Founded some 40 years ago by FONATUR, Mexico's tourism development agency, Huatulco (located in the state of Oaxaca) encompasses a stretch of 18 miles of Pacific coastline, located at the foot of the Sierra del Sur Mountains. Here you'll find dozens of pristine sand beaches, spread across nine bays -- four of which have been designated as ecological preserves where no development is permitted.
The area is also dotted with small villages where many of the locals preserve native traditions including basket weaving, cactus horticulture and cooking. Most cruise lines offer at least one excursion that visits these villages. (Look for one that includes the nopale -- prickly pear cactus -- farm; the fruit is delicious.)
Designed to attract mass tourism, cruisers visiting Huatulco will also encounter numerous souvenir and jewelry shops, and yet crass commercialism seems to have taken a back seat here, unlike other purposely designed tourist cities like Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and Acapulco. Buildings in Huatulco may not be higher than four stories, so there are no tall structures to clutter the area, beaches are everywhere and the government is taking pains to preserve the indigenous flora and fauna.
Huatulco is composed of three smaller regions, as well as several outlying villages. Santa Cruz is the port area where cruise ships dock. La Crucecita is the main downtown area and Tangolunda is the hotel and resort zone.
Huatulco most commonly appears on Panama Canal itineraries, though it might also be included in Pacific coast partial Panama Canal transits and some Mexican Riviera sailings.