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Discover the most beautiful and best beaches in Huatulco from quiet coves to action-packed hubs for watersports lovers.
Home to nine beautiful bays and 36 stunning beaches including Tangolunda, La Entrega, La India, Santa Cruz and San Agustín, the Bahias de Huatulco in Oaxaca, Mexico has lots to offer beach lovers.
But with so many beaches to choose from, it can be tough to decide which beach is the best for your vacation.
This guide will help you discover the best beaches in Huatulco for snorkeling, swimming or just spending a day chilling out at a beach restaurant if you’re here for a day on a cruise.
I’ve been exploring the state of Oaxaca since my first visit in 2003. Between living in Puerto Escondido and researching Mexico’s Pacific Coast for Fodor’s Oaxaca Travel Guide and Lonely Planet’s Mexico from the Source, I’ve spent a lot of time in Huatulco.
With its golden sand and sunny skies (and reliably hot weather), it’s one of my favourite places to enjoy some beach time.
I’m convinced that Huatulco is one of Mexico’s undiscovered treasures and I return every year to relax and spend time on its beaches.
To help you make the most of your visit to Huatulco, here are my top picks of the best beaches in the Bahías de Huatulco area.
How do you say Huatulco? It’s pronounced ‘wa-tool-ko’ with the emphasis on the second syllable. It’s sometimes spelled incorrectly as ‘watuka’ or ‘hua ulco’ but is officially known as the Bahías de Huatulco.
And if you’re wondering about Oaxaca…it’s pronounced ‘wa-ha-ka.’
Where is Huatulco?
The Bahias de Huatulco are located in the state of Oaxaca on Mexico’s west coast facing the Pacific Ocean. It’s important not to confuse Santa Maria de Huatulco with the resort destination of Huatulco.
While it’s well worth visiting for its rich history, Santa Maria de Huatulco is located inland in the Sierra Madre Sur mountains beyond the Bahias de Huatulco International Airport (HUX).
The beach resort and all-inclusive hotel zone is officially known as Bahias de Huatulco!
Choosing the Best Guided Tour of Huatulco’s Beaches
Since each Huatulco beach has a different character and something unique to experience, I recommend that you take a full-day Tour of the Bays of Huatulco as soon as you arrive.
That way you can make of a note of which beaches are your favourites and return to them again and again during your vacation.
In addition to visiting seven of Huatulco’s bays, the best boat tours will pass by impressive rock formations such as “Bufadero” one of the largest blow holes on the Oaxacan coast.
On your boat tour you’ll also often see sea turtles, humpback whales and dolphins, all of which adds up to an unforgettable day on the water.
Check rates and availability of a Full Day Tour of the Bays of Huatulco on Viator.com.
If you’re travelling with a family or group of friends, it’s worth considering a Private Tour of the Bays of Huatulco. Not only will you get picked up and dropped off at your Huatulco hotel but a private tour will include a visit to Playa San Agustin.
Playa San Agustin is widely considered the most beautiful beach in Huatulco but it’s also the furthest and most expensive to reach by taxi.
Check rates and availability of a Private Tour of the Bays of Huatulco on Viator.com.
The Best Beaches in Huatulco
1. Playa Santa Cruz Beach: Best Huatulco Beach Near the Cruise Terminal
If you’re arriving in Huatulco by cruise ship, Playa Santa Cruz is the first of the Huatulco beaches you will see. Directly located at the Santa Cruz marina in Santa Cruz Bay, it’s a small golden sand beach with calm waters suitable for families and children.
You’ll often see small fish swimming in the shallows. The waters at this Huatulco beach is surprisingly clear and clean considering that it’s so popular.
At the east end of Playa Santa Cruz, the beach is roped off to protect swimmers from motorized water craft.
The only downside is that if you happen to arrive on a cruise ship day, the sight of a giant cruise ship on the cruise ship pier can overwhelm the view.
For drinks and light lunches, get a lounger at La Playa restaurant and swim in the water directly in front of the restaurant.
Staying in a hotel close to Bahia Santa Cruz such as the Holiday Inn Huatulco means it’s also easy to take a boat tour to explore more remote beaches such as La India beach in Chachacual Bay.
Check prices and availability at Holiday Inn Huatulco on Booking.com
2. Tangolunda Bay: Top Beach for Luxury Hotels and All-inclusive Resorts
When it comes to choosing a hotel for a winter vacation, I like to stay at a hotel directly on a beach.
There are lots of hotels on the beach to choose from at Playa Tangolunda. It’s a good choice for people looking for a Huatulco resort with a long stretch of sand for morning or afternoon beach walks.
