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Enjoying the Huatulco Nightlife

Also see the 2001 Update

A little necessary background comes first. There are four distinct locales with a legitimate claim to the name Huatulco. First is the original, Santa María Huatulco . Santa María is a beautiful, quiet predominately Indian town in the foothills of the Sierra Madre near the Huatulco International Airport. It is described as a charming, historic, scenic village and a must-see in my book. However, if you are like 95% of the visitors to the area, you will never see it. It also is not relevant to an article on nightlife since it only has one when there is a festival or quinceañeras (an extravagant affair celebrating a young lady's fifteenth year). The other three Huatulcos are clustered in an area called the Bahías de Huatulco. The true five-star hotels are all in a section called Tangolunda, which is also the name for the bay on which they are located. The marina, banks, and four star hotels are located in Santa Cruz Huatulco. Santa Cruz has some historic importance but when I first saw it fifteen years ago, it was only a cluster of palapas. The final area of Huatulco under discussion is known as La Crucecita, which can best be described as the business district. It is in La Crucecita that you find the largest number and greatest variety of night spots.
First off, no one in Mexico starts their nocturnal pursuits until 10:00 P.M. or later; 11:00 or midnight is a more common starting time. The clubs stay open until 3:00 or 4:00 A.M. or later if customer demand is there. If you're taking an American style early supper--the locals often don't dine until 9:00 or later--and then immediately go out in search of nocturnal joys, you'll believe that the town is deader'n a doornail. So take up the local customs while you're here. Go do your scuba diving or other activities in the morning. Eat lunch and take a long nap in the early afternoon, say 1:00 to 3:00 or so, and then go shopping (or diving - face it, I'm going to plug my sole livelihood) and then take a late supper. Rest up a bit more after supper and then hit the streets. Don't skip that afternoon nap--you're going to need it!
So let's start out with the north side of the square in La Crucecita. In the northwest corner sits the bar/restaurant La Tropicana. This is one of the few 24-hour eateries in the area. Food prices will not send you looking for a plane home. It is one of the most reasonably priced places on the Zócalo. They have a big-screen TV, usually dedicated to English-speaking movies with subtitles in Spanish. There's a pool hall upstairs with long hours during the busy season, which is mid-November to Easter as well as July and August, and uncertain hours at other times.
A couple of blocks north of the Zócalo is Seco's Bar, home to probably the best juke box in Mexico. Lovely Maira from Pochutla will handle your drink orders unless Tico himself beats her to your table. Great ambiance.
On Bugambilias North of the Zocalo several blocks is Bar Perico. This is a traditional Centro de Botanos, meaning that as long as you're drinking, they keep you fed. If you're gonna drink anyway, might as well get a meal out of it, huh? Enjoy.
On the Northeast corner sits La Fogata. It is a pricey place by local standards, but they do have fresh cabrito roasting on a spit. Is tender roasted goat worth 50 pesos? To me, only if I can rope someone else into paying! A more reasonably priced option for roasted meats (Alas! No cabrito.) is El Fogon, just around the corner and half a block north.
Also on the east side is Bar La Iguana. La Iguana offers rock and sports on the TV - a good spot to watch Monday Night Football. During the busy season La Iguana has live tropical music. They are associated with Restaurante Los Portales, a bargain spot for breakfast with fresh coffee, fresh juice, and fresh fruits. The restaurant opens at 7:00 A.M. and closes at 2:00 A.M. The bar is open from noon to 4:00 A.M. These folks are true entrepreneurs. They also operate Pesos Auto Rental, featuring VW's with fiberglass replicas of Fiat Topolino bodies and lots of brush guards. They rent for 250 pesos a day, somewhat negotiable. If you're adventurous, they also have a VW microbus equipped to sleep two. It rents for 400 pesos a day and is great for taking off to the mountains for a couple of days.
On the southeast corner upstairs is Bar la Selva, a nice place to view the goings on in the plaza while enjoying the music and having a drink. The doors open at 8:30 pm.
On the South side of the square, you'll find Zamora's. It offers superb fruit-flavored waters, ice cream, and paletas. However, just caddy-corner to the Northeast you'll find vastly superior ice cream at Panificadora Alfredos. They specialize in exotic regional flavors like Mamey, Rosa, and Tres Leches. Of course, since it is a panaficadora (bakery) it has enough incredible Mexican baked goods--along with flan and pie de queso--to put fat on a beanpole!
