Puerto Escondido is a town in Oaxaca known for its big waves and excellent surfing conditions. You are probably better off going to Zipolite or other nearby smaller places if you are looking for the "hidden" (Escondido) port.
Another alternative is flying into Huatulco (IATA: HUX) and taking a taxi to Puerto Escondido (~90 min drive, ~USD50-60 if you negotiate in advance).
Shared taxis (called colectivos) from the Puerto Escondido airport are cheap - about 35 pesos or USD3.50 per person- and reasonably quick. The airport is close to town, but you may have to wait a few minutes as the colectivo driver waits to get a few more passengers, or drops one or two off ahead of you.
TuriStar and Estrella Blanca from Mexico City are the most comfortable and most expensive way to get here ($500-900 MXN, 12 hours), traveling via Acapulco. These buses only leave from the South (Taxqueña) bus terminal. Other first class buses leave from both the North and South terminals, traveling via Puebla and/or Oaxaca City, and taking several hours longer than the buses via Acapulco.
More comfortable but longer are the buses leaving from the 2nd class bus station. Do not take a 1st class bus because the trip is over 15 hours – it takes the longest route. 2nd class buses take around 7-8 hours. There are also many buses from Acapulco.
By shuttle van
A less expensive and faster alternative to the bus, two shuttle van companies do multiple daily runs between Puerto Escondido and Oaxaca (city). The very scenic route winds directly through the mountains with hairpin curves and takes about 6-7 hours depending on road conditions. Passengers who are inclined to get car sick should definitely take motion sickness tablets. There is a toilet and snack break about midway.
- Servicio Express (Express Service), Av 1a Norte s/n (ground floor of Hotel Luz del Ángel, on the corner of Av Oaxaca), ☎ +52 951 582 0868, +52 954 107 5566 (mobile). Hourly from 04:00-23:00. Offers daily service in 15-seat vans. $209 MXN.
- Transporte Villa del Mar, Av 1a Norte (between 2a Poniente and Tercera Ponienta, next to Cuff Minimart), ☎ +52 954 103 3134, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Hourly from 04:30-23:00. Offers daily service in 15-seat vans. $170 MXN.
Driving to Puerto Escondido is only advisable if you have experience with windy, poorly-maintained mountain roads. That said, it is an exhilarating, scenic drive from any direction. The roads that connect Puerto Escondido to Acapulco and Oaxaca are both narrow, twisty 2-lane roads in poor condition, that traverse the sparsely populated Western Sierra Madre. Driving your own car will not save you much time over taking the bus.
Frequent local buses (urbanos) ply the main roads. There is no route map, but all buses have their destination painted on the windscreen and pass through the crucero (the only intersection in town with a traffic light). The fare is $5 MXN for a single ride, no transfers.
The fixed price for a taxi in town is $30 MXN and $50 MXN for the airport and Bacocho beach. Night rates are $35 MXN. Be aware some taxis will charge more than the going rate if you do not specify $30 MXN before the ride. You may be able to hire a cab driver for the day for about $800 MXN.
There are lots of great spots to visit if you have a vehicle, such as the nearby lagoon of Chacahua, the nudist beach of Zipolite, beach towns like Puerto Angel and Huatulco, all within two hours of Puerto Escondido.
- Budget Rent-A-Car, charge hefty rental fees for their fleet of subcompact manual transmission cars. They may also have some minivans available.
- Económica Rent-A-Car is a more reasonable option, renting convertible VW Bugs and motorcycles among other vehicles.
- Watch the sunset above La Punta - walk to the southern end of La Punta beach and walk around the cliff to a small rocky beach. From here you will see a lighthouse on the left and a small rocky hill on the right. Walk to the rocky hill and make the simple climb to the grassy top. From the top you will have a great view of the sunset and both beaches to your right and left. If the tide is high, you will not be able to walk around the cliff however there is a small path above it which you can follow. Be sure to bring some beers with you.
You can take lessons if you're a beginner – try one of the friendly surf instructors on any beach or at one of the surf shops. Female instructors are available for those who may find the roaming hands of some of the male instructors a bit more than just being friendly.
