A Long, Peaceful Month in Puerto Escondido

Playa Carrizalillo, the beach just across the street from where I live. It was my main beach and I don't think a day passed where I didn't visit. I surfed there, swam there, read there, and ate cupfuls of diced mango on the sand. 

Playa Carrizalillo, the beach just across the street from where I live. It was my main beach and I don't think a day passed where I didn't visit. I surfed there, swam there, read there, and ate cupfuls of diced mango on the sand. 

Somehow, I’m back exactly where I started. I’m sitting again on my patio beside the pool, writing in the quiet morning hours while the birds chirp above me and the softest breeze from the fan overhead whirs stray strands of hair around my face. 

Only this time an entire month has passed since I sat on this same patio my first day here, sweltering in the heat, but excited and curious about the thirty days to come. 

There are physical signs of my time here. My shins are covered in faded green bruises from hitting the side of my surfboard. My upper thighs, which lay exposed to the sun as I sat on my board for two hours every day in the water, are the tannest part of my body. I have scrapes on my feet, just under my big toes, from the area where my one pair of sandals rubbed against me with either sweat, saltwater, or sand. 

I’m still sweating every second of every day, but the heat no longer bothers me. I have a few smooth red mosquito bites on my calves, but I don’t feel them anymore. The need to itch is gone.

Mentally, I feel calmer and more at peace with my world. I still have doubts and questions and looming stresses about life and work, but they all feel distant, like a storm far off in the horizon that I know won’t interfere with my sunset. 

The past thirty days here have been an absolute delight. So delightful and peaceful that I haven’t been certain how to document them. Every day, all I’ve wanted is to exist exactly where I am, to feel exactly what I need to feel in the moment, and to let the beauty of my surroundings seep into my soul and slowly push out any lingering negativity. 

My days have been leisurely yet full. I spent my mornings taking surf lessons followed immediately by three hours of Spanish, then spent time reading at the beach in the afternoons or doing work on my balcony to avoid the sun. In the evenings I’d go on beach walks and runs to see the sunset, then I’d make dinner for myself or stop by a restaurant in town. 

On the weekends I’d do some writing in the morning, then head to the market in the afternoon for carne asada tacos, spicy salsa, and fresh, cold watermelon slices. Then more beach lounging and reading, followed by dinner. 

Traveling alone has been a complete joy, a gift really. It has been so refreshing to spend an entire thirty days doing exactly what I wanted when I wanted to do it. 

But sometimes an experience feels too precious, too close to you, or too recent to share in depth. I have so many details and stories about this place and the people I’ve met, but for now I want to tuck them safely away in my mind, free from my own analysis, free from the dissection that inevitably comes along with the writing process.  

So instead, I want to share a few photos from my trip and a few moments of impact—both big and small. 

The day the dog followed me

The Saturday morning after I'd been sick for four days with a bad virus, I went for a long walk to a nearby beach called Playa Bacocho. As soon as I left my apartment and started walking toward the main road, a little honey-colored dog spotted me and trotted over. I thought he’d just zip past me like all the stray dogs do here, but instead he started to keep pace with me. We were about a half mile in and still on the main road when I saw a dirt path I’d never noticed before. It led down to a smaller, more secluded beach and the dog ran ahead of me on the path and guided me along it.

He ended up following me for the entire two-hour beach walk. Every time I stopped to meditate, he stopped and plopped in the sand beside me, burrowing his little legs. When I walked through rocks to the tide pools, he followed. We looked so much like a pair that a nice gentleman who worked on the beach approached me at one point to tell me I needed to have my dog on a leash at the beach.

When I said it wasn't my dog, the man tried to get the dog to follow him off the sand, but he wouldn’t budge. He eventually walked with me all the way back to my apartment, where I shut the door on him with an apology and a whispered thank you. Somehow he pushed the door open, sussed out where I was, and climbed the stairs to my apartment balcony. I didn’t let him inside, and after a while he left after some growling from the dog who actually does live here. 

It was a strange, sweet incident and I felt like the dog was my spirit guardian for that brief time, giving me comfort and companionship.  

Surfing at La Punta

One Friday morning during my surf class at a beach called La Punta, I scored a perfect wave. I made the drop slowly, turning on my backside to follow the direction of the wave. I rode it until it faded out, then turned and jumped off at the top. A local guy in the water was paddling toward me when the wave ended and he yelled, “Bellisima!” I was so happy. I’d felt confident when I was riding the waves before, but that random surfer’s validation really made my day. 

