Life on the Hook in Mexico – What do you do all day when you’re cruising in the tropics?

cruising, sailing, living aboard in Mexico

Mark makes music on Groovy

Sailing off into the sunset is a dream a lot of people share, and some even get the crazy idea to go ahead and actually do it.  What’s it like?  Here’s a glimpse of some of the things we do each day in our cruising lifestyle — kind of a behind-the-scenes look at our life of leisure aboard a sailboat in the tropics.

snorkeling huatulco mexico cruising and living aboard

We have fun above and below water.

When we decided to cruise Mexico, we planned to anchor out pretty much 100% of the time.  That way we could put more of our budget into a comfortable, newer boat, while keeping the day-to-day expenses to a minimum.  Marinas in Pacific Mexico typically cost anywhere from $30-$50 a night or $600-$900 a month for a boat our size, so living “on the hook” at anchor can mean big savings.

But living on the hook has its ups and downs.  Literally!!  The Pacific swell keeps the boat in constant motion, frequently lurching it from side to side for hours, or even days, on end.  Also, the beautiful ocean is often held hostage by red tide — or algae blooms — that cloak it in an unpleasant color and odor, and fill it with debris, making swimming impossible and dropping the water temps as much as 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit.

87 degree water in Huatulco Mexico

Ahh… warm water!!!

For the past week, however, we have had one ideal day after another (November, 2012, in Huatulco).  The water has been turquoise and clear and in the high 80’s.  The air has been sunny and warm, and the swell has been modest, jolting us awake with a jerk only once or twice a night, if at all.  Our days have been spent swimming til our skin is wrinkled, kayaking in the bay, and walking the beach where the waves caress our feet with the warmest of sun-heated ripples.

Mexico cruising clear turquoise water

The water in Huatulco is gorgeous

Life on the hook, even during these heavenly days, is not exclusively about umbrella drinks in the cockpit, however.  Each day we have a few hours of work that needs to be done.  Mark keeps us on track with this stuff, making lists and making sure we stick to them.

I always find my interest in these things wandering quite a bit, though.  Left to my own devices, I’m afraid the list would soon be lost, and after a few weeks we’d be living in true squalor.

swimming in Huatulco Mexico (Tangolunda Bay) living aboard a sailboat

Who wants to quit swimming to do a bunch of boat chores??

Back when I lured Mark into this cruising lifestyle (well, let’s see, I think I dragged him into it by the ear!), we divvied up the responsibilities according to skill, inclination and interest, rather than going straight “pink” and “blue.”

Since I’ve worked with computers all my life and had cruised before, the chartplotter was easy for me to learn, and I became navigator and skipper while underway.

Cruising Mexico - living aboard a sailboat To Do List

Mark keeps us on track with our boat chores. Notice: “clean bilge” is not yet crossed off…

In our RVing life I never tow the trailer and rarely drive the truck.  Last time I tried parking the rig, I put us exactly perpendicular to the spot I was aiming for.  Mark’s last docking experience with the boat went just about as well.  So this division of labor has been a happy one.

I love technical things and understand the theory of many things on the boat, and I got a huge kick out of researching and specifying the boat’s major system upgrades.  But when it comes to holding a wrench I am still flustered by which end is which.  Mark was a professional service engineer for Xerox’s high speed (room sized) printers and grew up working on cars.  He is a master when it comes to electro-mechanical troubleshooting and installation.

Mexico cruising living aboard a sailboat and cleaning the bilge

I like using a kid’s bazooka water gun to clean the bilge!

So, in exchange for putting all the responsibility for all the boat’s systems squarely in his lap, I volunteered to keep the bilge clean.

Having a clean bilge makes it is easier to notice when something isn’t right.  Water in the bilge must be coming from somewhere.  Is it salt water or fresh water?  Guess who gets to find out!  Hopefully if a chemical is leaking into the bilge it isn’t lethal!!

In our earliest days in Huatulco, “clean bilge” went on the to-do list (our engine’s packing gland material is getting old, so it drips now).  Mark had the luxury of taking a snooze next to the open bilge compartment when he finished his items on the To Do list!  I dawdled as long as I could.

Cruising Mexico living aboard a sailboat

Boat work done? Take a snooze!

I’ve found the easiest way to get water out of the bilge is to use a kid’s bazooka water gun.  Ours has a pointy end that can get into the crevices, and it soaks up a good bit of water that can then be squirted in a pail.  Doing a final squeegee pull with fresh water before putting the toy away has kept it in good working order.

cruising mexico sailing mexico living aboard clean bilge

There, it’s done, and we have a clean bilge once again.

Living on the hook means that going ashore requires either a swim or a boat ride.  So taking out the trash requires loading it in the dinghy first, and then finding a trash barrel on shore somewhere to throw it away.

The kayak works for this task too.  The cool thing is that after the trash is gone you’re free to go exploring either on foot ashore or in the kayak.

cruising mexico living aboard a sailboat taking out the trash

Time to take out the trash!

Getting the laundry done also means loading it up in the dinghy and then lugging it to a laundromat — that is, if there is a laundromat somewhere nearby!  In most Mexican ports laundry service isn’t hard to find.

cruising life aboard a sailboat hand washing laundry

Everyday we wash yesterday’s clothes in the sink. We wear light clothing around here and it’s an easy task.

Here in Huatulco the laundromat is a cab ride away — in addition to the dinghy ride to shore.  Once you get there a woman washes and folds it for you (for 15 pesos per kilo, or about $4-$5 USD per load).  But you don’t get it back til the next day!!  (Ahem — that means another combo dinghy ride / cab ride to pick the laundry bags up…).  If you splurge and stay at the marina, you can have your laundry picked up and delivered back to the boat for 20 pesos a kilo…

liveaboard cruising mexico drying clothes in the rigging

Luckily there are lots of places to hang the laundry out to dry

So, to avoid the laundry hassle while living on the hook, we’ve found it’s easiest just to wash out yesterday’s clothes in the sink each morning and hang ’em out to dry.  Luckily our clothes down here consist of bathing suits, running shorts and light shirts. We haven’t worn shoes and socks since we got here.

I’ve learned that what gives our clothes that “clean” smell from a washer/dryer is the fact that they don’t get fully rinsed out.  So we always rinse our clothes to a point — but leave enough soap in them so they smell nice after hanging on the line.  Sheets and towels have to wait for real laundry service, however…

living aboard a sailboat cruising mexico changing zincs

Mark gets ready to install new zincs

cruising mexico living on a sailboat bottom cleaning

Tools for the bottom: scraper, new zincs, scotch brite pad…


We both keep the bottom of the hull as clean as possible.  In some places (like Zihuatanejo), the barnacles grow so fast you have to scrape the bottom with scrapers every few days.  In other places (like the Sea of Cortez and Huatulco), you can merely wipe the bottom with a towel to get the algae slime off.  It takes a lot of breath to get to the bottom of the keel, though, and Mark is much better at that than I am.  So I do the hull and he gets the keel and scrapes the prop.

Electrolysis in the water, especially at marinas, can eat a prop down to nothing in no time.  So we put sacrificial “zincs” on the prop and shaft that are made of that softer metal.

Living aboard cruising Mexico changing zincs

Screwdriver and zinc in hand, you gotta get down there and get it attached all in one breath.

Cruising on a sailboat in Mexico new zincs

A new zinc is installed on the prop shaft

Over time, these zincs get eaten away by the electrolysis instead, sparing the prop shaft and blades’ slightly harder metal.

However, the zincs are not that easy to install.  Mark makes it look like a piece of cake, completing the task in just a few free dives.  I would be spluttering and drowning and would probably drop the screw driver or the zinc in the sand deep below the boat, never to be found again…

Bountiful fresh water is critical to a comfortable life aboard, and we get our fresh water from a “watermaker” that converts ocean water into drinking water.

Cruising mexico making water with the watermaker underway

We go out to clean deep water to “make water”

This is a rather miraculous system, and our watermaker is enormous by cruising standards, converting 60 gallons of water an hour by pushing it through a strainer first (to remove the fish and sea creatures) then through two filters (to remove the algae) then through two 4′ long high pressure membranes (to remove the salt, bacteria and viruses).

Cruising mexico there is frequent red tide

Wow – clean water!! Such a special treat. Red tide is an unfortunate fact of life on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

The system is rated for 38 gallons an hour, but after the two membranes failed in our first season, the manufacturer (EchoTec) kindly replaced them with high capacity membranes, so now we fill a gallon jug in 63 seconds.  It’s quite thrilling to watch.  Shower water, toilet water and deck cleaning water all go into our holding tanks (140 gallons), but we keep our drinking water in gallon jugs as a habit held over from living in our trailer.

Mark hated the watermaker the first year.  It was a bear to install due to inaccurate manuals, incomplete parts shipped to us, and difficult positions for the various parts in the boat.  Plus, installation required fabricating a bracket to hang the high pressure pump from the engine.

To top it all off, the first membranes we received were dead on arrival.  Then the replacement set failed after four months!  Now, however, with great, working membranes, the watermaker is his pride and joy (“I want to keep it even if we sell the boat someday!” he joked recently).  It is his favorite part of the boat.

cruising mexico in a sailboat EchoTech watermaker

EchoTec’s main watermaker panel. At 800 psi the system pegs at 60 gph.

sailing mexico watermaker installation

Mark runs a hose to the deck to wash it down as we make water

The purity of the water is measured by a TDS meter (“total dissolved solids”), and we found the San Diego water supply at our son’s apartment got readings of 350, and the FDA limit is 500.  Our watermaker usually gives us readings between 75 and 95.

Most boats our size have systems that convert 6-13 gallons an hour.  However, we’ve found the 60-gallon-an-hour flow is fast enough to be able to wash the deck and cockpit with a hose run out a hatch.  This is a real boon at the end of a salty crossing or after sitting in a dusty area for a while.  So, making water and/or washing the cockpit/deck is often on our day’s to-do list.

sailing mexico watermaker 60 gph

60 gallons per hour gives a good flow

Then there’s food.  We are simple eaters, so our diet is pretty plain by most standards.  In Mexico we’ve discovered many familiar foods can be found on store shelves, even if the packaging is in Spanish.

The most common bread available in Mexico is “Bimbo Bread,” which is equivalent to our Wonder Bread.  But it turns out that Mexico’s Bimbo Bakeries actually owns the US brands Oroweat, Arnold, Thomas’s English Muffins and many others.

ex-pat living in mexico buying bread

Oroweat Bread is owned by Mexico’s Bimbo Bakeries

We’ve found Oroweat breads in most supermarkets in Mexico, and the price of around $3 to $3.50 USD is comparable to home.

