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Huatulco

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Pristine... Unspoiled... A tropical paradise... Travel writers use these words so often that I had begun to think of them as merely clichés. That is, until I came to Huatulco and gazed out over the pristine bay, where sea turtles bobbed to the surface for a quick breath before descending back down into the crystal clear water. I marveled at the unspoiled beauty of a deserted beach, where mine were the only footprints in the coarse golden sand, gently exfoliating my feet as I strolled along the water's edge. And I dozed in the shade of an oversized palapa, after a morning spent kayaking and snorkeling the calm waters of this tropical paradise.

Huatulco is unlike any other beach destination I have visited in Mexico. As a travel agent, I have been to most of the major tourist areas on both coasts, inspecting the resorts and experiencing what makes each destination unique. I know... it's a tough job. As much as I love Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta and Ixtapa, I kept hearing that I should have seen them ten or twenty years ago, before the developers paved paradise. For once, I have arrived in time to see the real beauty of Mexico.

You too need to see Huatulco now, before it changes. It is nature in its most simple beauty. Yes, a few developers have arrived and there are some upscale all-inclusive resorts along with the more traditional small hotels in town. But there are no fast food restaurants. No big box stores. No chain restaurants. Taxis are still cheap. Really. But remember to bring cash and leave your plastic at home. The locals are friendly and welcoming but they are not impressed with your gold card. Pesos are the currency of choice and bargaining is still an art form.

Recently, my husband and I shared a magical day that will stay with us forever. We hired a panga - a flat bottomed boat - for the day, to snorkel in a few of the bays which are only accessible by sea. Our guide, Captain Gilberto, dropped a line in the water as we cruised along the rugged coastline of the national park. Not long after, he had snagged a ten pound Mahi Mahi which my husband struggled to reel in. Within an hour or so, as we snorkeled in San Augustine Bay, our Mahi Mahi was grilled for our lunch at one of the handful of small, beachfront restaurants. The cerveza was cold. The grilled fish was hot. And the hammocks gently rocked us for our afternoon siesta by the sea.

Pristine, unspoiled, tropical paradise does still exist. You just need to know where to look