Some of the Oasis surf crew!

Some of the Oasis surf crew!

Watching a movie on the beach

Every Wednesday night at Playa Bacocho, they show a movie with a giant screen on the sand. I only went once, but it was a lovely night. We watched “Belle Époque,” an older Spanish film, and everything about the evening felt divine, like the very definition of summer. The night was gorgeous and the temperature was mild, the breeze was blowing, I had a paper bag of popcorn in my lap, and my feet were snuggled in the sand. 

Salsa dancing

I went salsa dancing just twice while I was here, but it was so much fun. Every Wednesday night a popular salsa club called Congo has a live band and two-for-one drinks. The first time I went I stared in awe at the couples twirling sexily on the dance floor until someone asked me if I wanted to try. A guy named Javier taught me the basic steps and managed to laugh good-naturedly whenever I made a mistake (my main issue: relaxing enough to be led by someone). It felt so good to move on the dance floor, and I was stoked to see something that’s such a big part of Latin American culture up-close. 

Eating at the French restaurant Paris

I went to this restaurant twice and fell in love with its twinkle lights and palm tree-lined terrace. Both times, I ordered the fish of the day and ate it with a glass of chilled white wine. Creme brûlée for dessert the first time, mousse de chocolat the second. I think I’m one of those people who was made to dine alone. Not that I want to live a life of solitary dinners or anything, just that I have the type of personality that allows me to thoroughly enjoy situations where I’m on my own. I love dining alone, but eating alone at a lovely restaurant with French music in the background and your favorite food in front of you is a different kind of heaven. 

The quiet morning hours on my balcony

I’ve stayed in two different apartments since I’ve been here—one on the top floor and one on the bottom. On the top floor I had a spacious balcony with an ocean view. Every morning I’d wake up, throw on a tank top, and sip a glass of water on my balcony as I watched the sun come up behind the orange stucco buildings to the left. Then I’d make myself some eggs, chop some fruit, and study Spanish verbs on the balcony before class. Such simple, peaceful moments. 

Drinking coco frios

There’s a coco frio stand near the beach here. I never know when it will be open, but when it is, my day is made. I’ll order my coconut, then watch as the woman who runs the place—an older woman with slumped shoulders and a round gray bun—hacks away at the top of my coconut and asks me if I want the water in the shell or in a bag to take away. If it’s not a young coconut, there will be meat inside to carve out and eat. I can’t tell you how delicious these coconuts are. The water is just the slightest bit sweet and so, so refreshing. It’s one of the things I most looked forward to after leaving the beach and climbing the set of super steep stairs that lead to the top. 

Sunset beach walks

My moments of greatest peace, gratitude, and clarity here have all been on the beach at sunset. Every time I went, I thought to myself how I was exactly where I was supposed to be in the world, doing exactly what I was supposed to do. There are few things that rival that feeling of utter contentedness. 

Eating fresh fish tacos on the beach

My surf instructor Paco invited me and a few other people to go snorkeling one Sunday morning. We swam far out around the cliff before a few of us started to feel seasick and we headed back. The snorkeling itself was decent, but not incredible. The water was a bit foggy and we didn’t see much more than schools of fish. But we waited patiently on the beach as Paco and his friend went spearfishing afterward to catch us some fish for lunch.

Some other fantastic fish tacos from a restaurant called Turtle Bay. 

Some other fantastic fish tacos from a restaurant called Turtle Bay. 

A few hours later, we were eating fresh cooked fish at a table on the beach. Homemade corn tortillas, spicy guacamole, green salsa, and some of the best fish I've ever had in my life. We all just tore pieces of the flesh off the bone and made tacos to eat until every last bit was gone. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had and one of the moments that felt the most representative of what I love so much about Mexico.

Drinking fresh juices

Beet, carrot, ginger juice. 

Beet, carrot, ginger juice. 

My favorite juice was a green one filled with spinach, cucumber, celery, prickly pear, and pineapple. Total heaven. 

This one was fantastic, too: spirulina, spinach, mango, guava, and pineapple. 

This one was fantastic, too: spirulina, spinach, mango, guava, and pineapple. 

Spanish class with my teacher Javi

Oasis is the organization I used to take Spanish and surf lessons. They also have homestay options and apartments. They're fantastic — check them out!

Oasis is the organization I used to take Spanish and surf lessons. They also have homestay options and apartments. They're fantastic — check them out!

