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My Mexican Vacation (1995-96)

This page is dedicated to Quino, who died January 20, 1996.

All prices, unless noted, are in pesos ($). Note that $5 were about 1 Canadian dollar.

I got back February 6, 1996 from a two month Mexican vacation. I initially planned to go to Mexico and Central America, including maybe Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama, but several factors led to me staying in Mexico:

As I was discussing and thinking about this page in Zihuatenejo, I decided that it was only proper to frankly discuss religion and politics along with my travel itinerary, as I firmly believe that they are inseparable in the Mexican (and Central American) mosaic. So:

This dialogue is NOT politically correct, so if you cannot handle reality, escape here.

A somewhat chronological and spatial Mexican perspective.

I first flew to Mexico D.F. and then drove that night to Cuernavaca. After two weeks, I took the bus to Acapulco. After four days, I took another bus to Zihuatenejo, where I stayed about four weeks. For one day, I went and visited Ixtapa. Later, I then flew through the D.F to Puerto Escondido. After about two weeks, I took the bus down to Puerto Angel where I stayed five days, taking day trips over to Zipolite. I then went back to Puerto Escondido for two more weeks. On the return trip, I went back through Mexico .D.F.

Mexico D.F.

I took the JAL 747 direct from Vancouver to Mexico on December 7. I like Japan Airlines, as they have first class service, beautiful Japanese stewardesses, and fly direct, along with a 60 day open ticket. The negative things are that the service is now only twice a week, and that there is smoking allowed on the plane. Ideally, I guess that a Canadair 601 would suit me better. Maybe if I were the PM???

Another reason that I do not like the flight is that it lands in Mexico, which the biggest, most crowded, and most polluted city in the known universe. Also, you have to stay overnight both ways. To go to Cuernavaca, there is not much alternative, although direct flights to the seaside destinations are feasible and would be much better.

Mexico D.F. (Distrito Federal) is the capital and primary financial city in Mexico. At over 2100 m altitude, it is on a large plateau that is surrounded by very high volcanoes, some which are currently occasionally active. These two factors lead to one thing, very severe pollution. With over 25 million inhabitants, several million vehicles, many which constantly spew visible exhaust, and a natural amphitheater to trap the the smog, pollution at times becomes lethal, (300 ppm ozone) and the government is forced to halt traffic. (Even or odd plates only). As it is, normal procedure mandates driving vehicles on only four week days, depending on a coloured sticker.

To appreciate the D.F., you have to see it, as it is immense, and extremely busy. Flying in, even if it is clear, all that you can see to any horizon is city. It is similar if the whole Lower Mainland all the way to Hope were solid city. To travel anywhere during the day requires hours. From the airport to my sister-in-law's parent's home in the south central city regularly takes two hours, which is only about half the city. Traffic is not jammed, but the sheer volume is overwhelming.

Mexico on the way home.

On the way home on February 5, I again stayed in Mexico, and decided to stay in the Zocolo, to get some different experience, and visit around. The only problem, was that, as Monday was the constitution day holiday, the place was all closed right up, and there was nothing to do. One neat thing, was that I stayed in the Hotel Canada, which was fairly decent for $120. My room had a large painting of Quebec City in the 1800's on the wall.

I also found out the way to avoid the taxi scam at the airport. The D.F. airport taxis come in three flavours.

  1. The official ones are the yellow and white ones that are at all Mexican airports. They cost roughly three times the commercial rate. I figure that some P.R.I. official(s) is really scamming every one for this contract.

  2. There are many private taxis, where guys will aggressively approach you inside the terminal or outside to take a ride at a seemingly good rate. I got caught once before by one, though, and it cost me over $US40 to go to the Zona Rosa, as I had to pay the parking and some other scam. So I really avoid these.

  3. The third, and best way, is to go down the terminal, outside, and just past the subway station, where the metered city taxis wait. This way there is no scam. That is what I did, and it cost roughly $60.

The morning leaving the Hotel Canada, on my way to the airport, and Vancouver, I was able to take a luxurious private taxi, right from my hotel, to the airport for $40.

