Saturday, January 16, 2010

Route 200, Oaxaca Beaches, Puerto Escondido

Puerto Escondido Beaches

     OCC Buses and Sur Buses run north south along Route 200, stopping at  Huatulco, Pochutla, and Puerto Escondido.  Leave the bus at Pochutla for the beches of Mazunte and Zipolite.  From the Route 175 and Route 200 crossroads it is about 35 miles to Puerto Escondido.
     The draw for most visitors  to Puerto Escondido is the surfing on Zicatela Beach. Even if you don't surf, you might want to see where the legend of the Mexican Pipeline was born and perhaps dip your toes in the waters of the fabled beach.  If you arrive in time for the November surfing competitions you will have much to see.  

Puerto Escondido Surfing
     Playa Zicatela is Puerto Escondido's surfing beach. 
     Surfing competitions are held in August and again with the annual Zicatela Pro in November, an International competition attracting over 100 cometition surfers.  During the event,  tandem skydiving over the beach, bikini contests, skateboard exhibitions, and music concerts will add to the excitement.
     Zicatela Beach is open to the ocean to the southwest and can,  in the peak swell period of mid August,  produce 20+ foot tube waves.  Zicatela will regularly produce  8-12 foot waves with an offshore wind blowing northeast and this makes it one of the worlds best. 
      If you are not an athletic swimmer, it is best not to take on the waves of Zicatela without first checking with the lifeguards regarding the conditions. At times swimming is an option at Zicatela but there are other protected (Small wave) beaches nearby that have gentle surf and little undertow or rip current.
     If you walk to your right as you face the ocean at Zicatela you will climb over some rocks and come to Playa Marinero, a protected beach with small waves.  This beach is a good place for the beginning surfer.  The other protected beach nearest to Zicatela in Puerto Escondido is Playa Principal, in the center of the village where the boats pull up on shore. (water quality ?) Other beaches are at Carrizalillo Cove  and Puerto Angelito. Both are in protected coves northwest of the village center (3/4 mile) You can find free parking on the hill above the beaches although the sign might read private property, just drive in and park on the dirt lot above the beach.

Puerto Escondido Diving
     Puerto Escondido has a PADI dive shop at the center of Play Principal. They will provide all equipment, lessons, local info and boat trips. Cove beach dive spots for snorkel are Playa (beach) Carrizalillo, and Puerto Angelito.

Puerto Escondido Camping
     Tent camping and RV camping
Two campgrounds are located in the center of Puerto Escondido.  I prefer the Palmas de Cortez with its full hookups, it is the best of the two.  The nightly rate is 45 pesos per person plus a charge for the vehicle.  The total could be around 100-150 pesos or about $7.50-$10 USD.  Ask the manager, Rubin, (he speaks English) about a discount if you will be there for a month or more. 
     The downside to camping at either place in the center of town is that the Cach Bar Disco, with its incredibly loud music, is adjacent to the campgrounds.  On Friday and Saturday nights they crank the music full bore until  3 or 4 in the morning.
     If you are up on the patio at the club partying until the wee hours, you are in luck, you will have a short walk home.  If, however, you are at the campground in your nylon igloo trying to catch a few winks,  you will have some of your longest weekend nights in Puerto Escondido.
     From the Palm de Cortez it is a short walk to the beach where the wives and families of the fishermen have set up tables to clean fish.  You can ask for a fillet to go or ask them to cook you one  to order on a charcoal grille.
     The best fish for grilling or frying is the Dorado, what you might know as the Mai Mai or Dolphin. (not Flipper)  They make a nice fillet.  Another popular fish on the coast is the Huachinango or Red Snapper.  These are usually grilled or broiled whole after evisceration.
      You can ask for a red snapper fillet,  if you will cook it yourself.  The campground provides grilles and you can find wood charcoal in the market adjacent to the campground.   The market has everything you will need for preparing a complete meal including produce, meat, spices, and liquid refreshment. 

Puerto Escondido Lodging
Puerto Escondido appeals to every budget. Along Calle del Morro (street)  running parallel to Zicatela, you can find upscale lodging at the four star Hotel Santa Fe  (arial view) with ac and amenities starting at (March to Mid December)  $126 for two and running to $160 (and up for master suites)  to the more moderately priced lodging at the Arco Iris ( $60 USD double )  or you can find a $20 dollar or less Posada like the Shalom and many other posadas.  There is great variety of lodging in Escondido.   Inquire in the center of town and you can find a simple room for even less.
     Considerations to keep in mind will be air conditioning or ventilator, noise, (how close are you to the disco) and beach proximity. Most hotels are near the beach but there are some located on the hills above the village or on the west side of town where you would need to walk ten or fifteen minutes to reach a swimming beach.   Another consideration is proximity to the surfing beach.  If you are a surfer you will want to be in a hotel along Zicatela where you will be first to catch the early morning waves.

When to Go
There is no good consensus as to when the best time to go for the surfing at Zicatela.  Some say the winter storms between November and April produce the best swells on the south facing beaches of Mexico's Pacific coast.  Others peg the season as April to November.  Others say that August produces the best swells and can bring 20 foot waves.  If there are storms at sea, any month can be good.  Most experts agree, however, that beginning in May, the swells start to appear.  By August surfing is at its peak and continues into November. August to November is the best bet; both these months have competition surfing at Zicatela.
     I was there on my last trip in December and the waves were 8-12 tube breaking right and left during the morning.  Surf Photos Puerto Escondido

Link Puerto Escondido Ecotours, Chacahua Lagoons
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