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Puerto Escondido Oaxaca: Definitive Travel Guide (2023)

  • Joel CZ 
  • 16 min read
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Puerto Escondido is a highly praised paradise for beach fans and surfers alike. Your trip will be unforgettable with today’s guide to this cozy Oaxacan coastal town.

This Magical beach town is the most populated place on the coast of Oaxaca, in the municipality of San Pedro Mixtepec.

Oaxaca City is shy of 100 km from Puerto Escondido, while the trip from Mexico City is about 760 km south to Acapulco and then southeast to the coast of Oaxaca.

How did Puerto Escondido come about?

There is no evidence that pre-Hispanic natives occupied the territory of Puerto Escondido, nor did the Spaniards settle there during the colonial period.

The oldest references to the site refer to a legend attributed to the pirate Andrew Drake, brother of Francis Drake.

This English pirate of the second half of the XVI century would have kidnapped a young native Mixtec girl, who later managed to escape, hiding in the jungle, which is why the bay was called La Escondida.

Starting in the 1930s, Puerto Escondido Oaxaca began to develop as a commercial hub, and tourist flows started in the 1960s with the construction of Highway 200 linking Acapulco with Oaxaca.

What is the weather like?

As in any Mexican Pacific coastal city, Puerto Escondido boasts a tropical climate, with an average annual temperature of 28 °C.

Temperatures may have few seasonal variations in the locality since in the less hot months, which are December and January, it may drop to around 23 °C.

Between November and April, there is practically no rain in Puerto Escondido.

In the hottest period, from May to September, the average temperature is around 30 °C.

The rainy season is from May to October when more than 95% of the 946 mm of rain falls annually.

TOP things to do and see in Puerto Escondido Oaxaca in 2023

puerto escondido oaxaca
Source: Isaac Guerrero / flickr.com

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Puerto Escondido is a true paradise for beach and surfing lovers.

You will find sandy beaches for all tastes, with calm or intense water, white or gray sand, and a solitary or crowded atmosphere.

The main beaches of Puerto Escondido and its surroundings include:

  • Playa Principal
  • Playa Marinero
  • Puerto Angelito
  • Playa Zicatela
  • Playa Carrizalillo
  • Mazunte
  • Zipolite
  • Playa Bacocho
  • Rocablanca

In the urban area of Puerto Escondido, you must visit El Adoquín, while among the towns close to the municipal capital are Rio Grande, La Barra de Colotepec, San Gabriel Mixtepec, San Pedro Juchatengo, and Santa Catarina Juquila.

Likewise, the Manialtepec Lagoon and the Lagunas de Chacahua National Park are natural spaces of great beauty.

Here’s the breakdown of all the beaches and places to visit.

Puerto Escondido’s main beach

puerto escondido oaxaca
Main beach – Source: Andrey Sulitskiy / flickr.com

This beach with calm waves is located on the eastern side of Puerto Escondido’s bay.

It is approximately half a kilometer long and is shaded by coconut trees, its sand is gray, and the water is warm and has a green and turquoise tone.

The fishermen of Puerto Escondido arrive on this beach with their fresh fish cargo and other seafood.

At “Playa Principal,” you can catch a boat to watch turtles, dolphins, and maybe whales and get to know the surroundings. Whale season is between November and March.

Also, from Playa Principal, the boats leave for the sea with those interested in practicing sport fishing. Read more about fishing in Mexico.

Playa Marinero

puerto escondido oaxaca
Marinero beach – Source: ajburcar / flickr.com

This small sandy beach, approximately 200 meters long, is located east of the main beach and is highly recommended for surfing and bodysurfing enthusiasts, particularly beginners.

You may want to read: What are the 9 Bays of Huatulco Mexico?

If you want to enjoy the most attractive sunset in Puerto Escondido, you must go to this grayish sand beach and turquoise-green and blue water.

Another thing you can do in Playa Marinero is rent a horse. It has a hotel, restaurant, and other beach services.

