Complete Guide to the Beaches of Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico

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.

We’ll talk about a couple of these gorgeous secluded beaches at the end here, but first let’s cover the main beaches that you’ll find in Puerto.

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

Zicatela is where the big dogs come to ride the waves and where the international surf competitions are held every year. The Mexpipe and World Masters Championships are held in August, and another contest coincides with the Fiestas de Noviembre.

During the principal 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 long 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 with the expat crowd, Zicatela is where you’ll want to head.

La Punta is number two on the surfing depth chart.

Following east from Playa Zicatela will take you to 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. Puerto Surf School is located at La Punta for those wishing to take lessons or rent boards. You can also take a guided horseback tour along the beach and up through the local hillside. Look for Salvador at the lifeguard tower.

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, home of the Split Coconut.

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.

A popular haunt for the expat community that lives in Puerto Escondido year round, as well as for all the snowbirds, is Brad’s Split Coconut, a BBQ restaurant right on the beach. If Brad’s behind the grill, meat lovers can expect a real treat with his signature Georgia-style pork ribs, but unfortunately when his staff mans the kitchen, quality suffers. But his beer’s always cold!

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.

OK, these beaches are nice and all, but there are still too many people!

Bird watching at the lagunaOf course we’re bias, but for a truly relaxing holiday where you’ll never be hassled on the beach and feel like you’re the star in your own private Corona commercial, check out our place, Gecko Rock Resort. (As an added bonus we’re adult-only, so there won’t be any screaming children splashing about during your vacation.)

Visiting our beach is like it was twenty years ago. It’s a magical experience as it’s still teeming with all sorts of cute little critters. There are rock pools filled with tiny tropical fish and it’s a short walk to a large laguna for peaceful bird watching in the morning and evening. Unless you see a local fisherman tossing a line out into the sea, most days you won’t find another soul on the sand.

Plug over. On to some other secluded beaches.

A popular rural beach not far from us is Agua Blanca. The town itself has about 15 or so basic beach side restaurants where you can enjoy a delicious seafood meal. The beach directly in front of the restaurants can be fairly popular on the weekends, but it is pretty chill during the week.

All you need to do for more solitude is walk about 5 minutes in either direction and you won’t see anybody. Most visitors to Agua Blanca bring their families, so mom and dad relax in the shade while the kids play soccer on the beach or swim.

To get to Agua Blanca inexpensively, take a bus from Puerto Escondido in the direction of Huatulco and then ask the driver to drop you off at Santa Elena. From there take a taxi. It’s only 28km from Puerto. Alternatively you can ask to be dropped at Agua Blanca and then walk to the beach (about 2km) or wait for a taxi. But the nearest full-time taxi stand is at Santa Elena. Of course if you’re staying with us at Gecko Rock, Agua Blanca is just a short 20 minute walk down the beach.

Another secluded beach that is closer to town is Tierra Blanca. It’s probably only 150 pesos to take a taxi from Puerto Escondido to get there, so that might be easier than trying to bus it. There is only one restaurant on a huge stretch of beautiful beach, a one minute walk and you’ll have your own private spot. If you do want to take public transport, take the bus towards Huatulco and get off at El Tomatal, take a taxi from there.

An off-the-beaten-path snorkeling beach at Puerto Angel.

An off-the-beaten-path snorkeling beach at Puerto Angel.

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

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

And we haven’t even talked about the many rivers and lagunas along the Oaxacan Riviera. Bottom line, if you like sun and water, you’ll like it here.

Sunset at Gecko Rock.

Sunset at Gecko Rock.

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