It’s also one of the best swimming beaches in Huatulco. Inexperienced swimmers will feel comfortable at Playa Tangolunda although you still need to pay attention to water safety conditions. A green flag means water conditions are safe to swim or enjoy water sports.
The beach at the east end of Tangolunda Bay near Dreams Huatulco Resort & Spa is the best for families. It has gentle waves and calm waters.
Even the smallest toddlers will be able to spot schools of fish in the shallow waters near the rocky outcroppings.
The sand at 800 metre long Tangolunda beach is golden brown and not too coarse. The beaches on Tangolunda Bay have a moderate slope to the water and the sand is firm.
If you’re only visiting for the day, many of the resorts offer day passes which provide access to beach loungers, drinks and dining.
Ideally located in the middle of the bay, both the all-inclusive Barcelo Huatulco and Dreams Huatulco Resort & Spa offer day passes. Note that in peak holiday periods, day passes may not be available.
Even more beaches — Playas Tornillo, El Secreto, Manzanillo and Ventura — can be found on opposite side of Tangolunda Bay. Located within the all-inclusive Las Brisas Resort, they’re not the easiest to access if you’re not a guest.
A river and a long pier block access between the two resort and beach zones.
Check rates and availability at Barcelo Huatulco Beach Resort on Booking.com
Check rates and availability at Dreams Huatulco Resort & Spa on Booking.com
3. Playa Conejos on Bahia Conejos (Conejos Bay)
Located east of Tangolunda Bay, beautiful crescent-shaped Conejos (Rabbit) Bay is one of the most photogenic of the bays in Huatulco and is one of the most private.
While the views are spectacular, the beach at Conejos Bay isn’t ideal for swimming. The water is often rough and the drop-offs can be steep.
Secrets Resort is adults-only so this beach is perfect for couples without children. It also has a spa and several infinity pools offering spectacular ocean views.
It’s also the closest bay to La Bocana Beach at the mouth of the Copalita River, where you can enjoy a therapeutic mud bath.
Or, spend a few hours at the fascinating Parque Eco-Arqueológico Copalita and Museum, one of the top things to do in Huatulco.
Our top choice for an adults-only resort in Huatulco is Secrets Huatulco Resort & Spa. The all-inclusive Secrets Huatulco Resort & Spa is currently the only resort on Conejos Bay but this may change. A gigantic Nickelodean Resort and Water Park was scheduled to open in Summer 2021 on Bahia de Conejos but was delayed due to the pandemic.
Read more: Visiting for the day? Outside peak holiday periods, it’s usually possible to get an all-inclusive Day-Pass to Secrets Huatulco Resort & Spa
Check rates and availability at Secrets Huatulco Resort & Spa on Booking.com.
4. La Entrega Beach
Spending a day at the beach is one of the top things to do in Huatulco. So it’s no surprise that Playa La Entrega is popular especially during the busy season.
Not only are there several seafood restaurants to choose from on this long beach, but the snorkelling is actually quite good from shore.
With its easy access, calm waters, gentle waves and roped off section protected from motorized watercraft, it’s a good beach for families. It’s also a good beach for swimming as it doesn’t have a strong undertow or steep drop off.
There are washrooms and showers available for a fee. Try to arrive early in the day to avoid the crowds. There’s free parking.
This is a good beach to visit if you’re on a cruise.
5. Playa Maguey
This pretty Huatulco beach is set within Bahía Maguey, a cove on the coast next to La Entrega Beach. Maguey Beach (Google Map) can be reached via a winding road that meanders its way through protected zone of jungle populated by white tailed deer, armadillos and iguana.
A wide sidewalk runs parallel to the road and is popular with joggers and fitness enthusiasts.
While not the largest beach in Huatulco, Playa Maguey is wide and flat enough to support several beachfront restaurants. They serve Oaxacan specialties as well as pulpo (octopus), pineapple stuffed with shrimp and fish, usually mahi-mahi (dorado) or red snapper.
There’s no cost to dine at a table. To spend the day, rent a lounge chair with an umbrella for 150 MXN pesos a day.
Swim or snorkel the offshore reef. Maguey Beach is one of the best beaches for swimming and snorkelling in Huatulco.
Note: Most restaurants at Maguey Beach close at 5 p.m.
Foodie Tip: To sample pescado al horno (butterflied, marinated fish baked in a clay oven) head to Caracol Purpura. It’s one of the most popular restaurants on Maguey Beach.
6. Chachacual Beach and La India Beach
One of Huatulco’s best beaches is accessible only by boat. Chachacual Bay is home to Playa La India, known for its incredible white sand.
