A day riding on the Pacific around the Huatulco coastline is just the thing to bring a busy family together.
After a day of snorkeling, marveling at sea turtles and dolphins, and lunching on a secluded beach, the kids went up to the front of the boat and sat down side by side. We have no idea what sister and brother chatted about (only that, knowing our kids, there was lots of chat-chat-chat). But as Jodie and I sat in the back of the boat, sipping sodas, water, and a wee dram of mezcal, we knew that this moment where the kids were sitting together was exactly why we had chartered a Huatulco private boat tour in Mexico.
We want to thank West Coast Huatulco DMC for sponsoring our visit. However, this article reflects our own personal opinions and experiences.
We wanted to close out our trip to Oaxaca with a memorable day on the ocean with a Huatulco private boat tour
Why in the world did we decide to take our kids on a boat in the Mexican Pacific?
Our family’s time in Oaxaca was coming to a close. While we had had incredible experiences, from visiting a Zapotec city to releasing baby sea turtles, we wanted to close out our time in Huatulco with an especially memorable finale.
What better way, than to charter a boat for a day, with a skilled skipper and first mate, and be guided around the incredible scenery? Since we could rely on the skipper and crew for piloting, navigation, and even drinks, the four of us would be able to sit back, leave our worries on shore, put our phones in airplane mode, and simply enjoy being together.
We wanted to smell the salty air, and stare not at our devices, but out at the waves, looking for animals and fascinating stack rocks. The area’s scenery is especially easy to appreciate from the sea. Much of Huatulco’s coastline is protected. As part of the Parque Nacional Huatulco, the region’s natural beauty shines.
Bright, almost white rocky limestone cliffs roll in curves and angles as they plunge down to the thundering sea. Yet where the cliffs aren’t nearly white, they’re green. Trees and shrubs grow down the cliffs, almost to the waterline in places. Now and again, the landscape would scoop backward, revealing bright, curved beaches, sheltered in deep bays, and full of calm waters full of coral, fish, and first-rate snorkeling.
Our boat charter
The difference between renting a boat and chartering a boat
For starters, let’s get a bit of useful terminology out of the way: the difference between renting a boat and chartering a boat:
- Renting a boat: Just like renting a car, if you rent a boat, that’s what you get… a boat. You’ll be in charge of driving it, figuring out where you’re going, anchoring, navigating, and getting back in one piece.
- Chartering a boat: Sure, you get the boat. But a skipper and crew take care of the particulars for you. We went this route.
Chartering a boat can be pretty straightforward, a little like arranging a ride share. At the same time, were we going out onto the ocean, with our kids, for a day. We wanted to sit back and relax, and be fully present in the moment with our kids. That meant we needed a boating partner we could trust and rely on.
The Huatulco boat charter company that got recommended to us
Jodie researched boat charters throughout the region, and also asked various friends and fellow travelers for any recommendations. A name kept coming up: West Coast Huatulco.
Founded in 2005, West Coast Huatulco has been built bit by bit, day by day, as a family owned small business. That family touch came through as we got set up for our day on the 25-foot El Regalito. From our prompt transport van to a crew who were amazing with the kids, West Coast Huatulco made it easy to make arrangements, pay for the charter with a rewards credit card we were getting a signup bonus on, and even arrange for snorkeling gear.
The experienced skipper could read the water for signs of sea life. And the first mate, José?
“I live in paradise,” he told us. And today, he was going to show us a little piece of that big paradise. From Chahué Bay, we gently motored out into the blue open water, heading west and north along the curving coastline.
Not only did we converse in both English and Spanish, José made sure the cooler was packed with ice-cold water, soda, and beer. (There may even have been a wee drop of Oaxacan mezcal for a certain pair of adventuring parents.)
The skilled crew made it easy for us to simply be in the moment, present together, as a family, no worries or distractions. We made our way from the bay out into the deep blue water of the Pacific, cruising along in the morning sunlight.
Aster stared out at the boat wake and shouted, “There’s a wave chasing us!”
Then the skipper stopped the boat.
Sure enough, there would be a sea creature: a manta ray, a jellyfish, and even a wriggling sea snake—“very poisonous, very dangerous.”
Yellow butterflies floated by the stern. Behind the coastline, forested hills and mountains seemed not quite there in the morning’s humid haze. Down to the east, toward Chiapas state and Guatemala, proud, bright, sheer cliffs shone in the sun.
We moved slowly for a while—like the sea turtles we kept seeing. One turtle would rise up to the surface. Then another. And two more. (Fully grown ones too, not the baby sea turtles we had helped release recently.) One time, after spying a turtle, the kids waved at it and called good-bye. The turtle arced upward, then slipped back under the surface of the water. It flicked a flipper in a way that anyone could be forgiven for thinking the turtle was waving back.