Mexico cruising ex-pat living cereal

“Azucaradas” sounds & looks like kids’ sugar cereal

mexico cruising sailing blog living aboard quaker cereal


It helps to learn some of the basic food terms in Spanish: “avena” (oatmeal), “integral” (whole wheat), “grano entero” (whole grain), “pasas” (raisins) and “azucar” (sugar) are a few.  So when you see a cereal called “Azucaradas” with a crazy, wild zebra on it, you can tell it’s probably a sugar cereal for kids!

In this age of jet-setting food, we’re used to seeing tomatoes from Mexico in the supermarkets in the US, but what a surprise to find Washington apples here in Mexico as well as organically grown California spinach.


California organic Spinach is imported into Mexico

Did this spinach bring a passport?

This spinach was a bit wilted (it’s a long flight for a little leaf!), and the price was $6 USD a box. But it’s available.

Bean burritos are a common dinner aboard Groovy.  They’re yummy, easy to make and don’t take a lot of ingredients.  But I was amused when I asked our friend Andrés from southern Mexico if he’d like a bean burrito, and he responded, “Is that an American dish or a Mexican one?”  What we always thought of as being so very Mexican isn’t really…

cruising mexico sailing blog living aboard movies

Matt Damon & Scarlett Johansson – We’ll take it!

At night we often settle in with a movie.  TV reception is non-existent on the boat, but the bootleg DVD industry is alive and well in Mexico.  DVD’s are sold on the street for 20 to 30 pesos apiece ($1.60-$2.40 USD).  The titles often have no resemblance to the English titles, so you go by the actors’ names and hope for the best.  Who knows what this one is, but with Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, it oughtta be okay!

Mexico cruising living aboard a sailboat in Huatulco Mexico

Groovy is happily anchored off a lovely resort in Tangolunda Bay, Huatulco





So we live rather simply, floating in a tub on the ocean and washing our clothes in the sink!  It’s a crazy life, but lately it has been fabulous.



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Huatulco to Zihuatanejo – Nature and solitude on a peaceful coastal passage

Underway sailing from Huatulco to Zihuatanejo Sail blog

Once underway we got excited about the thrills that lay ahead.

Late January, 2013 – It was hard for us to leave Huatulco, but once we got underway we began thinking about the adventures that lay ahead of us. Suddenly we were excited to be on our way to the funky town of Zihuatanejo.

Life on a long passage has a different pace than life at anchor or on land, and it always takes us a while to settle in. We had a lovely sunny day to start our passage, but not quite enough wind to sail without having the engine running at the same time.  We hung out in the cockpit and watched the world inch by.

Whale tale puerto escondido cruising blog

Mark saw the breach… all I caught was the tail end.

We had 55 hours or so at sea ahead of us before we reached Zihuatanejo 350 miles away, so what was the rush to do anything? Then Mark suddenly jumped up, “Did you see THAT??!!” I followed where he was pointing and saw an enormous splash and spray of water about 100 yards from the boat.

A whale had breached and fallen back into the water. We scrambled for the cameras and got all set up for the next breach, but it never came. There were four whales traveling north, and they lobbed alongside us for a few minutes. Then, one by one, they dove deep into the water.

puerto escondido coastline sailing blog

Sailing closer to shore makes a more interesting voyage.

People often ask us how far out we travel, and usually we follow the coastline about two miles offshore. But on this passage we decided to stay within one mile so we could see the shoreline better. The little communities that dot this part of this coast slowly came and went, sometimes giving us internet access for a little while, and always offering us something to look at through the binoculars. Traveling at 6-8 mph, we would laugh now and then and say, “Are we there yet?”  We could jog faster!!

sunset at sea on groovy sailing blog

Sunset at sea…

The sun finally began to set and we watched it slip into the sea. We hadn’t seen any other boats all day, and we were still alone on the ocean. We had only each other to share this precious moment. There is something both primal and eerie about watching the sun fall out of the sky at sea. The brilliant colors of its last wave goodbye are comforting, but night steals over the sky all too fast.

We put on our harnesses, clipped ourselves onto the line that traverses the cockpit, and waited for darkness to fill our world. We hadn’t run our jacklines, those safety lines that go around the perimeter of the boat and make it possible to walk the full length of the deck on a moveable leash.  Huatulco had made us lazy! However, in 20 nights or so at sea we had never had to leave the cockpit of the boat, so the jacklines had been unnecessary to date. What were the chances we’d need to go out on deck to fix something on this very calm night?

underway night sailing passage cruising blog

We keep the cabin dimly lit at night to retain our night vision as much as possible.

We also spend most of our nights at sea down in the cabin, poking our heads into the cockpit every 15 minutes to look around, check the radar and check our progress. Groovy barrels along in the pitch dark under the guidance of the autopilot, and we just hope there’s nothing in our path.

 full on groovy sail blog

The full moon’s light plays on our ensign.

The moon rose like an old friend behind us and we played around trying to capture its essence with the cameras for a while.

The boat was gently riding up and down over the waves, so the combination of a moving platform and dim lighting conspired to make blurry photos. But I loved the effect Mark got with our flag and the moon.

The small waves in the early evening became large rollers by midnight, rushing towards us with lots of speed and enthusiasm. Groovy was doing a flying crash-dance, riding up a wave until half airborne and then falling into the trough behind it.

It was a magic carpet ride, especially on the innerspring mattress in the v-berth. The springs and the boat’s motion levitated me into the air on a spongy ride. Occasionally I bounced like I was on a trampoline. Lying there on my back, I was traveling feet first, and it seemed very much like being on a luge. The waves noisily slapped the hull on either side of me and the boat rolled and pitched while the mattress bounced and flexed. Sleep? Are you kidding?? Mark wisely took a spot on a settee in the middle of the boat (where the motion is less bouncy) when he was off-watch, and he got some really good shut-eye.

Dawn, after a night at sea, has a slightly raw feeling to it, and this morning was no different. A hot shower and some coffee and tea helped us shake the night away, and we puttered around looking for things to keep us occupied. The wind was still too light for sailing without the engine. Mark threw a hand-line off the transom to try and catch something. Suddenly it went taught with a fish jerking the other end.

skip jack tuna sailing blog

Is this one good eating??

He reeled in the silver beauty, hoping for a dorado (mahi-mahi), while I hoped it would be something inedible we could throw back. These things don’t come with signs on them saying, “I make a really great fillet – just toss me in the frying pan with butter and some veggies…” Instead, we studied the fish and studied the fish book. It appeared to be a Pacific Bonito, not the best tasting. So back he went, vanishing as soon as his fins hit the water.

Soon we had another fish on the line, and it was the same type of fish. Back it went, again to my relief, as butchering a large fish in the cockpit is quite bloody and rather barbaric. Yet the thrill of getting a fish on the hook is undeniable.  Ironically, studying the fish book and our photos a few hours later, we realized these fish were Mexican Bonito, which is said to be quite tasty. Oops!!

blue water of acapulco sailing blog

The ocean near Acapulco is the bluest we’ve seen in Mexico.

The water outside of Acapulco is about the bluest we’ve seen anywhere, and for miles we admired the beautiful shades that played between the waves.

acapulco shoreline sailing blog

Even outer Acapulco’s skyline has lots of highrises.

As we approached Acapulco in the late afternoon after 34 hours or so at sea, the shoreline began to fill in with high-rise buildings.

Many have an industrial sameness about them, but one was curved, making us wonder at first if something was up with the binocular lenses!!

We had been planning to do another night at sea, arriving in ZIhuatanejo the following afternoon. But we suddenly realized Acapulco would make a great stopover. Staying here we could reach Zihuatanejo in two day-sails rather than do another overnight at sea. Yay!

hillside resorts puerto marques sail blog

Pretty villas perch on the cliffs in Puerto Marques.

Rounding the bend into Puerto Marques, a pretty bay south of Acapulco’s main bay, the buildings became picturesque villas that clung to the edges of the cliffs on stilts and undoubtedly made for very swank living.

puerto marques sailing blog

Our private little corner in Puerto Marques on the outskirts of Acapulco’s main bay.

What a great little spot to spend a few days, get some quality sleep, and break up the trip! We dropped the hook to the sounds of parrots in the trees and watched the lights in the resort next to us come on one by one.

The next day vacationers circled us in small tour boats, and a luxury charter megayacht joined us in the anchorage. A little sailboat glinted in the sun and made orange reflections in the water as it went past.

 puerto marques sunfish sail blog

A little sailboat’s sail reflects orange in the water of Puerto Marques.

There is always something that needs a little TLC on a boat, and this time it was the engine’s packing gland, a sleeve that wraps around the drive shaft and seals out the salt water. It can be adjusted so just the right amount of salt water drips into the bilge, around one drip ten or fifteen seconds. Ours had been dribbling a little faster than that.

puerto marques sunfish sail blog

Riding a late afternoon breeze.








packing gland wrench cruising blog

Mark is ready to tackle the packing gland.

The small wrench in Mark’s right hand here is a specialty “packing gland wrench.” But the big wrench in his left hand is what he had to use the first time he cracked the frozen locking nut on our new-to-us boat after the specialty wrench broke. Now he uses both together (West Marine warrantied the broken one) and it spins freely. Where do we store an enormous wrench like that? Under the mattress, of course!!

sunrise over acapulco hills sail blog

The sun rises over Acapulco’s hills in our wake.

After a few days we got up one morning before dawn and sailed out of Puerto Marques.  Looking back over our transom, we watched the sun rise in rich shades of red and orange over the hills of Acapulco in our wake.

cruising passage making sailing blog

Gliding up the coast at 7 mph.

cruising passagemaking sailing blog

Passage-making is hard work (smile!).

Passagemaking is a pretty tranquil thing to do on hot sunny days. Between naps, Mark kept an eye on all the boat’s systems.


He monitored the new alternator’s performance and was happy to see it cranking out nearly 80 amps.  The new Smart Charger that had overheated on our last long tropical passage stayed nice and cool in its new home outside the engine compartment.

clamp-on volt meter alternator sail blog

The clamp-on volt meter shows the new alternator is working.

At the end of the day, we pulled into Papanoa, a little fishing village with a small breakwater to protect us from the ocean for the night. There isn’t much there other than seabirds, fishermen and a palapa bar that hosted happy local patrons until the wee hours of the morning.

Papanoa anchorage palapas cruising blog

The palapa bar at Papanoa, a small fishing harbor.

Papanoa anchorage pelicans sail blog

Papanoa anchorage weighing anchor cruising blog

Weighing anchor in Papanoa’s tiny harbor.

Papanoa anchorage lighthouse sailing blog

Morning light on Papanoa’s lighthouse and breakwater.









We weighed anchor in beautiful and peaceful morning light, and we puttered out of the harbor shortly after the fishermen had gone out to sea for the day’s catch.

What a delight it was a little while later when a school of leaping manta rays started hurling themselves out of the flat calm water nearby.

These alien looking creatures seem to love leaping into the sky and doing somersaults.

