Sunset Zicatela Beach
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SHE ROAMS ABOUT

Puerto Escondido, Oax., Mexico

 

Updated: Dec 8, 2021

Puerto Escondido is becoming a hot topic in the travel world and with it being an up-and-coming destination it can be hard to find practical information. I did a lot of research before reaching the area and I was surprised when I arrived because what I had read and watched didn’t seem to align with what I was experiencing firsthand. One of the topics I struggled with was gaining a clear perspective on where to stay in Puerto Escondido so I’ve put together a cheat sheet to help other travelers heading to the coast.


Carrizalillo Beach, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca


Some Basic Geography


Puerto Escondido is a town located on the Oaxacan Coast in the southwest of Mexico. Many travel resources dub the town as “small”, so I was surprised when I arrived to find that it actually has a population of around 45,000 people plus the many long-term/temporary visitors that frequent the area.


The town is quite sprawling as it stretches down the Pacific coastline. Driving from the La Punta area in the south, to the Bacocho area in the north takes 15-20 minutes or about an hour and half to walk, although I wouldn’t recommend this method.


Depending on the type of traveler you are, budget and the experience you are hoping to have, there is definitely a best area to choose as a base. I like to break the town into four regions, in order from north to south: Bacocho & Carrizalillo, Centro, Zicatela and La Punta. Each area has a totally different experience and traveler demographic and choosing the right one for you is crucial to enjoying your time in this town. To help you along the way I have put together this cheat sheet on the pros and cons of each neighbourhood.



Map of Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca


Bacocho & Carrizalillo


Located at the north end of the town you will find the neighbourhoods of Bacocho & Carrizalillo, only 5 – 10 minutes driving from the airport.


Ideal For: Late 20s+, couples/families, those looking to be within reach of the action but not in the midst of it.


View from Restaurante Pez Gallo at Club de Playa Villasol, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

Pros:


-Beaches: The beaches in this area are, in my opinion, the best in town. They are less busy and also have much calmer waters allowing for swimming.


-Dining: Some of my favourite restaurants in town are in this area. The standard of food and the value for money is the best in this part of town.


-Quality Accommodation: The top end of the town offers several great options for 3-4* hotels at a good price. I stayed at the Hotel Aldea del Bazar which is a beautiful Arabian influence hotel overlooking the ocean.



Pool, Hotel Aldea del Bazar, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

Cons:


-Nightlife: Most of the nightlife in town happens in Zicatela and La Punta so if you are looking for some late night drinks and dancing you will need to take a taxi to one of these area. The price during the day is around 50 pesos [$2.50USD/$3CAD] and at night can spike to as high as 100 pesos [$5USD/$6CAD] but you should try not to pay more than 80 pesos [$3.90USD/$4.90CAD].


-Walkability: Depending on where you end up in this area you may find yourself needing to take taxis to the restaurants or the beach. Taxis around the neighbourhood are generally no more than 35 pesos [$1.70USD/$2.20CAD] and are easy to hail or restaurant and hotel staff are happy to call one for you.



Centro


Centro literally means “centre”. This is the heart of the town and off the tourist trail.


Ideal For: Budget-Conscious travellers, Culture Vultures


Mural, Mercado Benito Juarez, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

Pros:


-Budget: Centro is great for your budget no matter what you’re paying for. Accommodation costs here are significantly less than in other parts of town as well as food, water and supplies.


-Shopping: This was my favourite area for shopping. Other parts of town have the cute Insta-worthy stores but the central market, Mercado Benito Juarez is the place to go. Selling everything from clothing to fresh fish, the mercado is a one-stop-shop with the most reasonable prices in town. Centro is also where you’ll find most of the banks and even a Chedraui [big box store].


Chiles Roasted for Mole, Mercado Benito Juarez, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

Cons:


-Beaches: If you’re coming for the beaches and the sunsets this may not be the area for you as you will need some sort of transportation to access the ocean.



Zicatela


Zicatela is one of the world's best surfing beaches and the backpacker hub of town.


Ideal For: Surfers, Backpackers, Younger Travellers


Sunset, Zicatela Beach, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

Pros:


-Sunsets: The sunsets in Zicatela are some of the most spectacular I have ever seen. The sky dances with these incredible purples and oranges, it’s absolutely hypnotic.


