If you’re looking for the perfect vacation destination, look no further than Huatulco, Mexico! There are so many things to do in Huatulco, and it is absolutely gorgeous.
I was lucky enough to visit Huatulco in the winter of 2018 with my family. We went for about 10 days – totally not long enough for all the things to do in Huatulco! – and stayed in the Dreams Resort. It was a relaxing, family-bonding kind of vacation, full of sand, sea, and seafood! Even though we stayed in the resort, we were able to get out and about around town to explore Huatulco and the surrounding region.
Huatulco is not actually a town itself, but a small region with a few communities including La Crucecita, Santa Cruz, and Santa Maria Huatulco. The region is in the state of Oaxaca along the southwest coast of Mexico.
Huatulco is famed for some of the most amazing beaches in Mexico. And it has a lot! The region is made up of nine bays with over 30 beaches. If you are someone who loves sand, surf, and sun, Huatulco is the place to go. Besides relaxing on the beach (or playa Huatulco), there are so many other things to do in Huatulco. My absolute favorite thing was to visit a coffee plantation up in the mountainous region of Pluma Hidalgo, which surrounds Huatulco. I also loved eating tons of yummy food, trying water activities, shopping for traditional textiles, and visiting turtles!
Huatulco is a safe, visitor-friendly destination. Because it is small and not as popular as other destinations in Mexico, it has a laid-back and relaxed feel. You’re guaranteed to love it and want to head back again and again! Read on to discover some of the best things to do in Huatulco, one of the awesome places to visit in Mexico.
Where is Huatulco Mexico?
Before getting into all the amazing things to do in Huatulco, you might be wondering… “Where is Huatulco?” Well, as I mentioned, it’s not actually a town, but a small region. It’s located along the west coast of Mexico in the state of Oaxaca. It is about 230km away from Oaxaca City, the capital of the region. It’s pretty far south and you could technically drive to Guatemala, the neighboring country, in about 12 hours!
Huatulco weather is excellent, and it’s on the coast and has a humid climate. Good news: sun all year round – it averages 330 days of sun every year!
Things to do in Huatulco
Because I was only in Huatulco for a short time, we weren’t able to get to every place I wanted to go. I definitely recommend budgeting a few weeks if you can! Here are some of the top things to do while in Huatulco
Explore downtown (La Crucecita)
This “downtown” area of Huatulco is very charming and quaint. It’s not very big, but there are a lot of great restaurants and shops to check out. I really enjoyed looking at the beautiful church in the city square (the zocalo). I love taking pictures so found the architecture really great to take photos of! Spend some time wandering and exploring this area. This is also where most of your tours or excursions will leave from.
Tour a coffee plantation in Pluma Hidalgo
This was, by far, my favorite thing to do in Huatulco. There are a lot of tour companies that offer excursions and you can find out information at your hotel or resort, or in town at the tour companies. My family and I went on a full day to a family-run coffee plantation in Pluma Hidalgo. We were the only ones on the tour, so we got a private tour and demonstration of how coffee beans grow and how they roast and package them. For a coffee-lover like me, the best part was actually trying some! It was also a fun chance to practice my Spanish skills and get to know a local family.
Take a boat tour of the bays
We were lucky to have beachfront access at the resort to enjoy the Huatulco beach, but I wish we had time to get out onto a boat tour! One of the most popular day excursions here is to take a boat tour of the bays. Again, there are lots of tour companies that offer this; one option is the top-rated Seven Bay Snorkel Cruise tour. A lot of tours will include activities like snorkeling, so you can really enjoy being out on the water! Many also provide drinks, snacks, and food. Just bring some sunscreen and a hat and you’re good to go.
We already know that food in Mexico is amazing. But food in Oaxaca? Simply the best. This region is famous for seafood because of its proximity to the ocean, of course. Any restaurant you visit will have a selection of delicious seafood options. I highly recommend that you order some ceviche, which is fresh fish and vegetables marinated in lime juice. It’s popular in this area and oh-so-good.
