Huatulco is much more than beaches.
There are many amazing adventures in Huatulco to experience. Located just 40 minutes from Huatulco in the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains is Hagia Sofia (pronounced Ahia Sophia) – an ecological park created by Armando Canavati nearly 20 years ago.
Hagia Sofia means “sacred wisdom” and everyone who visits Hagia Sofia says the same thing… “it is unforgettable and beautiful.” The name is also inspired by his daughter (Sofia).
History of Hagia Sofia
At 17 years old, Armando spent four years in the Oaxacan mountains working for food and a roof. He fell in love with the landscape and he would eventually return to it many years later. He had a passion for botany as a young man but, as most young people, his early aspirations differed from what his father wanted for him.
He was called home to Monterrey when his mother became ill and spent the next 33 years working in the family business. Armando and his brother manufactured Mexico’s most prestigious shirts until the Asian borders opened. That’s when they lost most of their business.
And this is when Armando decided to return to Oaxaca!
Coffee was gold until WWII when the market crashed. So Armando was fortunate to be able to purchase a large piece of abandoned land that had been a coffee plantation. Out of this property, Armando, his wife Lorena, and daughter Sofia created a 300-acre paradise with thousands of plants and trees native to Mexico and to Southeast Asia.
Part of the magic of the park is that Canavati created a communal enterprise by including the local workers in the development of the park. He also gave them thousands of trees to plant in order to cultivate their own land.
As he explained, “Hagia Sofía is not only an unforgettable botanical garden for schoolchildren and tourists, but also a school for organic agriculture, composting, use of alternative energy and biodegradable products, minimal consumption of natural resources.”
You can find special Hagia Sofia fruits and products at the Organic Market in Santa Cruz on the weekends and in their local office near the beach.
How to Get There
You can visit any day of the week, but please call the office the day before to make your reservation and travel arrangements. You will be picked up and returned by your guide. Tours are given in English or Spanish and most people stay about four hours. The 40-minute drive is a pleasant one through the mountains and along the way you will be entertained by Armando or one of the other guides. It is 9km northwest of Santa María Huatulco and about 30km from La Crucecita.
What to Expect
When you arrive, there will be excellent coffee, juices and snacks. Your breakfast will be cooked in an outside kitchen and all the food is organic and grown on the land at Hagia Sofia and delicious! You will sample many different varieties of fruits and vegetables!
After breakfast, you will walk through the gardens with your guide – who can be Armando or one of the other workers. Your group might include several people or just yourself. It will always be informative and interesting! Along the walk you will learn about the plants and animals, 60 varieties of birds (including many hummingbirds!) and 300 types of butterflies; and you will breathe in the rich scents of thousands of colorful flowers and plants.
After your walk you will find a restful area where you can swim in a river next to a small waterfall. The water is pristine and cool. There is a small cave under the waterfall to explore!
Besides the Garden Tour and Swim, there are four zip lines that can take you over the river and across the entire garden!
When you return to the beginning of the park, you will enjoy another meal.
There are souvenirs and other mementos for you to purchase and bring home.
- Use organic sunblock and repellent.
- Bring a bathing suit, a water bottle, towel and cash.
- Wear appropriate shoes and clothing as the walk is hot and lengthy.
- Take your camera with you.
- Facilities are provided for changing clothes.
- You will have a choice of chicken, fish or vegetarian meals.
- Be sure to let them know if you have any special needs. They will do their best to accommodate you.
Cabins can be rented here. Call ahead for reservations. The construction of these facilities includes sustainable materials from the park. There is also a recent new learning center where they teach about the medicinal qualities of natural healing plants.
What Visitors Have to Say
“An unforgettable experience…an educational, physical, sensory, spiritual experience.”
“We walked all over, seeing birds, butterflies and amazing plants and trees, all with an interesting story about each.”
“At 2:30 we finished the day with a great lunch of chicken in a banana leaf, black beans, Mexican rice, fire roasted salsa, tortillas, tostadas, more of the fruit juice and the roasted nuts from the cashew fruits we’d eaten for breakfast. All of our meals were cooked by a woman named Blanca at an outdoor kitchen.”
OWNER – Armando Canavati