PHOTO GALLERY: San Agustin Bay – Huatulco, Oaxaca
Bahias de Huatulco is one of the most beautiful spots on the Pacific Coast. It has been transformed into a forward looking tourism center that combines comfort and good planning with extreme care for its ecological environment.
It stretches along 18 miles of jagged coastline that encompasses nine pristine bays. It lies at the end of the Southern Sierra Madre Mountains which suddenly drops off into the sea. Because of its geographic location, mountains, and valleys with rough and uneven terrain form the Huatulco Bays’ topography. This magnificent landscape forms the nine bays, Conejos, Tangolunda, Chahue, Santa Cruz, Maguey, Organo, Cacaluta, Chahacual and San Agustin. Nestled in the blue waters are 36 beaches with creamy white sand. In the background the gray-blue mountains of the Sierra Madre del Sur frames the bays.
The three major bays so far developed are Tangolunda, Santa Cruz, and Chahue. Tangolunda Bay is home of five major 5 star hotels, two commercial centers, restaurants, and an 18-hole golf course. It was chosen for development because of its five beautiful beaches.
Chahue is the scene of newest development. There are now several smaller hotels and restaurants with more to come. Since there is no construction allowed along the beachfront you can enjoy walking or running in the sand. Chahue offers very beautiful gardens with arbors covered with vines to rest and cool off under. However, Hotel Castillo Beach Club offers palapas for shade, a restaurant, and swimming pools to enjoy. If you are not a guest of the Hotel you can still enjoy this beautiful club for only about $3.00 per day. Take care, the surf is strong on this bay which makes swimming somewhat hazardous. A must is to get up early and enjoy a sunrise and a stroll through these beautiful gardens.
Santa Cruz Bay was originally a small fishing village. Today it has several 3 and 4 star hotels. However the hotels are not located directly on the beachfront. Upscale and palapa style restaurants line the beach. Santa Cruz also has several small shopping areas and the marina is located there.
SAN AGUSTIN BAY
To fully get a taste of the area and appreciate the stunning beauty you have to get away from the developed areas of Huatulco. One of these out-of-the-way places that is a must to visit is San Agustin Bay. This is the far West bay. Because it is so difficult to get to most people miss out on one of the most beautiful of all the bays.
San Agustin is a sleepy little village nestled along the hillside dropping into the bay. The houses and restaurants are rustic buildings made of wood with palm covered palapas to offer shade. There are no plans to provide electricity or running water to this village. It is the home of less then 100 people making their living from fishing or providing services to the tourists.
HOW DO YOU GET THERE?
Whether you go by car or by boat, the trip it is worth the extra effort. If you go by boat you have two options. Rent a private boat. This is the ideal way to get to San Agustin by water. For about 800 pesos or less you can rent a 10-passenger boat for a full day. It will take you anywhere you wish to go. You will have the opportunity to stop and snorkel or just walk around on one of the other bays before getting to San Agustin Bay, or just stop a moment and take some photos.
The second option is to buy a ticket for one of the catamarans or other special boats. You can gaze at the beautiful rocky coastline while enjoying music, games, and sipping your favorite beverage, in a party atmosphere as you sail to San Agustin. However, this is an organized day cruise so you will only be able to stay for about two hours.
Whichever way you decide to go you will see some spectacular views.There’s about ten miles of beautiful rocky coastline, dotted with four bays and numerous beaches. You will see the bufadero, a water sprout shooting high into the air caused by the force of the surf through a hole in the rock. Watch closely and you will see many types of birds, turtles, dolphins, and at certain times of the year you may be lucky and catch a prized sight of a whale.
San Agustin is the only bay that offers you the opportunity to watch the sun set into the ocean. If you want to catch a sunset on Playa Coyote you will have to go by car since all the boats return to Santa Cruz before the sun sets.
For the more adventurous the Micro bus is the way to go. Catch one of the blue Micro buses or collectivo taxis at the bus stop. This will take you to the crossroad going to either San Agustin or Santa Maria. You then need to catch another collectivo taxi to San Agustin. It really is easier then it sounds and you get a chance to meet a lot of local people on the way. You can stay all day and watch the sunset. The cost will be under $5.00 USD per person.
Another option is you can go by regular taxi. For a fee they will take you to San Agustin and wait for you. Some of the travel agencies also have this trip package to offer.
If you choose to go by car you will drive through some beautiful low mountain hills. You will see groves of banana, coconut and papaya. The dirt road is rocky and not well maintained and it will take you about 25 minutes after you reach the Santa Maria intersection. You will drive through a small village, see several houses with chickens, cows, donkeys, turkeys, and even peacocks. The people will give you a friendly wave as you go by.
If you stay to see the sunset and you are driving back in the early dusk you may see the fireflies as they begin to appear.
As you arrive you are greeted with the smell of smoke as people prepare meals on a small open fire or wood heated grills.
