Huatulco - Last Destination on the Pacific Coast

Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Mexico  , Oaxaca,
Monday, January 12, 2009

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Mexico:  23 Destinations to Spend the Winter Months
no. 17 of 23 destinations (this is not a ranking)

-    state of Oaxaca
-    500 km south of Acapulco
-    on the Pacific Coast
-    population 13,000
Huatulco – Our Last Destination on the Pacific Coast

During our quick visit to this region it was hard to wrap our minds around Huatulco largely due to its eclectic geographic mix and our lack of due diligence.

My first resource was to look at a map of Mexico. There I found the following names in this area: Santa Maria Huatulco, Santa Cruz Huatulco , Complejo Turistico (Resort) Bahias de Huatulco and Parque National Huatulco.

Furthermore “Bahias de Hualtuco” or Huatulco Bays was the destination written on the bus that brought us here from Puerto Escondido.

The name “Bahias de Huatulco” is a reflection of the local geography that is highlighted by nine spectacular bays along this part of the Pacific Coast. It was in 1983 that FONATUR, Mexico’s tourism development agency started Huatulco Bays as their 5th major resort area.  Almost everything that exists here today is a result of those efforts.

Development involved the purchase of 12,000 hectares of land and relocation of the sparse population of the area to Santa Maria Huatulco that is also the location of the airport.

For the latest tourist development by FONATURE see:

The final destination of our bus was a charming little land-bound Mexican town by the name of La Crucecita.  That still left us wondering, why wasn’t there a seaside town called Huatulco? After a while there comes the realization that Huatulco is more a region than a single town.
La Crucecita is one of the four areas of urbanization in the Huatulco region. The other three are Santa Cruz, a cute little beach town, Tangolunda, location of most resorts  and Chahué, located right next to Santa Cruz. All are within a few kilometers of each other and can be easily reached by bus or taxi.

The rugged beauty of the coastline of the bays can be seen in the following aerial photos:

- click at the top to move from one area to another

Santa Maria Huatulco is located the furthest inland and is the site of the International Airport.

Because of the complexity of the resort region of Bahias de Huatulco a week’s stay would a good period of time to explore all the possibilities of this region. That leaves our less than 24 hour visit in the category of inadequate, I regret to say.

Our arrival on this Sunday in quaint La Crucecita was at the modern ADO bus terminal at the edge of town. This is where I left Barbara with the baggage while I walked around town looking for a hotel priced around 350 pesos. My search became somewhat of a marathon as I must have stopped at about ten hotels in the elusive search to find a balance between what the French call “qualité-prix”. The best choice was the Hotel Flamboyant located right on the main square at 550 pesos. It was large and contained an element of colonial splendour, not to mention the swimming pool. In the end we opted for the Hotel Vinni-zza right across the traffic circle by the bus station. It was nothing special but it met our needs for one night’s accommodation.

My marathon search was long enough to apparently cause Barbara to have thoughts of “when do I call the police? after 60 min? 70 min? Fortunately this was the only time on the trip that it took this long to find a hotel.  By the way, the Hotel Vinni-zza was the first hotel that I visited in my search for a hotel.

A pleasure of eating in Mexico was the delicious chicken at a rotisserie. Therefore after long hours spent on the bus to get to the Bahias de Huatulco we could not resist the lure of the Pollo Bravo Restaurant which offered  “Autentico Sinaloa” chicken.  Sinaloa is a northern state of Mexico that, like Kentucky, is known for its style of preparing chicken. This was at 16:00 hours, which is unusual as we normally eat our evening meal at 20:00. But the chicken made us do it. Furthermore characteristically the rotisseries do not stay open later than around 18:00.

La Crucecita proved to be a delightful little town but the draw of the beach was too much to resist and with Barb’s oft repeated mantra of “we’ve got to spend some time on the beach” ringing in my ears, we were off to the beach.

But the problem, if you can call it a problem, here in Bahias de Huatulco, is which beach?

