If you were to see our overall travel route on a map you might look at it and think to yourself; huh? That doesn’t seem right. Well, in order to meet up with family vacationing in Belize, we had to skip over a large portion of Mexico and plan to back track a bit later on. We both were very much looking forward to exploring the state of Oaxaca, so we agreed we would make the trip back west after visiting Belize and the Yucatan, regardless of the massive distance. The haul from the Yucatan Peninsula, specifically our final stop of Campeche, to the Oaxaca coast took us two days, covering approximately 650 miles. It certainly cost us a bit in gasoline expense, but our three weeks in Oaxaca turned out to be well worth every penny.
Our destination was the Oaxaca coast, and we were planning on meeting back up with our old travel buddy, Charlie, whom we hadn’t seen in a couple months. The initial plan was to meet at a small village called Barra De La Cruz, but when we got there we decided we could find a better beach camping option, so we ended continuing up the coast until we found what we were looking for. We wanted a tranquil camping spot close to the beach, and ended up at this great little campground in the town of Tangolunda.
Tangolunda was the name of the village, but it seemed to be a neighborhood within the larger area of Huatulco. Huatulco covers a substantial portion of the coast and is predominantly known as a resort town. Here is where you find your massive all-inclusive resort hotels scattered along the mountainous coastline. Some are so gigantic that they have their own coves and private beaches all to themselves. These large resorts can be found all over Mexico, but if I was to recommend resorts to anyone, this is where I would send them. They were some of the most bad ass cliffside hotels I have ever seen, way cooler than the ones you find in Cancun & the Riviera Maya.
The area, being littered with these gaudy resorts, made for a funny scene for us overlanders living out of pickup trucks. You drive down the road, which is clean and fancy (unlike most of the roads in Mexico), passing resort after resort, and eventually come upon a small little dirt road wedged in between two grand entrances. We barely spotted the tiny sign pointing down the road to the “Trailer Park”. It’s a wonder they even let this be a place in this fancy section of the coast, but it turned out to be fantastic.
The spot was a large grassy parking lot, enough to fit 50+ vehicles, and it was completely empty. Throughout the lot there were a handful of trees that made for nice shady places to hang up hammocks and set up shop. There were full bathrooms and even cold-water showers, which were perfect considering the heat. The beach was only a short walk from the lot and was a great spot to welcome us back to the pacific coast.
Charlie showed up the day after we did and we ended up hanging out and living the lazy beach life for another three days. Some of the pacific coast beaches are not so great for swimming since the surf can be extremely choppy & rough. This spot on the other hand was within a large cove that protected the beaches and made for perfect swimming conditions. On top of that, most coastal locations don’t make it easy to fish from the shore, but there was a long jetty here, so I spent almost every morning out casting off the rocks. Unfortunately, throughout the four days I spent there, I didn’t catch a single edible fish…figures!
It was great meeting back up with Charlie, whom we had met all the way back in southern Baja at the beginning of our trip. In the two months we had not seen each other, we each had all sorts of stories to share and advice for each other’s next travel destinations.
One common bit of information we tend to trade with our travel friends we make along the way is cooking ideas. Things can get a little boring with our limited means for cooking, so fresh ideas are always welcomed. This time, Charlie introduced us to a straightforward way of cooking eggs that we hadn’t thought of.
So long as we could keep the flame on our stove low enough, we could make a stove top quiche (or frittata?), with all sorts of ingredients. It’s now become one of my favorites for breakfast (and sometimes even dinner). Sautee up some tomatoes, onions, peppers, maybe zucchini, maybe eggplant, maybe whatever your feeling, then dump on some scrambled eggs, add some seasoning, cover with foil over a low heat, and voila! Better breakfast than you can buy in a restaurant!
As it usually is, the three days together with Charlie was fun but short lived. We said our goodbyes, not sure when we might see each other next, and were eventually on our way to our next stop along the Oaxaca coast.
