Puerto Escondido is a traditional Mexican fishing village located 180 miles south of the city of Oaxaca and 70 miles west of Huatulco Bay in an area known as the Emerald Coast for its magnificent jade-green waters. The city, which inherited its name from the local rocks known as “Punta Escondida,” attracts tourists from all over the world for its remarkable surfing, natural scenic beauty, extraordinary bays and pleasant tropical climate.
Puerto Escondido offers a myriad of recreation opportunities. "Discovered" by surfers in the 1970's, Puerto Escondido soon became known as one of the most desirable surf adventures globally. Today, people arrive from around the world to participate in the phenomenal Mexican Pipeline, a consistent and powerful stretch of waves perfect for all wave-riders. From early in the morning until the sun sinks into the sea, surfers and boogie boarders can be seen dotting the waves up and down the Puerto coast. There are areas known for their gentle curves, and others for their powerful breaks, making Puerto an ideal location for both novices and experts. Even non-surfers can be seen at dawn, coffee steaming, eyes upon the waves, watching the surf show.
Fishing is the life blood of the town. Deep sea commercial boats, small family canoes, and every size and shape of boat in between can be seen on the horizon as they bring in tuna, mahi mahi, snapper, jack, marlin, and hundreds of other types of fish. Many of the local boats welcome traveling fishermen and are available for chartered trips to their favorite fishing spots. The catch of the day can be either sold on the beach or taken to a beach restaurant and grilled to your specifications.
Boats aren't limited to fishing trips. The coast of Puerto Escondido and the surrounding area alternates between long, sandy beaches and small, intimate coves. Traveling by boat is an easy way to explore the coastline. Also mixed in with the beaches and coves are fresh water lagoons, home to many different birds and fish. Entire days can be spent gliding through the sea, stopping for a snack of freshly steamed lobsters at one cove and to study the sea turtles at another. Snorkel and scuba gear can be difficult to find in the area, but it is worth the effort. The coves host any number of submerged rock formations and coral reefs; it is an ideal setting for the inquisitive swimmer.
The town itself is worth exploring. Located in the information booth of the Adoquin, Gina, the "Information Goddess" of Puerto Escondido, has a great walking tour that will introduce visitors to easily-overlooked aspects of the area. Locals take these things for granted as simply a way of life: three generations of women gathered around a comal shaping and grilling corn tortillas, the home of a woman famed for producing as many as 800 tamales every day, the local molinos who grind everything from the intricate moles to homemade cocoa blends, and the Mercado Benito Juarez alive and buzzing with its many stalls of ripe tropical fruits and vegetables, fresh fish, homemade cheeses, and dozens of other unexpected goodies. These are romantic and exotic sights to foreign eyes.
Please visit the Puerto Language School for more information about this wonderful way to learn Spanish. The Instituto de Lenguajes Puerto Escondido is a small teachers' cooperative designed to give personal attention to students interested in learning Spanish. From its location over looking the beautiful and famous beach, Playa Zicatela, the school offers private and small group lessons to students of all levels, from the early beginner to the most advanced.
The classes taught on location in Mexico provide students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Spanish language, interact with the Latino culture and enjoy the stimulating environment and fun activities that Puerto Escondido offers.
The food in Puerto is never boring. Most restaurants take advantage of the constant supply of fresh fish and offer "the catch of the day" which is usually a fillet of tuna, mahi mahi, or red snapper. Any restaurant that serves fish will also serve ceviche, a sort of fish salsa served with homemade chips. Whitefish is shredded and combined with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapenos, and avocado, and the whole mixture is marinated in lime and orange juice which actually cooks the fish. This is a wonderfully refreshing treat after a steamy afternoon of wandering in the sun.
Visitors often find that familiar Mexican snacks taste much better in Mexico. For instance, a simple quesadilla of cheese and tortillas is almost a sublime experience. The tortillas are made by hand, grilled upon a comal (a flat clay surface set upon an open flame), and then stuffed with one of the locally made, slightly salty cheeses. Salsa doesn't come out of a jar, but is made in the kitchen every morning. Guacamole is pure avocado, lime, and salt; no sour cream or mayonnaise to "stretch" the avocados, which are plentiful.
Best of all are the authentic Mexican snacks that are not usually found in the US. Sopes are fat corn cakes, either fried or grilled, that are then topped with any combination of shredded chicken, beef, cheese, salsa, vegies, and sour cream. Another good find is pozole, a chili-broth soup with hominy and either chicken or pork. It is served with a side platter of lime wedges, jalapenos, radishes, cabbage, oregano, and chili peppers so that you can adjust the seasoning to your liking. All of Oaxaca is known for its mole. Mothers pass down their family recipe to their daughters, who in turn pass it to their daughters, and every mole is different. Making mole is an elaborate process. It takes half a day to lightly char the plethora of chiles and saute vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices. This whole concoction is then taken to a molino, an industrial grinder, where it is ground together. The rest of the day is spent stirring the mole over a flame, adding a bit of local chocolate, waiting for it to become a thick paste. It might sound horrible, but in reality it's a delicious and mysterious experience. Often sporting a bit of a kick, mole is used in tamales, enchiladas, and a myriad of other treats.
No morning in Mexico should pass without either a cup of coffee or hot cocoa. Coffee is grown north of town, harvested, and then roasted locally. Somehow it manages to be both dark and rich without any bitterness. Cocoa is no slouch either. Cacao beans are roasted along with cinnamon and almonds, and then taken to the molino where it's all ground together with sugar. It is then shaped into mounds suited to making one or two cups of hot chocolate. These "chocolate drops" are mixed with milk over a stove, and there is no more perfect cup of steaming cocoa anywhere else in the world.
The world is familiar with tequila, but not everyone knows of tequila's illegitimate brother, mezcal. Within Mexico, the state of Oaxaca is famed for its mezcal. Both mezcal and tequila are made from the agave plant, but mezcal is less refined. Though there are many upscale renditions of mezcal, the local version in Puerto falls more in the "bootleg" category. It is extremely potent and liable to cause a whopping cruda (hangover) which may or may not interfere with the recollection of exactly how much fun was had the night before. Nonetheless, it is a cultural experience that really shouldn't be missed.
Internet cafes are plentiful in Mexico. Travelers can gloat about their tropical adventures to the folks back home with ease. In fact, there are even cafes that serve drinks at the computers. They are great spots to meet other visitors.
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