As Oaxaca’s smart coastal hideaway continues to up its game, the dining scene in Puerto Escondido grows ever more interesting, with ocean-facing spots and beachside bases brimming with fresh tacos and seafood.
Once an end-of-the-road hangout for surfer-dudes and backpackers on the Pacific Coast hippy trail, Puerto Escondido is now a mainstream resort, with its very own airport to boot. Popular with American vacationers and Mexico City weekenders, this charming town hasn’t altogether lost its barefoot heart and it certainly feels laid-back next to swankier Puerto Vallarta to the north. There’s a wealth of low-key, boho-chic places to stay and eat here – and the very best offer stunning ocean views.
Hunkering next to Zicatela beach, cooled by a balmy breeze and with gorgeous views of the sunset over the ocean, Agua Sala is a spot where people gather on their way to and from the beach – for breakfast, lunch, dinner or just some bar snacks and icy beer. Food is simple but ultra-fresh and well presented: oysters with lemon and chili sauce, chargrilled octopus, tacos brimming over with seafood and served with leafy salads. The atmosphere, like the service, is informal.
The sun sinking orange over the ocean, waves pounding the rocky shore, a turquoise cove at your feet; Espadín is a spot to flop late afternoon – preferably on the palm-roofed terrace, in a comfortable wicker armchair, with an ice-cold mojito. After sunset, dine on quality comfort food like wriggling-fresh coconut shrimp with garlic mash, tuna steaks with fresh coriander, seafood tacos and grilled snapper with cherry tomato and chili salsa.
An Argentinean restaurant means great meat – and nowhere in Escondido serves juicier burgers, more heartily-stuffed beef empanadas, or meltier steak panini sandwiches than this little Porteño-run eatery a few blocks north of Playa del Amor. There’s a smattering of vegetarian and vegan options, a decent wine list and even free dance lessons – though not tango: in Puerto Escondido, even Argentineans, it seems, dance salsa.
This open-sided, palm-thatched restaurant just about sums up Puerto Escondido. Set on a wooden pier over the ocean, furnished with distressed, whitewashed furniture and serving polished comfort food to a crowd of well-to-do beachniks. The margaritas are strong and icy and the menu of bar snacks and mains focuses on old-fashioned, simple fillets of fish with side salads, with a few contemporary concessions that include vegan options and lactose-free milk for your cappuccino.
Head chef Quetzalcoatl Zurita showcases regional Oaxaca cooking at this unpretentious contemporary kitchen just behind Playa Carrizalillo beach: black mole enchiladas come stuffed with confit duck, cheese and parsley; fish of the day is served with chili chiltepes, chimichurri and salad; Oaxaca lava cake comes with prickly pear and a milk popsicle. All of this in an airy, modern dining room daubed in rustic yellow. Alternatively, dine al fresco on the terrace.
With its simple kerbside dining room and terrace – decorated with terracotta floor tiles and furnished with hardwood long-tables – Turtle Bay offers plenty of rustic charm. Their bistro food – which ranks with the best in Puerto Escondido – is unfussy and focused heavily on fresh ingredients: the best cuts of seared tuna come coriander-crusted in a mango, ginger and chili sauce, whilst the octopus with garlic and lime is another winner. The wine list is comprehensive, so you’re guaranteed to find something to match.
Simple food at a great price near the beach? Stroll into La Olita, whose streetside timber tables, kitschy surf murals and bamboo-shack walls look like to have changed little since surfers first arrived in Escondido in the sixties. The menu is stuffed with tacos of all varieties served up in generous portions. Popular choices are spicy shrimp with guacamole or fish of the day with grilled vegetables.
This contemporary Mexican fusion restaurant behind Playa Carrizalillo beach is one of Escondido’s favorite fine-dining spots. Food is served on a large open-air sunset terrace with ocean views. The emphasis is on local Oaxaca cooking, exquisitely prepared by Gerson Madrid Castro. His signature dishes include starters of shrimp marinated in pepper ashes and lemon juice, mains of suckling pig terrine in chicatana (leaf-cutter ant) sauce and octopus tacos served with dried chili adobo marinade with chipotle dressing.
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