Zipolite & Mazunte
As we made our way west across the coast of Oaxaca towards Puerto Escondido, we decided to take a quick detour and cruise the coastal road that takes you through the beach cities of Puerto Angel, Zipolite, and Mazunte. We first stopped in Puerto Angel to see if we could find a good place for Poppins to spend the night. It didn’t take long to explore the tiny beach village that was tucked inside of a small cove and realize there was no good place to spend the night in the truck, so we carried on towards Zipolite.
Zipolite, on the other hand, had a few spots directly on the beach that were ideal for car camping. We did a quick drive by to decide what we liked best and eventually set up on an empty lot, 20 feet from the beach. The town sat on a stretch of beach that was about a mile long, and was loaded with hostels and laid-back restaurants in the sand. At first, Zipolite seemed like most other pacific coast towns, but after a little exploring, we notice a much different vibe to this place than we had seen anywhere else.
We first noticed the exotic vibe when we began walking down the beach to see what it had to offer. As we were strolling along, it dawned on us; clothes were optional on this particular beach! Now, I’ve been to a nude beach before, but there was something a bit different about this one.
Like most nude beaches, most of the naked bodies that passed us were of the much older variety. They had completely bronzed & leathery skin from head to toe, as though they hadn’t worn clothes in years. In fact, pretty much all the people that were dawning their birthday suits, young or old, didn’t seem to have any tan lines.
As I peered into some of the beach hangouts along our walk, I noticed that people were even naked while sitting and have a drink at these restaurants in the sand. The hostels that were beachfront were filled with naked bodies going about their business as usual. I’m not sure I could have just sat at a table in a restaurant and sipped on my morning coffee, ass naked, surrounded by the same. I mean, at one point I noticed a couple people that were setting up a tent in the nude! It was a little bizarre, but this was a nude village more than it was a nude beach.
Granted, not everyone was nude, or at least fully nude, but the vibe in the town was a weird one. None the less, we were there, so we felt it was only right to explore our own nudity and shed our clothes. We decided that we would join the fun in the morning and go for a nice naked dip first thing in the AM.
When we woke up and stepped out into the bright sunlight of the new day, it was hard to hide our nerves. Eventually, when we worked up the courage and went for it, it felt like everything was in slow motion. Looking back, I am pretty sure “Chariots of Fire” was even playing from some unknown speaker as we triumphantly ran naked into the morning waves.
The experience had a totally different feel than skinny dipping. The fact that it was mid-morning mainly, but also because we were one of many naked bodies that casually occupied the beach. Being one of many, you would think that would make it somehow less uncomfortable, but there was a glaring difference between us and everyone else; our bright white asses that seemingly have never been exposed to the light of day. Either way, we did it, and were able to walk away with our heads held high.
As fun as the new experience was, the weird vibe to the town was too much for us, so we got out of there shortly after exposing our parts. On our way up the coast we passed through the town of Mazunte and wish we had stopped there longer. It was another small town nestled in a small cove on the coast, but this place stood out from the rest. The beach and the streets were clean, and the entire area had an extremely comfortable traveler’s vibe. It was filled with cool looking hostels and hotels, along with lots of restaurants and cafes. Another one of those chill spots where you could hideaway and relax for days. Unfortunately, we had some plans for Lindsey’s upcoming birthday in the Puerto Escondido area, so we passed it by. I guess it’s okay if we leave some things for another trip…
We arrived in Puerto Escondido and found ourselves what seemed to be the only established campground where we could set up with Poppins for a few days. It turned out to be a great little spot located a block from the beach, and smack in the middle of Puerto Escondidos’ Zicatela beach.
Zicatela is the main hub of Puerto Escondido, which is sort of divided into a few smaller neighborhoods. Out of all the neighborhoods, Zicatela has the largest concentration of restaurants and bars, and is also famous for big wave surfing. This stretch of beach is where world class surfers come during certain times throughout the year to ride the Mexican Pipeline. We were here in late March, which is just before the waves begin to get gigantic, but even then they were huge and intensely powerful. Some were so powerful that you could feel them crash from all the way back at our campground, over 500 ft. away.
