I’m pretty sure I learned the magic of eating garlic shrimp, down to the shells and heads, when I was six on our first family trip to Mexico, in Puerto Angel, which happens to be just a few towns down from where I stayed this trip. I’ve come full circle, because when stuck on what to order last week I remembered how difficult it is to fuck up garlic shrimp (camarones al ajo). It’s just butter, garlic, shrimp. I had it two days in a row.
After eating and drinking in Oaxaca city for five days, coming to the coast was a welcome relief from eating meat and cheese at almost every meal. But like in many beach towns across Mexico I didn’t find a lot of variety. Up and down the Oaxacan coast you’ll find restaurants catering to the western ex-pats and traveling flowy-pant wearers with hodgepodge menus of wraps and fried things, and a lot of tiny establishments offering much of the same staples: grilled fish and other simple seafood dishes or tlayudas (like Oaxacan pizzas).
While I wouldn’t complain about eating fresh fish every day, it does make food writing kind of redundant. So, I appreciate the coconuts, the juices, and the meals that are a little bit different. Here are a few places that mixed things up for me or at least did the typical thing very well.
We only went to Puerto for the day, here’s what we enjoyed.
Seafood Burrito at La Flor de Zicatela
We were hungry rolling into town, so when we saw a patio restaurant with a sign for northern style burritos and fresh juice, what were two California kids to do but stop? Certainly not the best burrito I’ve had, but all the right ingredients were there along with grilled sea bass (which makes a burrito feel much less like a giant bomb in your stomach). After being steadily disappointed by the mediocre corn tortillas in Oaxaca city (more on this later) I really did miss a good flour tortilla. There’s a full juice and smoothie bar here with veggie combos too. I had a guava, papaya, lime juice.
Oysters at Playa Puerto Angelito
North of Playa Zicatela there’s a small turquoise bay crowded as hell with kids swimming and docked boats. But at the end of Restaurante Buzos (towards the right from the stairs) there’s a lovely man, Marino (of course), who is shucking oysters he gathered that morning. He was almost out, and gifted us a bag of his last ones.
Walk your way through the restaurant and there will be another guy also shucking oysters, you can sit with a beer and order from a waitress.
Fresh fish at Playa Principal
Have a kitchen? Head to Playa Principal in the mornings for fish straight from the boats. We were a little late, so we asked around and found some tuna from this señora, and went home to make tostadas.
Drinks and snacks at La Punta, Punta Zicatela
A search for a sunset cocktail lead us down to the tip of Playa Zicatela, where a small strip of restaurants and stores leads the way to a popular surfer beach. A small health food/novelties store called Moringa is something that I might normally roll my eyes at but the product selection— a mix of housemade snacks like dried fruit and kombucha, organic veggies, and locally made products (by locals and ex-pats) was so well done I was totally charmed. I grabbed a carton of mezcal and chocolate Palma Negra ice cream, and if I go back I’ll definitely head to their actual location. For a cocktail on the beach we went to El Rinconcito, nothing fancy but they’ll bring a pint sized margarita to the beach. If you don’t love cointreau, best to specify how you like your margarita.
San Agustinillo and Mazunte
These little towns within walking distance from each other are known for gettin free, yoga retreats, and hanging on the beach. I enjoyed the sunrise, an epic sunset hike and Cabañas Bambu, the hotel we stayed at that had an open communal kitchen a few steps from the beach.
For breakfast in San Agustinillo, we went to Posada La Mora
which has a colorful front and back patio and tablecloths with illustrated chickens. They also make a well-balanced frappuccino (I’m a little ashamed I just typed those words, but when it is hot and you are sleepy I really don’t care). The fruit plate with homemade granola is a step above the rest.
My advice in Mazunte is to look for the handrolls on the beach made with sushi rice, avocado and mango. In Rio we used to wander off the beach to a place with handrolls piled with fish and avocado and I always wondered why it wasn’t more common.
In Between Meals
• Punta Cometa is a dope sunset walk overlooking the beach.
• The turtle sanctuary in Mazunte rescues injured baby turtles and endangered species.
Where to Stay- The Real Deal
When trying to figure out where to stay between San Agustinillo, Mazunte, Zipolite and Puerto Escondido, here’s my take. Zipolite and Mazunte are like little beach party towns (that still get sleepy at 1 a.m.) and have more places to eat and drink, and also more drugs and expats. By drugs, as I’ve heard, I don’t just mean your regular suite of beach drugs, I mean heroin. San Agustinillo is very quiet and a little more family oriented, we liked it as our base. Puerto Escondido is really popular with surfers and much more of a full town with markets and different things to do.
If you stay in San Agustinillo, Bambu is the place. There are 6 cabins, all different and all facing the ocean. I’ve stayed in a lot of cabins on the beach, and these are beautifully constructed with high ceilings and plenty of privacy. In the center of the property is a communal kitchen with a big wood table and it’s nice to chat with other folks as you’re making a meal. The beach is clean, nearly empty at sunrise and not too crowded otherwise. Memo, the owner, is originally from Mexico City but has been here for a while and he and the whole staff are great people.