Visit the ruins of Copalita
It is a really popular activity and a great way to learn more about the history of the region! The Zona Arqueológica Bocana del Rio Copalita is an archeological site with ruins that are presumed to be from a settlement back in 500 BC! It’s a fairly small site, but set in a beautiful landscape and fascinating to look around. It’s about 16km from Huatulco and costs $5 USD to get in. Book your tour to Copalita
Explore the underwater world off the coasts of Huatulco
Snorkeling was one of my favorite activities to do in Huatulco! We were lucky to have snorkeling off the beach at the resort, and lots of other hotels and resorts will provide gear as well. If you are in a private home or your hotel doesn’t offer this kind of activity, there are plenty of tours that you can enjoy. Here below I have included some options. If you are a certified diver there are many dive centers where you can book your activity. The ocean water surrounding Huatulco is warm and clear – perfect for seeing some unique and colorful fish and coral!
Take a cooking class
Since this region has such amazing food, why not learn to make some? Chiles&Chocolate is a popular cooking school in Huatulco. They offer classes where you will make a menu, such as Oaxacan black mole with rice and chicken, handmade tortillas and a Mezcal margarita!
The cost is $95 USD/person and will take up to 4 hours. Transportation and a recipe manual are included in the price. This is a unique souvenir to take home – a brand new set of recipes and skills to try out back at home!
Hang out with sea turtles at the National Mexican Turtle Center
Have you ever seen little tiny turtle babies? They are so, so, SO cute! And at the Turtle Center in Mazunte, you can actually release them into the ocean! You can see turtles year-round at the center, but to release the babies, you need to be there when they hatch and have nested on the beach for a while, usually in the fall season.
A lot of excursions will include a stop here on the tour itinerary, or you can make your way there by taxi. It’s a 1-hour drive away from La Crucecita in Mazunte, which also has a beach and small town to spend some time at as well.
Visit a jungle waterfall
If you love to explore hidden wonders in Huatulco, head to the Cascadas Mágicas de Copalitilla, a beautiful waterfall set in the dense forest of the Sierra Madre del Sur, the nearby mountain range. There are a number of excursions that will take you here and you’ll travel by 4X4 into the remote jungle and spend some time hiking through the area. You’ll be rewarded by some stunning falls and beautiful pools to swim in.
Try some watersports
Adventure seekers will love all the watersport activities that you can do off the coast of Huatulco. The ocean is warm and clear, to entice even the most hesitant swimmer to go in for a dip! I definitely recommend that you try some water activities that you haven’t before. I tried stand-up paddle boarding here for the first time – it was really fun! If paddle boarding isn’t your thing, try kayaking, canoeing, snorkeling, or diving!
Mezcal is related to Mexico’s other famous drink, tequila. They are both made with agave, but have a bit of a different taste (and reputation – looking at you, tequila!). Oaxaca is the birthplace of mezcal, with over 70% of Mexico’s mezcal created in the state! So, when in Huatulco, you’ve got to try some. If you’re up for a bit of an adventure, head to Mezaleria Gota Gorda, located about a 1-hour drive from La Crucecita in Playa Zipolite, where they offer artisan mezcal tastings and classes.
Zip lining at Hagia Sophia Eco Park
Zip lining is one of my favorite activities, and while I’ve been in other places in Mexico, I didn’t get the chance on this trip to Huatulco. So, do me a favor and go in my place, okay? The Hagia Sophia Eco Park has a 2km zip line route that will take you over rivers and the gorgeous botanical garden with immense biodiversity. There are four zip lines in the course at a height of 50-100 meters – talk about exciting! If you’re not into extreme sports, you can still enjoy the eco park and walk along the exotic flower trail and enjoy the nature. The cost to go zip lining is about $60 USD and the eco park is about 35km (45-minute drive) from La Crucecita.
