It was a dark and drizzly night, five days after Christmas 2013, when Mr. Trip Styler and I hatched our last-minute Mexico mission. Inspired by tumblers of Clase Azul, our favored sipping tequila, we started looking for beach destinations stocked with an unlimited supply of sun, Coronas, and guacamole. An hour later, Huatulco’s heat and hues wooed us into booking a trip. We had 25 hours to pack. Olé!
Since I didn’t have enough time to tell my friends I was skipping New Years Eve in Vancouver British Columbia (where we live), they found out via social media when I landed on December 31. Wooed by the photos I posted of intimate beaches giving way to frothy waves, they said “you’re in Huatu-where?” Of course I replied, “We booked a last-minute trip to Mexico’s Southern Pacific Coast—the last major beach destination before Mexico meets Central America. Happy New Year!”
Until that trip, most of the destinations I’ve visited in Mexico—Puerto Vallarta, Tulum, Riviera Maya, Mazatlan, San Felipe, Acapulco, Cozumel—have been geared toward international tourists. Huatulco was different.
Viewfinder Tip: Services are limited at the smaller beaches of Huatulco, so bring an umbrella, beach blanket, water, and snacks so you can spend the whole day.
Local hotels occupied every other building, and far outnumbered the big and beachy structures frequented by winter-averse margarita mavens. Residents and visitors paid the same cab fares and ate in the same restaurants. And, at the majority of the 36 beaches tucked into the cactus-covered coastline, the bathers mostly were Mexican. This “we’re-all-in-the-same-boat” approach to tourism was as refreshing as a cold Corona on the beach.
Speaking of the sand—the impetus for our trip—we asked locals where they play at la playa on their days off. Twenty beach recommendations later, we narrowed the list down to six; one beach for every day we were on the ground. Below are our four faves.
If treasure were buried at Arrocito Beach, the map would lead you off the main drag along a road winding down a hill (between upscale vacation homes) to a little slice of sandy paradise. When our cab dropped us off at the bottom of this twisty descent, we sauntered down a concrete path to find a bay hemmed in by tall, tree-covered cliffs. Rather than renting a beach lounge setup or sitting in plastic chairs under the shade of a tree, we opted to set up our own beach gear on the quiet side of the beach and walk up to the alfresco restaurant every time we wanted to replenish our beer. While there’s no buried treasure (that I know of!) at Arrocito, an “x-factor” definitely marks the spot!
Located in one of Huatulco’s biggest bays, Tangolunda’s sand rims the shore as far as the eye can see. Not surprisingly, this naturally endowed area is where the majority of the all-inclusive resorts dot the beach, making the crowd a near and far mix of locals and international sun seekers. With sprawling mega-hotels taking up most of the waterfront real estate, you won’t find basic beach restaurants here, so bring all your beach essentials with you for maximum enjoyment. Hint: Meander to the South end of the shoreline for gentle waves and a flat beach entry.
The virtually unmarked Tejon Beach is my version of an oceanfront Eden. It is found at the end of a quiet road down a short hiking path. When you duck through the foliage at the bottom of the trail, a secluded sandy cove reveals itself with only a few other in-the-know beachgoers nestled into quiet corners of the sand. I was so inspired by the setting, I almost penned an ode to its raw beauty.
Maguey is the liveliest of the beach bunch, positioned 15 minutes outside of town on the opposite end of the major resort area (read: Tangolunda). For this reason, locals occupy most of the seashore. You also might encounter visitors who cruise in and swim to the water’s edge to spend the day eating fresh-caught fish, drinking cervezas, and cooling off in the Pacific. Chock full of basic restaurants with plastic table-and-chair setups, to mod beach bars lined with seagrass rugs and Acapulco Chairs, there’s never a dull moment at Maguey, unless you escape to the far end of the beach for some solitude (but if that’s your goal, go to Tejon Beach).
What is your favorite Mexican beach destination?