During his three presidencies, Oaxaca-born Benito Juárez shaped many dreams into reality. One such dream was to better the lot of his native brethren in the isolated south of Oaxaca by developing a port for shipping the lumber and coffee they could harvest in the lush Pacific-slope jungles of the Sierra Madre del Sur. The small bay of Puerto Ángel, directly south of the state capital, was chosen, and by 1870 it had become Oaxaca’s busiest port.
Unfortunately, Benito Juárez died two years later. New priorities and Puerto Ángel’s isolation soon wilted Juárez’s plan, and Puerto Ángel lapsed into a generations-long slumber.
In the 1960s, Puerto Ángel was still a sleepy little spot connected by a single frail link—a tortuous cross-Sierra dirt road—to the rest of the country. Adventure travelers saw it at the far south of the map and dreamed of a south-seas paradise. They came and were not disappointed. Although that first tourist trickle has grown steadily, it’s still only enough to support the sprinkling of modest lodgings and restaurants that now dot the beaches and hillsides around Puerto Ángel’s tranquil little blue bay.
A paved road winds west from Puerto Ángel along the coastline a couple of miles to Playa Zipolite, lined by a colony of hammock-and-bamboo beachfront cabañas, popular with an international cadre of budget-minded seekers of heaven on earth. Continuing west, the road passes the former turtle-processing village beaches of San Agustinillo and Mazunte. From there it goes on another four miles, joining with Highway 200 (and thence Puerto Escondido) at San Antonio village at Kilometer 198.
The major local service and transportation center is Pochutla (pop. 35,000), a mile north along Highway 175 from its Highway 200 junction.
Highway 200 connects westward with Puerto Escondido in an easy 44 miles (71 km), continuing to Pinotepa Nacional (135 miles/217 km, three hours) and Acapulco in a total of seven hours (291 miles/469 km) of driving. In the opposite direction Bahías de Huatulco (actually Crucecita town), 28 miles (45 km) is reachable in about 45 minutes.
North to Oaxaca City, paved but narrow and winding National Highway 175 connects 148 miles (238 km) over the Sierra Madre del Sur from its junction with Highway 200 at Pochutla. The road climbs to around 9,000 feet through cool (chilly in winter) pine forests and hardscrabble Chatino and Zapotec native villages. Fill up with gas in Pochutla.
The first gas station after Pochutla is at Miahuatlán, 90 miles north. Carry water and blankets, and be prepared for emergencies. Allow about eight hours behind the wheel from Puerto Ángel to Oaxaca City, about seven in the opposite direction.
By Bus and Van: Virtually all long-distance bus connections must be made in Pochutla. The sole exception is one second-class Oaxaca City-bound bus that leaves Puerto Ángel nightly around 10 p.m. from the corner of Vasconcelos and Uribe, just uphill from the pier. Get your ticket at Papeleria El Globo, by the bus stop.
In Pochutla, operating out of a number of separate stations, several long-distance bus lines and two van shuttle services connect with points west, east, and north. The stations cluster less than a mile north from the Highway 200 junction along Avenida Lázaro Cárdenas, the Highway 175 main street into Pochutla.
As you enter the Pochutla business district, stations include the combined first-class Omnibus Cristóbal Colón and second-class Sur station on the left (at L. Cárdenas 84, tel. 958/584-0274); Estrella Blanca (a few doors farther north, tel. 958/584-0380) and subsidiary-line buses (such as first-class Elite, luxury-class Turistar and Futura); about a block farther, across the main street, Autobuses Estrella del Valle, Autobuses Oaxaca Pacífico, and Fletes y Pasajes (tel. 958/584-0138) operate out of their joint central bus station; farther north, Atlantida shuttle vans (at Lázaro Cárdenas 62, tel. 958/584-0116); and next door, Eclipse vans (tel. 958/584-0840).
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition