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Lifting the Curtain on Huatulco

sunny 34 °C

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This is the reason we needed to get off the road for a while. We're halfway through our travels, and had reached that point where we just had to stop. Stop driving, eat nice food, drink cold beer, float on our backs in the ocean and have afternoon naps in the shade. Huatulco has provided us with all of that and more. After our disappointing stay in Puerto Escondido, we splurged a tiny bit, and treated ourselves to 6 nights in a decent hotel. We had scoured the internet for options, and ended up "stalking" our friends who were staying here at Villa Blanca for a 2-week vacation. This place was just exactly what we needed - well-run with very friendly staff, spotlessly clean, each room the size of a Vancouver studio apartment, huge buffet breakfast, large pool and garden area, and access to a beach club about a 10-minute walk away. Super comfy bed, air-conditioning, equipped with a fridge and a coffee-maker - priceless.

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The pool area and dining room were natural meeting places for guests, and it was a very convivial place. Guests came from all over Canada and the U.S., but it was the French-Canadians who brought the party, with their "bais-oui's" and their cigarettes and their slightly disconcerting swimwear. Lots of fun.

When we were planning our trip, we set a daily budget of $100 that would cover accommodation, gas and food, and we have managed to stick to that number. The quality of our accommodation varies, depending upon where we are in Mexico, but we try to find places that are under $50 a night. This hotel is $65 a night, and was worth every extra peso. We are completely relaxed, and here are the shots of us at the beach club to prove it.

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Huatulco is hard to wrap your head around, because there isn't actually a town called Huatulco; rather it is a set of nine bays, centred around the small towns of La Crucecita, Santa Cruz and several new developments. Huatulco was a coffee-growing area and fishing village until it was selected in the mid-80s by the Mexican government sector called FONATUR for tourism development. And, similar to what happened in Cancun and Ixtapa, huge tracts of land were expropriated, existing communities relocated, and the building began. It cannot compare to the soulless development of those two places, but great swaths of it feel like the land of broken dreams.
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There is a long pier in Santa Cruz to accommodate the cruise ships that were slated to drop anchor here. In anticipation of the thousands of visitors these ships would bring in, a vast infrastructure project around the town began. FONATUR put up this sign announcing all the advantages the cruise ship industry would bring to the area, and this roadway was cleared to allow foot traffic between Santa Cruz and La Crucecita. Controversy with passenger and crew head taxes appear to have slowed the anticipated flow of cruise ship traffic, and as a result many other projects have slowed as well or ground to a halt. There must be other factors involved - fallout from 2008, the ongoing fear of travel in Mexico, challenges with international accessibility to this area, but there are very striking juxtapositions between extreme luxury and extreme hardship. This hotel below is typical of a number of almost-fisnished projects that sit boarded-up and empty.

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Even worse, the area is dotted with rubble-strewn vacant lots, and buildings that appear condemned. These buildings are inhabited by squatters - I caught a glimpse of a mother and small child before they disappeared into the shadows.

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In the area we are staying in, there are dozens of hotels, wide boulevards, and really beautiful parks. Much of this area is almost empty - so few people to enjoy the landscaping, the brick pathways and the gracious buildings.

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The really luxurious hotels, further down the road, with names like "Dreams" and "Secrets", are hidden behind winding driveways and guarded and gated booths.

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But...for all the disconnected sprawl, the huge disparity of wealth and poverty, and the queasy sense of "them-us", there is a warmth and friendliness here that is extremely welcoming. Many Mexicans speak English quite well. We stopped a young woman for directions, and she responded with," Oh sure - just keep going straight until you get to the plaza." Apparently, there is a real emphasis on learning English in the schools here.
Access to the town of La Crucecita from our hotel was easy and safe - a beautiful centre boulevard with benches and trees led us straight to the main plaza, the church and the very busy and vibrant evening scene. If there is a focal point in Huatulco, La Crucecita is it. People we talked to who have been coming to Huatulco for years absolutely love it - we would see glimpses of "their" Huatulco, and understand why.

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We met up with our friends Jim and MJ one night at this bar for a couple of margaritas, then on to a great little spot for "the best guacamole"and tacos.

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There are no shortage of great restaurants in town, and as much as we love our Mexican food, there are times when nothing but a big juicy hamburger will do. This lovely lady Elsa has had her stand for three years, and keeps it simple - burgers, fries and carrot cake - all homemade, all fabulous. She presides over the grill with a stately elegance.
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The beaches are spread out over about 20 kilometres and are so varied. Some are noisy, crowded with boats, people and restaurant hawkers. Some are almost deserted and accessible only by boat. Our favourite was La Entrega - it had the right mix of people-watching, some boats (but not too many), and perfect swimming - crystal-clear, calm - pure heaven. We brought our own chairs, shared a massive shade tree with a couple of Mexican families, bought jicama and watermelon from a vendor and spent hours today and yesterday reading, swimming and napping.

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Today, as we were parking at the beach, a man and his son approached us and offered to wash our car. I was overjoyed, as our car had not been washed in over a month and was so filthy people were writing things in the dust on our windows. They charged 50 pesos (about $4.50), which we paid and when we returned a few hours later, I felt like Cinderella - my pumpkin had turned into a golden carriage. Even the wheels had been washed and polished. It is so important to Mexicans to keep their cars clean, and it feels rude to drive around with Canadian plates on a dirty car - we're misrepresenting our country somehow.

The views from the hilltops are quite stunning - we drove around the bays and stopped for a couple of pictures. The letters H U A T U L C O are perched on one lookout - the choice was get in all the letters or fit me into the photo. The other photo is overlooking Santa Cruz and the pier.

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Aside from the pier, Santa Cruz has a marina, a market, some nice stores, a lovely beach and a very pretty square. We spent an enjoyable hour at this cafe.

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So, as we pack up tonight and hit the road tomorrow for a 9-hour (10?) to San Cristobal to las Casas in the Chiapas state, we are ready for a new adventure. Huatulco did what we needed it to do.

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Posted by millerburr 18:29 Archived in Mexico

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Comments

What's with the French Canadian bathing suits hey?
They like there two piece "Ben ouais!". A description is in order I think Miss Ginny!

by Laurence

San Cristobal is my favorite city in Mexico! I look forward to your stories every week:) Thank You.

by Sarah Kostiw

Check out Mazunte - Margo was just there and absolutely loved it! Small, quaint, not touristy, good food, beautiful etc etc. I love reading your posts!!

by Nina

Pictures are amazing. Your trip has been very special. Happy for you guys. When does this dream trip end? ENJOY!!!!! Thanks for sharing. We are scheduled to go to Sayulita in April (7-29).

by Dan McElhaney

I can see by some of your pictures why Huatulco fit the bill. Hopefully the two of you are well-rested and ready for your next adventure down the road!

by Heather

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