When Pia Oberholzer moved to Huatulco, Mexico, in 1989, Aeromexico pilots routinely radioed ground crew to shoo cattle off the HUX runway as incoming flights approached. Now, as manager of the Huatulco Hotel Association, she’s quick to add that today the international airport’s tarmac is bovine free.
For the past two decades, Huatulco has undergone what is best described as a subtle evolution. And Oberholzer feels the controlled development path for this laid-back, upscale Pacific Coast destination will remain on track.
Dreams Huatulco Resort & Spa, the resort is located on Tangolunda Bay. // © 2009 AM Resorts
Geography, elite Green Globe certification and a carefully balanced master plan each contribute significantly to the destination’s measured progress.
“Development is limited to several of our nine bays, with a cluster of hotels and tourism services at each,” said Oberholzer.
She added that 70 percent of Huatulco is reserved as an ecological zone.
The ultimate check, however, falls into the hands of Fonatur, Mexico’s National Trust for Tourism. The organization has made Huatulco somewhat of a poster child for responsible growth by placing the environment, ecological balance and services availability as maximum priorities.
That’s not to say there’s nothing new in the neighborhood. In fact, the big buzz is with Aeromexico Connect launching two new daily flights from Mexico City in July. That service will complement Mexicana Click’s Mexico City schedule and Continental Airlines’ nonstop flights from Houston.
There’s also talk of nonstop service from LAX as early as this summer. And Aero Tucan continues to operate two direct daily flights from Oaxaca City. That bodes well since the 183-mile drive from the capital currently takes six hours. A superhighway in the works will cut travel time roughly in half upon completion next year.
Newest among Huatulco’s accommodations is AMResorts’ Dreams Huatulco Resort & Spa, which opened on Tangolunda Bay in December. A renovation and 183-room expansion to the former Gala Resort, the 421-room property has elevated the all-inclusive approach with its high-end Unlimited-Luxury concept.
With a contemporary vibe that’s far from pretentious, this wristband-free resort is the destination’s only five-star all-inclusive.
“Everything is new here, from the level of service to quality of facilities,” said Beatriz Smith, director of sales.
AMResorts will encore next April with a 400-suite Secrets on Chahue Bay, Huatulco’s largest property. Also planned for Chahue is an 80-room Hotel La Isla Huatulco and a Riu property breaking ground later this year.
“Tangolunda is already 85 percent developed, so Chahue is where we’ll see the biggest movement in Huatulco,” said Oberholzer.
What makes Huatulco shine is how its progress enhances, rather than screams. I can vouch for this firsthand, having visited five years ago and returning to find it still franchise-free, safe and friendly to navigate. Architectural guidelines are so stringent, in fact, that it is hard to distinguish the new from the old — although nothing is really all that old in a resort that tip-toed into tourism in the 1980s.
Still relatively unknown compared to other Mexican destinations, this is an ideal escape for clients who are into eco-touring and upscale accommodations. Adventure calls with jungle horseback riding, hiking to pristine waterfalls, coffee plantation tours, boating options from Santa Cruz, snorkeling, sport-fishing, rappelling, scuba diving, river rafting and jumping into a full roster of bay recreation.
“There’s also Punta Celeste by the Copalita River,” said Oberholzer. “The archeological site was discovered only a few years ago, and the Mexican Anthropological Institute is working to open it to visitors.”
Also in the works for the quaint port town of Santa Cruz is redesigned traffic flow, harbor expansion to accommodate cruise ships and enhancement to shopping and restaurant areas.
“We’ll have a pedestrian street to connect Santa Cruz with La Crucecita, lined with restaurants, shops and more,” said Oberholzer. “We expect it to take about three years for the whole pedestrian connection to be completed.”
Regardless of any growth, I fully expect Huatulco to be just as charming the next time I visit.