Mexico has long been a popular destination, but that popularity exploded when the pandemic made off-continent travel impossible. One rising region is the stunningly sunny Costa Chica stretch along the Oaxacan coast, where Puerto Escondido in particular has caught the attention of tourists, surfers, and bohemian wanderers from all over the world.
The coast of Oaxaca has plenty to offer. Fantastic beaches and bodacious surfing. Delicious food and welcoming culture. Enormous iguanas that fight each other on your hotel patio. It offers all of this and more. To help you find it, we’re taking a look at where to stay, where to eat, and what to do along the Oaxaqueñan coast.
We’re going to be focusing on the stretch of coast between Puerto Escondido and Huatulco. For all practical purposes, you’ll almost certainly end up staying in one of or all three of these towns:
Currently one of the most popular destinations in the world, Puerto Escondido has become something of a surf mecca. With gorgeous beaches, plenty of great markets to shop, and a pretty much ongoing party, it’s not hard to see why so many travelers are flocking to it.
Mazunte (or Zipolite)
A little over an hour down the coast from Puerto Escondido is the pint-sized town of Mazunte and the adjacent village/beach of Zipolite. This is a much smaller bohemian area with lots of fun hostels and bars. It’s also known for its LGBT-friendly scene and its nude beaches.
At the southern tip of this stretch is Huatulco, which has long been popular among Mexican tourists and is the most developed city in the area. For a while there it seemed to primarily be a hotspot for foreign retirees, but it’s seen a more diverse range of people show up even since the pandemic pushed people to explore wherever they could.
There are a lot of great places to stay throughout this region, with Airbnbs largely being your best bet. That being said, there are plenty of hotels, resorts, bungalows, and even camping opportunities here and there.
Las Brisas Huatulco
Located on the largest hotel property in Huatulco, Las Brisas is a sprawling paradise that boasts luxurious rooms (including some massive ocean-view suites), several private beaches, restaurants, multiple pools, sea kayaks, snorkeling, and more. Carts transport you throughout the resort’s beautiful tropical scenery, and the buffet offers a wide range of tasty eats. With various stay packages — including an all-inclusive option — there’s something for everyone. The guests range from families to couples to retirees, and there is plenty to do (including just kicking back on the beach). All in all this is impressively enormous resort with an abundance of gorgeous views.
- Nearest airport: Bahias de Huatulco International Airport
- Time: 20 minutes
- Distance: 11 miles
Selina Puerto Escondido
There are plenty of hip surf hotels in Puerto Escondido, but Selina really hits on all the more desirable fronts. It’s got comfortable, well-decorated rooms, plenty of opportunities to meet fellow travelers, co-working space with some of the region’s most reliable internet, and — perhaps most importantly — instant proximity to great beaches and bars. And with rates starting at $29 a night, the price is right.
- Nearest airport: Puerto Escondido Airport
- Time: 10 minutes
- Distance: 3 miles
Ocean Restaurant Huatulco
If you’re staying at Las Brisas you’ll have plenty of outstanding food options. If you feel like stepping away from the all-inclusion of your all-inclusive, check out the aptly named Ocean Restaurant Huatulco, which has an awesome setting and tasty eats.
- Best for: Seafood
Sal y Pimienta
In Mazunte, drop by Sal y Pimienta, where you’ll enjoy beachside seating and a great selection of seafood. It’s also right in the heart of town, making it a great place to stop off for a meal in the middle of a day of wandering.
- Best for: Lunch
Puerto Escondido has boomed in popularity thanks to its beaches, but the food in the hottest tourist zones tends to be pretty so-so. Instead, head over to Costa Hermosa, which sits on the beach below the bustling Adoquin neighborhood. Hermosa offers a pleasant atmosphere, beautiful views (especially at sunset), and quality seafood. They can also hook you up with a fishing boat and crew, if that’s what you’re into.
- Best for: Dinner
This entire stretch of the coast is essentially an outdoor paradise, and accordingly, it offers much in the way of outdoor exploration.
Hit the beaches
Perhaps the most obvious thing to do is hit the beaches. All three of the towns mentioned above have gorgeous options, but arguably the standout is La Punta beach in Puerto Escondido. Here you can surf, swim, enjoy food and booze from a string of beachside restaurants, jump in for a game of volleyball, or simply kick back and enjoy the sun.
View wildlife and release baby turtles
Opportunities to view wildlife abound all along the coast. Arguably the most popular are baby turtle releases (there are several places you can do this, and this one in Puerto Escondido is arguably the most popular), renting boats to fish and watch whales, turtles, dolphins, and other sea life (options abound, but here’s a good one), or one of the lush and lively wildlife preserves like Huatulco National Park.
Beyond indulging in all the outdoor activities offered by this paradise, the next most common engagement involves partying. From bars to clubs to beach parties, a festive, boozy time can be had in any of the aforementioned towns, but the standout is definitely the Zicatela Beach area of Puerto Escondido. Barhop your way along its many beachside clubs and bars, where you’ll find that it’s all too easy to enjoy yourself late into the night — or even deep into the morning.
While prices have gone up throughout the region because of its rising popularity, it’s still entirely possible to enjoy it on a budget. Simply put, the beaches are free. Swimming is free. There are many opportunities to view wildlife and explore the outdoors that are free. Basically, to enjoy the region on the cheap, stick to the beaches.
Your best bet for finding affordable accommodations is via Airbnb. There are plenty of options for under $20 a night, though you will have to be prepared to live hostel-dorm style.
While there are a handful of car rental companies, most of them are pretty terrible. Your best option for a car is via Los Tres Reyes, where they typically have good service and sometimes offer specials for renting by the week. If you’re comfortable on two wheels, ask your hotel or Airbnb host about motorbike or scooter rentals. There are plenty of small “agencies” renting them out, but the cheapest option is to rent from a private bike owner, of which there are many.
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