While I am complaining about JAL, for some reason when I got to the airport at 8:00 for the 9:10 flight, the departure was already delayed 30 minutes. This was odd, since the plane sits at the airport all night waiting for the return leg. And then, when we landed in Vancouver, we had to wait on the taxiway for 40 minutes, as some Korean Airline plane was allegedly waiting for ten VIPs. Imagine holding two jumbo jets just for them. I wonder who in the hell they were, and if they would kiss my butt?

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Cuernavaca is a city in Morelos state about 80 Km (1 hour) south from the D.F. It is much lower (1400 m) and warmer than the D.F., and is thus known as city with eternal spring. It has many pretty gardens, and the flowers bloom year around. Cuernavaca has a few hundred thousand inhabitants, and is known as a centre for Spanish language training, a residence for many foreigners, including Canadians, and a weekend residence for many Mexicans.

Cuernavaca is very close to the magic town Tepoztlan, which is really neat. It is surrounded by huge limestone cliffs, which give it a very secluded feeling. Recently the whole town has had an Oka like crisis over a proposed golf course development.

Cuernavaca is about 110 Km away from Taxco, the silver mining centre in Mexico. The city is really neat, as it is built on really steep hills and mountains. Some buildings are one story in the front, and seven stories in the rear. There are many shops, and if you are a shopper, which I am not, this is a place to visit. One thing that bothered me about the trip to Taxco is the brand new toll highway that is mostly completed. I am anti-vehicle to begin with, and to spend that much money on a road in a bankrupt country, to me indicates some very convoluted values. Also, near Taxco, the road has really scarred the mountains.

My brother and in-laws have a house near Cuernavaca which was designed and built by Quino. After leaving the D. F. on the 7th, I stayed there for two weeks. The house near San Gaspar, in a secure subdivision with a golf course. It is pretty nice staying there as it has a pool and jacuzzi, along with all the amenities that make life easy and comfortable. I was impressed the one day when we bought beer in San Gaspar, and it cost us $72 for two boxes, or 40 beer.

Rocio's wedding was at a church in Cuernavaca, which was designed and constructed by her father, Quino. Afterwards, the whole reception and dance was back at the house in San Gaspar. It was nice to have the whole wedding in Quino's structures. Mexican weddings are a big affair, and this one supposed cost $US20K, which, I gather, was scrimping as with the Mexican economy being in shambles, money was not easy.

After the wedding, on Tuesday, I left Cuernavaca for Acapulco, and the rest of my family headed back for the Toronto flight.

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You probably know about this place, but I believe that it gets bad publicity. It is actually fairly clean and orderly on the main strip. While the city is large, has big slums and traffic problems, it does offer the adventurous traveller anything they want for a price. It is a 24 hour a day 7 day per week place, with many clubs and brothels and drugs available at any time. I equate it to a Mexican Waikiki.

The prices for rooms here can be a lot more than elsewhere, And as I was there during the week before x-mas, I was paying about $280 per day at a large hotel, which had many screaming kids. I only wanted to spend about two days in Acapulco, but I got sick, so I spent four. I went to two travel agents trying to get flights all around booked, but I was unsuccessful. I did want to go somewhere quiet to escape the holiday rush, so I decided to take the bus up to Zihuatenejo.

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Zihuatenejo is a small town about four hours north from Acapulco. I arrived in town by bus, and asked my way to the beach, where I stopped in a small beach front restaurant, and was served by a jovial English speaking waiter (mesero) named Mario. When I asked where to stay, he replied that a small hotel called "Susy" was right around the corner. It was full, but one close, right on the beach, called the Avila had a vacancy, so I stayed there. I was really pissed off at the noise, as a party was occurring half the (every) night in the beach restaurant at the back, and the room faced the street, which also very noisy. Also at $245 per night, it was expensive, so the next day I found a room over at the Hotel Zihuatenejo for about $180 per night.