Manta rays leaping Mexico sail blog

Leaping manta rays.

Manta rays leaping Mexico sailing blog

One going up and one going down.

manta rays leaping sailing blog

Sheer joy at being alive!

Perhaps scientists know of a survivalist reason they do this, but to us it looks like they are so happy to be alive they just want to jump for joy.  We should all feel that way!!

Before long the lighthouse that marks the entrance to Zihuatanejo came into view.
We rounded the bend and were greeted with the familiar and colorful sight of Zihuatanejo Bay.

zihuatanejo lighthouse sailing blog

A welcome sight – Zihuatanejo’s lighthouse.

zihuatanejo bay entrance cruising blog

Coming into the bay in Zihuatanejo.

The memories of our many past days in this anchorage came flooding over us, and we found a quiet spot in the corner off of Las Gatas Beach to set up housekeeping for a few weeks. It had been an enjoyable passage, full of natural wonders and solitude. Now it was time to meet up with some other cruisers and enjoy the sights of Z-town.

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Huatulco Farewell – Fabulous Memories of a great stay

Playa Entrega Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Playa Entrega is one of Huatulco’s best beaches.

Late January, 2013 – After all the fun we’d had with our new friends on the luxurious properties of Villa Escondida and Las Palmas, we wondered if we would ever have the heart to leave Huatulco, Mexico. This little seaside community had enchanted us for three months.

Huatulco Mexico Cruise Ship Dock sailing blog

View of the cruise ship dock from our boat.

Santa Cruz Bay Huatulco Mexico Cruise Ship Dock sail blog

Pier in the little Santa Cruz harbor.

Pelican Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

A pelican checks us out.

For two of those months we had been anchored in Santa Cruz Bay.

We had been there so long that the exposed part of our anchor had become encrusted with barnacles. I guess that’s the cruising equivalent of putting down roots!!

As we began thinking about leaving, we realized we would have to spend at least one night at sea. Although there are a few marginal places to stay overnight along this coast, none sounded all that inviting until Acapulco, which is 210 nautical miles away. Traveling at an average of 6-7 knots, that’s a minimum of 30 hours “on the road.” Zihuatanejo was 140 miles further.

Full Moon on ocean Sailing Mexico blog

Full moon at sea.

It is much easier to see at night on the ocean when there is a full (or nearly full) moon. Otherwise there is no horizon, and the ocean and the sky become indistinguishable. It’s very eerie.

Guitar singer Huatulco Mexico sail blog

This guitarist belted out “Alla en el rancho grande” to everyone’s delight.

Having a moon in the sky is also more comforting, as those inky black waves lapping the outside of the hull from the pitch dark bottomless depths can wreak havoc on your imagination.

So we had planned to leave when the moon was full, or as close to full as possible. That would be at the end of the month, which gave us plenty of time to prepare.

We slowly made the rounds to our favorite places to say “goodbye.” Over at Santa Cruz beach we enjoyed final beach-side beers served by two waiters we had befriended, Eugenio and Martín.

Waiter Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Eugenio brings joy to patrons.

Orange fronted Parrots Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

The parrots smooched in the trees every night.

And after having watched the strolling guitarist-singers for months, we finally asked one to play us a song. We chose “Alla en el rancho grande,” after listening to an inspiring rendition of this song on a CD by our friend, cowboy poet Don Cadden.

The guitarist did a fabulous job and got a round of applause from everyone in the beach bar. I was so tickled to have captured it on video that I forgot to find out his name…

We walked the docks and got final pics of whatever we could think of — all those special things we’d seen day after day and wanted to take with us as images to reminisce with in the future.

One of our favorite hangouts had been in the middle of the charming town square in Santa Cruz where there was a little kiosk bistro calle Cafe Huatulco. It is a delightful place to while away an afternoon or evening, and during our time in Huatulco we had spent many an hour there.

Santa Cruz kiosk Cafe Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

The pretty town square in Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz town square Huatulco Mexico sail blog

A great place to enjoy an ice cream coffee drink.

Santa Cruz town square Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

We loved the huge, exotic shade trees in the town square.

So back we went to find a shady spot under the truly exotic and enormous trees for one last frappé ice-cream-coffee drink. Yum!

One of the crazy things about writing a blog is that sometimes you realize after the fact that a past post is missing something important.

And so it was with our pictures from Villa Escondida. One of Mark’s favorites that he took while we were there was of a little statue decoration in the house that I’ve added here.

Fat lady statue Huatulco Mexico sail blog

She looks like we always felt after those yummy frappés.

This chubby lady must have just been to Cafe Huatulco and slurped down one of those tasty ice cream coffee frappés.

Coffee ice cream drinks Huatulco Mexico sailing blog









Fixing the boat alternator Mexico cruising blog

Installing the new alternator – fun fun fun!

When we first arrived in Huatulco, around Halloween, we discovered that our 35 hour dash across the Gulf of Tehuantepec had fried the “smart charger” on our alternator. This little gizmo controls how much current the engine alternator puts into the batteries.

We learned the hard way that these smart chargers are extremely heat sensitive. We had made the crossing motor-sailing at a slightly faster pace than our usual cruising speed, and the ambient temperature in the cabin had been well over 90 degrees F the whole time.

The cruising life aboard groovy Mexico sailing blog

This is more like it – real fun!

To top it off, the original installation of the smart charger was right next to the engine in an enclosed compartment. That is a recipe for disaster!

Marimba Santa Cruz Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Playing the marimba on the beach.

Since we had already had the alternator rebuilt once, we decided to buy a new alternator / smart charger kit.

Bringing things into Mexico is not easy, and we went down various avenues to try to figure out how to get our hands on one of these kits. After four weeks of hemming and hawing, West Marine had told us it would cost $953 to ship the 20 lb. kit to Marina Chahué in Huatulco.

Cruise ship Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Huatulco’s roots are fishing but it’s now a beautiful tourist destination.

That fee didn’t include the purchase price of the kit, the California sales tax, or the Mexican import duty! Geez. For that price, rather than shipping the part, one of us could fly to San Diego, pick one up, and bring it back!! So much for working with West Marine.

Kiskadee Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

This little kiskadee has a great big voice!

We explored other methods, but each had its issues and complications. Then our hero and friend Ron from Las Palmas offered to bring one down when he flew back to Huatulco after a trip home. Wow. What a godsend!! We couldn’t believe our good luck.

Tropical bird Huatulco Mexico sail blog

What is it?

Pelicans Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Pelicans flying overhead remind us there are many more distant horizons to explore.


Fortunately, Huatulco was an awesome place to hang around while we were sorting all these things out. However, after months of glorious fun visiting orchards, playing on the beach, making new friends and prancing around five star resorts like royalty, Mark finally got down to business and installed the new alternator and smart charger (he gave that little beastie a cool room of its own outside the engine compartment).  So, very sadly, it appeared it was at last time for us to move on.

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Gulls line up on a buoy facing the sun.

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Gorgeous San Agostín beach… discovered on our last day (sigh!)

We checked the calendar again and suddenly realized the full moon was coming much sooner than we’d expected. Oh no! Suddenly the gradual goodbyes and leave-taking I had imagined got compressed into a few very busy days.

Reef Fish Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Fish on the reef at San Agostín beach.





On our last day in Huatulco, we took some friends on a daysail out to the northernmost bay, San Agostín, where we discovered yet another snorkeling paradise on a sensational reef. What an amazing place these Bays of Huatulco are. We could easily stay for another month! But we had to go… Or did we??

Reef Fish Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Baby wrasses

Our friends caught a cab back to Santa Cruz while we prepared the boat for a double overnight 350 mile passage to Zihuatanejo, our emotions in turmoil.

“Well, now we’ve got to break down the dinghy and tie it on deck,” Mark said as the sun was setting. I made a face. He made a face back. Did we really have to go? There would be another full moon in a month. Why not stay four more weeks? We both sighed.

“All right, all right…” he suddenly said. “Let’s stick around another month.”

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Sunset on Groovy… goodbye Huatulco!!

We both grinned, happy to abandon the dinghy breakdown project. We toasted our sudden and brilliant decision to stay in Huatulco instead, and went to bed planning to sail back to Santa Cruz Bay the next day. However, overnight we both changed our minds yet again. We could easily have stayed in Huatulco forever, but more adventures surely awaited us up ahead.

Next morning we broke down the dinghy and packed up the boat and began our 350 mile sail to Zihuatanejo. But, as so often happens in this crazy traveling lifestyle, we didn’t stick to our plans for very long.  While underway we changed our itinerary one more time…

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Huatulco – Las Palmas Villas on picturesque Playa Violin – Gorgeous!

Late January, 2013 – After seeing the beautiful beach house, Villa Escondida at Playa La Bocana, we had the good fortune to spend more time at the dazzling resort of Las Palmas. The Gulf of Tehuantepec had gotten into a particularly unpleasant mood lately, and life aboard Groovy at anchor in Santa Cruz Bay had become a struggle to hang on for dear life as we lurched about in the rolling waves.  Bruises showed up on our arms and legs in the craziest places, coffee cups went flying periodically, and dishes in the microwave did drunken dances as the carousel spun them around.  Groovy was taking us for wild rides – at anchor!

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Las Palmas – Just Stunning!!!

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

A romantic spot by one of the pools.

Our new friends at Las Palmas graciously invited us up for a little more time off the boat. What a magnificent place to regain our balance and get our shore legs back!  It was truly divine to kick back in a lounge chair poolside.  Of course those shore legs took a while to return.  Going into small spaces like a showers and bathrooms, everything seemed to spin like a whirligig.  Staggering around the resort, we grabbed doorways and walls so we wouldn’t fall over!

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

The outdoor breakfast nook…

But the world stopped spinning after a little while, and what utterly awesome beauty surrounded us at Las Palmas.  It is a place that is made up of one spectacular view after another. Mark and I nearly wore out our cameras, because we could barely take a step anywhere without seeing yet another image that knocked our socks off.

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

President of Paradise

The owner, Ron, signs his emails, “The President of Paradise,” and it’s the perfect title. High up on a hill, surrounded by lovingly nurtured palm trees and tropical flowers, with majestic views all around, it really is paradise.

A “color sketch” image I created on my camera from a photo of one of the casita doorways had an almost Mediterranean look.

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Nikon’s “color sketch” gives it a Mediterranean look.

But the climate here isn’t Mediterranean. It’s hot hot hot, and frequent dips in the pool are a must (oh, darn!).

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Sunset lights up some flowers on a roof deck.

As sunset fell one evening, Ron led us up onto one of the many rooftop terraces.

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The climate keeps you jumping in the pool… what a shame!

We stood there with a group of other guests and watched the most dramatic sunset unfold before us.

Down in the bay aboard Groovy we had been missing the sunsets because a row of tall hills blocked much of the western horizon. Up here, however, nothing was blocking anything, and we stood in a row in our bare feet and wet bathing suits, gawking at nature’s incredible colors.