The popularity of this place as a world renown surfing destination has resulted in a lot of modern developments. Everything from the hotels, to the restaurants, to the shops and stores are much more developed here than anywhere else you find on the pacific coast of Mexico, aside, of course, from those few resort towns like Huatulco, Ixtapa, or Puerto Vallarta.
Development though, as nice as it may be, brings with it some positive and some negative. On the good side, the place is clean and nice, with lots of tasty food and beautiful accommodation. The modern bars are lots of fun and attract good live music, and on top of that, we had made it 40 days sober, and finally were ready to hop off the wagon to enjoy some beverages. We hung out at one bar that featured swinging beds over the beach, and even had a big fresh water pool where you could float and enjoy your mid-afternoon cocktails. It turned out to be an ideal spot to reward ourselves for our sober stint!
On the negative side, this sort of development comes with higher cost. Zipolite beach area was one of the more expensive locations we visited throughout all of Oaxaca. Its popularity also can bring massive crowds of tourists, which sometimes is just too much when it comes to the party scene, but that all depends on what you are into. On top of that, while we didn’t experience any issues ourselves, any time a place attracts lots of tourists that bring in lots of money, petty crime tends to go up.
If you wanted to get away from all that, all you had to do was take a short 20-minute walk down the beach to the much more laid-back Puerto Escondido hangout of La Punta. Here you find a much more travel friendly vibe, where it’s less of a tourist crowd, and more of a vagabond group. The beach is filled with chairs and umbrellas ready for you to set up shop and drink/eat the day away if you so choose. Every evening you will find a large group of travelers meeting up to play beach volleyball or just hang out and share stories.
As for the surfing, La Punta is a great spot for surfers of all levels. The surf break at Zicatela beach is serious and has some of the strongest undertow on the pacific coast, not ideal for novice surfers. Over at La Punta beach, the break begins at the rocky point to the south and pushes up the beach, providing surfers with a wave they can ride for a few hundred yards. The only issue is it’s a very popular spot, so the waves were packed, and since I am not much of a surfer, I didn’t want to jump in the middle of such a thick pack.
Beyond the beach, the streets of La Punta are unpaved, giving it that more rustic Mexican village feel, but at the same time they are loaded with cool bars and good restaurants, giving it that hip modern vibe. Our buddy Charlie ended up circling back to La Punta, so we met up with him and got to spend some more quality time together.
It was our first night drinking in 40 days, so he was determined to show us a good time. From what I recall, we began our night with 2 for 1 mojitos that were so good it made me wonder why we stopped drinking for so long. After hitting up a couple dives around the town, we found ourselves at a local Mezcal bar that ended up being the death of me. Something about that Mezcal makes me really want to like it, but the hangover I had the next day made me remember why I stopped drinking for so time.
Luckily, it was Lindsey’s birthday, and we booked ourselves a delightful hotel for a couple nights. Turned out to be the perfect place to recover from my hangover.
Playa Carrizalillo is a small town just a few minutes’ drive north of Zicatela. The town’s not big, consisting of one main street about 4 or 5 blocks long where you find all the shops and restaurants. While it’s a charming main street with quality restaurants, what the town is really known for is its fantastic beach.
Located behind the main drag, the entrance to the beach is high above the sea level. Stairs carved into the hillside guide you down to the small beach at the base of the large cove in which it sits. Being as small as it is, the beach is known to get crowded on holidays and weekends during the busy season, but the picturesque beauty of this location makes the crowds seemingly non-existent.
