The town’s status as a legendary surf destination is down to the so-called Mexican pipeline: a stretch of sea along the Playa Zicatela that produces glorious wave after glorious wave. During the high season in late spring or summer, swells in the pipeline can reach upwards of 20 feet. Because of these conditions, the spot is best suited to advanced surfers. The strong undertow has taken the lives of some and a permanent Caurtel Salvavidas, or lifeguard base, is stationed in front of Restaurante El Jardin.
Whether you have experience on a board or not, the beach is worth a visit. Surfing pros take to the waves year round, and are a great spectacle for novices and aficionados alike.
More suited to surfing beginners, Playa Carrizalillo is a stunning beach to the north of Zicatela. Waves in this section of the coast are far calmer and swimming is allowed. To reach the beach, visitors have to scale the 167 step climb down a rocky cliff face. Yet it’s well worth the effort. Once you reach your destination, you’re guaranteed peace and seclusion.
If you don’t know how to surf but would like to, then Puerto Escondido is a great place to start. The town has a number of schools that provide expert tuition. Puerto Surf House & School is literally a stone’s throw from Playa Zicatela, and offers stylish accommodation as well as morning surf classes. Oasis Surf & Language School continues this multi-tasking approach by providing both surfing and Spanish language lessons.
Puerto Escondido’s reputation as a top surfing destination has been reinforced by the number of top level competitions held at Zicatela Beach. This year competitors from around the world took to the waves to prove themselves in the Puerto Escondido Challenge. Other international competitions such as the MexPipe Challenge and ESPN X Games have also been held in town.
Puerto Escondido confirms the rule: the livelier the surf culture, the more laid back the town. Still referred to affectionately as the “Hidden Port,” the resort is still in touch with its sleepy village roots. Although hotels and surf schools have sprung up in recent years, the town is still relatively undeveloped and makes a pleasant change from the bustling tourist hubs along Mexico’s Caribbean coast. A vibrant café culture is also flourishing in the area, with venues like Café Olé and El Cafecito providing great breakfasts and service.
Café Olé, Calle Alejandro Cardenas, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, +52 954 123 0473
El Cafecito, Benito Juárez 1, Rinconada, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, +52 954 582 3465