-Centre of the Universe: In terms of activity, Zicatela is the place to be. Surf lessons, beach workouts, parties, dance lessons, skydiving, whatever you want to try you will probably find here.


Zicatela Sign, Zicatela Beach, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

Cons:


-Touristic: This part of town definitely has a purpose-built feeling to it. All the businesses seem to cater to backpackers and surfers so if that’s not you, it can feel a little contrived.



La Punta


This is like the zen, barefooted big sister to Zicatela located at the south end of town.


Ideal For: Wellness Seekers, Yogis, Instagrammers


Coffee Shop, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

Pros:


-Photo Worthy: La Punta is like a mini Tulum in terms of Instagrammability. Most of the businesses and bars here are very aesthetically lead so if you are looking for "likes" this is a good place to go.


-Wellness: This part of town is a yogi/vegan heaven. It is absolutely swarming with yoga teachers, chakra cleansers, vegan restaurants and barefoot beach bums riding scooters.


Shop, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

Cons:


-Pricey: Many shops here are selling small items for thousands of pesos citing that they are made by artists or one-of-a-kind pieces. I also noticed a trend in more expensive coffee and food when using buzzwords like “organic” or “sustainable”.


-Somewhat Inauthentic: This is a controversial opinion so I will elaborate a little further on this one. Based on my personal travel history, La Punta felt like it was trying to be bohemian and beachy on purpose. I found myself drawing comparisons to places like Caye Caulker in Belize.


Caye Caulker is a sandbar island located in the Belize Barrier Reef. It has no paved roads, and the only modes of transportation are golf carts, bicycles and walking. The businesses on the island are run almost entirely by locals, the bars are full of locals, the streets are full of locals. When you are in Caye Caulker you feel like you have been let in on a Belizean secret and La Punta lacks that underlying authenticity. Most of the business are run by foreigners and a lot of the more rustic elements feel intentional rather than natural.


Puerto Escondido is almost like a collection of small communities that share the name "Puerto Escondido". No matter what sort of trip you're hoping to take there is a part of town that will cater to that for you. Identifying which area suits you will help you have the best possible experience.


While you're down in Puerto Escondido, don't miss the incredible Mezcal Experience with Puerto Mezcal Tours and the most incredible Oaxacan restaurant around. Until next time, be bold!


-Ashlea

She Roams About



Updated: Jan 14

When I decided to explore Oaxaca, Mexico I knew that if there was ever a time to do a mezcal tasting or tour experience it would be here. Although Oaxaca produces the vast majority of all mezcal it was surprisingly difficult to find any tours or authentic experiences. Being an avid fan of the spirit, I scoured the internet until I came across Puerto Mezcal Tours and secured myself a spot on this mezcal experience in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca.

Agave Plant in Stone, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca


Like many naïve teenagers, I once took an ill-advised left turn into a bottle of tequila which ended with me spending the next seven years recoiling at the mention of it. Fast forward to being 23 and living in London, England I was taken on a date to a tequila bar – not ideal. Reluctant to try anything, I forced myself into Cafe Pacifico in Covent Garden without realizing that I had just entered one arm of Tomas Estes’s tequila empire and my perspective on Mexican liquor was about to change forever. I explained to the bartender that I could not physically drink tequila and after probing me with a few questions about what I liked and didn’t like I was presented with a small snifter of mezcal.


At this stage, I had never heard of mezcal and all I knew about tequila was that Jose Cuervo was my archnemesis. I remember the bartender using the words “just trust me” as I raised the glass and steadied my stomach. The smell was so unexpected, landing somewhere closer to whiskey than tequila. It was smoky and spicy and couldn’t be farther from what I was dreading so much. The taste was also a surprise. Intended to be sipped, it was smoky, warm and earthy. I was floored, this might be my new favourite drink!


Back in the early 2010s mezcal was still very much under the radar. I would ask bartenders everywhere I went if they had mezcal and many of them hadn’t even heard of it while others reminisced about it as though it were a myth or legend. Now that mezcal is becoming better known and mezcal cocktails are popping up on trendy menus across North America and Europe, I wanted to find an experience that would teach me about it but also let me enjoy it. This is how I found Antoine and Puerto Mezcal Tours.


