La Punta, on Oaxaca’s Pacific Coast, is known for its surfing. It is just one of several enclaves, each with its own personality, on the Costa Chica.Credit...Adrian Wilson for The New York Times

Mexico - Mexico’s Last Countercultural Coast

On a wild stretch of Pacific shoreline, Costa Chica draws artists, architects, surfers, yogis and “naughty friends.”

Stepping off the plane in Puerto Escondido, on the Pacific Coast of Oaxaca, I gulped the thick, tropical air. After three days in Mexico’s high-elevation capital, inhaling the vital, pungent smell of sea and damp vegetation felt like a resuscitation.

I hired an “authorized” taxi and drove northwest from the airport, passing papaya farms and low hills strewn with boulders. The landscape was bright green and pale yellow with pops of fuchsia bougainvillea and flame-hued lantana — a planter box ornamental at my home in California that here grows to the size of an apple tree.

There were delays: a young man on horseback wrangling a white steer and a crew of road workers with machetes waging an endless war against the encroaching jungle. Finally, we turned off the highway and onto a narrow dirt lane lined with branch-and-barbed-wire fence and tall grass that lashed the windows, as if we’d entered a dusty carwash. With each oncoming vehicle, the taxista played the world’s slowest game of chicken.

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