The room was fairly small, and the hotel really noisy also. One thing that Mexicans can never have enough of is noise, as there is usually a constant talking, shouting TV, and stereo going. With all the kids around for the x-mas holidays, the courtyard hotels become a real loudspeaker. Also firecrackers (rockets) were constantly going off at all hours. While I would have gladly stayed at another place, none existed, so when the hotel forced me out due to a reserved room, I was in a real bind.

I went to a travel agent and offered him $50 to find me a hotel, but all that he gave me was a few telephone numbers. Considering that $50 is about twice their daily pay, I figured that all travel agents do in Mexico, is sit behind a desk.

I finally went back to the Hotel Susy, where the girl suggested that I check out the next door hotel, which I had passed many times, but never noticed. The woman in the Posada Citlali said that she did not have any rooms, but after awhile she remembered that she had a single one, which I got for $80. Was I ever glad, as I thought that may have had to fly somewhere, just to get a room. I stayed there for three weeks, but the hotel was not that quiet, as all the noise was amplified, either from the walls behind the bathrooms, or the courtyard.

Zihuatenejo has many excellent restaurants, and I would recommend most, notably the Canaima, on the Playa Principal, which has a lighthouse.

One day, a couple I met there and I took a panga (common Mexican boat) cruise out from the bay, swam out in the deep open ocean near the island there, and then saw some large whales, which were surfacing real close to our boat. There were also many others, off in the distance towards the airport.

We returned to a neat place called "Isla Encantada," which is a very small Island with a restaurant and bar on it. Actually, the kitchen is on the mainland, which is connected by a small wooden bridge. The island is only accessible by boat, and has a small rocky beach nearby. We ordered huachinango (red snapper), and it was the biggest (2-3 Kg) and best that I have ever had.

The four main beaches at Zihuatenejo are:

The main reasons that I left were that the water was smelly, there were too many mosquitoes, and I was pissed off when I found out that all the money for beach furniture in the whole state went to the governor's sister. [She and he have since gone to jail]

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If your game is a sterile high-rise resort on a big beach with lousy swimming, and not much else happening, then this is for you. I, though, vowed to never stay at a resort with high-rises after visiting here for a few hours one day. The guests are mostly gringos on packaged short stays, usually they are a colour somewhere between bleached white and flamingo red.

It apparently has two golf courses, if that's your game. Its only salvation is that it's close to Zihuatenejo, a 10 minute taxi or bus ride.

One interesting place to visit is the marina. Actually, you can only view it from afar, as the place is guarded. In typical Fonatur fashion, the place is massive and has all the requisite equipment and berths. The only problem is that the only boat in the whole place is a luxurious yacht that has been confiscated from a convicted drug dealer.

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Puerto Escondido

(Updated 2003-01-14 to remain relatively relevant, with new prices in brackets)

Unquestionably, the best beach that I have ever stayed at.

By reading this, I trust that you will keep this information private, and not go rushing down to spoil what is there.

An excellent link, like super, man, con mucho fotografias!

Time passes so easily in Puerto Escondido, that I could seriously retire there. The very large beach and water are really clean, and beautiful surfing groupy chicks from around the world hang out on the beach, many topless. Their figures and hard bodies would be very difficult to surpass.

The biggest surf in Mexico is right there, with 10m waves routine in season. One week last November, seven people died in the ocean!

The town has maybe ten thousand people, and is very pleasant. The main tourist street is a pedestrian mall blocked off to traffic, and is fairy busy in the evening. It has many restaurants, bars, and a few discos, which are open until 04:00. The Casa Blanca, on the mall, at $80 [$280], was a nice place to stay in Puerto, however, I could never obtain a room there. I did stay over a week at the Ricon del Pacifico ($110) [$300], right on the beach. The restaurant was really nice and I spent a few whole days in it, especially when I was sick. The best rooms were from #18 to #24, and when I had to move down stairs, I left the next day. Coincidentally that night, after moving to a far inferior room, I had noisy next door neighbours all night, a quad running around the beach , a coconut that fell, that kept the watchman looking for half an hour, and music that was fairly loud. I would have gladly left at 03:00, but the next day, I moved to the Flor de Maria ($180 single) [$500] where I stayed for awhile before I went to Puerto Angel, and then for two more weeks on my return.