Antoine, Founder and Guide of Puerto Mezcal Tours


When you think of a mezcal tasting in a somewhat remote Mexican town you probably wouldn’t think of Antoine. He is young, vibrant, sociable, and French. He’s one of those electric people who boost your energy just by being around them and you can tell he’s full of great ideas and grand plans. Antoine came to Puerto Escondido for a couple weeks, met a Mexican girl and moved his life to be with her. He has been in Puerto Escondido for two and a half years now and he and Arely started this business with their shared love of mezcal after realizing that nothing like this was being offered.


The tour itself is incredible value for money. At only 800 pesos [$40USD/$50CAD] per person it was the best value tour of any kind I found in the area. Things in Mexico can be a bit casual at times and if you’re like me that can be disconcerting, but Antoine was so refreshing to deal with. He allowed me to book well in advance, he reconfirmed a few days before the tour, he was transparent about the cost, he advised on what we needed to bring, he provided an exact pick-up time the night before and he was prompt.


The experience began with an included pick-up transfer in a nice air-conditioned vehicle. Antoine met me in the hotel lobby, introduced himself and welcomed me to the tour. We then headed off to pick up a couple more guests before making our way to the mezcal distillery which is just a quick 15-minute drive from the town.


Ancestral Mezcal Distillery, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca


Along with Antoine and Arely, the tour is facilitated by Tomas and Perla a young husband and wife who work at the distillery. Tomas’s parents own the distillery and Tomas is actually a 6th generation mezcal producer. He was also the driver for the day while Perla served the tasting and explained the production process alongside Antoine.


Once we met the team and had a moment to exchange niceties with the other guests, we gathered around a table for the presentation portion of the experience. The presentation is a quick and easy 30-minutes jampacked with fascinating history and interesting fun facts. Antoine’s passion for mezcal is apparent as he gushes about the spirit, often referring to it as “the Elixir of the Gods”.


Perla explaining mezcal production, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca


Now equipped with some knowledge of what mezcal is and where it comes from, we headed over to the production area to learn how it’s made. Perla explains each step of the production process in Spanish and then Antoine translates to English. The process is fascinating, and the tools and methods used are very traditional. We also had an opportunity to taste some of the product at different stages to see how it changes by each step. This portion of the experience lasted about 15-minutes and then it was on to the moment we had all been waiting for.


Mezcal with Worms, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca


Each guest was given a small clipboard with the 10 mezcals we were about to taste listed along with some different flavour categories and a spot to rank our preferences as we went. Clipboard in hand, we worked our way through the 10 carefully curated and very different mezcals. A common misconception, and one I had myself, was that all mezcal is smoky but this could not be further from the truth. One of the mezcals was sweet, almost like a Moscato dessert wine, another was really herbal bordering on medicinal, some were fruity and some were earthy. As a group we tasted both traditional and wild mezcals, becoming better and better friends with each round. It was fun to see how different people reacted to the different flavours and to discuss and banter over who was right and who was wrong. My favourite part of the tasting was when we got to the infamous, mythical worm. We tasted the same mezcal, one distilled without the worm and one distilled with the worm. Watching everyone laugh and chatter wide-eyed as Perla poured our drinks from a bottle with bloated worms floating inside was an awesome moment.


At the end of tasting, feeling loose and giggly we had an opportunity to purchase some of the mezcals we had tasted, available in small, medium and large bottles – cash and card accepted. Then we took a couple of group photos and hopped back into the gloriously air-conditioned vehicle for a ride back to town.


Mezcalería, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca


This 2-hour tour is such a fun experience and I would call it a must-do for anyone visiting the area. Our group was made up of Americans, Canadians and Australians of various ages and interests. We had someone who didn’t drink much, others who were pseudo connoisseurs. The friendly group nature of the tour makes it easy to socialize and make new friends and would be comfortable for solo travellers and friends or couples. In fact, I made a few friends on this tour to go to dinner with and a beach day later in the week.


