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Mexico is a place of deep comfort for our family. We’ve traveled here many times to enjoy the easy, breezy lifestyle, the tropical beaches, the green jungle and the amazing food. But it’s the people that keep us coming back – always friendly, with easy smiles, warm hearts and laid back lifestyles.
So it was easy to plan another vacation here, this time traveling with family to visit Huatulco in the far reaches of Mexico in the state of Oaxaca. Personally, I had never heard of it and suggested more common climes like Zihuatenejo or Xtapa. Our sister-in-law was set on going somewhere off the beaten path, and we chose the beach resort town of Huatulco.
Our vacation home had a great view of the beach and resort
I could not be happier that we made that smart decision. The area consists of nine bays and more than 30 beaches, much of which are protected and undeveloped.
Visiting Huatulco is like going to Mexico 30 years ago, when tourist destinations were less popular – or should I say less visited. Huatulco is charmingly unsullied by the hoards of American tourists in Bermuda shorts and sunhats, making demands of locals that border on rude and bartering for $5 tchotchkes they can well afford at full price. If you’ve ever been to Cancun, you know exactly what I mean.
Even better, the Bahías de Huatulco (Bays of Huatulco) were certified by EarthCheck in 2010 as an environmentally sustainable tourist destination. There are huge natural preserves, unreachable except by boat and protected by the Mexican Government so that flora and fauna can prosper without danger of overdevelopment.
We rented a big villa within the resort of Camino Real, where hotel rooms stack nicely up the hill to catch views and offshore breezes. With the best of both worlds, our 6-bedroom villa easily fit our three families with kids and still left plenty of room for alone time. Even better, it was part of the resort so we could use the giant pool facilities, sign cocktail bills to our room, eat in the restaurants and more.
On our drive to town from the airport, we made friends with our van driver. I highly recommend this practice, as the local drivers always know the best places for everything. Jose Manuel did not disappoint, and his giant van fit 14 people comfortably.
Our (his) recommendations if you go here:
La Crucecita – The little downtown here is quaint and authentic, with little shops, jewelry stores and restaurants aimed at visitors. Not without it’s tourist traps, at least this village is not overrun with them. The tree-shaded square in the middle of town sports a gazebo and live music, which adds to the small-town feel. The church, however, is rather unremarkable.
Mezcal Chahue – This little shop in downtown La Crucecita is a great place for a Mezcal tasting adventure. At Jose Manuel’s suggestion, we wandered in after dinner and tasted five or six different varieties. If you’ve not tried it, Mezcal is made from the Mexican agave plant in this area of Mexico only. It’s delicious, with a sweeter, smokier flavor than its sister, tequila. Many bottles come complete with a worm, native to the agave plant and said to add a special flavor. We bought several bottles to bring home, sans worm.
Terra Cotta Restaurant – The only air-conditioned restaurant in the entire region. You will thank me for this. Oh, and the food is good too. Try the local molé, a sauce famous in this State of Oaxaca area and made from unsweetened chocolate, chile, onion, garlic and spices. Sooooo good. And really, really affordable.
The traditional chocolate mole sauce was so delicious
Captain Rogerio and his yacht The Virginia – Berthed in Santa Cruz Harbor, the Virginia easily fit 12 of us as we set out for a day of snorkeling, beaches unreachable by car, and some deep sea fishing. We held a live puffer fish underwater, spied a sea turtle or two, and tried unsuccessfully to catch a few deep sea fish. Granted, we didn’t try the fishing for very long, due to my untimely decision to lose my breakfast in a rather rocky sea. Next time: Dramamine first. (The cost was about $120/hour).
Three-hour tour, a three-hour tour….
Maguey Beach – A beautiful stretch of beach with calm waters for swimming and collection of restaurants serving freshly caught seafood. The dorado a la plancha (grilled mahi-mahi) and giant shrimps at El Costeño restaurant looked delicious as I sipped my lime and soda (see earlier comment about boat ride). The rest of the group raved about the simple and delicious seafood preparations. A couple of us took a taxi home from here rather than the boat ride, and it was about 20 miles – the taxi fare was ONE DOLLAR.
Iguanas – They are everywhere, literally coming out of crevices, perched on sunny stairs throughout the resort, and climbing trees on the side of the road. Don’t worry, they’re harmless and some are even friendly. Locals suggest you don’t try to touch one in the wild, but we saw several people holding tame iguanas for a photo opp. We learned the black ones live in the ground, starting out green and then tanned dark by the sun. The tree iguanas stay green because of the leafy shade. Who knew?
Iguanas are everywhere – black ones on the ground and green ones in the trees greet those who visit Huatulco
Copalita Ecological Park – Site of an active archeological dig, Copacita was once home to the Mixtec people some 2,500 years ago. We trekked through the park with a guide, who explained the ruins we were viewing and pointed out some cool plants and animals. Gigantic striped iguanas clung to jungle trees, rare spoonbills perched on nests, and brightly colored tropical birds dipped through the trails as we walked by. This visit was a highlight – the tour was about two hours and non-strenuous.