The Backpacker’s Guide to Puerto Escondido, Mexico

While the “Escondido” part of its name may no longer be true, Puerto Escondido remains one of my favorite destinations in Mexico. I first visited this hidden gem along Mexico’s Pacific Coast back in 2018, and now again in January 2021. It is one of the most relaxed and easygoing beach destinations in all of Mexico.

Once a popular backpacker haven and hidden gem, Puerto has definitely gone pretty mainstream. It has developed rapidly due to its growing popularity, but I would still recommend Puerto Escondido to anyone. Puerto now attracts all types of travelers, especially those looking for some sun, sand, surf, and cervezas.

How To Get To Puerto Escondido

First things first, how does one get to Puerto Escondido? Back in the day, it was a bit of a trek to get here. The crowds were typically local tourists, devoted surfers, and long-term backpackers. With flights to Puerto Escondido becoming cheaper and more frequent, it is more accessible than ever to reach this coastal paradise.

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From Oaxaca de Juarez

Oaxaca City is the main stepping stone to Puerto Escondido. A colectivo from Oaxaca City costs only 250 pesos, or about $13 USD. To catch the colectivo, you can go to one of the transportation companies near the Mercado de Abastos. Villa Escondido is the one that I used. They are all pretty much the same, aside from their schedules.

Another way to reach Puerto Escondido is by taking the ADO bus. It takes longer since it avoids the winding mountain roads and follows the highways. It is a bit more expensive and takes about ten hours, but it is definitely much more comfortable than a colectivo.

Flying to Puerto Escondido

Puerto Escondido has an airport, although the flights are still infrequent and can often be much more expensive. I’ve found flights for as cheap as $33 (although luggage is usually around $50 for a checked bag), but those are relatively infrequent and require a bit of planning in advance. Booking a flight the week of will usually cost you about $120 including luggage.

There are direct flights from Oaxaca City, but if you’re traveling from elsewhere in Mexico, you’ll likely have to make a stopover in Mexico City or Oaxaca.

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The Best Things To Do in Puerto Escondido

So… what’s so great about Puerto Escondido? Why has it become one of Mexico’s most desirable beach getaways? Most of the things to do in Puerto Escondido revolve around its amazing beaches, wildlife, and nightlife. There’s always a good time waiting for you in Puerto.

playa carrizalillo

Playa Carrizalillo

Playa Carrizalillo is the definition of paradise. While the beach itself may be small, it is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever been to. Flanked on both sides by lush, jungly cliffs and boasting turquoise waters and soft, white sand, Carrizalillo belongs in the dictionary under the word beach.

Release the Sea Turtles at Playa Bacocho

For 200 pesos ($10), you can symbolically release a sea turtle hatchling from Playa Bacocho. All you really do is hold a coconut shell and gently set your turtle onto the sand, but hey, it’s a nice photo op and you get to hang out with a cute turtle. The money goes towards the turtle sanctuaries, so if you want to support a good cause and see some turtles, this is well worth doing.

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Catch the Sunset From Playa Coral

My personal favorite spot to watch the sunset is Playa Coral, a small beach right next to where Playa Bacocho starts. It’s a short walk from the Rinconada and Bacocho neighborhoods, and is one of the quieter beaches in Puerto Escondido.

See the Bioluminescent Plankton at Laguna Manialtepec

I always heard mixed things about bioluminescent plankton tours. Finally, I decided to do one and it was honestly one of the most unbelievable experiences I’ve ever had. I don’t have anything I could compare it to. It was just pure magic. It’s hard to describe, so just go see for yourself what all the fuss is about.

Whale Watching and Swimming with Dolphins

During their migration, humpback whales pass through this part of Mexico. While you can often see them right from shore, the best way to get up close and personal with these majestic creatures is by going on a whale watching trip. Along with whales, you might be lucky enough to see sea turtles and packs of dolphins. You can jump into the water with the dolphins, but they are deceptively fast. As soon as you’re in, they’ve already zoomed off far out of reach.

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Catch Some Waves at Playa Zicatela

Puerto Escondido is one of Mexico’s surf capitals. The monster waves of Zicatela Beach are home to many surf competitions, although there is surf to be found for surfers of every level. The beaches of Carrizalillo and La Punta are great for beginners, but if you’re looking for a challenge, Zicatela is where the biggest waves will be.

Laze the Days Away in Mazunte

About an hour away from Puerto Escondido, you’ll find the laid-back fishing village of Mazunte. Along with its relaxed pace of life and beautiful waters, Mazunte is home to my favorite sunset spot in Mexico. A day spent reading, swimming, eating, and capped off with a sunset hike to Punta Cometa is a day well-spent. I’ve spent a lot of time in Mazunte, and though my days were filled with doing nothing, I cherished every moment.

Get Naked At Playa Zipolite

About ten minutes from Mazunte, you’ll find the small party town of Zipolite, and its famous nude beach. If you’re looking to switch up the party scene from Puerto Escondido, Zipolite is also home to some pretty poppin’ nightlife.

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Go Back in Time to the Island of Chacahua

Perhaps my favorite spot on the Oaxacan coastline is the hidden gem of Chacahua. I genuinely believe this is one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets, and hope it stays that way. You’ll need to catch a colectivo, a taxi, and a boat to get here, but the journey is worth it. This is one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been. Life was simple here, and I loved every second of my time spent in Chacahua. Whether it was chasing sunsets from abandoned lighthouses, swimming in turquoise lagoons, or late-night boat rides among the bioluminescent plankton, Chacahua was pure magic.

