Puerto Escondido

The "Hidden Port" That is Being Discovered

From the Jul/Aug 1996 issue No. 30 of the Mexican Meanderings Newsletter.

Savoring a fresh shrimp cocktail and ice-cold beer while watching the sun set over Zicatela Beach from Art and Harry's Surf Inn. Admiring the skill and form of early-morning surfers over a cup of rich coffee and outrageously delicious mango cream pastry at Cafecito II. Chatting multilingually with fellow journalists over margaritas and cervezas trying to maintain good cheer through a rushed itinerary. These are our fondest memories of charming, low-key Puerto Escondido from two brief visits there. Although the Mexican government planned to develop it into a mega-resort a couple of decades ago, the money seems to have gravitated to nearby Huatulco, with its all-inclusive highrise hotels and splendid golf facilities. In contrast, Puerto Escondido retains much of its Mexican character while still possessing key elements of tourist infrastructure such as direct air service from Mexico City and Oaxaca, frequent bus connections, and restaurants and accommodations in all price ranges (except the most luxurious).

Sunset from Art & Harry's

Although some sources speak of Puerto Escondido as a 19th-century shipping point for coffee plantations, the town dates its official founding as 1928. Salina Cruz, some 75 miles to the east, grew more quickly as a commercial center due to its easier (less mountainous) access to Oaxaca. Puerto Escondido remained a quiet fishing village of no more than 500 inhabitants until it was discovered in the 70's by the international surfing community. Wintering North Americans and vacationing Europeans looking for sun and fun at minimal cost soon followed. Its popularity with National (i.e., Mexican) tourists began to grow as well, particularly around Christmas, Easter and school vacation times. Now its estimated population has swelled to 50,000, but many say it retains the sort of charm that Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco had in their earlier years. The rockbottom budget backpacker set has largely gravitated to Puerto Angel (see our issue #25) in recent years, but you can still find economical lodging and tasty low-cost meals, as well as more upscale varieties, here.
The main tourist part of Puerto Escondido stretches between the coastline and Highway 200. The "town" side is north of the highway; here you will find bus stations, banks and inexpensive lodging for those who don't mind a longer stroll to the beach. West from town is Bacocho, situated on a bluff and the site of fine residences and the majority of the larger and upscale hotels.
Beaches remain the major draw, and are both numerous and varied. Famed Zicatela continues to hold world-class distinction for its olas (waves) which on a fine day are said to reach eight meters in height. It is an international hangout year-round for the surfing set, but August and November are the big months for international competition. Accommodations here range from the hammock-based crash pad to comfortable small hotels such as Arco Iris and Los Delfines. Canadian-run

Zicatela Beach

Art and Harry's Surf Inn offers lodging, but is better known for its bar, where deeply tanned surfers and pale (soon to be sunburned) middle-aged tourists and winter residents peacefully coexist in anticipation of the aforementioned shrimp cocktails, Jeff's famous barbecued ribs and one of the best sunset views in town. Scattered along Calle Morro, the paved beach road into town, are shops offering surf-and boogie-boards for rent, diving and snorkeling excursions and other beach paraphernalia including aspirin, hats and sun-screen. Mid-way along Zicatela, you'll find Cafecito II (I'm not sure where to find Cafecito I), which excels in coffee and pastries in the morning, and salads and sandwiches throughout the day. Get there early for your favorite treats, even though second choices are still great. One caveat: BE AWARE that this stretch of water is not a place for the first-time or even occasional surfer, and pleasure swimming is totally out of the question.
Just at the rock outcropping that divides Playa Zicatela and Playa Marinero lies the lovely Hotel Santa Fe, the nicest "in town" establishment where we stayed two nights last year. Its tiled stairways, arches and bougainvillea lend a gracious air to the 51 large air-conditioned rooms, and the excellent restaurant and bar on the second level make mealtimes special and sunset-watching splendid. Enjoy their pool, or swim on the Playa Marinero side of the beach (even here be careful of the undertow). On this beach you'll often find horses to rent for a leisurely gallop in the surf.
Calle del Morro winds back up to the main highway just on the west side of Hotel Santa Fe. If you're on foot, continue along the beach for the next treat. By car, go back to the main highway, then turn at your next left down an unnamed street that dead-ends in Playa Marinero. Let your nose do the rest, especially if it is morning. Half-way to the beach you will find Carmen's La Patisserie (she also owns Cafecito II). This was their original location; you'll find that soothing music, aromatic coffee, outstanding pastry and sandwiches and a paperback book exchange make it a unique gathering spot. It's also where an English-speaking AA group meets. Ready for lunch or dinner? Just go across the street to Marfa's Restaurant, where the Italian-Canadian owners greet you as friends, and the pasta and seafood are sublime. Lino and María Francato also own the charming and inexpensive hotel, Flor de María, which houses the restaurant and where we spent another two nights in a comfortable room with ceiling fan and stenciled decorative touches.
Hotels we've enjoyed in
Puerto Escondido

