Planning a return trip to my favorite beach in the world, I was almost as apprehensive as I was excited. The last time I visited Troncones — a town of some 600 people pushed up against the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains on the Pacific coast of Mexico — was five years earlier. At the time, we’d been living in San Miguel de Allende, and we occasionally drove down with our two sons and two dogs. My husband — an avowed “non-beach guy”— and I had come to love this village of farmers and fishermen for its rawness, its drowsy authenticity.
In the intervening years, word got out that Julian Schnabel and Damien Hirst had homes in the area. That’s it, I thought, as I prepared for our vacation this past January. I was picturing all the practitioners of extreme cool who had surely followed in their wake. How was it possible that any place could thrive in the oxymoronic state of both newly chic and genuine? I figured we’d better get there quickly before it became totally overrun and turned into just any other beach town.
Our apprehension wasn’t helped by a new highway on the way north from the Zihuatanejo airport (this time we flew in from our home in the U.S.). We worried the highway was, uh, paving the way for high-rises and Señor Frog’s tequila-shot contests in Troncones.
Thankfully, when we got off the highway, about 22 miles from Zihuatanejo, we were surrounded by nothing but tropical forest. In town, we found a chicken running on the dirt road in front of the same dusty shops and hand-painted hotel and restaurant signs we remembered. There was no trace of the dreaded stalls selling T-shirts and seashell fridge magnets or parasails pulled by boats crisscrossing the sky.
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After we checked out our room at Casa Delfin Sonriente, an open-air suite with mosquito-netted beds, we ran to the wide, rock-strewn beach to greet the wild surf that has drawn surfers here for years. The waves are exploding tubes of ocean that make a near-Nascar-decibel crack when they break. Scanning the shoreline, we spotted no Jack-and-the-Beanstalk buildings poking over the palms. Mostly we saw a long smear of vegetation. The few visible structures — homes and hotels — barely showed their foreheads, and many of those low-slung buildings had palapa roofs that blended in seamlessly. None of the houses had an ostentatious feel that suggested it might belong to an international art star.
On our walks — more than two miles round trip — we were relieved to find the beach mostly empty, even at prime-time hours. “It’s 4 o’clock, and we’ve passed what — 60 people?” my husband asked after one outing. We considered this good news, but that night at dinner a man who visits regularly from Seattle said he was feeling crowded. “It used to be there’d only be five people on the beach with you,” he said.
As the days went by, I decided one of the biggest changes in Troncones was the number of arranged activities: live salsa music at bars, bird-watching, eco-tours into the mountains, painting lessons on the beach at an art house called Casa Creativa, yoga at the lovely Present Moment Retreat.
Mostly, though, we kept to the activities we had come to love on earlier visits. Cantering on horses over wet sand made pink by the vanishing sun. And playing in that alluring surf.