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

This sunset was a jaw-dropper for everyone standing with us on the roof deck…

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Life at Las Palmas is pretty relaxed. Almost every room of every house opens onto a balcony or terrace or large deck, and you wander deliciously from indoors to outdoors, from living room to swimming pool, from kitchen to pool bar without taking more than a few steps.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Looking back towards Santa Cruz Bay where Groovy waited patiently








Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sail blog

A rowboat on windswept Barra de la Cruz.

The views sweep both eastward towards town and westward towards Huatulco’s outer bays, depending on where you stand. And every part of the resort is easily accessed by short paths and a few stairs here and there, making you feel like the whole property is your own personal estate.

Barra Huatulco Mexico sailing blog


One afternoon Ron took us on a road trip out to Barra de la Cruz, a long, windswept beach that is a local favorite for surfing. We had thought the surf would be up, because a Tehuantepecker was still blowing ferociously, but the waves were actually small and confused that day.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Cactus are friends with the ocean all along Mexico’s Pacific coast.

However, the beach was lovely to stroll on, and we had fun posing and playing with a few props we found along the way.

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Playa Violin – clear and inviting.

Back at Las Palmas, we took a morning walk one day down to Playa Violin, the beach that fills the majority of the views from the resort’s hilltop spot.  The path in the woods peaks out at the beach here and there.


Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Craggy rocks line the shores of Playa Violin.

The surprising thing about all of Mexico’s Pacific coast is that cactus grows everywhere. Cactus and the ocean don’t seem like they’d be close companions, but very often they are.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

A corner of the beach at Playa VIolin.

The water was particularly blue and clear that morning, so we rushed down to the beach with snorkeling gear to see who we could meet up with in the ocean.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Fish swim just below the surface.



Playa Violin is small beach tucked into the end of a narrow cove that is hugged on each side by steep cliffs. It would be an ideal anchorage, except these rock walls extend out into the water, crowding out the little bit of sand that is in the middle of the bay, and robbing boats of any possible swing room at anchor.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

The fish were abundant.


The rocks form wonderful canyons underwater, however, and the fish are plentiful. We didn’t see any exotic big guys like rays or turtles, but the huge schools of small fish were abundant.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Some wildflowers lured Mark off the path.

Nearby we found some beautiful flowers in bloom. Of course, Mark loves taking wildflower photos, so he was delighted to discover a few exotic ones he didn’t recognize and then he saw the familiar Regina which we first learned about at the beautiful orchards of Hagia Sofia.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sailing blog Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico cruising blog regina

When we first arrived in Huatulco the day after Halloween, we thought we might stay a few weeks. But this is a place that grabs your heart and doesn’t let go. We had heard a saying from some of our local friends that if you eat iguana in Huatulco you will never leave. Well, we hadn’t tried iguana yet, but it didn’t seem to matter. Leaving was something we just didn’t want to do!!

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Huatulco’s Villa Escondida – A beach bonfire with new friends

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Surf at Playa La Bocana

Late January, 2013 – Huatulco is a small community where people not only run around in crazy vehicles designed for short hops on small roads, but where visitors and residents easily become friends. Every time we landed at the dinghy dock, the guard Antonio would call out, “Groovy, Groovy!” and a chorus of friendly greetings from the tour boat operators and other people around the docks would follow as we emerged onto the streets.

Surfing Playa La Bocana Huatulco sailing Mexico blog

Playa La Bocana is a favorite surf beach








Surfing Playa La Bocana Huatulco sailing Mexico blog

Hang on!!

We ended up chatting with the many street vendors day after day, practicing our Spanish and learning a little about them. And whenever we went to “The Ché” (Huatulco’s sole supermarket), we invariably bumped into someone we had recently come to know.

It seems that everyone who visits Huatulco quickly agrees it is an unsung paradise worthy of frequent return visits. The winter residents are a tight knit group too, and suddenly we had a new circle of friends from the US and Canada who had vacation homes here.

Surfing Playa La Bocana Huatulco sailing Mexico blog





We’ve found that most Huatulco tourists have vacationed for years in other more well-known parts of Mexico before discovering this quiet jewel. We spent many happy hours chatting with very well traveled folks from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico City and Europe.

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Entering Villa Escondida



I hadn’t realized it at first, but my various blog posts about our wonderful experiences in Huatulco had developed a little bit of a local following. Online sharing travels quickly, and without intending to, my pics and stories had garnered interest from many of the good people that have invested in Huatulco and want to see good vibes about it advertised in an understated, “word of mouth” way. Writing strictly from the heart — as I always have — about our many fun escapades here, I discovered I was inadvertently helping their cause.

Villa Escondida Playa La Bocana Huatulco cruising Mexico blog

There are huge views to the beach from every room.


Out of the blue, we received an email message from the people at (which we later discovered is a local vacation property rental company). The email invited us to meet up with their team at one of the properties they represent to share a dinner and a beach bonfire together at Playa La Bocana.

Now, mind you, we’ve received our fair share of emails from lottery winning Nigerian chieftains that are dying to give us a portion of their winnings if we’ll just mail them a certified check for ten grand.

Playa La Bocana Villa Escondida Huatulco cruising Mexico blog

Views from Villa Escondida hang like paintings on the wall.

But this was different. For one thing, the email message didn’t have any spelling mistakes or that wacky English grammar typical of those Nigerian internet pranksters. Better yet, all we had to do was show up at Villa Escondida on Playa La Bocana.

We love La Bocana’s stunning, windswept, rugged surf beach, where nature plays with a raw kind of wildness and abandon. So what a thrill it was to to be entertained at a gorgeous beach house we had admired from a distance on our previous visits.

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View from up top.

Stately and grand, with pillars, pools and views, this beautiful house sits right on the beach where the surf pounds with a mesmerizing roar, almost within arm’s reach. Mark and I rushed straight up to the roof deck to check out the views.

Villa Escondida Huatulco Playa La Bocana sail Mexico blog

Awesome views from the roof deck.

Loads of surfers were riding the waves, as the Gulf of Tehuantepec had been blowing with enthusiasm for a while. As we watched the surfers, our cameras clicked in unison. We soon realized the hot bikini clad girls had it all over the boys when it came to skill and survival in the waves, and we laughed as we said to each other, “It’s her! She’s up! Get it, get it!!.” The surfers flirted tirelessly with the unruly waves.

Villa Escondida Huatulco Playa La Bocana sail Mexico blog

Villa Escondida sits right on the beach.

Our hosts turned out to be a collection of fun-loving people that had arranged for a gourmet dinner to be served on fine linens and beautiful tableware overlooking the beach from the home’s breezy dining room. The occasion was a farewell feast for their Canadian contingent that had visited for ten days and was headed home the next day. With quiet grace, our chef announced and brought out course after course to the table, while the sun disappeared into the blackening sea just beyond the open windows.

View from Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Dinner in this dining room was exceptional

Exchanging wide-eyed glances, Mark and I kept secretly thinking about those microwaved bean burritos we would have otherwise  been having on the boat. Going from a sumptuous squash soup to an elaborately prepared quesadilla dish to a phenomenal main course that disappeared so quickly and went down so well I that have no idea what it was — except that it was awesome — all made us wonder if anyone at the table really knew just how down-and-dirty a cruiser’s lifestyle is…blogs be darned.

Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Villa Escondida

Vacationing in Huatulco can be glamorous: staying in a luxury property, dining on the finest foods, and taking a brief barefoot evening stroll in the sand while wearing an elegant dress and carrying a glass of expensive wine. Our companions for this evening were truly devoted to making those kinds of heavenly, tropical, dream vacations come true, and we were savoring a taste of what that is like.

Window View Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Pretty views…

But there is little of that kind of glamor living on a boat!! For us, most days bring the same old food from the same old chefs wearing rather tired clothes!! What a shock it was to be invited to stay in the honeymoon suite at this house, where the doors open onto a deck above the beach, the shower is as large as our stateroom, and plush, lily white robes awaited us after we bathed.

Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Beachside pool

Down on the beach, the bonfire went late into the night. Despite coming to Huatulco with two different perspectives — ours as two tourists on a boat loving the place and theirs as a group of business people seeking to give tourists the most pleasurable vacation experiences possible — we found we had a lot in common. For starters, like most people who have lived and traveled extensively in Mexico, we had all come to love Mexicans and being in Mexico.

Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Elegant and grand…

Our conversation ranged far and wide about how we’ve learned a new set of values by spending time here. The local people we have met value their family, friends and community in a way that many of us from more developed western nations have forgotten. The prize at the end of the rat race isn’t as eagerly sought after here, which gives everyone more time and energy to enjoy simply being themselves, rather than working so hard to be something else.

Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

As ex-pats living much of our lives in Mexico (and, for our hosts Judy and Valerie, running a business here), we have also each taken a big leap of faith to try a new lifestyle in a foreign country. Following your heart and pursuing your dreams is fulfilling in a way that nothing else can be.

Beach chairs Playa La Bocana Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

A great place for relaxing…

Yet it requires a degree of fearlessness to take that plunge. And then there’s the big dose of life lessons waiting for you when you splash back to the surface and sputter with mixed terror and glee: “What the heck did I just do?” We had all experienced both the immense satisfaction of living our dreams as well as that occasional deer-in-the-headlights shock of trying to square the dream with reality.

Beach bonfire Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Our beach bonfire went long into the night.




The sun rose in spectacular shades of orange the next morning, lighting up the beach in a burst of color. Mark and I took reams of photos while the fishing boats and seabirds puttered across the blue and orange waves.

Sunrise Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Sunrise view from the deck of Villa Escondida

Judy and Valerie, the key team members, had to run off early to tour yet another luxury vacation property (what a job they’ve created for themselves!), while Mark and I lingered at Playa La Bocana, soaking in the morning air as the beach slowly came to life.

It had been a night and morning to remember, and the beauty of the place and our lively late night conversation with new friends enveloped us in a warm feeling of contentment. In all our travels, truly our best adventures have been the ones that came looking for us.  How very cool and surprising it was to have this one seek us out online.

The Tropical Resort Vacation Gods kept watch over us a while longer, and suddenly we found ourselves back at Las Palmas Villas resort (which turned out to be another one of the gorgeous luxury vacation properties that represents).  What incredibly good fortune… We were on quite a roll!!!


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Huatulco on Wheels – The fun and funny vehicles of Huatulco Mexico!

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A group of motorcycles rides through town and ends up on the beach.

Mid-January, 2013 – Huatulco’s underwater world is truly glorious, with exotic aquatic creatures wriggling, swimming and soaring about.  But the above water world is full of land animals with equally unusual modes of transportation.  Ever since we arrived in Huatulco two months ago, we’ve been keeping tabs on all the crazy rolling contraptions we see around town.