As usual, if you have a decision to make, turn to a taxi driver, since they are the locals who know everything. It was thus that we ended up in the nearby town of Santa Cruz located on the Bay by the same name.

Fortunately the taxi driver took us on a little tour and stopped at the bluff that separates Bahia de Santa Cruz from Bahia de Chahué. The view was wonderful and it was at that moment that I failed to “carpe diem” by not asking the taxi driver to take us on a tour of all the “bahias” accessible by public road. It would have been an hour and money well spent.

Instead we headed right for the beach but as I recall our time spent on the beach was not that pleasant due to various complaints that escape me at this moment.

I just asked Barbara to refresh my memory and I got an earful. In fairness to her she did not know that I was in the process of blogging when I shouted the question into the living room.

My question resulted in the following astounding comments:

“I didn’t like the beach at all. It was too crowded. Not very big, people too close to us, small beach just didn’t impress me. I was really, really disappointed. The beach is too close to the town. People were sitting in the hotel restaurant in the bar right behind us.  It just wasn’t a good beach for me, not at all.”

As a personal comment this is very uncharacteristic of Barbara as she is usually very positive and a great travel companion. I suppose, how else could we do all the travelling that we do. I greatly enjoy scenery and Barbara is the only person I have ever met that enjoys it more than I do. I find that I am becoming a damper on her enthusiasm as I often don’t see the beauty that she gets excited about and especially when she photographs everything in sight.

Getting back to the beach, yikes, that is not what I expected to hear. It was not that bad.

By the way, none of the photos show any evidence of overcrowding but we did move to the far end of the beach, closest to the cruise ship pier, and the photos were taken late in the day.

While on the beach we were also held hostage in a manner of speaking by a Mexican lady from Chicago who left her valuables with us while she went swimming. The appearance of some stingrays in the water was a great source of curiosity to the assembled swimmers and it was longer than we would have liked that she returned for her valuables. She did tell us that she spends her holidays every year in this area and that she likes it very much.

Having had a chance to look at our photos, at full resolution, of our visit to Huatulco they have enhanced my perception of the area and bring back some great memories.

If you don’t like one beach like Santa Cruz there are many others to choose from and no doubt Barbara would have been happy to spend some time on the more isolated beaches. Seven of the bays are accessible by taxi so there is plenty of variety.

Nevertheless in less than 24 hours we managed to cover a lot of territory as our photos will attest.

What did not help at all was my telling Barbara before our arrival of how I had visited a beautiful huge sandy beach with a vicious Pacific undertow in 2003. It certainly wasn’t this beach and I was at a loss to explain to her where it was.

After the beach, we enjoyed the ambiance of this little town starting with an excellent Oaxaca coffee at a little kiosk located under a gazebo in the main square.

From Santa Cruz we took a bus back to La Crucecita. We got off at the extremity of town to get a chance to see more. Even in the dark this town was large enough to be interesting.

The weather is warm if not hot and the feel is definitely “southern”. The atmosphere is laid back and relaxed. People are nice, the food is good and accommodations are reasonably priced. The crime rate is probably the lowest of any area we visited in Mexico. It is a clean town with terrific infrastructure in the area including a great golf course in nearby Tangolunda. Life is quiet and laid back and the possibilities to enjoy the beauties of nature are numerous. Why else would they have created a national park along the coast here?

On the downside, it is isolated, beaches are not within walking distance (except for maybe Santa Cruz), it has very limited shopping and it is far away from the nearest large city – Oaxaca (six hours by bus).

Bahias de Huatulco is the last Mexican resort area on the Pacific coast and that is reflected in the number of tourists and expats that come here. If you can believe “International Living” it is a good place to invest:

If nothing else, this blog has greatly increased my understanding and appreciation of Bahias de Huatulco.


Coming Soon:

Oaxaca – Coffee, Chocolate and Beautiful Colonial Architecture

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