Right beside the hotel is Carmens, a funky little bakery run by Carmen, and her husband Dan, who is from the Sunshine Coast, near Sechelt. They also have another bakery nearby on Zicatela [and also a nice restaurant now], which is the big surfing beach.

The town has two [four] banks, one that just moved away from the mall, and another just up the hill a bit that has two bank machines that give money from VISA. This is, as far as I am concerned, the only way to get cash in Mexican, and I usually got $1500 a visit, which was the maximum withdrawal, and would usually last a week, spending full tilt. [Bital Bank, up in the centro, is by far the most computerised and efficient bank that I have ever dealt with, and they use OS/2]

As far as restaurants go, besides the one's already mentioned, [I regularly frequent the Galleria and the Estancia on the Adoquin, and Le Pik Nik [now gone] on the beach, which has excellent Tuesday night band sessions]

Puerto Escondido used to be a big hippie hangout, and there are still many relics left. You often see old guys with grey hair down their backs wandering around. I felt really good going into the bar and almost everyone, except the Germans, had long hair, even the Mexicans. At one bar, the Swill Stop, the old guys congregate and drink beer 24 hours a day, usually behind the bar, as it is self serve. A friend told me that he went to drink there one day, and they were all talking about a heavy acid trip that had taken place, like it was yesterday, except is was back in the 60's man!

The ways to travel to Puerto Escondido are by bus from Acapulco (7 hours) or Oaxaca, (9+ hours). The best way is to take Mexicana , which has one plane a day from Mexico that arrives about noon, but can be expensive. Leaving Puerto, I had already extended my JAL ticket to the maximum 60 days, so I had to get the Monday flight. (When I returned, I found out it would have cost me over $C600, if I had missed the JAL flight.) I knew for over a week in advance that the flight was full, and I found out it was because Monday was the constitution day holiday, so many Mexicans were returning back to the D.F. Mexicans have three holidays in February. I was telling one Mexican that we do not have any holidays between January 1, and Easter, and he couldn't believe it. I still went to the airport, to wait on standby, where there were six others before me. The flight had also increased $150 in the month that I was there. Mexicana roughly charges $US100 [$US 150] per flying hour. Anyway only one space was open, so with five others, I shared a taxi to Huatulco (1.5 hours). The airport taxi wanted $450, but the town taxi was only $150.

At Huatulco, I was also on standby, and when I asked the Mexicana rep 13 minutes before departure, he said "no standby" so I went to another airline where they had a plane going to Mexico 45 minutes later. While conferring with them, they called the Mexicana guy over. They said to go back to his counter where he gave me a paper. I thought it was something for the other airline, but it was a Mexicana boarding pass. When I got on the Mexicana Fokker, there were about five vacant seats. I love Mexico!

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Puerto Angel

An excellent link, like super, man, con mucho fotografias y mapa!

What, wake me up next week!

This has got to be the last vestige for recluses on this continent. I spent five days there. Absolutely nothing happens. At one restaurant where I ate five times, I was the only customer, and I never did see anyone else eat there. The beach has, at most, ten people on it any day. At ten o'clock in the evening, the place is shut right down.

The town is really nice though. The bay is really clean, and people snorkel around the rocks all the time. The first day, after an hour bus ride and 20 minute ($10) taxi from Puerto Escondido, I stayed in a big hotel (Soraya) for $100, but it was a bit of a dump, so the next day I found another hotel (La Cabana de Puerto Angel) down at the Playa Panteon (the crypts are on the hill) which was really nice, and only $70 per day. I also found a really good restaurant (Beto's) near the super market, where I had one of the best meals (Tuna Veracruz [$12], tomato salad, fresh bread, and two beer) in Mexico for only $25, total.

The best scene was on the super bowl evening, watching the Sunday night doggie sex show outside the restaurant. I decided to go "downtown" the one evening to find a different place to eat, and I saw one hotel restaurant (Villa Florencia) that was really full.

