Ready and Roam / Huatulco, Mexico
Best time to GO: November through April.
As a rule of thumb, whenever it’s warmer in Mexico than in the US it’s considered “high season.” Generally October to February is when you’ll see the highest cost accommodations but also more options for airfare. March & April during Spring Break is also a great time to visit, although the beaches will be a bit busier as a result. It’s pretty rainy and humid June to September.
Known for it’s nice bays and miles of beautiful beaches, Huatulco is perfect for vacationers and retirees interested in a mix of culture and relaxation. The area has been quite popular with Mexican and Canadian tourists for years, but is gaining momentum in the US as airlines like United, Frontier and Sun Country offer weekly non stop flights during the high season. Named for the nearby national park and located in the safe state of Oaxaca, Huatulco is southeast of Mexico City (1 hour by plane) on the pacific coast, half way between Acapulco and Guatamala.
In 2016 the Mexican government invested quite a bit of money into developing tourism in the area, and unlike the commercialism that has over wrought areas of Cancún, Los Cabos and Nayarit, Huatulco remains low key, authentic and affordable. Situated in foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains is has many protected zones for ecological conservation where no development can take place. The area is divided into four districts: Tangolunda (luxury resort area), Santa Cruz (the pier), La Crucecita (small village) and Chahué (the largest bay and beach area).
Camino Real Zaashila / reservations
Centrally located in Huatulco, I was completely impressed by this property. It’s private beach is lovely and quiet, the food was delicious, and the architect designed Mediterranean spaces are really intimate and beautiful. There are only 151 rooms which is a sweet spot for this small property lover, and every room has a terrace or balcony and partial ocean view. If I wanted a resort hotel on the beach this is where I would be. If your kids are along, they have a great kids program as well.
Bahia de la Luna / reservations
Private and picturesque this affordable ecolodge has so much to offer for being in such a remote location — an hour from downtown Huatulco on unpaved, but manageable roads. They have a restaurant onsite and welcome both families and pets. They have 12 rustic but chic cabanas situated in the hills above the water, and the staff makes every accommodation necessary to ensure you have quaint and lovely stay. I recommend you seek out their great snorkeling and swimming beach even if you aren’t staying at the hotel —It’s called La Boquilla Beach, and it’s described in detail below.
Aamori Boutique Hotel / reservations
A little further off the beaten path, this adults-only property has only 10 suites and sits beachfront in the small fishing village of San Agustinillo, one hour from both Huatulco and Puerto Escondido. With large rooms, an onsite pool, restaurant and spa this boutique property is worth the car rental and extra effort to find, especially since it’s crazy affordable.
Rtip: If you are staying in the area of either Aamori or La Luna, be sure to check out Mermejita —one of the few remaining untouched beaches of Oaxaca. The dark sand and peaceful isolation is quite incredible. Get there before the rest of the world discovers it.
Suites Huatulco / email@example.com
You can really vacation affordably in Huatulco, especially when you consider all the amazing one week rentals in the area. Since most flights options are only offered on a seven day return, a one week rental is a wonderful option. In perfect proximity for wandering the historic city center and eating out in la Crucecita, you’ll find this completely renovated four unit complex in the gated neighborhood of Mirador which directly backs up to the national park. The owners offer super clean and spacious 2- bedroom units with a connecting breezeway and a brand new community pool. I can vouch for the safety and affordability of this property. Now if you are staying with a larger group or want to be closer to the water, we found this 5 bedroom house in Tangolunda Bay with a private beach, and this great 3 bedroom ocean front villa, in great proximity to the beach and and city centre.
Rtip: I have visited a lot of properties in Huatulco, and I have friends who live there permanently, so I feel compelled to also share my learning on the hotels that are not listed above. In any quick search you’ll find Las Brisas, which is also considered a preferred hotel property, however I was unimpressed with my visit. It used to be a Club Med so the grounds feel very segmented, and they sell day passes for roughly $50, to non guests. Now this can be good if you are in a rental without access to a pool, but not great if you are a paying guest of the hotel. The Barcelo property used to be a Sheraton and it’s okay if your aim is a larger resort or an all inclusive option. And finally, The Quinta Real, which is a sister property to the Camino Real. This hotel is a little pricier and seems really beautiful on the exterior, but has a reputation of poor service and average food among guests and local
Visit a Traditional Temazcal
The word Temazcal comes from the Aztec language meaning bath at home. The bathing ceremony was used by the indigenous people as a therapeutic and spiritual ritual. Basically you enter an adobe building that holds the Temazcal bath chamber (heated by rocks). Similar to a sauna, the rocks are doused with water and herbs, and a richly scented steam begins the process necessary to relax and purify the body and to release toxins (considered by the indigenous practitioners as excess “hot” and “cold” energies). After about 45 minutes of quiet meditation inside the Temazcal, you can enjoy a relaxation massage before leaving, feeling relaxed and energized. I visited the Xquenda Huatulco Spa and I was impressed with it’s great location next to Chahué Beach. It is also a highly rated mid-range hotel and offers, hydrotherapy, body wraps, treatments and facials.
