Located on the southern Pacific coast of Mexico, Puerto Escondido rapidly become one of the world’s hottest surfing destinations over the past decade or so. With its gorgeous beaches, vibrant nightlife, and relative affordability, it’s not hard to see why. It’s the sort of place you go surfing, swim, and take in the sun with a margarita in hand by day, then party late into the night. It also has plenty of opportunities to experience the charming culture of coastal Oaxaca.
With its population clocking in at under 50,000, Puerto Escondido isn’t a big place, but it offers plenty of fun and sun. Whether you’re looking for watersports, wildlife, fiestas, and festivities, or simply to relax on the beach, the town has something for everyone.
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Puerto Escondido is stretched along a few main beaches. To the south is the bohemian party district of La Punta. In the middle is the primary tourist and bar strip of Zicatela. Then to the north are the more family-friendly, residential areas of Carrizalillo and Bacocho. Which region is right for you depends on what you’re looking for, but every place is within a five to 10-minute cab ride from everyplace else — including the local airport — and there are great Airbnbs, hotels, and restaurants scattered throughout.
You shouldn’t have any problem finding a great Airbnb, but here are a few standout accommodations.
Best All-Around: Selina
If you’re looking for a place that covers all the bases, Selina delivers. Located right in the middle of everything along the popular strip of Zicatela, it offers both private and shared rooms, a pool and restaurant, surfing lessons, and a co-working space with the most reliable internet in town. It’s very much one of Puerto’s primary hubs of activity.
Best for Meeting People: One Love Hostel
Positioned at the top of the lively La Punta area, One Love is just a few minutes’ walk from the best swimming beach in town. With a laid-back vibe, popular restaurant, and comfortable communal hang-out spaces, it’s the sort of place you go to meet fellow travelers. It also offers yoga classes, and occasionally hosts live music.
Best Architectural Design: Casona Sforza
Located on the southern edge of town in a quiet area called la Barra, Sforza ramps up the price but also ramps up the luxury. Boasting stunning design, superior privacy, and trip-and-you’re-in-the-sand beach proximity, this is an outstanding place for a more refined getaway. With its open-air construction and natural setting, you really get to get the most out of the beach vibe.
Puerto Escondido has a wide variety of culinary offerings, with the emphasis placed on seafood. That being said, the atmosphere tends to be prioritized over gastronomy, so while you’ll often enjoy charming, romantic décor or dazzling sunsets, the food — generally speaking — is fairly so-so. There are, however, a few places that stand out.
Best Upscale Dining: Metxcalli
Located in the laid-back Rinconada neighborhood, Metxcalli has arguably the best food in town. While it is “pricy” by local standards, its most expensive dishes are still all under $20. They also have a tasty, unique cocktail menu, and a pleasant rooftop setting with a view of the sunset. Try the ribeye tacos, which boast freshly scraped bone marrow.
Best Authentic Food: Mercado Benito Juarez
Taxi into the heart of the town and you’ll find the Benito Juarez Market, which offers a little bit of everything: Produce, leather goods, handicrafts, souvenirs, shoes, clothing, and much, much more. It also houses over a dozen restaurants, all of which offer more or less the same menu and roughly the same delicious quality. Choose one, and go for the mole de pollo, which is a downright delicious Oaxaqueñan dish. This is about as “authentic” an experience as it gets.
Best Seafood: Costa Hermosa
The beachside in the bustling shopping district of Adoquin is Costa Hermosa. There you’ll find an expansive selection of seafood offerings, all of which were freshly caught by local fishermen. The restaurant also has a charming atmosphere, as well as a second-floor seating area where you’ll enjoy a gorgeous view of the sea. If you happen to be interested in fishing, they can also connect you with a local pescador.
Best Sunset: Espadin
Upscale in terms of service, décor, and cuisine, Espadin provides an all-around enjoyable dining experience. All of these are accentuated, however, by its unrivaled sunset views. Positioned on a cliff overlooking the ocean, it provides sunset vistas that are nothing short of glorious. If you want to get a seat during the golden hour, you must make a reservation.
Life in Puerto Escondido is built entirely around the playa. Whether you’re there to surf, fish, explore the wildlife, or simply kick back in the sand, you’ll find no shortage of beach offerings. To that end, here are a few experiences that stand out.
Hit the Beach
While there are several beaches to choose from, which is right for you depends on what you’re looking for. Check out the stunning cove of Carrizalillo for a more laid-back swimming experience, or to find some quick surfing lessons (more on surfing lessons below). At the next cove east, you’ll find Puerto Angelito, which leans hard into family friendliness and on-beach food options. Playa Principal is where you’ll find the marina, where you can charter a boat for fishing or watching whales, dolphins, and sea turtles. Zicatela is the main party beach and offers world-class surfing waves, but it’s only open to surfing during certain parts of the year. Finally to the southeast is La Punta, a hippie-centric, semi-protected cove where you can swim, surf, order drinks and food from beachside restaurants, or jump in on a game of volleyball.
Check Out the Bioluminescence, Baby Sea Turtles, and Other Wildlife
About 20 minutes north of Puerto Escondido is a lagoon where you can experience the vibrant glow of bioluminescent plankton, along with a variety of birds and other wildlife. There are many tour companies that will take you to explore the lagoon via boat, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard.
Several tours will also bring you to release baby sea turtles at locations spanning the coast, or you can taxi to Playa Bacocho yourself where the Baby Turtle Release Centre will set you up with a turtle tyke on the spot. Arrive around 4:30 and plan on sticking around until sunset.
Party It Up Beach-style
Puerto Escondido has a vibrant beach party scene. Visit La Punta at night (pretty much any night) and head toward the music. Ditto for Zicatela, where you can count on most beachside bars raging until the wee hours of the morning. While the quality of the drinks can be inconsistent from one bar to another, they all tend to offer ample opportunity for getting into trouble.
Learn to Surf
Over the past several decades, Puerto Escondido has become something of a surf mecca. If you’re new to the sport, there are numerous options for lessons, from going to one of the surf schools like Oasis Surf or Vidasurf to paying one of the random dudes who will invariably offer lessons at Carrizalillo or La Punta.
Get Some Work Done
It might seem like a funny suggestion, but as Puerto Escondido has become a hotspot for digital nomads, the need for reliable Wi-Fi and a quiet working space has grown. The fact is that the internet is pretty inconsistent throughout the town, especially during the windy off-season. Sometimes it goes out altogether all over town, much to the ire of visitors with video meetings or deadlines. A few places, however, have popped up to provide a solution by installing fiberoptic internet. Oficina del Puerto, for example, offers quiet coworking spaces and dependable internet access.
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