A Note on Visiting Puerto Escondido During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Mexico’s open borders and relaxed entry requirements have made it a travel hotspot during the Coronavirus pandemic. Puerto Escondido, in particular, has become a popular spot among long-term travelers and remote workers. A lot of those travelers simply do not give a f*** about anyone but themselves, and actively endanger the health and safety of everyone around them. Some travelers are willing to accept that risk, but the at-risk local and indigenous people definitely are not, and do not have the same privilege and access to healthcare that most Western tourists take for granted.

Be a responsible traveler. Wear your mask and follow all the guidelines and restrictions set in place by the Mexican government. The police in Puerto Escondido and throughout Mexico can literally arrest you if you aren’t wearing a mask. A friend of mine got pulled out of a taxi and taken to the police station for hours for not wearing a mask. As of right now, in Oaxaca state, you are required to wear a mask from the moment you leave your house to the moment you return. That includes inside taxis, on a motorbike, and on the beach. You can imagine that not a lot of people follow those guidelines, but you should.

Even for selfish reasons, like not getting arrested, just wear the damn mask and follow the restrictions. Here’s more on traveling to Mexico during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Where To Stay in Puerto Escondido

Which neighborhood you stay in Puerto Escondido can make all the difference. One can have vastly different experiences depending on where you stay. Puerto Escondido may not be a big city, but it definitely isn’t the most walkable place either. Of the many neighborhoods in Puerto, we can narrow it down to about four that are traveler-friendly.

The Neighborhoods of Puerto Escondido

In another post, I cover the various neighborhoods of Puerto Escondido, and break down where to stay more in depth. To sum it up quickly:

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La Punta

La Punta is currently the hotspot for young travelers and backpackers looking to have a good time. It gives me Tulum vibes, but much smaller and much less tacky. This is where you’ll want to stay if you want beach, surf, good food, fun crowds, and nightlife.

Hostel Recommendations: Bonita Escondida, Casa Punta

Zicatela

Staying at Zicatela puts you right on the beach. It is a good home base if you just want beach and nightlife. It isn’t as trendy as La Punta, and is the part of Puerto that most resembles a more tacky beach destination like Cancun or Cozumel. It is a big neighborhood and very spread out, so it never gets as crowded or as lively as La Punta. However, the best parties can be found at Zicatela, mainly at Xcaanda or Iguana.

The balcony with an ocean view at Selina Puerto Escondido.

Hostel Recommendation: Selina, Hotel Las Olas

Rinconada

For travelers looking for something more laid-back, Rinconada is the neighborhood for you. Located close to the beaches of Carrizalillo, Bacocho, and Playa Coral, you have the pick of the litter when it comes to a lazy beach day. There’s not much nightlife in this part of town, but you can find some nice restaurants and cafes. This is one of the quieter neighborhoods in Puerto Escondido, so perfect for that relaxing beach getaway that many travelers crave.

The terrace at Vivo Escondido hostel in Rinconada

Hostel Recommendation: Vivo Escondido

Centro

The main hub of town, Centro isn’t particularly popular among travelers. It’s not within walking distance to the beaches, and is crowded and hectic. It is the closest thing you’ll find to “real” Mexico in Puerto Escondido. However, that can be a great thing. It is cheap and puts you in close proximity to everything you’ll need, from supermarkets to ATMs to bus stations and more. After all, a cheap colectivo ride or 40 peso taxi will get you anywhere in town, so location might not be your main factor when choosing a place to stay.

Hostel Recommendation: Paziflora Hostel

Nightlife in Puerto Escondido

The nightlife in Puerto Escondido is nothing short of sizzlin’. While Puerto often feels like a laid-back beach down during the day, it goes absolutely wild at night. Puerto Escondido epitomizes the phrase “coming alive in the nighttime”. The nightlife scene of Puerto centers mostly around the La Punta and Zicatela neighborhoods. Pregame at La Punta, then hit up the clubs at Zicatela a little after midnight or so.

The parties don’t stop until the people stop, making Puerto Escondido one of Mexico’s top party destinations.

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Zicatela

  • Xcaanda
  • Piedra del Iguana
  • Barfly
  • Kabbalah
  • Isha

La Punta

  • Chicama
  • The Boneyard
  • El Arbol
  • Alaburger
  • Juana Mezcal
  • Xcaanda

Secret Parties

The raves in Puerto Escondido are next level. For a relatively small town in Mexico, Puerto Escondido often attracts a lot of big names. However, you won’t find them headlining at the local bar. Oftentimes, you’ll have to go out of your way to find the best parties. They might be half an hour away deep in the jungles outside of Puerto Escondido.

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Budget Backpacking Tips for Puerto Escondido

While Puerto is still cheap, it definitely isn’t Mexico cheap. While nowhere near as expensive as places like Cancun or Tulum, it is pretty easy to run up a big bill while in Puerto.

Book Places Long-Term and in Person

The hotel that I looked at would have been about $38 a night on Airbnb after all taxes and fees. In person it was $27, and after I told them I wanted to stay for a week, they lowered it down to $20 a night. That’s almost half the price of what I would have paid had I booked online. It never hurts to ask for discounts for longer stays, paying in cash, or booking directly.

Take Colectivos When Traveling Within Town

Taxis to most places in town will be about 40-50 pesos. However, a colectivo will get you anywhere along the main road for much cheaper. They come very frequently so you never have to wait for too long.

Pregame Hard

A night out in Puerto Escondido can get pretty pricy, especially since the party usually doesn’t stop until well into the morning. Pace yourself and have some pre-drinks before heading out to the bars. You can get an entire bottle of mezcal at the supermarket for the same price as a cocktail at one of the late night bars.

Puerto Escondido is one of my favorite beach destinations in the world, and you can’t go wrong with a trip here.

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More on Mexico

The Best Party Destinations in Mexico

The Backpacker’s Guide to Mazunte

The Complete Travel Guide to Oaxaca City

The Best Beaches in Puerto Escondido

Why Mexico Is A Great Place For Your First Backpacking Trip

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