As published in The Oaxaca Times 2/10/13
Blue sea, white sand and electric pink sunsets. Although the colorful city of Oaxaca can often be hard to leave, the Oaxacan coast is a must-see destination for any tourist, and for a resident, it is a compulsory weekend getaway.
There are plenty of microbus and van operators that service routes from Oaxaca to the coast, although the 6-7 hour bus ride, which hairpin curves itself through the mountains, is a test for even the strongest stomach. Arm yourself with nausea medication, an Ipod (reading is out of the question) and a neck pillow or eye mask to help you doze off in relative comfort. For those with weak stomachs and more patience or funds, opt for an ADO bus that routes through Acapulco, or a quick flight on Aerotucán.
To reach Puerto Escondido, one of the most popular destinations, Servicio Express (Arista 116; 516-40-59) has nine departures daily between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. for about M$200.
Puerto Escondido is a laid-back fishing town, which has become a worldwide surfing desination due to the famous wave, the so-called “Mexican Pipeline,” that breaks on Playa Zicatela. Considered one the best surfing waves in the world, it has long drawn surfers, and with them, the surf culture that is now characteristic of Puerto Escondido. While the surf is superb (and calmer during the dry season Nov.-April), swimming here can be a bit treacherous which makes sunbathing on the perfect white sand beach an ideal activity for the non-surfer.
Surfers, fisherman casting lures by hand, and diving pelicans compete for space on La Punta, or the southernmost point of the bay. With recent additions La Punta now has several comfortable and affordable accommodations fronted with palapa restaurants and is a good alternative if you are looking for something more laid-back than the happening, developed downtown of Playa Zicatela.
The Tower Bridge Backpackers Hostel (Oceano Antartico 1; 954-582-0823), although located a bit off the beaten path near Playa Carrizalillo, is very popular among younger backpackers looking for a social ambience to meet other travelers.
For nightlife, Playa Zicatela is the place to be, with restaurants and bars that line the main drag of Calle del Morro. Start your night at Casa Babylon, a kitschy and lovable bar that has a great collection of Mexican Masks and English-language books lining the walls, and serves up world-class mojitos and live music many nights of the week. Continue on to one of the beach bars if you want to drink over-priced cocktails on daybeds with your toes in the sand, and then end your night at Barfly, a spacious rooftop bar located above the La Hostería restaurant, where DJs spin a mix of latin-electro-pop and a lively crowd dances into the night.
If the surf and party vibe isn’t what you’re looking for head south to Mazunte by catching a public bus in front of the Super Che Supermarket, asking the driver to drop you off at Las Cruces de San Antonio and then catching a collectivo (shared taxi) that usually looks like a pickup truck with a tarp on the back, into town. The trip should take about an hour and the pristine cove of Mazunte is worth it. With a great swimming beach, a chilled-out hippie vibe, and unbeatable sunsets, Mazunte has long attracted the laid-back traveller, many of whom seem to never leave.
If you’d prefer to head directly to Mazunte or Zipolite (Mazunte’s neighbor) straight from Oaxaca City, Eclipse 70 (Bustamente 70; 951-516-1068) has departures from Oaxaca every hour between 3:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m., arriving to Pochutla, which is just a 20 minute taxi ride away from those coastal towns.
The main road in town, Paseo del Mazunte, which runs parallel and slightly inland of the beach, is where you can find cheaper eats and budget accommodation. On the eastern end of the beach you will find somewhat dingy but passable rooms with shared bathrooms for reasonable beachfront prices (about M$50-150) located behind sandy-floored restaurants.
Playa Rinconcito, as the western end of the beach is called, is home to some higher-end accommodation and restaurants. With a stellar location on a hill by the beach, Posada el Arquitecto has dorms (M$70) and private cabañas (M$400-750). For more bang for your buck, head uphill from the most western street, Andador Rinconcito, towards Punta Cometa for unbeatable views of Mazunte. At Cabañas Miramar, you can stay in a clean, comfortable cabaña with a private bathroom and balcony (M$350 for single bed, M$600 for a double), and then follow a short, steep path downhill to reach the beach.
Punta Cometa, a rocky point that juts south out in the sea, provides incredible views to both to the east and west, making it a uniquely perfect place to view both the sunrise and the sunset. On the western side of Punta Cometa is a small, stunning beach with intense waves called Playa Mermejita, which is a great location for nighttime bonfires.
For activities, Mazunte offers a turtle refuge center, Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga, as well as lanchas, or small boats, which leave from the beach at 8 a.m. (M$180) guided by local fishermen to view turtles, as well as dolphins and whales. While there are several options for yoga, Agama Yoga Center, which you reach by heading west on the main road, is popular for its drop-in classes (M$100) as well as retreats and delicious vegetarian fare.
For breakfast, don’t miss La Baguette bakery’s pan relleno, a freshly-baked bun filled with half-melted chocolate and bananas, accompanied by a licuado, or a fresh fruit juice or smoothie, from the shop next door. For dinner, Siddartha, has a good selection of international fare, including vegetarian options and an unbeatable view of the sea.
Heading east on the main road out of Mazunte (just 20 minutes on foot), you will reach the charmingly small bay of San Augustinillo, where the calm surf provides great swimming, body boarding and mediocre snorkeling.
Continue 2.5 miles east (ten minutes in collectivo) to reach Zipolite, an expansive stretch of white sand with a rough surf and free spirit. A best bet for the budget traveler, camping is a great option here. Try Luna Azul if you have your own tent (M$100 per week) or ask around at the plethora of accommodations that stretch along the beachfront.
Zipolite is known for its nude beach, happening nightlife and relaxed pace. However, beware the dangerous rip tides, which only experienced surfers should attempt, as well as some incidents of theft and assault. For a longer stay for less, miles of perfect coastline and an ‘anything-goes’ attitude, Zipolite is the destination.
Whether you are called to the beach for surfing, sunbathing, snorkeling, seafood, nightlife, yoga or any other beach-bound activity, the Oaxacan coast will not disappoint.