- Playa Zicatela. This is the location of the famous Mexican Pipeline, with several international surfing competitions being held here annually. This beach is only for expert surfers and very strong swimmers; even experienced surfers have been injured here, and many people have drowned. The southern end of the beach near Punta Zicatela has consistently good waves. If you don't surf, you should at least make it over to the beach restaurant Los Tios and have a beer on the beach while you watch people surfing in the sunset. This is also a good place from which to watch over breakfast when there's a surf competition on.
- Playa Carrizalillo. The best and safest beach for swimming is Playa Carizalillo. Take a taxi unless you want a half-hour walk. Carizalillo is small, gorgeous, and not too crowded, 167 steps from street level down to the beach (then back up again). There are some surfers and some boats, but mainly swimmers enjoying the waves. This is a good beach for swimming or learning surfing with few restaurants.
- Playa Manzanillo. A good, pleasant beach for swimming, with a few beachside restaurants with loungers. Visitors can use the loungers for free provided they purchase a drink or food from the restaurant.
- Temazcal. Try an indigenous type of steam-bath known as a temazcal. Sit in a small building with heats that go up to 49°C and then either be covered in towels or dunked into cold water.
- Boat trip. One of the most exhilarating experiences for non-surfers is the boat trip into the ocean to catch a glimpse of the wildlife; in particular, the turtles and dolphins. A few tour operators run similar trips out into the Pacific in search of the animals. More often than not, you get a glimpse of the turtles and, if you're lucky enough, the tour guide sometimes jumps in and catches hold of one! Unperturbed, the creatures come onto the boat for some photos and free food courtesy of the tour guide. It's kind of surreal, but incredible. Less often, you will get to see the packs of dolphins arching over the surface. Again, it is an amazing experience and well worth the money. About $300 MXN on average.
- Fishing. Another good ocean-based activity is the regular fishing trips you can go on. For the keen fisherman, this is a dream activity. The waters host vast amounts of species of fish including tuna, marlin and red snapper. It isn't the cheapest (some operators can charge around $1,000 MXN) but you can sometimes get a deal that your catch gets cooked at a local restaurant for your eating pleasure in with the cost.
- Skydiving. During the high seasons you can do a sky dive at the Zicatela beach for M$2600. It's one of the nicest places in the world to do this. They're just left of Café Babylon.
- Cascada de la reforma. Cool down from the heat in Puerto Escondido in a waterfall located about one hour outside Puerto Escondido. There are tours which will take you all the way but it's a bit inaccessible due to quality of the road. The waterfall offers basins in which it's possible to swim and a simple restaurant which serves local food.
- Mercado Benito Juarez, Between 8a and 9a Norte, and 3a and 4a Poniente. Daily; on Wednesdays and Saturdays fresh produce is delivered from elsewhere in Oaxaca. A typical Mexican market with everything on offer, including fresh fish and produce, kitchenware, and clothing.
- Puerto Escondido Oasis, Adoquín pedestrian mall, ☎ +52 954 582 3130. Gifts and clothing from Thailand, Indonesia and Mexico. Local and imported home furnishings and accessories.
- Central Surf, Calle del Morro s/n (Playa Zicatela), ☎ +53 954 582 2285, e-mail: email@example.com. The Salinas brothers started the first Central Surf Shop in 1988. Surfing accessories, board repairs, surf camps, surf tours, surf lessons for beginners, silk screen printing and surfboards for sale.
- Odyboards Surf Shop & Factory, Av Justo Salvador, ☎ +52 954 101 1058, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 10:00-17:00. Large selection of new, used surfboards and accessories in Puerto Escondido. Custom boards are available.
- Súper Che, Av Oaxaca 105, ☎ +52 954 582 2234. Daily. The largest grocery store in town, this carries all necessities and also has a pharmacy.
- Mini Super Ruby's (Brisa de Zicatela). Daily. A well-stocked smaller grocery store which caters to the gringo market.
- Flor de Maria, Calle 1ra. Entrada a Playa Marinero s/n, ☎ +52 954 582 0536, e-mail: email@example.com. Hotel restaurant. A half liter of the house wine is more expensive than any of the meals. Service is very good.
- Mango's, Calle Del Morro s/n (Playa Zicatela), ☎ +52 954 125 8085. Daily 07:00-24:00. Licuados (fruit smoothies) you can enjoy on the beach.
