Deep inside Oaxaca’s mangroves lies a small village. Only accessible by boat through some wild swampland, it has it all. Spectacular beaches stretch as far as the eye can see with not a single building in sight, the waves are empty and the locals more than happy to share their little paradise with you.
A small village of colourfully painted cabañas and raggedy palapas hug the beach and lagoon. They do a remarkably good job at fading into the background even when you’re standing in the middle of the village. Maybe it’s the fact that almost everything is covered in flowers. The beach stretches along a giant bay with a surf break so empty and waves so long it seems unreal. When the conditions are right, wave after empty wave will roll in and fifteen people will make for a crowded day.
We leave from Puerto Escondido some 60 km south of Chacahua in one of the small collective shuttles. Cramped in the back seat with our boards and definitely more locals than seats its an hour and a half of constant shifting to accommodate all of us. Several companies make the run from Puerto Escondido every hour or so up to somewhere past Rio Grande. We paid 50 pesos each.
endless beaches, empty waves and not a rock in sight
A few kilometres after Rio Grande the shuttle dropped us off by a turnoff leading to the small town of Zapotalitos. A number of taxi drivers camps at the turn-off and for 20 pesos each were happy to stuff us into another collectivo with too many people for too few seats. The drive itself is only a couple of kilometres and quite pleasant considering the close proximity to total strangers.
With Chacahua technically being an island in the mangroves we had to find a boat to get us across. The options are many and prices ranged from 1500 pesos for a private tour to 200 pesos for a shared boat. We later learned that there is a third option. A short 40 peso boat ride across to where an old pickup truck will take you for a fifty-minute bone-jarring drive down a dirt road. We thought the ride through the mangroves was well worth the extra money and on later trips realized that especially with bords and everything the truck is a very cumbersome option.
The first thing we noticed was how tranquil Chacahua is. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is busy and hustling somewhat or other but there isn’t anyone yelling to sell you tours, trinkets or even a place to stay. You very much have to go and seek out a palapa owner by yourself.
Dario and Luisa on the island side had our backs and provided a great little room with a beautiful porch overlooking the waves for around 200 pesos a night. The only AirnB in Chacahua offers a little more luxury but also comes with a hefty price tag. Sadly none of the places lets you use their kitchen, so we are forced to eat out for every meal. Being a fishing community, Chacahua’s number one dish is fish, closely followed by shrimp and octopus. We are somewhat bummed that a meal by the beach for two easily costs more than the room and while it is a yummy fish venturing further into the village we quickly find a small restaurant selling amazing sopes for much less. Dario’s wife Luisa makes a mean lentil burger and if you call her Doña Luisa often enough will warm up to you rather quickly.
When we arrive in Chacahua late in the afternoon there isn’t much in terms of waves. The bay looks flat and the occasional swell frustratingly fizzles out long before it breaks. So we have dinner and a couple of chelas on the dock by the water while we watch a perfect blood moon rise over the lagoon.
The next morning we head out early and there they are. The expected swell arrived overnight and gorgeous empty right after empty right roll lazily across the bay. We’re the only ones out there this early and the water feels warm compared to the still cool air. The waves this time of the year are thick slabs that with a good swell run for more than a minute. In time with summer and bigger swells, Chacahua will with the right wind get picture perfect barrels. We surf all morning and never have to share the waves with more than ten people. After lunch, we’re back in the water but quickly realize that we’re too worn out to continue, so we call it a day.
A second break lies on the other side of the lagoon. A fast and hollow beach break that the locals claim is as good as Zicatela and definitely not a beginner beach.
are there glowing crocodiles?
We stay for two more days and surf our hearts out. In fact, we’re so tired at night that we hardly notice the merciless onslaught of mosquitos and sandflies. On our last night, we take a boat out into the mangroves to see the bioluminescence. While the moon is still too full for the bioluminescence to dip the lagoon into a magical blue, dipping our hands in it creates little sparkles. I even hop into the water to swim within the bioluminescence but can’t quite shake the knowledge of crocodiles in the mangroves and so I rather gladly hop back onto the boat. According to the locals no tourist has ever been eaten by a crocodile here and I wasn’t about to be the first.
Sadly Chacahua doesn’t have a reliable internet connection and so we make our way back to civilization to get some work done. We will, however, be back soon.