Puerto Escondido is becoming a hot topic in the travel world and with it being an up-and-coming destination it can be hard to find practical information. I did a lot of research before reaching the area and I was surprised when I arrived because what I had read and watched didn’t seem to align with what I was experiencing firsthand. One of the topics I struggled with was gaining a clear perspective on where to stay in Puerto Escondido so I’ve put together a cheat sheet to help other travelers heading to the coast.
Carrizalillo Beach, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
Some Basic Geography
Puerto Escondido is a town located on the Oaxacan Coast in the southwest of Mexico. Many travel resources dub the town as “small”, so I was surprised when I arrived to find that it actually has a population of around 45,000 people plus the many long-term/temporary visitors that frequent the area.
The town is quite sprawling as it stretches down the Pacific coastline. Driving from the La Punta area in the south, to the Bacocho area in the north takes 15-20 minutes or about an hour and half to walk, although I wouldn’t recommend this method.
Depending on the type of traveler you are, budget and the experience you are hoping to have, there is definitely a best area to choose as a base. I like to break the town into four regions, in order from north to south: Bacocho & Carrizalillo, Centro, Zicatela and La Punta. Each area has a totally different experience and traveler demographic and choosing the right one for you is crucial to enjoying your time in this town. To help you along the way I have put together this cheat sheet on the pros and cons of each neighbourhood.
Map of Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
Bacocho & Carrizalillo
Located at the north end of the town you will find the neighbourhoods of Bacocho & Carrizalillo, only 5 – 10 minutes driving from the airport.
Ideal For: Late 20s+, couples/families, those looking to be within reach of the action but not in the midst of it.
View from Restaurante Pez Gallo at Club de Playa Villasol, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
-Beaches: The beaches in this area are, in my opinion, the best in town. They are less busy and also have much calmer waters allowing for swimming.
-Dining: Some of my favourite restaurants in town are in this area. The standard of food and the value for money is the best in this part of town.
-Quality Accommodation: The top end of the town offers several great options for 3-4* hotels at a good price. I stayed at the Hotel Aldea del Bazar which is a beautiful Arabian influence hotel overlooking the ocean.
Pool, Hotel Aldea del Bazar, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
-Nightlife: Most of the nightlife in town happens in Zicatela and La Punta so if you are looking for some late night drinks and dancing you will need to take a taxi to one of these area. The price during the day is around 50 pesos [$2.50USD/$3CAD] and at night can spike to as high as 100 pesos [$5USD/$6CAD] but you should try not to pay more than 80 pesos [$3.90USD/$4.90CAD].
-Walkability: Depending on where you end up in this area you may find yourself needing to take taxis to the restaurants or the beach. Taxis around the neighbourhood are generally no more than 35 pesos [$1.70USD/$2.20CAD] and are easy to hail or restaurant and hotel staff are happy to call one for you.
Centro literally means “centre”. This is the heart of the town and off the tourist trail.
Ideal For: Budget-Conscious travellers, Culture Vultures
Mural, Mercado Benito Juarez, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
-Budget: Centro is great for your budget no matter what you’re paying for. Accommodation costs here are significantly less than in other parts of town as well as food, water and supplies.
-Shopping: This was my favourite area for shopping. Other parts of town have the cute Insta-worthy stores but the central market, Mercado Benito Juarez is the place to go. Selling everything from clothing to fresh fish, the mercado is a one-stop-shop with the most reasonable prices in town. Centro is also where you’ll find most of the banks and even a Chedraui [big box store].
Chiles Roasted for Mole, Mercado Benito Juarez, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
-Beaches: If you’re coming for the beaches and the sunsets this may not be the area for you as you will need some sort of transportation to access the ocean.
Zicatela is one of the world's best surfing beaches and the backpacker hub of town.
Ideal For: Surfers, Backpackers, Younger Travellers
Sunset, Zicatela Beach, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
-Sunsets: The sunsets in Zicatela are some of the most spectacular I have ever seen. The sky dances with these incredible purples and oranges, it’s absolutely hypnotic.
-Centre of the Universe: In terms of activity, Zicatela is the place to be. Surf lessons, beach workouts, parties, dance lessons, skydiving, whatever you want to try you will probably find here.
Zicatela Sign, Zicatela Beach, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
-Touristic: This part of town definitely has a purpose-built feeling to it. All the businesses seem to cater to backpackers and surfers so if that’s not you, it can feel a little contrived.
This is like the zen, barefooted big sister to Zicatela located at the south end of town.
Ideal For: Wellness Seekers, Yogis, Instagrammers
Coffee Shop, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
-Photo Worthy: La Punta is like a mini Tulum in terms of Instagrammability. Most of the businesses and bars here are very aesthetically lead so if you are looking for "likes" this is a good place to go.
-Wellness: This part of town is a yogi/vegan heaven. It is absolutely swarming with yoga teachers, chakra cleansers, vegan restaurants and barefoot beach bums riding scooters.
Shop, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
-Pricey: Many shops here are selling small items for thousands of pesos citing that they are made by artists or one-of-a-kind pieces. I also noticed a trend in more expensive coffee and food when using buzzwords like “organic” or “sustainable”.
-Somewhat Inauthentic: This is a controversial opinion so I will elaborate a little further on this one. Based on my personal travel history, La Punta felt like it was trying to be bohemian and beachy on purpose. I found myself drawing comparisons to places like Caye Caulker in Belize.
Caye Caulker is a sandbar island located in the Belize Barrier Reef. It has no paved roads, and the only modes of transportation are golf carts, bicycles and walking. The businesses on the island are run almost entirely by locals, the bars are full of locals, the streets are full of locals. When you are in Caye Caulker you feel like you have been let in on a Belizean secret and La Punta lacks that underlying authenticity. Most of the business are run by foreigners and a lot of the more rustic elements feel intentional rather than natural.
Puerto Escondido is almost like a collection of small communities that share the name "Puerto Escondido". No matter what sort of trip you're hoping to take there is a part of town that will cater to that for you. Identifying which area suits you will help you have the best possible experience.
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