This beautiful city is alive with fiesta fever as we walk its delightful streets. It’s December 30th but the party has started and the Zócalo is alive. Oaxaca is a beautifully attractive place anyway, its streets and architecture alluring, but with this spirit gripped by fiesta fever, it is irresistible. This could be a new year like no other!
Our time in Puerto Escondido comes to an end after a brilliant couple of weeks where the joy of being in this wonderful corner of the world has been surpassed only by the incredible food experiences. We are moving on now, to the city of Oaxaca, where a different type of adventure awaits. Catch up with the journal at The Americas/Mexico; Days 14 & 15 bring our coastal time to a close.
One of the beaches at Puerto Escondido is home to a turtle preservation project, where eggs are collected and babies hatched. We took part in the release of new born babies yesterday, what an amazing feeling watching the tiny turtle you’ve just released being taken by the surf and starting its battle against so many elements. Good luck kid, you find yourself saying, as it disappears into the ocean. Read more about our experience in our main journal: The Americas- Mexico- Day 13.
One of the joys of this lovely place is that each of the beaches has a very distinct character, meaning in reality that there is a beach here for everyone. Here’s a brief guide to them all, starting at the western end and moving through the town to the eastern tip. Some things in this list are relative; for instance, the seas are powerful everywhere, so if we say it’s calmer, it’s still a very strong current. Most have a steep shelf fairly early, so waters become deep, close to the shore. Expect large numbers of hawkers and vendors: the busier the beach, the more there are. Sands throughout are soft, fine and golden. In brief then:-
Playa Bacocho. This is where to go for peace and privacy. An amazing huge stretch of soft sand mixed with coral shards, backed by lines of palm trees. A few miles out of town, and therefore quieter than the town beaches, with masses of space given its size. No facilities other than by paying to enter a private beach club; not even a drinks bar. Huge waves; powerful seas, but not surfing territory due to the last minute breaking of the waves. Seas too strong for swimming but OK for “surf play” as long as you’re fit and can cope with the power. Bacocho is home to the turtle project (see Day 13). Accessible by car.
Playa Coral. Small cove separated from Bacocho by rocks. We didn’t actually visit Coral but viewed it from Bacocho and it appears to be a scaled down version with similar characteristics, and no facilities other than a club with a fee. Accessible by car.
Playa Carrizalillo. Without doubt the most picturesque of them all, set in a gorgeous cove, cliffs above, palm trees at beach level backed by deciduous hillside behind and above. Quieter than the town beaches but can still get busy. Accessible only by 160-odd steep steps down the cliff which is probably why it’s quieter. The tight cove makes for a calmer sea and swimming is good, rocks at the sides make for outstanding snorkelling. A handful of beach bars (palapas), including one with a chilled drinks platform upstairs.
Puerto Angelito. Small cove beach but much loved by Mexican families so gets utterly rammed. Don’t let that put you off; watching the fun had by these colourful and entertaining people makes a visit here worthwhile, regardless. Seas are calm, swimming easy and snorkelling good. A mass of palapas cover over half of the sand bringing noise, colour and pizazz to this beach. Home to many boat trips so there is constant coming and going of small boats, making boat trips easy but dirtying the water a bit. Accessible by car.
Playa Manzanillo. Separated from Angelito only by a short path across rocks, yet that seems enough to deter many families and consequently is quite a bit quieter than its noisy neighbour. Same sea condition as Angelito but without the boat trips. Smaller number of palapas but still plenty of nice shady bars. Is accessible by car in its own right so it’s strange that it’s quieter, but good that it’s different.
Bahia Playa Principal. The main town beach and home to the fishing fleet, flocks of pelicans, and sun seekers galore. Seas are calm enough for children to be safe if accompanied, and the beach is alive with hawkers, vendors, food offers and pretty much all of human life. Many of the bars have a double frontage on to both beach and street and therefore feel a bit more like a restaurant than a palapa, unless you take a beach table. Amazing to watch the sheer volume of fish being caught, by fishermen, kids with basic lines, pelicans, gulls and even herons. Is right in town so is easily accessible by any means.
