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Puerto Angel, Oaxaca

by John R. Bomar
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Puerto Angel, Oaxaca
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Fish of the Oaxacan Coast
Sport Fishing
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Puerto Angel, the "angelic" port in the far south of Mexico on the Pacific side is still a mostly Mexican vacation spot. On the major holidays of Christmas, New Years and Easter Holy Week the beaches of this beautiful mountainside fishing village fill up with Mexican families out on holiday. In the state of Oaxaca (Wa-ha-ca), Puerto Angel is somewhat the poor step-sister of her more upscale relative about twenty five miles to the east, the newly developed resort of Huatulco. It is fitted for more experienced Mexico travelers; undeveloped enough to be interesting, laid back and quite regular, yet offering enough amenities to be comfortable and diverting, all at excellent price.

The town is made up of an absolutely beautiful bay that faces south toward the Pacific, with its main beach "Principal" lying at the back of the bay, and a smaller beach to the west, playa "Panteon." Both beaches are backed by numerous restaurants with open air seating, shaded tables and good seafood. Panteon has a nice hotel, "Claudias" located right on the beach. The gentle slope of tan colored sand on playa Principal is home to numerous "panga" boats used by the local fishing fleet. A fun diversion while enjoying a meal under a palapa in the morning or during the day is to watch the local fishermen as they gun their outboard engines and make a seemingly mad rush for the beach, grabbing their engines to shut them off and sliding their boats up and above the tide line onto the beach.

Playa Principal also has a large black and white striped pier that was once used for loading coffee beans from the nearby mountainside plantations. Alas, those days are no more so the high sided pier has become a place for a stroll; to watch local line fishermen try and catch their supper, to watch the sunset or simply a place for the panga boats to tie to. The young daredevils use the pier as a diving platform and their delighted squeals can be heard most week-ends or after school during the week as they flip and dive, showing out for the onlookers. The beach also has a net with frequent local volleyball games and one sees regular pick-up soccer games with vertical sticks used as a goal.

Three local sightseeing, snorkeling and diving tour boats are available and they go out most days for watching whales, tortoises, and the sting rays that jump from the water regularly. Then they visit the three closest beaches to the east of town for snorkeling. Some years back much of the local coral was lost during a hurricane but the snorkeling is still decent around the shoreline rock formation with frequent sightings of multiple kinds of coral fish, moray eels and sea snakes. Tijera, the next farther beach to the east has by far the best rock formations and snorkeling and arrangements can be made for a trip there by boat or car. Some beaches have huge concentrations of "ohotones" and "friel;" bream size bait fish that number in the thousands per school. To the north of this coast that runs east and west lie the beautiful "Mother" mountains, the "Sierra Madre del Sur" range. Also to the north about six miles away is the provincial capital of Pochutla where on Mondays there is a local market of sellers that takes up many blocks of downtown and offers a variety of goods and foods for sale. For night life the strip of beach to the west, Zipolite, is better known. There is also a nudist area for those so inclined.

Lying about 15 degrees north of the equator, with its brutally direct sunlight, one must seek shade and some breeze or a good fan during most of the day in Puerto Angel. Sun bathers should also be duly warned. Some local hotels have air conditioned rooms but most of the local guest houses have only fans and protection from the sun. Truthfully, Puerto Angel is more a place for travelers than for tourists. Most of the folks one meets speak some Spanish and almost all like travelling off the beaten path, and rubbing elbows with the local folk. They tend to be folks out on longer holidays and dependent on non-tourist prices.

Like all Mexican villages Puerto Angel has plenty of its share of proud roosters. Getting used to their boastful crowing all during the night takes a day or two. Likewise, the town has its fair share of street dogs. They are not so much a threat as a nuisance and their barking at night, combined with the roosters, can make for quite a cacophony of sound. Fortunately, after a couple of days, the ears learn to not be so alarmed and one can sleep peacefully through most of the night. The better hotels are a bit more insulated from such sound as well.

Getting to Puerto Angel by air is surprisingly easy if one is willing to travel on Saturday. Continental out of Little Rock lays over for an hour or two in Houston, then it is a direct flight to Huatulco. Travel time can be as little as six hours. More flight days are added during the busier seasons.

Like most airports in Mexico the one in Huatulco is plagued by taxi banditos as well. These fellows will charge what the market is willing to pay and, knowing the expensive prices in the US, they try and get comparable. In reality these prices are three or four times what a local would pay for the same fare. A trick that many utilize is to walk away from the airport to the nearby street and hail a taxi from there, negotiating a price before cementing the ride. A ride to Puerto Angel from the Huatulco airport, a distance of about 25 miles, should be no more than $25-$30 US, depending on the exchange rate.

For savvy Mexico travelers looking for a relaxed atmosphere near some beautiful beaches and laid back beaches, Puerto Angel might just be the kind of place for you. There are enough diversions around for those who enjoy such things, or one can simply spend the whole day at a beachside restaurant, sipping a cool one, taking some occasional sun, snorkeling and watching the slow pace of the fishing village unfold. You will find friendly, helpful people, interesting travel mates and prices that cannot be beat anywhere in Mexico; Just my kind of place.

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