After Hernan Cortes finished conquering central America in the early 16th century, the Spanish discovered a series of nine small bays on the Pacific coast of Mexico that made an excellent vantage point for Spanish galleons to resupply and rest. What was not to like about the average year round 82 degree temperatures, sheltered bays, and plenty of fresh water rivers in southern Mexico, near their modern day border with Guatemala.
For almost 500 years after the Spanish conquest, the beauty of the Bahias de Huatulco remained a secret to the rest of the world. In the 1980′s however, Mexico’s department of tourism encouraged the development of resorts in the Huatulco area, and word began to spread about this great wintering refuge. When my sister Laura and her husband Garry from Calgary AB Canada asked us to meet them in Huatulco this winter, we didn’t know where it was, but it sounded like a fun get-away to the beach.
I took this photo shortly after arriving at the hotel from the open air lobby. Gone were all those chilly, damp winter Florida days in the 60′s and for the next seven days all we would see were sunshine and upper 80′s. Those brown buildings you see near the blue water tower are guest room which were part of our resort complex, about half a mile from the hotel lobby.
We stayed at a resort called Las Brisas which was built in the 1980′s and has been well maintained since, with very clean rooms. It was very hilly walking back and forth between the beach and different hotel areas, but the hotel runs a constant stream of shuttles if you don’t want to walk. We preferred walking to view the many tropical birds and plants. Shown in the photo is the concrete path between two of the hotel’s buildings. Because the resort is built on the side of a hill, all rooms have a view of the water.
Almost every morning we ate breakfast in a hotel open-air restaurant right on the bay, with this view. There is a coral reef within twenty yards of the water’s edge for snorkeling, but unfortunately all the coral in the shallow waters of Huatulco are dead. The fish were interesting but the beauty of the coral is gone. I took the photo about 8:00 am which explains the lack of people on the beach, but it never felt crowded.
About three miles from our hotel was the small town of La Crucecita, a 45 peso taxi ride away(about $4.50 US dollars. We enjoyed visiting this fairly laid back Mexican village and walking around the town square.
The church on La Crucecita’s square is built like many of the buildings in this tropical area with open grills in the walls. In some cases buildings have no walls.
We saw poinsettia decorations similar to the ones seen on these church columns in many places during our visit to Huatulco. The poinsettia is a plant native to this part of Mexico(we saw it growing wild) and has been a part of their Christmas celebrations since the 16th century. The USA’s first diplomat to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, brought the flower home in 1825 and has now become part of our Christmas as well.
Outside the church, brother-in-law Garry is giving hard candy to the child of a vendor who was selling hand crafts. A few minutes latter this same child brought a friend to Garry to see if he could get a piece of candy too. Garry always had his candy ready any time we left the resort, to the embarrassment of my sister Laura. It was surprising to see how excited and grateful children got from receiving a simple treat, and there were no reservations about taking candy from strangers.
At first it is off-putting to shop in Mexico. Shop owners come out of their small stores, look you in the eye and suggest they have the best products on the street and we should buy only from them. That scenario can be repeated many times on the same block.
What I discovered after saying “no gracias” in a kind but firm tone, was the person whose marketing I had just rejected would very willingly answer questions, give directions and even walk me to another block to help me find my destination. How much better is that than endless pop-up ads I get on my computer or television commercials or junk mail???
Here we actually succumbed to the proprietors sales pitch to check out painted ceramics.
Cacao trees, the source of chocolate, are native plants in the Huatulco area so we found many different chocolate products being sold. I wandered into this shop because the proprietor was using a machine to mix raw ground chocolate with sugar. I found the wonderful aroma of chocolate and cane sugar was the best come-on of all to get me in a store. And yes, I did buy some chocolate, and a craft brewed beer and even some baked crickets seasoned with lime.
In the background of the photo you can see Garry giving out more candy to children. By the end of the day we had quite a following.
Susan and I were picked up at the airport by Oswaldo and Victor whose company, Bahias Plus provided transportaion for the 3o minute van ride to our hotel. We became friends with Oswaldo and Victor during our van ride, and because their company had a booth in thehotel we continued to see them throughout our stay.
