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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Huatulco Beaches & Fun Day Trips

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

Although Huatulco is one of the resort regions of Mexico, we felt it had a much different feel than many other Mexican resort areas. Located within the Mexican state of Oaxaca, Huatulco it is home to Huatulco National Park and is made up of 9 different bays, which makes for lots of beaches to explore. We spent 3 weeks in the inland town of La Crucecita where we spent some downtime catching up on school, projects, learning some Spanish with a local and exploring the region. What we enjoyed most is how this resort region still had an authentic Mexican feel to it. There are large tourist resorts if you choose, but at the same time you can experience this place outside of the resorts & get a good feel the Mexican culture. Plus, it seemed like there were many tourists from other parts of Mexico that came to visit here as well. Since we had our own vehicle we were able to explore within 60-90 minutes as well, which opened up several possibilities! Here we’ll cover some of the best beaches for families in the Huatulco area, as well as some of the daytrips we took while visiting Huatulco.

Huatulco Region Family-Friendly Beaches

Probably some of the biggest highlights of the region are the beaches of the area; and there definitely is no shortage to choose from. While we didn’t get a chance to visit them all, our list below includes ones that we found to be good with kids. (We had read that the undertow at Playa Tangolunda and Chahue can be quite strong; with so many other beaches to check out, we decided to not visit those.)

San Augustin Beach

This beach is about 40 minutes west of La Crucecita by vehicle and some of the journey does include taking dirt roads to access it. Otherwise, there are boat tours that come to this bay as well, but we enjoyed visiting it on our own much better.

If coming by vehicle, there are several restaurants that line the beach. They offer free parking in exchange for purchasing food and drink during your visit. However, I will say that the price for food and drink at these restaurants is quite expensive compared to most other places in Mexico. The beer was decent – about $30 pesos ($1.51 USD) per bottle – but we ordered a large plate of French fries that was $250 Pesos ($12.57 USD) and some other food plates were closer to $300-400 pesos per dish.

View of San Augustin Playa from the water. Near Huatulco, Mexico.
San Augustin Beach is about a 40-minute drive from Huatulco area.

One of the main benefits of this beach is that there is direct access from the beach to the corral reef and snorkeling area. The first time we visited on our own, we snorkeled and were super impressed with the amount of fish and corral we saw. I even had a school of over 100 fish swim right past me! (Of course, that was the day I forgot the GoPro at home.) The second time we came as part of the boat tour there was an excessive amount of palp floating in the water, which made it awkward for snorkeling. While palp aren’t harmful, it felt like you were swimming through a bunch of slime and it obstructed views below. Unfortunately, I think it was just unlucky timing as an influx of palp is mostly based on currents and timing.

Playa Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Beach is a popular beach in the Huatulco area.
Playa Santa Cruz is centrally located in Huatulco in the town of Santa Cruz.

This beach is centrally located within Huatulco and is in the town of Santa Cruz. On one side is the harbor and on the other is the public beach. There is a wall between the two so there is good separation from the boat traffic and beach area. There is ample public parking near the beach, so it is convenient and easy to access. While there are several restaurants lining the beach if you choose, you can also just find a spot to set up for the day. The kids enjoyed the sand here, as they found it easier to make sand castles and it is fairly deep into the bay, so it is pretty protected and made it one of the calmer beaches for swimming with kids.

Playa Tejoncito
Tejoncito Beach in Huatulco, Mexico.
Views from the steps down to beautiful Playa Tejoncito in the Huatulco area.

While this beach is considered a public beach, it isn’t super easy to access, so it naturally creates a quieter beach. Located about 12 minutes away from La Crucecita, you first have to enter the gated resort area. Then to get to the beach you have to look for the stairs & sign that lead up & over to Tejoncito Beach. The stairs are just to the right of Celeste Beach Resort; however, we drove by the stairs a couple of times without noticing them. Once we found them, we just parked on the street and headed up.

It is only about 10-minute walk from the stairs to the beach, but the steep incline of stairs made it all the more refreshing to jump in the water once we reached the beach, plus we enjoyed the views. The beach is shared with Celeste resort, but it wasn’t busy or crowded. The sides of the beach are lined with rocks and natural little tide pools, so the kids enjoyed climbing and exploring. We found lots of crabs, sea snails, sea urchins and even caught a glimpse of a tiny octopus as we explored.