The climate in Huatulco is sultry and hot (a winter “cold snap” dropped the mid-day highs down to 85 F for a few January days, but it didn’t last long!).  So most folks like to buzz around town in something breezy.

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A family zips through town

A group of motorcyclists showed up at the beach Playa Entrega one day in black leathers, bandanas and tattoos.  While we sat at the table next to them in the sand, we were impressed by the steady stream of ice-filled Corona buckets that arrived at their table all afternoon.  Other than speaking Spanish, this happy crowd was just like their Harley brothers up north!

motor scooters in huatulco cruising mexico blog

Two-up on a scooter with surf boards!

But big bikes are actually in a minority in Huatulco, as scooters and small motorized bikes are easier to maneuver on the narrow roads.  People often ride them two-up, and we saw one pair toting surf boards too.  Sometimes these scooters function as the family car, and it’s not uncommon to see Mom, Dad and a kid or two zooming past together.

bike with passenger seat huatulco sailing mexico blog

This bike has a custom wooden passenger seat


There are those who prefer traveling at slower speeds while getting some exercise, and they pedal around town on all types of bicycles.  One of the coolest bikes we saw had a special wooden passenger seat mounted on the top tube.  Very clever!

snack vendor on a trike huatulco cruising mexico blog

Snack vendors pedal (and peddle) all over town





Lots of snack vendors like to peddle their wares by pedaling a trike with all the goodies laid out in front of the driver.  You can either flag them down as they ride by, or catch up with them later when they set up shop under the shade of a tree.

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Chicken dinners and pizza get delivered by scooter



Even “pollo asado” (grilled chicken) and pizza delivery are done on two wheels in these parts.  The pizzas or chicken dinners are loaded into a big box on the back of the scooter and then buzzed out for delivery to homes and hotels.

tuk-tuk huatulco sail mexico blog

Tuk-tuks are handy for any small hauling job

Drinking water is often delivered in big trucks, but there are a few guys around town who use little converted tricycle tuk-tuks instead.  This is just too cute!!

water delivery tuk-tuk huatulco sail mexico blog

A little tuk-tuk makes bottled water deliveries





A tuk-tuk can also make a good miniature pickup. Whatever’s getting hauled, if it’s not too huge, a tuk-tuk truck bed is low-slung and makes it easy to load things in and out.

tuk-tuk and snack vendors huatulco sailing mexico blog

A tuk-tuk parked in front of two snack vendors with their trikes.

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Coconuts for sale!

Some folks simply operate their food service business right out of the back of a regular pickup truck.  Coconut meat and coconut milk drinks are very popular, and turning a truckload of coconuts into a pocketful of cash is just a matter of sitting there among the fruit, machete in hand, and slicing away as customers stop by.

watermelons in pickup huatulco sailing mexico blog

A truckload of watermelons comes to the fruit store






One day while we were standing in front of the row of “fruterías” (fruit stores) in town, a pickup full of watermelons parked in front of us and was soon unloaded onto the store shelves.  Talk about fresh fruit!

motorcycle cart huatulco sail mexico blog

Some motorcycles get set up for hauling too

If you’ve gotta haul stuff around town and don’t have a truck, another great option is to convert a motorcycle into a truck of sorts by removing the back wheel and replacing it with a two-wheeled cart.  Lots of motorcycles here lose their back ends to practical upgrades like this.

volkswagon motorscooter huatulco sailing mexico blog

A VW bug is transformed…



Sometimes the motorcycles get to keep their back end in the conversion but lose their front end instead.


volkswagon motorscooter huatulco sailing mexico blog

…into a VW / motorcycle combo gig

We passed one fellow who had lopped off the back of a VW bug and replaced it with the back of a motorcycle.  Since the VW had originally had its engine in the back, he’d apparently worked out the drive-train issues and was able to drive this gig around.

Volkswagons are hugely popular, and they get chopped and cropped and rebuilt in all kinds of wonderful ways.


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A snappy red VW grows up to live a truly outdoor life

We saw a red one that had been reworked to be something of a dune buggy, or golf cart, or very cute convertible.

black volkswagon dune buggy huatulco sail mexico blog

A cool VW bug conversion (without opening doors!)

A black one got a similar remake.  When it emerged from its overhaul, it no longer had opening doors.  We got a kick out of seeing the driver leap over the side into his seat before driving off.



One of the most popular rental vehicles for tourists is little convertible buggies. Every so often one will drive by. And why drive it alone if you can fit four?!

red dune buggy Huatulco sail blog

Buggies of all kinds zoom around town.

But we did a triple-take one day when we looked up the road and saw a whole group of these buggies barreling down a curvy road towards us.  What fun!

unicycle huatulco sail mexico blog

Going it alone…!!

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A group of dune buggies races toewards us

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Another class of ride…

A few lucky people in town have high end roadsters.  It sure would be nice to travel in style like that, though you’d want to be sure your bathing suit was dry and you’d brushed the beach sand off your feet before climbing in!!


In the end, if you need to get around Huatulco, having any kind of wheels is better than having no wheels at all.

And if you don’t have four wheels, and you can’t get your hands on two, just one will do!

We were getting such a kick out of cruising around the streets of Huatulco, that it came as quite a surprise when we received an invitation that swept us off the streets and back into the land of luxury for a night!!

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Huatulco Underwater – Snorkeling with colorful creatures

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Snowy egrets in Tangolunda Bay

Early January, 2013 – The holiday throngs in Huatulco’s towns and beaches disappeared abruptly on the Monday after New Year’s, and instantly the intimate and dreamy charm of the Bays of Huatulco returned.  We were back to our very quiet and peaceful days of milling around the bay under the tropical sun.

Enjoying snorkeling off Camino Real Zaashila in Huatuclo sail blog

This waterproof camera is cool!

Below the surface of the water, however, newcomers were showing up all the time — or at least they were newcomers to us.



We had been doing lots of snorkeling throughout our stay in Huatulco, and we’d checked out the underwater landscapes in several bays.  Our new waterproof Olympus Digital Camera TG-820 was a real joy, and we loved playing with it in the water.

Groovy's hull attracts fish in Huatulco sailing blog

Groovy’s hull supports a complete ecosystem.



Groovy always has a complete ecosystem living on the undersides of the hull, rudder and keel, including stuff that looks like lettuce, gelatinous creatures that look like a thin film of clear jello, tiny crabs and adorable minuscule striped fish.  Below them a crowd of larger fish circles eternally, and we hear strange crunching noises all night long.  Even when we go out sailing, our little fan club of fish regathers under the hull when we return, grateful for our shade and our smorgasbord of goodies growing on the bottom.

Snorkeling at Playa Entrega Huatulco cruising blog

Playa La Entrega is a snorkeler’s wonderland

Besides watching our own resident fish, the best place we’ve found for snorkeling in all of the Bays of Huatulco is Playa la Entrega.  This fabulous beach is in the main bay of Santa Cruz and seems an unlikely place for such phenomenal snorkeling, given how close it is to the village and harbor.

Trumpet fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

A trumpet fish swims by.

Its huge coral reef is roped off to boat traffic and is filled with canyons and caverns and very tame fish.  Crowds of eager snorkelers arrive by tour boat everyday and more crowds come on foot, by taxi or by car from town.

Puffer fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

This puffer fish is deflated…

So these fish are quite accustomed to flailing fins and bright orange life jackets and kids paddling their arms frantically at the surface.  They just move out of the way and keep doing what they do.

Inflated Puffer fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

A fully inflated puffer fish!

Polka dotted puffer fish are very common, but they are usually deflated to just their normal size.  What a surprise it was when another snorkeler held out an inflated puffer fish for everyone around to see.  It was like a little football in her hands.

Blue fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

These blue guys are everywhere.

We got a huge kick out of trying to learn to photograph fish underwater.  Problem is, they dart around so fast.  We have gazillions of photos of swishing fish tails disappearing into the distance.

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A king angel fish. Slightly blurry,
but oh, those colors!!






But occasionally we’d get lucky.  The king angel fish are gloriously colored, with a dark body that is trimmed in an iridescent outline of blue that you can see only when the sun hits it just right.

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These guys flash in the sunlight

Other fish are trimmed with glitter all over too.  Brilliant, flashing bits of blue, like blue sequins, seem to be a very popular fashion in this underwater world.

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Irridescent blue is a favorite trim color for these reef fish



Many of the reef fish are just the size of a fingernail, and they move like lightning!

Irridescent fish with coral Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

This one sports a blue sequin outfit.


Other very large creatures play in the depths in Huatulco too.  Every so often, while snorkeling along, we’d look up and see the fins and tanks of other people in the water — or we’d suddenly see each other after going in different directions.  But being with other people in this amazing pool of aquatic life never marred the experience.

Person snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

A different kind of fish!

Sometimes it was more fun to have other people around to share a little in the excitement.  We definitely felt like Jacques Cousteau’s explorers from his boat Calypso!

Gang of fish Jicaral huatulco sailing blog

A gang cruises past.

One of the amazing things to me was that many fish seem to prefer to stick together in tight groups.  I’d be swimming along, and suddenly a fleet of identical fish would sail by — quietly making their presence known in the ‘hood — kind of like a street gang.

Fish gang playa violin huatulco sailing blog

They’re going somewhere in a hurry!

Sometimes I’d be staring at a few solitary fish swimming around a coral head, watching them pecking at whatever yummy morsels they could find, and then there they’d be: The Gang. They’d saunter by like they owned the place.

Schools of fish playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

Playa La Entrega is teeming with fish.

I noticed the gangs would never intermingle.  Each gang would go its own way around each other, and the individual fish never got confused or got caught up with the wrong group.

Spotted eagle ray Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Spotting a spotted eagle ray totally made my day.

One day while snorkeling near the boat, a school of fish came zooming by us like their tails were on fire.  What the heck?!  Something was after them!  Not too many minutes later we saw an enormous spotted eagle ray soaring along the bottom.

Spotted eagle ray Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

This guy was unhurried and elegant

This unusual creature was like a bird flying low along the bottom of the sea, sweeping its wings in a gentle but powerful motion.  Then I saw a second one.

Spotted eagle ray Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Soaring over the bottom

They flew along together for a while and then parted again.  I was so grateful to have the waterproof camera with me!

Star fish (sea star) Santa Cruz Bay huatulco cruising blog

A lone star fish hung out near our boat


So it was particularly frustrating a few days later when I jumped in the water and discovered the camera had locked up.  None of the buttons would work.  Mark couldn’t come snorkeling because he had cut his knee badly when he was re-routing some wires in the boat earlier and had inadvertently taken a step back and fallen into an open bilge compartment, skinning his knee terribly in the process.  Ouch.  I wince now ever thinking about it.

Fish lips Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Fish lips – wanna kiss?!

