Mexico’s Pacific Riviera has seen many a tourist in its day with white sand beaches and sparkling nightlife in tourism giants like Acapulco, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. But, there are still some secret escapes that offer the more adventurous tourist tropical bays, secluded beaches and lots of fun. Huatulco is the crown jewel of these hidden gems. Mexico For Kids is fun for the entire family.
Located in the state of Oaxaca about 200 miles down the coast from Acapulco, Huatulco feels worlds away. Nine unspoiled bays and 34 pristine beaches, many of them only accessible by boat, line the coast here and each of them offer a unique perspective. The town itself blends old Mexico, with a brilliant Zocalo, or town square, with a huge Spanish colonial church next to chill-out style wood fired pizza bars with couches and Bob Marley music. Outside of town, there are coffee plantations, jungle trips, rafting and much more to appeal to tourists of all type.
Where to Stay
Development in Huatulco has been limited, which enhances the natural surrounds of this tropical paradise. There are a variety of budget and midrange hotels in town. Lining the bays south of town are upscale, all inclusive hotels, some of which cater to families. We stayed at Dreams Huatulco Resort & Spa. The four pools, some dedicated specifically to families, and beach front cabanas were a natural playground for our kids. Add to that a water trampoline, kayaks, Eurobungee, Kids’ Explorer Club and archery and you can say our kids were blinded by the shine of this sparkling gem! And, because the resort is all-inclusive, we didn’t feel like we had to say no…trampoline time, ice cream floats at the swim-up bar, archery lessons…sure, why not? The beach at the resort felt very quaint, with a deep bay, small islet for exploring, and excellent snorkeling and huge schools of fish swarming the kids in the shallow waters.
What to Do
Although the resort was fabulous, it is not all Huatulco has to offer. When we wanted to get out of the resort, town was just a short taxi ride away (and less then $5). But often time, we didn’t even need to take a taxi as the activity provider offered door to door service. We booked many of our activities through Amstar. Here’s what we did:
Scuba Diving: We took Nathan (12) our certified diver, and Seamus (10) on a discover scuba dive with Hurricane Divers. On the way to our dive spot we spotted whales and saved a sea turtle. Our captain noticed the turtle was not diving down as it should when a boat approaches. He jumped overboard to investigate and found the turtle’s mouth and nostril covered with barnacles making it difficult to breathe. Nathan jumped in to assist in hauling the turtle on-board where both kids helped pry the barnacles off the turtle. When the turtle was released it paused for a look back at us and then dove down from the surface looking happy and healthy again.
Plantation/Waterfall: Although this makes for a long day (we were out of the resort from about 9am-6pm) it offers a much more authentic look at this part of Mexico. We drove back roads through tiny villages where kids ran along the roads with goats and families chatted in front of small churches. We ended our drive at a coffee plantation where we learned how coffee is grown and processed and indulged in cuisine authentico prepared by locals. After lunch, we hiked to nearby waterfalls (think Jamaica’s Dunn’s RiverFalls without the gajillion tourists) where the kids had fun swinging on ropes like Tarzan, catching tadpoles and getting mud masks.
Rafting/Tubing: The CopalitaRiver runs from offers Class III – IV rapids in the highlands, but we didn’t think our kids were quite ready for that. So, we opted for tubing Class I and II rapids on the lower river. After a couple of snags on rocks at the beginning, the kids started to get the hang of it and enjoy “steering” their tubes through the rapids, and avoiding the natural barriers. The trip ended at the ocean on a secluded beach and a hike along the coast to another small beach with a sand floor restaurant and surf shack.
Town: Even if you are staying at an all-inclusive place, be sure to take time to explore the town for a meal, shopping and the amazing family-friendly atmosphere of the town square. The church beside the square hosts incredible murals and just across the street families stroll the square as vendors sell every imaginable kid’s toy – balloons, wooden toys, kites, glow sticks, tops, you name it. Everywhere we go, I ask taxi drivers and activity providers about the best restaurants – the place where the locals go. And every single one directed us to, not tacos…but pizza! La Crema Pizza, overlooking the town square from a second story balcony offered a bit of a hippy attitude with tall candles on each table and batik fabrics hung from the ceilings, and incredible thin crust pizza with a mind-spinning array of toppings.
Huatulco is a five-hour flight from Texas. At the time we went, there were only a couple of direct flights from the United States – via Houston and St. Louis. Canada offers many more direct flights, which is why the kids made so many Canadian friends along the way. Huatulco is also accessible by bus from Acapulco, Oaxaca City and Mexico City.
When first suggested by our booking agent, Apple Vacations, I had never heard of Huatulco, and I am pretty well traveled in Mexico. I even lived just 250 miles away in Cuernavaca for a time. But now that I have been there, I can understand why this diamond is kept a secret. Its brilliance far and away outshines many of the more popular jewels in the Pacific Riviera.