Puerto Angelito

puerto escondido oaxaca mexico
Puerto Angelito – Source: Jose Miguel Escobar Perez / flickr.com

This beach, located about 10 minutes west of El Adoquín, is ideal for swimming and the enjoyment of the whole family, especially children and seniors, due to its water’s tranquility and shallow depth.

Puerto Angelito has warm, clear water, and its sand is fine-grained and white.

The transparency of the green and blue-toned water makes them suitable for snorkeling with your equipment or with one rented on-site.

The shore is shaded by coconut trees and has a restaurant, palapas, and hammocks.

Zicatela beach: Best surf in Puerto Escondido Oaxaca

Zicatela is a beach of intense waves, the best for surfing, not only in Puerto Escondido but in all of Mexico.

This long beach is among the three best in the world for the height of the waves, which can reach 6 meters.

It is common to see the most skilled surfers struggling to stay on the waves, which is often the scene of world surfing competitions, bringing together the most experienced athletes on the planet.

Zicatela’s wide 3 km long sandy beach is also magnificent for sunbathing. The name “Zicatela” means “Place of big thorns” in the indigenous language.

La Punta Zicatela

Playa Punta Zicatela is the southernmost end of Playa Zicatela in Puerto Escondido, so it is common for tourists to confuse the two beaches. However, their differences are notable.

Playa Zicatela is known for having the third largest wave in the world, while Playa Punta Zicatela is ideal for amateur or beginner surfers.

They are located at the extremes (Zicatela north end, Punta Zicatela, south end).

Playa Carrizalillo

puerto escondido oaxaca
Playa Carrizalillo – Source: Jose Miguel Escobar Perez / flickr.com

Towards the east of Puerto Escondido, a fifteen-minute walk from the center of town is this spectacular little beach, small but beautiful.

The incoming land encloses the beach at both ends, so the waves are relatively calm.

Playa Carrizalillo is only accessible on foot through a stone staircase that goes down to the sea, so it is essential that visitors take good care of the area and don’t leave garbage behind.

Carrizalillo has a rocky area where you can practice scuba diving and snorkeling.

Explore Mazunte beach, Oaxaca

puerto escondido oaxaca
Mazunte beach – Source: Sofia Castillon / flickr.com

55 km from Puerto Escondido is Mazunte, a beach famous for its sea turtles.

One of the versions of the origin of the Nahua name “Mazunte” is “please deposit eggs here” because of the large number of turtles that go there to lay their eggs.

For a time, Mazunte lived from the irrational industrial exploitation of turtles to sell their meat, eggs, shell, and bones.

Fortunately, that era ended, and now the town is an environmental symbol of Oaxaca with its Mexican Turtle Center.

Mazunte’s beach has beautiful green and blue water with pleasantly rustic facilities.

Playa Zipolite, the nudist beach

zipolite beach
Zipolite Beach – Source: Ben and Debs Blench / flickr.com

Zipolite, located 70 km from Puerto Escondido, was the first nudist beach in Mexico and continues to welcome people who like to swim, sunbathe and stroll along the sands with as little clothes or nothing at all.

You may want to read: Nude Beaches and Hotels in Mexico: Where are They?

In January 2016, Zipolite beach hosted the Latin American Naturism Meeting, an event that brings together nudists from Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, and other subcontinent nations.

The word “Zipolite” means “place of the dead” for having been an indigenous cemetery.

The beach also stands out for its gastronomic offer, with several restaurants that prepare delicious dishes with fresh fish and seafood from the Pacific.

Playa Bacocho

bacocho beach
Bacocho Beach – Source: Vamos Away Vamosaway / flickr.com

Bacocho is a public beach in Puerto Escondido, located 4 km east of the municipal capital along the coastal road to the city of Pinotepa Nacional.

It is a long sandy beach, ideal for beach joggers, and is divided into three zones delimited by rocky structures.

It has palm trees in some sectors, and the width of the sandy area reaches up to 70 meters in some places.

The beach is gently sloping, with warm, blue-green water and fine-textured, grayish-colored sand.

Playa Rocablanca

This charming beach is 35 km from Puerto Escondido, on the road to the town of Pinotepa Nacional.