- MonchiStation, Av Alejandro Cardenas La punta Zicatela (Right in front of the shop rockaway and la cantera). 12 pm 11 pm. Quality food, with big dishes for hungry surfers. Don't miss the delicious woks. They also have wraps, baguettes and salads. $50 - $100 main dishes.
- Pascale, Playa Principal s/n (just off Adoquín), ☎ +52 954 582 1093, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Su 18:00-23:00; closed in September. French cuisine using fresh seafood. Beachside and on-beach dining. Good service. Try the paella with lobster. $80-305 MXN.
- Restaurante El Cafecito, Calle del Morro s/n (Playa Zicatela, near Rinconada), ☎ +52 954 582 0516. Daily 06:00-23:00. Has great club sandwiches with fresh avocados, good salads, and even soy burgers. Good coffee. Very popular for breakfast, expect to stand in line to get seated at late mornings. $58-128 MXN (mains).
- Restaurante La Galería, Av Alfonso Pérez Gazga s/n (Adoquín), ☎ +52 954 582 2039. Daily 08:00-23:00. Good Italian food, especially pizzas.
- Restaurante Los Tíos, Calle del Morro s/n (Playa Zicatela), ☎ +52 954 582 2879. W-M 08:00-22:00. Offers good seafood, antojitos, and licuados (smoothies), with beach-side tables. $50-100 MXN (mains).
- Restaurante de Hotel Santa Fe, Calle Del Morro s/n (in the Hotel Santa Fe), ☎ +52 954 582 0170, e-mail: email@example.com. Daily 07:30-23:00. Set beneath a palapa with great ocean views, this places serves not only Mexican favorites but also an extensive listing of vegetarian dishes. $100-150 MXN mains.
- BarFly, Calle del Morro s/n (a couple of blocks down the street from Casa Babylon). Tu-Su 10:00-04:00. Dancing until 02:00.
- Casa Babylon, Calle del Morro s/n (off of Playa Zicatela), ☎ +52 954 582 0875. Daily 09:00-02:00. They make really good mojitos and there's sometimes lots of cool beautiful people there.
- Congo Bar, Av Perez Gasca 605 (On the Adoquin, 20m from Playa Principal), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. T 18:30-02:00, W 20:00-04:30, Th-Su 18:30-02:00. Live music, cheap drinks amazing environment.
- La Piedra de la Iguana, Calle del Morro s/n (Playa Zicatela). Good after-hours bar.
- Uh La La (Playa Zicatela).
There are numerous other hotels on Zicatela with great beachfront locations and moderate to downright cheap rates, especially off-season during spring and early summer. For longer stays such as one month or longer renting an apartment is also an option.
- Aldea del Bazar Hotel & Spa, Blvd. Benito Juárez s/n (Lote 7, Fracc. Bacocho), ☎ +52 1 954 582 0508. Feel at home in their clean, spacious rooms. Each is amply appointed with the essentials to ensure you of comfortable rest throughout your stay. Some of its facilities and services includes a sun terrace, swimming pool, free Wi-Fi, car rental, and facilities for disabled. Room rates start at $850 MXN.
- Blater Hotel, Calle del Morro S/N Col. Santa María, ☎ +52 954 582 0797. Standard single, double, and suite with A/C, cableTV and WiFi. Restaurant, swimming pool, snack bar and room service.
- Bungalows Santa Cruz, Calle Del Morro N/N, Apartado, ☎ +52 954 582 0170. Bungalows and suites with A/C, balcony and internet. Outdoor swimming pool, restaurant, massage services and car rental.
- Bungalows Zicatela. On Zicatela beach, 2 pools and a bar and restaurant. Good views and the staff are friendly and helpful. Ask for room #13 and get their least expensive room.
- Casamar Suites Hotel, Calle Puebla 407 (Brisas de Zicatela), ☎ +52 954 582 2593. American-owned, has 18 self-catering studio, 1- and 2-bedroom apartments, all set around a lovely garden and pool. The owner is very helpful and can help arrange tours, call a taxi, or even give you a ride into town. Pets accepted ($100 MXN/night). $423+ MXN/night; weekly and monthly rates available.
- Hotel Barlovento, 6a. Sur No. 3, Col. Sector Hidalgo, ☎ +52 954 582 02 20. Hotel Barlovento offers single, double and triple rooms with air-conditioning, TV with cable channels and phone. Its facilities include bar, restaurant and wireless internet connection at the reception area.