So he took the camera to see what he could do with it.  “This will be the day you see something really awesome!”  He chuckled at me as I swam off.  I was really bummed not to have him with me and not to have the camera, but the wonderful steep rocks at the end of the point beckoned me, and I hoped I’d have a story or two to share with him later.  There was lots of wave action out at that point that and tons of tour boats were circling as well.  I was excited but a little unnerved as I snorkeled beyond familiar territory.

Sea Turtle Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Sea turtles came into our bay – what joy!

Then, rounding the last corner, I suddenly found myself nose to nose with a sea turtle.  Holy cow!  I spluttered and backed up as fast as I could.  And so did he!  He turned and started to swim out to sea. I couldn’t resist following him a ways.  The spray from the breakers made the water foamy white all around me, but every so often I could see his head peaking out of the spray as he swam off.

Sea turtle Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog 405

What a cool underwater sighting.

Unfortunately he wanted to go into the middle of the bay, so I turned back, only to see another turtle, right at my side!  Holy mackerel!  I followed him for a while, thinking, “Isn’t this just the way.  Alone, no camera, and two turtle sightings!  Wait til I tell Mark!”  The turtle swam at leisure, turning his head to look up at me every so often.  Then he dove down — to join another turtle that was below him nibbling on the anchor chain of our friend’s boat!  This was too much!!

Baby Jack fish Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Imagine these guys swimming with the turtle and getting a snack from his back!



I watched them swim with each other for a while and then made a beeline back to our boat, only to bump into a fourth turtle which turned out to be my best turtle sighting yet.  This one soared over the coral studded bottom in very shallow water as the sun’s rays played all around him.  I could make out the beautiful pattern on his shell and could have easily reached out and touched him.  On his back a school of bright yellow fish with tiger stripes nibbled at his shell, catching a ride and a meal to go.  We swam together for a glorious five minutes or so, and he never showed any concern about me, the fish on his back or anything else.  Just happy to be alive.

When I got back to the boat I was beside myself telling Mark my story, wishing he had been there, wishing the camera hadn’t broken, and just talking and talking and bursting with my thrilling news.  When I finally quieted down for a minute he said, “Well, you’ll be glad to know I fixed the camera!!”  What??!!!!  “I got it working just a few minutes after you left.  I tried to call you back, but you were too far away….”  Ohhhh oh oh oh oh!!!

Coral Landscape Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Coral landscapes are everywhere

He handed the camera back to me and I rushed off again, wanting to know how he fixed it but wanting to find my turtles again too.  They were still out there — sightings 5 and 6 for the day — and I got a few photos to share with Mark that evening.  But the image that will forever stay in my mind is that one of the turtle floating along over the colorful coral heads with the vibrant yellow fish hovering above him and nibbling goodies from his shell…

Colorful coral Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

There’s lots of color underwater in Huatulco

I found out that night that even though we had rinsed the camera thoroughly after each underwater use, the zoom button had gotten gummed up from a buildup of salt.  The camera was stuck in “zoom” mode and was too busy zooming to respond to any other buttons.  Mark sprayed the zoom button with “Salt Terminator,” a product we use to flush the salt out of our outboard engine before storing it.  Experimenting over the next few days, we found that the zoom felt a little sticky if we only rinsed it with fresh water, but if we used the Salt Terminator or even a little dishwashing soap, it came out sparkling clean and the zoom button retracted smoothly, as it was supposed to.

The underwater world of Huatulco has been such a thrill for us this season.  Fortunately, Mark’s knee has healed up nicely now, so with any luck we’ll spot a turtle or two together next time…

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Huatulco Holidays – Delightful Seaside Christmas & New Year’s Celebrations in the Tropics

Sailing Blog: La Crucecita Church Huatulco Mexico readies for the holiday

La Crucecita’s church gets ready for the holidays

Late December, 2012 – Our days at Playa La Bocana gave us a taste of nature’s dramatic side, but a drama of a different kind began to unfold in Huatulco.  The holidays were coming, and tourists from all over were descending on the harbor village of Santa Cruz and the nearby town of La Crucecita.  Christmas decorations began appearing everywhere.

Santa Claus in Huatulco Mexico (cruising blog)

Santa Claus showed up all over town

Santa Claus and Noche Buena Beer in Huatulco Mexico from our sail blog

Santa poses with the yummy holiday-only brew: Noche Buena






Huatulco Mexico Christmas tree (from our cruising blog)

All of us tourists got pics of ourselves by this tree!

Santa Claus showed up in all kinds of crazy places, on doorsteps and rooftops.  But we didn’t see Rudolph or Donner or Blitzen anywhere.  Perhaps in this neck of the woods Santa travels by boat or makes his way around town on a scooter.

One of the best things for adults celebrating Christmas in Mexico is that the Noche Buena dark beer suddenly becomes available.  Mexican brewers haven’t explored crafting dark beers much yet, and for northerners missing their favorite microbrews from home, the supermarket’s stack of cases of Noche Buena is a sight for sore eyes.  And the cases disappeared quickly!

A huge Christmas tree went up in La Crucecita’s town square, and it became the backdrop for hundreds of tourists’ photos for a few weeks.  We were no exception, and we got a shot of ourselves with the tree too.

Santa Cruz Huatulco Mexico Christmas stage from our sailing blog

There was lots of action on the stage in Santa Cruz

And we probably weren’t the only ones to ask one of the taxi drivers hanging out at the taxi stand next to the tree to click the shutter on our camera for us!

Santa Cruz has a big stage just off the beach, and many evenings there was something going on there.  One afternoon we watched a group of adorable little boys in red outfits practicing a dance.  They really got into the rhythms and the moves.

Huatulco Christmas celebrations (from our cruising blog)

A group of boys gets into the spirit with a line dance




A few days later another group of kids was dressed up for that night’s performance.  Three charming girls in colorful skirts hopped up off a bench to pose for me when they saw me trying to sneak a photo without them noticing.

On our Mexico cruise: 3 girls pose for me in pretty skirts

Three adorable girls show off their pretty skirts and blouses.


Not to be outdone, another group of girls just behind them suddenly lined up and wanted me to get their photo too.  Proud moms and happy dads milled around in the background, their cell phone cameras clicking away just as eagerly.

Christmas celebrations in Huatulco - dancers pose for us - from our sail blog

Another group of performers wants their pictures taken too!

There is a pretty open-air church on the edge of the bay, and sometimes we heard the reverent tones of the congregation singing or the priest giving a sermon as we walked past.

From our cruising blog - we visited the delightful Santa Cruz Huatulco church

Santa Cruz’s beautiful open-air seaside church



One day when the church was empty, a fellow came out to greet us and told us to walk to the back of the church and touch the cross.  “Whatever you wish will come true,” he said, and he told of a relative of his who was cured of a disease when he did that.  We walked around to the back of the altar and made our quiet wishes while touching the cross.

We heard an evening classical music concert at Camino Real Zaashila in Huatulco Mexico (from our sail blog)

Night lights on Camino Real Zaashila’s pretty pool.

The town squares of Santa Cruz and La Crucecita weren’t the only places that began to come alive with the Christmas spirit.  The hotels and resorts around town began hosting special holiday events too.  The resort that had framed our view for a few weeks at the east end of Tangolunda Bay, Camino Real Zaashila, hosted a wonderful recorder concert by Horacio Franco one evening.  This was part of a series of concerts that are held on their pretty outdoor lawns next to the swimming pool.

From our sailing blog: we attended a lovely evening recorder concert by Horacio Fanco

Horacio Franco plays recorder

A full evening of Telemann’s twelve flute fantasies was on the roster, and we watched in awe as Horacio’s fingers flew across his many recorders — of all shapes and sizes — that were lined up on a table next to him.  It was really fun to get a little dressed up (in the only dress-up clothes we have on the boat) and go out for the evening to a concert.  Boating life at anchor is a bit on the grubby side, but for this one evening we felt very sophisticated!  It was quite amusing to get in the dinghy for a pitch dark ride across the bay in a sparkly dress!

While sailing Mexico's Pacific Coast we saw sailing mega-yacht Tamsen

Sailing Yacht “Tamsen “tied up to the cruise ship dock opposite Groovy

Not all cruising sailboats are grubby, however.  Life is a totally civilized affair on the 170′ long sailing yacht “Tamsen” which tied up at the cruise ship dock opposite us for a few days.  This stunning boat was way too big to go into the marina (the entrance is quite shallow), so it was granted permission to tie up on the very long cruise ship pier.  We enjoyed hours of oohing and aaahing as we watched life lived on a scale way above the rest of us by the families on board.

From what we read online, Tamsen was built for ~$40 million at one of the world’s finest mega-yacht shipyards in Italy.  We found a fun story from the NY Times that explains that this mega-yacht is owned by the extended family and friends of the Firestones of California.

Tamsen superyacht huatulco mexico sail blog

“Wanna race?!”

This is the second yacht the group has owned, and the idea behind the boats has been to create a bonding experience between parents and kids in the Firestone family.  There was a boatload of young kids on board playing on the decks, and one day they appeared to put on a dance performance for the adults.

Saiilng Yacht Tamsen was very beautiful tied up near us in Huatulco Mexico

“Tamsen” is 170′ of sheer nautical beauty!

What impressed us most was that everybody seemed to have a role to play in operating the boat.  We just happened to leave the bay at the same time Tamsen did, and Mark yelled over to them, “Hey, wanna race?”  “Sure!” came the answer!  Mark asked for a head start, but they dusted us in short order just the same.

We heard rumors that when Tamsen was anchored in nearby Tangolunda Bay — and was the object of endless curious folks gawking at them through binoculars from the beach — they responded to all the attention by mooning the crowd.  Now that’s a spirited boat!  Not too many mega-yacht crews are quite that sassy.

Cruise ships Regatta and Amsterdam dwarf surrounding Santa Cruz Bay in Huatulco (from our sailing blog)

Two cruise ships arrived the day after Christmas

Of course Tamsen wasn’t the only boat that used the cruise ship dock.  The day after Christmas two cruise ships came in at the same time and tied up on opposite sides of the pier.  Watching these behemoths dock is always a thrill, as it’s a hard hat job for both the guys on the ship and the guys who greet them on the dock.

Cruise Ship Regatta fills our view in Huatulco Mexico (from our sail blog)

When a cruise ship pulls in it’s like having an apartment building arrive!

For us sitting on Groovy’s deck, having a cruise ship arrive was like having a tall apartment building suddenly appear out of nowhere next door.

Cruise ship Regatta in Huatulco lowers liferaft (from our sail blog)

The cruise ship crew practices safety maneuvers

But what amused us most was that when the passengers all got off the ships to walk around town, the crew aboard the ship closest to us went through a complete rescue drill.  Sirens wailed, the crew donned life jackets and lined up along the rail, and then they lowered the lifeboats.

