Top 10 Things to Do In Huatulco
From taking tours of coffee plantations to snorkeling excursions, there are many options for activities and things to do in Huatulco, Mexico. If you’re planning a week-long vacation or just have a few hours on a cruise, you don’t want to waste your time or money on disappointing Huatulco excursions.
Here are my top choices for the best things to do in Huatulco, Oaxaca whether you’re on a family vacation, solo getaway or couples vacation:
Table of Contents
- 1. Go on a Snorkeling Tour or Scuba Diving Excursion
- 2. Sightseeing Tour of the Seven Bays
- 3. Visit a Coffee Plantation in Pluma Hidalgo
- 4. Take a Cooking Class with Chiles & Chocolate
- 5. Explore Copalita Eco-park and Archeological Site
- 6. Explore La Crucecita on a City Tour
- 7. Release Baby Sea Turtles at the Mazunte Turtle Center
- 8. Go Surfing in Puerto Escondido
- 9. Swim Under a Jungle Waterfall
- 10. Get Wet and Wild with Whitewater Rafting
1. Go on a Snorkeling Tour or Scuba Diving Excursion
Whether you’re interested in Huatulco snorkeling from shore or on a boat excursion to one of its hidden bays, exploring the Pacific Coasts’s extraordinary underwater sea life is one of the top things to do in Huatulco. Much of this coastline of Mexico is protected from development which helps support rich marine life and healthy reefs.
You can expect to see sea turtles, parrotfish, needle fish, grouper, snapper, angelfish as well as manta rays and more. Read our complete Guide to Snorkeling in Huatulco for tips on the best beaches for snorkeling from shore and the best (and safest) Huatulco snorkeling tours.
2. Sightseeing Tour of the Seven Bays
No trip to Huatulco is complete without exploring the seven bays and 36 beaches of the stunning coast of Oaxaca. Many of the golden sand beaches are accessible only by water so seeing them by boat is one of the top things to do in Huatulco.
For safety and comfort, it’s important to book a tour on a quality boat. While it’s certainly possible to charter a boat independently in Santa Cruz marina or join a group of tourists on a large party boat, it’s important to consider that a luxury water craft offers shade and superior comfort.
Read our guide to the best beaches in Huatulco for more information.
3. Visit a Coffee Plantation in Pluma Hidalgo
Spending a day hiking in a coffee plantation in the Sierra Madre Sur mountains is one of the top things to do in Huatulco if you’re interested in exploring beyond the beach. The air at the higher elevations where coffee is grown is cool and fresh so a day trip to the town of Pluma Hidalgo located at 1350 meters (over 5,000 feet) above sea level can be a welcome relief from the hot temperatures along Oaxaca’s coast.
An easy way to get to Pluma Hidalgo is to take the full day Three Levels Tour (which goes to Santa Cruz, Santa Maria Huatulco and Pluma Hidalgo) is Homie Tours owned by Alberto Espana Chavez, a government-certified guide who works in collaboration with other certified guides.
Tomas Vicente Contreras led the Three Levels Tour featuring Pluma Hidalgo coffee country I participated in. He is very knowledgable and speaks fluent Spanish, English, Zapotec and several other languages. This is not a day trip to do independently as the distances are far and the roads can be poor.
4. Take a Cooking Class with Chiles & Chocolate
The best way to experience a culture is to dive into its local cuisine. Chiles&Chocolate located in the pueblo of Zimitan on the outskirts of the Bahia de Huatulco’s hotel zone offers hands-on instruction on Oaxacan cuisine.
Learn about local indigenous Zapotec culture and how to use regional ingredients such as nopal, chapulines (toasted grasshoppers) and Pacific Coast shrimp to make street food, party fare and traditional main dishes. The reasonably-priced tuition includes pick up and drop off at Huatulco hotels.
Jane Bauer also happens to be the publisher of The Eye, a local English-language magazine that’s a valuable source of insights into happenings around Huatulco and Oaxaca. She also operates the highly-recommended Cafe Juanita restaurant located in Chahue Marina. Reserve a table for dinner and enjoy sunset views along with regional dishes such as Cream of Elote with Huitlacoche (corn fungus) and faves such as Coconut Shrimp with Mango Sauce.