Hotel Aldea del Bazar
Ave. Benito Juarez
Fracc. Bacocho
Puerto Escondido
Oaxaca México
Tel (958) 2-0508

Hotel Flor de María
Playa Marinero
Puerto Escondido
Oaxaca México
Tel (958) 2-0536
Fax (958) 2-0536

Hotel Santa Fe
Apdo. Postal 96
Puerto Escondido
Oaxaca México
Tel (958) 2-0170
Fax (958) 2-0260

If you want to be where "the action is," stay and/or dine at one of the establishments along Avenida Pérez Gasga overlooking the Playa Principal. There are many good choices here, but you may be assailed by large families and loud discos. At the end of Pérez Gasga, past the pedestrian zone and a short distance from the beach, the Hotel Nayar offers good views and a friendly staff. An excellent budget choice is Castillo de los Reyes where the owner is a real gentleman. Both these places can also be reached from Highway 200. The most upscale and eclectic eatery along Pérez Gasga is Nautilus; we also enjoyed the simple menu and inexpensive meals at Alicia's Restaurant. For information about the area, look for the tourism kiosk along the pedestrian zone. You can negotiate with local fishermen for an excursion to the secluded beaches of Puerto Angelito and Carrizalillo.
For excellent guided tours of Manialtepec lagoon, coffee plantations in the nearby mountains and other fascinating offerings, ask for Michael Malone at Turismo Rodimar, 905 Av. Pérez Gasga. This friendly travel agency can also. make flight and other travel arrangements.
The Bacocho area, on the heights west of town near the airport, is home to a slowly-developing residential neighborhood and a cluster of large, newer hotels. Top choices here are the Suites Villa Sol, which has its own beach club a short distance away (transportation provided). A skilled chef and his staff offer excellent dishes such as cold avocado soup and beef Wellington. The exotic Aldea del Bazar lacks beach access, but we found their Moorish-themed rooms and pool are very refreshing. Others in our group of visiting journalists this spring gave its spa rave reviews; offerings include steam baths, massages and facials. It is also in the Bacocho area that you will find the main tourism office; visit these helpful folks at the corner of Blvd. Benito Juárez and Carretera Costera or call or fax (958) 2-0836.
On both trips, we were constrained by a shortage of time. The area deserves more exploration: visits to places like the del Aldea spa, the town market, the nearby tropical park Chacahua, the traditional Mixtec villages of Jamiltepec and Tututepec. We'd also do a serious survey of all the sunset-watching spots in town (this could easily be combined with a scientific study of the margaritas provided by each, and might easily take several days). Need we say this is a place high on our "must go back" list?

The above article is from the newsletter Mexican Meanderings, published 6 times per year by
Southwind Information Services
P.O. Box 33057
Austin, Texas 78764
Tel. 512-441-1815
Fax. 512-441-2330
e-mail: mexplore@aol.com
C. M. Felsted
H. H. Felsted
Subscriptions: $18 per year (USA)
$20 per year (Foreign)
Copyright 1996

Other articles from the Mexican Meanderings newsletter are:

See also a more recent article on Puerto Escondido:

| Top of page |