We are not resort people. Our daughter would love to hang out at the pool all day and snack at buffets, but for Emily and I, staying at an all-inclusive resort feels suffocating. The experience is too manufactured and isolated from the country you’re visiting – you get the same swan towel art, poolside bar, and evening entertainment no matter where you travel.
Now that we’re leaving the country again, we wanted to plan a trip to somewhere warm that would be adventurous but not too overwhelming for a 6-year-old.
A trip to Huatulco was the perfect Mexican vacation for us. We rented a little condo in La Crucecita and used it as a base to explore the area. We loved the safe and clean beaches, the beautiful fish we saw while snorkelling, the delicious fresh fruit, and the amazing jungle waterfalls.
Compared to other places in Mexico we’ve visited (like Puerto Vallarta or Cancun), Huatulco has a more authentic Mexican vibe. Even though there are direct flights from Vancouver and other Canadian cities, 80% of the tourists in Huatulco are Mexicans from other states. We were often the only gringo tourists. That gave us lots of opportunities to practice our Spanish, or just follow the crowd when we couldn’t understand what we were being told.
Huatulco is located on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca state. It’s very hot, with consistent daytime highs of 34 C. I went for two runs at 6 am, the “coldest” part of the day, but it was still 26 C and I was sweating buckets. To beat the heat, we spent a lot of time in the water – at the pool or at one of the many local beaches.
The biggest challenge was not getting burned. With the harsh sun and frequent dips in the water, sunscreen didn’t do much to protect us. Emily and Astrid had burns after the first day and we quickly bought long-sleeve swimming shirts.
Oaxaca is known for its food, but it isn’t very vegan-friendly. In Huatulco, most of the restaurants specialize in seafood and have few vegetarian options (never mind vegan). We could rely on finding guacamole, french fries, and fresh juice, but that was usually it. Even refried beans were hard to find in restaurants.
We found two excellent vegan restaurants in town and ate at them a lot.
La Verduzca Vegetropical had the most delicious Mexican dishes with fresh vegetables and rich moles.
Punto y Come is run by a delightful Italian lady who befriended Astrid immediately. All of the food was made from scratch, including the bread and falafel, and it was excellent.
One of the reasons we stayed in a condo is so we would have a kitchen. We cooked breakfast most days and dinner twice. There was a small grocery store across the street from our condo that had all the basics, including cereal and almond milk. I enjoyed buying from street vendors who sold fresh fruits, cactus leaves, hot sauces, and tortillas. It was pretty easy to cook tacos for dinner with tortillas, veggies, mango, nopales, salsa, and a can of refried beans.
Fun fact: In Mexico, avocado is aguacate. For some reason, I always assumed avocado was a Spanish word.
Huatulco is split into a few small townsites. Our condo and most of the shops and restaurants are in La Crucecita. The coast and port area is about a kilometre south of town. Almost close enough to walk, but we relied on public transit and taxis to get to the beaches.
This blog post (with its handy maps) helped us figure out how the bus worked and where the stops were. There isn’t much signage, but once you figured out where to stand it was surprisingly convenient and cheap. Every 10-15 minutes a transit bus pulled up and you paid 8 pesos for a trip (about 50 cents).
The taxis were plentiful and well-regulated, so you didn’t have to haggle over a price or feel like you were being ripped off. We used them to get to the farther bays and beaches like Playa La Entrega (where there is excellent snorkelling).
Tours and Excursions
We did two organized tours – a trip to the jungle waterfalls and a catamaran tour of the coastline around Huatulco.
Our tour guide for the waterfall trek was Oscar Velasquez, a super knowledgeable and friendly local guide who was fluent in English (in addition to Spanish and Zapotec). After a one-hour drive into the mountains, we did a short hike along a river full of waterfalls and small natural swimming pools. At the end of the hike, there was a larger swimming area with bigger falls and caves to explore. It was amazing and the water was surprisingly clean and refreshing.
The catamaran tour took us on a day trip along the coast to seven of the bays of Huatulco. It was a delightful combination of a family-friendly adventure with snorkelling in the national park mixed with a booze-cruise-like atmosphere with a hundred partying Mexicans and a loud sound system. Astrid got up and danced with some Mexican tourists, but Emily and I just enjoyed the ride.
The snorkelling around Huatulco is excellent. We snorkelled in the national park during our catamaran trip, and twice off the beach in Playa La Entrega. Both were equally impressive. The water is full of brightly coloured fish, manta rays, and even sea turtles.
Astrid did most of her snorkelling using this cool glass-bottomed bodyboard. She tried on a snorkelling mask once and got pretty good at using it underwater, but when we tried to rent her a kids-sized version the next day she was not into it and we went back to the bodyboard.
Sadly, the coral reefs are not looking very healthy, with a lot of bleaching. The extremely warm ocean temperatures caused by global warming are quickly destroying them. With ocean temperatures continuing to break records, I worry about the future of snorkelling in Huatulco.
Tips for those travelling to Huatulco:
- Get a local SIM card so you can use data on your phone. I got an eSIM from Airalo and Emily got a physical SIM at an OXXO convenience store. The digital eSIM was cheaper and more convenient, so if your phone supports it, then that is what I recommend.
- Even though we brushed up on our Spanish using Duolingo before our trip, we heavily relied on Google Translate while we were there to help communicate.
- Bring your own snorkel equipment. You can always find rentals, but we went out often enough that it would have been cheaper and more convenient to have our own gear.
- Wear long sleeve swimming shirts. No amount of sunscreen will protect you from the strong sunlight. And sunscreen is bad for the coral reefs.
- Bring lots of pesos. Very few places except credit cards. You can get more money from ATMs, but the exchange rate and fees are expensive.
Photo album from our week in Huatulco.
Sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing.