The state of Oaxaca is a beautiful and colorful region of Mexico that truly captures the Mexicanity in all senses: gastronomy, art, culture, heritage, and nature. South from the Capital city of Oaxaca is popular surfer town: Puerto Escondido. Well known by the surfing community around the world. Famous for the sandy beaches, big waves and barrels, and definitely a very local hippie vibe.
Nearby Puerto Escondido (Hidden Port in English), are other towns worth exploring like Mazunte, Barra de la Cruz, Puerto Angel to mention a few. These are perfect places to experience unique nudist beaches, wildlife conservation centers, markets with a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables, and unique locals’ artsy shops.
However, my favorite place to visit is within the National park of Chacahua Lagoons. This town is so small that has never been sensed and who live here is an Afro-Mexican community. The town is fully rural. It’s perfect for camping at the beach or staying in one of the few cabins the locals offer. Part of the uniqueness of this place is its geological location. It is situated between a lagoon and the ocean with a channel linking these two bodies of water.
Surfing in Chacahua and Puerto Escondido is definitely a thing. Luckily, there are good conditions year-round. You can find sand-bottom beaches with good waves and constant swells coming in.
For beginners and intermediates, there are a couple of beaches that will allow you to keep practicing this beautiful sport. One of them, is a popular beach Carrizalillo. A bay-like small beach that has good size waves to catch. Just have in mind that as the bay is small and this is a popular place, there will be many beginners with their instructors in the water. Believe me, it can get jammed. If this is the case, head to Marinero beach or La Punta at the far end of Zicatela beach. The waves here can fluctuate in size. Sometimes adequate for learning, some other days they’re bigger for those that already have more experience riding waves.
If one day you feel like just chilling, you can lay down and watch those pro surfers and fearless enthusiast catching BIG waves at Zicatela beach. In the history of this beach, there has been 20-meter high waves. This is why these strong and powerful waves are chosen to host surf competitions annually for those who enjoy riding shortboards and doing speedy manoeuvres.
On the other side, Chacahua is more chilled. It’s a right-hand wave coming in frequently. It tends to be more friendly to beginners and intermediates. The best season to visit is Summer. Just be aware the heat can get intense on the coast, so keep hydrated and don’t forget sunscreen.
For surf equipment, you can find all in Puerto Escondido. There are multiple surf shops and surf schools everywhere in town. If you visit Chacahua, bring extra wax, an extra leash too because you won’t find any ‘surf shop’ in this rural community.
For practicing yoga, there are multiple studios close to Zicatela, which will be the most central spot in town. Casa Corzo offers good deals with yoga classes, spa treatments, and massages.
There is also Casa Shanti, Marea studio, to mention a few. You can find more online, simply by walking around, or ask your host, other locals or travelers, they might know. You can always enjoy a good sunset or sunrise yoga session at the sandy beaches of Chacahua.
You will always find multiple hotels, guest houses, and hostels on the main street in front of Zicatela beach. My favorite are affordable hostels, which are also great to meet more travelers that want to experience the same vibe as you. Check out Puerto Dreams and Casa Akumal on Hostel World.
When traveling with more people there are many good options on Airbnb to host bigger groups in private apartments or houses near the beaches as well. If you want to stay near to the night-life, definitely chose a hostel at La Punta or in front of Zicatela beach. Otherwise you can enjoy a calm environment in Bacocho or Rinconada, neighbourhoods near Carrizalillo.
If you don’t want to eat out too much, there is a good and big food market that offers a huge variety of fresh produce and other options. This will save you some money for sure. The market is held in the inner city. There is also a single conventional supermarket in the middle of town. However, it is honestly easier to stay around your area and go out for breakfast, lunch or dinner to taste Mexican food. I encourage you to do so! Try some specialities with fresh seafood from this Pacific coast, or eat the real tacos. Happily, Puerto is a place with a lot of healthy options to eat. Including tasty dishes for vegetarians and vegans too.
If you are visiting Chacahua, you will notice the coast is full of roofs made of palm trees. All these small huts are restaurants owned by the locals of the community. They all offer pretty much the same things, but there are also some that have their own specialties. You will find most dishes made with fresh seafood, exotic fruits, well-chilled beers, and some tortilla snacks. You can also pack some food to bring with you. Just be aware you won’t find a fridge to store food or a kitchen to cook. Bring your own water and maybe dry snacks like nuts, cereal or protein bars.
Things to do
When you are not in the water or on a yoga mat, I recommend you to go check out the night and evening markets. They are held on the pedestrian streets parallel to Bahia Principal. These are full of Mexican artisans, fun surprises and jewellery.
Walk up the stairs to check out the viewpoint at the Mirador Romance de Verano. Here the sunsets will take your breath away.
Take a walk on the beach and stop in one of the bars to have a beer or cocktail, check out Jardin Escondido.
In Chacahua go for a hike all the way up to the lighthouse to check out the amazing view. You should also check out their main town and visit the crocodile and reptiles center.
One thing you cannot skip at night is to see the bioluminescence at the Manialtepec Lagoon. You can get a trip that includes transportation, get a taxi or drive yourself. Once there, buy your entrance ticket you will get a boat ride in the mangroves under the moonlight. The boat will stop in the middle of the Lagoon and you will be able to experience a swim with bioluminescence. This is a natural phenomenon worth seeing and experiencing!
Puerto Escondido is easy to navigate in taxis. You will find them everywhere and will coast you around 25 Mexican pesos (1.50 USD) a ride if you are not going far. You can always rent a car, motorcycle or bike from your nearest store, or even your hostel. But I wouldn’t stress out too much about this as you will find yourself walking a lot along the coast, where most things happen.
Chacahua is also so small you can walk it all. But you will need to find a boat ride to get in and out of the town, then just cab back to Puerto Escondido. You can also arrange transportation in advance in one of the kiosks in front of Zicatela.
Money & Visa
Before starting your adventure in the Coast of Oaxaca, keep in mind you will need to have cash on you always. Not all places accept all types of cards. Don’t panic though, there are a few ATMs in town, but they aren’t always functional. Just keep that in mind. If traveling to Chacahua, there is no other option but to bring your money in cash.
And just to give you an idea, 1 USD is 18 Mexican pesos. With 18 Mexican pesos, you can’t do lot but you will see Mexico is very cheap and this will be a very affordable trip.
Depending on where you are coming from, visa requirements will vary. If you hold an Australian passport you don’t need a visa if you stay up to 180 days in Mexico. Generally speaking, Mexico does not hold a lot of restrictions for tourists from many countries around the globe.
When traveling in Puerto Escondido, Chacahua and surrounding areas, you will probably find trash on the beaches. If so, pick it up and put them in the garbage bins.
A lot of places here and most of the people are environmentally aware. This is nice as many restaurants and shops contribute to a more conscious and sustainable lifestyle. You might see groups of people or organizations cleaning up the beaches, join them!
You can always bring your own single-use containers, cutlery, and glass straws.
One more thing that you should do, while you are in Puerto Escondido, is to visit Colectivo Vivemar. This organization is a conservation center for sea turtles. They are located in Playa Bachoco and around sunset time they host visitors to educate them about the species and how we can help prevent turtles from extinction. For a 100 pesos (6 USD) you can release baby turtles into the sea.