You’ve landed in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. The sun is shining, the waves are crashing, and the smell of spicy Mexican food fills the air. A day in the life looks like this: wake up, indulge in a juicy morning yoga practice, followed by a mouth-watering authentic chilaquiles brekky. Head to the stunning beaches to relax, surf, and prepare for a long day of eating more bomb mexican food and ice cold cervezas.
In this guide, we'll take a look at:
- 1. The Food
- 2. Surf, surf, and oh yeah, surf
- 3. Head to the beach!
- 4. Snorkeling & Diving
- 5. Laguna de Manialtepec
- 6. Explore Chacahua Lagoon
- 7. Watch the Turtles Release
- 8. Dolphin / Whale Watching
- 9. Detox in Atotonilco Hot Springs
- 10. Go Fishing!
Welcome to Puerto Escondido
Nestled along the Pacific coast in the state of Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido is most notoriously known for its epic waves and chilled out surf vibes. With one of the heaviest waves in all of Mexico, surfers travel to this little pirate town from all over the world.
It’s not just good for the surfers, however- Puerto Escondido has a wide array of things to do for the non-surfers too. From experiencing Oaxaca’s world famous food, to kayaking and watching thousands of turtles hatching, Puerto Escondido has something for everyone.
Here are a few thing you don’t want to miss in Puerto Escondido~
1. The Food
There’s a reason I put this point as number one- it’s the most important part of being in Mexico. Now, I might be a little biased having grown up in the southwest United States where we eat more Mexican food than “American” food (whatever that is…?) but even after traveling all over the world, I will still argue that Mexican food is some of the best cuisine in the world. If you like boring, plain, and bland dishes, then you should skip the food in Puerto Escondido. But if you’re a fellow spice-lover (and have great taste in cuisine!), then you’ll die and go to heaven for the food in Puerto Escondido.
Here are some things you definitely don’t want to miss:
The traditional Oaxacan dish that consists of a partially fried or toasted tortilla covered with a spread of refried beans, asiento, lettuce or cabbage, avocado, meat, Oaxaca cheese, and salsa. This dish is notorious to the entire state of Oaxaca and is absolutely delicious.
Protip: ask for salsa picante, if you dare!
If you haven’t yet tried mole, then you’re in for a serious treat. Mole (pronounced like mole’ in guacamole), is a salsa typical to Mexico, but probably unlike any ‘salsa’ that comes to your mind. Some moles can have up to 30 ingredients, and sometimes take days to prepare. These ‘salsas’ also have ingredients you might not think of when you think “salsa”, such as chocolate, cinnamon, almonds, and peanuts, and lots of other ingredients.
The most common mole in the state of Oaxaca is mole negro, which is (in my opinion) one of the most delicious! This mole has notes of chocolate, cinnamon, cumin, and clove, and is one of the more mild mole’s for those of you who can’t hang with the spicy food.
Smoked Fish Tacos
Being on the pacific coast, naturally Puerto Escondido offers a wide array of mouth watering seafood. The unspoken favorite however, is smoked fish tacos. Imagine freshly caught fish, smoked and prepared with delicious salsa. Add some veggies, and throw it all in a grilled tortilla, and bam! Any craving you had in the world is now satisfied. (Yes, they’re really that good).
I recommend heading over to a cool little spot called none other than “Smoked Fish Tacos”. This little taco shop is near Ricatella beach and is not only the perfect spot for taco lovers, but for all of you who are too lazy to make decisions as the menu only offers three items: Smoked fish tacos, fried fish tacos, and shrimp tacos. Cheap, delicious, and awesome vibes.
If you’re staying with Selina you can enjoy the healthy, vegan and vegetarian options at the on-site restaurant. Make sure you eat there on Mondays to enjoy their “native day”- they theme their menu around what’s fresh at the local market.
Maybe people are lazy with their restaurant names in Puerto Escondido, but just like Smoked Fish Tacos, the name of ‘Spirulina’ literally says it all. This health food shop offers awesome health food options for the health conscious, included but not limited to smoothies, smoothie bowls, and of course, spirulina!.
