Warning: this review was written by someone who visited Huatulco in the two weeks leading up to Easter. I have been to Akumal, Cozumel and Isla Mujeres, (and several Caribbean islands) but not Cancun or Puerto Vallarta. Your results may vary.
Tourism is big government business in Mexico. I've finally figured that out after 5-6 trips there. Huatulco is touted as this "less-developed" more sleepy alternative to the other places Fonatur has really screwed up, like Cancun. I guess Huatulco is undeveloped compared to Cancun like Des Moines is undeveloped compared to New York. It still ain't Mayberry. There are hundreds of workers busily painting the curbs white, trimming the grass and bushes on the endless medians. Massive viaducts await the rainy season's effluence. Impressive infrastructure is evident everywhere, limiting any sense of quaintness or wildness, but providing easy-driving roads and clean water. While the resorts are limited to one bay, any other one you can drive to is lined with palapa restaurants and teeming with people. If you want a beach with few people, you have to hire a boat (at least if Easter weekend is upon you) There is a supermarket that is often jammed with people. You sense that Huatulco was ramping up for another big development push just before the global economic crash. It is a one-hour plane ride from the most populous city on the planet Earth. Just a fact.
Things we loved:
The variety of beaches.
The general friendliness of the locals.
(the cultural interest of) being vastly outnumbered by locals on most beaches.
The easy access to a great variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The beautiful backdrop of mountain scenery.
Things we didn't love:
The cruise ship dock and it's resulting impact.
(the crowds of people when) being vastly outnumbered by locals on most beaches. I know that by Waikiki and Cancun standards these beaches are not crowded. By my standards many are.
The chillier Pacific waters.
The often green, low-visiblity waters.
The non-english-speaking panga drivers. We generally liked being surrounded by the different culture and language, but when you're working as a guide in Mexico, you should pick up at least a little English. (It goes both ways. We regret not having more Spanish)
Was Huatulco created as part of NAFTA? There are more Canadians down there than Americans. (not that there's anything wrong with that.) Of course, most of them are too busy reserving lounge chairs by the pools at the Tangolunda resorts to get in your way at the more remote beaches.
What's with the endless median strips? I'm sure it keeps drunk drivers from running into eachother, but it's irritating to have to drive a quarter mile past your destination if it's on your left, then make a u-turn. I won't even get into the hybrid roundabout intersections designed by an engineer with a tequila dependency.
La Crucecita is a nice town where you can get a nick-nack or some really cheap fresh produce, or a good fish dinner.
If you want to see a recreation operation in a country with evidently very little concern for safety or liability, go to Rancho Tangolunda, where you can ride a zip-line (where the bus ride up is scarier than the tyrolean traverse) Go paintballing or romp around on an ATV. And when it's all over, check out the dust bowl campground, the strange little captive while boars, or pet the way-overhandled, near-death puppies trying to hide in the stack of old tires. Fun!
Where can I buy stock in the company that sells Fonatur its white paint? Every day there are dozens of dudes breaking their backs painting the curbs white. It's impressive.
The beaches we visited, in order of preference (and the beaches all are truly nice) :
1) Playa Riscalillo. Nice little beach. Best snorkeling we did.
2) Playa India. Most picturesque and nice swimming.
3) La Bocana. Best waves, cool rocks, broad and beautiful, dramatic river mouth. Some surfing, good boogie boarding.
4) Playa Entrega. Friendly locals, easy access, solid snorkeling.
5) Conejos Bay. Nice hike in, broad and beautiful.
6) Playa San Augustin. BIG. Many palapas. Probably great if it's not the day before Easter.
7) Tangolunda. Land of the resorts, where the white people live (along with the rich Mexicans down from DF), sitting perched on coveted lounge chairs at the edge of the infinity pools overlooking the bay. (Salt water and sand are yucky, and the waves are scary!)
Huatulco was probably a really cool place 15-20 years ago. Even now, if you had a panga captain you could communicate with and a few days, knowing the lay of the land, it could live up to it's eco-oriented propoganda.