Puerto Escondido - The Antithesis of a Resort Town
Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
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Mexico: 23 Destinations to Spend the Winter Months
- Pacific coast, 368 kilometers southeast of Acacpulco
- State of Oaxaca
Puerto Escondido – The Antithesis of a Typical Resort Town
Along the Pacific coast, Barra de Navidad and Puerto Escondido would be strong contenders as top choices among “MEXICO: 23 Destinations to Spend the Winter Months”.
The weather is superb at this time of year (winter months) and the physical beauty of both destinations is remarkable. I devoted 3 blogs to Barra de Navidad and one for nearby Melaque. That speaks for itself as to how we felt about the place
For Puerto Escondido, I hope to keep it to one blog.
Puerto Escondido is no. 16 out of 23 destinations and I must confess that I am getting a touch of writer’s fatigue. However, the last blog on Acapulco shows anything but writer’s fatigue. If anything, it may suffer from a bit of verbal diarrhea.
It was the construction of coastal highway 200 in the 1960’s that opened up this once isolated part of the Pacific Coast to surfers and the “hippie” community.
Why surfers? It is because Zicatela Beach has the best surfing in Mexico. I wrote about world-class surfing on the north coast of Oahu (Hawaii). It was there that I was introduced to the “pipeline” concept in surfing. Zicatela is known as the “Mexican pipeline” which speaks for itself.
Puerto Escondido’s development has since gone well beyond its original fishing village and surfer roots, as the beauty of this destination did not stay “hidden” for long
Having said that, the growth was gentle and restrained with no major resorts located in the area. Our next destination will be the Bays of Huatulco, just 160 kilometers south of Puerto Escondido. Like Ixtapa it was a resort planned and developed in an area where there was essentially nothing of importance. On the contrary, Puerto Escondido was a small fishing village that just continued to expand up the hills onto the plateau without the benefit of any major overall planning. Its geographical location squeezed between the bay and the rising hills would limit development as prime real estate. That leaves the plateau at the upper levels where “barrios” have developed for the Mexican middle to upper class and expats.
The mix of people in PE is made up of locals, surfers, expats and tourists passing through. It attracts not only American/Canadian expats but also a fair number of Europeans to its beautiful beaches and idyllic setting. The town has a beautiful tropical feeling about it with lovely white sand beaches and an abundance of swaying palm trees all wrapped in that warm winter weather. It is somewhat out of the way to get here but it is well worth the trip
This is a great place for expats based on their numbers but yet I am going to be the devil’s advocate and be counterintuitive for a moment and point out certain characteristics of PE that would make it less than ideal for expats.
Among them would be:
- lack of major shopping facilities in the form of big box stores
- lack of access to top medical facilities due to the town’s small size and distance from nearest major city
- distance from Mexico City makes flying the only viable option of getting to Mexico City’s International Airport
- it has great beaches for swimming, sunbathing and surfing but are those the main activities of expats?
- lack of cultural activities
- not an easy place to walk around since a good part of the town is on a steep slope
- the temperatures become too hot in late winter and are off the charts in the summer
- it is not an easy town to walk around in due to its elevations
Given what I just wrote, how could we rate it one of our top picks on the coast?
The answer lies in a number of factors:
- it is the antithesis of the big resort towns
- it is very Mexican but yet lacks the “yikes” factor which I describe as the cultural shock so prevalent in some parts of Mexico
- it is expat/tourist friendly
- because of its small size it has a “laid-back” ambiance
- it has a great geographical setting nestled on bays and sandy beaches and low mountains
- it is a wonderful place to linger and just soak up the atmosphere
- it is very international with a nice mix of European visitors
- the wonderful “winter” weather
- the beautiful smooth sandy beaches are a pleasure to walk if nothing else
- it is the antithesis of the big resort town (this is worth repeating)
- availability of houses to rent in the suburbs on the plateau
- less expensive than the major resort towns
- the laid-back ambiance (this is worth repeating also)
- it is not a destination for the “7 Day-Ahttp://www.mexico-condo.com/Beaches.htm ll-Inclusive” crowd
- it is not a port-of-call for the cruise ships
- did I mention the great beaches
Yes, the beaches – they are varied and beautiful and encompass the entire area
For a great view of the town, beaches, etc., have a look at this aerial photo:
No place in Mexico that we visited had such a variety of beaches.
