The Beautiful Bays: Attractions in Huatulco

Boat tour: One of the attractions in Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico

We understand that not everyone wants to go to the tiny beach towns we love. In fact, I’m certain that some of you think the Mazunte area looks incredible but have hesitations about staying in small, unknown hotels. Or you would just rather have the comfort and luxury of an all-inclusive resort.

You’re in luck. There is a beach in the same area – the Pacific coast of Oaxaca – which was purposefully constructed as a resort community.

In Huatulco, you can have it all: all-inclusive mega resorts sit close to amazing nature preserve with tons of incredible coves. And the attractions in Huatulco are extensive: ATV excursions, rafting trips, zip lines, and waterfall hikes. Does that sound better?

Boat tour of Huatulco's bays

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Where to Stay in Huatulco

If you search Huatulco, Oaxaca in Google maps, you’ll be led to the main city: Santa Maria de Huatulco. This is not the resort area. Bahias de Huatulco (Bays of Huatulco) is what you’re looking for. It is just east of the Parque Nacional Huatulco (Huatulco National Park). A fairly large airport sits between the two Huatulco areas.

Most of the beachfront accommodations are in Tangolunda Bay, which is about 3 miles up the coast from the main town. It is a long stretch of beach that is almost exclusive developed by large resorts. If you want to use your credit card rewards to book a resort, you will not have a problem doing so here.

Be selective with the hotel you reserve in Huatulco. Options range from around $100-$400 USD per night, which is quite expensive for this coast. Some are on the beach with exclusive access. Others are a short drive away from the water, but might have a beach club you can use for free. All-inclusive options exist, as do regular hotel accommodations, and Airbnb (get $40 off your first stay here). There is even a golf course in the area.

Large hotels and marina near Huatulco, Mexico
Boat tour sightseeing in Huatulco Oaxaca

We contemplated staying in Tangolunda, but had a desire to be closer to the heart of the action to get a better idea of what other Huatulco attractions are worthwhile. And we decided against using our rewards points, so our budget went much further elsewhere. We ended up finding Hotel Alikar, located near Bahia Chahue, and got a nice room for $700 pesos ($35 USD) per night. It was clean and had a small pool, air conditioning, and a decent restaurant. There are plenty of other smaller hotels in this area for similar prices and cheaper ones closer to the downtown area further inland. But you’ll need to go to Tangolunda Bay for beachfront options.

Playa Santa Cruz is the other main bay/beach area close to town and also has lots of hotels. It is the center for tourism in the area and even has a dock suitable for cruise ships. There are a handful of beachfront restaurants here and a few hotels, but the beach is very small and I would not recommend staying here unless you really want to be close to the boats.

Our favorite mid-range hotel is on Chahue Bay, keep reading for more on that area.

If you’re looking for less developed beach areas, Huatulco is not the place for you. You’re better off going to Mazunte area, including San Agustinillo or Playa Zipolite. And if surfing is your thing, look no further than Puerto Escondido.

Tour the seven bays in Huatulco attractions
Michael and Kristina from Off Path Travels hanging out at the attractions in Huatulco: a tour of the seven bays

Attractions in Huatulco, Oaxaca

The biggest attraction in Huatulco is taking a boat tour, but more on that below. Other fun attractions in Huatulco lead into the mountains of Oaxaca. These include ATV tours, zip lines, and hiking tours to waterfalls.

Another fun thing to visit, especially if you do not stay in a beachfront hotel, are the beach clubs. Bahia Chahue (Chahue Bay) is the closest bay to the downtown area. It has a nice beach for swimming (accessible to the public) and a handful of beach clubs.

We spent an afternoon at Club de Playa Chahue and had a great time. If you stay at their hotel, Hotel Castillo, the beach club is free! Otherwise it has a $100 peso (about $5 USD) per person entrance fee. They have a restaurant, beachfront palapas, a nice pool, hammocks, and even a play area for children.

Hotel Quinta Bella is directly next door, and if we went to Huatulco again, we’d probably stay here. It is also on Chahue Bay, has it’s own beach area, large swimming pool, lovely patio for sunbathing, and most importantly: each room has it’s own patio and small swimming pool overlooking the bay! The service we received on a tour of the property was incredibly warm and inviting.

Beach club: Attractions in Huatulco
One of Huatulco's attractions: the beach clubs

The Seven Bays of Huatulco

The best thing we did in Huatulco was take a boat tour of the numerous bays in the National Park nearby. It is full of incredible coves with beaches you can snorkel in that are only accessible by boat. One of them, Bahia de Cacaluta, is fairly famous as the filming location for Y Tu Mama Tambien.

You can reserve a boat tour of Huatulco’s bays online with a credit card (see some below).


Or you can head over to Playa Santa Cruz in-person and pay less in cash (like we did). There are three main options for this Huatulco attraction: a large boat which fits around 100 people and only stops at two bays, a smaller boats (they call yachts) with around 30 people which stops more often, or privately chartered boats for 8 people or less.

Some have shade and bathrooms, some do not. The shared options should cost around $200-$400 pesos per person, while the private boat tours depend heavily on what is included (food/drink/stops) but start around $1,000 pesos for the entire boat.

