Historically, Oaxaca’s southern coastal residents have both earned their livelihoods and sought their connections with the outside world by the Mar del Sur, the Southern Sea, the traditional Mexican name for the Pacific Ocean. Before roads were built, the Oaxaca coast slumbered, every bit like an isolated South Seas island, dependent upon occasional ships for trade and news from the exterior world.
The major cause of the isolation was the towering, cloud-capped wall of the Sierra Madre del Sur (Mother Range of the South). Oaxaca’s high southern Sierra, always remote and mysterious, was finally unveiled in its majesty only in the 1980s, when satellite photo measurements revealed that Cerro Quiexobra (kee-ay-SHOW-brah), at 12,300 feet (3,750 meters), was by far Oaxaca’s tallest mountain massif, a scarce 50 miles (80 km) due north of the Bahías de Huatulco .
From such high, cool, pine-crested summits along its entire 200-mile (320-km) rampart, the Sierra Madre del Sur plunges precipitously downward more than two miles (three km) through lush vine-hung canyon and foothill forest to the Pacific shore, an acacia-tufted expanse of endless summer.
During the 1970s and 1980s, paved highways and airlines ended the Oaxaca coast’s isolation and brought a trickle of Mexican and foreign visitors to the region. The government recognized the area’s potential and began developing a new, ecologically correct vacationland at the Bahías de Huatulco . Meanwhile, visitors were discovering the South Seas village resorts of Puerto Ángel  and Puerto Escondido .
Now the steady stream of vacationers can choose from a growing menu of outdoor diversions, from strolling the sand and snorkeling in hidden coves to rescuing sea turtle eggs, splashing in upland waterfalls, and lodging comfortably overnight at rustic jungle coffee farms.