Most Huatulco snorkelling excursions feature a stop at Chachacual Bay along with Organo Bay, Cacaluta Beach and other beaches so remote they are accessible only by boat.
This coastal zone is protected as sea turtle habitat and for the tixinda sea snail a source of purple dye in traditional Oaxacan weaving.
7. Playa San Agustin
One of the best beaches in Huatulco for a day trip include those at Playa San Agustin Bay. It’s located at the bottom of a dirt road and home to a large coral reef.
There’s excellent snorkelling from shore and several seafood palapas. It also has gentle waves and calm waters.
Check for the best car rental rates at Discovercars.com
Or, book a taxi and make arrangements to get picked up for the return trip back to Huatulco. Expect to pay at least 250 pesos one-way.
8. Playa Arrocito
Set within a mangrove forest tucked within Arrocito Beach Village, a subdivision of upscale condos and villas in between Tangolunda and Chahué Bays, Playa Arrocito (Google Map) is rather a hidden gem.
While small in size, it does have a restaurant, washrooms (5 MXN pesos) and shower facilities (7 MXN pesos) as well as calm waters and gentle waves. It’s one of the best beaches for swimming and snorkeling from shore.
Playa Arrocito is another good beach to visit if you’re on a cruise.
9. Playa Chahué
At 1420 feet long, Playa Chahué (Google Map) is one of the longest beaches in Huatulco.
A designated Blue Flag Beach (a global designation recognizing cleanliness and sustainability), it is conveniently located near Santa Cruz and la Crucecita, within walking distance or public transit.
However, the water at Chahué is also known for its rip currents and steep drop off. So if you plan to swim here, check beach conditions first.
A yellow flag means take precautions when swimming, a red flag means dangerous swimming and a black flag means no swimming allowed.
There’s very little shade at Chahué Beach so bring your own beach umbrella. Public showers (10 MXN pesos) and washrooms are available.
This beach is home to the Queen Beach Club, a hotel and event space popular for weddings and other large groups.
Huatulco Safety: Is Huatulco Mexico Safe?
Huatulco is a very safe destination for tourists. Crime in Huatulco is lower than in other resort destinations.
It also has one of the highest IDH Índice de Desarrollo Humano (Human Development Index) in Mexico when it comes to employment, education and salaries (which means crime such as robberies, assaults and street gangs are lower).
Its tourism infrastructure was built by and is maintained by FONATUR. This means isitors and local residents enjoy excellent roads, lighting and tourism police security.
Is it safe to travel to Huatulco Mexico? As recently as 2023, the U.S. Department of State ranked Mexico overall a Travel Advisory Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution.
The state of Oaxaca is a Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution.This is better than Jalisco, Sinaloa (Level 4) or Nayarit (Level 3) other popular Mexican resort destinations.
There are NO recommended restrictions for government employees or the general public for transit between the airport in Huatulco to hotels in Puerto Escondido or Huatulco.
However it pays to exercise caution. Avoid hiking remote trails alone, walking the beaches at night or carrying large sums of money.
Also pay attention to water conditions and beach warning flags. A red flag means the surf is high or there are dangerous currents or both. Many people worry about crime in Mexico but pay little attention to water conditions.
According to the State Department, the most common form of death for American tourists outside the USA are accidents (38%), drownings (19 %) then homicides (18%).
Weather in Huatulco Mexico
If you’re planning to vacation between November and March, you’re more likely to get reliably sunny skies in Huatulco than anywhere along the Cancun Riviera-Maya coast.
Not only is the average temperature s generally 3-5 degrees higher than in Cancun-Riviera Maya, but there’s less rain. In January you can expect 26 C (79 F) vs an average temperature of 23 C (73) in Cancun.
The average number of days with rain in Huatulco between January and March is 3. In Cancun-Riviera Maya it’s 16.
How Clean are Huatulco’s Beaches?
Huatulco is one of the few places in the world with both Green Globe Certification and EarthCheck Gold Certification, the benchmark for recognizing sustainable tourism practices and environmental protection.
The municipality’s state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant means Huatulco’s beaches are among the cleanest you’ll find anywhere in Mexico.
The other good news about the beaches in Huatulco is that they consistently receive high marks for cleanliness by SEMARNAT. This government agency is responsible for monitoring the water quality of the beaches in Mexico.
Three times a year they publish water quality results measuring the enterrococcus fecal bacteria levels. Scores of more than 200 per 100 mls of water means swimming is unsafe for human health.