Shop for Oaxacan textiles
If you’re like me, you’ll be seriously debating how much room is in your suitcase to take home some gorgeous souvenirs! Oaxacan-style textile weaving is colorful with big, bold patterns. A lot of artisans still create textiles using traditional methods and you will be able to find rugs, tapestries, and clothing that are hand dyed and woven. Just remember that while bargaining over price is common you should respect the time and effort that goes into these amazing pieces of art and pay a fair price.
Get a day pass at a resort
If you’ve opted to stay in a small hotel or apartment while in Huatulco, you can still take advantage of the all-inclusive resorts! Most resorts, including where I stayed at Dreams, have day passes where you can go and use all the facilities (including unlimited food and drink!). I loved hanging out in the infinity pool at Dreams, going to get a drink, back to the pool, then to the beach… It’s pretty much perfection. This is a great treat-yourself experience! The cost is very reasonable, usually around $50 USD/day.
Take a drive and get a little lost
I’m always up for a road trip, and I really enjoyed driving around Huatulco and the surrounding area as we went for our excursions. It’s a really beautiful area, with tons to see from your car. You can head up the highway north towards Puerto Escondido, stopping at the national park, beaches and bays, or small towns like Zipolite and San Agustin along the way. You can rent a car or hire a driver for the day. Get a good playlist and some snacks and just enjoy the ride!
Browse through international and local car rentals and find the best deal.
Huatulco beaches are amazing. There are nine bays in the area with over 30 beaches! Most beaches are easily accessible by car and it’s fairly easy and cost effective to get there by taxi. Here are some of the best Huatulco beaches (playas) to visit:
This beach is pretty close to La Crucecita and is a great bay for swimming and snorkeling. It has a roped off area and lots of little beach restaurants to choose from. It can get busy in the afternoon with boat tours, so head out in the morning for a quiet, chill environment
Similar to Maguey beach, Entrega is a popular bay with a gorgeous beach, clear water for swimming, and lots of little beach restaurants to grab a bite to eat. The water in this bay is very calm compared to some other beaches in the area, so it’s perfect for snorkeling. There are places to rent snorkeling equipment right at the beach.
Playa Santa Cruz
This is a popular and busy beach within walking distance (2km) from La Crucecita. Because it’s so close, it has a lot of access to restaurants, bars, waters activity rentals, tours, etc. This also means that it is busier and less tranquil than other beaches, so perhaps not the best choice if you don’t like crowds.
This beach might not be for everyone, as it’s Mexico’s first and only legal nude beach! It has a lot of character from its hippie culture origins of the 1970s. There are even nude resorts and hotels along the beach. In reality, though, it’s a beautiful beach and only a small section is clothing-optional. It’s worth a visit to the beach and the town of Zipolite, which is becoming very popular and trendy in the area.
In addition to your favorite beach activities like sun bathing and swimming, La Bocana offers something unique – mud baths! For less than $10 USD you can get mud applied to your entire body and then go wash it off in the ocean. It’s great for your skin and makes for some good photo ops!
Puerto Escondido is about a 2.5-hour drive north from Huatulco, so you may consider an overnight trip. There is a lot to check out in this town known for its laid-back beach town vibe. It’s a really popular spot with backpackers and surfers, so why not join in and try out some surfing? The beach here is perfect for it and you’ll find a lot of places to rent boards or take lessons in town.
Is Huatulco safe?
There are not only a ton of things to do in Huatulco, but it is a very safe region of Mexico to visit. Huatulco is relatively quiet, not overly busy with tourists. The population of the area is small, too, so it’s a pretty sleepy and quiet town with none of the gang, crime, or drug-related issues found in larger cities.
While Huatulco is a safe place to visit, this doesn’t mean you should forget about common sense while traveling! Always be aware of your surroundings and belongings, drink safely, and use legitimate taxi or tourist companies to avoid scams.
