bar to sample from its long list of handcrafted mezcals.
Morning Spend your morning at Camino Real Zaashila Huatulco resort on Playa Tangolunda, which offers day passes to non-guests who’d like to experience the calm waters of this particularly spacious beach. Each pass also includes access to resort amenities including three pools, beach loungers and palapas.
Afternoon Walk 15 minutes from the resort to Tangolunda’s plaza, rent a scooter or bicycle from Aventura Mundo, then take a scenic ride west to Bocana del Rio Copalita. Dating back 2,500 years, this archaeological site features stunning temples and ruins. Take a guided tour to learn more about the region’s rich history.
Evening Take the Paradise Sunset Cruise, departing from Santa Cruz’s marina. The tour heads south along the coast to Bahía Tangolunda, where you’ll get a dramatic view of the Sierra Madre Mountains while watching the sun sink into the Pacific Ocean. After the sun sets, you and your fellow tour members will enjoy a leisurely lobster dinner at a beachfront restaurant—the perfect way to cap off your trip.
Getting There: WestJet flies to Huatulco four times a week from Calgary and Toronto.