Click for Bahias De Huatulco, Mexico Forecast
Overview
Huatulco ("wah-TOOL-co") is located in the southwest corner of Mexico in Oaxaca, about 150 miles southwest of Oaxaca City. Despite it being known throughout Mexico as one of the most beautiful resort destinations in the country, the Bahias de Huatulco have remained relatively sleepy and unknown to gringos since the area was first developed. When you try to explain it to people, they say "wah-where?" and assume you're coughing up phlegm when you reiterate "wah-TOOL-co, it's in wah-HAHK-ah". Though the Bays of Huatulco have always existed as a place of natural wonder, Huatulco as a place on the map is something of an artificial construct. It only came into existence in 1984 as a planned development by Fonatur, the government tourism agency responsible for Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Playa del Carmen, and Ixtapa/Zihuatenejo. In one of those "eminent domain" sort of things governments do, they announced in 1984 that everything between the Coyula and Copalita rivers, 22 miles of coast encompassing nine dramatic cliff-laden bays and some thirty-six beaches, was now government land and part of the Bahias de Huatulco development plan. The sparsely populated fishing villages of the bays were bought out and the people were transplanted to the new town of La Crucecita a half mile inland, but not a great deal took place for the next ten to fifteen years. This explains some confusion in looking for Huatulco on a map - though it is commonly referred to as if it was a town, the name actually refers to the whole Fonatur area of the Bays of Huatulco. While La Crucecita is the main town and population center, it doesn't always show up on maps.

Its stunning mountain backdrop and unusual collection of natural features - the most extensive coral reef system in Pacific Mexico, whitewater rivers, canyons, jungle waterfalls, spectacular beaches, and cliff-laden coastline - seemed to make it a no brainer to become a top international destination. Instead, Huatulco languished in pleasant obscurity. The only thing putting it on the map at all during the early years was the presence of a Club Med in Tangolunda Bay, now the site of Las Brisas resort. Beginning in the late 90's, however, Huatulco finally began to show signs of life. New hotels and restaurants cropped up, residential development increased, and Fonatur made a renewed effort to turn it into a destination. The focus changed from plans for a new Cancun to making it sort of an anti-Cancun. The conservation side of it was touted - 75 percent of the land was to be set aside as green space, wastewater was recycled, and Huatulco would be a new model for eco-tourism. The Huatulco National Park was created in 1998, encompassing 29 percent of the land of Huatulco. This was a huge step in keeping much of the Bays of Huatulco pristine, but Fonatur continues to do some creative math to claim 75 percent of the area is set aside for conservation. (A requirement the Inter-American Development Bank saddled them with as a condition of loans made for Huatulco's infrastructure since Huatulco's coastal forest is somewhat unique.) While the marine zone of the national park runs from San Agustin to Santa Cruz, prime coastal tracts were carved out of the national park area at the Cacaluta and San Agustin ends of the land section to allow Fonatur the option to develop those areas someday. Fonatur is in the business of development, and much of the reason Huatulco remains as tranquil and beautiful as it does has to do with the environmentalists and local organizations who fought to have the National Park created. It has been their commitment (and the IADB loan conditions) that have contributed to Huatulco's green halo as much as anything. To its credit, Fonatur has adapted to the new vision and is actively promoting it, though the reality of what developers are allowed to do is not always in line with the low-impact, low-density model that is touted. This isn't to say that most of Huatulco isn't still a place of unparalleled beauty, but just to inject a note of realism into some of the "official" eco-image that is being promoted. Both citizens and visitors have to keep holding Fonatur to their promises of developing it as an ecological model. Virtually everyone who comes to Huatulco is impressed by the fact that it is so quiet and tranquil. Few of them would return if it lost what makes it so unique.

humpback whale calf breaching in front of momma