There's More to Huatulco than Beaches
Dave's travel corner June 2017
Some of Mexico’s best coffee is produced in this region. The town of Pluma Hidalgo, in the center of coffee country, is only an hour and a half inland. Visitors can take a tour, or just hop on one of the van services that leave every two hours for Oaxaca City, jumping off at the Pluma stop. From this town you could take a taxi to one of many coffee fincas that welcome visitors. Be prepared for a rather rough ride in a taxi however, since these roads are rustic. I will not take my car, but as someone pointed out, “Rental cars are more durable that your own”.
Three rivers drain into the Bays of Huatulco and the nearby mountains have a number of magnificent waterfalls along their pathways. Las Brisas and Magic Waterfalls offer a series of falls, the most dramatic drops about 20 meters each. Finca la Gloria’s falls are lower than the other two, but their lagoon provides a larger swimming area with a natural jacuzzi at one end. All provide a refreshing swim and if you are brave enough you might swing off a rope into a crystalline pool. Tours to any of these sites include transportation, a hike through the forest, and a Oaxaca style lunch. The distance ranges from about an hour and a half to two hours, some routes are more rustic than others.
3.Botanical Gardens and Orchards
Hagia Sofia is a unique agro-ecological park located less than an hour´s drive from Huatulco. There are no high waterfalls, but the sparkling river beckons visitors for a refreshing swim. At an altitude about 400 Meters it is pleasant to walk among the hills, enjoying a symphony of river and birdsongs. The flower walk with over 200 exotic flowering plants is simply amazing. Many of these plants grow to a height of five meters (16 feet), with blooms larger than a pineapple. Some flowers are soft and delicate, others appear to be carved from a block of wax. Meandering through this menagerie of color and texture, feels as if you are in a different world. These extensive orchards include 80 varieties of fruit trees within the park’s 130 hectors. There are 1500 rambutan trees alone, and locals can purchase this delicacy between June and September. Some exotic fruits, like the miracle fruit, which originates from west Africa, are recent experiments. This small red berry has no flavor, but chewing its pulp alters your taste buds to make a lime seem deliciously sweet. Had I not tasted it myself, I would not have believed it possible. Tours include transportation breakfast and lunch, and as you are hiking through the orchards, your guide offers tastes from various fruit trees.
4. Nature Reserve
El Parque Nacional Huatulco is a nature reserve of 29,000 acres, located just outside the center of town. Half the park consists of ocean, coral reefs, and beaches; the main attraction of Huatulco. The lesser know part of this enormous preserve is an incredibly diverse area with four separate eco-systems; mangrove forests, fresh water marshes, low deciduous forest and evergreen forest. This is home to 130 species of mammals including puma, ocelot, jaguarundi, deer, wild boar, fresh water otters, and ant-eaters. Fluttering among the 430 varieties of plants and trees you could spot nearly 400 varieties of butterflies but do not bring a net, even the butterflies are protected!
Huatulco is a birdwatchers’ paradise with 280 different species living in or passing through the region. The preserve is especially important since 80% of all Mexico’s birds migrate through this area. Humans are not the only ones who like to vacation in Huatulco; this is a major stopover and resting point for our migrating feathered friends. The reserve is vital to provide food and shelter to maintain the large populations that rest here as they pass through.
It should be noted that this is a young park and it lacks infrastructure. The number of pathways are limited as are other facilities. There is no camping inside the park. Visitors are required to register with park authorities, which are located kitty corner from the Pemex gas statin at the entrance to La Crucicita. It is possible to enter on your own, but a guide is recommended. Corneilo Ramos is well versed and passionate about his subject and you might want to contact him to book a day in advance.
5. Archeological Site
Huatulco has the only archeological site open to the public on Mexico’s entire Pacific Coast. El Parque Eco-Arqueológico De Copalita is a relatively new excavation with only 30%-40% of the buried structures unearthed. What is visible however, is distinctly different from other archeological sites in Mexico. Rather than building with carved stone, these ancient people used broken stones and round river rock. This small site is significant due to its age. Archeologists believe it was occupied at various times between 900BC through 1000AD, predating Monte Alban, just outside Oaxaca City.
An interpretive center houses 35 artifacts found within this site, as well as pieces from other locations around Oaxaca. This offers a taste of the advanced nature of ancient pre-Hispanic cultures. A unique feature of this park is that as many original trees and plants as possible have been left among the excavated ruins. Trees also provides welcome shade as you hike along the beautifully groomed trails. The park sprawls over more than 200 acres, of dry forest, wetlands, and Pacific coast. Like the national park, it is a haven for migratory birds and for bird watcher’s.
There is no doubt that the tropical sea is seductive as it shimmers under the blazingly sun. Huatulco’s many sensational beaches can lull you into a lethargic state of idleness. The mesmerizing expanse of blue, combined with the rhythmic sound of the surf may entice you into a sun baked siesta – resist it. Allow yourself time to also enjoy the natural pleasures that lie beyond the beach.