All of the six major beaches in Huatulco reported within the June 23, 2018 report received acceptable APTA scores. The range was a low of 10 (Playa Chahue) to a high of 29 (Playa la Bocana). This is a low level of pollution compared to many other resort destinations in Mexico.
How Swimmable are the Beaches in Huatulco?
Which has better beaches? Huatulco or Cancun Riviera Maya? The sand on the beaches on Mexico’s Pacific Coast is golden rather than white. It’s coarser and has a steeper slope to the water than those on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.
In Huatulco, while the beaches are less crowded and more private than those elsewhere in Mexico, they are relatively short. With the exception of Tangolunda Bay they are not ideal for long walks.
There is no problem with beach erosion. The beaches in Huatulco are wide and spacious.
How swimmable are the waters? This varies daily and seasonally. Huatulco’s waters can be rough with strong rip currents. So it’s important to heed the advice of lifeguards and safety flags.
While the waves can sometimes be strong depending upon the tides, the waters at Playa Tangolunda, located east of Santa Cruz, are generally easy to swim in. La Entrega, Playa Arrocito and Maguey Beaches are also good beaches for swimming in Huatulco.
While many people recommend swimming at Chahue, for me, the strong waves, steep drop offs and rip currents can make for scary swimming.
If you’re not a strong swimmer you should opt for one of Huatulco’s most swimmable beaches.
Seaweed in Huatulco Beaches
Unlike east-facing Mayan Riviera and Cancun, much of the Caribbean and Florida, Huatulco is free of sargassum seaweed. So you will not encounter problems with smelly, rotting seaweed in the water or on the shoreline.
Budget Hotels in Huatulco (Away from the Beach)
La Crucecita is one of the best places to stay if you’re on a budget. You won’t be on the beach bit it’s quite easy and inexpensive to take a taxi.
Where is La Crucecita? Located inland, it’s the service town or downtown for the large, all-inclusive resorts located along the bays of Huatulco.
It has its own special charms. Visit the mural of the Virgin of Guadalupe, dine on Oaxacan food and shop for crafts.
My favourite hotel in La Crucecita is Mision de los Arcos. It’s a clean, well-located, budget boutique hotel where a standard room costs 850 MXN pesos (around $35 USD) a night.
How to Get to Huatulco from Oaxaca City by Plane via TAR Airlines
TAR Airlines has expanded its routes. This means it’s now even easier (and cheaper) to combine beach time with city time. For fans of Oaxaca’s string of Pacific coast beaches, there’s especially good news.
You can fly direct between Oaxaca City and Huatulco as well as between Querétaro and Huatulco (Oaxaca) via TAR Airlines. You can also fly directly flights from Querétaro to Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca (PXM). Then travel from Puerto Escondido to Huatulco by bus or shuttle.
Who is TAR Airlines? They are a 100% Mexican, regional low-cost airline based in Querétaro, Mexico.
Unlike VivaAerobus, on TAR Airlines the fare includes all taxes, extras. It also includes the cost of a reserved seat. But it’s still worth keeping an eye on hidden expenses with these hacks for Flying with a Discount Airline.
How to Get to Huatulco from Mexico City
From Mexico City, you can take a direct flight to Huatulco with Aeromexico, VivaAerobus, Interjet and Volaris.
To overnight, check out our list of the Top 3 Airport Hotels near Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez (MEX).
And that’s not the end of things to do on the coast of Oaxaca! Read our Essential Puerto Escondido Travel Guide for more travel tips.
Other Beaches to Explore in Oaxaca
The beaches in Huatulco consistently receive high marks for being clean and pollution free. Beach conditions vary depending on tides and weather but generally Playa La Entrega, Playa Arrocito and Playa Maguey have calm water and gentle waves where even inexperienced swimmers will be comfortable swimming. The eastern section of Playa Tangolunda (in front of Dreams Resort) is also usually very calm and has a gentle slope without a steep drop off. Mexico’s Beach Flag System rates beach conditions in four categories from optimal (green flag) to no swimming (red flag) so check before swimming.
The water temperature in the Bahías de Huatulco region varies daily depending on ocean currents but on average ranges from a high of 27 Celsius to a low of 23 Celsius.
Yes, there are several places to swim in the ocean in Huatulco. La Entrega, Tangolunda, Maguey and Arrocito are some of the most popular beaches to swim at in Huatulco.
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Dividing her time between Canada, Guatemala and Mexico (or the nearest tropical beach), Michele Peterson is the founder of A Taste for Travel. Her award-winning travel and food writing has appeared in Lonely Planet’s cookbook Mexico: From the Source, National Geographic Traveler, Fodor’s and 100+ other publications.
Read more about Michele Peterson.