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This is the story of my experiences living as an ex-pat in Mexico since 2003. It's to culminate in a published book. With your help, I'll be editing, selecting a title, and cover art: a participatory project. Your comments are encouraged!

Letters from Mexico

October 28, 2017

Beaches of Mexico

Hector and Alba, my hosts at El Capitan, Chacahua


Not long after I moved to Mexico (2003), I spent two weeks in Tulum. It’s the best for swimming I’ve visited. And for snorkeling and scuba diving.

We found a camping place. The Mayan manager brought us cinder blocks to make a cookstove and taught us a few Mayan words. Scuba instructors from Australia camped next to us. Cenotes made Tulum best diving place in the world, according to them.

A cenote (English: /sɪˈnoʊti/ or /sɛˈnoʊteɪ/; American Spanish: [seˈnote]) is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath.

Our neighbors said they could dive in one and wind up in the ocean.

I think Tulum is the only archeological site, with pyramids, that’s on the coast. There’s another site in the jungle, a 45 minute bus ride. The town is an easy bike ride or short taxi stint.

We couldn’t afford nightclubs. We’d buy a beer and nurse it the whole night. At sunset, it was fun watching the diving pelicans, and catch the live entertainment there later at night.

If you can afford European prices, I’d recommend Tulum.

Playa Paraíso

My girlfriend and I spent the week after Christmas with a small group, camping out under a woven roof with no walls. This is a magic place where fresh and salt water merge. At least the birds must think so, given their numbers there.

I estimated that there were  300 people, with me the only non-Mexican.

We swam in the river, fifty yards from the ocean. Under the full moon around midnight, we enjoyed a boat ride searching for crocodiles, but found none.

There were crude showers that worked most days.

The fee per day was low and included three fresh fish meals, each cooked in a different way.

This beach on the Pacific Oaxaca coast is a hippie hangout. I took the red-eye overnight bus (11 hours from Mexico City).

The beach is dangerous for swimming because of rip tides or undertows.

A notice announcing a jam session by a fire attracted me. When I got there, I found recorded music. Walking further along the beach, I came to a club with three musicians playing. I joined them, and we became The Zipolite Beach Billies, playing rock, reggae, blues, and other types of American music with a good measure of original tunes at the clubs.

The band has had a rotating group of members from Madagascar to Paris. Bandleader, Cat Winske keeps the show on the road. Check them out at @Zipolite Beach Billies.

This beach was not expensive, but became very crowded right after Christmas. I didn’t enjoy the crowds, but liked playing music for them in the band. This is why I returned many times.


Mexico has great beaches. I’ve been to seven of them. Here’s a comparative chart I created from my experiences:

Blues at Posada Mexico, Zipolite, Dec. 2016

Puerto Escondido

Last December was the last time I visited Zipolite. I played with two musicians in clubs (see the video above) and went to Puerto for a New Year's Eve gig with the Beach Billies.

It was a nice place to swim, but prices were higher than Zipolite, and it was not a hippie hangout.


An hour north of Puerto is this incredible beach. It has a river that empties into the ocean, attracting many birds. Intervening are lagoons and mangrove swamps.

The resident population of around three hundred, with kinky hair and blue-black skin, descended from escaped African slaves. The Spanish on horseback couldn't navigate the swamps. These folks lead an idyllic life where the fish and coconuts are abundant. They need not work much, except during the tourist seasons.  

Travel to Chacahua is difficult. One gets off the bus at Rio Grande, then takes a taxi to the lagoon where a boat transport takes you to a truck for a half hour ride to the beach.

This is a self-governing population, not influenced by state or federal government, or by the church.

There isn't any nightlife there. I heard of a Karaoke bar that had just opened. It was by and for the locals. I went with a neighbor to check it out. After a while, a policeman entered. Someone told me that if I wanted to smoke marijuana, I should talk to him. This was the only occasion in my life that I smoked with an on-duty cop.


I spent five days staying at a friend’s condo near the beach. We took a boat over to an island and circumnavigated it on a nice nature trail. We went to an archeological site with many petroglyphs, and to a historical museum.

The beach is a very long strip. Going inland just one block, one encounters ghettos of dire poverty—a strong clash to the ritzy beach.

This term refers to the coast from Acapulco to the Oaxaca state border. I can’t remember the name of the specific beach recommended by an acquaintance. It was an hour or two south of Acapulco. We were the only tourists there. The beach had plastic and other debris. I’d not recommend it.

I've given you a rundown of the seven beaches I visited since I moved to Mexico. There are many more. Perhaps some of you have been to them. Anyone have comments to fill us in?


For archives, click on the Letters button at the top right of this page.

Costa Chica

Download: Beaches of Mexico.mp3

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