Two weeks to kill until Guatemala 8.0. Feel like trying three different beaches and a central plaza? You bet. So, let’s say, Zipolite, Mazunte, Puerto Angel and finish up in Crucecita. What about San Augustinillo? Nope, don’t be ridiculous. In the end, our short stays in each of the first four gave us an excellent reference point for comparison, but unfortunately left poor San Augustinillo ruing their misfortune on missing out on our delightful company and sly remarks about public nudity. And Crucecita simply made sense as a place to spend a couple days in civilization in preparation for our big overnight journey down to Guatemala and, eventually, Lago de Atitlán.
Following our night in Santa Cruz Huatulco, week at the Barceló in Tangolunda Bay and endlessly enthralling visit to Zipolite we embarked on the next leg of our mini-tour of the Huatulco area. Stop number four was in the little backpacker hangout of Mazunte. It is only a few kilometres down the road from Zipolite and, as far as comparables go, the beach is shorter, steeper (meaning not quite as good for walking) but probably even more scenic thanks to more rocks, hills and generally varied scenery. The whole place is fairly understated, with mostly cheap-ish backpacker accommodations (with some higher end places hidden away up hills with views) and a surprising assortment of restaurants from cheap taco places to French cuisine to good pizza to an rustic yet excellent little Italian place. The evolution of our accommodation was also a big change, going from hillside views, an outdoor kitchen and sadly essential mosquito net to a fully enclosed room (walls and all!) right in the thick of town, wonderfully close to both the beach and restaurants, and not so wonderfully close to the open-air bar that pounded music most nights regardless of whether anyone was actually there to revel in its cool reggae-rap sound.
For me, though, Mazunte had two big things that set it apart from most other Mexican beach towns. Well, one big thing and one fairly minor “oh, that’s kind of interesting” sort of thing. The less noteworthy of the two being their string of beachfront bars (no, I know that’s not so unique) that serve food and beer to you while you lounge out on the sand (uh huh, I get it, still pretty common), where you can watch sunsets, skim-boarders, the comings and goings of fishing boats and relatively fit girls habitually digging their semi-thongs out of their ass. The unusual part is that each personal area included not only a sun umbrella and pair of comfortable lounging chairs but also two regular sitting chairs and a plastic table of normal eating height, as opposed to the more common tiny knee-high table mainly just useful for holding drinks, phones and a place to put your lip balm where it can casually roll off into the sand every hour or so. These places were basically one-stop shops for anyone wanting to spend hours staring at the ocean in temperatures comparable to a 1980’s microwave while alternately eating, drinking, eating, and then drinking again, all to incredibly unhealthy levels. Which describes more or less every Canadian in Mexico.
The other, and far more important, features are nearby Punta Cometa and Playa Mermejita. Punta Cometa is an extraordinary rocky point reached by a variety of different paths, all with their own extensive views and hidden coves. The shortest route only takes 20 minutes from Mazunte and the point is a very popular place to watch the sunset, smoke pot and take selfies with bored cops. The tiny beach below is hemmed in by jagged cliffs and sports a ramshackle little booze tent and some nice rocky corners for iguana spotting and subtle urination. Just over the hill is Playa Mermejita – a very long, very undeveloped and generally very windy beach where huge waves crash dramatically and carve fascinating undulations into the sand. Having such great scenery just a short walk from town is a great help with cabin fever, not to mention giving you a chance to offset all those beach lounger beer and $5 breaded shrimp meals.
Bucking our latest trend of going to all sorts of places and then doing basically jack-shit while we’re there, while in Mazunte we actually ventured out on a short whale/dolphin/turtle watching tour. At 200 pesos per person (about $Cdn12) and requiring just a couple hours out on the very sparsely shaded fishing boat, this little trip fit right into our wheelhouse of frugality, minimal exertion and deathly fear of the sun. And it turned out to be a pretty outstanding trip, one of the best values you’ll find anywhere for this sort of tour. Looking purely at the pesos-to-dolphins ratio, it compares quite favourably to quetzals-to-mangos on Atitlán, or maybe even dollars-to-new brides on a Russian dating website. We saw several humpback whales, a few even deigning to wag their tails at us like flirtatious Vegas showgirls, dozens of dolphins, some in formation, others buzzing under and around the boat, a select athletic few treating us to some cocky acrobatic tricks, and then, towards the end, a handful of turtles surfacing for air or, in one particularly lewd case, engaging in public intercourse in true turtle fashion, by which I mean very awkwardly and incredibly slowly. And not sexy-slow, like my patented sexy cuddle move. Then, as if all of this wasn’t already worthy of 12 of our country’s little play dollars, we stopped off for a short snorkel where we fought the current to see some decent coral, a good selection of different fish and to watch the Mexican women in our group splashing and sputtering like they had just been shoved overboard for by a mischievous child or jealous rival.
