If you live in (or are visiting) Mexico City and are hankering to squeeze in a quick trip to a beach (a feeling I know all too well), the options aren’t as spectacular as you might think in a country that’s known for some pretty fantastic oceanfront destinations.
Your options when you’re landlocked in Mexico City:
1. Book a flight to someplace like Huatulco, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta. This is how you get to the really good Mexican beaches — the kind that grace the covers of magazines and special places in my heart. But flights, of course, are pricey.
2. Drive or take the bus east to Veracruz. We haven’t been to this state, which flanks the Gulf of Mexico, but it’s tops on our list to visit soon. I love Veracruz seafood, and I know the beaches will remind me of back home in Padre Island, Texas (kind of plain but still fun).
3. Drive or take the bus west to Acapulco, the most direct coastal area within a day’s drive, thanks to a fancy toll road. (Driving in a car, including traffic, takes about 4.5 hours. Riding in a bus is closer to 5 hours; for us, because of traffic, it took more like 7 hours, and by the end, I was going bonkers from sitting on the bus for so fracking long.)
I’ve now been to this area twice. And I’m really mixed on it. Acapulco is a giant city – 1 mill+ residents — that flanks a big, calm, glittery bay. Humongous high-rise hotels dot the landscape, and cheesy tourism is the order of the day (spring break-eqsue). There’s lots of noise, grit and in-your-faceness to it all. I don’t like it very much. South of the city, I’ve heard, is pretty nice — quieter, cleaner — but the hotels are still all-inclusive mega-resorts.
Thankfully, to the north just a few miles, is an old-school Mexican beach town known as Pie de la Cuesta. It = no high-rises and no bungee jumping/wet t-shirt contests.
I just visited over Thanksgiving break, and my ruling? It will do for a beach fix, but you may end up wishing you had have spent the extra money to go somewhere else. I think it largely depends on what your idea is of a beach vacation, and it will help to keep those expectations low (this is a strategy that can come in handy here, so that it’s delightful when you discover your hotel has, say, hot water or big, fluffy towels – our hotel, the Villa Roxana, had neither).
– It’s pretty — a wide, yellow-sand beach flanked by palm trees and the tall, green Sierra Madre mountains.
– It’s quiet, during the week — no competing for hammocks or edging out space in the sand.
– Decent shelling — well, only really good sea glass here. Very few seashells.
– Most basic services are available – like a pharmacy, convenient store, restaurants/bars. But not good beach stores if you need a pair of flip-flops or sunglasses.
– Island-like setting — it’s a long strip of land, flanked by the Pacific on one side, and the large Laguna Coyuca on the other
– Speaking of the lagoon — fun lagoon ec0-friendly boat tours are available, which I recommend doing with Coyuca 2000.
– The giant waves — While it’s relaxing and beautiful to watch giant waves crash ashore, swimming in the ocean is not recommended (we were warned, over and over, not to try swimming). The undertow is known for its deadly pull here. This is a HUGE negative for me, as I love swimming in the ocean, and I spent a lot of time staring at the water, feeling frustrated.
– The beach vendors — Spend even just a few minutes on the beach here and you will be approached by strangers who will press you to buy an assortment of crap ranging from food to cheap jewelry to horseback rides. If you’ve visited Teotihuacan, it’s a lot like that. But worse — you sometimes have to be very, very insistent (which you do by smiling and saying “no gracias!” as cheerily as possible).
– The hotels — They are mostly bland concrete structures, and they are squeezed in tight next to each other. No long, winding paths through the jungle to get from the entrance to your room. This likely keeps costs down, but it keeps the charm down, too. We had dinner one night at the best-known hotel, Hacienda Vayma, and while pleasant, it’s definitely a place where Mexico City snobs go — sports cars in the parking lot and an uptight crowd who look more occupied with making sure they look good than having a good time.
-The commute — From the bus station, it took 45 minutes in a cab to get to Pie de la Cuesta. And it’s only a distance of about 6 kilometers, so you get the idea. Yucky.
Would I go back? Yes, it definitely was good to get out of the city and feel the warm, salty air. But if I had the choice between it and, say, Bahia de la Luna, well, there’s no question: I’d go to the latter.