One thing I am learning after traveling for over seven months, take all advice, from the Lonely Planet guide books, to other travelers tales of paradise or hell, with a grain of salt and an open mind. Because everyone has different perspectives on places. Also, places can change daily with the weather or with crowds, you just never know what you will get.
For example, we loved the beach Chacala in Nayarit, and told our friends about it. We camped alone during the week and had the beach almost to ourselves, It was a lovely emerald bay and we enjoyed it immensely. Our friends arrived on a Saturday with about 50 huge tour buses from Guadalajara, and lets just say they did not hang around long (and probably stopped taking our advice!). Paradise is a fickle and finicky lady, the more flexible you are, the better chance you will have at finding her.
So speaking of paradise, I had heard a lot about the Oaxaca beaches and I was really excited to explore the coast since we had been away from the beach for almost two months. We headed on the very long, windy and stunning highway 175 from Oaxaca and arrived 11 hours later at Zipolite, where we found a place to camp almost on the beach. I thought we were going to love Zipolite, but it was a kind of a love hate relationship. It is a beautiful beach and we did enjoy our time here (great sunsets every night), but the waves were so huge and the rip tide so powerful that you really can’t swim here safely. When it is over 100 degrees and humid, not being able to swim is a little torturous.
Also, Zipolite also has a very open approach to drugs. People were smoking pot everywhere at all times of the day. We started smelling pot at around 8am and it continued until well after dark. For each his own I guess, but given the current drug problems in Mexico, I felt it was a kind of crappy thing to so openly embrace.
Finally, Zipolite is one of the only nude beaches in Mexico. I lived in San Francisco, where 10k runs with naked people is normal, so that did not phase me. It is just that unfortunately the naked people are mostly chubby, retired, gringo men (they always are….). In our hippy hut campground people were naked all day. One morning Sam was sitting at our table in the XP laughing hysterically, I asked him what was so funny and he said there is a man about four feet from us on top of his camper cleaning his solar panels. NAKED. I looked out at his wrinkly bum and family jewels glistening in the sun (before I even had coffee!) and decided we needed to find a new beach.
We heard that Mazunte was a more “European” feeling town and had a better swimming beach so we gave it a try. The beach was nicer to swim in but there was nowhere to camp in town. Also, apparently they have circus nights in Mazunte and we got there on circus day. The beach was filled with dreadlocked jugglers and people practicing gymnastics. They seemed to be mostly Italians, Americans and Argentinians. Maybe if I was 20 I would have loved it, but at some point I said to Sam that if I saw one more stoned juggling hippie I was going to lose my mind……. Again, it was a pretty beach. Just not our vibe. You get spoiled after spending so much time in remote, less traveled areas, we are finding we like touristy areas less and less.
Farther south down the coast there is a long stretch of beach we think called Mermejita where we camped for free in a parking lot. The beach was beautiful and we saw a baby humpback whale swimming just offshore with it mother. The young whale jumped out and breached about 15 times. I have never seen anything like it. It was one of the moments you can’t believe you were lucky enough to witness. However, it was not a good swimming beach and the heat drove us to keep looking for the perfect beach.
Just right beach…
I told Sam we would have to just start exploring the side roads down the coast until we found something we liked. Near Parque Nacional Huatulco we found the beach for us that was just right. A beautiful swimming beach with a coral reef for snorkeling, almost empty during the week, very few tourists (us and one other couple), super cheap beach camping and friendly Mexican families. We loved this beach and stayed for five days (until basically our food ran out). The only negative is that there was no place to buy fresh food here and almost all the restaurants were closed because it was so dead during the week. If you come, stock up on food and water and enjoy paradise. All we did was read, swim, snorkel, read, swim, drink beer. It was our little slice of perfect.
One of the things I liked here was that there was snorkeling that was easily accessible from the beach. Not the best snorkeling we have had, but the water was so clear it was fun to see the schools of tropical fish. Here is a underwater video I took: