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Puerto Escondido is a charming town on the Pacific coast of Mexico where you can enjoy a beautiful environment filled with stunning beaches, excellent surf waves, and rocky cliffs. One of the highlights of Puerto Escondido is the high chance of spotting migrating humpback whales from December to March.

I found Puerto Escondido to be a relaxed destination that feels both vibrant and local as well as laid-back. The town stretches along the coast, with the slightly busier center in the north. As a nature lover, I was thrilled with the numerous activities available. Not only can you surf here, but you can also explore multiple beaches and spot various unique animals.

Puerto Escondido Mexico

Fun Activities in Puerto Escondido

Whale Watching

One of the most extraordinary experiences in Puerto Escondido is spotting humpback whales. During a whale watching tour, you often also see dolphins, and with luck, you might spot turtles and occasionally rays jumping out of the water.

It is absolutely an unforgettable experience. During the tour, you sail around for a few hours in a small boat with about 5-10 people. In the first hour, we saw hundreds of dolphins leaping out of the water. I had never seen so many together before! After about an hour, we saw the first whale fin emerging from the water. With luck, you might see a tail, and with an extra dose of luck, one might jump out of the water right in front of you.

dolfijnen Puerto Escondidowalvis puerto escondido

The guides often contact each other or local fishermen to find the whales. Sometimes dozens of boats head towards them, but if it gets too crowded, some leave to avoid disturbing the whales too much. Fortunately, the boats keep a safe distance, partly because a whale can suddenly jump out of the water.

A tour usually lasts about 3 hours and costs an average of 600 MXN per person, although you can sometimes find cheaper deals right on Playa Carrizalillo.

If you travel to the nearby village of Mazunte, you also have the opportunity to go on a whale-watching tour there. I was so excited that I booked a tour in both places and saw whales each time!

Walvistour Puerto Escondido Mexico

Discovering Beaches

Puerto Escondido has several beautiful beaches, each with its own character. Not all beaches are suitable for swimming due to the high waves.

Playa Zicatela is the longest beach in Puerto Escondido and stretches over a large part of the city. This beach is famous for its excellent waves, especially in the south, making it a paradise for surfers. Most of Playa Zicatela is wide and quiet, with little shade to protect you from the intense sun. During my search for a shady spot near the rocks, I accidentally discovered that you can reach another beach via the water and rocks. After a small adventurous climb and a short walk, I ended up on a few vast, deserted beaches.

Playa Zicatela rotsenPlaya Zicatela rotsen

Nearby the center, you’ll find the smaller beaches Playa Manzanillo and Puerto Angelito nestled in a bay with calmer waters. Playa Manzanillo is suitable for swimming as the surrounding rocks block the highest waves. In Puerto Angelito, on the other hand, lie many small boats, and most tours depart from here, making it less ideal for a peaceful swim.

Further west, you’ll find Playa Carrizalillo, accessible via a stone staircase along the cliffs. The sea here is slightly wilder with higher waves, making it not always suitable for swimming, although many people do.

From Playa Carrizalillo, you can reach a small pebble beach that we eventually had all to ourselves. To get there, climb the hill on the west side of the beach and follow the path. Swimming here is not really possible due to the rocks, but it’s a perfect spot to dip your feet in the water and read a book in peace.

Playa Carizalillo

Playa Coral is a beautiful beach accessible through a hotel for a fee of 50 MXN per person. The trees on the beach provide shaded spots, allowing you to comfortably stay for a while. An abandoned hotel on the beach adds a unique atmosphere to the location.

Adjacent to Playa Coral is Playa Bacocho. I found this to be the most beautiful beach because of the tall palm trees and unique rock formations in the sea. It’s fun to see the little snails and crabs among the rocks. Swimming at Playa Bacocho is not really safe due to the high waves. Playa Bacocho is one of the places where you can release baby turtles at the end of the day. Occasionally, movies are screened on a big screen on the beach in the evening.

Playa Bacocho Puerto Escondido

Releasing Baby Turtles

A unique once-in-a-lifetime activity is releasing tiny baby turtles on one of the beaches. The organization Vive Mar is dedicated to protecting the seaturtles and their eggs. They have several rescue locations west of the city, including Playa Bacocho and Laguna Agua Dulce, where you get the chance to release the baby turtles. Playa Bacocho is the closest to the city and therefore the most visited.

Vive Mar Puerto Escondido Mexico

For just 150 MXN per person, you can witness the release of the baby turtles up close. You get to release them from a small container onto the beach. However, you are not allowed to touch the turtles with your hands.

Make sure to arrive by 17:00 for this activity, as registration begins at 17:15. The volunteers provide information in both Spanish and English about the organization, their initiatives, and the turtles. The actual release takes place around 18:30, at sunset, to prevent seagulls from picking off the baby turtles as they head into the water. It’s such a heartwarming experience to see these tiny creatures take their first steps on the beach.

schildpadjes op het strand Puerto Escondidoschildpadjes op het strand Puerto Escondido

Riding the Waves on Your Surfboard

The Pacific coast is generally known for its excellent surfing conditions, and Puerto Escondido offers several spots where you can tackle the waves.

For beginners, Playa Carrizalillo is a perfect location. The waves here are not too big and are relatively close to the shore, so you don’t have to paddle through a powerful surf each time. There are several surf schools right on the beach where you can take lessons or simply rent a surfboard.

For more experienced surfers, La Punta is the place to conquer the waves. It’s a popular spot, so you won’t be alone. There are also multiple surf schools in La Punta.

Surfer Puerto Escondido Mexico

Watching sunsets

The sunsets from Puerto Escondido are of another level. Both from the beach and from the cliffs, you have an amazing view of this incredible moment. And most spectacularly, you have a chance of seeing a whale jumping out of the water in the distance during migration season!

Popular spots for sunset from the cliffs include Mirador Las Tortugas which is a 10-minute walk from the center. But Punta Zicatela is also a good spot in the south of town. Put on shoes or sturdy sandals so the hike is doable.

If you are adventurous, you can clamber down from the Punta Zicatela cliff and reach a vast quiet beach. The same beach can also be reached from the south of Playa Zicatela, although this requires a short cut through the water.

Dancing the night away in Zicatela

Besides fun daytime activities, Puerto Escondido also has a lively nightlife. In La Punta are mostly small bars with live music and a few Djs. Here most bars close at 23:00, but in Playa Zicatela the parties go on a lot longer, until 3 a.m. or even later. Here you will find different bars and clubs, from house, techhouse to reggaeton.

Where to stay in Puerto Escondido?

Puerto Escondido can be roughly divided into 3 sections; downtown, Zicatela and La Punta. I spent at least 1 night in all of them and they all have very different atmospheres.

Center: The most local atmosphere is found in the center which is characterized by lively streets, residential areas and local eateries. In the center you are close to several small beaches including Playa Manzanillo, Puerto Angelito, Playa Carrizalillo and Playa Coral. Most of these beaches are crowded with boats and locals on weekends, but there is a cozy atmosphere. The center is a good place if you like to stay the “authentic” Puerto Escondido with several beaches within walking distance.

Zicatela: The entire area on the stretched out Playa Zicatela feels a lot quieter and is characterized by residential neighborhoods, small hotels and apartments. Zicatela is a place to stay if you’re looking for a quiet location. Restaurant choices are minimal, so you are often assigned to a little restaurant in the center, in La Punta, or in your own apartment with kitchen if you rent one. For me, as a backpacker, it was just a little too quiet.

La Punta: Most of the hostels and guesthouses are located on the southernmost part of Playa Zicatela, in La Punta where you also immediately feel the backpacker vibe. La Punta was my personal favorite place as there are many nice cafes and restaurants and the atmosphere is cozy. It is an ideal place for (solo) backpackers.

La Punta Puerto Escondido Mexico

Is Puerto Escondido safe?

In Puerto Escondido, in some places, especially in Zicatela, it’s a little less lit, so sometimes you’ll walk parts in the dark. While this does not always feel comfortable, Puerto Escondido is generally a safe location. If you go out at night, it’s of course wise to watch your belongings, just like in any other city. Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and hospitality of the locals, but always use common sense.

How to get to Puerto Escondido?

From Oaxaca: Thanks to a newly constructed road in 2024, it is only 3 hours by bus. That’s as fast as using your own rental car.

From Mazunte: Mazunte is not that far from Puerto Escondio, but to date there are no direct buses going from town to town. You have to rely a short distance by cab to San Antonio, where you then catch a colectivo. Or you can take a cab to Pochutla where you can take an ADO bus from the ADO busstation.