Figuring that it must be real good, I sat at an outside table. I soon saw that the people were all watching the super bowl, which was almost over. Anyway, the waiter (mesero) came over, and I requested a beer and menu. He never returned for about 45 minutes. In the interim, a guy at the next table was getting fairly agitated trying to pay his bill. After he left, another guy sat there for about 15 minutes, when a German couple asked if they could join him, as the place was full. After another 15 minutes, the guy went inside, as the mesero still did not come out. The mesero then did come out, and got my order. Two queers from New York came in and sat at another table. They were watching me feed the worst looking mongrel in Mexico some bread, and tuna from my spaghetti. After, the Germans took off in a tiff, I mentioned that the mesero was just trying to abolish some work by not paying any attention to that table, and why rush, as there is absolutely nothing else to do, and nowhere else to go. The queers said that they were not giving in that easily, as they had been at a beach front restaurant where it had taken them two hours to get their meal.

After awhile, right in front of the restaurant, all the town dogs were congregating around one perra (bitch) who must have been in heat. It was really funny to watch all the dogs have a go at her, and the others waiting and scrapping over who was next. So much for Sunday night entertainment in Puerto Angel!  :-)

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Link with some pictures.

If hippies were to build a resort, Zipolite would be it. There are many hamacas and even three story palapas. Of course everything is cheap, especially the tourists, who tend to be young people from around the planet. While Zipolite is a free beach and supposed to be nude, as with many things in life, the undesirable qualities override the beauty. While there may be a thousand people staying at the beach (the size did surprise me), only a bare few are nude, maybe five women on the whole beach. The tourist gawkers far outnumber the nude people.

Most people staying there appear to be cheap travellers on there way from or to Central America, who only want a real cheap place to stay and smoke lots of dope. There are no police present, so almost anything goes. The ocean appears to be getting polluted, as a yellowish-green sewage scum often appears, from all the residents staying there with out any treatment facilities. I guess the hippies never thought about sewage treatment.

One neat thing about the beach is that the school kids, after classes, come around selling fresh cake from the bakery. It is really good, and with most Mexican kids, they are cute and fun to watch and talk to.

As I was sitting at a beach restaurant having a beer one day, with five other, mostly Canadian people, the heretical subject about bugs came up. I did not want to mention it, as I felt it may be a sensitive subject, but a guy from Trout Lake said to a couple from Calgary that it sure seemed like the bugs (mosquitoes and sand fleas) were attacking them in their hammock the previous night. Well, with my characteristic candor, I suggested that maybe they should spray the sand for bugs. Well, that was heresy! One guy said, that "why can't you leave the world just as it is." On a roll, I then said that I would not be disappointed if if all the mosquitoes on the planet were eradicated. Within a few minutes, the whole table was vacated except for me.

Ha ha, what a bunch of hypocrites. Over two million people a year die from malaria, and these idiots do not want to kill bugs. Of course, they don't think twice about polluting the water with their shit and piss. That must be what hippydom, and this new-age crap is all about. They congregate in their little "gringo mecca", free from the "real Mexico" and poverty, smoke dope and lay in their hammocks. For their minuscule input into the Mexican economy and culture, they sit around and philosophise about what the world should do.

The irony was really apparent one late afternoon. An old styrofoam cooler was laying in pieces on the beach. Nobody had picked it up, but after awhile a group of Mexican kids came around and started ripping it apart, to play on in the ocean. Within a few moments, there was a huge mess all over the beach and water. And the foil was that concurrently, about five people were separately doing their Tai Chi shit on the beach near-by.

I do not want to be too negative about this place, and I will probably return, especially to see the tortoise zoo, which I forgot to visit. The scenery is beautiful, and you can lay nude on the beach and drink beer, just as in Vancouver. But, Wreck Beach is much better, and much more sociable. The best thing to do, is as I did, and walk (the collectivo taxi is only $3) the approximately three kilometres each way from Puerto Angel each day. That way you get your exercise, and stay in a much better place.

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