5. Explore Copalita Eco-park and Archeological Site
Explore history carved in stone at Rio Copalita archeological site, a recently excavated site featuring a small but top quality museum as well as a vast protected zone dotted with ruins of pyramids, a ball court and temples.
The site was the ancient metropolis of Copalitan, occupied by the Zapotec and Mixtec people from 500 BC onward. It’s easy to visit this archeological site independently by taxi. This is definitely one of the top activities to add to your Huatulco vacation.
Check out a Day Pass to Dreams Huatulco Resort & Spa for a family-friendly add-on to this excursion.
6. Explore La Crucecita on a City Tour
One of the top things to do in Huatulco whether you’re on a cruise ship excursion or staying at a resort, is to visit La Crucecita, the economic hub and cultural heart of Huatulco. It serves as the downtown for Huatulco. The main attractions in La Crucecita are within easy walking distance of the zocolo ( town square) so this activity is easy to do independently, allowing you flexibility and saving you money.
The top things to do in La Crucecita include shopping for Pluma Hidalgo coffee, sampling mezcal and browsing artisanal crafts as well as visiting the Catholic Church, home to Mexico’s largest mural of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
7. Release Baby Sea Turtles at the Mazunte Turtle Center
If you’ve read my post 7 Reasons to Love Mazunte you’ll already know I’m a big fan of this small, eco-friendly town. Most tours from Huatulco combine a visit to the Mazunte Turtle Center (located on the site of a former turtle processing factory) with a boat tour of the mangroves of Ventanilla for some crocodile viewing and a stop at Zipolite beach as well as a quick stop for purchasing the natural cosmetics made by the Mazunte Natural Cosmetics Factory, a local women’s cooperative.
If you’re really interested in witnessing a sea turtle nesting or sea turtle release, you may be disappointed with the Mazunte Turtle Center which is more of a research and education facility.Sea turtle nesting period for olive ridley turtles takes place between July and November, so if you’re visiting in January or February it’s very unlikely you’ll see any sea turtle nestings.
If you’re in Huatulco during the season the sea turtles lay their eggs, make a point to visit La Escobilla, one of the world’s most important nesting sites for olive ridley turtles. During an arribada, you can see up to 5,000 sea turtles nesting on this protected beach. Read our article on 8 Incredible Outdoor Adventures in Puerto Escondido for information on this incredible event. In fact there are so many sea turtles on this coast, I’ve actually seen nestings in front of hotels such as Secrets and Dreams.
Read my review of Secrets Huatulco Resort & Spa
8. Go Surfing in Puerto Escondido
The city of Puerto Escondido with its diverse beaches and famous surfing scene is located 2.5 hours northwest up the Pacific coast from Huatulco and is well worth visiting for its string of beaches, rich cultural scene and eclectic bars and restaurants.
It’s best to stay overnight but if you’re pressed for time, it’s possible get there and back on a day trip. Read our complete Guide to Puerto Escondido for details about the city then consult our transportation guide for details on getting from Huatulco to Puerto Escondido by bus.
If you’d like to spend the night, you can’t go wrong with Hotel Santa Fe for its prime location on a quiet stretch of Zicatela Beach and superior service. Click here to check prices on the Hotel Santa Fe in Puerto Escondido on Hotelscombined.com, a search engine that compares room rates on hotel booking sites such as Expedia and Booking.com to find you the lowest rate.
9. Swim Under a Jungle Waterfall
In the rainy seasons, dozens of misty waterfalls cascade through the jungle in the foothills above Huatulco National Park, a protected zone established in 1998. Even during the dry season, one of the best Huatulco excursions includes a hike to the Cascadas Magicas (Magic Waterfalls) where you’ll be rewarded with a refreshing swim in cool waters.
On this easy day trip, expect to spot iguanas, hummingbirds and orioles along the way.
10. Get Wet and Wild with Whitewater Rafting
Local tour operator Aventura Mundo provides certified guides who’ll lead you on a full day outdoor adventure on the Copalita River, known for its steep drops and valleys. One of the best Huatulco excursions for adrenaline junkies, thrill seekers will want to opt for the upper section of the river, an adrenaline-pumping descent through 22 kilometres of Class III and IV rapids but other more leisurely options are available.
Their Floating Tour is an ideal day trip for birdwatchers as you’ll drift peacefully along the river, arriving at La Bocana beach where you can swim and chill out for a few hours.
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