By Carole Reedy
Although the distances between pueblos are short when measured in kilometers or hours, a visitor traveling the Oaxacan Coast and touring villages from Puerto Escondido to Huatulco will feel diverse emotions and can anticipate a variety of unique experiences.
San Agustinillo is the place for you if you seek tranquility: a place to lie in a hammock on the beach and read. Or a quiet cove in which to build a sandcastle, a shore on which to stroll, viewing the seagulls, garzas, and pelicans that dot the rocks, sea, and sand. A tiny, quiet café/bar in which to sip an icy beer or margarita…or a strong, hot espresso.
With a local population of about 300, most residents of San Agustinillo are native to the area or hail from other parts of Mexico. A few foreigners have settled here over the years, mostly from France, Spain, Italy, Canada, and Britain. If you stand on the beach, you can see the whole town. One main road with some arteries weaves off into the hills.
Swimming and surfing are the main water sports. There’s also a small library (La Biblioteca de San Agustinillo) located in the Casa Municipal, with a fine selection of books for all ages in several languages. Need something to read? The library lends books to everyone, locals and tourists alike, for no fee.
If that sounds like paradise, it is.
Maximum relaxation often includes massages and yoga. The best masseuse on the coast is Azeneth Aguirre, who offers massages by appointment at her home on Cerro Largo. There are yoga classes given by Mario Corella, owner of Cerro Largo cabañas (a peaceful, remote spot for those seeking pure isolation).
San Agustinillo is a delightful place for children. You won’t find the usual frenetic beach activities like wave runners, jet skis, parachute rides, and bungee jumping. But, here your children can run on the beach, collect shells, splashin the water and learn about turtles and the local flora and fauna. During certain months of the year, there are also workshops and a reading program at the library.
On the main road you’ll find an internet office and, across the road, an interesting Oaxacañan artisan store, Arte Sano, owned and managed by the friendly, delightful, and knowledgeable Isis and Hugo, who can explain the origin of the crafts and the various mezcals they sell. There’s also an ice cream store, various tiendas for incidental items, and here on the main road you’ll find entrances to most of the restaurants and hotels. There are no banks or nail salons in town.
Up the hill a bit (look for the signs), there’s a true Irish bar run by a bonny Irish lass and her son. Called Casa Magica, there’s a pool table, TV with channels for foreign sports, and a nice selection of cocktails. A recent addition to their business, the owners now offer charming, spacious two-story cabañas with kitchens.
Don’t despair if you’re the type of person who yearns for an evening of music, dancing, and socializing after a lazy, quiet day. The swinging villages of Mazunte and Zipolite are a stone’s throw away: Mazunte a mere 1 kilometer from San Agustinillo and Zipolite 3 kilometers. In these two pueblos the streets don’t roll up after dark as they do in San Agustinillo. Day and night in Zipolite there are activities at El Colibri, a beach bar that attracts many foreign tourists. Owners Kevin Kelley and Gilda Torres know how to entertain, bringing years of experience to the coast, he from Chicago and she from Mexico City. There are major league American football, basketball, and hockey games shown on satellite TV during the appropriate seasons. You’ll also discover live music, chess tournaments, and card games here. This bar is reminiscent of the one in the former TV sitcom Cheers, where “everybody knows your name” after your initial visit. Consider making it your first stop when visiting Zipolite to orient yourself to this beach.
Zipolite also boasts the best restaurant on the Costa Chica, called La Providencia. Owners Javier and Paco (originally from Mexico City) offer a fine dining experience in the magical jungle-like ambiance off the beaten path in Zipolite. Paco creates the sumptuous evening dinners in the kitchen while Javier attends to your every need. Both are amiable, and it is obvious that Providencia is their labor of love. Popular favorite main dishes are the medallions of beef, tuna or dorado, and the jumbo coconut shrimp. The appetizers, soups and desserts are also prepared with the freshest ingredients and most interesting spices. Reservations are suggested during the busy tourist season.