Meaning ‘little cafe’ in Spanish, this cute little cafe offers exceptional mexican food with generous portions. This is a great spot to ‘carb up’ with a hearty meal before a long day with big waves. Don’t miss out on their chilaquiles, a traditional mexican breakfast that will make your mouth water.
This is some of the best Japanese food you’ll find outside of Japan. Fresh, high-grade fish and inventive flavors making a quality experience. This place is a little pricier, so save it for a splurge type of night.
Fresh Restaurant and Lounge
Their menu offers a wide variety of options, but you don’t want to miss out on their ceviche. While a little pricier, it’s some of the best I found in Puerto Escondido.
Not only is this place the perfect spot to grab an epic sunset, but they offer a great selection of craft beers. Come pre-game your dinner at Jardin Escondido before heading next door to El Coste for a fish meal.
2. Surf, surf, and oh yeah, surf
Way back when Puerto Escondido had no tourism, it was still occupied by one type of tourist- the surfer. Surfers started arriving in Puerto Escondido thanks to its infamous (and terrifying huge) surf. More specifically, you’ll find the infamous wave at Playa Zicatela, which offers its world famous ‘mexican pipe’ break. During the season, this wave is only recommended for advanced surfers who feel confident in a heavy wave! Some days the swells come in at 15+ feet, and huge surf events happen here such as the WSL’s Puerto Escondido challenge.
The Encyclopedia of Surfing describes this beach as: “[A] savage Mexican beach break tube located on the northern tip of the Gulf of Tehuantepec, in the state of Oaxaca; often called the “Mexican Pipeline,” and universally agreed to be the world’s gnarliest sand-bottom wave. “Some people love it,” local ace Coco Nogales said of Puerto in 2011. “Some people get pounded, turn around, head for home and never come back.” (Nuff said).
But don’t fret! At Selina, surfers of all levels are welcome! Selina Surf Club is for everyone, from experienced professionals looking to improve their speed and control to novices who are looking to simply stand up for the first time. The instructors are professional and experienced surfers who will help you make the most of your surfing experience. Book your very first lesson with your Selina’s guide, here.
For more advanced surfers looking to improve their big wave skills, Selina offers a ‘Big Wave’ package specifically to help advanced surfers up their game. This package includes cool upgraded features such as video corrections, theory chats, and coaching from the pro’s. Check out this upgraded package, here.
3. Head to the beach!
I had naively thought that Puerto Escondido consisted of one beach, but the town actually consists of many different beaches that stretch for miles. While you might not have time to hit them all up, be sure not to miss these ones:
Located in the heart of Escondido, Playa Zicatela is overflowing with activities, nightlife, and infamous surf. Come to Playa Zicatela to find a great spot to chill, eat food, and surf (maybe take a surf lesson) or watch the waves beachside. If you’re looking for a great place to meet fellow travelers, people watch, buy trinkets from vendors or just enjoy great food and drinks, then come to Playa Zicatela. If you’re looking to relax in peace and quiet, then consider another beach.
Speaking of more chilled out, quiet beaches, Playa Carrizalillo is one of the best spots to unwind. Maybe it’s quieter due to the fact it takes 167 steps to climb down — and not everyone is ready for this task. But trust me when I say it’s well worth it! This is a great place to swim since the water is more calm here, and it’s also a great place just to come and lay out in the sun with a good book.
Much like Playa Carrizalillo, Playa Bococho is also a great place to relax in peace and quiet. However, this beach is located on the other end of Puerto Escondido, and if you’re staying in the hub of the town, you’ll have to get a taxi down here. Playa Bococho is amidst more upscale resorts, giving you the opportunity to sun bathe with a fancy cocktail in hand.