Puerto Mezcal Tours Group with Arely (left) and Antoine (centre), Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca


You’ll want to make sure you dress comfortably and casually, bring water and don’t forget the bug spray. Tours operate daily up to three times a day but I recommend taking the 3:30pm slot as you’ve missed the peak heat of the day and it’s a great time to start sipping at the sauce. Antoine and Arely are very accommodating but being that this tour is the only one of its kind in the area it can get busy and book up. To avoid disappointment I would reach out to Puerto Mezcal Tours at least a couple of days in advance. You can also check out their Instagram here which is loaded with pictures and videos of the experience for you to peruse.


Why not make a day of it? Check out my post on Where to Eat in Puerto Escondido for my top pick for dinner in town. An amazing Oaxacan restaurant that will deliver one of the best meals of your life along with some outstanding cocktails. Until next time, be bold!



-Ashlea

She Roams About

Updated: Jan 14

Whether you consider yourself a “foodie” or not, it’s indisputable that food is a large part of travel. Great or terrible meals can make or break an experience and often the most memorable moments are based around food. This is why before I visit anywhere, a great deal of my research goes into the food culture, regional dishes and recommendations for where to eat. If you only have a handful of opportunities to eat in a specific area then surely you would want at least some of those experiences to be outstanding. True to form, before visiting I did my customary research into where to eat in Puerto Escondido and came back with a lot of information, most of which was largely the same.


The vast majority of travel blogs and vlogs covering food in the area of Puerto Escondido seem to mention the same handful of restaurants. A breakfast joint in the mercado, a few Instagrammable spots in the trendy boho neighbourhoods and some cheap eats in centro is basically what you’ll find online. So imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon one of the best meals I’ve had in my entire life, at a place that didn’t seem to be mentioned on any travel resource that I had found. To give a little perspective, I have visited nearly 40 countries and over 200 towns and cities and this was one of the top 5 meals I have ever had.

Almoraduz, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca


Puerto Escondido can be divided into several neighbourhoods that run along the Pacific coast. The southern point of the town is the trendy area where the barefooted yogis roam and about 15 minutes driving north of there is the quieter area of Bacocho. Along the Rinconada in a strip of restaurants, is an unassuming gem nestled between a beachwear shop and a café, Almoraduz Cocina de Autor (Signature Cuisine). As soon as you approach this restaurant you notice the quiet confidence that oozes from every inch. Greeted at the door by well dressed servers, the tone has been set for an amazing yet affordable dining experience.

Food Menu, Almoraduz, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca


Almoraduz is clearly a chef-driven ship. The menu politely reminds you that changes to the dishes are not permitted and while that may be off-putting to some, I assure you it is worth trusting them over. The cuisine at its heart is traditional Oaxacan with a focus on local ingredients and dishes changing seasonally. The list of offerings is small and every item is so thoughtfully assembled to absolute perfection with a unique flare that can only come from an unbelievably gifted and creative chef, in this case Chef Quetzalcoatl Zurita.


Grasshopper and Corn Amuse-Bouche


A recurring theme as you travel Oaxaca is the use of insects as food. In the culinary world, or even most areas outside of North America and Western Europe this is not unusual. Insects are an excellent source of protein, and they happen to be just about everywhere. In Mexico it is very common to see grasshoppers and ants used as ingredients, snacks, infused in alcohol and even ground down and mixed into salt. In fact, my first introduction to consuming insects was through a mezcal cocktail that used grasshopper salt on the rim.


My meal at Almoraduz began with an amuse-bouche of grasshopper and corn stew. A delicious little pot topped with Oaxacan cheese and served along side a variety of tostadas and salsas. After my first bite I knew we had wandered into a culinary goldmine, and I couldn’t wait to see what came next. The prospect of eating insects can be daunting for those of us who aren’t used to it but I would encourage you to try. A small dish like this is a great introduction to these ingredients and shows that whatever you thought “bugs” tasted like, you were wrong. They are actually delicious, savoury, smoky and worth trying.


Blue Tune Fish Tostada, avocado, ginger, soy sauce, chiltepin and fried leek


The Blue Tuna Fish Tostada starter was a little bite of seafood delight. This appetizer was so perfectly balanced with carefully selected compliments like ginger, avocado, fried leek. The tuna was so fresh with just the right amount of creaminess and crunch to leave me wanting for more.



Catch of the Day with Chimichurri, false potato risotto and salad


For my main course I opted for the Catch of the Day with Chimichurri and this was some of the best fish I have ever tasted. The fillet of sea bass came out perfectly cooked, breaking away easily with just a nudge of the fork. The portion was generous and rested atop an absolute flavour bomb of false potato risotto and topped with salad and grapefruit for a citrus punch.



Oaxaca Lava Cake with prickly pear and burnt milk popsicle


When in Oaxaca, do as the Oaxacans do and indulge in their delicious chocolate for dessert. As a chocolate fan I believe Mexico holds its own amongst the chocolate giants of the world like Switzerland and Belgium. Mexican chocolate is somehow both less sweet and less bitter than European counterparts. Often lightly spiced, Mexican chocolate has a natural flavour that tastes like something you could enjoy everyday without feeling too guilty about it.

Almoraduz has two chocolate options on the menu and in the name of research I tried both.


The Oaxacan Lava Cake is incredibly decadent. A molten river of Oaxacan chocolate pouring out onto the plate, balanced by the cooling freshness of the burnt milk popsicle it was served with.

Stuffed Churros with oaxaqueño chocolate cream, walnuts and mamey ice cream


The other option is my personal favourite, Stuffed Churros. The churros are served warm and stuffed with melting Oaxacan chocolate cream, with walnuts and an unusual, almost fruity pumpkin-like mamey ice cream.

Cocktail List, Almoraduz, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca


While the food is incredible, the cocktails are also right on par. The restaurant offers non-alcoholic options, a curated wine list which you can navigate with the help of the in-house sommelier and a cocktail list I would happily drink my way through.

Calenda, Olive and chamomile infusion, rosemary syrup and gin


The cocktail list is a law unto itself. I am an avid cocktail fan and the creativity of this list had me seeing combinations I had never come across before. The first cocktail I tried was the Calenda, a gin-based drink with olive and chamomile infusion and rosemary syrup. As with many cocktails, if I see gin and olives together, I’m sold but I wasn’t sure what to expect with the other botanical additions. The Calenda is beautifully refreshing, perfect for the hot evenings in Puerto Escondido. The unusual flavour additions served to draw out the natural highlights of the gin and is an absolute thirst quencher.

Hibiscus Chai, Hibiscus, basil, guava, cardamom, cloves and mezcal


The second cocktail that caught my eye was the Hibiscus Chai. Oaxaca is the land of mezcal so it seemed only right to have a mezcal-based libation. Presented like a gorgeous, vibrant fishbowl, the Hibiscus Chai is fruity yet floral and spiced with cardamom, cloves and the smoke of the mezcal. Another refreshing option but given the bold flavour profile I would recommend choosing this before or after your meal rather than as an accompaniment.

Espresso Martini, Espresso, coffee liqueur, simple syrup, vodka


The last cocktail I tried is one that is close to my heart, the Espresso Martini. The Espresso Martini was created by the late, great Dick Bradsell, a London-based mixologist. I had the pleasure of knowing Dick, being a member of his private cocktail club in London and enjoying many cocktails that he created, most notable of which being the Espresso Martini. Now a staple of the corporate crowd menus, this cocktail is easy to find all over the world.


Some places stick to Dick’s recipe while others try their own variations like adding Baileys but whatever the take, when you’ve been spoiled by the pioneer, the bar by which you measure is high. I can honestly say that the Espresso Martini at Almoraduz is the best I have had since Dick himself. Dangerously smooth, the cocktail drinks like a dream. Not too bitter, not too sweet, just gorgeous, satisfying coffee, so good that I had two.


If you can't tell by now this isn’t a recommendation, this is a love letter. Almoraduz does what most restaurants only strive for. Everything from the effortless décor to the smartly dressed front of house staff to the unbelievable food and cocktails they just know what they're doing and they do it so well. Any visit to Puerto Escondido without a meal at Almoraduz is a wasted journey. This restaurant is the perfect introduction to Oaxacan food by glorifying local ingredients and tradition in a modern way. It is an unexpected surprise to have a world-class dining experience in a surfer’s haven of tacos and smoothie bowls but that’s exactly what Almoraduz delivers.


Hibiscus Chai, Almoraduz, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca



-Ashlea

She Roams About