We had a great time and will go back, but Huatulco, Mexico was not our first choice.
For about 5 of the last 7 Thanksgivings, we have chosen to get out of the country and our frequent destination has been Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It has a wonderful arts community, very good restaurants, and it is a city that we can enjoy walking around. Unfortunately, a visit this year was made rather difficult by the airlines. It appeared that we would have to spend a night on the way in either Houston or Dallas to get there and that was not going to happen.
So we approached Best Travel and gave them our criteria: a warm climate, a hotel room with two beds (I snore), and a pool large enough for Pat to swim laps. Following some give and take, they recommended an Apple Vacations charter flight to Huatulco and an all-inclusive stay at the (adults-only) Secrets Resort and Spa. The price seemed reasonable so we signed on.
The non-stop charter flight was run by Frontier Airlines and left O’Hare at 3 pm and arrived at 7:30 on Saturday November 23rd. Mexican Immigration seemed unnecessarily slow and then the red light went on in Customs so we both had our bags examined. They wanted more detail on one of Pat’s prescriptions and subjected it to some electronic device scrutiny before turning us loose to board the bus for Secrets.
Our guide introduced himself as Marco and advised us that the road to the hotel was under construction and an otherwise 20 minute trip would take 40 minutes. By now it was pitch black outside and there were VERY few street lights along the way so we saw nothing of the roads or countryside during the trip. When we did get a look at the road under construction on a mid-week tour, we were glad we hadn’t been able to see the shear drop-offs in the construction zones. One fellow passenger on the bus said the road had been similarly under construction three years ago.
We checked into our room and were told that a room with two beds wouldn’t be available until the next day, meaning we couldn’t fully unpack and would have to change rooms on Sunday. This was an unpleasant way to start our vacation but we dropped our bags off and headed to dinner.
There are 7 restaurants to choose from in Secrets. We chose the French restaurant, Bordeaux for our first night and we were not disappointed.
Sunday we scheduled two tours, a boat tour of the 7 bays on Wednesday and a guided driving tour of the 3 levels of Huatulco on Thursday. That left us Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to sun ourselves on the beach.
The picture below is about one-half of the resort as viewed from the beach. The hotel is built on multiple levels up the side of a hill so that every room has a view of the beach.
Turning slightly to the right, this is the other half of the resort.
There are four pools to choose from in addition to the beach. We of course setup on the beach.
…and we brought plenty of reading material.
Sunday afternoon we packed up and moved to our assigned room with two beds. The room is called a “swim out”. There is a 4 foot deep lap pool right outside our room.
Looking to the left we could watch the sun rise over the Pacific.
Looking to the right we could watch the sun set over the resort spa and the Oceana restaurant.
Our first lunch was at the Barefoot Bar.
After three days on the beach we were happy to take our first tour.
November 27, 2013
On Wednesday morning, we were bused into the town of Santa Cruz where we boarded a small boat with two other couples.
For the next 5 hours we had a great tour of the region. The water was a little rough. After a while, we stopped at one of the bays and decamped to the beach for an hour and a half of swimming, snorkeling and relaxing in the sun.
Pat loves to swim but generally doesn’t like to swim in the ocean because of the assorted marine life. Here, however, the water was clear and there was nothing but beautifully colored fish swimming with us. No eels. No sting rays. No jelly fish.
Back on the boat we weaved our way in and out of the remaining bays to see all seven beautiful beaches. We felt like we could spend a nice day on any one of them.
November 28, 2013
Thursday was Thanksgiving in the United States. We chose to spend the day on an all-day tour of the region. We were with one other couple.
Our first stop was Santa Cruz. We looked down on the harbor from which our small boat had departed on Wednesday.
While we were up here, we noticed signs for condos for rent that looked very interesting. We will keep these in mind for future visits.
Back in the van, we headed toward Santa Maria.
This is when we drove back past the airport – this time in daylight. The construction zone was terrifying. The wheels of the large bus ahead of our van were running right along the edge of the road with a 20 foot drop with a misstep.
Upon arrival in Santa Maria, our guide parked the van in the middle of the market area and we started walking. He introduced us to many of the small shop owners who were proud to show us their fresh fruits, vegetables and meats.
He pointed out a school where mothers were lined up at the fence to pass lunch through to their children.
We walked down a side street to a small operation where two women were making tacos. Toward the back was a small wood-fired stove plate where the tacos were baked.
We watched one woman take the blue bowl of corn, put it on her head and take it across the street to be ground into corn meal.
There was a little blue press that flatted the dough into the proper thickness and shape before it was thrown on the hot plate for baking.
We then spent the next ½ hour wandering around the town.
The center of the town was the local church.
We took a look inside the church.
We were told that all of these women were waiting for their weekly 1,000 peso payment. Our guide described this as an effort to buy their votes in the future.
Below is the police and municipal building for the town.
Back in the van we headed to the high country where they grow coffee. Along the way we passed a beautiful waterfall.
We also passed a small hut. Note the very slim door on the left side.
At last we arrived high in the mountains to the town of Hidalgo where coffee is the main crop.
Again, the church is the central edifice in the town.
Our guide, Ricardo, took us into a small shop to taste some freshly roasted coffee grown locally.
After purchasing a couple of pounds of coffee we resumed our tour of the city. We asked about a bathroom break and we were led to an open basement room with a single “baños”. We all ducked our heads and took a turn, one at a time.
Back on the street we toured the city. Ricardo might as well have been the mayor of this small town. He seemed to know everyone we passed. Even the small children seemed happy to see him.
The loving couple posed for a quick photo.
Along our walk we spotted Poinsettias in bloom.
Ricardo took us to a house where a woman kept an expansive garden of Orchids.
Even the outside of the house and the roof were part of the garden.
That was the end of our Thursday tour. For the next hour, we retraced our steps back to our hotel in time for cocktails and dinner.
November 29, 2013
Friday was a free day and we went back to the beach.
In the afternoon, we took a taxi into the town of Santa Cruz to walk around and maybe do a little shopping. We could look up and see the hillside where we stopped on our Thursday tour to look over the Santa Cruz harbor.
We actually didn’t find much shopping of interest so we settled on the local beach for a margarita.
In the background, one can see the path our small boat took to exit the harbor.
All of the families on the beach were locals and there appeared to be a large family reunion underway.
We met up with our taxi driver and returned to the Secrets Resort.
November 30, 2013
This was departure day but the flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until 8:15 pm so we had a whole day for the beach.
This was the stained glass window that overlooked the lobby of the hotel.
We enjoyed our day but the bus left for the airport at 5 pm. We had to vacate our room by noon so our final change of clothes was in the resort restrooms.
Processing our passports and luggage seemed to take forever. The worst part was that we were reunited with all of the people from the Dreams Hotel which was for families and definitely NOT adults-only.
The flight left on time and the hour was late enough the all of the children quickly fell asleep and we had a quiet ride home.