Travel | One comment
By: Zdenko Kahlina
Vanquishing the winter blues
From Huatulco to Pochutla takes about one hour and to Puerto Escondido another hour. We made a turn to visit Mazunte, beach town, just off of the main highway.
After about three hours, we were back on the main highway. Highway 200 follows the Pacific coast, however, we weren’t able to see the ocean for a long time. The entire leg of the trip was basically straight and flat with lots of… you know already: topas!
As we got closer to Puerto Escondido, we passed miles and miles of road construction. There will soon be a new toll road from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido, which purportedly will cut the driving time in half; as an extension of the new road system, there will be a new four-lane coastal highway from Puerto Escondido to Huatulco. For the last half hour or so we also passed by lots of mango, papaya and coconut under cultivation.
Fruit vendors by the highway
Highway 200 crosses the Río Colotepec just east of Puerto Escondido
Mouth of Río Colotepec
Puerto Escondido was much larger than Huatulco. Over the last 25 years, the town has grown from a small fishing village of 3,000 people to a bustling town of over 50,000. Puerto Escondido is also famous for its huge waves that draw hoards of surfing fanatics. Puerto Escondido is a great place for surfers and non-surfers. Most of the Carrizalillo area is actually visited by non-surfers. There are no ancient or historic sites in Puerto Escondido. There are a number of nature/eco type things outside of town though.
We did not have any reservations here, but I made email contact with one B&B place, so I was looking for this place, for which I knew was somewhere close to the light house area. The light house was built in 1936 at the western entrance of the Puerto Escondido harbor. It warns boats and sailing vessels of the dangerous rocks and cliffs, emitting two bright flashes of light every 10 seconds. Visitors are not allowed.
Arial view of Puerto Escondido
We found the stark white lighthouse, appropriately named “El Faro” (which means “lighthouse”), quite easily. But finding the B&B place proved to be difficult. Soon we stopped looking for the B&B place and while still in the same area, we discovered a nice small hotel on the hill, right by the elementary school. The hotel’s name was “Barlovento”. Hotel was deserted almost empty… no tourists. I think at the time we were here, there was only one room rented out. But the hotel had all amenities we were looking for: affordable price, good location, free internet, nice spacious and clean rooms. They were also serving breakfast at extra cost on a beautiful terrace above the pool. We had a great ocean view from the balcony of our room.
El Faro area where our hotel was
View from our hotel room
In the evening we walked down the hill to the main street in old town, and it was only a 10 minute walk. The main street had plenty of restaurants and shops, but again, no tourists. Every restaurant had their staff outside on the sidewalk, trying to drag those very few tourists that were walking the street, into their place.
The town of Puerto Escondido was established in 1928 as a port for shipping coffee, although the area has been inhabited by indigenous populations for centuries. In the 1960′s it was connected to other coastal towns by Highway 200. Tourists began to discover the town and surfers found its beaches. Its importance as a port diminished as coffee shipments began going by truck instead of boat. The port does continue to support commercial fishing activity.
A Tale of Two Cities
An interesting aspect of the area known as Puerto Escondido is that it actually is divided between two counties or municipios so that it is politically two separate cities. This division puts the Zicatela side of town into el Municipio de Santa Maria Colotepec, Pochutla, and the eastern portion of the city into el Municipio de San Pedro Mixtepec, Juquila. To make matters worse, there is disagreement as to the boundaries and legalities of this division that leaves many businesses caught in the middle with the burden of paying taxes to both. For years, there has been talk of making Puerto Escondido a city. The proposed limits of the new city would extend from Punta Zicatela on the east to just beyond the Puerto Escondido airport on the west. The president elect of San Pedro Mixtepec, Abraham Ramírez Silva, ran on a platform pledged to achieve the goal of making Puerto Escondido independent of both counties which currently control the area.
Today, Puerto Escondido is a home for fishermen, surfers, vacationers, and an eclectic expatriate community. On 10/29/09 Agencia Puerto Escondido was upgraded to Ciudad Puerto Escondido, reflecting its rapid growth and importance to the state of Oaxaca. The large waves of Zicatela beach put it into the top ten surfing destinations. It does not cater to the high end tourist as much as Huatulco to the east. Its sprawling beaches host numerous small to mid-size hotels and restaurants.