Returning to the Zócalo, you'll pass Oasis Restaurant, a great place for a cup of coffee or some sushi. The sushi isn't the greatest and is often coated with something like crème cheese, Mexican style. But you can ask for it "sin queso" if you prefer.
The remainder of the south side of the Zócalo is dedicated to restaurants, all very good, and to shops. Of special interest to travelers are the two Coconut's stores, bracketing Side Out Sports. The one on the Southwest corner is the only place in town to find rolling papers. These are the ubiquitous orange packs of Zig-Zag cut-corners. If you incline towards the need to use such products and don't like this brand, bring a supply of your favorites from home and leave the leftovers for the guys on the beach! The other Coconuts carries all the latest popular American and Mexican magazines, a good selection of cassettes and CD's, and a well-stocked rack of paperbacks. Prices are somewhere between J. Daltons and the gift shop at the airport, so you may want to try to bring all the reading material you can from home. Leftover books are appreciated by your humble scribe if you want to lighten your bags for the flight home.
If you must have a pizza fix, Yesterday's Pizza in the Plaza Oaxaca behind Coconut's is not as bad as most Mexican pizza. They have a good selection of rock and roll videodiscs too.
The west side of the plaza is religiously oriented. There is a very active Parroquia (Parish) as well as a church that seems to be taking longer to complete than even Washington's National Cathedral.
About four blocks south of the Zócalo, at the corner of Bugambilia and La Ceiba sits the Reggae bar La Crema. For those of us who would really just as soon be in Zipolite, this is an adequate substitute. Split bamboo wall coverings with batik hangings give that "just up from the beach" feel. The music leans towards hard rock from the 60's and 70's as well as Reggae. The booze is cheap; they even have Cerveza Superior on draft! (Ask for Superior barril to make sure). You're likely to find me at a corner table on nearly any given night. If you consider yourself to be "laid-back", or if people accuse you of being too laid-back, this is the spot for you, too.
For me, formal attire means a T-shirt without advertizing and a clean pair of shorts. But if you like to dress up and go out to boogie, there are a couple of nice discos in the area. In Tangolunda, across the street from the Barcelo Huatulco Resort and the Gala Resort, there is a nice disco called Savage (pronounced sa-BOShsh). As well as tourists, Savage is popular with local lovelies in their black leather mini-dresses. The decor leans heavily towards black. The lighting devices are entertaining as is the multi-media. You'll save bucks in the long run by ordering a bottle of booze and mixers for your table. This is a disco; it is LOUD inside.
In Santa Cruz, upstairs in the Hotel La Marina, is Acqua (opening 4/5/01), formerly the Magic Circus Disco. The clientel tends to more tourist than local--this is where the activity organizers from the major hotels bring groups. The dance floor is a little smallish for the size of the crowds. It has a good light show and effects. New music from around the world is featured for the dancers.
Around the corner from the Acqua is another lively little spot called Bananas. They're open from 8:00 P.M. to 2:00 A.M. or later if customer demand exists. Current rock is featured. Music and sports videos are usually on the tubes. Bananas offers a good time with friendly people who'll try to make you feel at home.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings are Noches Oaxaqueñas (Oaxacan Nights) at Guela Guetza. Folkoric dances characteristic of the 7 regions of the state of Oaxaca are performed by dance troupes touring from the folkoric school in Oaxaca City. Colorful, festive and well done. Show only, $N100 pesos per person.
Some of the resort hotels offer non-guests access to their night sports for a fee, but I don't have the details. Please email tom@tomzap.com if you have information.
I don't pretend that this is a comprehensive guide to nightlife here. But if I tried to talk about all of the places to go and things to do, I'd never get finished. If these things are not enough for you, talk to the people at your hotel (or your friendly dive guide) and ask about their secret places. Offer them the opportunity to come along. And for goodness sakes, remember that tipping is not the capitol of China!

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The Pacific Coast of Mexico www.tomzap.com Tom Penick:  tom@tomzap.com