Paseo Benito Juárez, Lote 2, Bahía Tangolunda, Oaxaca, Mexico
Rising above the six exquisite bays and thirty-six sandy beaches of Huatulco's Pacific coastline, the Quinta Real reigns as the top luxury hotel on Mexico's Oaxacan Riviera.
It would take a month to adequately explore all the wonders within Huatulco (wa-TOOL-co), Mexico's newest and greenest resort community. But you can rest assured (in a gently swaying hammock) that Tangolunda is among its best. Within an enormous protected bay of swimmable, azure-blue waves, this beach boasts a long, soft swath of coarse golden sand.
So most of Huatulco's best resorts have staked their claim upon this broad beach, along with a small contingent of tour operators, restaurants, and shops. One of the better views over Tangolunda is from the 13th hole of the Huatulco Golf Club, the community's challenging and underused 18-hole golf course. Even better views, however, can be had right next door, from the whitewashed Moorish domes rising from the thickly wooded headland just above rolling greens. The Quinta Real Huatulco is in a prime spot.
The long driveway wends upward through the flowering trees, well away from the tourist claptrap below. Pass through the first courtyard, paved in smooth stone and centered on a small, soothing fountain, to the open-air lobby with its jungle-themed, hand-carved furnishings. Scented towels and refreshing drinks welcome you as the friendly staff (not all of whom speak perfect English) checks you in.
Though the Quinta Real's classic marriage of Mexican and Mediterranean architecture may seem dated to veteran vacationers, who can argue with its dramatic sophistication, pale white against a sapphire sea? The gently curved archways and stone mandala inlaid into the central courtyard's polished cement patio offer an elegant greeting beneath palm thatch rustling in the salty breeze.
And these flowing lines, which play with the tropical light, lead to only 28 expansive suites built into the dramatic headland. Several buildings are connected by smooth, white stairwells, which meander through a wooded property inset with stunning views, tennis courts, and numerous sparkling pools.
There are several different types of suites, all echoing the pale palette, striking architecture and natural textures that first welcomed you to the hotel. The difference is in the size and view; master suites, for example, lack the awesome 180-degree vista some of the pricier suites enjoy. But throughout the resort, river-pebble inlaid floors draw the eye across each pristine space and upward to the columns and windows imbuing each room with an airy opulence.
Large, comfortable beds with excellent bedding and pillows are the centerpiece of each suite, attended by columns, arches, and wrought-iron lamps offering flattering light. Jacuzzi tubs and fireplaces in each of the suites just add to the aura of romance. But separate living spaces, babysitting services, large televisions, a lovely children's pool, and other kid-friendly amenities make this a great spot for families as well.
And in the morning, both lovers and parents will appreciate the enormous porches, hung with hand-made fiber hammocks and furnished with table and chairs, the perfect place to enjoy a cup of rich Oaxacan coffee. Surf the Internet or read your complimentary newspaper while watching the waves; you may appreciate room service at least one perfect morning. And though the architecture may be retro, the modern amenities include excellent air conditioning, a well-stocked minibar, telephone, robes, slippers, and all sorts of plush personal care products.
Nine of the rooms, including the truly regal Presidential suite, also have their own private pools, accessible via spiral staircase from the porch. All are cleverly angled throughout the property for both privacy and ocean views, secreted among the rock walls and trees. Guests without their own private plunge can happily make do with of the hotel's several other pools, however. Try the terraced blue infinity pools atop the headland, with children's pool and hot tub, or the magnificent pool at the hotel beach club, right on the Pacific.
Air-conditioned shuttles run guests to La Cuija Beach Club, surrounded by a shady and secluded stretch of shoreline on long and lovely Tangolunda. Or you can simply descend the stairs to the beach, lined with divine day beds and lounge chairs shaded with palm-leaf umbrellas. The hotel organizes all sorts of boat tours, for fishing, snorkeling, diving, or just visiting some of the other 35 beaches along Huatulco's shore. Or just stay here and relax. Perhaps indulge in a shrimp cocktail at their open-air, palapa-topped restaurant, perfect for drinks or a light meal. Or a destination wedding.
Visitors should note that Huatulco is spread out, unlike Acapulco and other Mexican resort towns. While there are a few businesses on Tangolunda, you'll want to explore, which would be difficult on foot. Boat tours offer the most scenic transport to the region's incomparable beaches, many of which are inaccessible by land. Others are a short taxi ride away, such as the original village of Santa Cruz, with adorable shops, thatch-roofed restaurants, and a divine little church all right on the beach. The Quinta Real concierge can arrange trips even further afield, perhaps Playa San Augustín, within nearby Huatulco National Park. For a quick lunch, grab a cab to La Crucecita, at the heart of the development, a cheerful collection of restaurants, souvenir stores, markets, movie theaters and more.
But for a truly romantic dinner, head back to the Quinta Real, where one of the region's very best restaurants resides within one of the hotel's enormous domes, Las Cúpulas. The beautifully decorated fine dining restaurant, with hand carved furnishings and a breezy outdoor patio, offers excellent service and an award-winning menu. In addition to solid international plates and a selection of Oaxaca's renowned international cuisine (hint: it's hard to go wrong with molé), traditional dishes from throughout Mexico are offered as mains or appetizers.
No matter what you order, you'll always remember the view, through enormous arches beneath that incredible vaulted ceiling, to the very edge of the island-filled bay. Beneath the restaurant's twin dome is Las Cúpulas Bar, offering the same stunning vistas with more casual ambiance. And, for those who prefer that nothing come between them and the stars, the outdoor Sky Lounge offers cocktails in the trees, overlooking the moon-streaked bay.
The beaches of Oaxaca State, scores of them strung like a sapphire-and-emerald necklace along its scalloped shore, still remain largely undiscovered by the international crowd. That's about to change, as air and road access improve. So visit this gem of a hotel soon, among the finest luxury lodging in this region, and enjoy your own private paradise on Tangolunda Bay.
Web Address: Quinta Real Huatulco Preferred Hotels
Total Number of Rooms: 28
Published rates: Rooms $216-409, Presidential Suite $1559
Review and photos by Paige R. Penland
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