Santa María de Huatulco
Colonial-era Santa María de Huatulco (pop. 9,000) is the head town of the sprawling Huatulco municipio, which encompasses the entire Bahías de Huatulco development. Although living at the center of a mountain, jungle, and seashore domain, Santa María de Huatulco people have looked toward the emerald Sierra rising precipitously on their northern horizon. Those mountains and their foothills have traditionally been the main source of Huatulco’s wealth—the aromatic produce of a host of fincas cafetaleras.
Taste Huatulco coffee in one of the cafés, such as the inviting, family-run Las Flores on the town plaza, east side. While you’re on the plaza, take a stroll around; inspect the unique ollas (jars) made into fountains, an inviting part of the plaza decoration.
Also take a look around the historic old market, uniquely built on pillars in the middle of the plaza. First among your purchases should be samples of the breads for which Santa María is famous: Pan Yemo (egg bread), Pan de los Muertos (especially popular around Día de los Muertos, November 1–2), and Pan Tarazón (in long loaves).
Be sure to step inside the old town church, the Templo de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción. Inside above the altar you’ll find the Señora, and in the transept chapels a pair of mysterious, venerated objects. In the left chapel stands the Señor de Misericordias, an image that turned up strangely in Santa Cruz de Huatulco in the 17th century, and which people have worshipped ever since.
Additionally, in the right chapel is one of the four remnant copies of the Santa Cruz de Huatulco (Holy Cross of Huatulco), carved from the enigmatic ancient seashore cross in 1612 and sent by the Bishop of Oaxaca, Juan de Cervantes. (One of the other three copies of the cross resides at the Catedral de Oaxaca in Oaxaca City.)
Huatulco’s plaza front is generally sleepy (and especially tranquil during the cool of the evening) except during fiestas and market days. The town celebrates three main fiestas. The first is on the fourth Friday of Lent (23 days after Ash Wednesday, usually in March), when folks celebrate the Señor de Misericordias. Good Friday, two days before Easter Sunday, is the Fiesta de la Santa Cruz de Huatulco. The December 8–11 fiesta honors Nuestra Señora de la Concepción. The weekly market days are Saturday and Sunday, when vendors’ tianguis decorate the center of town, about three blocks south of the plaza.
If you decide to linger, a pair of small Santa María hotels can accommodate you. Both offer basic but clean rooms with private bath for about $30 d. Check out either the Posada del Centro (tel. 958/581-4034, $30 d) on the north side of the plaza, just west of the church, or the homey Posada Casquito Cuatulco (tel. 958/581-4046, 30 d), on the main cross street, to the left, as you enter town from Highway 200.
The prosperity of the local folks supports a sprinkling of good down-home restaurants. Besides the previously mentioned plaza-front restaurant Las Flores, you can sample the excellent seafood served at El Perro de Agua (8 a.m.–8 p.m. daily, $5–10), on Juárez at the south edge of town. Furthermore, local folks also strongly recommend the relaxed mountain-view Restaurant Caramba (tel. 958/581-4094, 7 a.m.–7 p.m. daily, $5–10) for Huatulco country specialties.
By car, get to Santa María de Huatulco by driving several miles north of Highway 200, via the side road at Kilometer 238, about a mile (1.6 km) west of the Huatulco airport entrance. By colectivo, get there from Crucecita (bus stop a block east of the Crucecita plaza) or the Pochutla Highway 200 crossing. If necessary, transfer to a second bus at the side road to Santa María de Huatulco, at Kilometer 238, about a mile (1.6 km) west of the Huatulco airport or about 17 miles (27 km) east of the Pochutla crossing.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition