Coyuca Lagoon & Pie de la Cuesta

Back

This beautiful fresh water lagoon located 6.2 miles north of Acapulco is 
about 10.5 miles long, 4.9 miles wide and has a maximum depth of 23 feet. 
It has a wide variety of tropical flora and fauna and up to 14 different species 
of edible fish such as robalo, lisa, mojarra, pargo de piedra, cuatete, bagre and
carp,  among others, and freshwater shrimp and crabs, all of which you can 
buy in the small town of the Embarcadero.
A boat cruise will allow you to observe a lush tropical vegetation, coconut 
palm groves, mangroves and water hyacinths floating along the shore, and 
will take you to the Isla Presidio,  the Isla Montosa o de Pío Quinto and 
the Isla de los Pájaros,  which are bird sanctuaries full of black and white
herons,  pelicans, ducks, marabús, avocetas, gulls, storks and dozens of
other tropical species.
The lagoon was the setting of several Tarzan movies and of Rambo ll and
offers a superb natural film location for jungle and tropical adventure movies.

Bird sanctuary on Presidio island

 
Welcome sign at Pie de la Cuesta
Tourist cruise boat
Presidio island birds
Bird flight
Montosa island 
Presidio island
Embarcadero village
Barra de Coyuca
Paraíso 2
Cafe Laguna
Pelicans
 Whale rock

 

 

 

Local boys offer sunset horseback rides along the sea's edge in Pie de la Cuesta, a laid-back village on Mexico's Pacific coast, about a half-hour from Acapulco. Top right: Local fisherman Armando Aparicio ferries travelers on a trip through a freshwater lagoon near Pie de la Cuesta, Mexico. Above right: At the Hotel Villa Nirvana in Pie de la Cuesta, hammocks are available for passing a lazy afternoon. (all photos by knight ridder)
Pie de la Cuesta

Visitors to this village have a sense of stepping back in time, moving closer to nature and being pampered - all at once

2004-10-17 / Knight Ridder / By Lynda V. Mapes

PIE DE LA CUESTA, Mexico

There are times when life at the pace of a swaying hammock is just the thing. And when that time comes, Pie de la Cuesta is the place.

It's the off-the-beaten-track alternative to the foam parties, discos and gringo-ized thrum of Acapulco, just a half-hour away, where Hooters and McDonald's face off across the concrete towers of the strip's hotel row.

Here, the main attractions are watching the waves from a long stretch of golden beach; sunsets; and slowing down enough to learn the local custom of swinging the afternoon away in a hammock.

Perfect weather calls for an exploration of the freshwater lagoon on the other side of the peninsula, in one of the innumerable launches available from lagoon-side restaurants.

My destination is the locally famous Polita's, a restaurant reached by boat, where 77-year-old Polita herself offers mud-pack cures along with fish in garlic or chili sauce barbecued over a fire stoked with coconuts split with an axe.

One of the best parts is getting there: Metro has nothing on the ingenious, endlessly entrepreneurial transportation options of small-town Mexico.

We ride along at a stately 10 miles an hour, just perfect for watching life in Pie de la Cuesta go by: Branches of hibiscus blossoms wave in the breeze; pigs trot by; chickens stroll; the ubiquitous, free-range dogs stretch out and snooze in the dust, and front yards are strewn with the brilliant litter of fallen bougainvillea petals.

Once at La Barra Cayuca a little light haggling wins me the services of Armando Aparicio, a local fisherman with the profile of an Aztec god, my captain for the afternoon for 150 pesos, or about US$15.

Aparicio commands a wooden boat painted bright teal, with a thatched roof to rebuff the afternoon sun and a venerable outboard. He starts it with a string he takes from his pocket after several furiously energetic pulls.

We cruise the jade lagoon stalked by snowy white egrets until Aparicio spies a large swathe of water plants with purple flowers. He jumps overboard, and picks me an armful. Mexican machismo has its pluses.

Soon Polita's comes into view, announced by plumes of barbecue smoke and the bleating of sheep not yet barbecue size.

Once ashore we discover Hipolita Zuniga Valle - Polita herself - painting mud that dries to a military fatigue green on the faces of Lori and Matt Peck of Atlanta, here taking an afternoon off from water-ski classes in Acapulco.

"It takes the sunburn right out of you," says Lori, a devotee of Polita's cure.

Piglets scratch their rumps with a jaunty scritch-scritch against a towering pile of coconuts split for the fire. Valle's restaurant has no electricity; there's a cooler for drinks, a cistern for water and coconuts for fuel.

Her daughters get cracking on my lunch of barbecued snapper in a garlicky chile sauce, served with wedges of lime, sea salt and fresh tortillas roasted on the grill. How delightful to sit under the palms, eating this meal, listening to Polita's roosters crow, all the while cooled by a steady breeze from the lagoon.

We head back to Pie de la Cuesta in time for the nightly sunset ritual, when it seems the whole town turns out on the beach to watch the sky flame. Unlike Acapulco, where headlands hem in the view of the sunset, here the majestic procession unfolds unobstructed, the sun dropping into the sea amid clouds blazing apricot and peach.

Barefoot caballeros, none older than 12, offer horseback rides along the sea's edge, and the locals kick a soccer ball in the golden sand. The village dogs come out to join us on the beach, where they continue their complex and unending negotiations of rank and turf.

Local teenage boys defy the ripping undertow and steep, dumping waves, charging beyond the surf line to float, spread-eagled, up the aquamarine slope of the waves, their bodies backlit by the sun. Slick as seals, they slide down the other side of the waves that slip out from under them to roar on and break closer in.

As the sun sets, gilding the water and wet sand, great flocks of zanates, a grackle-like bird, swirl across the sky in undulating ribbons, making their nightly pilgrimage back from the lagoon. In the morning they will repeat this migration, flying so close over my porch I hear their wings rustle from my pillow.

Beach vendors, part of the nightly sunset ritual, peddle everything from hammocks to woven baskets, sailing ships, and cut-up fresh fruit.

I save my appetite for ceviche at Restaurant Tres Marias

My third day it occurs to me it's time to enjoy what brings most people here in the first place, a day at the beach. Armed with a straw hat with a brim big around as a large pizza, a liter of water and sunscreen one step short of wearing aluminum foil, I head out to the beach.

I quickly discover two things:

The sun, even in February, is hot as a welding torch. And any woman alone in Mexico is assumed by any passing male to be dying to be asked "Are you alone?" and "Where is your husband?"

Good as this is for my middle-age ego, it does interfere with my attempt to go native and nap.

Clearly, it was time to try the hammocks slung for us daily by the good folks, up there in the shade of the thatched palapa.

I soon learn why I see hammocks in use everywhere in Pie de la Cuesta, as the breeze wafts most sweetly through the loosely woven fabric, and the hammock ticks back and forth with its hypnotic, manana motion.

After a few hours of this, it's a tribute to journalistic resolve that I can rouse myself at all, to go check out the market, the heartbeat of this tiny village.

Open every day until noon, the market is one more way it seems Mexicans have a knack for life far better than we do. Stack up, if you will, the experience of that shopping cart tour of duty at the local fluorescent-lit grocery against the open-air carnival of scents, sounds, visiting and flavors that are the market stalls of Mexico.

I walk past great piles of fresh cilantro; tables mounded with bags of local sea salt, and a stand festooned with plucked chickens, bright yellow and hanging by their feet from a wire. Kids' clothing, pigs' heads, clay cook pots, whatever, it's all here for the buying.

It's at the market that I get my idea for my last night's dinner in Pie de la Cuesta, and it is the best yet: Barbecued chicken, bought along with its searing chili sauce from a street vendor; fresh limes; sea salt; and ripe avocado from the market stands.

I eat this on my terrace, by the light of candles purchased for 5 pesos, ripping into the chicken, juicy and delicious with liberal dousings of the coarse salt, fresh lime and chile sauce. I devour four pieces in no time, along with the entire avocado, then lie down in my hammock just in time to watch the zanates begin their evening pilgrimage just overhead.

As the sea purrs in the background, the local greeting in Pie de la Cuesta comes to mind.

Here, when people say, "How are you?" ("Como estas?") the customary answer is "Aqui estamos." ("We are here.")

And the rejoinder: "Que bueno":

"How very good."