Bahias de Huatulco, or Huatulco (pronounced Wha-TOOL-Co) as it is more commonly known, is a destination resort area located on Mexico's Pacific Coast in its most southern state of Oaxaca. Huatulco is a 10 hour drive or a short 1 hour flight from Mexico City.
The Huatulco area is centered around the small towns of La Crucecita, Santa Cruz, Chahue and Tangolunda. It is a FONATUR ('Fondo Nacional de Fomento al Turismo') project and one of its most successful designated tourist areas. FONATUR is also responsible for the resorts in Cancun, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Los Cabos and Loreto Bay.
Huatulco's tourism industry is centered around its nine bays; four of which have been designated as ecological preserves where no development is permitted. Huatulco has a wide variety of accommodations to suit just about all budgets. From rooms for rent, small economy hotels, vacation condominiums and luxury villas, along with several (All Inclusive) resorts standing on the shores of Tangolunda Bay. The Las Brisas (Formerly the worlds largest Club Med), the Dreams Resort (Formally the Gala Hotel),the Barceló, Crown Pacific and the Camino Real Zaashila are examples of the most popular larger resorts in the area.
Huatulco's main attraction are its nine bays and thirty-six beaches, many of which are pristine and undeveloped, and accessible only by boat. With the help of local guides and tour operators, one can explore the beaches and bays in relative privacy, or if you choose you can scuba dive or snorkel to see the abundant tropical fish and the beautiful coral reefs.
In addition to the beautiful bays and beaches, one can explore and shop in the small communities of the Huatulco area, such as La Crucecita, Santa Cruz or old Santa Maria Huatulco (the district's municipality).
When doing so, one can travel between the communities by bus or taxi. The entire area has a "small town" feel about it and is rarely crowded with tourists with the exception of the Christmas and Semana Santa (Easter) holiday periods.
Approximately 80% of all tourism in Huatulco is domestic in nature and only about 20% of Huatulco's tourism is foreign, mainly because direct international air access is limited to flights from several Canadian cities, Chicago and Houston all others having to make connections through Mexico City. Huatulco has a small but very attractive international airport just 10 min from the main commercial center, La Crucecita and just 20 minutes from the large resort hotels in Tangolunda Bay. The peak season for foreign tourism is typically December through April.
In May of 2006, British tourists began traveling to Huatulco on direct flights from Manchester Airport operated by First Choice Airways (These flights have since been discontinued). There are also direct charter flights available from Chicago and Denver in certain months of the year, and from the cities of Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Toronto in Canada, during the winter months. United Airlines also offers a non-stop flight from Houston (IAH) to Huatulco (HUX)during the peak season.
The numerous small towns making up Huatulco such as Santa Cruz, La Crucecita, Chahue and Tangolunda are located in an "ecological zone" with much of the area being protected from future development. All of these areas are serviced by modern water and sewage treatment systems so that you can actually drink the water from the tap (unheard of in most Mexican resorts) and no sewage waste goes into its pristine bays. Huatulco has been awarded the Green Globe certification, the only resort in Mexico to receive this prestigious award (Green Globe is the worldwide benchmarking and certification system for the travel and tourism industry across the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental management).
The Huatulco International Airport (HUX) has flights from Mexico City and Oaxaca City. There is also a daily flight on Aeortucan from Huatulco to Puerto Escondido. Also there are numerous charter flights in the winter months from major cities in the US and Canada, and the number of charter flights is growing every year as Huatulco grows in popularity.
Buses from Oaxaca City run daily and overnight and takes around 8 hours.
The Huatulco International Airport is small but very pretty with its large open air palapa buildings. It is approximately a 10-20 minute drive to the areas of La Crucecita, Santa Cruz and Tangolunda, where the majority of the hotels and other types of accommodations are located.
If you have a air/hotel package, your bus transfer may be included; if not, you can either take an "authorized taxi" from the airport or purchase a ticket (one way or round trip) on an "authorized shuttle" at a stand in the airport arrival area, or prearranged shuttle transport. The "authorized" transportation from the airport are priced higher than other taxis in the area, so be prepared. An alternative is to walk a short distance, about 500 meters, out to the main road and catch a non-airport taxi, or even a local bus (The latter will not have room for your baggage, so it's best if you are traveling light).
If you have a farther distance to travel (Puerto Escondido, Puerto Angel, San Augustinillo, Zipolite, Mazunte, etc.) then you may want to take a taxi to the bus station in La Crucecita, which is in the opposite direction, and take a first class bus from there. Or walk to the highway from the airport (about 1 block) and catch the local bus to Pochutla. There will also be collectivos (a shared taxi) cruising by which charge a little more than the bus.
You could also arrive by cruise ship, as Santa Cruz Bay has a pier for cruise ships, and you may spot one in port some days.
The area is extremely easy to get around. Renting a car is not necessary as cabs are plentiful and fairly cheap, and where the shopping, restaurants, hotels and many beaches are concentrated is not a huge area. If you do prefer to rent a car, Budget, Avis, and Advantage are companies located there, among others. It is best to reserve a car in advance to get the best rates. It is best to agree on a price before getting into a taxi. Locals do not tip taxi drivers, although tourists may be expected to. There are some signs around which have posted prices to certain beaches or towns. Another option is to rent a driver for the day if you want to go farther afield, to Puerto Escondido for example.
Example taxi rates (January 2013):
La Crucecita Center to Airport: MX$150 La Crucecita Center Bahía Maguey: MX$65
Due to its location at the coast of the Pacific Ocean, Huatulco is a great location for all kind of outdoor activities. Most guests visit Huatulco because of its beautiful beaches. During their vacation travelers tend to enjoy activities such as snorkeling, rafting, deep sea fishing and outdoor activities. Huatulco in the state of Oaxaca offers a lot of wild rivers and tropical jungle. The combination is perfect for adventure tours.
Zipolite is a growing tourist destination to the west of Huatulco. This beach became popular in the 60's when discovered by hippies. This is Mexico's only official nude beach. Everyone from backpacker to high end travelers can find what they are looking for here. The interesting blend of people makes it a great spot for people watching. To get there take a bus or collectivo to Pochutla, and then a direct taxi (from MX$80-100), or collectivo (MX$12). One collectivo will take you through Mazunte, and San Augustinillo first, this is the long way. The other will take you through Puerto Angel a small fishing village.