Puerto Escondido is a relaxed beach town that seems to have it all: picture-postcard beaches fringed by palm trees swaying against the blue skies. Young surfers and sun-worshippers out and about on the sands. Fresh seafood and seasonal fruit at the markets, and the deliciously distinct Oaxacan cuisine served at local eateries. What more would you need for an idyllic Mexican vacation?
Read on for the ultimate guide to Puerto Escondido.
Where in Mexico is Puerto Escondido?
Puerto Escondido is located within the San Pedro Mixtepec Distrito 22 municipality, of the Mexican state of Oaxaca.
What is Puerto Escondido Known for?
Puerto Escondido is known for:
- The Surfing Capital of Mexico: Often ranked among the ten best surfing destinations in the world, Puerto Escondido is the best place in Mexico to ride some waves. Famous for its legendary waves, Playa Zicatela is every pro surfer’s dream. However, beginners can opt for the less intimidating waters at Playas Carrizalillo and La Punta.
- Abundant Natural Beauty: Puerto Escondido boasts a stunning mountainous landscape that rolls into the gorgeous Pacific Coast bay. Here nature lovers can experience some of the most vibrant natural terrain in Mexico, including tropical forests, lush valleys, high mountains, and the rugged Pacific coastline with its soft sands, quiet coves and inviting waters teeming with marine life.
- Authentic Mexican Culture: In Puerto Escondido, visitors can truly experience authentic Mexican culture. Unlike other places in the country, Puerto Escondido has its own unique history and culture. Moreover, the town has manage to retain a lot of its traditions which remain visible today, from the distinct architecture of the town center, to the irresistible Oaxacan cuisine.
- Adventure Activities: Puerto Escondido is certain to reignite your sense of adventure. In addition to the rich marine life present in its waters, the land also offers diverse means of exploration. Enjoy the great outdoors and appreciate nature’s wonders. Go hiking, kayaking, biking and camping. Discover lush jungles, indigenous mountain villages and unique plants and animals.
- The Old and the New: Puerto Escondido offers a charming mix of the old and the new, with a relaxing and bustling vibe that makes it appealing to travelers of all types. On the one hand is the town which is both rustic and contemporary, and then there are the beaches which provide a tropical getaway without taking you too far away from civilization.
What is there to do in Puerto Escondido?
Here is a list of things to do in Puerto Escondido:
- Hit the Surf: As the surfing mecca of Mexico, Puerto Escondido offers various great spots for hitting the surf. Pro surfers can head down to Playa Zicatela and surf massive waves that pound close to the shore; while intermediate surfers can surf the waves that slam against the rocks at Playa La Punta. Beginners can learn to surf with the pros at the gorgeous Playa Carrizalillo, which has calmer waves.
- Relax on the Beach: The variety of beaches in Puerto Escondido means that beach lovers can not only surf in the Pacific, but also swim around quiet, hidden rock pools. Outside the weekends and holidays, Puerto Escondido’s beaches are typically laid-back and quiet with plenty of space to lounge or frolic in gentle waves. A popular swimming spot, Playa Carrizalillo is the most beautiful beach in Puerto Escondido.
- Swim in a Bioluminescent Lagoon: Situated 15 kilometers from Puerto Escondido, Laguna Manialtepec is a shining lagoon that glows in the dark. This phenomenon is known as bioluminescence, and it occurs due to the presence of microorganisms inhabiting the lagoon waters that glow in the dark when agitated. Night tours via kayak or speedboat are available to take visitors out to swim in the glowing lagoon.
- Stroll through the Adoquin: Containing the very first paved street in Puerto Escondido, the Adoquin is the oldest part of the city. Here you will find restaurants serving traditional cuisine, souvenir and handicraft shops, as well as various accommodation options. The Adoquin also has a lively nightlife scene with several bars near the beach where you can have a cold drink as you listen to live music.
- Visit a Turtle Sanctuary: Puerto Escondido is also popular for the opportunity to participate in baby turtle releases. The sea turtle hatching season in Puerto Escondido runs between November and May. Turtle releases typically happen every day around 5pm at Vive Mar, the turtle sanctuary located on Playa Bacocho. Visitors need to pay a conservation fee that will enable them to release their very own baby turtle out into the sea.
- Go Whale Watching: Located on a key migratory path for whales, Puerto Escondido is a great place for interacting with whales in their natural environment. There are many boat tours that take visitors out onto the open sea where they are likely to spot humpback whales, as well as many dolphin species. The adventurous can get right into the middle of the marine action by snorkeling among hundreds of dolphins!
Is Puerto Escondido Touristy?
No, Puerto Escondido is not really touristy.
