The search for the perfect beach town is for some a quest comparable to the pursuit of the Fountain of Youth. To free yourself—however briefly—from the unending constraints of time and responsibility grows harder with each swiftly passing year. In addition to a beautiful stretch of shore, the perfect beach town must also have good food and drink at reasonable prices, not too many tourists, and very little to do. And even though I’ve always considered such a quest to be its own satisfaction, I recently came dangerously close to finding perfection on the gloriously blue Pacific Ocean, in the Mexican fishing village of Puerto Escondido.
Until a few years ago, most of the tourists who ventured to Escondido were surfers who came to test the powerful waves of Zicatela Beach—the Mexican Pipeline—which has some of the finest right- and left-breaking waves in the world. But in recent years the word has leaked out that this is also a fine spot for wandering up and down soft sandy beaches, eating fresh fish, sipping cold beer or fruit drinks, and taking long, lazy siestas. To get to this little corner of heaven, you need only take Mexican Airlines to Mexico City and on to Puerto Escondido. Alternately, you can go through Mexico City to Oaxaca and from there catch AeroMorelos’ one daily flight to Escondido—a turboprop adventure that flies wing-to-peak with the towering Sierra Madre del Sur. Skimming just above the treetops, you have magnificent views of densely forested slopes dotted with a few small villages and cultivated clearings, some of which seem to harbor tall stands of marijuana—still a major cash crop for the area despite government efforts to eradicate it. Coming out of a steep descent, your plane banks sharply over the ocean and lands at a small airport, where you take