Thousands of birds, such as seagulls, pelicans, and cormorants, live on a big rock located 300 meters offshore, depositing their guano on the surface, turning it white.

The 6 km long beach has two sectors; the longer one is of intense waves, but in a smaller area on the west side, there is a small cove called Laguna Lagartero, where the sea is calmer.

Rocablanca beach was one of the set locations of the acclaimed Mexican movie “Y tu mamá también.”

Stroll through el Adoquin in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

puerto escondido oaxaca
Source: Shane Adams / flickr.com

The old part of Puerto Escondido, the city’s busiest and most traditional zone, is called El Adoquín or El Adoquinado and is located very close to the central bay.

It was the first paved street in the town and now the most important one.

Here you will find handicraft shops, restaurants, places to eat a snack, bars with live music, pharmacies, and other services.

Vehicular traffic is closed at night, making El Adoquín a bustling place to walk safely.

Explore the Manialtepec Lagoon

manialtepec lagoon
Source: Cornelis Kolbach / flickr.com

This coastal lagoon is one of the rare ecosystems in the world where three types of water come together: fresh water from the river, salty water from the sea, and thermal water from a spring.

It is about 15 km long, and its mangroves can reach a height of 15 meters. “Manialtepec” means “place where the water springs from the hill” in the Nahua language.

At night, the lagoon offers the beautiful spectacle of its bioluminescence generated by a species of algae that lives in its water.

Biodiversity enthusiasts tour the lagoon in boats to observe reptiles and birds, particularly herons, parrots, and ducks.

Lagunas de Chacahua National Park

chacahua national park
Mangroves in the Chacahua Lagoon National Park – Source: Richard Jack / flickr.com

This magnificent protected area of 132 square kilometers, 74 km west of Puerto Escondido, is formed by several contiguous water bodies with extensions of green lake vegetation, mainly mangroves.

The main lagoons are Chacahua, La Pastoria, and Las Salinas.

You can tour the park by boat, taking you through the lagoons and the canals among the mangroves, stopping at a crocodile farm.

Nearby there are virgin beaches where it is a delight to camp.

The park is the habitat of various birds, such as storks, wild ducks, herons, pelicans, and spoonbills, as well as some turtle species that come to lay their eggs.

What are the attractions of Rio Grande?

48 km west of Puerto Escondido Oaxaca is the exciting town of Rio Grande, also called Piedra Parada, which belongs to the Oaxacan municipality of Villa de Tututepec de Melchor Ocampo.

The name Piedra Parada (standing stone) comes from a legend of a 9-year-old boy who was hunting and, chasing an iguana, went into a cave where he found three sculptures belonging to an ancient family of Chatinos, the oldest pre-Hispanic people of Oaxaca.

Visit La Barra de Colotepec, Oaxaca

puerto escondido oaxaca
Colotepec river – Source: estebanmtz / flickr.com

This small coastal community belongs to the municipality of Santa María Colotepec, also known as Barra 1 – About 6 km from Puerto Escondido.

The Colotepec River drains into the area, and Barra 1 is located on the western side. On the eastern shore of the stream, a little further away from Puerto Escondido, is Barra 2.

From the “barras,” there are spectacular views of the river and the ocean, and the area is a refuge for several fauna species, such as turtles that have their habitat in the river delta, crocodiles, and birds.

On the river banks, there are informal restaurants serving excellent seafood and local delicacies.

What stands out in San Gabriel Mixtepec?

San Gabriel Mixtepec is a picturesque coffee-growing town located 111 km inland from Puerto Escondido Oaxaca, distinguished by its tranquility and pleasant climate.

San Gabriel Mixtepec is the capital of the Oaxacan municipality of the same name, belonging to the Juquila District of the Coastal Region.

The main attractions of San Gabriel Mixtepec are its small central town, with the main square and the parish church, and the San Gabriel River, which is a tributary of the Colotepec.

San Pedro Juchatengo

45 km south of Puerto Escondido is the small town of San Pedro Juchatengo, with good potential for ecotourism, although its service infrastructure is still modest.

