On the West Coast of Mexico in the state of Oaxaca sits Puerto Escondido, the bohemian surf town rapidly growing in popularity. Puerto Escondido, or PE, as many locals and visitors affectionately call it, certainly isn’t Mexico’s best-kept secret. However, PE doesn’t draw in the same amount of guests as other popular beach cities like Cancun and Los Cabos.
Renowned for its soaring surf and laid-back beaches, Puerto Escondido is far enough off the beaten track that many visitors come to relax or get away from big cities and resort destinations.
Thanks to the town’s growing number of yoga studios, quirky eateries, all-night ‘secret’ raves, and—of course—famous surf, plenty of free-spirited types gather to experience the town’s charming bohemian vibes.
With more and more tourists flocking to discover Puerto Escondido’s humble charm, now’s the time to visit the town before it transforms into the likes of Tulum, another hippie beach town now heaving with visitors.
Keep reading for our guide on making the most of this enchanting hideaway. Before PE becomes one of Mexico’s big holiday destinations.
How to Get There
First thing’s first: how does one reach Puerto Escondido? Well, the town is only accessible by domestic flights or a six-hour drive from Oaxaca City. This may be why the town is still relatively quiet compared to some of Mexico’s beachside resort cities.
It used to take quite the journey to reach this paradise. Visitors were typically local tourists, long-term backpackers, and committed surfers. Thankfully, today’s flights to Puerto Escondido are more affordable and frequent, so reaching this coastal gem is easier than ever before.
Unless you’d like to embark on the six-hour drive from Oaxaca City (a vibrant gem that’s definitely worth a visit – the food is heavenly), your best bet is finding a flight into Puerto Escondido’s local airport.
Budget your trip: Hotels hover around $50/night, and one bedroom apartment can be found in the city center for sub $300/month. Grab a coffee for less than $3 and enjoy a hearty meal for two for $20.
What to Do in Puerto Escondido
There’s plenty to do in Puerto Escondido. Think world-class surfing, yoga, meditation, scuba diving, and of course, there’s plenty of palm tree-fringed beaches to bake in the afternoon sun.
Watch a Sunset (Or Several)
Puerto Escondido’s sunsets are sublime. For many visitors, watching the sunset is a daily ritual.
Head to PE’s beaches, and you’ll find visitors and locals doing everything from acro yoga to meditating to playing beach volleyball – especially in the La Punta area.
Discover the Beaches and Wildlife
When it comes to beaches, Playa Carrizalillo is PE’s most spectacular. This small pale curve of beach is surrounded by lush, verdant jungle; and the bright blue water is difficult to resist plunging into.
Another beach, Playa Bacoho, is the go-to spot for releasing sea turtles. For around 200 pesos ($10), you can gently set a baby turtle onto the sand from a coconut shell. Then, you’ll watch the tiny creature scramble to the waves to (hopefully) start a new life.
The money goes toward local sanctuaries, so if you want a cool experience while supporting a great cause, this is worth doing.
Another popular wildlife excursion is to hop on a boat to search the sea for whales, dolphins, and turtles. Humpback whales pass through this part of Mexico, so spotting them while sailing around PE is easy to come by. While you may notice the magnificent creatures breaching from the shores of the beaches, there’s nothing like seeing these gentle giants up close.
In many cases, you’ll be lucky enough to watch several humpback whales splashing out of the water and pods of elegant dolphins zooming in and out of the sea.
As mentioned, PE is one of Mexico’s surf capitals, and people flock from all over the world to challenge the waves. While the beaches of Carrizalillo and La Punta are ideal for beginners, if you’re looking for a challenge, you’ll find monster waves crashing on Zicatela Beach.
Eat and Party
By night, there is a range of Mexican and international restaurants selling delicious food, buzzy bars, and ‘secret’ raves to bust shapes until the wee hours of the morning.
For a filling and affordable breakfast or brunch, you can’t go wrong with El Cafecito in the Zicatela area. Their portions are so generous it can be challenging to finish the plate. The bonus is that El Cafecito is also perfectly positioned for people watching as you munch into your morning meal.