My Spanish teacher was an adorable woman from Chile named Javi (short for Javiera). She was so patient and knowledgable. I spent 15 hours a week with her studying and they all flew by. She made every class so interesting and fun, and through all our conversation practice I feel like I really got to know her. 

I learned more Spanish in one month with Javi than I did from years of studying French in a classroom. I'm by no means excellent yet, but I'm really excited to continue learning and practicing at home in California. 

Skinny dipping in the early morning

One of my life goals is to skinny dip in as many bodies of water around the world as possible. Technically, my skinny dipping career started in the Pacific Ocean, so that particular body of water is already checked off the list, but I tally my score on more of a place-by-place basis. Beaches, coves, lakes, rivers, creeks, waterfalls, you name it. Anywhere I go where skinny dipping is possible, I make it happen. 

I don't strip naked on the beach and run into the water, though. I want to swim naked, not be arrested. So instead I swim far out into the sea away from other people, then take off my bikini underwater and float around in the nude until I'm satisfied. Once I'm ready I put my bikini back on and swim toward shore. Simple! On my last day in Puerto, I woke up early and went down to a little cove off of Playa Carrizalillo to do the deed. The sea was as warm as bathwater and the beach was blissfully empty. It was a perfect start to the day. 

Eating dinner at Espadin during the thunderstorm

One night I went with a couple friends to a fancy Mexican restaurant on a cliff that overlooks Playa Carrizalillo. The restaurant is called Espadin and it's easily one of the best meals I've ever eaten, and definitely the best meal I've ever eaten for $17 (which was a total splurge for me in pesos, by the way). I had a pumpkin seed-crusted white fish filet with roasted carrots, zuccini, peppers, and onions. On the side I had rice, black beans, homemade tortillas, and watermelon guacamole. Plus a margarita on the rocks. The view of the ocean was spectacular, especially since it was right before a massive thunderstorm started. 

Reading on the beach

A juicy classic. 

A juicy classic. 

I brought five novels to Mexico and I read them all (I'll have some new book recommendations coming your way soon!). Having the luxury and time to get lost in a book for hours—the hours only broken up by dips in the ocean or naps on my towel or minutes spent slurping down melted coconut ice cream—is my idea of bliss.

Beach treat: coconut ice cream with actual flakes of coconut!

Beach treat: coconut ice cream with actual flakes of coconut!

Ensalada de frutas with mango and pineapple!

Ensalada de frutas with mango and pineapple!

Eating fish tacos at La Olita then walking along the beach

On one of my last nights here I had the best fish tacos I've ever had in my life. They were made with thick homemade corn tortillas, a mixture of red and green sauce, coleslaw with sesame seeds, and tons of grilled veggies—broccoli, zuccini, muchrooms, onions, and tomatoes. It was complete heaven and I've been officially ruined for life for all other fish tacos.

The photo really doesn't do it justice. 

The photo really doesn't do it justice. 

Afterward, I walked with a new friend along Zicatela beach toward La Punta. The sky was gloomy and gray, but the evening air felt so warm and soft. I wasn't sure we'd see the sunset because of the clouds, but it eventually emerged in a spectacular blazing ball of orange and we sat on rocks at the far end of the beach to watch it dip below the water. 

Swimming at Playa Coral

I'm not sure why, but this particular beach was almost always empty when I visited. Normally I just walked along it to get to Playa Bacocho for my sunset runs, but a few days ago I went there in the afternoon to hang out and it was perfect. There was no one trying to sell me bags of nuts, no surf classes paddling out in the water, no little kids screaming and dashing into the surf, no David Guetta music blasting from nearby iPhones. Just me, the sunshine, and the sound of crashing waves. 

Plus, a few more random photos!

A cute cafe in town. 

A cute cafe in town. 

Treasures from my beach runs. 

Treasures from my beach runs. 

Mercado Benito Juarez. 

Mercado Benito Juarez. 

My third floor room!

My third floor room!

One of the few selfies I took to commemorate me in my happy place. 

One of the few selfies I took to commemorate me in my happy place. 

Fresh, yummy tacos from Spirulina. Chicken with shaved beets, carrots, and lettuce on top. 

Fresh, yummy tacos from Spirulina. Chicken with shaved beets, carrots, and lettuce on top. 

The light during my morning run on the last day.

The light during my morning run on the last day.

If you've made it this far, thank you so much for reading! If you have questions about where I stayed or want to more about Puerto Escondido, let me know!