Away from the buzzing tourist subsidiary of the Yucatán Peninsula, the Pacific side delivers an authentic Mexican experience, abundant with hidden beaches, consistent swell and no other tourists in site. You’ll find a number of beach villages up and down the coast but we explored the State of Oaxaca, the closest to the Guatemala border. The state is one of the last frontiers in mainland Mexico, despite also being home to Mexico’s famous, world-class surf area of Puerto Escondido. Huatulco to Salina Cruz, is almost untouched by development and characterised by verdant jungle slopes meshing with spectacular white sand beaches. The coastline enjoys a plethora of breaks, from dredging beaches and rifling points to secret jetties, that are blessed from April to October with consistent 3-10ft offshore swells. Only the lack of tourism infrastructure and sketchy access to the spots can explain the low crowd level.
It was proving difficult to book a hostel in Salina Cruz. Let alone find any decent information about it at all. We had our doubts about the place, especially arriving at 3am from San Cristobal in the Mexican mountain range, the only town that seemed to connect our last destination of Guatemala to the coast of Mexico.
Luckily, we had friends who had already organised a hotel so we caught a cab from the bus terminal to join them.
We quickly found that there are no hostels in Salina Cruz. There is actually no tourist infrastructure. Period. It was the real Mexico. We explored the maze of market places and received stares from the locals who might have spotted their first ever gringo. We took comfort in the local Starbucks and organised for the local surf guide, Fito to pick us up the next morning for an all day trip to the local surf spots. There seemed to be no way of making it to the beach ourselves. After devouring pescado ceviche for dinner and enjoyed sexo en la playa cocktails at a beach bar, we got an early night ready to head off at 6am.
Our first task was to strap ten boards to Fito’s chevy truck. There are also no surf shops in Salina Cruz, so we recommend to take your own board. Luckily, Fito had some spares for us. Once all boards were relatively secure, all eight of us headed off in search for swell. We bounced along to Bob Marley, winding our way down the coast, and through a dense camping ground where local Mexican’s slept in hammocks tied from trees, rather than tents. Soon the trees parted, opening up to a mound of sand dunes. In the middle of the sand dunes we spotted an Easter Sunday procession where about 100 Mexicans were all gathered, wearing full length white gowns. As we drove past, with Bob Marley blaring out the windows, we sank into our chairs with embarrassment attempting to hide from the endless eyeballs. Fito was not embarrassed. He decided to yell out the window, “I am the Devil”, which was so fitting on Easter Sunday.
Maybe because of our sacrilegious act, the universe didn’t reward us with an abundance of waves that day. The break that we settled for definitely had potential, and with no crowds, we made do with what was on offer – small little right handers peeling off the point. We nicknamed the point Elephant Rock, because of it’s resemblance to an Elephant, unsurprisingly.
Fito set us up with a tarp draped from the chevy connected to two poles. We were grateful for the shade in the sweltering heat. However, through our language barriers, we missed that it was BYO food. Chips and some junk food didn’t really cut it for 8 hours.
After a fun surf, Fito took us to an inland waterway to finish the day. We foolishly stayed in the car as he reversed all the way to the edge of the cliff, thankfully stopping just before the drop off. After I tested the handbrake and accepted the car wasn’t going to roll back and tumble down into the depths of the water, I followed Fito by climbing to the roof of the car and jumped from the roof.
The next day we did it all again. Fito picked us up, we loaded the boards and we brought food this time. There was better size on offer, however we were pretty exhausted from the previous day. Nevertheless we managed to surf for another 8 hours that day.
By the end of it, us girls showed off our raw ribs from 16 hours of solid surfing in 2 days. After complete exhaustion, Fito took us to a traditional Mexican restaurant where we ate among the locals, no gringos in sight. Thankfully we had Fito to order for us because no one spoke English. He ordered pork quesadillas for us all. It was the most delicious, authentic Mexican dish I have ever eaten.
To avoid the trip turning into a surf bootcamp, we decided that two days of surfing with Fito was plenty and negotiated a lift to the next stop – Barra De La Cruz.
If you want to organise your own surf guided adventure with Fito, contact him through Facebook.
BARRA DE LA CRUZ
The Rip Curl Search, “Somewhere in Mexico” was the right point break of Barra De La Cruz. Long kept a secret, the location of this world class surf spot is gradually coming out. This well-tended indigenous, rustic village offers not much to do other than the chance to catch some amazing waves and to slow right down.
After exiting the highway, we drove along the dirt road which was dotted with a few mud shacks. I could tell the guys were hesitant and wondering why I would insist on visiting a place that seemed like it had less infrastructure than Salina Cruz. However, past the mud shacks we arrived on top of a hill to stare in awe of perfect right handers. I had seen this image before and now I was finally here – somewhere in Mexico. After the excitement of watching the waves, we headed to Cabañas Pepe where we were shown our wood and palm thatch cabin.
The beach was a 20min walk away so Pepe let us borrow his old chevy van to drive to the beach everyday. So for the next week this is how our days went:
- Wake up and eat breakfast at Pepe’s
- Pack the 8 surfboards into the van and drive to the beach listening to Mexican music on the local radio
- Pay our 20 pesos to enter the beach
- Park up and morning surf for 3 hours
- Eat lunch on the beach under the palapa comedor
- Afternoon surf for another 3 hours
- Drink Coronas on the beach until dusk
- Head back into the village, eat dinner and drink Margarita’s out of goblets at the only place in town to grab a drink.
The days blended together, a state of perfect happiness was reached, oblivious to everything else on this earth.
Famous for it’s world class surf break, pro-surfers, and beach bums, international travelers are attracted to Puerto Escondido’s plethora of activities by day and vibrant party life by night. By day, you can surf, snorkel, dive, swim, and go sportfishing. By night, the bar scene and live music attracts those sporting sunkissed skin and salty hair to congregate.
Puerto was originally a fishing port and development has happened gradually over time, therefore there is more tourist infrastructure than the other places we visited on the Pacific coast. Part of Puerto’s charm is that while known as a tourist destination, it still remains a fishing port and market town, retaining its authenticity.
We stayed at La Punta, the left point break at Puerto. We checked into Frutas y Verdura Hostel and climbed to the top of the hostel to watch the sunset over the Pacific.
The surf wasn’t on offer for us, so we made it into town most days to shop and eat fish tacos. We were also pretty exhausted from hard core surfing during the last two weeks so we were pretty happy to turn our Puerto experience into more of a relaxing one. There are some amazing jewellery stores selling an abundance of silver and turquoise – we stocked up!