Christmas in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

Christmas in the Oaxaca Sun

Returning to Puerto has become one of my routines in Mexico. As in Progreso, I have made good friends there and am always excited to return and catch up with their lives. In years past I have stayed at Casa Rosada, but this year I booked a place on the fourth floor of an apartment building in Rinconada, a trendy restaurant filled area close to several great beaches. I was really pleased with my apartment and the view was stunning. A bonus was that Inti, my landlord was super.. helpful, responsive and friendly too! Cielito Lindo is the name and they have studio and one bedroom suits.

My Apartment
Stunning View & Great Sunsets from Patio

With Covid in the picture I wasn’t too keen on sight seeing and exploring, but fortunately I have done a lot of that on earlier visits so going to various beaches, open air restaurants and sitting by pools had to do. I know…poor me. If you’re interested in knowing more about what you can do in and around Puerto here is a link to my previous posts on the area.https://wanderwithstella.com/2016/03/31/oaxaca-coast/ or scroll through the posts to see others including Oaxaca City.

For many people, Puerto is all about the beaches of which there are many and one can easily spend a whole day at the beach under a palapa umbrella with the odd chelada (cold beer and lime juice on ice) to quench one’s thirst. People watching is a great pastime at the beach and even in covid locals and visitors enjoyed swimming and playing in the waves. Mexican families are generally large and they tend to travel in multi-generational groups, making for lots of antics and noisy fun.

My “Home” Beach – Playa Manzanilla
Playa Zicatela – Long, Lovely, Big Surf
Playa La Punta – Javier & Gabriela, Surfer Beach like Zicatela Has Big Surf
Playa Principal – Popular with Local and Families
Watch Out for Pool Sharks Like Gabriela on Zicatela
Soft Sand and Shady Palapas!

Food in Oaxaca is among the best in Mexico and some of the worlds top chefs have made the State home, opening great restaurants in the capital, Oaxaca City, and other smaller locales. I have some personal favourite dishes: tacos pastor, pozole (soup) and tlayudas.

Street Tacos – The Best!

Mid-way through December, Christmas vacation brought large numbers of people to Puerto, which in a normal year would add to the fun. But given the crowds that began to cluster on the beaches I refrained from going every day unless it was to Bacocha Beach where there is plenty of room to social distance they have the most incredible sunsets…so again no real hardship. There are two beach clubs at Bacocha and for a fee you can eat, drink, use the pool and beach chairs for the entire day and the costs come out of you fee.

Bacocha Beach
Sunset at Bacocha

San Jose del Pacifico – A road trip from Puerto

Lucky for me, my friends Javier and Gabriela were game to rent a car and make the drive up the long and winding road to San Jose del Pacifico in the Sierra del Sur. A small town in the mountains, it is a place for adventure seekers, hikers and climbers to visit. It is truly beautiful and charming and due to its location in the middle of pine forests, the building practices incorporate more wood than is common in Mexico, giving the place a definite flavour of mountain retreats. The clima also reflects the altitude and out came the jackets, pants and socks from the bottom of the suitcase when the temperature dropped to 6 Celsius when the sun set over the mountains.

The highway between Puerto Escondido and the turn-off to San Jose is greatly improved since my last visit and and a by-pass road before Pachutla meant that we missed the traffic of this busy commercial centre. As you leave the coast and head up into the Sierra the road becomes narrow, with hair pin curves and even some “logging” trucks. The road as you would expect was lots of fun to drive and Javier and I took turns, and much to his dismay Gabriela favoured my driving to his!

Stunning Scenery Makes the Trek Up Worthwhile
Miradors Along the Way
Many Little Pueblos Along the Road

We stayed in a very nice hotel overlooking a valley, built with lots of pine wood the cabins were post and beam with timbered rafters. There weren’t many people at this newish hotel and we generally had the dining room to ourselves. I can see where the visitors will come once covid is over and the word is out. From this same road that takes you to the top of the Sierras you can take a turn a little further down the mountain and take the original road from the coast to the city of Oaxaca. Javier recalled driving his entire family, most of it in the back of a pick-up from Mexico City to Puerto Escondido when he was just a teenager. Some of the folks in the back lacked an appreciation for his enthusiasm for the road as car sickness overtook them.

Our Hotel and Gardens

We hired a local guide who showed us the sights, taking us to all of the spots of interest for visitors. Our first stop was a combination resort, restaurant, fish hatchery and zip line, with of course Javier and I had to try out.

Fish Hatchery, Hike and Even Turkeys
Guide Held This Interesting Insect for the Photo

Following our hike and zip-line adventure our guide took us to a local home where the owners have suspended a wooden swing close to the edge of a cliff and so you swing out over thin air, belted in you are relatively safe and again the views were spectacular.

