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Selling Off-the-Beaten-Path HuatulcoApril 21, 2015 By: Ana Figueroa
Tourism officials in Oaxaca State are pleased about the latest figures from Huatulco. The Pacific coastal enclave enjoyed a 90 percent hotel occupancy rate during Semana Santa (Easter Week). That’s significantly better than the numbers for the state’s eponymous capital city.
“In my opinion Huatulco is a great destination for clients that have already experienced the more active destinations Mexico has to offer, such as Cancun, Riviera Maya and Cabo,” says Lil Musmanno, business development manager for New Jersey and upstate New York for Classic Vacations.
It’s true that Huatulco’s modest size (less than 4,000 hotel rooms) can’t compete with other FONATUR master-planned developments. But nine beautiful bays and 36 pristine beaches give it a singular appeal. And Huatulco is steeped in lore that glitzier destinations such as Cancun and Los Cabos are hard-pressed to match.
Sir Francis Drake and Thomas Cavendish once plundered Huatulco’s shores. And pre-Hispanic legend ties the city to a mysterious (some say miraculous) wooden cross. The name Huatulco, in fact, is Nahuatl for “place where the wood is worshiped.”
But one needn’t believe in the supernatural to understand Huatulco’s allure.
Heather Tkachuk, a personal travel designer with Pier One Travel in Edmonton, AB, Canada, says clients are drawn to Huatulco’s “untouched feeling.”
“The buildings are not too tall, and you can walk around La Crucecita, which is a quaint little town. It’s authentic and lovely,” said Tkachuk.
Huatulco’s “untouched” feeling comes from the fact that it sits along a protected National Park. For visitors, the setting offers myriad opportunities for rafting, kayaking, birding and hiking. In town, the eco-archeological park of Copalita features nature tours that wind around Zapotec ruins. Popular excursions outside of Huatulco include indigenous coffee farms in the Sierra Madre foothills and a turtle sanctuary in nearby Mazunte.
But beaches by far are what make Huatulco so distinctive. Waters are warm, crystal-clear and pale aquamarine in color. Boat operators can take visitors on tours of Huatulco’s famous bays, stopping at popular beaches such as La Entrega.
“The beaches in Huatulco are amazing,” Karen Lantigua, owner of MyWeddingAway.com tells Travel Agent.
She adds that Huatulco’s Pacific location is a big plus for clients interested in sunset weddings.
“You can get an actual sunset there. That’s something you don’t see on the entire Riviera Maya,” said Lantigua.
Secrets and Dreams both operate luxury all-inclusives in Huatulco. Notable boutique properties include the Quinta Real Huatulco overlooking Tangolunda Bay. A new Holiday Inn has just opened and a few other international chains have plans to expand there.
Those numbers are expected to rise as long-awaited infrastructure projects near completion.
One is a new freeway that will link Oaxaca City to the coast. It reduces travel time through the Sierra Madres from six or more hours down to two. That’s likely to make add-on stays in Huatulco more attractive to visitors touring Oaxaca.
Huatulco’s airport is also set for enhancements in the coming year. And the federal highway connecting Huatulco with the surfing haven of Puerto Escondido is being modernized.
All that adds up to a potential tourism boom. But, officials aren’t likely to jeopardize Huatulco’s coveted status as a sustainable destination. The city was the first destination in the Americas to earn a certification from EarthCheck. Huatulco continues to make strides in clean energy production and conservation.
They may not be able to keep their status as Mexico’s best-kept secret, however.