You know those tropical destinations that tout miles upon miles of sand beaches? The ones where, in the photos, these long stretches of beaches are fringed with palm trees with beautiful blue water lapping up onto the shore.
And when you arrive to the tropical getaway? Wait! Where did all the people come from? In the picture it looked like you had this whole beach to yourself. But now you’ve got to fight for your few square feet of sand.
It’s an all too typical scene in beach getaways, but that’s not the case in Huatulco, Mexico.
That’s not to say you’ll have your own stretch of beach, though. In Huatulco, five of the area’s nine bays have been designated as a national aquatic park, which means everyone can enjoy them from afar, but no one gets to claim them with beach chairs, umbrellas and tropical drink stands.
But I like it that way. I think there should be more beaches with nothing but sand. I got to enjoy them all anyway … from the comfort of a catamaran as it made its way out of Santa Cruz marina and across the ocean for a day of relaxation.
Because Huatulco is so incredibly environmentally conscious, it should come as no surprise that even the catamaran owners have found a way to co-exist so that they all benefit from the popular tourist attraction while leaving a minimal carbon footprint. There are actually three catamarans that leave out of Santa Cruz: Huatulco Fiesta, Tequila and Hermano Lobo. The three catamarans are very similar, and the owners have an agreement so that they all charge the same price. They also have an established order of departure, and they fill the catamarans one by one, every day in a different order. Sometimes, during low season, only a single boat will actually depart, but this makes sense both financially and environmentally for all three owners.
I rode aboard the Tequila, a two-level, roomy ship with gangplank-type overlooks on the top level and plenty of room to move around in both the sun and shade. The highlight of the ride, for me, was catching sight of a giant sea turtle swimming alongside the boat in his natural habitat. The catamarans travel west past Organo, Maguey, Cacaluta and Chachacual Bays, many of which have long beaches with nothing on them but sand. That’s right … miles of beaches that don’t have chairs, tiki bars, colorful umbrellas or humans on them.
They are absolutely stunning. In fact, I don’t even mind sharing space on a beach now that I know there are some where no one is allowed.
The catamarans stop at San Agustin Bay for about an hour, where people have the chance to swim and snorkel. I covered a few tree branches with a sarong and attempted to make a bit of shade under the hot sun. I didn’t wade into the water, but I did walk up and down the beach, snapping photos and trying to capture the true ambiance of the scene (which, of course, is never really possible because you can’t feel the grit of the sand between your toes, hear the quiet roar of the water or smell the sea’s salt through a photograph). I enjoyed watching couples nuzzle together on the sand and kids run excited and screaming through the water.
Even though it is an isolated beach that can only be reached by boat, vendors arrive via earlier boats in order to maximize their time trying to sell jewelry and piña coladas to tourists.
From there the ship loads up again and heads back to Maguey, a beach that does have free access and is covered in scantily clad bikini bodies and umbrellas branded with beer logos. A number of small beachside cafes and restaurants offer fresh seafood and produce. After a nibble and some time on the beach, visitors reboard the catamaran and head back to Santa Cruz.
It’s a full day of good food, fabulous weather and a stunning setting.
Yep, this is the life.
Catamaran departs from Santa Cruz at 10:30 and returns at approximately 5:30. Soft drinks, beer and fresh fruit snacks on board are included in the cost of the tour. The cost is between U.S.$15.00 and U.S.$25.00, depending on the season. Buying a tour through a travel agency costs U.S.$25.00-U.S.$40.00 but includes transfer to/from the hotel and an additional bilingual guide who accompanies the guest.
My stay in Huatulco, Mexico, was paid for by the Mexico Tourism Board but all opinions are my own.