Overall, the ocean felt safe for the kids to swim there. However, as the tide started to come in, there was one section where the floor dropped and the waves got a little rough. Therefore, the sides closer to the rocks were the best areas during that time.

This probably was one of our favorite beaches in the area, but partly for the adventure of having to ‘hike’ to get there.

These beaches are a bit further west on the coast and are between Huatulco and Puerto Escondido. Some of them actually are closer to Puerto Escondido than Huatulco, but if you have a vehicle they might be worth checking out, especially if you decide to combine them with the Turtle Sanctuary in Mazunte and the Crocodile mangroves in Ventanilla – more on those below.

Panteon Beach
Two children searching for beach glass at Panteon Beach in Puerto Angel.
Panteon Beach was a great place to search for beach glass during high tide!

This beach was about an 80-minute drive from La Crucecita at Puerto Angel. To be honest, the beach wasn’t huge or really more special than any of the others that we visited closer to Huatulco. However, the beach is in a fairly protected bay & our daughter wanted to have the opportunity to collect some beach glass, which we read this beach was known for. As with anything related to nature, there is always a risk that reality will be different than what you read about. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find a decent amount of beach glass there. There are also some rocks along the shoreline that the kids enjoyed exploring & climbing. During the low tide you can also head out to a shallow section between the rocks. However, the best time to collect the beach glass is during high tide, so we missed out on this area, as we arrived just before high tide.

Beach glass we found & collected at Panteon Beach in Puerto Angel.
The beach glass we found & collected at Panteon Beach.

The beach is lined with restaurants and hotels, so to access the beach you have visit one of these establishments. We went through the hotel and had a choice of paying either $250 Pesos for the kids & myself OR purchasing food. I tried to order just drinks and some French fries, but they didn’t like that idea. Instead, I ordered a small meal and drinks (pretty much cheapest things on the menu) which ended up being the same cost as the minimum payment.

Ventanilla Beach
Looking eastbound on Ventanilla Beach, Mexico at sunset.
Ventanilla Beach, Oaxaca - About 80-minute drive from Huatulco.

While we didn’t get a chance to swim at this beach, we did go explore it after visiting Laguna Ventanilla. The beach was really large and offered great sand for sand castle building and a large area to explore. There is also parking close by. This beach is about 1 hr. 20 minutes from La Crucecita.

Girl walking along the beach at sunset on Ventanilla Beach.
Sunset walks at Ventanilla Beach, Oaxaca, Mexico.

We also discovered they host a turtle release here. When we were visiting in March 2022, the release happened at 6 p.m. and was a cost of $150 Pesos ($7.55 USD) to participate. They do practice contactless releases. Unfortunately, we had the 80-minute drive back and I preferred not to drive in the dark, so we had to miss this one.

Playa Mazunte
Mazunte Beach in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Views of the eastern portion of Mazunte Beach, Oaxaca, Mexico.

We didn’t get a chance to actually head to this beach; however, we could clearly see it from the Centro Mexicana de Tortuga. It is about a 65-minute drive from La Crucecita & Ventanilla is only 10-minutes away. One of the reasons that I decided to include it on this list, is that it looked like there was a wide open sandy beach as well as a bit further down there was a little waterway that ran into the ocean, so a fun place to explore. However, it looked like the break was quite large, so maybe not the best swimming beach with kids.

Other Activities in Huatulco Area

Local Eco Reserves & Sanctuaries

There are several tour packages that include a visit to the Eco Centre in La Ventanilla and the Turtle Sanctuary in Mazunte. However, because we had our own vehicle we just drove there and it was super easy to navigate on our own.

Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga – Mazunte

Coming from Huatulco, the first stop was visiting Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga, which was just over an hour’s drive away. (Google Maps said it was going to be 80 minutes but then we ended up cutting out 10-15 minutes when there was an intersection across the median that wasn’t in Google maps.)

The Center is focused conservation efforts of turtles here in Oaxaca. The cost was super affordable to visit too – only $41 Pesos ($2.06 USD) per adult and both kids (5 and 8 years old) were free. There are three different display areas – one with smaller fresh water turtles, an aquarium with sea turtles and then an outdoor tank with turtles and an area where they rehabilitate the turtles. We even caught one of the workers feeding the turtles in the rehabilitation area, so that was a lot of fun for us to watch and observe.

