Who: Lauren Bergquist, 37, and husband, Jeff Minkin, 43
Where I Went: Huatulco, Mexico
When: Late February/Early March 2012
High Points: Sun, sand, and sea! Huatulco is located far south on Mexico's Pacific Coast in the state of Oaxaca, with the Sierra Madre del Sur Mountains as a beautiful backdrop. If you want Mayan ruins, go to Mexico's Riviera Maya. For guaranteed days of sunshine, head to Huatulco. The area is blessed with about 330 days of sunshine a year with temperatures in the 80s.
The objective of this winter escape was relaxation with a little bit of adventure mixed in. My husband and I are avid snorkelers, but we weren't sure if Huatulco would have much to offer in the way of underwater sites. Were we wrong! The highlight of our trip was a full-day snorkeling excursion with Hurricane Divers. It was just us and one other couple, our guide, and two crew members. A delicious and creative homemade gourmet lunch was included, lovingly prepared by Pauline, the wife of Hurricane Divers' owner Roberto.
We visited three snorkeling spots by boat within Huatulco's nine bays during the course of the day. The guide and crew must have had built-in sonar because they always knew where to go for the best sightings. Not only did we see an abundant array of colorful fish, we also encountered humpback whales, dolphins, a sea turtle, and flying manta rays—a sight that needs to be seen to be believed. For lunch, we pulled into a secluded bay and relaxed under beach umbrellas as we enjoyed the sound of the waves lapping the golden sand and sipped cold, crisp beer. We lived a Corona commercial that day. At $240, not including tips for the guide and crew, this adventure was worth every peso.
Low Points: None. Seriously. The only thing we would have done differently is to wear rash guards while snorkeling. Also, be prepared for lines at Huatulco Airport, especially when departing, but by then you'll be so relaxed from your trip that the wait to check in won't be bothersome.
Savings Strategy: Take advantage of package deals and book your flight and accommodations together. Even with an international airport (albeit a small one), Huatulco is still a secret and has an uncrowded "small town" feel. It's a tourist development created by the Mexican government but, unlike Cancun, much of Huatulco is a protected "green zone" and many of the bays are only accessible by boat.
Where We Stayed: Las Brisas, an all-inclusive resort. With four private beaches, fun water activities, lush and diverse landscaping, by far the best vantage point on Bahia Tangulunda, tasty and authentic Mexican food, and really nice and helpful staff, this place can't be beat. Our room was by no means fancy or luxurious (our shower had some drainage issues), but every morning I sipped my coffee standing in front of a huge window overlooking the bay and mountains. There were very few Americans vacationing at the resort. Most of the guests were Mexican families and Canadians, many of whom visit Las Brisas year after year.
If You Go: If you can pull yourself away from your palapa, definitely splurge and go on a snorkeling excursion, visit the charming town of La Crucecita, and enjoy some tacos al pastor and cervezas at budget-friendly Los Portales Restaurant along the main square.
A Few Photos from My Trip:
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