Quiet beach community near Acapulco beckons to jaded travelers
Pie de la Cuesta, Mexico
``Look, it's a tiger-striped sky!'' A little American boy, whose ruddy skin almost matches the pink glow of the sand, points up. Great rays of reddish gold streak across the heavens, shooting up from the horizon like blades in a giant fan. Below surges a gilded, gaudy sea. The tourists who've come all the way from Acapulco to watch nature's sundown show are not disappointed.Skip to next paragraph
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Of course, there's no telling from evening to evening what the spectacle will be like. But the reputation of Acapulco's sunset beach - as this shore at the quiet village of Pie de la Cuesta is called - draws a steady trickle of tourists from the famous resort every day.
While waiting for sundown, visitors settle into string hammocks or wobbly chairs under shaggy palapas (thatched roofs) and sip cold drinks or munch fresh ceviche (raw fish salad, a sort of Mexican sushi). When the sun finally sets, they ooh and aah for 20 minutes, then pile into their vehicles and go - often missing the best of this natural paradise in their haste to get back to the high-rise glitter.
Indeed, there is much more to Pie de la Cuesta than sunsets. A little whitewashed cemetery drowses near the sea, full of faded angels and brittle wreaths. Clumps of bougainvillea, bursting with color, dangle over the crumbling walls. At night, the waves crash like rifle shots in a long, symphonic echo down the shoreline, and the moon seems to peer over the shoulders of crooked palm trees that lean into the road.
It is hard to believe this slumbering village lies just eight miles north of raucous, dazzling Acapulco.
Pie de la Cuesta (``foot of the hill'') rests at the feet of some beautiful powder-blue mountains distantly related to the Sierra Madre chain. The hamlet is wedged on a narrow strip of land between the turbulent Pacific Ocean and a mirrorlike lagoon. It is a jumble of palm-shaded huts, rustic restaurants, trailer parks, hand-me-down guesthouses, and small hotels where fugitives from fast-lane resorts are inclined to stay.
Weekenders like to escape the Acapulco rat race for a Sunday lunch at one of the village's palm-and-bamboo cafes. Any day of the week finds skiffs skimming over placid, exquisite Laguna Coyuca, which happens to have the best water-skiing in the Acapulco area. This sport is impossible on Pie de la Cuesta's stretch of wild, unswimmable ocean, where the Pacific here thunders up in pummeling waves that have sucked swimmers out to sea. The oceanside beach itself is broad and magnificent for beachcombing and sunbathing.
Like most Mexican pueblos, Pie de la Cuesta has changed very little in the last 10 years. It's still a one-road burg without a single telephone in town. The post office consists of two bins of mail inside a private home.
There are signs of progress, however. The newly opened hotel Ukae Kim, for starters, jumps out from the tumbledown landscape of the village like a misplaced tourist palace. This posh little villa-type hotel (whose name is Mayan for ``where the sun hides'') is far and away the most luxurious inn around here. Its charming tile-roofed buildings, attractive pool, palapa-roofed restaurant, and classy Mediterranean-style rooms with giant beds draped in gauzy mosquito nets make an alluring combination. The price for a stay at Ukae Kim ($40 and up double, no meals included) tops anything within a 10-mile radius. But this little hotel's seclusion draws guests from both the United States and Europe. No children are allowed.