Even during the peak tourism season, Puerto Escondido is never overrun by tourist crowds, as is common in other popular Mexican destinations such as Cancun. Moreover, there are fewer restaurants, souvenir shops and vendors hawking wares here. And while it has grown in size over the years, Puerto Escondido has managed to avoid all-inclusive resorts and massive development.
Being a bit harder to get to than most other Mexican tourist spots has enabled Puerto Escondido to retain its original rustic charm and basic authenticity, having long been a sleepy fishing village and port before the tourists began to crowd. And today, Puerto Escondido still caters to a more downscale and eclectic clientele of primarily surfers, backpackers and Mexican families.
In Puerto Escondido, travelers can easily visit small local neighborhoods to immerse themselves in local life, dine at local restaurants and shop at local stores. Although the beaches are typically crowded on weekends and holidays, beach lovers can still find a spot by the sea to enjoy the quiet calm of Puerto Escondido. And because it’s not a heavy nightlife spot, Puerto Escondido offers a chill vibe at night.
Is It Safe to Travel to Puerto Escondido?
Yes, it is perfectly safe to travel to Puerto Escondido, as long as you keep to the well-traveled areas and always have your wits about you. Because Puerto Escondido is a popular tourist destination, there have been opportunistic crimes against tourists, such as petty theft, bag-snatching and pick-pocketing. It is therefore important to always use your common sense to stay safe while visiting Puerto Escondido.
Is Puerto Escondido Dangerous in Any Way?
Puerto Escondido is not completely immune from danger. In recent years, the port town has earned a bit of a reputation for crimes such as robberies and muggings, most of which took place on the beaches at night. As such, it is important for tourists visiting Puerto Escondido to avoid walking alone on the beach after dark.
Is Puerto Escondido Expensive?
Here is an overview of the basic monthly expenses for a couple living in Puerto Escondido:
|Transportation (Car, Gas & Insurance)||100|
Where is the Party in Puerto Escondido?
If you enjoy late nights and good music, then the nightlife in Puerto Escondido is certain not to disappoint. Revelers can party till dawn in Puerto Escondido at lively bars, rowdy nightclubs and beach parties. Several popular party spots on Playa Zicatela offer DJ and live-music, playing everything from blues and rock to Latin and jazz.
Here is a list of the best nightlife spots in Puerto Escondido:
- Bar Fly: Open every night from 9pm, Bar Fly is the place to go for the hottest house, techno, electronic, as well as dance music mixes by both local and visiting DJs. Situated on Zicatela Beach, upstairs from the Hosteria Banana restaurant, Bar Fly overlooks the beach.
- Casa Babylon: Open each night from 7pm, Casa Babylon is a bohemian beach bar with a hip surfer vibe. Known for its to-die-for mojitos and mezcal margaritas, Casa Babylon hosts theme nights, live music and DJ sessions from its prime location opposite Playa Zicatela.
- Playa Kabbalah: A great spot for nocturnal drinks, Playa Kabbalah is both a hip and romantic beach bar. Come socialize with locals drinking at the bar or relaxing on sun loungers after surfing. The bar is popular for its fiestas that showcase DJs playing electronic dance music.
- Atemoztli Foro: Overlooking Zicatela Beach, Atemoztli Foro is a popular restaurant/ bar owned and run by local musicians. Revelers can enjoy a different musical theme every night from blues and rock to reggae and salsa. The talented in-house band performs Mexicana and Latin rock.
- Split Coconut: Nestled on the sands overlooking the waves at Playa Marinero, Split Coconut is a rustic beach bar. On Saturday nights, the bar plays live blues, easy listening and classic rock music, which attracts an older crowd that comes to dance barefoot under the starry sky.
- La Piña: For a mellow evening, stop by La Piña, a chill beach bar that offers amazing happy hour specials every day. The bar specializes in serving piña coladas made from scratch inside hollowed-out pineapple cups. Enjoy live music as you sip on your refreshing drink.
- La Galeria: Situated at Playa Zicatela on the 3rd floor of Hotel Arcoiris, La Galeria is a great spot to watch the sun set behind the surfers, as you catch up on local gossip and enjoy a sundowner. The bar has happy hour every night, with live music in the high season.
- Other cool sunset-watching spots in Puerto Escondido are Hotel Santa Fe, and the Hotel Flor de Maria rooftop bar. For a more romantic and peaceful setting, grab a taxi or take a 30-minute walk west to Hotel Posada Real’s cliff-top lawn.
What Restaurants Are in Puerto Escondido?
Here is a list of the best restaurants in Puerto Escondido:
- El Cafecito: Situated on Playa Zicatela, Cafecito is a popular favorite for breakfast, which fills up even during the low season. Serving big breakfasts, pastries, fresh juices and smoothies, Cafecito is frequented mostly by starving sun-kissed surfers looking to load up on post-surf carbs.
