Puerto Escondido, Mexico: An Ocean-Lover’s Paradise

by | Dec 9, 2021 | 3 comments

Puerto Escondido Mexico

Last updated on May 10th, 2022

Featured image: Photo of Puerto Escondido at sunset by Jhana Ellard on Unsplash

This bohemian beach town offers more than surfing

By Carolyn Ray, Editor-in-Chief, JourneyWoman 

If you’ve never heard of Puerto Escondido, a small beach town on the west coast of Mexico, it’s not too surprising. Located about 180 miles from Oaxaca, its reputation trends more towards surfing than relaxation. After all, it’s on the Mexican Pipeline and considered one of the top (and most treacherous) surfing destinations in the world.  When I first heard of its eight beaches, turtle release program and laid-back vibe, I felt an urge to spend time there and re-connect with the ocean – and myself. 

The vibe is bohemian, with little family-run outdoor restaurants perched on the edge of the street featuring fish and shrimp caught that day and guacamole and tostadas served with every meal. You can buy farm-fresh eggs, avocados and beer at a Mexican variety shop run by two sisters who make you wait outside when it’s too crowded.  Or you can stop and chat with a farmer who will cut open a coconut for you with his machete with opera music blasting while he serenades you.  Everyone, surfer, local or tourist, wears a mask, and shops and restaurant asks you to sanitize your hands and submit to a temperature check. There’s no bus here, but it’s an easy walk from one beach to the next, as you flip-flop along dusty streets. 

In the two weeks I was there, I stayed in three different areas to experience this quaint village from different perspectives. The days started and ended with sunshine and being on the ocean filled my heart in ways I desperately needed. 

What is it about a hammock?

Where to Stay 

Puerto Escondido is a bit off the beaten track, and it’s fairly bohemian. No luxury hotels here. You can fly direct from Mexico City on Aeromexico for about $200, or take a bus/car from Oaxaca through the mountains (about 8-10 hours, I’m told). 

I stayed at three different homestays, two of which I would recommend. You can buy vegetables at local stands and there is a Chedraui (Costco) in town for all other foods and essentials. Make sure you bring your own reusable bag. 

1. Ocean-view apartment (near Playa Zicatela) 

 This apartment has a stunning view of Playa Zicatela and a large outdoor patio, which is where I spent my days. Inside, there is an open-concept living room and kitchen, with a good workspace and decent wifi. I stayed on the third floor and would recommend this apartment, noting that the building is an area slightly outside the core. Eat in Zicatela on the beach (about a 15-minute walk) or bring food from town  and cook it in your kitchen. The specialty here is seafood – shrimp, fish and octopus. (Cost $130 USD a night) 

Nearby restaurants: 

There are many restaurants along the beach, and it’s flip-flop casual.  I enjoyed Agua Sala and wished I had had a chance to try La Olita for its tacos. 

Why not enjoy a margarita at Pez Gallo at sunset!

2. Ocean-view apartment (near Playa Coral) 

This three-story building has six two-bedroom apartments, a pool, a hammock (love!) and faces the ocean. It is on a corner, but there’s not too much traffic, and there is no elevator. I had unit 3, on the second floor, had great fibre-optic Wifi for working and a view that made me happy every day. Get a room on the top floor if you can, preferably units 4 or 6. Contact is Katrine, who owns the building with her husband. Eat in nearby Riconada (about a 5-minute walk) or bring food from town and cook it in your kitchen. (Cost: $90 USD a night)

Nearby restaurants:

The Riconada has some fantastic restaurants, much to my happy surprise. My favourites were Almoraduz Cocin de Autor twice (you need a reservation) and Omara, which is run by the friendly and talented Andrea Torre at the far end of the street. Also try takeout pizza from La Spezia.

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Beaches for adventurous women  

With eight beaches to choose from, Puerto Escondido has an experience for every adventurous woman. While I didn’t get to them, the Laguna de Manialtepec (Manialtepec Lagoon) and the Lagunas de Chacahua (Chacahua Lagoons) also offer tours of their bioluminescent bays, although I was concerned to hear you could swim in them (not recommended as this damages the environment).