As you sit on the beach, you are looking south out to the Pacific Ocean, dwarfed by the towering walls of the cove that enclose the beach. The funnel shape of the cove creates the ideal swell for swimmers and even provides some surfable waves on the outskirts. On one side of the cliffs you can see a handful of beautiful custom homes overlooking the beach, and on the other there is a hotel/restaurant with unbelievable views. I can’t imagine those homes to be cheap, but at the same time, its Mexico, so I wonder…
For Lindsey’s birthday, we splurged and got a suite at this beautiful Hacienda about five blocks away from the beach. It really wasn’t that expensive, but this place was by far the most luxurious spot we have stayed on the trip. They had a gorgeous pool that was practically engulfed in all sorts of extremely vibrant and colorful plants and flowers, complete with comfy lounges and hammocks among the trees that surrounded.
As for the suite, it had a bedroom with two queen beds, a kitchen with center island, and an attached dining area. It was one of those places that was extremely hard to leave. So hard in fact that as soon as we got there, I changed our two-day reservation to three.
Funny enough, even though it was Lindsey’s birthday, when it came time for us to pack it in for some shut eye, we opted to each take advantage of our own queen bed. I mean, we love each other, but living for so long in a truck makes you long to sprawl out on a bed to yourself. It was the ideal birthday gift for Linds, who tends to use every inch of whatever bed she sleeps on.
It’s hard to say whether the bedroom was our favorite, or if it was the kitchen. Having a full large kitchen has become a real treat for us, so we ended up spending most of our time there and by the pool. We found a couple nice rib-eyes one night, which are extremely hard to come by throughout Mexico, and made an amazing meal with roasted garlic potatoes and baked asparagus with tomatoes. It was one of our classic meals from back home, and man was it good. For breakfast we made a few forms of our new favorite, stove top quiche, and we were in heaven.
We got so attached to our life in our hacienda that on the third morning, instead of checking out, we decided; What the heck? What’s one more night?? For the most part, we do a decent job with our budget, but it’s worth spending some extra money to have these comforts from time to time.
On the fourth day we finally packed up our stuff and left the room, but only to end up sleeping in the truck on the street outside of the hotel. We checked out, and then just hung out by the pool all day relaxing and reading books. Take advantage whenever you can!
Our last stop on the Oaxaca coast before making the trek inland was a visit to the island of Chacahua. Chacahua was a wonderful secluded spot located within the protected Lagunas de Chacahua National Park, a few hours west of Puerto Escondido. The national park protects the pristine coastline within the park which is a major breeding ground for sea turtles, while also protecting the large lagoons on the inland side of the beach, which is home to a large variety of birds and other animals.
There are two ways to get to the island town of Chacahua. One is to go to the small town on the east side of the park and take a long water taxi ride through the lagoons to the other side of the park where the town of Chacahua is located. The other option is to drive to the west side of the park where you arrive at a small village that sits just across the river from Chacahua. From there, you pay 10 pesos (50¢) for a small boat to take you across. Assuming you drive, you can store your car at either location while you stay on the island.
Once on the island, the “developed” area is extremely small, mostly consisting of a string of hostel/restaurants that sit on the beach. I put “developed” in quotes because there is nothing modern about a single building on the island. They are all very basic cinder block or wood shacks. Behind the strip of hostels, there is a small community of locals living in shacks that sell food on the beach throughout the day. The hostels on the beach front each provide a space for people to set up tents in the sand, and they all seem to have a small restaurant to go along with it. Some have basic rooms you can rent out for as little as 150 pesos per night (or ~$7).
At first, we thought we would stay in the truck and take the boat back and forth, but when we learned how cheap it was to just get a basic room, we decided we would commit to the experience on the island, and I am glad we did. The room was as basic as basic gets, being built with plywood walls, but it had a toilet and a “shower”, which was just a PVC pipe sticking out of the wall.
The bed was comfortable enough, and it was our first experience sleeping with a mosquito net, which was interesting. We learned the hard way on night one that if there is the smallest way for those bastards to get inside the net, they will find it, and they will eat you alive. The second night we made sure to clog up the holes and were finally able to get some sleep.
