Surftown Rising, AFAR, Nov/Dec 2016

PuertoEscondidoMexico’s once-sleepy Puerto Escondido is poised for prime time—and a new highway promises to let everyone in on the secret.

When it opens in 2018, the Oaxaca coastal highway will shrink the drive from Oaxaca City to Puerto Escondido from seven hours down to two. Go before that floodgate opens to savor a swath of Pacific coastline where sea turtles swim and big-name surfers shred.

Thirty minutes north of Puerto’s tiny, three-neighborhood center, claim one of 16 palapas at Hotel Escondido, a retreat with midcentury-modern sofas, and infinity pool that overlooks a vast shoreline—and a prime spot next to Casa Wabi, a gallery and artists’ retreat created by the Mexican artist Bosco Sodi.

It’s just a 500-peso (US$27) taxi ride to Puerto’s Rinconada district, where new galleries and restaurants have cropped up. Gota de Tierra sells biomorphic jewelry and geometric tapestries, and Spanish expats run La Lolaila, a temple of tapas and seafood paella. At Almoraduz, chef Quetzalcoatl Zurita transforms the foods of his indigenous forebears into haute cuisine: pork ribs bathed in black-ant sauce, and fresh shrimp with tusta chiles.

To explore Mercado Benito Juárez, the chili-laden market where Zurita (and everyone else in Puerto) stocks up, schedule a tour with Gina Machorro, who energetically combines eye-rolling wisecracks with insights into the town’s culinary customs.

But the ocean is the real soul of Puerto. You could walk to the waterfront to watch fishermen fillet swordfish on the beach, then step inside La Tortuga Loca, where Ceferina Burón turns those hauls into ceviche and cotorra a la talla (chile-marinated grilled fish). Or, to splash in Puerto’s most pristine waters, head to Bacocho, a Rinconada beach that showcases papaya-colored sunsets over the Pacific.