Mexico's other beaches
The beaches of Puerto Escondido, where everything move at an unhurried pace. (Paul Kennedy/LPI)
The sugary sand and crystalline waters of Mexico’s beaches have enticed travellers for decades, but the southern Pacific Coast is home to some of Mexico’s most serene seascapes, where still travellers string hammocks between palms, mango trees grow wild and visitors stroll uncrowded beaches to the rhythm of pounding waves. Here, things move at an unhurried pace – a destination to unwind while exploring hidden coves, learning to surf or savouring the sunset’s final glow from candlelit seafood restaurants at night. Best part is, unlike the paved-over eyesore of Cancun; there is not a mega-sized chain hotel in sight.
With half a dozen sleepy towns strung between the surfing magnate of Puerto Escondido and developing eco-resort of Bahías de Huatulco, this stretch of coast is home to golden beaches and killer surfing, sailing trips that share the water with dolphins, turtles and whales. It may be a little trickier to get here – most visitors arrive via Oaxaca and Mexico City, where you can connect to small airports in Puerto Escondido or Bahías de Huatulco – but when you do, the extra effort is rewarded by a visit that moves in harmony with the powerful natural beauty and laid-back lifestyle of the place.
Ride the Mexican pipeline in Puerto Escondido
Some of the best surfing swells in North America bring beach bums, pro surfers and an international set of travellers to this "Hidden Port" – a former fishing village that is an ideal introduction to the easygoing pace of the region. If you are not quite ready to ride the legendary Pipeline, it is easy to ride Puerto Escondido's gentler waters as the city is host to a number of surf academies tailored for beginners. Those who favour something less formal wait for a local strolling up the beach offering impromptu hour-long lessons in the gentle waters of the city beaches. Regardless of how you spend the day, a bustling cafe and restaurant scene comes alive every evening, bringing live music and a freewheeling, unpretentious nightlife.
Unplug in hippie heaven
The pale sand and bungalow living of the beach towns of Zipolite, Puerto Ángel and Mazunte have the coast's most languid charm – something one traveller rightly described as the "old-time hippie vibe". Faint strains of Bob Marley, shirtless yoga gurus and ramshackle beach cafes make this Mexico's perfect chill-out destination. The rustic beach getaway of many an office daydream, accommodations are mostly simple wooden structures with tall thatched roofs, and menus focus on the morning's fresh catch. Set among a landscape of crashing surf, pounding sun, rocky coves and tree-covered hills, this is a magical place to unplug.
Each of the three villages has its distinct flavour, but after a turtle hunting ban in 1990 attempts were made to remake Mazunte into model ecotouristic village, with accommodations focussing on sustainability, a natural cosmetics factory and a turtle rescue operation which accepts volunteers.
Spot Wildlife at Mexico's First Eco-Resort
Lying along a series of sandy bays, the ecologically sensitive developments Bahías de Huatulco make up Mexico's newest planned coastal resort, which cater to the 4-star traveller who prefers high thread count sheets to sleeping on the beach. Correcting woes of overdeveloped debacles of the past, the developments are separated by tracts of unspoiled shoreline and protected federal coastline. Compared to Mexico's other coastal destinations, Huatulco remains a relatively uncrowded resort, with a succession of scenic beaches lapped by beautiful water and backed by tangled mangrove forest. Agencies offer a spread of active pursuits here, from snorkelling and diving to rafting, horseback riding and deep sea diving. Those who want to see the coast in its untouched glory arrange a guided trip to the ecologically sensitive Parque Nacional Huatulco, a 119 sq km patch of lush land, sea and shoreline, including some of Huatulco's most important coral reefs.