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from the March 1995 issue of Southern Living magazine:

Lost in Paradise

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The lobby of the Omni Zaashila Resort says a lot about what the weather is like in Huatulco, Mexico. It has only three sides, and it doesn't have any doors. It doesn't need any.

A balmy breeze blows off the Pacific Ocean while I sit down to register. The bellman leads me to my marble-floored guestroom equipped with its own 12 x 12-foot splash pool on the balcony that overlooks the ocean and sunsets.

Outside, a garden path lined with luxuriant tropical flowers descends to a crescent sweep of caramel-colored sand bordering a small private bay. You'd expect a beach like this to be lined with lotion-slathered sunbathers. But on this perfect sunsplashed Tuesday afternoon there aren't enough beachcombers around to use up a bottle of sun block.

Huatulco (wa-TULE-co) is a huge resort being built from the ground up by the Mexican government. Ten years ago only a tiny fishing village stood here, but by the time development in Huatulco is finished in 2020, more than 20,000 hotel rooms will surround the nine small bays that hug the coast here. And 300,000 people will live in Mexico's southernmost Pacific resort. They'll bask in a blissful climate that even Acapulco could envy.

But before that happens, there's still time to enjoy paradise before the crowds come. Only about 15% of the development is now complete, with less than 2,000 rooms spread among 15 hotels. They range from luxurious five-star resorts such as the Omni, to an affordably priced Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza. One of the largest Club Med resorts in the hemisphere is also situated here.

When guests at family-friendly Club Med-Huatulco aren't snorkeling or taking side trips to explore other beaches, they're often leaping from a trapeze or balancing on a high wire. A circus team teaches highflying skills to vacationers who stage their own show at the finale of a week's stay.

Five themed restaurants at Club Med offer the most exotic dining in Huatulco. One is a Marrakech-inspired Casbah, where diners sit at low-slung tables and rest their backs against pillows covered in rich Moroccan textiles.

Guests at any of the hotels can tangle with the lush, 6,842-yard Tangolunda Golf Course. In the small nearby village of La Crucecita, they can shop for pottery, baskets, carved wooden figures, and specialties from the state of Oaxaca. Thatched roof restaurants specialize in fresh-from-the-sea fish, lobster, and shrimp.

Boats bobble out of the marina, taking passengers to see some of Huatulco's other pristine bays. Far beneath a lighthouse on a high cliff, waves crash against the rocky shore. When the water hits, a blowhole in the rock sends a geyser shooting 40 feet in the air like a whale's spout, roaring like a dragon

Huatulco's master plan calls for preserving nature's many other voices in the surrounding jungle. About 70% of the area will be left undisturbed when development is complete along the 20-mile-long strip of coast. Even on the 20-minute ride from the airport to the hotels, it is not unusual to see flocks of native parrots and some of the hundreds of species of butterflies that congregate in the area.

That's something to be thankful for when you stroll the beach at the Omni, listening to the crashing waves, lost in paradise. Les Thomas


Weather: June through September is the rainy season. while September is the wettest month, Huatulco only averages around 40 rain days a year. Locals consider October the most favored month of the year. It's driest in January and February.

When to go: Off-season rates usually apply through early November. Largest crowds come during Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas weeks.

How to get there: Mexicana and Aeromexico provide service to Huatulco from Mexico City. It is a 45-minute flight. Club Med also operates year-round nonstop charters from Dallas. Through June the cost is $949 for an air/land, seven-day package. Call 1-800-258-2633 for details.

Where to stay: Rates begin at around $188 at the Omni Zaashila Resort, Huatulco's most luxurious hotel, but some promotional packages may be available; 1-800-843-6664. The Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, within walking distance of the beach, has a junior suite for $138 and a master suite with whirlpool for $150; 1-800-465-4329.

To find out more: Call your regional Mexican Government Tourism Office: Houston, (713) 8805153; Miami, (305) 443-9160; Washington, D.C., (202) 728-1750; or call The Bays of Huatulco Tourism Center, 1-800-843-2297.

Copyright 1995, Southern Living, Inc. Reproduced with Permission.

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