Tourism drove Puerto Escondido to grow from a small area with farming and fishing to the surf mecca it is today. And it’s still growing.
There are about 250 hotels in town, and now Airbnb is really catching on. New condos and new longer-term rentals are under construction. The Oaxaca coast itself is more of a target for baby boomers in retirement who are looking for a place that’s not as saturated with retirees as other well-known Mexican cities.
Many taxi drivers, waiters, shop workers and other locals I met want to practice their English with me, as much as I want to practice my Spanish with them. People expect the driving force of this economy to pick up speed. And it likely will eventually boom here outside of Semana Santa, the main surfing season and wintertime, when snowbirds flock here from the north’s icy grip. Some locals give it 15 years before a it’s a regular hot-spot destination, including the “Information Goddess” – also know as Gina Machorro. She knows the Real Puerto.
Gina is incredibly knowledgeable about Puerto’s history, and also knows the history of the varied and interesting State of Oaxaca. My husband Tedly and I met her during our time here, and we are glad we did.
Gina offers different tours, and we recommend time with her to anyone who visits Puerto. Aside from her vast knowledge and experience with Puerto and Oaxaca, her English is excellent, her tours offer great value for a reasonable price, she’s kind and she has a good sense of humor.
We took her walking tour on a Saturday. We covered the history of the Playa Principe, the town itself, it’s growth and economy, culture – including religion with an interesting stop at the Catholic Church. We ate a nice breakfast with a great view at a local restaurant.
We visited a family’s home where they run a tortilla business and were invited to sit at their table and sample the goods (delicious!). Corn is a huge part of the culture in Oaxaca, pre-dating the Spaniards by about ten thousand years.
We also went to a shop that makes famous Oaxaca chocolate (amazing!). It’s a tradition to eat chocolate to lift your mood – especially on the Day of the Dead. Ground cacao beans are mixed with some cinnamon and varying amounts of sugar. The shop also makes mole, grinds coffee and makes mixtamal – a chocolate corn mix. Heavenly smells and taste.
Then we ended at the popular Mercado – where people from the surrounding area come on the weekend to sell their goods at the market. (The best day is Saturday.) Do not miss this market experience. We’ve been several times, but going with Gina adds so much to the trip. She knows all about things that are so foreign to us.
The indigenous people sell everything from dried, seasoned grasshoppers to strange looking tree pods called pacay with large, fuzzy-white-covered sweetish and soft edible seeds. We placed bits of bark shavings on our tongues that made our mouths – an odd yet delightful experience. We tasted zapote fruit – another first for me. I had sweet, flat, baked tortilla shells that were better than any potato chip on the planet. – and so much more. It was simply a gastronomic delight.
Not all of these samples will be available on each tour – it will depend on what the sellers bring to the market and what’s in season. But I can guarantee this: you will experience something wonderful outside your comfort zone if you try this walking tour, and you will learn a lot about the culture and the people of the Real Puerto and Oaxaca, which is so much more than surfing.
When the tour is officially over, you are free to stroll around the market and fill up your goodie-bag that Gina has started for you. Loved it. Go. Definitely go.
The walking tour is the only one we took with Gina, but she also arranged our bioluminescence tour, which was another fantastic experience.
Aside from tours, she is also a wonderful source for finding out any information you could possibly want. In my case, she even offered to help me communicate with a Spanish-speaking doctor when I needed to have a breast biopsy (although that wasn’t necessary because the clinic where I went had a translator). She’s just a wonderful person and I can’t sing her praises enough.
You can find the Information Goddess at her stand on El Adoquin, the road that runs behind the town beach, Playa Principe (not Zicatela Beach). On the map, El Adoquin is “Alfonso Perez Gasga.” Gina is there at various hours and leaves her hours posted on the door.
I don’t really know all about the “Real Puerto” since I’ve only lived here for seven weeks as a slow traveler. I’m still only a tourist. But I’ve lived here long enough to see this is a special place, and if you look a little further beyond the hot surf spots – if you walk outside the tourist areas – you will be rewarded with amazing discoveries.