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Canada’s new Mexican frontier: It didn’t work for Club Med but Huatulco has been reborn, and rediscovered by Canadians

click to enlarge Tornillo Beach, Las Brisas
  • Tornillo Beach, Las Brisas

“Nice place, eh?” I never saw the fellow before but his accent was familiar and we were both headed from the beach up to the bar.

“Where you from?” I asked as the bartender dipped the rim of my margarita glass into a plate of salt.

“Calgary,” he replied, “you?”

“Whistler,” I told him, and we lapsed into ski talk. Comparing the merits of Blackcomb and Lake Louise may seem a strange topic of conversation while sipping margaritas on a Mexican beach. But it seems almost everyone in Huatulco is from somewhere in Canada and it takes the tropical sun a few days to burn winter out of our consciousness.

Huatulco is about as far south as you can go in Mexico. Located on the Pacific Coast of Oaxaca, at the southern end of the Sierra Madre Mountains, it is Mexico’s newest and least developed tourist destination and, according to the local pundits we talked to, it has yet to be discovered by the Americans and Europeans. But the Canadians are there in force, not only for a winter sun break at one of the resorts but also to buy property and acquire their personal tropical retreats. And getting there from Canada is easy. It’s a six-hour charter flight from YVR directly to HUX (Huatulco’s tiny international airport), and the airport is only a 20-minute bus ride from the beach.

The granite sea-cliffs and rocky offshore islets of Huatulco’s Pacific Coast resemble parts of the B.C. coast but the similarity ends there. Between the rocky headlands the warm Pacific surf rolls onto broad sandy beaches that stretch for miles, and beneath the turquoise surface schools of brightly coloured tropical fish nibble on mounds of brain coral. There are nine major bays containing 36 calm water beaches strung out along the Huatulco coast. Some, like Tangolunda where the Las Brisas is located, are fully developed tourist destinations; others are accessible only by water, and several pristine beaches that fall within a new national park are protected from future development.

Las Brisas (the breezes), where we spent our week in the sun, is one of several all-inclusive resorts that face Bahia Tangolunda. Built on a rocky peninsula jutting into the Pacific its clusters of brick red low-rise buildings are set among gardens and walkways located high above the palm-shaded lawns and sand of the beach. The resort sprawls across an area of fifty acres and it takes at least a day to figure out the maze of interconnecting roads, trails and stairways that link its four colour-coded “villages” with its six restaurants, multiple bars, and four private swimming beaches. Our room, in the Polar building of the Estrellas (star) village, is 185 steps above the Bellavista restaurant. The view is fantastic but it’s a long way from bed to breakfast. The food is excellent and the climb is a good excuse for second helpings, but if you’re too hot or tired to walk one of the shuttles is never more than a few minutes away. These handy little vehicles with their outside benches and friendly drivers are free, fun and ready to whisk you wherever you want to go within the resort.

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