•RECOGNITION: Puerto Escondido (Spanish for “hidden port”) honors its name by appealing to connoisseurs and those wishing to skip the bustle of more famous and thus crowded beach destinations in Mexico. The small (population: 29,900) traditional town on the coast of Oaxaca owes its charm to a blend of natural beauty, Haute-yet-affordable cuisine, and recent contributions to architecture and design. Time Magazine placed it in its list of 100 World’s Greatest Places 2021, calling it a “Rising Design Destination.”La Paz, Baja California Sur, on the Sea of Cortes, was the other Mexican destination to appear on the list due to its “Laid-back Seaside Vibes.” Now, as the third wave of Covid-19 cases hits Mexico, local authorities began to limit or outright halt activities for tourists in these and other destinations across the country during August.
•HIDDEN HISTORY: The town existed as a fishing village until recently. Due to its remoteness on Oaxaca’s Emerald Coast, the place has been left unspoiled. It is popular with backpackers and other adventurous visitors. Surfers started frequenting Puerto Escondido in the 1960s but kept it a secret. A Oaxaca Revival is taking place, and Puerto Escondido is not missing out any longer. It is just an hour-long flight away from Mexico City, and it is a perfect getaway to experience Mexico in a whole new way.
•SWELLS: Puerto Escondido offers a range of thirteen large beaches and intimate coves. For example, the town treats visitors to white sands and turtle-watching in Playa Escobilla, swimming in Playa Carrizalillo and Playa Angelito, and snorkeling in Playa Chacahua or Playa Manzanillo. A lagoon called Manialtepec The main attraction is Zicatela, a beach nearly two miles long made up of golden sands. It is the home of what surfers call the Mexican Pipeline, due to its gnarly, sometimes deathly, waves reaching heights of forty feet or more. The surfing season lasts primarily from May to September, and Puerto Escondido can accommodate amateurs, pros, and onlookers alike. (Check out the coverage of the Pipeline in Puerto from Surfer Magazine)
•COFFEE PARADISE: Although the area has been inhabited for centuries, the town was founded around the 1930s when authorities created a customs house for exporting coffee from nearby fincas (plantations). The nutrient-rich soil created by the country’s volcanic activity allows Oaxaca to produce more than a quarter of Mexico’s coffee (Arabica and Robusta). Its farms grow, collect, and prepare coffee using traditional and organic methods, which have garnered the attention of enthusiasts everywhere. Travelers to Puerto Escondido can make their way to the fincas. For example, Finca Las Nieves, three miles from downtown Puerto Escondido, allows visitors to see the action and even enjoy glamping on the grounds.
•NEW MILLENNIUM RUSTICITY: Palapas and bungalows dotted the idyllic town for decades, but small resorts, beautiful homes, and cultural centers, have appeared in Puerto Escondido that retain the place’s character. Casa Wabi is such a case. Designed by Pritzker Price recipient Tadao Ando, Casa Wabi is both a foundation and a community retreat for artists. Led by artist Bosco Sodi, it works on sustainable projects with the community using local materials for design. Casa Naila designed by architect Alfredo Quiñones from a firm called BAAQ’, is another example (available for rent as an Airbnb property). This house won an Architizer Award in 2020 for its seamless integration to the rocky beach in Puerto and its use of concrete and palm bone construction. The influence of these projects can be felt throughout the destination.
•GETTING THERE: Visitors usually arrive by airplane. The local airport receives flights from Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Oaxaca City, served by AeroMar, AeroMéxico, VivaAerobus, and Volaris. Arriving by bus or car is possible, but Oaxaca’s roads might not always be in good conditions or can get slippery during the rainy season (June-September). The trip from the state’s capital can take six hours by road, even though the distance is just 160 miles due to winding roads and stopping in small towns along the way. The main routes are Highways 131 and 175, the latter slightly longer but generally safer. The views can be worth it, occasionally getting to heights of over 3,000 feet, and the last portion is parallel to the beach. Only drive during the daytime.
•SAFETY: Puerto Escondido is a tranquil place for visitors, whether traveling solo or with a partner or family. Usual precautions must be exercised at night, like walking to or from the beach. Local citizens and hostels are friendly and used to foreigners. It is cheap and safe to move around in taxis or colectivos (shared cabs). If participating in extreme sports or risky activities, make sure to have valid international insurance. In recent years, for example, even professional surfers have been injured or died while catching waves.
•RESTRICTIONS: Covid-19 cases are on the rise in Puerto Escondido. Local authorities decreed that beaches will be closed during the first half of August. Restaurants and similar businesses can operate at 25 percent capacity. Gatherings and events are prohibited. The use of facemasks is obligatory in closed spaces and public transport, even if already vaccinated. Two neighboring municipalities administer the town: San Pedro Mixtepec Distrito 22 and Santa María Colotepec. Travelers must be careful to obey specific rules depending on where they are. In San Pedro Mixtepec, failing to follow health restrictions can lead to arrest for a few hours. In Santa María Colotepec, infringing the rules can merit fines or 36 hours in the local jail. As of August 01, The number of active Covid-19 cases in San Pedro Mixtepec Distrito 22 is 852, and 204 in Santa María Colotepec, according to official data from the Mexican Government. Oaxaca is currently at an orange threat level from Covid-19 (the third tier on a four-level system). Mexico does not require tourist to provide a negative Covid-19 test to travel, but exercise caution nonetheless. The country is currently facing the effects of the virus’ Delta variant, and vaccination rates among the population are lower than in the U.S.
•SACRED PEYOTE: The psychedelic plant is a central element of the religious practice of the Wixárika peoples in Mexico. Every year, members of the Indigenous group travel across the desert, from San Luis Potosí, searching for the plant that leads them to communicate with their ancestors. An article for The New York Times (photographs by Matt Reichel and text by Robyn Huang) shows how tourists looking for drugs and ecological devastation threaten the Wixárika’s sacred pilgrimage.
•BUBBLY WATER: Emilly McCullar writes in Texas Monthly about a particular kind of water scarcity. There is a shortage of Topo Chico in Texas, a brand of mineral water bottled in Monterrey, in Northen Mexico (Coca-Cola Company owns it). The news has made headlines in places from Austin to San Antonio. The writer reflects on the meaning of the situation.
•BORDER ART: Carolina A. Miranda, the arts and urban design columnist at the Los Angeles Times covered two exhibitions about the U.S.-Mexico Border centered on the Indigenous view on issues regarding both countries. The first one, called “Passage,” shown at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum in Arizona, reflects upon the O’odham peoples of Arizona. The second one, “Indigenous Women: Border Matters,” can be visited at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe.
•POZOLE: Mexicans enjoy spicy and hot soups even during the summer. Such is the case of pozole, a centuries-old dish and a centerpiece of special occasions or sometimes used as a cure for hangovers. Its preparation is laborious, needing hours to stew pork or chicken, and hominy, mixed with chilies and other spices that give its characteristic red or green colors. Usually, cooks serve it with cabbage and avocados and garnish it with radishes, fresh white onions, and dried oregano. Every family in every region of Mexico might have their recipe. Still, tastes differ on how heavy or spicy it must be. If traveling through the country, take a chance to taste it, especially in places like Nayarit (a shrimp-based one is available), Michoacán, Guerrero, or Mexico City. In Los Angeles, visit Tamales Elenas y Antojitos. Pair it with a Vienna lager Mexican beer, such as Victoria or Minerva. ¡Salud!