Businesses of the beach: cabañas and restaurants of San Agustinillo
The majority of people who visit the Oaxacan Coast for a vacation want to sleep in a beachside accommodation, dreaming to the sounds of the waves crashing the sand in a comfortable, reasonably priced room. There are no high-rise hotels here, no room service, and no business centers (though most of the accommodations listed here do offer wireless internet service). Be aware that most hotels and restaurants do not take credit cards. Just recently cell phone service came to the area–there still are no land line phones. Most of the beachside businesses listed here serve two purposes: they provide comfortable cabañas and excellent dining experiences.
La Mora Posada and Café
Located on the main road right in the center of town is the three-story La Mora, owned and operated by super-friendly, efficient, and helpful Mexico City natives Rosa and Nacho. Service is excellent at their café on the first floor, open 8 am to 2 pm for breakfast or lunch. The food is fresh, healthy, and cooked to order, with excellent homemade desserts, coffee, and Mexican specialties. In the evening, the space is converted into an Italian restaurant with tasty specialties created by native Italian Angelo.
On the second floor there are three pleasant rooms, one with a kitchen and the other two with small refrigerators and safes, one double bed, and showers with hot water (another amenity not available everywhere). The balconies face the beach so you can sit at your table and check your email while enjoying nature. Floor three is a one-bedroom apartment with a bird’s-eye view of the sea and sand. A king-sized bed in the bedroom and futon in the sala make this a comfortable space for one to three people. There’s also a full kitchen and terrace.
Walk out of your white-washed individual cabaña onto the sand and into the beach breeze. Your home here with happy-go-lucky Julien Pardinilla (French and Spanish by way of Mexico City) is an attractive one-bedroom cabaña, one double bed with mosquito net, spacious bathroom, and porch. The palm-lined beach is your front yard.
As you walk the beach, you’ll see the clients of Punta Placer relaxing on their terraces, watching the fishermen come in and go out to sea. All rooms face the ocean and have lovely interiors and bathrooms. There’s also a small restaurant and impeccable individual service given by Claire and David, expats from France.
México Lindo y qué Rico
This was one of the first successful businesses on the beach and it remains so today due to the attentiveness of its proprietor, the lovely Leyla. Located on the end of town closest to Mazunte, the restaurant tables sit right on the beach, where you can enjoy meals from 8 am to 11 pm. There is fresh fish always, as well as pizza and Mexican specialties. The adjacent rooms are clean and comfortable with the expected excellent views. The repeat clientele itself speaks for the fine reputation of the hotel/restaurant. People come back every year and stay for weeks, even months!
Paraiso del Pescador
The beautiful, air-conditioned rooms of the new Paraiso del Pescador now sit beachside. Old-timers will remember when native San Agustinillo resident Theresa Rodíguez’s hotel and restaurant was located on the other side of the road. This new building is larger much more deluxe. She and her family serve the same popular meals they have for the past 18 years, in the restaurant on the first floor.
Posada La Termita
Beautifully decorated deluxe spacious rooms on the beach surround the lovely patio restaurant owned by the dazzling, vivacious Isabel from Italy and her handsome and amiable husband Ricardo from Argentina. The specialty here is pizza, and we challenge you to find a better one. The calzones are also to die for!
Barbecued dorado is the specialty of lifetime Puerto Angel resident Lourdes and her family, who own and manage this beachfront restaurant. Be sure to try it. The excellent desserts are hard to pass up. There are a few rooms to rent and, of this writing, it appears that they are expanding.
Evelia and her husband Mario are long-time residents of San Agustinillo. According to her clients, she prepares the best huachinango on the beach. Right on the beach, next to Mexico Lindo, Evelia serves breakfast through late lunch. She also rents a few basic rooms above the restaurant with beautiful views at reasonable prices.
The small area of the coast that includes Playa Ventanilla, Mazunte, San Agustinillo, Zipolite, and Puerto Angel offers a vacation of interior discovery rather than a blast of external stimuli. Few people leave dissatisfied.
¡Disfruta la tranquilidad!
Carole Reedy, a resident of Mexico City, lived in San Agustinillo for 10 years from 1999 to 2009. She is happy to answer any questions you may have. firstname.lastname@example.org