This town belongs to the District of Juquila, in the Coastal Region, and its main attractions are the Atoyac River and the Salacua stream, which have beautiful spots.

San Pedro Juchatengo celebrates a lively carnival, and the patron saint festivities in honor of San Pedro on June 21 are very colorful.

The town also hosts a large number of visitors who make the pilgrimage to Santa Catarina Juquila to celebrate the Virgin of Juquila.

What is the importance of Santa Catarina Juquila?

juquila oaxaca
Virgin of Juquila Sanctuary – Source: Thomas Aleto / flickr.com

This town, located 99 km southwest of Puerto Escondido, is one of Oaxaca’s main religious tourism destinations due to the significant pilgrimage to the Virgin of Juquila Sanctuary.

On December 8, it gathers up to 20 thousand faithful from several Oaxacan towns and other states.

The sanctuary is a beautiful white temple distinguished by its elegance and architectural sobriety.

In the main façade of two bodies and a triangular top, the portal with a semicircular arch, the choir window, and the clock in the superior part stand out.

The church has two twin towers, with bell towers of a span per side and cupular crowning.

Main festivals in Puerto Escondido Oaxaca

If you can go to Puerto Escondido in November, you will make your beach vacation coincide with the most festive period of the town since, during that month, the so-called Fiestas de Noviembre (November Festivities) are held.

Several state entities and private organizations join forces to present a rich program of cultural, social, and sporting events.

There are 30 days of musical concerts, popular dances, surfing competitions, motocross, fishing, beach volleyball, and other sports.

One of the most striking spectacles of the November Festival is the Festival Costeño de Danza, with the participation of groups from all regions of Oaxaca. Puerto Escondido’s carnival is also very lively.

Puerto Escondido’s gastronomy

Fish Zarandeado
Fish “Zarandeado” – Source: Esparta Palma / Flickr.com

The culinary art of Puerto Escondido is based on coastal Oaxacan cuisine, with fish and seafood in the foreground.

One of the typical local seafood delicacies is fish zarandeado.

The “butterflied” fish is grilled and spread with mayonnaise after being marinated in a sauce based on roasted guajillo chiles and other ingredients.

Other local seafood specialties include caldo de caracoles (sea-snail broth) and sopa de mariscos (seafood soup).

However, if you are in the mood for inland Oaxacan food in Puerto Escondido, you can enjoy mole negro, cecina enchilada, tasajo, tlayudas, and grasshopper tacos, among other delicacies.

Best restaurants in Puerto Escondido

  • La Olita Restaurant is highly recommended, and its menu is varied, serving Mexican food, seafood, and international cuisine. Their signature dishes include grilled octopus, seafood, and tacos. They also make some of the best cocktails in town
  • El Cafecito offers excellent breakfast; they bake their own bread, and their enchiladas are great. The coffee here is so good, plus it is local
  • Almoraduz stands out for its signature Mexican cuisine; they have a reduced menu but designed with great culinary wisdom and a well-stocked wine cellar
  • Turtle Bay Restaurant is another excellent choice. The shrimp with mango habanero, grilled octopus, and chorizo risotto with octopus stand out

There are many other great dining options in Puerto Escondido, such as Italian restaurant Luna Rossa and El Sultan (middle eastern food).

Lodging in Puerto Escondido

puerto escondido oaxaca
Villas Carrizalillo – Source: Victoria Baxter / flickr.com
  • Quinta Lili, at Cangrejos 104, Playa Carrizalillo, is a lodging highly praised by its guests, who highlight the beauty of the place, the careful attention, and the delicious breakfasts
  • Hotelito Swiss Oasis (adults only), on Andador Gaviotas in Playa Zicatela, is a friendly family-style lodging where you can use the kitchen
  • Villas Carrizalillo is a gorgeous rustic place with the best ocean view and a terrace overlooking the beach

For more hotel options in Puerto Escondido Oaxaca, please read: 9 Best Hotels in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca.

I hope you enjoyed this guide to Puerto Escondido Oaxaca and that it will be helpful on your next visit to this beautiful coastal destination. See you again soon. Vamonos!

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