Easy Bikes Huatulco rents rides from it’s storefront in La Crucecita. We used them to explore the area. You can also join them on a scheduled group tour through the national park to the unspoiled remote beaches of Cacaluta Bay - arguably one of the most stunning beach areas in all of Mexico with it’s silky sand and combination blue waters. They also offer a night time ride through the village of Crucecita. Although it is not advertised on their website, they are the only tour company with a radio and medical kit on board, they renew transportation vehicles regularly, and the rental bikes are always in excellent, if not new condition.
Spend time on the Beach
By bike, by car or by boat you need to make time to explore the area’s coastline. Oaxaca is home to some of the most pristine and secluded beaches in all of Mexico. The mountain and jungle landscape is reminiscent of Puerto Rico or Costa Rica, and together with the rocky bays and golden sand, it’s really quite spectacular. If I was to highlight only a few beaches I would strongly recommend the following:
The closest to town of my suggestions, and quite possibly my favorite, is Arrocito. At only 30 pesos and 5 minutes away by taxi from La Crucecita, this is really a special place. As you approach the relatively small beach you can hardly make out the water because of all the palapas, jungle foliage and tree coverage. There is a restaurant on site to grab a beer and enjoy some peanuts, and there is plenty of shade to retreat from the sun. Up the hill you’ll find a clean bathroom and pay for use changing rooms for 5 pesos.
The mile long, San Angostin beach is situated in a fishing village on the other side of the national park from Huatulco. It’s inside one of the nine bays and a hot spot for dining options, although it’s surprisingly uncrowded. 45 minutes by cab you can give your driver a specific time to come back for you, or you can charter a private boat and be on your own time. The beach is perfect for snorkeling the large coral reef and spotting all kinds of stunning fish and turtles. As I mentioned this is where all the guides and taxi’s suggest you eat, so make time to kick back among the locals at one of the beachfront seafood restaurants where you can enjoy fresh ceviche and line-caught snapper all day.
Finally, I suggest you seek out La Boquilla Beach. A little further from Huatulco you’ll discover the most secluded little beach on the way to Puerto Escondido. Tucked between the mountains in Puerto Ángel, two miles down an unpaved road off 175, you’ll find this great swimming and snorkeling beach. Because there are so many isolated and beautiful beaches in this area, Boquilla escapes tourists radar. Besides the guests of Bahía de la Luna, featured above in “Stay,” it’s practically deserted.
Get on the Water
If you want to see all nine Bahias of Huatulco from the water, you can hire a boat for a few hours or you can customize the entire day to include snorkeling and swimming at one of 32 other beaches in the area. Companies like Huatulco Watersports charters various sized boats as well as rents jet skis.
If you want to include fishing in your itinerary the best guide is supposed to be Pilo Vazquez. Not my thing but the consensus among locals and Canadians, is that he’s the best (and they should know). I also hear that many of the restaurants will prepare your catch for you at a great price. Now that’s sounds fun.
Take a Day Trip
We commissioned a private driver for the day through Descubre Huatulco so that we could customize a trip to a Coffee Plantation and the Copalita Waterfalls. Our driver’s name was Raul and he did a great job of keeping us off the tourist track. The website is in Spanish, but if you have some language skills and you want a really authentic exploration of the area, it’s a very affordable option at less than $130 for the day.
Many of the scheduled tours take you to a working coffee plantation, like Finca Don Gabriel, which can feel very commercial. However hiring a local driver will give you the chance to explore the flora and fauna of the jungle on your own time, and even pick your own coffee beans (if you are there in December). Just ask your driver to take you to his favorite Finca, or coffee farm. We visited Al rancho de Alejo with Raul. In addition to touring the fields, the farmer’s wife made us homemade tortillas and gifted me the most incredible grapefruit.
Located an hour and half from Huatulco along the Copalita River, near the village of San Miguel del Puerto, you’ll find several remote waterfalls. You hike down to various sized natural falls for swimming, jumping and relaxation. It’s quite peaceful and there is something for the waders, adventurers and photographers alike.
RTip: August - October you can white water raft down the Copalita river, which begins high in the Sierra Madre mountains and ends at the great surfing beach La Bocana. The rest of the year Aventura Mundo offers ocean hikes along the rocky cliffs and 1/2 day surf lessons in the varied waters of the pacific.
Recuerdame Bonito / website
This gallery is filled with wonderful, unique Mexican souvenirs, mesh cosmetic bags, fabric animales, shoes, ceramics, jewelry and purses. It wasn’t hard to find something to covet or gift in this neat shoppe. I bought several of the unique mesh bags, available for purchase on our shop page.
Every Saturday in January there is an organic market in the Santa Cruz square near the water. You can walk or taxi down to the pier from La Crucecita very easily. The market features local produce, artisans and makers. My favorites include Huatulco Salt Company, Cafe de Altura, and Cosmeticos Mazunte.
