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SFGate/San Francisco Chronicle | Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca Mexico

Sunset Silhouette

10 reasons to pack your bags for Puerto Escondido

by Christine Delsol
Published July 13, 2011

Mention "Oaxaca," and most travelers think of the justly famous capital city, but the state's unspoiled beaches and famous surf breaks are equally worthy of your attention.

The de facto capital of Oaxaca's coast, Puerto Escondido ("Hidden Port"), didn't really come into being until the 1920s, when local farmers found that coffee thrived on the Sierra Madre del Sur's ocean-facing slopes and began shipping beans out of the port. Wave-seeking surfers showed up in the late 1950s, with non-surfers arriving in the 1970s, when the highway finally penetrated the then-remote coast.

Modern Puerto Escondido has come into its own in the past decade, offering moderate prices, good food, a wide range of restaurants and hotels, and just enough nightlife. Driving down the coast from Acapulco is less harrowing than scaling the mountain roads; these days, many tourists fly into Huatulco to the south and make the short drive north to Puerto. No matter how you make the trip, here are 10 great reasons to spend a vacation in Puerto.

1. Beauty

Puerto Escondido pours over the hillsides down to a jade-toned bay, its sandy beaches punctuated by secluded coves and a lighthouse....

2. Balance

You're practically guaranteed to run into at least one longtimer who will lament the days when Puerto Escondido really was hidden. More objective travelers find that Puerto's appeal has broadened, offering every comfort and convenience without obscuring its traditional foundation as a fishing port and market town or ruining its relaxed beach atmosphere. Surfing aficionados are in their element, sure, but a string of gentle beaches are just as conducive to margaritas-in-a-beach-chair sojourns and family vacations...night owls have some elegant rooftop bars, terrific restaurants and funky beach clubs to choose from.

3. Affordability

Puerto has been subject to the same inflationary pressures as the rest of Mexico, so isn't the dirt-cheap haven it used to be. Still, it remains the best overall beach value in Mexico. Lodging options are varied: You can lay your head in a luxe retreat for around $200, or find a basic beach bungalow for as little as $25 in low season...

4. Mexican-ness

Unlike Mexico's popular resort cities that were planned from the ground up, Puerto Escondido is a real place with a culture and a history all its own...The natural warmth of Mexican people will make solo travelers feel right at home within hours of arriving. A large percentage of visitors are European, and the polyglot that issues from Puerto's beaches and bars lends a cosmopolitan air.

5. Surf culture

Surfers had Puerto Escondido on their radar as long ago as 1959, and by the early 1970s the now-famous Mexican Pipeline off Zicatela Beach had become surfing's holy grail. From May to July, when waves reach 30 feet or more, Puerto Escondido is all about the beach, whether you're on a board or watching in awe from the sand...

6. Adventure

...the perfect launch pad for exploring the neighboring jungle, estuary sanctuaries and indigenous mountain villages...kayak adventures, hiking excursions, and mountain-bike tours...waterfall hikes, camping trips, and overnight agritourism adventures to learn about local farming and sustainable coffee plantations...excursions to Manialtepec Lagoon, about 12 miles from Puerto Escondido...Chacahua Lagoon National Park, about 40 miles west...

7. Day trips

A short trek south takes you to Puerto Angel, a tiny fishing port with beautiful beaches, unpaved streets and budget hotels...popular with international backpackers and travelers...just north of Puerto Angel, Mazunte Beach is home to the Centro Mexicano la Tortuga housing examples of all the marine turtle species that live in Mexico...a little farther south (about two hours from Puerto) to the Bahías de Hatulco, Mexico's newest resort area...it encompasses nine splendid bays and three communities on a pristine stretch of coast. In addition to a golf course, cruise-ship pier and scattered resort hotels...

8. Gina

Officially, Gina is the Oaxaca's state tourism office's representative in Puerto, but to locals she is the Information Goddess...

9. Safety

Oaxaca state overall falls exactly in the middle of the country's rate of drug-related deaths per 100,000 residents, but violence hasn't touched Puerto Escondido or its coastal neighbors. Looking at government figures for fatalities from December 2006 to December 2010, released in January, neither Puerto Escondido, Puerto Angel nor Huatulco made the list...

10. Lack of traffic

By car, Puerto Escondido is a good seven hours or so from either the capital city of Oaxaca or Acapulco up the coast on Highway 200. It's a long haul, but it's wide open, sparsely traveled highway, and the very definition of scenic. A new, four-lane toll road from Oaxaca and the ongoing expansion of Highway 200 to four lanes between Puerto and Huatulco should cut the trip to and from the capital nearly in half — not because of the extra lanes but because it will straighten out so many curves through the mountains...

Entire article http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2011/07/13/puerto_escondido_travel.DTL

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