Wheeeeeeee!
Javier All Set to Swing!

This was the first of our human launch experiences and I must admit the next one did take my breath away.

San Jose del Pacifico is all about tourism and forestry including furniture making. There are many attractions for visitors whether you want to jump off the edge of things or stay firmly on the ground like Gabriela, there is something for everyone.

Christmas in Puerto Escondido

Back in Puerto, after our weekend in San Jose del Pacifico, it was clear that Christmas Vacay was really ramping up and the night market on the Adoquin in Centro was packed with people and possible regalos. Decorations sprung up all over town and Javier and Gabriela invited me to join them for their Christmas Eve dinner.

Adoquín Busy with Christmas Vacationers

Lots of Christmas spirit in Puerto with lights, decorations and fireworks to celebrate the many special days in the Christmas season.

Javier and Gabriela invited me to their family Christmas Eve dinner which is the main event in Mexico. Javier picked me up at 8 PM and we drove to their home. They had set up a table in a neighbour’s yard under an almond tree strung with Christmas lights and along with four of their neighbours, Javier, Gabriela, their two sons and I enjoyed the typical Christmas feast of fish and pork. Both dishes took two days to prepare and the neighbours contributed a few dishes of their own including a sweet crepe desert with honey drizzled on top.

And now with Christmas done, I will say goodbye for now and set my mind to my next adventure….Guatemala.

More Wanderings in the Yucatan

Day Trips from Progreso, Yucatan

If you have a rental car and if you’re lucky enough to have friends to share the driving and the cost, there are great places to visit within a few hours of Progreso.

Day Trips

Sisal, a beachside Puebla where we understood many changes were taking place, was one of our destinations. Easily combined with a trip to Celestun to see the flamingos, Sisal has been “discovered” and real estate is reputed to be flying off the shelf. Worth the drive as the beach is pretty, there’s good swimming and several beachside restaurants serving local seafood. The history of Sisal is interesting too and was the port from which the heinequin rope was shipped to all corners of the world.

Sisal Pier

Celestún, another town easily reached from Progreso has been a favorite of mine over the years. I’ve probably been about three times to take the launcha through the mangroves to see the flamingos and other birds. Boat tours leave from the beach in the center of town, or a shorter option is to take a boat from the lagoon as you enter the town. No need to book ahead or even try to find a boat, they will find you. If you are a bird watcher I’d say this day out is a must, I have never been disappointed and have seen a variety of bird life including pink herons and lots of pink flamingos.

Pink Herons
Pink from Camarones

Cenote San Ignacio is a cenote with an above ground pool, gardens, a restaurant and an underground cenote that is beautiful, clear and refreshing. One of my favourite cenotes, it offers change rooms, an above ground pool, a restaurant and of course the underground cenote. A quaint little Puebla, San Ignacio is a good place to see the old style maya homes with adobe covered rock walls and palapa roofs. 

San Ignacio Cenote

Xzamal My first visit to Xzamal and I have added this to my must do list for future visits to the Yucatan. Xzamal is notable for its profusion of yellow buildings. The Pope visited (1973) a particularly famous and sacred Franciscan Monastary here and in honour of his visit and as a sign of welcome the people painted everything yellow. The Padua Monastary is large and an interesting example of early colonial architecture built on top of the ancient Maya town that preceded the Spanish. Apparently it has the largest open atrium outside of the one at the Vatican and around the atrium are statues of Saints who are said to have performed miracles.

The madonna wears a crown, gift from the Pope.

From the walls of the Monastary you can look across the main square with it’s yellow arches to Kinish Kak Mo, a smaller and easily accessible Maya pyramid. The meaning of its name translates to “macaw of the solar fire face”. We were able to climb right to the top for a great view of the surrounding area. The Yucatán is as flat as the Canadian prairies so you can see quite a distance.

Main Square
Kinish Kak Mo
Entrance to the Pyramid
View of the Yucatan from the Pyramid

On the recommendation from a friend we dined at a fantastic restaurant called Kinish, where they serve traditional Maya cuisine including cochinita, a pork dish marinated with sour orange juice, wrapped in plantain leaves and cooked underground.

Progreso and Merida After my friends left for home I immersed myself in life in Progreso. A friend living in Chelem got me aquainted with the beaches there and in Chuburna, communities adjacent to Progreso. It was often windy but the water was warm and we all swam and enjoyed the beach in relative solitude, which of course in the time of COVID is advisable. Of course Merida is close and movies, bowling, restaurants and a jazz club rounded out my last days in Progreso. Next stop Puerto Escondido.

Chuburna Beach
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