As for our time on the island, it was fantastic. The place was as close to dead as it could have been, it seemed like there were maybe 20 people staying on the entire island besides us and the locals. We placed our loyalties in one of the beach spots called “Lunatics”, and pretty much spent three days hanging around there and the beach. Since all the places had comparable items on their menus, and Lunatics had a good name, we were content sticking with them for everything. It kind of seemed like that was the way things went there. When you go, you hang at one spot and spend your money with them. Maybe that’s just the way we felt, I don’t know.
In the morning we would enjoy a nice breakfast on the beach, and maybe a mango smoothie to along with it. The food that the locals prepared and served on the beach was also delish. They would have a variety of tostadas and empanadas, but my favorite were the banana empanadas covered in sugar…yum! Mega Corona’s only cost 50 pesos ($2.50) and coco loco’s (fresh coconut filled with rum) were the same, you couldn’t beat it. For dinner, Lunatic’s had an assortment of good local dishes, but the best was their shrimp pasta. I can’t even tell you want was in it, but it was some of the best shrimp pasta I’ve ever had.
Every day I would go out and fish off the jetty, usually first thing in the morning, and again in the evening. This time, unlike in Tangolunda, I was getting big bites. In fact, due to the weak old line I had on my reel, I ended up losing three lures, each while fighting what seemed to be a nice size fish. Seemed like whatever I was fighting had sharp teeth, and unfortunately, I didn’t have a metal leader to prevent them from breaking the line.
It wasn’t until our last evening there on what I told myself would be my last cast of the day (no joke) did I finally catch one. Funny enough, he didn’t even bite the hook, I ended up snagging the fish with a hook through the top of his head. Not sure what type of fish it was, but I brought it up to the restaurant and had them prepare it for me for dinner. They seasoned it up and cooked it whole, then served it to me with rice, beans & veggies along with a side salad. Again, only for the low cost of 50 pesos, and it was delicious!
Chacahua is also known to be a popular surfing destination. Since it’s so secluded and challenging to get to, you don’t have to worry about the wave break being so crowded like you do at Puerto Escondido. At least not all the time, and certainly not when we were there. It only cost me 300 pesos (~$15) to rent a board for three days, and the waves were smooth and steady pretty much the entire time. Whenever I paddled out, I was one of maybe 3 or 4 surfers out there, it was amazing!
So, beyond fishing, eating cheap local food, and hanging out on the beach, I spent my days learning to surf at one of the most secluded and serene wave breaks on the Oaxaca coast. While I am still not even close to breaking out of the beginner level, I had a blast and was able to catch a few good waves, and as most surfers know, once you catch some good ones, you are hungry for more.
Our final day on the island happen to be March 29th, better known as the day Lindsey Ann Daley entered this world. We decided to start the day off early and catch a sunrise on the beach. At first, the sky transitioned from the dark shadowy night into a what looked like a painting, filled with dark ochre yellow and a deep crimson red. As the sun climbed closer to the horizon, the vibrant colours shifted to a touch of cadmium yellow & red fading to a subtle cobalt blue. After we enjoyed watching mother nature imitate Bob Ross, Linds elected to take a birthday morning jog on the beach.
As if the morning could get any more pleasant, while jogging she unwittingly stumbled upon a baby turtle release taking place on the shore. What better way to start off your 33rd year on this planet then watching a beautiful sunrise and then helping baby turtles make their voyage into the deep blue sea! Not too shabby, Linds!
It’s no surprise that I consider Chacahua another top spot in Mexico and could have spent more time out there. Across the board, our time spent on the Oaxaca coast will for sure be some of the best beach time we will see on this entire trip. But once again, we had to keep carrying on, because there was still inland Oaxaca to explore, before heading to Chiapas. There is just so much time and so little to do!!
Wait, stop…reverse that.