Reasons to Visit Puerto Escondido, Mexico's Best Kept Secret Beach Town

Puerto Escondido is a laid-back Mexican beach getaway
Puerto Escondido is a laid-back Mexican beach getaway | © Arbelaez F / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Richard Collett
24 September 2021

Surfing, sunbathing and relaxation are in plentiful supply in Puerto Escondido, the Pacific coast’s charmingly laid-back beach town.

Puerto Escondido is the ultimate Mexican beach getaway. Ideal for those seeking to surf killer Pacific pipelines or just hang out on the beach with a margarita, it might not be so secret as it used to be, but Oaxaca’s number one coastal town has yet to be overtaken by the resorts and all-inclusives. You can order up shrimp tacos on the beach, surf with the pros at Playa Zicatela or discover sea turtle sanctuaries and pods of dolphins on boat tours along the coast. Here are the best reasons to visit Puerto Escondido, Mexico’s best-kept secret beach town.

Beaches

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Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico, South America: [Playa Carrizalillo, crowdwed natural beach, tourist destination]
© JZajic / Alamy Stock Photo

If you’re in town for the beaches, then you’re not going to be disappointed, because Puerto Escondido has the most extensive coastline in the state of Oaxaca. If you’re here for the surfing, then head to Playa Zicatela, where professionals tackle the surging surf that creates the 13ft (4m) Mexican Pipeline. Otherwise, take the 160 steps leading down to Playa Carrizalillo, where you can bask in the sun in a secluded cove, while at Playa Bacocho you’ll find an endless strip of white sand, lined by beach bars and clubs.

Adoquín

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Looking for the center of Puerto Escondido? Then take a stroll along the Adoquín, the beach town’s main tourist strip that’s lined with bars and restaurants. The best time to visit is in the evening – after 5pm – when the Adoquín is closed to traffic and gets turned into a pedestrianized street. Take a walk along the Adoquín once the sun has set, bargain for souvenirs at the pop-up stalls, then jump into a cantina for a few fish tacos, tlayudas and a cold Corona.

Surfing

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Young female surfers riding breaking wave on surfboards at Playa Zicatela near Puerto Escondido, San Pedro Mixtepec, Oaxaca, Mexico
© Arterra Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo

Puerto Escondido might be one of Mexico’s best-kept secret beach towns, but it’s been well known to surfers for decades. Playa Zicatela is home to the legendary Mexican Pipeline, a powerful wave that should only be tackled by experienced surfers. It’s large and consistent enough to regularly attract world championship competitions to the beach, but if you’re just learning to surf, there are beaches for you, too. Beginners and intermediates should head to Playa Carrizalillo, where you can have lessons or rent a board to surf the calmer waves that consistently hit the beach.

Sea turtles

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Have you ever wanted to release a baby sea turtle into the ocean? Well, this is your chance! Puerto Escondido’s Pacific coastline is an important breeding ground for sea turtles and as part of local conservation efforts, tourists can play their part by helping these tiny turtles reach the water. There are several major nesting grounds for olive ridley sea turtles close to Puerto Escondido, with Playa Bacocho being one of the most popular locations for turtle releases. Nesting season is from July to January, and releases happen almost daily throughout this time – and always at sunset.

Dolphins

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Wake up as the sun rises over Puerto Escondido and head down to the beach to join a dolphin-watching tour on the Pacific Ocean. Out on the water, you’ll see spotted dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins and many more species that call the Oaxacan coastline home. Dawn is the best time of day to see the dolphins at their most playful, but keep an eye on the ocean whenever you’re at the beach, because you never know when a pod will cruise in close to the shore!

Puerto Angel

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Mexico, Oaxaca State, Puerto Angel
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

Puerto Escondido isn’t the only secret beach town on the Oaxacan coastline, and if you’re looking for more hidden bays and secluded beaches, then why not take a day trip to Puerto Angel? Part of the Riviera Oaxaqueña, Puerto Angel is very much a fishing village, but there are an increasing number of hotels, restaurants and tour operators servicing travelers looking for a little peace and quiet. The natural harbor is flanked by two sandy beaches that are protected from the strong Pacific currents by rocks, creating a calm haven for swimmers and sea turtles.

Hiking

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Puerto Escondido might be a surf town first, but because the high Oaxacan mountains extend close to the Pacific coast, there’s also excellent hiking to be found. The easiest hikes are beach to beach. From Punta Zicatela, it’s a two-hour hike all the way along Puerto Escondido’s shoreline to Playa Bacocho in the north. If you want to escape the beaches, then waterfalls and mountains await you inland. Avid hikers should get in contact with the Hikers of Puerto Escondido community, which organizes adventurous day hikes every week.

Waterfalls

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Start chasing waterfalls in Puerto Escondido with a trip to La Reforma, an inland cascade hidden away in the mountainous forests of Oaxaca. It’s a journey even getting here, as you’ll need to brave two hours on rough, winding roads – the scenery will be spectacular, though – before slogging through humid jungle to reach the waterfall. Bring your swimsuit, because once you reach the tall cascade tumbling over the cliffs, the first thing you’ll want to do is plunge right into the cold water.

Bioluminescent lagoons

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Manialtepec Lagoon in Oaxaca
© Atlantide Phototravel / Getty Images

Puerto Escondido’s most surreal experience is a boat ride across Manialtepec Lagoon. This natural lagoon is vividly illuminated by the bioluminescence of tiny plankton when darkness falls. Join a tour through this otherworldly phenomenon before jumping in for a nighttime swim amongst the bright blue bioluminescence. Manialtepec Lagoon is also a nature reserve and home to hundreds of species of birds; birdwatching and wildlife tours depart from Puerto Escondido as the sun rises in the morning.

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