However, I wouldn’t suggest going to Mazunte for only the turtles; it is fairly basic and it only took us about 45-minutes to visit. However, if you can combine it with something else, like the beach or Ventanilla Eco Reserve then it might be worth checking out if that is something that interests you.

Centro Ecoturistico La Ventanilla
Crocodile at Ventanilla Laguna, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Spotted crocodile in Ventanilla Laguna as part of the Eco Centre boat ride.

La Ventanilla is only about a 10-minute drive from Mazunte and is home to a beach, mangroves and lagoon. It is these mangroves that are home to 200-300 crocodiles and the area. The area has been protected by 25 Zapotec families whose goal is to preserve the ecology and wildlife in the area. Not only are there crocodiles in the area, but we saw numerous birds, iguanas and turtles.

The tour starts from the Ecological office, which is one of the first buildings you see as you enter the town – there is a large crocodile painted on the wall. The tour costs $100 pesos ($5 USD) per person (including children) and I believe they run a tour as soon as they have enough people. We arrived and were immediately added to a group that was getting ready to depart. From the office, it is a short walk down an alley to the entrance to the mangroves and boat. All the boats are man-powered as no motors are allowed be run in the protected area.

As we departed from the shoreline we immediately saw a crocodile that was sunbathing and then quickly slid into the water. Throughout our boat ride we saw turtles sitting on a tree, a variety of birds, as well as about four more crocodiles. We later saw one crocodile submerged that they said was quite large – about 12 feet long.

After the main portion of the boat ride, we were brought to an island in the middle of the mangroves. Here we were guided around to see the numerous iguanas, as well as a variety of crocodiles on display including babies. A couple of the main highlights for the kids were the opportunity to visit the deer in the enclosure and feed them, as well as visit the monkey. The monkey put on quite the show for them! After we had drinks at the café (additional cost) before getting back on the boat to go to the opposite shoreline.

The tour lasted about 2 hours in total, and it was one of our highlights in the area.

Cascadas Magicas de Copalitilla
Mother & two children in front of the large waterfall at Cascadas Magicas de Copalitillas, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Cascadas Magicas de Copalitilla - About 80-minute drive from Huatulco, Oaxaca.

These beautiful waterfalls can be found a bit inland from the Huatulco coastline and was one of the top highlights in the area. You can either take an organized tour that departs from Huatulco or you can go there on your own. We opted to do it on our own. It is a bit away from everything, but google maps will easily lead you to the right location. It takes about 1 hr. 20 mins. to get there from La Crucecita.

However, when we were about 30 minutes away from the falls there were some tour guides who were on the road selling their services. They said that you just pay the entrance fee of $70 pesos per person once you arrive, and then provide the guide with a tip at the end. (In all honesty, I hate when they do this - I would much rather they just tell me what they would like in return for their services, as I either feel like I'm giving not enough or too much, and don't really know what would be considered a fair price.) However, I thought it would be good to have a guide, as he could help us navigate the roads; as I had read the last few kilometers were a bit of rougher road. The road turned out not to be too bad, especially since we had the truck, and I drove the whole way in 2-wheel drive. However, the guide was helpful in showing us around the waterfall, there were a couple of places we wouldn't have known about if not for him.

After navigating the dirt roads there, we parked and proceeded to the waterfalls. We went to main waterfall, which was absolutely magnificent. On the side, there is a small hole that is a small cave opening and takes you to a spot under the waterfall where you can swim in a small swimming hole. Connor jumped in, but quickly complained about being cold, so we didn't get a lot of swimming time there. However, it was a pretty cool spot to see and climb under. We would have never known about this area without our guide.

Then he took us back to the swimming area that we had originally passed on our way up to the falls. There were some small waterfalls leading into this pool, as well as some pools up at the top of the falls that people sat & soaked in. The water was a bit cool, especially after being in the warmer pool & ocean water, but it was still nice. However, the highlight for the kids was the rope swing. Clara was super excited to try it out! For the rest of the visit they would just swing out over the water & drop! Towards the end they pretended they were 'walking on water' after seeing one of the other local boys do it. We were all super entertained with watching some of the others jump in & do tricks on the rope as well.

