by Mitch Kaplan, Ski Editor

A full moon hovered high over the ocean, its resplendent light glitter-dancing on the water. A hundred yards out - just beyond a cove rich with fichus trees, organo cactus and exotic palms - the waves broke into a glowing white foam over a rocky outcropping. We sat on the stucco and tile veranda, bathed by a gentle wind, and let the semi-tropical scene lull us into a fine state of relaxation. You'd never know we were vacationing with a pair of teenagers.

Accompanied by teens? How were we able to indulge so carelessly in this bit of paradise? Easy. Down the hill, our children were immersed in a totally different world. They revelled with a pack of their peers, inconspicuously supervised, amid a swirling cacophony of music, talk, soft drink sipping and dancing. Moonglow for us. Disco for them. Perfect.

Vacationing with teenagers can be tough. They crave freedom and, most importantly, the company of other teens. Parents need to know their kids are safe. The Teen Club (TC) at Club Med Huatulco, the first such program in the Club Med realm, provides both. But, our children, 14 year-old Laina and 16 year-old Dan, arrived in Mexico with doubt. Who cared how exotic the setting was? Laina knew she wouldn't make any friends there. Dan, more outgoing but dedicated to a skateboarder's rebelliousness, was convinced that he'd encounter no one cool, and even brought his skateboard to insure against certain boredom. Their doubts dissolved in short order. By the middle of day one, Laina had three new best friends and was engrossed in the daily organized program. In even less time, Dan was exploring the resort's lush grounds, and skating its walkways, with a crew of his ilk.


Swim in the Saltwater Pool.



While TC was divided into age groups of 12 to 14 and 15 to 17, the groups merged and separated fluidly. Club Med's overall laissez-faire philosophy (the activities, equipment and experts are provided, you decide what you want to do) played perfectly with the teens. TC's daily schedule included circus, water sports, theatrical improvisation, and trapeze. Special activities - pick-up soccer games, arts and crafts, horseback riding - were woven throughout.

Trapeze training captivated all ages, and the skills development was amazing. A half dozen kids and adults, Laina among them, progressed to "the catch" - leaping from one trapeze to another, being caught by an instructor, leaping back - then displayed their prowess proudly at the Friday trapeze exhibition. Teens were welcome, as well, at adult team sports like daily soccer and softball. But, all participation was strictly voluntary.

Our kids experienced Huatulco very differently. Laina followed the scheduled regime religiously, bonded strongly with the circus and teen staffs, and performed in two of the week's shows. Dan flitted about on the periphery, ducked in and out of activities, and maintained autonomy.

While Laina joined a TC excursion on the twice-daily snorkeling boat, Dan and two friends (with parental permission) independently took a taxi to town to experience a bit of "real Mexico." The kids showed distinct styles. Yet, each had an equally good time. The nightly disco was a highlight that bound it all together. Open to kids until 12:20 A.M., with parental sanction they could stay later. Here, they safely quenched their thirst for social freedom while indulging in their favorite pastime - hanging out. The late hour added a sophisticated sensibility.

And we parents? We were free to enjoy things our way. Dad learned to sail. Mom snorkeled. Together, we explored the bay in a sea kayak, joined by a pair of frolicking dolphins. Huatuclo is among Club Med's largest facilities, able to contain upwards of 2,000 visitors. Lines, we were told, were a common sight during mid-winter holiday high season. But, this was July. Off-season. Less than one-third full, the club presented a lazy, laid-back, personal charm. Hot? Yes, the temperature seldom dipped below 90. And, humid, too. But, the consistent ocean breeze and air conditioned accommodations made things pleasantly bearable - and we'd trade some heat for lazy, uncrowded beaches any day.

Big resort, big beach, big off-season discount savings.


Not that you couldn't find action. Indeed, Club Med Huatulco's best kept secret may be the Thursday mountain bike ride. A local shop called Rent-A-Bike offers a guided, 32- kilometer (about 22 miles) jaunt through the jungle and into the Mexican backcountry. The ride follows a series of short up and downhill bursts over dirt paths through thick forests, followed by a few miles of relatively flat dirt road that passes small, hand-tilled farms. By the time we stopped at the tiny mud and stick home that serves as the local general store, I and the two other brave (crazy?) Americanos who'd signed on for the ride were so dehydrated, we practically bought out the entire supply of cold drinks. For a break, we hiked an additional twenty minutes to the top of an enormous, 75-foot high rock outcropping hidden in the jungle. From there, we could see for miles - all the way to the ocean in the west. During the 1600's, the Indians used this site to scan the horizon for invading Spanish sailing ships.


Horseback riding with an ocean view.



Given the heat, humidity and bug-rich woods, I'd recommend this ride only to hearty souls. But, it's an eye-opener that offers physical challenge and a close-up look at the native lifestyle. For less active folks who want to experience the jungle, an easy-going horseback ride is offered daily.

We couldn't drag our kids away from TC to ride the horses, so we resigned ourselves to being able to behave like a couple. We even went on a "date" - to the special seafood dinner offered at El Mirador, one of the complex's three "annex" restaurants. Here, the menu featured such delicious dishes as shrimp brochette and marlin filet with Bourdelaise sauce served at a candlelit table for two on an open-air deck overlooking the beach. We relaxed under the attentive eyes of the efficient waitstaff, indulged in intimate conversation and luxuriated in the soft evening breezes. And, best, we adjourned afterwards to spend the day's waning minutes on the veranda under that glorious tropical moon, gazing out to sea and feeling like, well, lovers again.