In the photograph below, we are preparing to disembark on a tour of a coffee plantation that Oswaldo arranged for us. The vehicle behind us was out transportation for the hour and a half journey on a dirt track through the mountains to the plantation. My sister Laura is to my right and her husband Garry is next to her. Victor is standing on my left and was our tour guide to the coffee plantation and Oswaldo is standing next to him. A big thanks goes out to both of them for making our time in Huatulco so enjoyable.
The mountains were beautiful and not what I imagined we would see when we went to the beach in Mexico. Because they were covered with vegetation and somewhat rounded, they reminded me of our mountains in North Carolina…except for the tropical plants…and the parrots…and the small villages on our rutted dirt single track.
Sometimes we find pulse-accelerating adventure where we don’t expect it. The truck we were riding in looked solid and well kept, but five times during our trip the truck engine would suddenly lose power and die for no explainable reason. It always started again after several long cranking attempts but during that time we were stopped I would have enough time to wonder about how we were going to get out of the jungle if the truck didn’t start again.
When we arrived at the coffee plantation we found lunch cooking in the pot. This was free range chicken with many of their friends and relatives still pecking around underfoot. They had electricity at the plantation even though they were choosing to cook the chicken by wood.
On our hike down to a water fall during the plantation visit, there was a platform set up for the adventuresome to jump into the water. The drop to the unknown water depth was about 30′ so I stood back and let others have the fun while I took photos. It is nice to see there are still some places in the world where you can voluntarily maim or kill yourself without breaking any rules.
The mountain stream was beautiful.
And the cascade refreshing. I’m guessing this is the only picture you’ll ever see of the cabinwoodworker with his shirt off.
At the waterfall, there was a young woman named Irma selling a locally produced cream to make your face look younger. Many tried the free samples, but I declined when I overheard a woman commenting that her fingers got numb as she used her hands to wash the cream off.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but most of the people in the backgrounds of my photographs are Mexican. While our resort was filled with Canadians escaping their brutal winters, 80% of the tourists in the Huatulco area are Mexican nationals. We didn’t know these tourist demographics when be booked the trip, but our experience in Huatulco has made us want to return and stay longer the next time.
This antique woodworking bench was in front of the kitchen at the coffee plantation. Since I built my own workbench this past spring, I have become very interested in traditional workbenches. I have never seen one with such long wooden screws on a vice and can’t imagine what it was built to hold. The modern metal vice mounted on top of the bench is a recent addition and does not belong on a woodworking bench.
The four of us chartered a small boat named La Mula(the mule) one day to explore five of the nine bays that make up Huatulco. Here we are leaving the dock in Santa Cruz, a small village near our hotel.
The rocky coastline was beautiful and covered with more desert-like plants. We saw a number of sea turtles resting at the surface during our travels, but no whales.
Our boat pilot Angel dropped us on a beach with huts that served food for lunch and refreshment.
Susan is the beach person in our marriage. You’ll usually find me in the shade… even at the beach. After months of cabin construction and mountain adventures, this was a well deserved break for her.
Snorkeling was fun and the fish more varied in the bays that we visited than the beach in front of our hotel. Angel dove down and caught this blow fish after Susan spotted it on the reef. We released the fish right after this photo was taken. It is amazing how much water they can swallow as a defense mechanism.
I’ve found a good use for old tree stumps. Turn them upside down, and with a little bright paint the roots can be turned into fanciful monsters. This one was in the lobby of our hotel. Now I know what to do with some tree stumps we have at the cabin…
Mariposa butterfly eating a banana.
This iguana spent every morning sunning himself on the rocks near the hotel beach.
We had an amazing time in Huatulco with several other adventures that I’ll spare you from in this blog post. Throughout our visit we felt safe and warmly welcomed by the local people of Hautulco as well as our fellow travelers. We can’t wait to go back.
I’ll leave you with some photos of tropical flowers I don’t know the names of.