by Angela Fairhurst
Puerto Escondido, “hidden port,” is a resort town on the Pacific coast in the Mexican state of Oaxaca and one of America’s best kept secrets. Canadians have long visited the Oaxaca region, but US residents have been slow to catch on to the area’s attractions. The town has remained under the mainstream tourism radar for years probably because there are no direct flights from the US or Canada, and there are a limited number of large resort hotels, but the smaller crowds and easy-going vibe are part of its charm. The closest “direct” flights from Canada and the United States land in Huatulco, which is a two-hour drive from Puerto Escondido.
Surfers know its many beaches with Zicatela renowned for its Mexican Pipeline surf break, neighboring La Punta Beach with its smaller waves, and the gorgeous Carrizalillo Beach, more of a “learn to surf” beach set in a cove backed by steep cliffs, which is also great for non-surfers who want to swim, relax and sunbathe. There are also two bays that sit right next to each other, and the relaxed beaches of Playa Puerto Angelito and Playa Manzanillo, also beckon the traveler seeking an uncluttered Mexican beach experience.
The town’s central Principal Beach is lined with palm trees and thatch-roofed bars and restaurants, with incredible fresh fish offerings and flavorful cuisine at the local eateries.
There are few high-rises and no big-brand hotels in Puerto Escondido, which leaves options such as bungalows, casitas and the tony real estate development-turned luxury resort called Vivo Resorts. The brainchild of Olympic downhill skier and World Cup champion Cary Mullen, the development originally launched sales in 2009 with its condos and villas on a 12-mile stretch of untouched Pacific coast beach. In expanding the brand, the development has made it attractive for vacation rentals, adding amenity after amenity with a Clubhouse, spa, fitness facility, yoga studio, an infinity pool with swim-up bar, a family activity pool with a water slide, farm-to-table restaurant, lounge and sports bar, kids club, activities and event space.
The residences are all beachfront view with 1 to 4 bedrooms, in four different finish styles: Tropical, Pacific, Beach and Mexican; all have full kitchens and laundry facilities. There is also a convenience store, gift shop and business center. Vivo Resorts includes the community by hiring locals, interacting with their neighbors by aiding farmers and local businesses, and funding a turtle sanctuary.
The heart of most Mexican towns is its public market, and Puerto Escondido is no exception. Mercado Benito Juarez has hundreds of stores and stalls selling everything from fresh fish, meat, poultry, flowers, Oaxacan cheese and produce to clothing, pottery and kitchenware. Beyond the marketplace you can find specialty foods such as homemade peanut butter, chocolate with cinnamon, and coffee.
The biggest allure for me was the amazing basket weaving and textile craftsmanship. Traditional weavers at Manteleria Santo Domingo create garments, dinner napkins, placemats, table cloths and blankets from homespun cotton on wooden looms. I’m ready to go back for more!