One of the pleasures of Puerto Escondido is to stroll the main street/pedestrian mall known as “La Zona Adoquanda” or Avenida Perez Gasga, that is located just a block back from Playas Principal and Marinero. Newly renovated since my last visit in 2003, it now sports interlocking stones to provide a beautifully smooth walking surface to better access the many boutiques, restaurants and shops that line this “paseo”. Suffice it to say, if I were living here, I would have a hard time to not walk “La Zona Adoquanda” at least once a day if for no other reason than people watching.
Upon our arrival in Puerto Escondido our “let-a-taxi-driver-take-us-to-a-hotel” method resulted in us being dropped off in front of the Hotel Flor de Maria located in Col
We could hardly wait to drop off our suitcases and walk to the near-by Playa Marinero.
Wow, what a feeling! After the long bus ride from Acapulco, it was great to walk on the white sable sand, see the beautiful bay and the surrounding area, bask in the warm weather and watch fishermen pulling their boats up on the beach and packing the days catch into ice boxes for transport to local restaurants.
It was sad to see the majestic swordfish lying on the white sand never to frolic in the azure blue waters of the Pacific Ocean again. They were an expression of the diversity and beauty of nature that was now to end up on someone’s plate to be washed down with a glass of Chardonnay. Strange world we live in, but it is best not to think too much about such things since “vegan” is not for everybody.
Our attention was also drawn to a sunburned gentleman who was wearing a fuzzy coconut hat. It gave him all the appearance of a Viking warrior. That certainly was a conversation starter. He turned out to be a bricklayer from Copenhagen, Denmark.
In these times where most travellers, at least the one’s we have met, seem to have impressive jobs, how often do you get to meet a bricklayer
Since he apparently has three-month vacations, he travels widely and rated Puerto Escondido as one of his favourite places in Mexico. We later, by sheer coincidence, had a coffee with him on the “Zona Adoquanda” which turned out less than satisfactory since we became the unintended center of attention because he was one of those persons who was not aware of how loudly he spoke.
On the “ Zona Adoquanda” we also struck up a conversation with “Mike” from our present hometown of Prince George, BC. Mike assured us that Puerto Escondido had not lost its reputation as a destination of choice for young backpackers who were attracted by the sun and fun. It seemed he was recovering from the “fun” as on this Sunday morning, coming home from an all-night party, he asked us for the time - now how cool is that?
Our evening stroll led us up the hill to the upper part of town
From the cathedral we followed wide stairs leading down to the lower town. It was during our descent that I saw a sign for rooms to rent on an impressive mansion. Should we or should we not ring the bell? It was thus that with the push of a button we found ourselves in the “Casa Blanca del General” or otherwise put – “all the mansion that the modest salary of a retired Mexican army general could buy”.
“Casa Blanca” or “white house” was anything but modest. It was huge and on one of the best pieces of real estate overlooking the beautiful bay and the town. During daylight the next day I realized it was one of the dominant landmarks on the hill overlooking the bay.
General Alfredo Sentana proved to be a gracious host as he gave us the grand tour of his Casa Blanca
Bottom line, if you are looking for a place to stay, at least for the short-term, then the Casa Blanca is a good choice. The large apartment was occupied by a Quebec couple who was having a meal prepared for them by the live-in maid. Since the Casa Blanca is up on a steep hill next to the cathedral, the view of the bay and surrounding area is spectacular.
The general can be reached at: email@example.com or 9545821953.
Certainly we would have liked to linger longer in order to discover more of Puerto Escondido but our time was ticking away. Nevertheless there was a lot to look forward to starting with one of the highlights of our trip, our next destination.
Oaxaca: Coffee, Chocolate and Superb Colonial Architecture
Oops, I am getting ahead of myself as the next one is:
Bays of Huatulco