Huatulco Life was inspired by people with a passion for Huatulco and the Mexican lifestyle. It is a place to find out more information about the region and enjoy the beauty of the Oaxacan coastline through the photo gallery. From time to time, other interesting tidbits about Mexico make their way into the pages of this blog. Enjoy!

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Huatulco Wows, Without the Crowds

Original Post by Jody Robbins, Special to AOL Travel

You're not alone if you've never heard of Huatulco(wah-TOOL-co). Truth be told, I prefer not telling you about it. You see, I'd rather keep this relatively undiscovered tropical paradise of cobalt skies and seas all to myself. Not yet on the tourist trail, but easily accessible by direct flights, Huatulco has been described as one of the last frontiers on the Pacific.

This coastal hideaway in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, just North of Guatemala, is also the most recently developed 100,000 acre resort area by FONATUR, Mexico's National Trust Fund for Tourism Development (creators of Cancun and Ixtapa as we know them).An environmental study revealed the area can only sustain approximately 4,000 hotel rooms. All the excellent, but underused infrastructure, is in place to support the 20,000 tourists that were originally anticipated; leaving a full marina, well paved roads and international airport for the lucky few who figure this out.

Development is purposefully slow going with an expected completion around 2020. With a goal of creating an eco-friendly destination, 70% of the land is set aside as an ecological reserve. And under the watchful eye of environmental groups, the government may be successful in creating a new standard for future resort development.

Huatulco refers to an area of nine unspoilt bays, several protected coves and 34 stunning beaches along 26 km of sweeping Pacific coastline. Steep cliffs separate the sea from dense jungles, lush hardwood forests and aromatic coffee plantations.

Hotels are centred around Tangolunda Bay, the largest and reputed to be the most beautiful of all the bays. With only four resorts rimming Tangolunda, the area has room to breathe. Thanks to the sparse population, the bays have been left unpolluted and are ideal for snorkelling and surfing.

I can't claim we had an authentic Mexican experience staying at an all-inclusive, but being so used to those clustered tourist corridors, it did feel different without the masses. This is a quiet place even during high season, and many of the tourists are Mexican, which injects some authenticity into resort life.

We bed down at the recently remodelled Las Brisas, site of the old Club Med. It's a massive resort, spread across 50 acres of lush, tropical vegetation. Lodgings are nestled into the hills, so it's either a brisk walk or waiting for a shuttle to get to the pools and restaurants. Our daughter especially, loved hailing the shuttle trucks and bombing around without a seat belt, but those not so energetic, took issue with the distance and the constant stair climbing.

Capacious rooms deliver delicious ocean views, but unless you upgrade, don't include bathtubs or balconies. No matter, with a bright and cheery Kids Club and four beaches (including a coral reef for snorkelling), we were hardly in our room anyway.

We weren't the only ones who took advantage of the Kids Club. The tranquil area with its colourful cabanas and surprisingly quiet pool, served as a hub for several couples who'd left their youngsters at home. Kids in the club learn about native flora and fauna while hiking through the verdant botanical gardens, and most impressively to the five-year-old set, feeding the resident iguanas.

Those able to tear themselves away from resort life, traipse into La Crucecita, a town that's managed to retain its authenticity, despite invasions from cruise ship passengers. One block separates the main square with its souvenir shops from everyday Mexican life. To date, it's about as far removed from the hustle and bustle of Playa del Carmen's 5th Avenue as one could hope, but development has begun modernizing the area, which will no doubt squeeze out the unrefrigerated butcher stalls and everything-including-the-kitchen-sink shops.

For a shift of gears further down speed, venture 110km west of Huatulco to find "the Mexican Pipeline," otherwise known as Puerto Escondido. This surfer's paradise hosts international competitions in August and November. The famed waves at Zicatela beach have made this spot one of the world's top ten surfing destinations.

Nestled between Puerto Escondito and Huatulco, you can get further off grid in Zipolite; a backpacker's paradise famed for having the only officially sanctioned nude beach in Mexico. Here, there's no shortage of hippies, hammocks and beach-front yoga.

There's is one thing Huatulco doesn't have yet, and that's crowds. So even though I've spilled the beans, do me a favour and keep this little slice of heaven to yourself.

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