Here’s my take on the four beaches I visited:  

      • Playa Zicatela: In the heart of Puerto Escondido, this is the main beach used by surfers. I enjoyed watching surfers in the morning but I didn’t go in. Too treacherous for me, but a wide, beautiful beach with lots of restaurants. I loved watching the fisherman roll their boats up on the shore near Playa Principal.  They use an interesting technique, where they drive their boats at full speed toward shore and roll them up on logs. Entertaining!
      • Playa Carrizalillo is a stunning, Mediterranean-style beach. It’s a small circular shape and gets very crowded but the water but the shoreline is sublime. Here, you can watch beginning surfers prepare for larger waves. Come early in the morning for a quite swim or at night to watch the sunset. The stairs are steep on the way down so take your time.
      • Playa Coral: A lovely, shallow beach that sits at the bottom of two hotels. If you are trying to get to this beach, do NOT pay to walk to Playa Coral through the Club de Playa Coco (which asked for 1000 pesos to walk through) or the Hotel Villa Mexicana, which wanted to charge for a hamburger and a beer and a pass to walk through. The man at the front desk even said it would take an hour to walk to Playa Bacocho (not true, about 20 minutes at most).  Instead, keep walking along the road, past the Best Western Real and take a left down the road. When you get to the bottom, turn right and walk through Club de Playa Villa Sol, and enjoy breakfast and lunch at Pez Gallo, which is on the property. Perfect spot for a margarita at sunset.
      • Playa Bacocho: My favourite beach for its wildness. It is a broad beach, with waves that crash close to the shore and dramatic shorelines. Go in the morning to swim, an umbrella and then enjoy the remoteness of the beach. You won’t even know the airport is almost directly behind it unless you notice the planes flying overhead.  

The view from my condo was magical
Playa Bacoco (There is also a turtle release program here)
Playa Carrizalillo

Releasing Turtles: Go Girls, Go! 

One of the most heartwarming parts of my time there was releasing baby turtles into the ocean. I’ve always loved turtles – my last opportunity to see them was at the Turtle Hospital in Key West, Florida, so I was long overdue!

Mexico is a major nesting area for turtles. And while Puerto Escondido may be best known as a surfing destination, it’s a relatively unspoiled area with wild, natural beaches and several places to release turtles, almost every night of the year.

Playa de Escobilla Sanctuary is about 30 km from Puerto Escondido, where thousands of female Olive Ridleys arrive from July to January to lay their eggs in a synchronized mass-nesting called an arribada (arrival). 

Carolyn releasing a baby sea turtle in Puerto Esondido
Releasing three baby turtles
A sea turtle nursery in Puerto Escondido
The turtle nursery
Baby sea turtles in Puerto Escondido making their way to the sea
Go girls, go!

According to recent studies, turtles return to the same area because it emits its own magnetic signature, which the animals remember. Our guide, Luis, hypothesizes that there are metals like titanium and magnesium under the sand that emit a low-frequency signal that calls the turtles back to the same place.  

These endangered baby Olive Ridley turtles hatched about 20 minutes ago and of 100 that were released, only 2 will survive. Olive Ridley are among the smallest of all sea turtles, and are extremely vulnerable to attack, particularly from the birds that were dive-bombing the waves as these little guys (or girls) valiantly swam out into the ocean, their little flippers ready for action!  

Before the Mexican government instituted a ban on their slaughter, Olive Ridley turtles were harvested nearly to extinction for their turtle meat and eggs, not to mention bycatching in fishing gear. Now they are protected by law and organizations like Campamento Tortuguero, who we did this ‘liberation’ with, patrols and protects sea turtles along the Mexican coast.  

Females nest every year, one to three times a season. The sex of hatchlings is determined by the temperature of the sand. For all sea turtles, climate change is resulting in higher sand temperatures, which can be lethal to eggs or alter the ratio of male and female hatchlings produced. To keep the eggs cool, they are moved and covered. Each nest is monitored and the baby turtles are liberated as soon as possible after they hatch usually in the late afternoon or evening.

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A passionate traveller, Carolyn believes anything is possible when we follow our heart and trust our intuition. Raised in Florida, Carolyn loves all things Latin, margaritas, the ocean and music. She's a board member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC).

3 Comments

  1. Steve

    Hello,
    I am a new subscriber and enjoyed this article about a place that I’m very interested in visiting and seriously considering for retirement, Puerto Escondido

    This whole area of Mexico is of great interest to me from Puerto Escondido a little north and or south all the way to The bays of Huatulco are areas that I am excited to visit in the near future if possible

    Any additional additional information you have on these areas would be greatly appreciated and I look forward to more of your articles
    ( by the way I made a small donation of $25 this morning I hope it helps )

    Steve

    Reply
    • Carolyn Ray

      Thanks Steve for your compliments and for the donation! Everything helps!

      Reply
  2. Ann Williams

    Loved this article.Can you recommend some reading on Cuba ,good places to stay etc

    Reply

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