Playa Marinero. The scarcely definable stretch which separates Principal from Zicatela and home to the set of rocks which give the beach its name (Marinero means sailors, and the locals say the rocks resemble the wizened faces of old sailors). For fun in the sea, the perfect blend, in between the calmer waters of Principal and the Pipeline rollers of Zicatela, Marinero has powerful waves which can knock you off your feet but surf which can carry you in at speed even without a board. Large expanse of sand, quieter than Principal and with very pleasant palapas along the back. A 5-10 minute walk along the sand from town.
Playa Zicatela. Home of the colossal Pipeline surfing waves. Swimming is barred as currents are far too strong, but well worth a visit to watch the world class surfers perform amazing twists and somersaults inside the tube of crashing surf. Large expanse of sand but largely empty due to the strong waters. 150 metres back from the beach is the Zicatela strip, a street lined with bars, restaurants, cocktail joints, hotels, night clubs. At night, music is everywhere and the quasi Bohemian atmosphere of the surfing fraternity holds sway. It’s the closest you get to a resort feel, but is never tacky – in fact, the area has a certain laid back quality vibe and you would have to be a proper misery to not feel good sipping a £3 cocktail to a soundtrack of lounge music and crashing surf. Easily accessible from the strip.
Punta Zicatela. Final easternmost point, beyond surfing and into backpacking territory. Actually is still good surfing but not quite Pipeline. Has cheap accommodation and backpackers’ hostels. Is a couple of miles out of town but is accessible by road beyond the Zicatela strip.
We really don’t know whether, even in our committed search to uncover local food specialities, we would ever find anywhere as good as here. Not just fabulous food, but constantly surprising, continually exciting, flavours and experiences that are not only setting us alight but are genuinely different from anything we’ve tasted before. Yes, all of us know that Mexican food is good, but the twists on the cuisine that you find here in Oaxaca state, and on the Pacific coast, just take everything to another level. Ceviche, tlayudas, pescadillos, quesadillas, fresh fish with wild accompaniments, so much to eulogise. It’s as unique as it is fantastic.
Go to our current open blog at The Americas – Mexico – and read through this incredible culinary experience. We are currently up to Day 11.
One of the question marks surrounding our time here, before we headed out, was just how much would be open or closed over Christmas, on Christmas Day in particular, and whether we would be shopping and cooking for Christmas dinner. Guide books spoke of dead towns and closed restaurants, but the longer we’ve been here, seen and experienced the verve of Puerto Escondido, heard about the Mexican families having a tradition of hitting the beach at holiday time, the more it has become obvious that it will be business as usual.
The truth is, everything is open and the number of street food vendors has, if anything, increased. The Mexican character is full of a love of life, fiestas double this spirit, the town is alive. The journal blog at The Americas, Mexico, is at Day 11.
As our choice of blog name suggests, food plays a very big part in our travel experience and is one of the delights of visiting new destinations (although to be fair we meant hungry for not just food but experience, culture, learning, places, people, history etc etc…).
But so far this Mexico trip is right up there with our best foodie trips ever, with the Oaxaca state being a rule breaker of a place when it comes to extreme flavours and wild combinations. The food is – best word – EXCITING!! If you go to Day 10 of our current journal (The Americas), Mexico, Day 10:Christmas Eve, we explain more. But as a taster…
You buy an ordinary packet of peanuts in a shop. Open them, and you find not only wildly strong hot chilli nuts, but lots of bulbs of roasted garlic, just lurking amongst the nuts. Order garlic mushrooms as a starter, and they are laced not just with garlic, but marinated in orange then drizzled with lime juice, and it just sets the taste buds alight. Those are just tasters, so to speak. Go and read Day 10 for more…