La Punta de Zicatela
Literally translating to “the point of Zicatela”, this area is mainly popular among backpackers and offers more hostels and budget accommodations. With thatched roofs and dirt roads, you’ll get a more rustic vibe. If you’re interested in learning how to surf, this is the best place to learn, as it offers small and medium sized waves depending on the day and the swell. Book a surf lesson with a Selina pro, here.
4. Snorkeling & Diving
While Puerto Escondido is definitely most well-known for its famous surf, the snorkeling and scuba diving are not to be overlooked. Located on the stunning Pacific coast, the ocean here boasts abundant sea life and coral with warm ocean swells. Whilst snorkeling, you’ll find large schools of fish hovering just above the reef, whereas a scuba excursion will take you even deeper, to potentially see groupers, guitar, and diamond rays. If you get the chance to go out on a boat, you’ll probably encounter schools of dolphins, or if you’re lucky, humpback whales!
5. Laguna de Manialtepec
Head 16 kilometers outside of Puerto Escondido and you’ll find Laguna de Manialtepec; a gorgeous lagoon full of adverse wildlife during the day, and bioluminescent plankton at night. Come here to boat or kayak through the stunning lagoon or go exotic bird and wildlife spotting for herons, ibis, parrots, iguanas, and even crocodiles. Visit during the night (on a new moon if you can!) and you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the stars of the sea- a truly magical experience! Book your adventure here.
6. Explore Chacahua Lagoon
If you don’t make it to Laguna de Manialtepec, make sure you at least make it to Chacahua Lagoon — or better yet, do both. (Live your best life!) I recommend taking the day trip tour through the lagoon with Selina. In this equally stunning lagoon you’ll make your way through fields of mangroves and see many different species of birds. Then you’ll arrive at El Faro beach where you can dive in the crystal clear water, followed by a sampling of delicious regional foods. Last, you’ll go to the lighthouse to catch the sunset. It’s truly breathtaking!
7. Watch the Turtles Release
It just so happens that Puerto Escondido is home to one of the most beautiful species of turtles in the whole world; the Golfina Turtles. It also just so happens that this area is one of the top five turtle nesting spots in the entire world. If you come during the prime season (July – January), you might get lucky enough to witness an arribada, which is when the turtles come in mass to lay their eggs. And when I say ‘mass’, I’m not playing around. Literally thousands of turtles can be witnessed laying their eggs! Check out a video, here. If you book with Selina, not only will you get the opportunity to connect with the turtles, but you’ll also be supporting the Tortuguero camp that you’ll visit- a local foundation that focuses on preserving the turtle species. Win win!
8. Dolphin / Whale Watching
Did I already mention Puerto Escondido is an epic place to spot dolphins? Well I’ll say it again — It’s seriously an EPIC place to watch dolphins! One of the best in the whole world. Definitely take a dolphin watching tour, and if you’re especially lucky, you’ll even be able to see humpback whales. Not only will you be able to spot five different species of dolphins, but you’ll get unobstructed beach views from the water. Book here.
9. Detox in Atotonilco Hot Springs
From Puerto Escondido, you get to adventure through 1 ½ hours of dense jungle trails, brimming with incredible wildlife, flora, and fauna. Then you’ll arrive at the incredibly magic hot springs of Atononilco. If you need a detox day — this is perfect. Breathe in the rich jungle air and bathe in the mineral dense waters to leave yourself feeling refreshed, renewed, and ready for more. Book here.
10. Go Fishing!
My last recommendation you definitely don’t want to miss out on — going fishing! Not just any old fishing tour, but a professional sport fishing tour, where you’ll have the opportunity to be out at sea for 7-8 hours catching fish such as tunas, dorados, or marlins. Not interested in fishing? It’s still an exciting experience simply to be out at sea, enjoying the beauty and excitement of the ocean. Plus, maybe you’ll get lucky and be boating alongside dolphins or even whales. Pro tip: Do NOT forget your hat and sunscreen!
By Brooke Nally
Brooke is a freelance writer focused on the health and wellness sphere. She has been traveling the world for over three years now, working with YogaTrade and teaching yoga everywhere she lands.