Little boy swinging on the rope swing at Cascadas Magicas de Copalitilla, Oaxaca, Mexico.
The kids really enjoyed the rope swing at one of the swimming spots at Cascadas Magicas de Copalitilla.

We would highly recommend checking out this area while in Huatulco, if you have the ability to get there or book one of the tours.

7-Bays Boat Tour

This is likely one of the more popular tourist activities to do in the Huatulco area. It includes a boat ride along the 7 bays of Huatulco National Park, as well as a stop for snorkeling. However, if I’m being completely honest, I was a bit disappointed in the excursion.

The cost to do the tour was only $400 Pesos ($20 USD) per adult and $200 Pesos per child for the 8-hour day, plus a port fee of $5.50 pesos for anyone over 5 years old. It seemed like a decent cost for an all-day activity so I thought we would try it. The cost included the boat ride there, but not extras like beer or lunch; however, I ended up packing our own lunch to hopefully save some cost. However, the boat was LARGE and it was jammed packed! The particular boat we were on was entirely other Mexicans visiting Huatulco on vacation. However, it really made me wish I could understand Spanish better as the whole tour was in Spanish and none of the workers spoke English either. This created issues later, as things were lost in translation.

After departing the port of Santa Cruz, our first stop was at Chachacual Bay, where we stopped for 1-hour. However, I was under the impression that we had the chance to snorkel at both stops. After I thought I had confirmed with one of the workers, we decided to head to the beach for the first stop. (You can also access some of the corral from the shore as well so we could see a little bit.) However, when we got to the 2nd stop at San Augustin, we found out there was no snorkeling there after all, but rather it was a 2-hour stop only for lunch. I had hoped to use the snorkel rafts (where the kids can look through the bottom), so they were pretty disappointed about that. Plus, when we arrived at San Augustin they took us by boat to selected restaurants to eat at where prices were definitely more than normal. I didn’t want to sit at a restaurant for 2-hours so we snuck out to try to snorkel on our own, but unfortunately there were just too many salp that day there.

However, one of the highlights from the tour was boat ride, where we did catch a glimpse of two sting rays jumping out of the water. There is a chance of seeing whales and dolphins too depending on the time of year.

Zipline at Rancho Tangolunda

We had plans originally to zipline at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, but our second visit back to the lake got cancelled, so we were unable to do the zipline there as planned. I had promised the kids the opportunity to go ziplining, so searched out places to do ziplining during our stay in Huatulco. I discovered the zipline excursion to Rancho Tangolunda through My Huatulco Vacations. In my humble opinion, it was a bit overpriced, but I had made a promise and we still had fun. For each of us to zipline it was $35 USD (or $695 Pesos per person). But we had some birthday money, so we decided to use it for this experience.

They told us to allow for about 2 hours for the excursion from our doorstep and back again, but it ended up being much shorter than that because we were the only ones in the group. They picked us up for the 10-15 minute drive to Rancho Tangolunda. I tried to explain that we had our own vehicle to drive there and back, but they didn’t offer any price discounts, so we just went with the transportation provided with the tour. In total I think we were gone about 1 hr. 20 minutes. If you had a larger group then it would take closer to the 2 hours to give everyone a turn.

When we arrived they geared us up and then took us in their truck up to the first zipline point. The first section is 310 m long and 80 meters high. The second one is 300 meters long but has a downward sloping incline that takes you back to the beginning, so this one is much faster.

However, the two guides were super helpful, especially with the kids. They each took one child with them and tandem ziplined down both sections. It sounded like I probably could have gone with one of the kids, but I wasn’t exactly sure how it would go. Plus, Clara informed me later that she preferred going with the ‘professional’ anyway...ha ha!

It was a fun outing, but not sure I would do it again. I think we were there the wrong time of year (March) for the incredible lush views as well. With it being in the dry season, the views weren’t green and luscious like many iconic zipline experiences.

There definitely isn’t any shortage of things to do in the Huatulco area. In fact, several of these spots could also be visited from the popular destination of Puerto Escondido. We hope you enjoy this selection of family-friendly beaches and activities in the area. But of course, there is always the option to just sit back and relax as well!

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