Choose from scrumptious Mexican favorites such as the huevos oaxaqueños, eggs cooked in a spicy tomato sauce and topped with local quesillo cheese. They come dished up with refried beans, totopo chips, and tortillas to ensure your belly stays full for the morning.
Alternatively, you can’t go wrong with a helping of El Cafeicto’s large, American-style pancakes.
Spirulina is another breakfast and brunch favorite with both indulgent and healthy options available. The chocolate chip pancakes are to die for, and the smoothies are heavenly.
Or you can head to the quaint Elephant Garden and enjoy breakfast or lunch in the cafes’ delightful courtyard area surrounded by pretty greenery.
While there are many yummy restaurants to visit in the Rinconada area, Espadin Restaurant positioned on the cliffs overlooking the paradise beach of Playa Carrizalilo is a must-visit.
After a day of swimming and relaxing on the beautiful shores of Playa Carrizalillo, what could be better than enjoying a fresh and fruity cocktail watching the sun melting into the open horizon?
While Espadin is one of the pricier restaurants in town, the views and food quality make a splurge well worth it. Try to book if you can. As you can imagine, this place gets popular.
The buzzy, bohemian district of La Punta is lined with yummy restaurants and cafes to dine in.
Café Ole is a breakfast favorite, dishing up generous staples including pancakes, muesli bowls, and tasty, thirst-quenching juices. Be prepared to queue for a spot, though.
If you like Peruvian food, head to Chicama, serving up authentic Peruvian cuisine like Peruvian ceviche and pisco sours. Not only is the food divine, but the atmosphere is amazing too.
Another dinner hotspot is the Italian restaurant Mundaka, doling out scrumptious pizzas and pasta in a warm and inviting atmosphere.
Where to Stay
Which neighborhood you stay in Puerto Escondido can make a significant difference to your trip. While PE isn’t a huge town, it definitely isn’t walkable, and you’ll need to use taxis or public transport to travel between the districts. Or, you can rent a scooter if you know how to drive.
Though there are many neighborhoods in PE, there are about four that most travelers tend to stay in.
La Punta is the place to be for young travelers and backpackers looking for a good time. While La Punta is a small neighborhood, it’s very compact with plenty to do. In La Punta, you’ll find plenty of restaurants, bars, and yoga studios attracting a youthful, bohemian crowd.
Head to La Punta beach, which is excellent for surfing, people watching and some of the city’s best sunsets.
Zicatela is more spacious than La Punta, with a huge stretch of beach to enjoy. It’s an excellent base if you’re mainly seeking beach and nightlife, but it isn’t as trendy as La Punta and lacks its creativity and atmosphere.
Of all the neighborhoods, Zicatela is the area that resembles a busier Mexican beach destination like Cancun or Cozumel, just without the crowds.
Despite being less busy than La Punta, the best beach parties are found at Zicatela, mainly at local clubs including Xcaanda, Iguana, and Cactus.
For a more laid-back, relaxed experience, Rinconada is the place to be. The district is close to the pale-sand beaches of Carrizalillo, Bacocho, and Coral. If you’re a bit of a beach bum, Rinconada may be for you.
While you’re unlikely to spend the night partying away in Rinconada, there are plenty of excellent restaurants and cafes. This includes PE’s most sophisticated establishment Espadin, as mentioned above.
Rinconada is ideal for couples and families seeking a chilled beach getaway without the stress of crowds or loud music pumping into the early hours of the morning,
The main hub of PE, Centro, isn’t particularly popular with travelers. It isn’t within walking distance to the beaches, and it can be pretty crowded and hectic.
However, if you’re seeking a more authentic Mexican experience, Centro is the closest you’ll get in Puerto Escondido. Not only are you likely to rub shoulders with more locals, you’ll also get more bang for your buck when it comes to accommodation and food.
Plus, Centro is close to everything you’ll need, such as supermarkets, ATMs, bus stations, and more. Anyway, a collectivo ride is only 40 pesos ($2), so it’s cheap and easy to explore from the area.
Planning to explore the rest of the region during your visit to Puerto Escondido? Read about the Intangible Magic of Oaxaca.