We opted for the tour on the smaller 30-person boat. As our boat left the dock, we settled into our seats and cracked open a cold beer. We passed through the large marina and made our way west toward the National Park.

The coastline in the Park is stunning. Full of large cliffs, jagged rock formations, and hidden beaches. The vegetation is plentiful and green.

The beach from Y Tu Mama Tambien in Huatulco Mexico

We cruised past Bahia de Cacaluta (Y Tu Mama Tambien location) and the guides pointed out one rock formation known as the face. It looks like… you guessed it: a face.

Shortly after that, we stopped at Bahia Riscalillo. It had a nice coral area for snorkeling and they set up a few umbrellas on the beach. Snorkel gear was an extra $120 pesos to rent, but you are welcome to bring your own (this snorkel kit is perfect), which we like to do. We slathered on our reef-safe sunscreen (a must!) jumped off the boat, threw on our gear, and swam off on our own.

The water was very comfortable and visibility was pretty good. We saw plenty of fish hiding in the coral, a few different schools, as well as some wonderful sea fans. The coral wasn’t the most vibrant in the world, but it was still a nice little area for snorkeling. The beach was small and devoid of any development. Don’t forget to bring along your GoPro to take some awesome underwater shots!

Boat tour: One of the attractions in Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico
Kristina and Michael from Off Path Travels snorkeling in one of Huatulco's attractions
Snorkeling in Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico
Michael from Off Path Travels enjoying Huatulco's attractions

Our second and final stop before heading back to the dock was at Playa San Agustin. It’s farthest from the main town, but since it is accessible by road, it has the most development. There are quite a few beachfront palapa restaurants and some have budget accommodations available.

The best part was the snorkeling around all of the rocks in the bay! The tour stopped here for about an hour and a half.

On our way back to the marina, as the sun set across the horizon, we saw a large school of manta rays jumping out of the water. It was an awe-inspiring way to end this incredible attraction in Huatulco.

One of the best beaches near Huatulco's attractions
Manta rays jumping out of the water in Huatulco's attraction: the tour of the bays
Sunset boat tour is one of the main attractions in Huatulco Mexico

Where to Eat in Huatulco, Oaxaca

If you want to venture away from your resort for a bite, we recommend heading to the main town area near El Zocalo (the city park).

We had a very nice meal at a restaurant named Terra Cotta. They offered pasta, seafood, and more traditional Mexican cuisine. Their tamarind margarita was perhaps the best drink I’ve had during this entire trip. And the service was exceptional.

There is no shortage of beachfront seafood restaurants in Playa Santa Cruz. But they are absolutely overpriced. If you have the time, use the pedestrian boardwalk to walk about 1 mile into town for more options at better prices.

But if you can’t make it into town and need to get a budget bite in Santa Cruz, we recommend checking out Bossa Nova Restaurant. It has a bit of a strange mix between French crepes, burgers, and Mexican fare, but it was all exceptional and the people were some of the nicest we met in Huatulco.

How to Get to Huatulco

Huatulco couldn’t be easier to get to. A large airport is just a few miles away from the resort area along the coast. If you’re staying at a large hotel or resort, they likely will include shuttle service to and from the airport. The drive is fairly short (30 minutes or less), so even if they have to stop by another hotel, it should be pretty painless.

If you’re in a hurry or don’t want to use the shuttle, private taxis can take you directly to your resort. There is an official taxi stand near the arrivals area (approx. $500-800 pesos – $25-$40 USD – per taxi to a resort) or you can walk down the airport driveway to the roadside taxi service for a cheaper fare (around $400 pesos).

The budget option is to use a colectivo (shared taxi). The official taxi stand will get you set up with these as well, which could be using a combi van or a more traditional taxi. This should be around $150 pesos per person. This option may drop you off near the ADO station in Huatulco, where you can walk to your hotel if it’s nearby or grab the next leg from there.

If you’re coming from Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca City, or San Cristobal de las Casas, you can take our favorite mode of transportation in Mexico: an ADO bus.

From Mazunte, San Agustinillo, and Zipolite, you can take a private taxi or a pasajero truck to the highway bus that will transport you to Pochutla, then you can take a colectivo or taxi into Huatulco.

Attractions in Huatulco, Mexico

Getting a boat tour of the bays was the highlight of our visit and the main attraction in Huatulco. Other people come for the luxurious resorts nearby where you can enjoy beachfront accommodations in a beautiful setting.

If you want to relax near some pristine nature and don’t mind staying in a heavily developed area with more tourist amenities, this is the place for you.

Would you rather hang out in the resort area of Huatulco or does visiting the more down-to-earth area near Mazunte sound better? Leave us a comment below so we know what you want to see more of!

Check out our other articles on the Oaxaca coast:

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Best Beaches in Huatulco

2 thoughts on “The Beautiful Bays: Attractions in Huatulco”

  1. Great information and superb photos! I’m heading to Huatulco next week and I can’t wait to hike and explore the national park.

    1. Thanks! I’m sure you’re going to have a great time. There is plenty to do around there. Enjoy!

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