- Hotel Casa Blanca, Av. Perez Gasga,. On the main tourist road with 22 rooms. Single to quintuple occupancy. Outdoor pool and restaurant. Surfing lessons and ecological tours on request. Free WiFi.
- Hotel Ines. Offers rooms ranging from about US$18-70/night off-peak. US$70 can get you an A/C double room with a balcony near the front of Ines, looking right over the beach, while US$18-35 can get you simple rooms with a fan and private shower, but not necessarily a full bathroom.
- Hotel Rincón del Pacífico, Av. Pérez Gasga No. 900, Col. Centro, ☎ +52 954 582 00 56. Rincón del Pacífico provides fan room - triple, fan room - quadruple and aircon room - quadruple with TV with cable channels, telephone and complimentary breakfast. Its facilities include bar, restaurant and wireless internet access.
- Hotel Rockaway. Offers rooms ranging from about US$18-70/night off-peak. US$70 can get you an A/C double room with a balcony near the front of Ines, looking right over the beach, while US$18-35 can get you simple rooms with a fan and private shower, but not necessarily a full bathroom.
- Hostel Shalom, Playa Carallizo. Isreali managed hostel next to Playa Carillizo, only 200 m from the beach.
- La Hacienda Rinconada, Atunes 15 Col Rinconada, ☎ +52 954 582 0279. Spacious hacienda style home with 7 suites, all have A/C, cableTV, fully equipped kitchen and free continental breakfast. Patio, a swimming pool in a tropical garden, and a lounge area. From MXN 1,320.
- Mayflower Hotel and Youth Hostel, Andador Libertad (near Playa Pricipal). Oldest hostel in town, fairly average in most ways. Great location near a beach - though often a very packed one. 11PM curfew.
- Quinta Carrizalillo Villas, Fraccionamiento Rinconada Focas No. 5 esq, con Delfines, ☎ +52 954 582 3564. A/C suites, cableTV, coffee/ tea maker, and a safe. From MXN 833++.
- Sexto Senso, ☎ +52 954 109 3057, e-mail: email@example.com. On the beach. 3 large private bungalows, which sleeps up to 5 people, each shower toilet and sink, and equipped with a fan and mosquito nets. Also a hotel like dorm room with bunk beds, and a camping area with tents available for rent. The restaurant serves traditional Italian food like fresh hand-made pizza and pasta.
- Tower Bridge Hostel, Calle Oceano Atlantico (5 min from the Benito Juarez market). Check-out: 12 noon. A fair bit outside the town centre. Kitchen, pool table, internet, 10 peso Coronas and cableTV. Surfing lessons available, Spanish school is nearby. OK, but has a worn look, and cleanliness and security is not their strength, no lockers. Good vibe in the evening, individually themed staff. Bungalows for 2 people 200 pesos.
- La Casa de Pakololo, Calle Del Morro, Playa Zicatela, ☎ +53 954 582 3821. Check-out: 1PM. Private rooms and cabanas right on Playa Zicatela, private bathrooms and good quality mattresses. Shared kitchen with fridge, gas stove, cooking utensils and common area for guest use. Free wifi and drinking water. Common area has balcony overlooking the beach. Friendly owner and rooms cleaned daily. Double from 200 pesos.
- Hotel Santa Fe, Calle Del Morro s/n (Playa Zicatela), ☎ +52 954 582 0170, toll-free: 800 712 7057, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Rooms with A/C, TV, internet. Outdoor swimming pool, restaurant, massage services. $1160+ MXN.
Due to a recent spate of assaults and knife-point robberies, the beaches should be avoided from dusk until dawn; this especially applies to Playa Principal and Playa Bachoco. If you do not have a companion with you, it is best to not carry valuables on some of the more isolated stretches of beach even during the daytime.
- Mazunte - A nearby town with less tourism than Puerto Escondido and quiet beaches, on the Pacific Coast Backpacker Route. Famous for its National Sea Turtle Museum.
- Zipolite Mexico's only "official" nude beach. Popular since the 60's and still has its hippy vibe. A beach where you loose track of time.
- Chacahua National Park - Good for surfing and for bird watching, as well as exploring the mangroves with a guide by canoe. It's best to spend the night there so that you can take the canoe trip at sunset.