July 5, 2022

I took a short weekday trip to the coastal town of Puerto Escondido, in Oaxaca state, surrounded by sandy beaches and pipeline waves. My skin was happy to get some respite from the dry desert heat of the city of Oaxaca, and the seafood was a fun change from a steady diet of tacos and tlayudas. This piece is my Puerto Escondido guide, sharing where I ate, where I stayed, and the best beaches to surf and swim. The name Puerto Escondido means “the hidden port”. While I assumed it derived from the camouflaged bays around the town, there is a more interesting story. According to Marc of Mexican Corrido,

The port was established in the early 1900s to ship coffee, but a town (and potable water) was only established in the 1930s and onward. The first airport, on what is now Zicatela beach, was completed in 1939. In the 1960s, Highway 200 (the Coastal Highway) was built, connecting Acapulco with the towns on the Oaxaca coast. Today, Puerto Escondido belongs to two municipalities, Santa María Colotepec and San Pedro Mixtepec — and they don’t see eye to eye on about which of them should govern the town.

Compared to nearby Huatulco, full of high-end resorts, Puerto Escondido is still relatively quiet and low key — though the New York Times did include it on their 2017 “where to go” list. It is popular with travelers from Oaxaca and tourist from elsewhere in Mexico, but there are also charter flights directly from North America. I met more French Canadians during four days on Zicatela than I did in my many months of living in Oaxaca de Juarez. For my purposes, Puerto Escondido was a lovely few days away from Oaxaca City, with some great food along the way.

When to Visit Puerto Escondido

As you can see from the map above, Puerto Escondido is right on the coast and not far from the popular resort town of Huatulco. See the “Getting there” section below for access to the region. From Oaxaca, it’s not as straightforward as it seems. If you don’t mind crowds, visit anytime from January through May or October through December — those are the drier months, ones where you will not be prey for a cloud of angry, hungry mosquitos. Or, a little less mosquitos at the very least. If you want to avoid the crowds, I’d also carve out the weeks of spring break in Mexico (for this year it’s April 6-17th 2020) and the Christmas holidays. When the beaches are pack with tourists from Mexico and elsewhere.

Layout of Puerto Escondido

There are three main beaches in Puerto Escondido town: Playa Marinero, Playa Principal, and Zicatela. In addition, you can visit the smaller coves mentioned below, better for swimming. As its name would suggest, Playa Principal is the most central. Parallel to that beach is Avenida Perez Gasga, a walking street known locally as the Adoquín. The Andador, a long scenic boardwalk, also begins at Playa Principal and loops west along the rocky cliffs.

West of Playa Principal are the smaller beaches that make for great swimming: Puerto Angelito, Manzanillo, and Carrizalillo. East of Playa Principal is Playa Marinero, and then the beach where I stayed, Playa Zicatela, followed by La Punta. The strongest waves are at Zicatela, which is why surfers knew about this town long before the snowbirds and tourists settled in.


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