The people of San Agustin are very soft spoken. They go out of their way to make you at home in their paradise.
You will always remember the children with their sun-bleached hair selling shells jewelry or tattoos. If they don’t endear you into buying something they end up giving you a regalo (gift) of shells anyway. After they have finished their business transaction, they are off to play in the sea with no cares in the world. They entertain themselves for hours without expensive toys. Their playground is made up of the waves, sand, and the boats to jump off of.
When you ask people why they stay, of course they say for financial reasons or “It’s my home”. But you keep hearing the word “tranquilidad”, which easily translates to a feeling of why they choose to live in this out-of-the-way place. If you stay into the afternoon after all the boats have returned to Santa Cruz and life has settled down for the evening you may be able to join in a game of soccer or volleyball with the teenagers and young adults. Listen carefully and you will be able to catch the echo of the pounding surf on the rocks and onto the open beach of Coyote.
THINGS TO DO
Snorkeling is just a short swim off the beach at San Agustin Bay. The water in these shallow coral reefs offers a large range of possibilities for exploring the many varieties of living organisms that inhabit the bay. You will be able to swim amongst huge schools of different colored fish. The careful observer, will find various species of crabs, snails, bivalves, tubular worms, and sea urchins camouflaged among the coral. Blowfish proliferate the area. You will find blue, yellow and brown varieties. The guides are very careful to make sure you protect the coral. You need to be careful not to touch or disturb anything because of the delicacy and balance of nature. Remember it is illegal to take coral out of the sea.
The savvy visitor first places his order at one of the rustic restaurants on the beach before diving into the shimmering blue waters to swim and snorkel. Be sure and ask for “the catch of the day.” It will be cooked or grilled over an open wood fire with your choice of local sauces. How about a fresh drink? If you order a Coco Loco the waiter may first have to find a coconut tree and climb it to pick the coconut to make the drink.
After eating that hardy seafood meal you may want to go for a walk and explore the rest of the bay. This is a somewhat exerting walk because of the steep incline and sand that your feet sink into. But you will be able to pick up many different shells and small pieces of coral that have washed to shore. As you walk along the curve of the bay you will notice a lot of abandoned buildings. This shore is currently quiet and tranquil but during the two high seasons at Christmas and Easter these will be bustling little restaurants. As you walk on around you will come to a large tree trunk buried in the sand. At the far end of the bay you will find solitude and peace as you watch the waves lap up against the shore and rocks.
If you are wanting to get away from the hustle of main beaches of Huatulco you need to plan to come later in the morning. The mornings are busy because the catamarans and other small tour boats come bringing tourists to snorkel After the catamarans leave, you will be able to share the peace and quiet of the bay with the few residents. Since the pace of life slows down for everyone it is a good time to get to know the residents. They love getting to know you and have many questions about where you are from.
When you look up from the beach you see a small shrine built on the side of the mountain. This shrine is to the patron saint, San Agustin. August 28th is a day of celebration set aside to honor the saint this village is named after. If you climb up the side of this hill some of the most grand vistas are awaiting you. When you get to the shrine be sure and take a moment to look inside. Here you will see the statue of Saint Agustin, fresh or artificial flowers placed with love, and candles left in prayer. Be sure and gaze back from where you came and enjoy watching the sleepy village coming to life below you.
Now proceed on up to one of the many lookout points along this cliff. Look out to the open ocean and see the rock formation with the face of a lion. It is hard to make out from this angle but it is worth looking at as you see the swells coming in from the open ocean and breaking against this small rock island.
Proceed on. Be aware and look around you, as there is an interesting mix of plant and animal life ahead. You will find hidden in the middle of green verdant foliage a cactus of many years standing stoically on the rocky hill. Keep your ears and eyes open, maybe you will hear the rustling of the armor of an armadillo, see an iguana, or beautiful blue colored lizards.
As you continue along these rolling hills the outcroppings of rock will offer you the most beautiful vistas. However, you need to approach the edges of these precipices with care, as it would be fatal to fall down among the rocks and crashing waves.
When you think it can’t get any more beautiful, you look off to your right and see a large rock formation sticking out of the water with the ocean crashing into it and swirling into a white milky mass below. You feel the large water drops ricohet off the rock, hitting you in the face. The majesty and awesome power of the universe is before you.
When your eyes have taken in all the views and memories they can hold and you finally pull yourself away proceed around the curve of the outer rim of the bay and onto Coyote Beach. Coyote Beach offers you the sights and sounds of high waves surging onto the miles of open beach. Enjoy! Then wait just a little while for one of the most spectacular light shows on earth. Gradually the sun starts to settle in the west and finally drops into the ocean with a splash of reds, oranges, blues, and purples.
So as you say good bye to another beautiful day of life, you can say good bye to San Agustin and head back to home with pictures and sounds and feelings that will haunt you for some time to come.