The real beauty of the Oaxacan Riviera is finding your own hidden beach.
The real beauty of the Oaxacan Riviera is exploring and finding your own hidden paradise.

The sleepy little fishing town of Puerto Escondido has got a beach for everyone. From monster waves for world class surfing to tranquil waters teeming with fish life for snorkeling, and everything in between. It’s all here.

Compared to the chock-full tourist beaches of Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, every beach in Puerto Escondido is going to feel like a peaceful getaway. But the real beauty of this area is that there are still tons of hidden beaches just a short drive from town where you’ll have miles of sand all to yourself!

Imagine, soaking up the warm Mexican sun and dipping your toes in the Pacific Ocean, all without the hassle of fighting off the hammock salesman or hawkers pushing beaded necklaces. This is exactly what you’ll find right down the path from Gecko Rock…but when you’re after a little more action – here are the beaches to check out in Puerto Escondido.

Home of the Mexican Pipeline, Zicatela Beach is the heart and soul of Puerto Escondido

Zicatela is where the big waves live and where the international surf competitions are held every year.

During peak surfing season from April through November, swells bring in waves in the 6 to 15 foot range that break into hollow tubes. Even during the off-peak season most of Zicatela is for expert surfers only. Further down the beach towards town, there are smaller waves suitable for boogie boarding, but for the most part nobody comes to Zicatela to swim.

The main drag that runs along Zicatela is where you’ll find the largest selection of hotels and restaurants in town. You’ll find Oaxacan style seafood, pizzerias, fish tacos, hamburgers, health food and a wide range of nightlife. If you’re looking to party, Zicatela is where you’ll want to head.

La Punta is number two on the surfing depth chart

East of Playa Zicatela is La Punta. La Punta is the main backpacker zone and has a distinctly different feel to it than other parts of town. Down along the beach the dirt roads and thatch roofed restaurants will make you feel like you’re on an island in Thailand.

As Zicatela begins to attract a more midrange traveler (price wise), more and more budget accommodation and lodging is popping up in La Punta.

The waves at La Punta are more moderate, with good surfing for experienced surfers, but also smaller waves for beginners and intermediates. You can easily find a board to rent here or take lessons if you’re new to the sport.

Parts of La Punta are fine for swimming, but it is still primarily a beach for surfers.

Playa Principal, where Mexican holiday goers flock to play

Fishermen at Playa Principal unloading their morning haul.
Fishermen at Playa Principal unloading their morning haul.

Come to Playa Principal on Christmas or Semana Santa and you’ll hardly be able to see the sand for all the multi-colored umbrellas.

The main beach of Puerto Escondido runs parallel to the Adoquin, the main tourist road where you can go shopping for artesanías or souvenirs, do mezcal tasting, and find a wide range of restaurants and hotels.

A walk along Playa Principal is a cultural treat, especially in the morning when the fishermen return from the sea with their morning catch. You can buy dorado (mahi mahi), pez vela (sailfish), bonito (skipjack tuna), and other freshly caught fish right there from vendors on the beach.

Playa Principal is also where all of the ships are moored, so here is where you’ll head to go out on a fishing tour or whale/dolphin/turtle watching expedition.

The bay is protected and suitable for swimming, but this particular beach is not especially popular with foreign visitors looking to spend the day in the water. Playa Principal is mostly frequented by locals and middle class Mexicans who drive down from Mexico City or Oaxaca during holiday breaks.

Playa Marinero

Playa Marinero is situated between Playa Principal and Playa Zicatela. The waves here are perfect for beginner surfers and boogie boarders, and also gentle enough for safe swimming.

Take the stairs down from the Rinconada to get to Playa Carrizalillo

Carrizalillo is one of the best swimming beaches in Puerto, with calm, clear water and simple beach side restaurants. It’s also a popular spot for snorkeling.

Be prepared for a walk as the descent down to the beach is 167 steps! Of course the way back up the hill is the real challenge.

Two beaches separated by rocks: Playa Manzanillo and Puerto Angelito

You’ll also need to walk down a fairly long set of stairs to get to these two beaches that are found between Playa Principal and Playa Carrizalillo. You can follow the signs from Highway 200 or take a taxi to get here.

Both beaches are super calm and great for swimming and snorkeling. The only problem is that the cove is quite small and so it crowds quickly on a busy day. Also, launches come and go from the shore here so you’ll need to keep an eye out.

There are plenty of small palapa seafood restaurants lining the beach, most of them with seating under the palm trees. You could definitely spend a day here sipping cervezas in the shade.

There are so many beaches to visit here that you’ll probably have to plan a second trip next year!

In addition to Puerto Escondido’s beaches and those in the surrounding area, a short drive away you can find Mazunte, La Ventanilla, Puerto Angel, Zipolite and San Agustinillo.

Sunset at Gecko Rock.