La vida loca.
Why you should go:
Giant sand-bottom tubes. Rippable smaller days. Sick and secluded breaks near town. Mexican nightlife.
Puerto Escondido is in the Mexican state of Oaxaca (pronounced woh-hah-kah), el corazon de México (the heart of Mexico). Situated in the extreme southern portion of Mexico, Puerto Escondido is home to a giant submarine canyon that makes it the recipient of macking surf year-round. Because Puerto is at the base of the Sierra Madre mountains, the winds that come out of the mountains every morning are offshore and last until about 11:00 a.m. The climate and terrain is straight out of the movie Romancing The Stone, which was filmed in nearby Puerto Vallarta. In the summer months, daytime temperatures can reach over 90 degrees Fahrenheit; combine that with the 90-plus-percent humidity, and it's simply blazing.
To put it plainly: The waves around Puerto Escondido get freakin' huge. The beach known as Playa Zicatela has several peaks strewn along it. Carmelita's is a right located at the north end of the beach that features a gut-wrenching tube. Directly in front of Bungalow Zicatela is a nice area with peaks all over the place and plenty of señoritas on the beach watching the action. Down past Mexpipe Surf Shop is the mythical Far Bar, a left that doesn't break as often as the rest of the area, but when it does, look for a big left tube that breaks boards and bodies with alarming frequency. At the southern end of the beach is La Punta, a rippable left point that is perfect for when the beachbreak gets too much to handle. Do yourself a favor when surfing the beachbreak: don't paddle from peak to peak. Be patient and wait for waves that don't close out, the payoff is worth the wait.
When to go:
South swells that arrive from April through September get magnified by the submarine canyon offshore and turn into spitting, sand-churning tubes. During the fall and winter months, the waves are cleaner, not as big, and the offshore winds last longer into the day. Plan accordingly.
Where to stay:
Puerto Escondido depends on tourism, so there are plenty of places to rest your fatigued body. For those on a budget, Bungalow Zicatela and Aquario are two good picks. They are located right across the street from the beach, so it takes about a minute to get from your room to the surf. A good mid-range place is El Arco Iris, where you can get a room with a patio overlooking the waves for around $50 a night. For those with cash to burn, the Hotel Santa Fe is the nicest in town. Unmolested by vendors and drunken revelers, you will surely get a good night's rest here. Rooms go for around $100 and can be checked out at santafehotel.com.mx. Along with other helpful information, more hotels can be checked out at tomzap.com.
Where to eat:
Whether you go for the traditional Oaxacan cuisine or something more international, you're in for a treat. Located next to Bungalow Zicatela, La Gota de Vida features a healthy vegetarian menu and for less than five bucks you can grind huge. For the daring, an infamous “death dog” (a bacon-wrapped hot dog) can be found late at night at stands throughout the town. Upscale dining is limited in Puerto, but the Hotel Santa Fe has a nice, moderately priced restaurant ooverlooking the beach. Chicken mole, an Oaxacan specialty, is highly recommended and a popular choice here.
*Cruise the cobblestone Alloquin (pedestrian-only street) in the main part of town, and chat up European chicks
*Caravan to one of the deserted waves up and down the coast
*Hit the discotheques (nightclubs): Wipeout, El Tubo, and ultra-cool Barfly
*Play soccer on the beach at dusk (it's a good way to meet the locals)
*Pintails–eggs and funboards will not cut it in Puerto
*Stickers for the kids
*A siesta during the stifling midday heat
Look out for:
They don't call it the world's heaviest beachbreak for nothing. Out-of-control rip currents and sneaker sets are the norm, so watch your ass. Use the channel at the north end of the beach when it's too big to paddle out through the impact zone. Avoid bar-room brawls, stick to the waves pounding you.
Mexico isn't as cheap as it used to be.Gone are the days of living like a king on ten dollars a day. Comparatively speaking, however, it's still a bargain. Most meals can be had for under five dollars, but rental cars are expensive. Round-trip flights can be purchased from Los Angeles and Miami for around $600.
Nowhere in the world dosurfboards perish more frequently than at the powerful Zicatela beachbreak. Luckily, the local surfers have become experts at repairing them. Miguel (the dude with the red Volkswagen bug) and his brother Roger are the best repair guys in town, and they can usually have your board back from the dead in a day or two. For a comprehensive and locally run Web site, check out mexpipe.com. Bueno suerte, compadre!