This is where I should probably turn the blog over to my wave-catching boyfriend. I don’t surf, but he doesn’t write, so here we are. After leaving Puerto Vallarta, we officially had nine days to make it 700 kilometres down the coast to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, and then for Tim to make the return trip up to Puerto Vallarta with the car. (Had I mentioned in my Puerto-car-renting post that one-way rentals were ridiculously expensive? Like to the tune of an extra 500-800 USD ridiculous? This made us opt for the slightly more labour-intensive round trip / bus trip back down combination.)
So we began. Through research (wannasurf.com, friendly locals, shop owners who were approached under the pretext of renting/buying a surfboard), Tim mapped out three main spots to stop as we travelled south along the Michoacán coast: Boca de Pascuales, La Ticla, and Nexpa. We also ended up stopping for a night in Troncones before I was left to while away a couple of days in Zihuatanejo while Tim missioned the car back up the coast, and then caught an overnight bus back along the same stretch. The price one has to pay for a week of amazing surf.
Technically, if you’re a surfer, this is the wrong time to be here. Peak season is summer, when storms translate into huge swells. Nevertheless, the winter waves are reasonably consistent for large sections of the coast, just smaller. Tim purchased a 7′ board in Sayulita, which was perfect for the waves up there, and would hopefully work for what we were going to run into along the coast. Turns out we had generally good luck, and waves would have generally accommodated a smaller board. (For my non-surfers out there, bigger waves generally = smaller board, and vice-versa.)
Our first stop was Boca de Pascuales. From the main coastal highway, head towards the beach from the town of Tecomán. Pascuales is about 10 km from town. We arrived the day a surf competition was ending, and the resident campground on the beach was recovering. Hotel Real de Pascuales is operated by the social butterfly Edgar, who welcomed us with ease. Upon first inspection, the bathrooms were questionable, the sand littered with trash, and some characters bordering on shady were hanging about. Still, it was 30 pesos a person to pitch our tent, and over the course of the next 18 hours or so, a steady cleanup effort turned the campground/hostel/hotel combo back into a lovely place to stay. I enjoyed wandering up and down the endless stretch of beach, careful to avoid the dark sand in the head of the day when it was primed to burn the soles off of our feet. Tim had a time playing in the reasonably deserted waves. We finally made exceptionally good use of the travel hammock we’d brought along on the trip. It would have been easy to stay on awhile, but we opted for two nights before pushing forward.
And how glad we are that we did. La Ticla is often avoided due to a bit of a shoddy reputation. The town and the surf are good, but it has been known to be hit by bandits coming through every 18 months or so, raiding the campsites along the beach, and then continuing on. There’s essentially turf wars, which are in debatable states of being resolved. Some say things are getting better. Maybe they are. What we knew, without question, is that this spot is still pretty magic. We turned up to the standard beach campsite-cabaña combo, where we had a handful of neighbours. This time it cost us 50 pesos each for the luxury of pitching our tent (and stringing up our hammock) for the evening. Still not breaking the bank by any stretch of the imagination.
Immediately, Ticla felt better than Pascuales. Than Vallarta, than Sayulita. In retrospect, this is probably the first time Tim and I fully relaxed into Mexico. Tim had an amazing time in the surf. (Less the notable pests of sea lice. Essentially exactly what they sound like. Not pleasant.) Cabaña de Vicky, a short walk into town, served consistently outstanding meals for very reasonably prices. Don’t bother to ask for a menu, as Vicky has a few different dishes on offer each night, and they’re all good. Generally go for what’s on special, or the first thing she tells you. We did this correctly one night, and ended up with some outstanding quesadillas con pollo. And, of course, a couple of Corona Megas. She also has exceptionally patient conversations with you, if you’re Spanish is as bad as mine. Ticla brought lazy days, diminishing worries, and the true feeling of a holiday.
Though it was a bit a struggle to tear ourselves away from the beach camping and showers integrated into the cacti, we knew that Nexpa was worth a stop as well. The town itself wasn’t quite as charming as Ticla, as it was slightly bigger and sort of just a stretch of tourist restaurants. The camping was not quite as ideal either, as it was a smaller spot, with more people, and a bit less magic. But the surf. This was probably Tim’s favourite spot to jump in the water. The wave was big. It had power, and it offered the opportunity for a long ride. With that comes a bit more traffic, and Nexpa’s crew of surf tourists and expats certainly surpassed Ticla’s in numbers. Nexpa also surpassed Ticla when it came to smoothies. You could pick up a massive smoothie (I’m going to guess more on the side of milkshake, here) for 40 pesos. And I mean massive. They would have been at least a litre. See Chicho’s for your shake fix.
We only stayed one night in Nexpa before heading off to Troncones the following day. Troncones was the first spot that offered average surf, and the town itself didn’t excite us much more. We bypassed the first campsite offerings we came across (for reasons of sketchiness and horse-manure, respectively) and ended up negotiating a spot in a hotel with a big yard for 150 pesos a night, near Troncones Point. Troncones appears to be made up mainly of large homes, owned primarily by expats. It has very little depth, literally or metaphorically, as the homes line the beach for several kilometres. This also limits beach access and drive up margarita prices, so I think it’s fair to say Troncones wasn’t my favourite place.
The next morning, we completed this leg of the trip by driving to Zihuatanejo. Ixtapa-Zihuantanejo are sister cities, but Ixtapa is a built-up resort community, and Zihua less so, we just skipped to the latter. We found a place to store our stuff and myself for a couple of days, and Tim prepared to head back north up the coast.