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Beaches

A section of the beach at Santa Cruz (away from the small boats) is an inviting sunning spot. Beach clubs for guests at non-oceanfront hotels are here. In addition, several restaurants are on the beach, and palapa umbrellas run down to the water's edge. For about 160 pesos one-way, pangas from the marina in Santa Cruz will ferry you to La Entrega Beach, also in Santa Cruz Bay. There you'll find a row of palapa restaurants, all with beach chairs out front. Find an empty one, and use that restaurant for your refreshment needs. A snorkeling equipment rental booth is about midway down the beach, and there's some fairly good snorkeling on the end away from where the boats arrive.

Between Santa Cruz and Tangolunda bays is Chahué Bay. The beach club has palapas, beach volleyball, and refreshments for an entrance fee of about 35 pesos. However, a strong undertow makes this a dangerous place for swimming.

Tangolunda Bay beach, fronting the best hotels, is wide and beautiful. Theoretically, all beaches in Mexico are public; however, nonguests at Tangolunda hotels may have difficulty entering the hotels to get to the beach.

Bay Cruises & Tours

Huatulco's major attraction is its coastline -- a magnificent stretch of pristine bays bordered by an odd blend of cactus and jungle vegetation right at the water's edge. The only way to really grasp its beauty is to take a cruise of the bays, stopping at Organo or Maguey bays for a dip in the crystal-clear water and a fish lunch at a palapa restaurant on the beach.

One way to arrange a bay tour is to go to the boat-owners' cooperative (Cooperativo Tangolunda; tel. 958/587-0081), located in a white ticket booth with a blue roof near the entrance to the marina. Prices are posted, and you can buy tickets for sightseeing, snorkeling, or fishing. Beaches other than La Entrega, including Maguey and San Agustín, are noted for offshore snorkeling. They also have palapa restaurants and other facilities. Several of these beaches, however, are completely undeveloped, so you will need to bring your own provisions. Boatmen at the cooperative will arrange return pickup at an appointed time. Prices run about $25 for 1 to 10 persons to La Entrega, and $50 for a trip to Maguey and Organo bays. The farthest bay is San Agustín; that all-day trip will run $100 in a private panga.

Another option is to join an organized daylong bay cruise. Any travel agency can easily make arrangements. Cruises are about $40 per person, plus $5 for snorkeling equipment rental and lunch. One excursion is on the Tequila, complete with guide, drinks, and onboard entertainment. Another, more romantic option is the Luna Azul, a 13m (43-ft.) sailboat that runs bay tours and sunset sails.

Ecotours are growing in popularity and number throughout the Bays of Huatulco. The mountain areas surrounding the Copalita River are also home to other natural treasures worth exploring, including the Copalitilla Cascades. Thirty kilometers (19 miles) north of Tangolunda, at 395m (1,296 ft.) above sea level, this group of waterfalls -- averaging 20 to 25m (66-82 ft.) in height -- form natural whirlpools and clear pools for swimming. The area is also popular for horseback riding and rappelling.

An all-day shopping tour takes you around the area, including Crucecita, to peruse quality handmade arts and crafts, and experience authentic Oaxacan cuisine. Contact Paraíso Tours (www.paraisohuatulco.com) for reservations.

Guided horseback riding through the jungles and to Conejos and Magueyito beach makes for a wonderful way to see the natural beauty of the area. The ride lasts 3 hours, with departures at 9:45am and 1:45pm, and costs $35 to $45. Contact Caballo del Mar Ranch (tel. 958/589-9387).

Another recommended guide for both hiking and bird-watching is Laura Gonzalez, of Nature Tours Huatulco (tel. 958/583-4047; lauriycky@hotmail.com). Choices include a hike around Punta Celeste with views of the river, open sea, and forest, for sightings of terrestrial and aquatic birds. The 3 1/2-hour tour can be made in the early morning or late afternoon and costs $45. An 8-hour excursion to the Ventanilla Lagoons takes you by boat through a mangrove to view birds, iguanas, and crocodiles. The cost is $80, including lunch. Tours include transportation, binoculars, specialized bird guide, and beverages.

Golf & Tennis

The 18-hole, par-72 Tangolunda Golf Course (tel. 958/581-0037) is adjacent to Tangolunda Bay. The greens fee is $80 for 18 holes and $6 for 9 holes; carts cost $34. Tangolunda also has tennis courts as well, for $11 per hour. Tennis courts are also available at the Barceló hotel (tel. 958/581-0055) for 125 pesos per person per hour and 10 pesos extra for play under the lights.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.