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Visit Puerto Escondido before the "Hidden Port" Is No Longer Off-the-Beaten-Path

by Mike Airhart
(Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico)

One of Oaxaca's quiet, secluded beaches

One of Oaxaca's quiet, secluded beaches

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If you ask any of the grizzled old gringos knocking back cervezas at the Split Coconut or Circus Bar on Playa Zicatela what they think about Puerto Escondido, the first words out of their mouths will probably be some complaint about the area growing too fast or becoming too popular.

To them, the “hidden port” just simply isn't hidden well enough anymore.
The coast of Oaxaca...is truly the perfect blend of idyllic paradise and authentic Mexican culture."

They started coming here in the late 60's, back when Puerto was nothing more than a small fishing village and a port for exporting coffee from the mountains of Oaxaca. Back then the only way to get here was to board a rickety old bus in Oaxaca City and brave your way through the mountains.

Today, of course, visitors arrive by air into Puerto Escondido or Huatulco International Airports.

And yes, tourists are arriving in greater numbers than they used to – but that doesn't mean this up-and-coming beach destination isn't still “off the beaten path”. It is.

The coast of Oaxaca delivers an experience unlike any region in Mexico. It is truly the perfect blend of idyllic paradise and authentic Mexican culture.

Untouched by American fast-food chains, there isn't a single Mickey D's, BK or KFC to be found along the coast here. The same goes for cheesy tourist traps like the Hard Rock Café or Señor Frog’s.

Cancún might be great for club-hopping college students on their wild Spring break adventure, but if you're after something a little more cultural and a lot more relaxing, this might just be the area for you.

Much of the draw to the Oaxacan coast is the wide array of uncrowded quiet beaches. From beginner to intermediate surf breaks to lake-smooth coves for snorkeling or paddle-boarding, there's a beach here for every taste.

Even the most popular beach, Playa Zicatela, home of the Mexican Pipeline and internationally renown for big wave surfing, will feel empty compared to those at larger resort towns such as Puerto Vallarta or Cabo San Lucas.

If you've never surfed before and would love to give it a whirl, there are tons of affordable surf schools and board rental in Puerto is super economical.

Along the same lines, the beaches here aren't overrun with hawkers who hassle you every two minutes attempting to peddle you a necklace, hat, trinket or t-shirt.

Sure, the occasional wandering salesman will offer you a hammock or souvenir but they are super polite and leave you to relax with a simple “no gracias.”

Plus, you don't have to get far out of town to find beaches where you'll truly be the only soul in town. Private villas and boutique resorts are available off these secluded beaches for vacationers who truly appreciate star-filled nights and falling asleep to the sound of the waves.

The Oaxacan coast is a place where you can truly get away from it all while still enjoying all the basic tourism infrastructure to get you here comfortably and ensure that you have a great time.

In addition, visitors to this area quickly notice how unbelievably safe it is here and how much more affordable it is to eat out and participate in activities. In particular, chartered sport fishing trips cost a fraction here of what you pay in Los Cabos or on the Yucatan.

The same goes for turtle, dolphin and whale watching tours and even SCUBA diving costs less here than in the major resort towns. It's even possible to train and get your PADI card from one of the local dive shops.

Much of the draw to Oaxaca State is the fact that it is perhaps the most fascinating region of Mexico culturally. A combination of unique cuisine, colorful traditional dress and captivating to almost wacky customs, it’s a special part of the world.

Numerous chances are available for snatching lifelong memories, from horseback rides along the river to mangrove lagoon tours and mountain bike excursions.

It's possible to take a day trip up into the Sierra Madre range to visit organic shade-grown coffee plantations and there are countless other opportunities to enjoy bird watching and other eco-tourism activities.

Puerto will always be magical, but the wrinkled old men are right, the winds of change are coming and this place is far too special to stay a secret for long.

About the author:

Mike Airhart, along with his wife, built and operate Gecko Rock Resort, a small 4-room all-inclusive boutique resort off Playa Santa Elena, twenty miles from Puerto Escondido.

He also runs an informative blog about the Oaxacan coast that covers travel information and activities from Huatulco to Puerto.

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