Family destination: Huatulco! Things to do with kids in Oaxaca and Mexico family travel
For our family’s six weeks in Mexico, we looked for places where we knew we could have lots of active time, down time, and peace of mind as parents who also have a digital nomad lifestyle. Our month in Huatulco with kids got us all three, plus the area’s affordable food, activities, and accommodation worked great with our style of budget family travel. Here are some of the highlights and family must-sees that we enjoyed and gladly recommend during your own family vacation in Oaxaca’s Bahías de Huatulco region.
Before you go to Huatulco with kids: Do you need to know Spanish?
Among our family travel tips? Before we left the US, we worked on learning at least a little basic Spanish. Since you’ll be traveling in Mexico, naturally, the more Spanish you can speak and comprehend, the easier you’ll often find your travels. If you don’t know Spanish, you’ll be okay.
Super simple yet useful Spanish basics for travelers
However, even a few basics help, such as:
- Please: por favor
- Greetings, such as hello (hola), good morning (buenos días), good afternoon (buenas tardes), and good night (buenas noches). Note: We noticed that many Oaxacans simply said, “buenas” as well.
- Thank you: gracias
- Where is the bathroom: ¿Dónde está el baño?
- How much?: ¿Cuánta cuesta?
- Bon appetit: Buen provecho
- And, one of Anthony’s favorite catchalls, “with permission,” or con permiso. This is one of those handy things you can say along with a gesture. For example, if you don’t know if you can take a photo of something or someone, you can hold up your device, say “¿con permiso?” and odds are the person will know what you’re asking about.
The more fluency you have, though, the easier you will find your time in Mexico. To help us learn more Spanish, our entire family is on a Super Duolingo account. Our annual subscription has paid for itself so many times over with what we’ve all been able to learn. The kids use Duolingo as part of school, but all four of us use Duolingo to work on languages. Between the four of us, we’ve been working on, or least trying out 9 languages, including:
Regardless of how much or how little Spanish you know or learn though, it’s okay. In Huatulco, we found that many people spoke English. You’ll be okay.
If you’d like to try your hand at Spanish or any of the other 40+ languages Duolingo offers, give it a try through our link:
1. People-watch and hang out: La Crucecita’s Zócalo
For starters, La Crucecita’s green, gazebo-at-the-middle heart is the Zócalo, or main square. Throughout the day, you’ll find people wandering through here, sitting on benches, or ordering a treat or beverage from one of the many vendors around. During our month in La Crucecita, which coincided with Día de Muertos in November, the Zócalo was also where we found a stage set up for performances and other events, and plus student displays of Día de Muertos art.
La Crucecita is small and walkable, with decent sidewalks and short blocks. We stayed just south of the exact downtown grid, but could wander from our third-floor front door, along Bugambilia street, to the Zócalo in less than 10 minutes. From here, you can also easily figure out many of the town and region’s other delights, though for our family, relaxing with a treat in the gazebo was one of our favorite ways to have some downtime in Huatulco.
2. Snag some souvenirs: Mercado 3 de Mayo
Just off the Zócalo’s eastern edge, cross Bugambilia to the north side of Guamachil to find La Crucecita’s vibrant local market. Mercado 3 de Mayo is enclosed and takes up the entire block. Inside, rows of stalls have everything from silly beach shirts to delicious drinking chocolate (which, we’ll add, makes a great gift, along with a wooden molinillo, which looks like some sort of magical object, and pretty much is, since it stirs and froths the chocolate into mixed, aerated deliciousness).
Along one inside wall, sit-down cafés will be happy to show you their menu and guide you to a seat. They overall have similar menus and are all going to be tasty, so pick whichever one you want.
We enjoyed the Mercado for finding Anthony a new shirt, Aster a new necklace, a coin purse for Jodie, and gifts for a few folks back home. And as much as Anthony is a fan of haggling, we found prices to be fair from the get-go.
3. Sweet treats and fresh bread: Alejandro’s Panadería, or Panificadora San Alejandro
As you probably have guessed, both we parents and the children travel on our stomachs. Wherever we go, we love knowing where we can find a wee local sweet treat. One block south of the Mercado, on the north side of Flamboyán, Alejandro’s was the incredible Mexican bakery we had been looking for.