- Finca las Nieves: Located at the other end of Playa Zicatela, Finca las Nieves is another great brunch option. The small restaurant serves homemade items such as their own almond milk and granola, as well as some tasty local coffee.
- La Palma Negra: If you need to cool down from the afternoon heat of Puerto Escondido, go grab an ice cream at La Palma Negra. Situated in La Rinconada, La Palma Negra serves some refreshingly delicious coconut ice cream, and a divine lemon and chia sorbet.
- El Coste Cevicheria: Grilled in a VW Kombi van, the fish at El Coste Cevicheria may very well be the best grilled fish you have ever eaten. Available in 4 marinade options, the fish is served with salad and delicious potatoes fried in butter. The margaritas here are pretty good too.
- Almoraduz: If you fancy some fine-dining on a special occasion, with a traditional Oaxacan touch, look no further than Almoraduz. The restaurant serves up an incredible array of flavors from simple Mexican corn to tamale with beans and hoja santa.
- El Espadin: After a full day of swimming, head over to El Espadin restaurant to enjoy sundowners while watching the sun set dramatically over Playa Carrizalillo. Besides the wonderful views, this beautiful restaurant is popular for its tasty guacamole and grilled octopus.
Can You Swim in Puerto Escondido?
Yes, it is possible to swim in Puerto Escondido. However, you should always be cautious when swimming at beaches with big waves, as the undertow can be quite strong. Never attempt to swim at Playa Zicatela which has strong rip currents. Always follow the instructions of lifeguards and pay attention to safety flags: red means danger, yellow means moderately dangerous, and green means it is safe.
Where Can You Swim in Puerto Escondido?
Here is a list of the places where you can swim in Puerto Escondido:
- Playa Marinero & Playa Principal: Technically, Playa Marinero and Playa Principal form one continuous beach, which are separated by a lagoon that forms only in the rainy season. Playa Marinero is generally good for swimming. However, because Playa Principal is home to the town’s fishing fleet, the waters are often stirred up due to the presence of many boats.
- Playa Manzanillo & Playa Angelito: Located next to each other inside a crescent-shaped bay, Playas Manzanillo and Angelito both have a very relaxed and laid-back vibe. Both beaches offer good swimming conditions with clear calm waters, although Angelito often has fishing boats in the swimming area. Manzanillo is one of the best swimming beaches in Puerto Escondido.
- Playa Carrizalillo: Consistently ranked among the best beaches in Mexico, Playa Carrizalillo is one of the prettiest and most swimmable beaches in Puerto Escondido. Playa Carrizalillo is popular for its gentle waves, turquoise waters and sheltered shores. Both children and adults can safely swim at Playa Carrizalillo as the tide isn’t too strong nor the waves too big.
- Playa Bacocho: Mostly empty, Playa Bacocho is a long, beautiful stretch of golden sand. It is however not a swimming beach as it has a strong undertow and the waves can get pretty big and rough. That said, Bacocho has a great beach club with a pool where you can swim, or simply relax as you soak up amazing views of the ocean.
- Playa Coral: The best secluded beach in Puerto Escondido, Playa Coral is another good spot for swimming, which offers calm waters once you get out past the break. That said, you should still pay attention to the tides and be cautious when swimming at Playa Coral, as it has a steep drop-off with a strong undertow depending on sea conditions.
- Playa La Punta: Situated farther down from Playa Zicatela, Playa La Punta isn’t the best spot for swimming. That said, you can still go splash around a bit further than you can on Playa Zicatela. If you’re looking for all the vibe of Playa Zicatela, albeit with waves safer for swimmers, then Playa Punta is just the beach for you.
- Playa Zicatela: The surfing capital of Mexico, Playa Zicatela is a no-go zone for swimming. The waves here are beach breaks, which means that their height and mass result from steep drop-offs in the sands just offshore. Such huge waves also mean a strong undertow, which makes Playa Zicatela perfect for watching pro-surfers, but terrible for relaxed swimming.
Where Can I Surf in Puerto Escondido?
Here is a list of the best places to surf in Puerto Escondido:
- Playa Zicatela: Spanning 3km of golden sands, Playa Zicatela is the most popular surf spot in Puerto Escondido. The beach is the home of the “Mexican Pipeline” – an unforgiving series of epic barrel waves that reach heights of 40 feet! Because of the strong undertow, this surf spot is only recommended for expert surfers. However, there are several surfing schools nearby where you can take lessons.
- Playa Carrizalillo: Situated to the north of Playa Zicatela, Playa Carrizalillo is perfect for beginner surfers. The tide isn’t too strong, the waves aren’t too big, and there are a couple of surfing schools nearby where you can learn how to surf. Although you will have to climb down 167 steps to reach Playa Carrizalillo, your effort will be rewarded by beautiful blue waters and golden sands bordered by steep cliffs.