Caracol Boutique / website
If you are looking for Mexican designer ware, this is quite a find. They sell bags and beach cover ups and dresses for women and kids. Don’t end up with a t-shirt at the airport when you can pop in here for something really unique. Conveniently located next to Cafe Porto where you can grab an espresso late afternoon.
Cre Arte / see map
This is not an advertised shop that you’d easily wander in to, but if you are in the market for throws, towels or runners it’s a wonderful find. The loom is onside surrounded by scrap textiles, and most of the work is done custom for locals. I bought a bunch of kitchen towels to gift at less than $2 each.
Oaxacan Handicrafts Museum / see map
Fanciful woodcarvings, colorful weavings and handmade pottery, are only some of the of folk art and handicrafts that are produced in the villages around Oaxaca. This is the place to go for handmade Aztec rugs. They aren’t cheap but the selection is extensive and the dying and weaving techniques are authentic.
Galeria Pintando Esperanza / website
Located on the pier near the church, Capilla De La Santa Cruz, this upstairs gallery sells pillows and key chains, pottery and purses. Many of the goods are patterned and sewn by women in remote villages for the benefit of the community where they are made. All sales support the foundation for education to directly impact rural communities in need. Often you’ll see women picking up supplies and dropping of handmade treasures in the gallery
While you’re in Huatulco you have to try the traditional Tlayudas, made from giant char-grilled tortillas (they appear fried) sandwiching meat, salsa, beans and Oaxacan cheese, of course. Our driver Raul says the best Tlayudas can be found at Las Tlayudas del Sector. While I thought they were better at La Casa de Las Tlayudas, you can go and decide for yourself. All of the restaurants listed below are in the village of La Crucecita, if you aren’t eating there, you are likely eating at your hotel or at a palapa on the beach.
Luz Mar Comedor Familiar / see map
The four of us enjoyed breakfast and coffee here many mornings for only $12 usd. It’s a locals only kind of place but worth seeking out for a little black coffee and fresh tortillas. I loved the huevos “divorsados,” which is huevos rancheros with both red and green sauce.
L’Art’illeria / website
I debated about putting L’Art’illeria in “Sip” just because I loved sitting in their couches late afternoon drinking Corona and scrolling Instagram, but because the food is delicious I’m leaving it here in “Devour.” The chef takes great pride in his restaurant, is super friendly with customers, and often pops out for groceries himself in the middle of a dinner service.
Rtip: We went to Taqueria Los Parados for chorizo tacos twice, but they were closed both times so we ended up next door at what became my favorite restaurant in La Crucecita, Grillo Marinero. If you see that Parados is open, you should try what I didn’t get a chance to enjoy.
Grillo Marinero / website
This seafood restaurant is so fabulous. They aren’t open late so you need get there before 7:30 to enjoy a meal. The fish is fresh caught so order whatever they recommend. I loved the grilled red snapper and the octopus. There is live music regularly and they bring you more tortillas than you can possibly eat.
Street Food @ Chacah & Bugambilia
The cart on Bugambilia in front of the mural at the park, has the best street tacos in town. Get the pork tacos al pastor (Mexico’s version of Gyro meat) it’s delicious. Pull up a chair or take it to-go, but don’t forget the hot sauce.
Terra Cotta / website
You can regularly eat a meal in La Crucecita for under $5, the exception being Terra Cotta inside the Mision de los Arcos hotel. It’s the only restaurant with air conditioning so usually full of “gringos” but it serves some really great Italian and Mexican specialties.
Nieves de Garrofa
I ate my weight in peanuts and ice cream on this trip and when this little cart rolled into town I’d make a b-line to check the daily flavors. If Nescafe is on the menu go for it, it may not appear again for several days.
San Alejandro Bakery / website
Cookies, donuts, bread, cakes…this place is unbelievable and a great bargain. If you’ve already had desert, grab something for your morning coffee. Delicious.
Rtip: Seek out and sample the local Mezcal. If you are interested in a kitchy purchase look for the MaryJuana Mezcal.
Cafe Casa Mayor / website
Fab coffee and espresso with an upstairs patio overlooking the Zocalo, Casa Mayor is a great spot to loose a morning.
Cafe Porto / 52 958 688 1874
Find a tiny table out front, and just watch the world go by from this delicious cafe on the square. If the bakery quality deserts aren’t your thing, check out Twins Rolls next door for their specialty rolled ice cream. My favorite is the “Oaxaqueno,” mezcal and mango, yum!
I always bring an extra suitcase or duffel to bring back all my treasures. I also take out $350 in local currency before I leave the country. If you need to take out more, do that at an ATM not a bank for the best exchange rate. The power source in Mexico is same as the US so there is no need for a converter. When I’m going to spend a lot of time at the local beaches I like to bring my own towel and a fan. It’s also a good idea to bring a wet bag, water shoes and insect repellent.
Click to see everywhere we explored in My Maps