Wednesday, September 3, 2014

PUERTO ESCONDIDO: OAXACA'S BEACH TREASURE


 
 

WELCOME TO PUERTO ESCONDIDO!


When my husband and I lived in the wonderful Spanish colonial city of Oaxaca, the capital of the state of Oaxaca, every few months we could hear the Pacific coast calling and we knew it was time for a beach fix. We would pack a light bag and head for the central bus station for the nightly run to the coast. If we were fortunate, we would sleep most of the eight hours down the mountainous road with its hairpin turns as we descended the Sierra del Sur mountain range. If sleep was hard to come by we could gaze out the window at the clear black sky filled with sparkling white stars. We would then shake ourselves awake from our rocking bus slumber and feel the warm tropical air and breeze of the Pacific Ocean. Ahhhhh, almost there!


The first stop would be at the lovely resort area of Huatulco where we would then switch to a local bus for the final ninety minute run up the coast to our destination, Puerto Escondido. Was all of this bus time worth it you ask. The answer is yes, yes, yes if you have salt water in your veins, a love of the Pacific beaches of Mexico, and enough leisurely time as we did. So let's visit Puerto Escondido.



I absolutely adore maps and feel "lost" without one in my bag. I will share this one now that we have climbed off the bus and want to know where we are!






Puerto Escondido ( "Hidden Port") is a small port and tourist center on the Pacific coast of the Mexican state of Oaxaca. The area around Puerto Escondido had been inhabited by indigenous peoples for centuries, but no towns of any size were established during the pre-Hispanic or colonial eras. The bay was previously known as Bahia de la Escondida (Bay of the Hidden Woman) due to a legend associated with this place. Prior to the 1930's no real town existed. The bay had been used as a port intermittently to ship coffee, but there was no permanent settlement due to the lack of potable water. The indigenous Nahuatl word for the area was Zicatela which means “place of large thorns.” Today the name Zicatela refers to the area’s most famous beach.




     Zicatela beach is world reknown for its board surfing conditions and its chill factor




      The beach scenery and the "scene" are what makes Puerto Escondido very special!



 During the period from the 1940's to the 1960's a church was constructed and the first school was built in Puerto Escondido. Wells were eventually dug to alleviate the water supply problems and generators were brought in to supply electricity to the pumps and the few streetlights. However, there were still problems getting needed outside supplies and basic commodities. These commodities only arrived periodically when a merchant ship entered the bay to sell its wares. Sometimes this would not happen for months. Residents got by with local products which included fish, iguanas (!), chickens and turtle eggs. After the Sol de Vega road to the capital of Oaxaca was constructed, this problem was alleviated somewhat.








In the 1960's Highway 200 was built which connected Puerto Escondido and other coastal towns of Oaxaca with Acapulco to the north. Surfers and other tourists slowly began to find the quiet beaches around Puerto and tourism began to flourish. Its function as a port diminished however as coffee began to be shipped by truck. Other infrastructure was added during this period including the supply of potable water, a small airport located in what is known as the Rinconada area, mail service, and some government offices. However, only approximately 400 people lived in Puerto Escondido during the 1970's.





Puerto Escondido started as a fishing village and fishing still remains very much a part of its identity


With time, Puerto Escondido’s importance grew as a tourist attraction and hotels and some small resorts were constructed. For many years restaurants were almost exclusively in “palapas” (open air thatched roof shelters) with menus primarily consisting of the of the local fisherman's catch of the day. Currently, Puerto Escondido is now one of the most important tourist attractions on Oaxaca's coast. However, Puerto Escondido appeals to a more downscale and eclectic clientele including nationals than the master-planned resort area of Huatulco to the east which appeals to a more upscale visitor. This is definitely one of the main reasons we find Puerto Escondido so attractive.




The Rinconada area is a quiet residential area with a few commercial enterprises and where we can walk to our two favorite beaches


The main attraction of Puerto Escondido is without a doubt its wonderful and beautiful beaches (playas) from eastern Playa Zicatela to western Playa La Bococho/ This section of Oaxaca's coast including Puerto Escondido runs East-West unlike the rest of the coastline which runs North-South. The climate is tropical and humid with an average annual temperature of 28°C (82°F) and a rainy season in the summer.  The string of beaches from Playa Zicatela to Playa La Bococho include the following beaches
each with its own special identity and appeal: Playa Marinero, Playa Principal, the twin beaches of Puerto Angelito and Manzanillo, Playa Carrizalillo, and finally Playa Bococho.


I think a good plan for visiting the beaches of Puerto Escondido is to start our excursion at Playa Zicatela and move eastward visiting each beach along the way.  If you are ready, let's go!


Puerto Escondido became famous due to surfing competitions held at Playa Zicatela every year in November.  Nicknamed the "Mexican Pipeline" due to the similar power and shape of the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.  The wave that breaks on Zicatela Beach draws an international crowd of surfers, boogie boarders and their followers. This is NOT your beach for casual swimming! Best to leave the water to those with boards and those with plenty of experience.



     View looking east on the Zicatela Beach.  No big surf today, but maybe manana?  





                Now I would say "surfs up" in this photograph!




        Would you say this rock is sculpted by hand or by nature?




West of Zicatela Beach over the El Moro rocky outcrop is Playa Marinero (or sailor /seaworthy beach) which is the best beach for swimming as the surf and undertow are much less than at Zicatela. There is some surf, but gentle enough for beginning surfers and boogie boarding.



    The El Moro outcrop of rocks between Playa Zicatela and Playa Marinero is striking



       Looking west from Playa Marinero towards Playa Principal in Puerto Escondido



Continuing west from Playa Marinero is Playa Principal (or main beach) fronting the town proper. The main difference that distinguishes this beach from Playa Marinero is that boats and water taxis are anchored close to shore. Here, fishermen arrive at dawn to sell their catch to local restaurants and families. It is 500 meters long with fine, gray sand and low to moderate surf. This is the primary place to hire boats which take tourists and locals to otherwise inaccessible beaches, to see porpoises and marine turtles, or for deep-sea fishing.



      Playa Principal is the center of fishing boat activity and also boats for hire





       Pelicans can smell a good thing when the fishermen return from doing what fishermen do! 



   Looks like its time to clean a water taxi at Playa Principal in Puerto Escondido


Just past Playa Principal is the the Andador Escéncico (Scenic Walkway) which is a set of paths, stairs, and bridges that begin at the eastern end of Playa Principal. This walkway winds its way over rocky ocean side cliffs passing below the lighthouse to a lookout named Sueño Posible (Possible Dream). In some places the walkway is so very close to the ocean that pedestrians can get splashed from the waves and the walkway itself can become quite slippery. It is quite spectacular, however, as you will see in the following photographs.



                                  The Andador Escéncico (Scenic Walkway) speaks for itself!



                        Do you see the lighthouse peaking out above the Andador Escéncico?



    It certainly doesn't hurt to have some mountain goat traits while navigating the Andador Escéncico!


From the end of the walkway and a bit farther west are the twin beaches of Puerto Angelito (little angel) and Manzanillo (little apple tree) which have a small rock outcropping between them. These beaches are on a sheltered cove making it safe for swimming with Manzanillo having slightly more surf. Angelito beach is full of family-owned small restaurants located in palapas (open-air thatched structures). Both these beaches have water that varies in color from emerald green to turquoise blue. Puerto Angelito tends to be crowded and frequented by busloads of visitors. Playa Manzanillo is quieter as there is no road access.




                       Is this what you think of when you hear the expression "Life's a Beach" ?



Walking the streets of any destination is one of my favorite activities and a great way to explore a new place.  Check out following three colorful photographs which illustrate what I am talking about.



I Why pave the streets when you can just have hard-packed sand? I can't remember if this gentleman was "pedaling" cold fruit drinks or ice cream.  Either sounds muy bueno to me! 



    A local neighborhood tienda (store) to quench your thirst or for your beach refreshment needs!



      "Downtown" Puerto Escondido can satisfy your internet cravings if you must!  



      Playa Angelito and Playa Manzanillo are fun for a day with nationals and foreigners alike



West from these beaches is Playa Carrizalillo which has white sand and cobalt blue water edged in light green. This 300 metre (328 feet) wide beach is on a small bay. There are no vehicular roads to this beach and the footpath descends a steep slope on a rock stairway. A water taxi ride from Playa Principal is another option for accessing Carrizalillo. Waves are normally gentle except for a zone that opens directly onto the ocean where waves are big enough for surfing. The difficult access means that the beach is not as crowded as the beaches in town and on Puerto Angelito Beach. There are few restaurants, but bringing a picnic is always a good idea.  On the east and west sides of the bay are rocky outcroppings that serve as habitat for a wide variety of fish and coral which makes it popular for snorkeling. This beach ties with the following beach as one of our two favorites!




       A picture perfect view of  Playa Carrizalillo with swimming, snorkeling and surfing- let's go!



                             Check out the surf at Playa Carrizalillo!  Cowabunga, dudes! 



   Playa Carrizalillo is my kind of beach. It's also accessible by water taxi if the 167 steps down to or up from the beach don't make your heart sing with joy!  




And last, but not least, is the westernmost beach of Playa Bacocho with its fantastic long beach for walking, striking rock outcroppings, and a lovely beach club. Here you can imagine being shipwrecked and having a beach almost entirely to yourself. It is spectacular with fine soft sand, palm trees, and warm blue-green water.  Caution:  the moderate surf at the far west end of the beach can have a strong undertow. It faces southwest, offering good sunset views which is a perfect way to end the day. West from Playa Bacocho are still undeveloped beaches that seem to go on and on for ever.  Playa Bacocho ties with Playa Carrizalillo as our two favorite beaches in Puerto Escondido.  Both these beaches are a dream and definitely worth a visit to Puerto Escondido!   






    Playa Bacocho, on the western end of Puerto Escondido, is stunning in my opinion and I can simply stare at it for hours




       Check out the fantastic rock formations at Playa Bacocho!




      I meant it when I said the beach of La Bacocho seems to go on and on forever!  




    Coco's  Beach Club at Playa La Bacocho is very nice with a spectacular beachside pool and nice food and drinks.  The beach, however, is open to everyone if you choose to swim in the ocean and enjoy your own refreshments.  Your choice!  Que bueno!  




   Trimming the coco trees at Coco's beach club which translates to guess what word?  




    Playa Bacocho's blue skies and water, white clouds and shore break, and dark boulders - who painted this perfection?



              Harvesting cocos for maybe some nice Mexican coconut drinks?




            Adios from Puerto Escondido! I hope you will join me again very soon! 



I hope you have enjoyed our visit to Puerto Escondido.  I certainly enjoyed revisiting my memories of this wonderful beach town and all it has to offer. The following is a link to one of the oldie-but-goodie web sites for the coast of Oaxaca.  Check it out!   http://www.tomzap.com/oaxaca.html


I remember  hearing many, many years ago  that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I am a believer so following is the link to my WEB ALBUM which has additional photos for this posting. And if that is not enough,  I have also included below the SLIDESHOW of the web album for your immediate enjoyment.  

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any comments, suggestions, or questions. I may be contacted directly by email or by posting a comment on this blog page. Until next time, saludos and gracias, Laura  


Memories are just a click away!