Huatulco, Mexico – Paradise on the cliffs
When we decided to take our first trip to Mexico in 2015, we knew that we wanted to go to a place that was relatively undiscovered. We wanted to be able to take in the culture, the surroundings, and be able to go at a slower pace, without all the crowds and partiers that most Mexican tourist destinations are known for.
After some research, we stumbled upon a small, relatively unknown part of Mexico called Huatulco. At the time, Huatulco was still in its infancy and had not yet been discovered by many people. Most of the people that we met while there had booked their trips through online discount sites that were working with the Mexico tourism agency to promote the new destination.
Most people have not heard of Huatulco as it’s one of those up-and-coming resort areas. The area was called Bahias de Huatulco but recently shortened the name to help drive the tourism business, which is the primary source of income for the locals in the area. Located in the state of Oaxaca, Huatulco sits where the foothills of the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains meet the Pacific Ocean.
Until resort development began in the 1980s, Huatulco was little known except as a coffee-growing area. In 1984, FONATUR (Fondo Nacional de Turismo), a government agency dedicated to the development of tourism in Mexico, acquired 21,000 hectares of land to develop a tourism center, similar to that in Cancún. The plan resulted in the improvement of roadways and other infrastructure.
Once we landed at the airport in Huatulco, we were whisked off to our hotel, the Barcelo Huatulco, by the shuttle service that we booked as part of the trip. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised when the shuttle arrived as it was a very well-appointed, roomy van that was plenty big enough for all of us headed to the resort.
Our room was beautiful and on the ground floor, which was a win for us. Since we chose a “superior” room, we had an ocean view, and since our room was on the very end of the building, we only had neighbors on one side, which was another bonus. The view from the patio was breathtaking and allowed us to sit and watch the beautiful Pacific sunset every night before bed, and wake up to the peaceful sounds of the ocean while having that morning cup of Mexican coffee.
Whenever we were hungry, there were plenty of options to choose from for food. In addition to 2 buffets, there are four a-la-carte restaurants, including Italian, local authentic Mexican, and Sushi.
Despite being right on the Pacific, the Barcelo boasts three swimming pools, including an adults-only pool with a swim-up bar. There is also a pool just for the kiddos and one that for fun activities like water polo, volleyball, and some spirit team games.
Of course, with the Pacific ocean just steps from the resort, the pools pale in comparison. The only drawback we found is that the beach is a bit steep, so taking a leisurely walk down the beach was a bit challenging. Also, because we were traveling during October, the winds were quite high, and there were red flag warnings for most of our trip, so we didn’t spend much time in the ocean. Regardless, we did get a chance to walk down the beach and see some of the beautiful rock formations.
The Barcelo has a helpful events desk where you can sign up for dinner reservations, tours, just about anything you want. Since the resort is a bit removed from “downtown” Huatulco, we wanted to take a tour and visit local shops and take in some of the stunning scenery. The trip was $50 for the two of us and scheduled to last 6 hours. We met our tour guide at the front of the hotel, and, to our surprise, we were the only people scheduled, so we got to enjoy the tour all to ourselves.
Our guide took us on not only a tour of the quaint little town of La Cruceta but also explained to us what Bahias de Huatulco meant, which is nine bays meaning there are nine bays, and each one has it’s own name and meaning. The Bahias de Huatulco is a series of nine bays and numerous small coves stretching along 16 miles of jagged coastline, including 36 white sandy beaches.
The town of La Crucita is not large and, from what our guide told us, has little to no crime. Because the area was built for tourism, the locals work hard to ensure tourists feel safe and have no issues. We wandered around the quaint small town visiting a textile factory where the ladies were weaving handmade rugs on centuries-old hand weaving machines as well as spinning yarn for the carpets. It was amazing to watch the skill involved in creating such beautiful textiles.
Another stop on our tour was a Mezcal factory where we got to sample different ages of Mezcal, learn about the process of making it, and sample some Mexican chocolate. It was surprising to us how much smoother the taste got, which the age. Of course, we came home with a bottle of Mezcal, and it is chocolate flavored, go figure!
After we toured some of the shops in town, our guide took us to one of the oldest churches in Mexico. It’s a small building, very unassuming, but when we stepped inside and looked up, we were mesmerized. On the ceiling of the church is the largest painting of the Virgen de Guadalupe in the world, and it is breathtaking.
As we made our way back to the resort, our guide stopped at several of the vistas overlooking the Bahias de Huatulco. The cliffs, with the ocean crashing up against them, were stunning, and the views were truly breathtaking.
With each stop, the guide told us the name of the bay and what it meant. He also shared the history of the areas and what the government was planning to revitalize the areas that had been vandalized or abandoned.
Because the area was developed with more of an ecological focus, high rise buildings are not allowed. Most resort buildings are not higher than 3 stories and have extensive recycling programs and strict guidelines they must follow.
The fact that the area was developed with the environment in mind was a plus for us. We like to support areas that are doing all they can to help protect ecosystems and green spaces and Huatulco is one of those areas. Through conservation and regulation, they have found a beautiful balance between tourism and ecology.
If you are looking for a more laid back Mexican destination, Huatulco may be the answer. I’m sure it’s grown considerably since our first trip there in 2015, but hopefully, it’s still as charming and quaint as when we visited.