Vacay.ca occasionally publishes articles on destinations outside of Canada. In this article, contributor Jennifer Merrick journeys to Oaxaca, Mexico to profile spas, dining and more.
Story by Jennifer Merrick
HUATULCO, MEXICO — Fried grasshoppers, known as chapulines, is not a food item I would normally be tempted to indulge in. But on my last night at Secrets Resort’s Tamarindo Restaurant in Huatulco, I closed my eyes and popped a couple of these chili-flavoured morsels in my mouth. Why? Legend has it if you eat chapulines, you’ll return to the region.
And Bahia de Huatulco (Bays of Huatulco), located on the Pacific coast in the state of Oaxaca, is definitely a destination to come back to, as more and more Canadians are discovering. Of the foreigners who live here, 80 per cent are Canucks who enjoy its 330 days of sunshine and 36 white-sand beaches that are considerably less crowded than most in Mexico. If that’s not enough to tempt you, here are five more reasons to escape to Huatulco (pronounced Wah-tool-co) this winter.
“Mezcal is the artisanal way to make tequila,” explains Alberto Chavez, a local guide. More than 2,000 years old, this libation originating in Oaxaca, is produced locally on a much smaller scale than its popular cousin, tequila.
“Think of it as a microbrewery vs. Budweiser,” says Chavez.
Rural families roast the agave plant, grinding it with a stone wheel using the same methods as their forebearers, and distill it complete with its smoky flavour. We sipped this spirit in the small town of La Crucecita, where local shops gave out samples, and also at Secret’s Tamarindo, where a sommelier facilitated a tutored tasting of both tequila and mezcal. Warning: side effects of the drink include believing you can speak fluent Spanish.
2. Archeological Treasures
At Bocana del Rio Copalita, an 86-acre museum complex, I explored two temples where the ruling class lived in the 6th century BC. Paths through the subtropical forest and a stunning vista of the coast are other highlights. Be on the lookout for birds and wildlife, like armadillos and iguanas.
3. Huatulco National Park
Five out of Huatulco’s nine gleaming turquoise bays are protected from development of any kind as they are part of a national park. This 30,000-acre conservation area, encompassing land and water, safeguards both the 723 species of animals who inhabit the lowland jungle as well as the Mexican Pacific corals and their community of colourful fish. Much of the park is accessible only by water, and we were able to explore it by boat on the Bays of Huatulco Tour.
At the first two bays we visited— Bahia Organo and Bahia Cacaluta — there is no human construction of any kind, and we saw very few people while we snorkelled among the corals and strolled along the beach. I had begun to think we were almost alone in this paradise until we reached our last stop, Bahia Maguey. Here, large, multi-generational families played in the water and hung out on the beach, and everyone from abuelita (grandma) to bébé were enjoying themselves. There’s a row of small eateries with thatched roofs lining the beach, and we sat down at El Camarone Gigante (The Giant Shrimp) to watch the scene as we dined on delicious coconut cream shrimp in pineapple, baked in a traditional clay oven.
4. Secrets Spa by Pevonia
Part of the adults-only Secret Huatulco Resort, this spa perched high on a cliff affords panoramic views of Conejos Bay. The spa features a circuit, a heavenly ritual that starts with a sauna and steam and ends with stations of foot reflexology and massage jets. In the treatment room, the massage table is surrounded by bay windows with such an incredible lookout that I half expected Robin Leach from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous to start narrating.
Another recommended spa option is the Zapoteca Mud Baths, where locals and visitors come to slather mineral rich mud on their bodies and bake in the sun for health and beauty benefits.
Three-hundred and thirty days of sunshine is worth repeating. Yes, I could mention the region’s rich folk art traditions, which include the colourful and whimsical animal figures called Alebrijes, Oaxaca’s black earthen pottery and woven textiles. Or I could talk about excursions to Finca La Gloria, a coffee plantation high up in the Sierra Madre mountains. But let’s face it when it comes to vacationing in winter, Canadians crave sunshine and lots of it. Huatulco has less rain and more sunshine than other popular Mexican resort town — and, in winter, that’s reason enough for this Canuck.
MORE ABOUT VISITING HUATULCO
Getting There: WestJet, Air Canada, Sunwing and Air Transat all have direct flights from Canadian airports. I stayed at the all-inclusive adults Secrets Huatulco Resort and Spa, which had everything you could wish for in an escape. Each of the 399 rooms has a balcony with a view of Conejos Bay. The food and drinks are top-notch; no reservations are needed for the numerous dining options and you don’t even have to wear a plastic bracelet. A family-friendly option is Secrets’ sister property — Dreams Resort on nearby Tangolunda Bay.
Nightly Room Rates: A recent search on the Secrets Huatulco Resort and Spa website for December returned a weekend rate of $323.