7 Best Things to Do in Puerto Escondido

Fish in the waters of Puerto Escondido, Mexico

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Puerto Escondido is a laid-back town, located along Mexico's Pacific Coast in the state of Oaxaca. While surfing is its main claim to fame—it's home to the "Mexican Pipeline" and some of the biggest and strongest waves to be found in Mexico—anyone who enjoys being near the beach will find something to love about this place. With some 50,000 inhabitants, Puerto Escondido is a sizeable town—the nearby resort area of Huatulco, about 60 miles to the north, is Oaxaca state's more popular beach destination, sporting an international airport and a number of large resorts. There are also some small fishing villages close by that people seeking an alternative experience should check out along this interesting stretch of coastline.

Just remember one thing: Puerto Escondido is an easygoing destination and you'll enjoy it best if you can channel that same mood. Take a leisurely walk along the beach or the Adoquín, Puerto Escondido's boardwalk, find your spot on the beach, and just take it easy. A hammock and a coconut are waiting for you, all you have to do is relax and enjoy them. Here's how to make the most of your time in this beautiful beachside locale.

01 of 07

See the Sea Turtles Nesting at Santuario Playa Escobilla

Sea turtle returning to the ocean in Mexico

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Km 180.5, México 200, 70944 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico
Phone +52 55 1133 6942

Located about halfway between Puerto Escondido and Huatulco in Oaxaca, the 75-acre Santuario Playa Escobilla waterfront sanctuary is where you can see thousands of Olive Ridley sea turtles arrive on the beach to build their nests, lay their eggs, and return to the sea each year, typically between July and January, and especially in September and October. If you're lucky, you'll be there to catch a glimpse of the thousands of newly-hatched baby sea turtles making their way to the ocean.

One of the largest and most important turtle nesting sites in Mexico, the waters in and around the sanctuary are not meant to be disturbed by swimming, kayaking, or other aquatic activities, however you can still visit and keep an eye on things from a safe distance.

02 of 07

Watch the Surfers do Their Thing on Playa Zicatela

Surfer on large wave at Zicatela Beach, famous surfing beach also known as Mexican Pipeline.
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Unnamed Road Playa Zicatela, Playa Zicatela, 70934 Brisas de Zicatela, Oax., Mexico

Puerto Escondido's Playa Zicatela has been attracting surfers and the people who watch them since the 1970s. This two and a half mile long beach is the place to catch the “Mexican Pipeline,” Mexico's biggest swell and one of the strongest in the world after Hawaii's Banzai Pipeline.

Zicatela's waves are best left to the experts, but there are heaps of restaurants and hotels lining the beach—if you're not an experienced surfer, you can enjoy a beer or cocktail while watching the pros in action.

03 of 07

Head to the Nearest Beach

Beach at Puerto Escondido, Mexico
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Playa Manzanillo, Oaxaca, Mexico

Although it's best known as a surfer destination, Puerto Escondido does have plenty of spots that appeal to travelers who are looking for a more relaxing beach experience.

Playa Manzanillo is one such beach, located just east of Puerto Angelito between two rocky outcroppings that protect it and ensure gentle waves—this makes it a great place for swimming or snorkeling. Playa Carrizalillo is another picturesque spot offering serene waves. If you have no experience surfing but would like to learn, this is a good beach to find some beginner lessons.

04 of 07

Watch for Wildlife at Manialtepec Lagoon

Heron Perching In Lake
Agustin Gonzalez Fierro / EyeEm / Getty Images
Laguna Manialtepec, U2, 70988 Crucecita, Oax., Mexico

The Manialtepec Lagoon is a large, beautiful body of water situated between the foothills of the Sierra Madre del Sur and the Pacific Coast that's surrounded by mangroves. During the rainy season, the water level rises until the Manialtepec River breaks through its sandbar and the lagoon becomes a tidal estuary. There, three different aquatic ecosystems converge, creating a unique biodiverse environment. Rent a kayak or take a boat tour to see the wide variety of birds that congregate here, including herons, ibis, ducks, and parrots. You'll no doubt spot some iguanas too, and possibly some crocodiles.

You can also take a nighttime boating excursion on the lagoon to witness bioluminescence, a natural phenomenon during which plankton in the lagoon emit light when they are disturbed. Although this happens every night, you'll find the best visibility on nights with very little moonlight.

Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07

Visit a Coffee Plantation

Picking coffee cherries in Mexico
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70960 Pluma Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca's prime coffee-growing region of Pluma Hidalgo is located just inland from the coast. A visit to one of the plantations allows you to enjoy the mountain scenery and learn about all the steps of the labor-intensive process of bringing coffee to your cup. The surrounding area also offers forest landscapes of a mystical beauty where visitors can enjoy horseback riding, agricultural tourism, and nature hikes. 

06 of 07

Go Scuba Diving

Mexican hogfish
Bernard Radvaner / Getty Images
71997 San Pedro Mixtepec, Oaxaca, Mexico

When considering scuba diving in Mexico, many immediately think of the Riviera Maya and its fantastic Mesoamerican Reef. But the Pacific Ocean offers plenty of underwater attractions as well.

On a diving adventure just off the coast of Puerto Escondido, you can explore volcanic rock reefs covered in spectacular coral while enjoying the relaxing flow of warm water currents. Pressure Point and Punta Colorada are two excellent dive spots for those looking to explore the area around Puerto Escondido.

07 of 07

Enjoy the Local Cuisine

Grilled fish: Mexican cuisine on the Pacific coast of Mexico
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Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca in general is popular as a foodie destination, with one of its main dishes being ​mole. Here on the coast, seafood rules and you'll be able to find fish and seafood dishes prepared in many different ways. Try a shrimp cocktail or a grilled fish. If you see a pineapple stuffed with seafood on the menu, order that,

If seafood is not your preference, Puerto Escondido also seems to have a disproportionate number of Italian restaurants serving delicious brick-oven pizzas and pastas, and of course, ​you'll find all the usual Mexican staples including rice, beans, tacos, and guacamole.

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7 Best Things to Do in Puerto Escondido