Cruise ship and beach scene from our sailing blog

Christmas on Santa Cruz Beach in Huatulco!

We couldn’t help but flash back to the images of the Costa Condordia on its side off of the Italian coast last year.  Once the meat of the exercise was finished, a few of the crew zoomed around the bay in the tenders and blew off a little steam.

Cruise ships weren’t the only boats to arrive in little Santa Cruz Bay in the weeks around the holidays.  A few cruising sailboats joined us in the anchorage well.  All were single handers: three men and one woman, each on their own boats.  Two were coming up from Central America and two were headed down that way.  As single-handers often do, they were traveling more-or-less in pairs.

Santa Cruz Bay anchorage in Huatulco (from ouor sail blog)

Cruising sailboats arrived in the anchorage

For anyone that has put off their travel dreams for fear of all the bad things that might happen, Pamela Bendall aboard her 46′ steel sailboat Precious Metal sets a rare and wonderful example.  Over a four year period, she has sailed solo between Vancouver Island, Canada, and Peru, coastal cruising the entire Pacific coast of the US, Mexico and Central America.  And she’s a fifty-something grandma!  Her enthusiasm and can-do attitude are truly inspiring.

Touring catamarans in Huatulco Mexico (from our cruising blog)

The big touring catamarans all went out daily






On New Year’s Eve we were amazed to see little Santa Cruz get decked out for one heck of a party.  The beach-side restaurants filled the beach with tables set with linens and candles.

Enjoying popsicles (paletas) from a cart in Huatulco Mexico (sailing blog)

We get “paletas” from a cart

The tables were so thick on the beach there was barely room to walk among them, and every single table had a “reserved” sign on it with a family’s name.

Huatulco celebrates New Year's (from our sail blog)

New Year’s dinner tables filled the beach








Live bands in Huatulco Mexico (from our cruising blog)

Bands were playing everywhere…we especially enjoy Sangre Latina!

It was a hot and sultry night, and even in the pitch darkness we were up for some cool refreshment.  We got popsicles (“paletas”) from one of the little carts in the square and set off to our favorite little spot for a hamburger, La Casa de las Tilapias, where a lively two-man band we like, Sangre Latina, was playing.

There is something in the rhythms and tunes Miguel and Hazael play that is infectious.

Beach bands in Huatulco Mexico (sailing blog)

A DJ on one side and a live band on the other battled it out on the beach all night long!

There was music all over town that night.  Two huge areas were set up with mammoth speakers where a DJ and a live band were getting ready.  New Year’s hats and goodies were laid out on tables for guests, and we knew 2012 would be ceremoniously marched out the door.

New Year's celebration in Huatulco Mexico (cruising blog)

Hats and honkers for the big moment




fireworks on the beach in Huatulco Mexico (sailing blog)

Fireworks!! Where’s the camera???!!

2013 was ushered in with a bang — right off our bow.  We aren’t night owls, so we had faded before midnight.  But right at the stroke of 12:00 we were blasted out of bed with a POW so we could ring in the new year with the revelers on the beach.  Mark had planned ahead, of course, and had his camera right next to his pillow, completely set up for the fireworks shots we knew we’d be getting.

I wasn’t quite so prepared, and found myself running around stark naked between the cockpit and the cabin (hey, it’s hot here!), yelling, “Where’s my camera?”  Then, “Why doesn’t it have an SD card in it?”  Then, “What the heck settings do I need — it won’t focus!!”

And so 2013 arrived, with the two of us laughing uncontrollably as I ran up and down the companionway stairs in a panic while fireworks exploded all around us.  Meanwhile, Mark quietly captured lots of great fireworks shots.

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Huatulco’s Playa La Bocana – A visit to Huatulco’s Wild Side

Rocks and crashing surf at Playa La Bocana Huatulco as seen while sailing Mexico

Rocks and surf at Playa La Bocana

Late December, 2012 – In the middle of our unbelievable 24-hour visit with Ron and Jackie and their friends at Las Palmas Resort, we took a quick, late afternoon drive out to La Bocana, a rugged and wild beach at the mouth of a river a few miles south of the Bays of Huatulco, Mexico.

from our sailing blog - a boat at Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico

A panga on the beach at La Bocana

From our cruising blog - a palm tree shades Playa La Bocana

A palm tree frames La Bocana Beach

This beach is nothing like the beaches in the more northern bays where the ocean politely laps the sand with small, harmless waves while the palapa beach bars bring margaritas, chips and salsa right down to the water’s edge.  La Bocana is a primal place of craggy rocks and exploding surf.

Beach bar at La Bocana Beach Huatulco we visited while sailing Mexico

One of the beach bars

There is a beach bar or two, but they are placed safely away from the breakers that mercilessly pound this beach.  Their structures are built soundly to survive the crazy hammering the ocean delivers here whenever the Tehauntepec is blowing.

Beach palapa at La Bocana Beach Huatulco from our sailing blog

The sight of the huge white waves got us running across the beach, and the blazing hot sand kept us moving at a sprint until we reached the cool tidal sand on the edge of the water.  Back on the boat in our anchorage in Santa Cruz Bay, we hadn’t noticed much ocean swell or many ominous waves, but here the waves were rolling in relentlessly, erupting against the rocks with awe-inspiring force.

From our sail blog - surf at Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico

Surf at Playa La Bocana

A cormorant in the spray at Playa La Bocana Huatulco, from our sail blog

A cormorant in the spray

Playa La Bocana shows off Huatulco’s wild side, and we got a full display both that afternoon and on another day a few weeks later when we returned.  There is something alluring about seeing Mother Nature unleashing her fury.  But here it happened in incongruously warm and friendly sunshine.

Rocks at Playa La Bocana Huatulco - from our sailing blog







As the tide went out, the water receded and left the most beautiful mirror images of the sawtooth rocks in the sand.

While sailing Mexico - mirrored rocks at Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico

Receding waves create a mirror in the sand

Mark and I dashed around trying to line up the rocks and their reflections while a group of snowy egrets on winter break from Canada walked along the edge of the water.  They snatched up whatever they could find to eat in the sand each time a wave drew back into the sea.

Snowy egret at Playa La Bocana Huatulco from our sailing blog

Looking for dinner – in yellow shoes!!




Glassy sand and rocks at Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico from our sail blog

Sand and rocks polished to a glassy finish

In places the water had an almost silky look, giving the rough rocks a smooth, glassy sheen.  We were mesmerized by the steady roll of the waves in and out, and the way they left a glistening luster on everything as they withdrew.

mirrored rocks at Playa La Bocana Huatulco

Watery reflections


We loved the contrast of the polished, shiny surfaces and the tranquility in this one part of the beach and the savage, chaotic froth and foam in the other.

Since we’ve started cruising we’ve learned that ocean swells come in sets of five to seven waves at a time.  Each wave grows larger than the last until you get a few real crashers, and then each one shrinks a little smaller until a few roll in that have no personality at all.

Surf boards at Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico sailing Mexico

Surf boards ready to hit the waves

Mirrored rocks at Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico seen while sailing Mexico

The Aussie owner of one of the beach bars told us that even though he loved surfing in his homeland, he sure liked catching the waves here.  He had surfboards of all kinds and was raising his young son to love the wildness of the ocean too.

Summertime waves are the biggest and the best around here, he told us, but even now in December the waves seemed plenty big enough to us.

Snowy egret at Playa La Bocana Huatulco, from our sailing blog

Snowy egret in the waves

Besides jagged rocks and surf, the wildlife is abundant at Playa La Bocana as well.  Frigate birds, terns and herons all took their place along the water’s edge according to their particular tastes.

Frigate bird at Playa La Bocana Huatulco, while sailing Mexico

A frigate bird soars overhead

Frigate birds go fishing by swooping down and grabbing unsuspecting fish near the surface of the water in their beaks, while terns take death defying dives straight down into the water, beak first.

A heron walks Playa Playa La Bocana Huatulco from our sailing blog


A tern goes fishing in Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico, sailing Mexico

A tern scans the water

The herons and egrets walk daintily on their stilt-like legs, bravely stalking the sea as the waves fall back and then scurrying to the safety of high ground when the next wave strikes.  A few cormorants did long dives below the surface and then hung out on the rocks to dry off and ponder their next move.

At the far end of the beach a huge flock of gulls and terns stood just out of reach of the crashing waves, all facing the late afternoon sun.  Their reflections in the watery sand beneath them made them seem double in number.

Gulls at Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico while sailing Mexico

Gulls face the setting sun

Floating down River Copalita at Playa La Bocana Huatulco from our sail blog

Our friend Craig catches a ride down the river

La Bocana (“The River Mouth” in Spanish) is the mouth of the Copalita River where it rushes down to meet the sea.  The current is very fast, and our friend Craig jumped in the chilly water upstream a bit and went for a very fast ride.

We learned that the river changes course every so often.  Some years it carves a path to the ocean one way, and other years it carves a path another way.  Ron remembered seeing the river flow at least 50 yards north of where it was flowing now.

A couple and their dog at Playa La Bocana Huatulco, seen while saiing Mexico

Watching the surf

No matter which way it decides to go, this is a fast moving body of water, and lots of folks take rafting trips down the river from points way upstream.


As we walked back along the beach, we came across a young couple enjoying the view and the beauty of the afternoon with their golden retriever.

Dog running on the beach at Playa La Bocana in Huatulco

They leaned in close and shared a quick kiss in the golden sunlight, and then their dog took off on a playful romp, running at full speed all around them. This dog was as happy as any dog can be, playing in the waves with his mistress and master.

Girl playing with her dog at Playa La Bocana Beach in Huatulco

Does life get any better than this?


They ran and threw a ball for him and splashed and ran some more.  We ran after them and got caught up in the fun of the moment, watching this young couple in love as they played and laughed with their dog on the beach.

Talking with them later, we discovered they were down here from Mexico City, enjoying some beach time away from the cold winter in the mountains.

Body surfing at Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico from our sailing blog

A body surfer’s fin is all we see after he dives headfirst into a huge wave



A few other families showed up as the sun began to fall towards the sea.  This is a wonderful beach for strolling, communing with nature and letting your thoughts fly free.

Unlike some of the other beaches in Huatulco where the pleasures are a little slower paced and more peaceful — snorkeling, swimming and basking in the sun — this is a beach that begs for action and play.  Body surfers struggled to conquer the waves, getting 10 second thrill rides in return for many minutes of plowing headfirst into the breaking waves.  What a rush!

Toddler with a ball at Playa La Bocana Huatulco

A mom and her two daughters all dressed to match at Playa La Bocana Huatulco

A dad played soccer with his toddler son, gently kicking a ball across the sand until the little boy finally plopped down and hugged the ball, his short legs tuckered out from all that running.