Black dolphins with brown speckles swam by the boat for a while, leaping out of the water a couple of times, then continuing on toward, we presume, fishier waters. The boat continued along the coast. Cracked limestone hills, almost bleached white in the Oaxacan sunshine, sloped into the water. Spikes and rock formations stuck out of the water, just off the mainland. Now and again, we’d also see huge formations jutting out of the bay—including one, as José pointed out, that looked just like a reclining lion.
There is nothing like wildlife to bring out a family’s sense of wonder, and bring each of you closer together. With every wiggle of a sea snake, each flap of a turtle flipper, and every arc and splash from the dolphins, the four of us sat transfixed, speechless, staring at the animals among the gentle waves.
Snorkeling at Bahía Chachacual
West of La Crucecita, the coastline is protected as part of the nearly 30,000 acres of Parque Nacional Huatulco. At Bahía Chachacual, this long, curving beach inside the national park is accessible only by boat. Anchoring out in the middle of the bay, we crossed into a small boat and puttered to shore, where a line of beach chairs and about 50 umbrellas waited. At the left end of the umbrellas, a couple of people sat at chairs behind a table covered in bottles and cups—a little beachside bar.
In the bay, a few boats anchored. A small, light blue boat with outboard motors brought people like us to shore. A few large day tour boats, full of sightseers, also made their way into the bay, but there was room for all on the long beach.
Besides, we were there for the snorkeling.
Among Huatulco’s reefs and fish
From the beach, we made our way along the dark, pocked rocks that lined where the cliffs met the sea. In some spots, the water was so shallow, we had to suck in our bellies to keep from brushing the coral beneath us. Other spots were so deep, José could free dive down. Connor even followed him a time or two, and they would bring up spiny urchins or colorful shells for us to look at.
And everywhere, the fish swished by. Snorkeling is as much an aural as a visual pursuit, and that surprises me every time I stick my face in the water. The sounds of the fish nibbling at the coral resounded through the water, almost like tires crunching on snow in some wintry place far, far away from this sunny, peaceful, warm bay we found during our Huatulco private boat tour.
Dozens of types of fish, small or large, bright or dark, swim the waters off the Oaxacan coast. We pointed at orange, yellow, and blue angelfish, along with yellow and black butterfly fish, aptly named rainbow wrass, and azure parrotfish. Now and again I would feel a weight on my back: I’d been boarded by a giggling daughterfish.
Lunch at secluded St. Augustin Beach
At the mouth of the bay, in the middle of the tall, broad rock formation, the reclining lion roared. We marveled at the lion as the boat anchored in Bahía San Agustín. Far longer than our previous beach, the back of the shore was lined with restaurants and shops, palapas roofed with thatch, welcoming and quiet save for our rumbling bellies.
Near shore the shallow water took on a dark tone from the reefs and rocks along the bottom. Little scoops of sandy areas in the water were easy for the kids to splash, play in, and make sand castles.
At Restaurante La Oaxaqueña, the limonada was tart, sweet, and big—perfect after all that sea spray and sunshine. Behind us, hammocks were strung between the pillars holding up the thatched roof. We dug our feet into the cool sand under our tables, and rocked gently in the cool shade. Shrimp empanadas steamed. Tostadas, covered in shredded lettuce, a savory, thick tomato sauce, and chunks of fresh octopus, were crunchy on every bite. While the kids played in the sand, Jodie and I chatted over drinks.
Bonus secret mission fulfilled
We chartered a Huatulco private boat tour not only for the scenery, sea life, snorkeling, and secluded beaches, but for an experience we could carry in heart and memory for the rest of our lives. Our goal for the day was to be together, present and bonded, with no distractions, as a family. We wanted to take in a relaxing, beautiful experience we could all share. But that time wound up fulfilling a bonus secret mission too.
As El Regalito made its way back toward the dock where our adventure had begun that morning, Jodie and I stared through the windscreen, to where the kids sat side by side. In the shade, they stared out at the sea, side by sea, together as siblings. No squabbles. No worries. Just sister and brother, sharing time together.
One of our secret goals as traveling parents? Enabling the kids to build lifelong experiences and memories that go into their lifetime sibling bond. We want them to know that sure, they have us parents. But more importantly, they have each other.
Chartering a boat in Huatulco for the day had made it possible for us to give the kids a gift they didn’t even know we were giving them: Togetherness and shared experiences, for today and the rest of their lives.
Our secret mission for today? Completed.
It’s not just a Huatulco private boat tour. It’s building family bonds and memories
There are so many ways for families to spend time. But it’s all the more special when you know that you and your family are truly spending time together, present with one another. Our day on the ocean during our Huatulco private boat tour, aboard our chartered boat, gave us a chance to unplug, relax, and simply be together. Even more importantly, it gave our kids a chance to play, explore, snorkel, and spend time building memories that can help bring them closer even as they become adults.
Did we charter a boat for the scenery and sea life and beaches and all that? You bet we did. But we also did it because we knew that days like this are a reinforcing balm for a strong family bond. Our time on the water made memories, all thanks to a reliable partner who guided us with safety, to fun and back again. And when we left El Regalito, the memories and togetherness were a souvenir we could keep forever.