- Playa La Punta: Located to the southeast of Playa Zicatela, Playa La Punta is ideal for both beginner and intermediate surfers. The smaller gentler waves at Playa La Punta provide an opportunity for novices to get some practice in before tackling the bigger unruly waves of Zicatela. There’s also a surfing school in the area for those who want some proper lessons.
How Big Are the Waves in Puerto Escondido?
Puerto Escondido is home to the epic “Mexican Pipeline,” one of the world’s biggest and fastest waves. The Mexican Pipeline comprises tubular barrel waves that reach heights of up to 40 feet, just off the shores of Playa Zicatela. The beautiful rolling waves attract some of the world’s best surfers who come to pit themselves against the unruly barrels.
When is the Best Time to Surf in Puerto Escondido?
Surf season in Puerto Escondido runs from late April to the start of May and continues into early September. The best time to surf in Puerto Escondido is between May and August. Although the beaches are crowded at this time of year, this is when the ocean is at its most active and the waves at their most consistent. That said, there are still plenty of decent waves up to November.
How Many Days Do You Need in Puerto Escondido?
A minimum of seven days is enough for Puerto Escondido. Although Puerto Escondido mainly attracts a surfing crowd, non-surfers can easily fill a week or two here as well. In fact, once you start to add in trips to the lagoon and other attractions nearby, you may start to feel that 7 days is barely enough to scratch the surface.
The beauty of Puerto is that it is a real town – not a cluster of all-inclusives, therefore getting to know the place is a lot of fun. If you enjoy exploring new, off-the-beaten path destinations, you will never get bored in Puerto Escondido. In addition to visiting the many beautiful beaches, there are lots of great places to eat, good shopping and you can find something to do every day.
Which is Better – Huatulco or Puerto Escondido?
Ultimately, your choice between Huatulco and Puerto Escondido will depend on your travel style and vacation plans. Each Mexican beach destination has its own pros and cons that should be carefully considered before deciding on where to go. Here are some pointers to help you decide:
- Travel Style: Huatulco is a resort town conceived and built by the government. It’s the type of place you go to stay at a resort, rather than to truly experience Mexico. On the other hand Puerto Escondido is a real town that also happens to be an attractive vacation destination.
- Authenticity: Puerto Escondido is more charming and rustic than Huatulco, having been a quiet fishing village/ port for a long time before the tourists began to flock. As such, you will find a more authentic Mexican experience here than in Huatulco which is a bit more touristy.
- Beaches: Built around 9 bays, Huatulco has 36 beautiful beaches – each with its own charm. Boasting golden sands fringed by turquoise waters, most of Huatulco’s beaches are safe for swimming. While Puerto Escondido also has nice beaches, some are dangerous for swimming.
- Snorkeling: Huatulco offers better opportunities for snorkeling and scuba-diving than Puerto Escondido, with lots of calm beaches and quiet bays to explore. Moreover, the ocean waters in Huatulco are generally clearer than in Puerto Escondido, thereby providing better visibility.
- Surfing: Famous for epic barrel waves reaching 40 feet high, Playa Zicatela in Puerto Escondido is one of the top surfing spots in the world. Although it is possible to do some surfing at Playa La Bocana in Huatulco, the waves here are nowhere near the size you will get in Puerto Escondido.
- Accommodation: Although Puerto Escondido has many good accommodation options including small hotels and private rentals, it doesn’t have the large beachfront all-inclusive resorts found in Huatulco. That said, Huatulco also has some nice smaller hotels located in the town center.
- Safety: Travelers are more likely to be treated tourists and hassled in Huatulco than in Puerto Escondido. In Huatulco, you can expect to be overcharged for food and drinks. Moreover, if you sit on the beach in front of your resort, the vendors hawking their wares will bother you.
- Relaxation: If the main goal of your vacation is to take things slow and unwind, then Puerto Escondido is a better choice than Huatulco. Because there is little to see and do, Puerto is the perfect place to just chill out and relax. But if you need more action for your trip, go to Huatulco.
- Vibe: If you prefer a more low-key traditional vibe to a touristy feel, then Puerto Escondido is the better choice than Huatulco. Puerto is more laid-back with a slower pace and a less western/ commercial vibe than Huatulco, which may feel a bit too artificially designed to target tourists.
- Traveler-Type: Generally speaking, Puerto Escondido is for the young to middle-aged, while Huatulco is ideal for the elderly. Most travelers who visit Puerto Escondido are the independent, adventurous types who do not wish to be confined in the all-inclusive resorts of Huatulco.