For a little vacation within a vacation, we took a twisting seven-hour bus ride to Puerto Escondido on Oaxaca’s little-developed Pacific Coast. Formerly a small fishing village and coffee bean shipping port, Puerto Escondido has evolved into a haven for devoted surfers, fun-loving Mexican families, and anyone else looking for a little rest and relaxation.
For the week, we settled into a rental apartment with light sea breezes and expansive ocean-views. From there, it was a short walk down to the local fishing port, and past epic surfing breaks, sea turtle sanctuaries, and a series of long golden beaches.
Each morning at sunrise, boatmen gunned the engines of their flat-bottomed fishing launches and streaked directly toward land. At full acceleration, just as they hit the dry sand, they pulled up on the outboards and slid gracefully onto the beach. Before they could kill their Evinrudes, their boats were surrounded by buyers for the fresh catch of the day.
Blanquillo, dorado, red snapper, and sail fish filled their hatches or remained entangled in their nets hastily pulled from the sea. From a boat, we purchased a plump two-pound (1 kg) huachinango (red snapper), and carried it over to a tarp-covered beachside kitchen to be cleaned, fried in boiling oil, and eaten whole for breakfast.
After breakfast, we followed the water’s edge a short distance to Zicatela Beach, also known as the “Mexican Pipeline”. Every morning and afternoon, a pod of surfers rode the massive rolling tubes before they violently pounded the sand. As we watched the action from the beach, each breaking wave rumbled beneath our feet and blew cool spray across our faces.
Over the course of our stay, spring break (semana santa) began and the beaches filled with Mexican families on school holiday. Adults huddled together under the shade of rented umbrellas while the children played in the warm gentle surf. Vendors pushing wheelbarrows full of snacks paraded by selling everything from popsicles to shrimp cocktails.
Most days, we walked to the far end of the two-mile (3.2 km) long beach, where the crowds disappeared, and lounge chairs and umbrellas beckoned us from the water’s edge. As we reclined with a couple of drinks, the waves crashed continuously beyond our feet, and squadrons of pelicans and other sea birds dove for their own catch of the day.
When the afternoon sun was low in the sky, we made the short trip around the point to peaceful and pristine Bacocho Beach. This is part of a 17-mile (27 km) stretch of shoreline where a high concentration of sea turtles nest and lay their eggs. As part of a volunteer effort, we helped release three species of newborn sea turtles onto the sand so they could find their own way home.
Like the daily rhythm of the ocean, our leisurely days in Puerto Escondido seemed to repeat themselves. Beginning with the sunrise return of the fishing boat fleet, we followed the rolling barrel surf of Zicatela Beach, and walked long stretches of golden sand. At the end of the day, we helped baby sea turtles find their way home, and then tracked the sun as it fell below the watery horizon on Oaxaca’s Pacific Coast.
Feature Image: Lone fisherman on quiet Coral Beach, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico