|Bahia Santa Cruz|
Toward the outside of Santa Cruz bay is the side bay of La Entrega, home to one of the largest patches of coral reef for snorkeling among all the bays. Picturesque and sheltered, the bay is a dependable place to swim and snorkel even when other bays are rough. Because the fish are often fed by snorkelers here, they range from curious to downright ornery. Do not be surprised if something starts nibbling on your legs. Turning around in surprise, you'll find a school of gafftopsail pompano, or colorful blennies, or whatever else happens to be most demanding of a handout that day. You're almost sure to find at least one massive school of surgeonfish here, which I never tire of watching. There's usually at least one particularly large cornetfish around too. Don't look at the bottom all the time, because just under the surface, large schools of ballyhoo can be seen or sometimes Pacific barracuda. Since La Entrega is out near the tip of Punta Santa Cruz, where the water drops off deeply beneath high cliffs, a greater number of pelagic fish wander through the reef here than in any of the other bays. I was stunned one day to see an 8 lb mahi-mahi swim right by me in less than ten feet of water. The name of the bay means "The Delivery" and comes from an inglorious moment in Mexican history, when independence hero Vicente Guerrero was betrayed and delivered at the beach here in 1831 to be taken to Cuilapan near Oaxaca City and executed.
La Entrega is easy to get to from Santa Cruz by following the signs for it. When you reach the parking area, you will be besieged with people trying to guide you into a parking spot and hustled into a restaurant on the beach. You can let them do so or you can issue a firm series of "no, gracias" replies and walk down the beach to choose your own place to hang your towel. There is an advantage to leaving your belongings at a table at one of the restaurants, because they're much more secure that way and there's no commitment to dine there. Usually I just have a beer or two. The seafood can be perfectly reasonable at some of the restaurants, but it was La Entrega where a friend and I were charged 80 pesos for "seviche", and were presented with a small plate of canned tuna seasoned with cilantro and lemon. Mexicans tend to be an unfailingly polite people and accept substandard service without complaint, and with the great bulk of Huatulco tourism to date being domestic tourism, a number of the beachside restaurants in the area have concluded it's fine to charge high prices for insulting quality. The snorkel rental place is at the far end of the beach - the best snorkeling is in that corner of the bay too - but if you're at one of the restaurants someone will probably ask you if you want to snorkel and bring the equipment to you.
On the way to La Entrega you pass by Cafe El Faro and a little road that takes you to the Santa Cruz lighthouse. While the facilities around the lighthouse are in a state of disrepair, the view from here is one of the most dramatic in Huatulco. It's the first place I drive almost all my visitors after picking them up at the airport. On the inside of Santa Cruz bay is the Santa Cruz Marina, the cruise ship dock, and the neighborhood of Santa Cruz. The marina is a central tourist hub, and you will be assailed more than ever here by people offering boat trips and the like. Have a look around, see which boats you like, and ask about prices. A short trip on one of the less expensive pangas will probably run about $40, and a half day trip to somewhere like Playa India or San Agustin will likely run about $80-100 depending on the boat. Booked through hotels and tour agencies in Tangolunda, you can pay $250 for more or less the same thing. You can usually get at least eight people on a boat, so if you have a crowd it ends up being quite cheap. The cattle boats also depart from here if you're one or two people and want to go on an inexpensive tour of the bays - be forewarned that loud salsa music is a staple of these tours, so if you're looking for something quiet they're probably not the way to go. Near the marina, Cafe Huatulco in the park is a nice outdoor place for coffee and Mexican dishes like chilaquiles. Just up the street from it is a new restaurant named Cafe del Mar that is excellent for coffee, breakfast, and lunch, featuring both Japanese and Italian cuisine. (See it in On the Town.) On the beach are a variety of restaurants, jet ski rentals, and one of the two Hurricane Divers locations. A large array of shops dot the marina, catering mainly to the cruise ship market.