I recently returned from a month in Mexico. A week of that time was spent by the beach in Puerto Escondido.
An American guy I met was working at the hostel, Tower Bridge. His story was typical, but fun. He had been working at the Tower Bridge Hostel by the beach which provided him with room, board, and unlimited alcohol. He would go surfing every day in the Pacific waters of the world’s premier surfing beach. It’s the waters of Playa Zicatela that hold an surfing championships in November due to its ‘Mexican Pipeline’. I am talking about the ESPN X Games and the MexPipe Challenge.
If surfing is your passion, can you imagine how great it must be to live his life for a while? Parties on the beach, an international crowd, world class surfing, and sociable work. In the end its not going to satisfy his other long term needs but for a nice escape I can’t think of anything better.
I don’t typically enjoy beach towns for more than a couple of days. Puerto Escondido was an exception. The town is ugly. There are mosquitoes, bees, and flies ready to pounce. Deadly spiders lurk in the background. But I found the perfect little hostel to make friends and a beautiful beach to learn surfing.
The hostel was located along a dirt road alley. When I first arrived late at night I could not believe this was it. The outside showed a tin shack. But when I entered the building the place suddenly transformed into an eccentric beach paradise. The hostel featured a pool in the middle of it all with a bridge to walk over it. Tropical plants and palm trees covered much of the leftover space making it feel like we were waking up in the a rainforest each morning. At night the lights were mostly dimmed making it feel like a jungle bar resort.
The drinks were cheap and so the crew of the aforementioned American staff and a small group of guests would gather each night to share each other’s company. It was the type of travelers who would all stay for a week or more. There was a pair of American brothers. One of which would commute into San Diego each day from Tijuana because of cheaper rent. There was a German girl traveling solo who later visited me in Philadelphia a day after I flew back home. We had a Brazilian, Canadian, Australian, an Italian couple, and some French.
We consumed so much cheap Victoria or Corona bottles or the gross mixed drinks made of Vodka and Tang mix.We hit the bars later on in the night to mingle with Mexicans and dance like fools.
I woke up when I woke up each day. My next action was to take a taxi to El Cafecito, an American style brunch place where I would order omelets, pancakes, or french toast paired with a mug of American style black coffee and fresh tropical fruit. From the restaurant I would walk to more gentle Carizalillo beach.
What made Carizalillo so perfect was that it was somewhat hard to find because it had no road leading to it. It took fifteen minutes of steep steps to reach the white sand and cobalt blue waters. On the first day I found a palm tree thatched hut selling seafood and coconuts. I laid my belongings on a reclining chair and thought about trying surfing. I always imagined it to be a sport that requires lots of practice to even catch just one wave. I sat for a while and then hired an instructor off the beach for an hour lesson. He is actually the dude teaching the toddler to surf in the photo below.
After ten minutes of practicing on land we went out into the water. Just twenty minutes later after patiently waiting an a couple of botched attempts, I rode my first wave that lasted for around thirteen seconds. A while later some six foot tall, lanky British woman rode her board directly into me. She bloodied my knee a bit.
Surfing was cool but that wave did not convince me to pick up surfing as my life passion. I rode another wave during that hour, and then the lesson ended. I sat on my beach chair exhausted and satisfied that I had tried surfing. I even told myself just this once was enough and I would be content never going surfing again.
Fast forward to the next day. I rented a boogie board instead. It was incredibly boring. I returned to my chair and sat for a while, making small chat with the mom sitting next to me. She and her Australian husband led pretty international lives. They brought their kids with them on vacation. What is cool about them is that they chose Puerto Escondido rather than a package beach holiday in Cancun. We sat together for the rest of the week. Back to my point. Eventually I grew restless and rented a surf board sans instructor.
I managed to land another two waves for the next hour. But often times the instructors try to rule the beach and would often yell at me for getting in their way. So they managed to take the best area of the water. Dicks.
When I rented the board the day after the waves turned into monsters. I almost went into the rocks many times. My board nearly smacked me in the head. It was tough. By the end of the day I felt seasick and returned to my beach chair frightened. I was clearly out of my element.
But for the next few days the sea calmed down and I rode the waves like a champ! Thirteen seconds here, another five over there. I quickly became proficient enough to catch almost any small wave into shore. After each hour of surfing I returned to my seat for lunch. On this particular day I ordered ceviche tacos after the restaurant staff returned to shore with freshly caught fish. It all made sense seeing the Mexicans snorkeling near shore.
One aspect I am going to mention now is work. I still did work every day for around three to four hours. I worked rather uncomfortably from my $8/night private room without a fan. I sat on my bed pounding out resumes for my career consulting business. But knowing I had previously been able to relax on this beach pictured below helped make it bearable. And knowing that I would soon be drinking with friends at the hostel jungle bar always gave me something to look forward to.
My week in Puerto Escondido had to end because I mistakenly bought a flight figuring I would only want to stay here two days max. I could have easily stayed another week. Although I had a really fun experience I would not necessarily recommend visiting over another beach in Mexico. There are far better beaches to learn surfing, better nightlife, and far more attractive towns out there. But I had a blast and am glad I made the trip.
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