There are three main beaches, Playa Principal, Playa Marinero, and Zicatela, close to the main part of town, as well as several other smaller beaches. Avenida Perez Gasga is a pedestrian only street known as the Adoquín that parallels Playa Principal, where you will find the Information Goddess. The Andador Escénico Sea Walk begins at Playa Principal and winds along rocky ocean side cliffs. Up the hill from the Adoquín is the coastal highway 200 and on the other side of that is the downtown business district where you can find banks, the mercado, etc.
Playa Zicatela only for surfers
Playa Zicatela is a long straight beach on the east side of the bay and can be seen from Playa Principal. Zicatela is where the strong waves are that make Puerto Escondido a world class surfing destination, but this beach was not for us.
Arial view on Playa Zicatela
Hotels facing Playa Zicatela
Puerto Escondido also has a number of small beaches that are family-friendly, with small waves and clear water. When driving around the town, we kind of just run into small exit road that had a sign pointing to Playa Angelito. Later, we discovered that we could even walk to this beach from our hotel. It was this close.
Playa Manzanillo is located west of the lighthouse and just east of Puerto Angelito, separated by a rocky outcrop. This rocky outcrop is seen on the left in the photo above and has a pathway that leads the short distance to Puerto Angelito, just out of view in this photo. Playa Manzanillo is a good place for snorkeling and swimming. Watch out for the boats that come and go to both beaches.
Restaurants on Playa Angelito
The beach was very relaxing. Every once in a while, a vendor would come by selling items—not in a harassing manner at all, but just offering his or her items/services in a soft, non-intrusive voice. We usually would say no thank you (we had the phrase, “No, gracias!” down—spoken very politely, of course).
Puerto Escondido is a great place for non-surfers. We drove around the town and stopped at the Carrizalillo area. Carrizalillo is a residential area with luxury nice private homes for people that want very relaxing vacations or living. Most of the Carrizalillo area is actually visited by non-surfers. There are no ancient or historic sites in Puerto Escondido. There are a number of nature/eco type things outside of town though.
A private stairway leads you towards Playa Carrizalillo
The beautiful Playa Carrizalillo, is surrounded by high cliffs. We walked more than 160 steps leading down, all the way to the beach. There is direct access to the beach via a private stairway from the front terrace. Carrizalillo is an excellent beach for swimming, snorkeling, fishing, as well as surfing and boogie-boarding.
The water was warm, with small but powerful waves and a sucking current that was a bit more intense than we had anticipated. The high cliffs that surround it ensure that it’s never too crowded. The aquamarine water here is clean, clear, and shallow—perfect for swimming and snorkeling, especially around the rocks that frame the beautiful cove. Sometimes there are waves large enough to be appropriate for beginning surfers. A handful of palm-thatched restaurants rent snorkeling equipment and serve food and drinks. It’s a two-minute drive or 35-minute walk from the center of town; a small sign indicates where to turn onto the unpaved road.
Coconut harvest on the beach
O.K. Gringo, how many Coconut drinks do you want…
Vera and her Coconut drink – fresh from the tree
The Rinconada is a beautiful section of town, close to Carrizalillo. Rinconada begins a short distance north of Playa Carrizalillo and is dominated by a straight divided boulevard named Blvd. Benito Juárez that runs along its southern edge. This boulevard is more popularly known as The Rinconada and the many businesses that face Blvd. Benito Juárez are said to be “on the Rinconada”.
Follow this link to www.mexico-condo.com for some nice aerial photos that show the layout of the area.
And this is all I can say about Puerto Escondido. We stayed here only two days. When we compared Huatulco and Puerto Escondido, we liked Huatulco better. It was more touristy and very clean with better roads. One of the things we didn’t like in Escondido was the main highway, which is in very bad shape throughout the town. Old town Escondido, just north of the highway, was also not very impressive.
Paradise on earth – Puerto Escondido beaches
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