We settled in for a cold drink at one of the beach bars.  Slowly, as the sun sank out of sight, all the beach-goers came came up to to get a snack or dinner.  The only drama left was Mother Nature at her finest.

The huge, incessant waves didn’t care that the sun was gone.  They just kept on coming and coming in a rhythmic show of force that faded from view as darkness fell.  How eerie it was to hear the breakers thundering so close, bombarding the beach in front of us in endless roars of invisible spray.

We returned to our little anchorage in Santa Cruz Bay to find that the whole village was quickly being caught up in the festive spirit of the holidays.



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Huatulco’s Las Palmas Resort – 24 Hours in Heaven!

Mid-December, 2012 – Life aboard our sailboat Groovy, anchored in Bahía de Santa Cruz in Huatulco, had become deliciously languid and slow, with one day flowing seamlessly into the next.  Huatulco was gradually filling with tourists, and every day we saw more and more people going out on the tour boats and sunning themselves on the beaches.

Santa Cruz Bay Anchorage Huatulco Mexico

Groovy is anchored peacefully in Santa Cruz Bay

Santa Cruz Bay Huatulco Anchorage sail blog Banana Boat

Lots of boats circled Groovy to wave “Hola!”

Sitting on Groovy, we had front row seats to whatever action cropped up in the bay, and it was pleasant entertainment just watching whatever was going on around us. Many of the tour boats would take a little detour on their way in or out of the bay to circle Groovy and give us an enthusiastic wave and a chorus of greetings from happy guests.


Playa de Entrega, Santa Cruz Bay, Huatulco sail blog

View of Playa de Entrega on our walk to Las Palmas

One morning two couples in kayaks and a paddle board floated over to our boat.  We exchanged hellos and “where are you from” queries and “what a beautiful day this is!” comments.  We discovered that they were from Lake Tahoe and were boating enthusiasts too.

Las Palmas Resort Huatulco - visited on our Mexico cruise

Las Palmas Resort

We had met so few Americans in Huatulco that it was suddenly really heartwarming to share a few memories of home with them over our transom.  One paddler, Ron, mentioned he had sailed quite a bit in the past, and when I asked where they were staying, he said, “I own a resort up there on the hill.  It’s called Las Palmas.”

Las Palmas Resort Huatulco Mexico (sail blog)

Lush landscaping everywhere

View of Playa Violin from Las Palmas Resort Huatulco Mexico

Playa Violin has wonderful cliffs

Wow!  Most folks we meet say they are staying at a resort.  This was the first time we met someone who owned one.  And he looked so relaxed and happy sitting there in his kayak. Gosh…and I had thought that we were living the dream!!

“Come on up sometime!  You can see the resort and have a beer with us.”  My jaw dropped as he continued on, explaining how to walk to the resort.  “It overlooks Playa Violin,” he said.  Then his little group paddled away and Mark and I turned to look at each other, wide eyed, and grinning.  That just wouldn’t have happened in our old workaday life in our old neighborhood.  Never!  What a fun encounter.  What a neat opportunity!

From our Mexico cruise: Las Palmas Resort on Playa Violin in Huatulco

Looking down at Playa Violin from Las Palmas


Over breakfast the next morning we debated:  Go to the beach, do errands in town, or check out that resort?  That was a short debate!  We quickly dinghied ashore and began hoofing it up and over the hills to try to find Las Palmas.

views from our sailing cruise: Las Palmas Resort in Huatulco Mexico

Las Palmas Resort

It’s easy to find, but we got lost anyway and went well beyond it.  On our way back we looked across the little beach of Playa Violin, and there it was, an ethereal group of buildings and terraces perched on the edge of the cliffs.  “That must be it,” Mark said, picking up the pace down the hill.

From our sailboat cruise of Mexico: Las Palmas Resort, Huatulco

Pools, palms, views, and more…

Then we glanced up and saw a pickup truck coming towards us with Ron driving and his friend, Craig, who had been the one on the paddle board, in the passenger’s seat.

Las Palmas Resort Terraces Huatulco Mexico (sail blog)

Las Palmas Resort

They picked us up, and suddenly we were passing through the tall entrance gates of Las Palmas Resort, driving into a gorgeous luxury property.

Las Palmas Resort Huatulco Mexico from our sail blog

The rooms and terraces soar above the views

Ron’s wife Jackie and Craig’s wife Terri were there welcoming us, but everything was a blur around us.  All we could see was the lovingly nurtured landscaping, lush with flowers and tropical plants, that hugged the myriad of balconies and lookouts and infinity pools all around us.

Las Palmas resort Huatulco on our Mexican sailing cruise

The property was built high on a hill, and the buildings and palm trees soared even higher, offering stunning views of the beach, little Violin bay, the open Pacific ocean, and the bay of Santa Cruz, depending on where you stood and which way you turned your head.

Las Palmas Resort a day away on our Mexico cruise

Some suites have kitchens too!


We have seen a lot of resorts in this cruising lifestyle.  In many ways, cruising Mexico’s Pacific Coast can be an ongoing tour of oceanside resorts, as most anchorages are located in spots that lend themselves to resort development.  And quite often we’ve had a chance to wander through to see how the other half lives.

View of Chahue Bay from Las Palmas Resort in Huatulco Mexico from our sail blog

View of Chahue Bay from that suite’s kitchen

But this resort was head and shoulders beyond anything we’ve seen.  It was intimate, each room was unique, and everything about it quietly blended into the surroundings, giving guests a true retreat while pampering them with the finest of everything.

Las Palmas Resort Palapa Restaurant

A nice gathering place for guests



A little restaurant/bar under a thatched palapa roof seemed the ideal spot for all the guests to gather and mingle.  However, we were lucky enough to have met these new friends before peak season hit.  For the moment, we had the place to ourselves.

On our sailing cruise of Mexico, we visited Las Palmas Resort, Huatulco Mexico

Palms of “Las Palmas”

“A lot of people come here for a few weeks,” Ron was telling us.  “They get to know each other, and now there’s a community of people who come back year after year.”  What a way to spend the coldest part of winter!  Gourmet meals are prepared in a beautifully appointed kitchen, and the colorful parrot Lucy greets everyone.

Las Palmas Resort Huatulco Mexico from our sail blog

Lucy checks me out

Building this resort was an act of enormous faith, propelled by Ron’s brilliant vision of bringing charm and luxury to paradise.  Running several tourist businesses in Lake Tahoe, he had never developed a luxury resort before.

Las Palmas Resort Playa Violin Huatulco Mexic (sail blog)

Views from Las Palmas Resort



What an accomplishment!  There are lots of laws, rules, regs and hurdles to leap to create a property like this on the Mexican coast.

Gourmet kitchen Las Palmas Resort Huatulco Mexico

Margarita prepares gourmet meals in this airy kitchen

Too many resorts in Mexico remain unfinished, with rebar, bare concrete and gaping holes staring forlornly out to sea from exquisite perches on land.  To complete a project of this scale is an incredible achievement.  And right down to the unusual decorative tiles and lovely fittings adorning each room, every possible detail has been thought of and completed to perfection.

Las Palmas Resort in Huatulco Mexico

The spacious rooms open onto the pools and views

What I loved most, though, was that all the windows and doors in all the rooms can be thrown open to bring in the ocean breezes along with the view.  Every room Ron showed us was unique in the way it took advantage of its particular position on the hill, and all the rooms eagerly welcomed the outdoors in.

We quickly lost track of how many rooms there were, and how many buildings made up the property, and where all the infinity pools were located.  But there was a main house that was often rented for big family gatherings, weddings, or corporate retreats, and standing in that space made us feel like we’d stepped into the lives of the rich and famous.

A room at Las Palmas Resort in Huatulco Mexico (sail blog)

What a delightful room…

Suddenly, Ron asked if we’d like to spend the night.  “I know how it can be on a boat.  Sometimes it’s really nice to get off the boat for a night and get a long hot shower.”  Holy cow.  Getting off the boat to a stationary bed would be nice.  But staying here at Las Palmas would top anything we’d imagined by a long shot!

View from a room at Las Palmas Resort Huatulco Mexico (sail blog)

…with an awe-inspiring view

He showed us the room where we’d be staying.  It was in an incredible spot with the doors thrown wide to a spectacular view of the beach and cliffs.

Las Palmas Resort even the shower has a view (sail blog)

You can enjoy the view even in the shower!



Rather than a mere window onto the view, the opening to the deck was almost the full width of the room, bringing the outdoors rushing in, and flooding the room with the bay’s soft light of late afternoon.  Even the shower had a view.

Las Palmas Resort Huatulco Mexico dolphin pool

One pool has an image of a dolphin on the bottom!

Somehow, effortlessly, the logistics for our stay sorted themselves out.  We dashed back to Groovy for an overnight bag, and then found ourselves enjoying the golden hour in the big house’s picturesque infinity pool as the sun slipped behind the cliffs.

Terri put a delicious Margarita in my hand, and I watched Mark swim over to the edge of the pool to soak in the view with Craig.  “I feel like I died and went to heaven,” I said happily as I slid into the silky warm water to join them.

Las Palmas Resort Huatulco a groovy sunset during our sailboat cruise

Mark and Craig enjoy the sunset from the infinity pool


How, exactly, had we been granted 24 hours in heaven?  Who knows!  It was the best and most vivid dream, yet we were wide awake in the midst of it.

More margaritas on the deck overlooking the pool, dinner out at Huatulco’s finest restaurant, a pink sunrise reflecting off the water, and an amazing American/Oaxacan brunch poolside once again in the morning, all made us feel like Santa had come early and invited us to spend a day in someone else’s life.

Las Palmas Resort Huatulco Mexico romance on our Mexico sailing cruise

When we returned to Groovy after our day away, we found conversation impossible.  All we could say to each other was, “Can you believe that just happened?”  “What an amazing experience!”  “How fortunate we are…”

And then, what a joy it was to be able to take our new friends out sailing a few days later.  The gods of the wind and the sea cooperated beautifully and gave us ideal conditions for a daysail.  Modest breezes, flat seas, and bright sunny skies followed us along the coast.

Sailing Groovy in Huatulco Mexico

Mark and Ron enjoying our wonderful daysail aboard Groovy


As we chatted, the boat took flight in the light wind, and we discovered that  “boating enthusiast” was an understatement in Ron’s case.  He had crewed on the TransPac ocean sailing race from California to Hawaii as a youngster, and had become a licensed Coast Guard captain to boot.  As if welcoming the sailor back to the sea, Groovy came alive and took us all on a speedy, carefree ride, and the world fell away in our wake.

One of the most exciting things in our traveling lifestyle is that we never know what is going to happen next.  We are continually blessed with surprises we couldn’t plan if we tried.  We just never know who’s going to paddle over in a kayak to say “hello.”

We continued to stay in the Bays of Huatulco and enjoy its delights, including a visit to its wild side at Playa La Bocana.

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