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Hammock Life at Marquelia.

By Anthony Wright.


When speaking of the beach spot Marquelia, the word “facilities” does not come to mind. Aside from a half dozen palapas lining a long, narrow expanse of beach facing the Pacific Ocean, and an all-purpose store beside an exotic lagoon feeding a tidal river to the sea, there’s not much of anything in Marquelia. The wind and the surf are the only sounds here.

Which is precisely the reason people like to go there.


Located on the coast of Guerrero nearing the state of Oaxaca, 540 kilometers southwest of Mexico City, the town itself barely qualifies as a roadside attraction - driving through Marquelia you wouldn’t give the place a second thought. It has the basic, featureless quality of many obscure pueblos with names like La Fortuna, San Agustin, Tres Cruces, which dot the highways and byways of the coast. The charms of the lonely beach are discovered after turning off Marquelia’s main strip, then traversing a couple more kilometers (by vehicle or foot) through a field a coconut trees.


The closer you get to this magical destination, the louder the roar of the surf becomes.


Once here, the idea is to do just about anything except stress out. Primarily, one retires to a hammock. The folks operating the palapas - thatched huts that serve as both restaurants and lodgings - don’t care if you spend all day lounging around on their hammocks. And of course there’s always swimming, a spot of surfing if you’re packing a board, or just plain beach combing to get into while you’re here. At night you make your own fun, and more often that not it will by the light of a glowing hurricane lamp.


You never know what you might find strolling along the beach. For several locals recently, it was a package a couple of kees of marijuana, washed up on the beach, apparently thrown overboard by drug smugglers at sea after a run-in with Navy authorities. No one really knew the truth, but we heard that the discoverers of this find - who decided to resell the booty - did not fare too well. They were caught and thrown in jail.


One advantage Marquelia enjoys over other hangout Mexican beach spots such as the Zipolite, Puerto Escondido and other bongo-ambient destinations along the coast of Quintana Roo, is its free hammock space. And here’s a surprise: not only are they free to use, these hammocks are comfortable. They are finely stitched, large-format, cotton-made - a far cry from the skin-irritating cheapies to be endured elsewhere. The particular deal I struck up with my host Beto Umberto - known around the traps as “the Machine” due to his fishing prowess - is that I agreed to order my (very cheap) meals and beers from him.


Generally speaking, the one item on the menu is fresh fish - most of the palapa owners are Guerreran fishermen who alight in their boats in the early hours of the morning and return by daybreak with the day’s catch. “The best fishing is at night, and Sylvie (Beto’s wife) prepares the catch during the day for our guests, if we have any,” Beto says. “We also try to get our hands on calamari, shrimp. The diet here is seafood. That’s the menu, period.”


The swimming along the 15-kilometer stretch of beach here also outdoes its more famous counterparts: the surf is spectacular but reasonably safe. Where undertows and monster dumps can spoil the fun at Zipolite or Zicatella, big waves barrel in at Marquelia but break nicely at waist length - perfect for body surfing - and don’t form killer rips when subsiding back into the sea. Crosscurrents are geared to drag you towards the shore, rather than out to deep water.


“The really big waves arrive in July and August and the following month the hurricane season comes along,” Beto says. “Sometimes (a hurricane) wrecks the whole area, and it takes us months to rebuild. But our home is by the sea.”

Reprinted with permission from Anthony Wright.

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