Also make sure you have your own travel insurance so that in case something happens you are covered
How to get to Huatulco by car and by bus
There are a lot of ways to get to Huatulco, and most international visitors will fly into the local airport (side note: I loved this airport – it’s open and breezy and has a vacation-vibe!). However, if you’re coming from other parts of Mexico, you will arrive in Huatulco by either car of bus.
The bus system in Mexico is also quite extensive and affordable. The main bus station in Huatulco is ADO Huatulco, in La Crucecita and connects Huatulco with the major cities in Mexico, the closest one are Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca and San Cristobal de Las Casas if you are touring around.
However if you are flying to Huatulco, the best way to get to your hotel is by private transportation. I would suggest you book it in advance so somebody will be waiting for you at your arrival.
The other best option is renting a car so you are free to drive around and explore at your own pace. That’s what we always recommend. If you are concerned about driving in Mexico worry not, because with some common sense rules it’s easier than you think. Just make sure you read all the contract details when booking your car rental.
Browse through international and local car rentals and find the best deal.
If you are traveling to Huatulco from Oaxaca City, be prepared for a bit of a drive! It is just over 230km between the two cities, through the state of Oaxaca. If you are driving yourself, the most direct route is along the Puerto Angel highway 175 and will take about 5 hours to complete.
Taking the bus is another option that is affordable and, obviously, you don’t have to worry about renting a car or navigating your own way there. The operator Ómnibus Cristóbal Colón runs multiple trips a day between the two destinations. The average length is 8 hours, as a few stops are made along the way to pick up passengers. The cost is only about $20-$25 USD per bus trip, so it’s a very affordable option!
From Puerto Escondido
A lot of people traveling in Mexico will likely arrive in Huatulco from Puerto Escondido, a small beach town about 100km away from Huatulco. Its name means “hidden port” and is relatively hidden from most tourists! It’s a great place to go surfing, too!
If you’re driving, you’ll take the highway 200 to Huatulco and it will take just under 2 hours to drive. If you’re taking the bus, you have an option of either Ómnibus Cristóbal Colón or AltaMar as operators. Both run buses multiple times a day and are just around 2-hour trips as well. The price is likely to be around $10 USD for the trip.
Best hotels in Huatulco Oaxaca
There are lots of great accommodation and top hotels in Huatulco. Many people will choose all-inclusive resorts for convenience, ease, and proximity to the beach. Because Huatulco is not as busy as some other popular tourist destinations in Mexico, like Cancun, resorts are pretty spread out and private.
I stayed at Dreams, which is a 4-star hotel. My favorite part was the infinity pool that overlooked the beach and ocean! It also had a number of on-site restaurants to try instead of always going to the buffet. They put on a lot of fun shows and activities throughout the day and evening, so there was always something to get involved in.
Map of Huatulco Mexico with hotels and home rentals
Other popular resorts in Huatulco are Secrets Resort and Spa (5 stars), Binniguenda Huatulco All-Inclusive Hotel & Beach Club (4 stars), or Xquenda Hotel and Spa (3 stars).
If you like to explore more on your own, there are many boutique hotels like Hotel Quinta Bella Huatulco or Hotel Boutique Casa Blanca Del Sol in the area. If you want something more local, you can always rent out an apartment or house on VRBO! Prices can be very reasonable (easily less than $100 USD a night), and even resorts and hotels have a lot of deals and promotions.
Wherever you stay in Huatulco, you are sure to love it! It’s a great destination. Hope you love it as much as I did!
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About the Author
Alyssa is a freelance writer with her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies degree. Alyssa is passionate about travel and has been to over 20 countries – and counting! Living in Vancouver, Canada, she loves to take advantage of the mountains and ocean by getting outdoors as much as possible. When she’s not writing, Alyssa is probably walking by the river, caring for her many houseplants, or grabbing a coffee with a friend. You can keep up with her on her personal blog.