Semi-drowned Mexican ladies notwithstanding, however, we both agree that Mazunte is probably as good as it gets with regard to Mexican beach towns right now. Take that, Condé Nast.
Then there was Puerto Angel, a very lofty name for a decent but not exactly extraordinary little fishing town. Our room, however, set it apart for us, as we continued to raise ourselves a little higher on the hotel food chain. All three rentals (Zipolite, Mazunte, Puerto Angel) cost almost exactly the same amount per night (just under $Cdn60) but the quality steadily increased in directly inverse proportion to the popularity of the location. An effective lesson in supply and demand, all ending with us enjoying both a view over the bay and a pool all to ourselves. Of course, those two great features were briefly offset by the apparently unused blue towel that left me recently showered yet covered in blue fuzz resembling someone who likes to cover themselves in Vaseline and roll around on blue shag carpet. You know who I mean.
Puerto Angel itself had a very different vibe, with basically no other foreign tourists (although there were a couple dozen Mexican tourists) and very few restaurants to choose from. We ended up eating all our lunches at the same street taqueria just a block away from our place, and one night we actually took a taxi back to Zipolite for a last pizza/pasta/sunset combo. It did have two tiny beaches separated by a little rocky promontory, although both are pretty weak by Pacific Mexico standards, with one basically covered in fishing boats, the other in strangely-clad Mexican families where half-drunk dads goaded their young sons into punching things for hours at a time.
Other notables: during a bit of hill jogging I found some good views and got chased by a few dogs. The usual. And one thing common throughout the entire area was the early morning milk truck that drove slowly around town blaring a vague approximation of a cow’s mooing out blown, vibrating speakers like a horrible robotic cow desperately begging someone to come relieve its throbbing udder. An udder which I suppose would be made of metal in this weird analogy.
Then it was back into town for a couple days to gear up for our big bus journey, and we actually quite enjoyed it. Such a clean, organized, leafy little town, it almost doesn’t seem Mexican. I mean, where are all the seedy beer “depositos”, the burnt-out Volkswagen Beetles, the trampoline-sized potholes? Not in Crucecita, that’s for sure. However, they were still clever enough to hang on to most of the other, arguably more desirable, aspects of Mexico city life – a lively and musical central plaza, cheap taco stands, more shoe stores than a Nevada outlet mall and a barber shop on every corner. Which meant I finally got a long overdue haircut by a man sporting a wavy Mississippi-style mullet and thin, suggestive moustache. And it sort of shows.
The hundreds of cheap, set-rate taxis all colour-coded by zone were not only a new one for us as far as Mexican transport goes, but their overall availability and efficiency would hold their own in any public transport conversation. Then the main road through town not only efficiently bypasses the narrower streets of downtown, but actually sports a somewhat artistic winding walking path down the middle of its wide, tree-lined middle boulevard, and the nearest beach (Chahue – about 20 minutes on foot or, of course, just $2 by taxi) featured an honest-to-goodness lifeguard – red shorts, life preserver, barbed-wire tattoo and all.
Oh, and how could I forget about our Stk & Shake meal – one thoroughly average burger combined with a mind-blowing vanilla/chocolate milkshake, maybe the best I’ve had since Egypt nearly 9 years ago (and a fairly weird story in itself).
We then got an early start on our Guatemala shopping by picking up a few of the lighter and most typical essentials of any good Guatamalan visit – birthday candles, assorted balloons and Jell-O packages. Our hotel was also pretty good – TV, A/C, wifi, restaurant downstairs – despite one wall that became hot to the touch while the sun shone and then, after we moved, the disconcerting painting that seems to credit giant cats and grinning clowns with both evolution and the downfall of the semi-aquatic dinosaur.
We enjoyed all six different places we stayed, all for very different reasons – from voracious schools of fish to megastores to terrific tacos to breathtaking shorn scrotums – but in the end I’d say Mazunte is one of the best Mexican beach towns I’ve visited in a long time. Not for everyone (where is, really, other than a unisex bathroom?) but the perfect combination for us. Amazing views, comfortable beach bar setups, cheap wildlife hunting, scenic hikes, good restaurants, alternative beaches within walking distance, and a cleaning girl with massive breasts. If we could have found a sports bar serving cold Pacifico on tap and showing nothing but Arsenal victories I would have considered going full expat drunkard – investing in a coloured bandana and a couple new tattoos followed by a decade of slow death by alcoholism and the clap. Alas, that’s still more of a Nicaragua thing, so for now we keep moving…