Whether baguettes or sandwich rolls, chocolate-covered donuts or pastries filled with mango or banana, we visited Alejandro’s just about every day. It gave us an excuse to take a stroll after a busy work or school day, and the baking was always delicious, fresh, and affordable.
4. Take a playground break: Parque de Arena, La Crucecita
At the corner of Bugambilia and Colorín, Parque de Arena, or Arena Park, offers a sandy playground and a few shady trees. During the sunny peak of the day, the equipment might be too hot to play on. If you take a morning excursion, you may have the playground all to yourself.
When the sun goes down, however, the playground comes alive. Anytime we came this way in the evening, we found families and kids enjoying the playground, sitting on the rock wall, or waiting for the burger street cart to fire up the flat-top.
5. Food and dining in Huatulco with kids: Restaurants, cafés, and street food to try
While pretty much any region or state of Mexico has its own food fame, Oaxaca tends to be the state that stands out the most. With dozens of indigenous cultures alive and well in the state, plus Western and European influences, the cuisines here range from street tacos to some darn tasty poké. Here are a few we ate at and would happily recommend to families dining in Huatulco with kids:
Restaurante LUZMAR, Bugambilia and Acacia, La Crucecita
Lovely breakfast and lunch spot. Once you see the bright, earthy red walls, you know you’ve arrived. The kids always found it easy to find something they liked, but there were plenty of tasty and spicy dishes for us parents too.
Mamma Mia! Bugambilia and Ceiba, La Crucecita
Wood-fired pizzas, savory ravioli, and sumptuous salads are all on the menu. Near the entrance, a little LED projector shines red lights on the floor. Aster liked to call these “fire ants.” Whenever they came on, she could get up and dance in the lights.
Beer Plus, Chacah off Carrizal
OK, so not a place for the kids, but definitely a place for parents. The well-curated beer shop has craft brews from Oaxaca and other parts of Mexico—or if you need a little crafty taste of home, you can find a selection of US craft beers and, when we visited, even Belgian Duvel.
Restaurante Bar Doña Celia, Playa de La Cruz
Let’s just get this clear: The seafood served in a roasted pineapple is a worthy splurge. All along Playa de La Cruz, you will not want for on-the-beach sit-down restaurants. However, we loved the accessibility that Doña Celia offered Jodie.
When we go to the beach, Jodie leaves her prosthesis at home and gets around on crutches. At the end of the smooth, tiled boardwalk, we could go just onto the sand for a beach table. Plus, Doña Celia is the place for that seafood and a pineapple. While Connor and Aster splashed in the gentle surf (Playa de La Cruz is set inside a bays, so the surf is gentle), we parents relaxed with beers and limonadas in the evening sunlight. Now this, dear friend, was living.
6. Great evening excursion: Release baby sea turtles into the ocean with OscarTours
Baby. Sea. Turtles. Do we need to say anything else? About an hour and a half outside of La Crucecita, Escobilla (not far from Puerto Escondido) is a major nesting ground for sea turtles such as the olive ridley. Our family joined up with an amazing evening with OscarTours, so we could help release 67 hatchlings into the sea, and learn more about the ongoing conservation efforts to protect these amazing turtles.
Our traveling family loved this baby sea turtle release tour in Huatulco, Mexico. Here’s why.
7. Day trip! Charter a boat for a day of family togetherness with West Coast Huatulco
As our time in Mexico came to a close, we would soon be flying to Thailand to spend the next few months in Southeast Asia. However, in the midst of school and work, we wanted a really memorable day together, distraction-free. So we chartered a boat, with a great skipper and first-mate from West Coast Huatulco, who took us on a tour of the Oaxaca coast. We searched for sea life, snorkeled in a national park, and lunched on a beach with an incredible rock formation in the water.
Our family chartered a boat in Mexico for a day
What to do and where to stay in Huatulco with kids
Oaxaca’s Huatulco region is a fun and safe place for families to travel and enjoy with kids
Relaxed. Down to earth. Family friendly. Those are just a few of the ways we would describe our time in Huatulco with kids. La Crucecita was a wonderful town to stay in for an entire month, and we would gladly go back again. When you go on your family vacation to Huatulco, you’ll find plenty to do with your family in this beautiful, oceanside part of Oaxaca.