Located on the southern Pacific coast of Mexico, Puerto Escondido rapidly became 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.
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 5- to 10-minute cab ride from every place else — including the local airport — and there are great Airbnbs, hotels, and restaurants scattered throughout. Here are a few of my favorite hotel options.
Best beachside: Raiz Hotel Boutique
Just a handful of minutes away from the La Punta beach is Raiz — a charming complex that has a funky, bohemian vibe. The rooms have a decidedly romantic atmosphere, and the poolside, sand-floored restaurant offers an abundance of tasty eats. This is an exceedingly chill place to stay if you’re looking for easy beach access.
Best for pool time: Nectar Hotel
Located in the upper hill section of La Punta, Nectar is the place to stay if you’re all about pool time and tranquility. Offering a combination of private suites and affordable dorms, it’s built around a central pool and restaurant, but it also has a smaller set of pools on the roof alongside a sunning area and bar. This provides plenty of room to spread out and enjoy relaxation, romance, or festivity.
Best budget hotel: Bungalows La Aurora
If you’re looking for a cheap but clean room with convenient access to pretty much everything, La Aurora has you covered. It has no-frills rooms that are totally adequate with a beachside location that is outstanding, and it has a solid pool and great rooftop sitting and kitchen area. What’s more, the people who run the place are supremely friendly.
Puerto Escondido has a wide variety of culinary offerings, with an emphasis on seafood. That being said, the atmosphere tends to be prioritized over gastronomy, so while you’ll often enjoy charming, romantic decor 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. It also has 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 fast eats: the Smoke Shack
If you’re hungry for fast, probably boozy bites, the unique blend of Mexican and Korean barbeque offered by the Smoke Shack is outright delicious. This popular La Punta joint has plenty of tasty food options, but also a fun, lively, frequently DJ-soundtracked vibe. Definitely try the brisket sandwich.
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 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 p.m. 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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