Things to Do in Puerto Escondido — Fun Things to Do in Oaxaca, Mexico’s Southern Port

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Out of all the things to do in Puerto Escondido, sunsets may be our favorite, but there’s much more to this sleepy Mexican beach town than that. Much more.

Beautiful beaches, fantastic food, incredible wildlife, and a laid-back surfer vibe. There are lots of reasons to visit Puerto Escondido, in Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca. It’s a great place to chill, to surf and to experience nature. There are lots of things to do in Puerto Escondido with kids or on your own, and these are just a few.

Things to Do in Puerto Escondido — Fun Things to Do in Oaxaca, Mexico sunset

Things to Do in Puerto Escondido

Whether you’re a solo backpacker or an intrepid family looking for paradise, Puerto Escondido has something for everyone. In the post below, I’ll detail some of the best things to do in Puerto Escondido. We first discovered this beautiful place in 2012 and returned five years later to happily discover that it hadn’t changed. In all of our travels in Mexico thus far, this is still our favorite beach town in Mexico.

The pictures in this post are a mix of both trips because I wanted to show the things to do in Puerto Escondido as best I can. Read on! And please share!

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Location and Getting to Puerto Escondido

Things to Do in Puerto Escondido — Fun Things to Do in Oaxaca, Mexico Beach sculpture

Facing south on the coast of Mexico’s Oaxaca state, Puerto Escondido has beautiful beaches, great nature, and a small town vibe. The name means “Hidden Port” in Spanish, and one of its charms is how removed it feels from the rest of the world.

Driving to Puerto Escondido

The drive from Oaxaca city is an exhausting 8-9 hours of curvy mountain roads. If you choose this route, give yourself all day and pack motion sickness meds.

Flying to Puerto Escondido

We recommend flying in. You can fly into Huatulco to the east and hire a driver for the 90-minute ride into Puerto Escondido. Small prop planes leave daily from Oaxaca City, but we’ve flown into Puerto Escondido via Mexico City each time we’ve visited.

The Puerto Escondido airport is tiny, and you’ll be out of the plane and grabbing your luggage in no time.

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Getting Around Puerto Escondido

Things to Do in Puerto Escondido — Fun Things to Do in Oaxaca, Mexico Mercado Juarez market meat vendor butcher shop

First off, let’s review let’s review a few of the main places to spent time in Puerto Escondido:

  • Playa Carizalillo: Our favorite beach and the best beach for families in Oaxaca.
  • Playa Zicatela: The surfer beach. Expect lots of restaurants, shops, hotels, guesthouses and a hippie surfer vibe. Sandcastles, too, but not much swimming as the waves are better for surfing (a strong riptide, too).
  • Downtown: Not much to see here, but there are some good places for tacos and tlayudas, as well as a Super Chedraui supermarket.
  • El Rinconada: “The Corner” in Spanish, El Rinconada is a neighborhood/strip of shops just north of the entrance to Playa Carizalillo.
  • El Adoquin: This night market is good for souvenirs, snacks, beach toys and more.

Puerto Escondido can be divided into three areas: Playa Carrizalillo/Rinconada, downtown, and Playa Zicatela. All are within walking distance of each other, but taxis are cheap.

Make Sure to Bring the Right Camera. Puerto Escondido is Really Photogenic!

Taxis and Collectivos in Puerto Escondido

There are several taxi companies in town, and they all charge roughly the same amount. Expect fares around 30-40 pesos around town. The price goes up (60-150 pesos) going to/from the airport.

Or you can take a collectivo, which is a shared taxi usually in the form of a van or minibus. These are much more economical, but try to have exact change. These are significantly cheaper than taxis from the airport.

Walking in Puerto Escondido

Both the town and Zicatela beach strip are very walkable. The includes the stretch between the two, but that may require a little walking in the sun near a busy road or taking several flights of stairs. Consider a quick cheap taxi between them if it’s a concern.

Things to Do in Puerto Escondido

Things to Do in Puerto Escondido — Fun Things to Do in Oaxaca, Mexico Playa Carrizalillo waves surf

Playa Carizalillo

Hanging out on this beach is easily one of our favorite things to do in Puerto Escondido with kids. Having said that, you should realize that it takes over 100 stairs to reach it. Strollers are out if you use them. This secluded little cove is down around a hundred or so steps, but it’s well worth the climb back up at the end of the day.

The water is cool and clear. It isn’t very deep, so it’s easy to let little kids play while you sit under a palapa with a beer. There are plenty of tables and umbrellas. The only requirement to use them is to buy a few things from their menu. Beer, guacamole & chips, fruit, and grilled fish are on the menus everywhere, and we haven’t had a bad meal yet.

Playa Zicatela

The waves at Playa Zicatela attract surfers from around the world. This is not a beach for swimming — there are rocks in certain places and the riptide is strong. Instead, come to surf, watch others surf or soak up the surfing town vibe.

Playa Zicatela has lots of good restaurants with tables spilling out into the sand.

Turtle Sanctuaries / Turtle Release in Puerto Escondido

Things to Do in Puerto Escondido — Fun Things to Do in Oaxaca, Mexico Turtle release Turtle sanctuary

If you want your visit to Puerto Escondido with children to be truly memorable, then let them send a baby sea turtle off into the ocean. The beaches of Puerto Escondido are a hatching ground for two types of sea turtle. The problem is that these baby turtles face several serious threats before ever reaching the water.

There are a number of turtle sanctuaries set up along the sand, where they rescue turtle eggs and hatchlings and make sure they make it to the water safely. You can participate in their release to the wild. We used Lalo Ecotours and had a great experience, but I’m sure that there are many outfitters up for the task.

Any kids and animal lovers will find this to be one of the most memorable things to do in Puerto Escondido.

The Local Market

Things to Do in Puerto Escondido — Fun Things to Do in Oaxaca, Mexico shopping at Mercado Benito Juarez Market

The Benito Juarez market is charming and lively 7 days a week. Come here for meat, fish and fresh vegetables, or just to walk around and buy some mementos of your trip. My mother bought so many beautiful flowers here for my sister’s wedding that she had to take a second taxi trip to bring them all.

You can get a cheap breakfast or lunch here as well. We recommend the food stall called “Eva,” and the juices from the stall across from it.

El Rinconada & El Adoquin

Things to Do in Puerto Escondido — Fun Things to Do in Oaxaca, Mexico shopping on el adoquin

“The Corner” in Spanish, El Rinconada is the strip of shops near the stairs down to Playa Carrizalillo. Good restaurants, shops, laundry services and tour outfitters. There’s also Super Mercado 69, a small supermarket with just about anything you need: from sunscreen and shampoo to wine and sushi rice.

The Adoquin (seen above) is between the town and Playa Zicatela. It’s part chintzy night market, part restaurant district. My daughter and niece spent an hour looking through bracelets, necklaces, and toys carved out of wood and coconut shells. A friend and his 7-year-old son bought matching guayaberas (Caribbean-style button down shirts). My sister and her friends had cocktails and a nice meal a few meters away.

Surfing

Things to Do in Puerto Escondido — Fun Things to Do in Oaxaca, Mexico surfing lessons

Surfers of all levels can come for surfing lessons in Puerto Escondido. In general, the more serious waves are at Playa Zicatela and the mellower surf for beginners is at Playa Carizalillo. No matter your level, surf instructors can find a place for you.

For little kids and a more casual atmosphere, we recommend Playa Carizalillo. Just show up and ask someone in under the palapas about lessons. Our last lessons here cost 400 pesos for 2 hours, but prices vary.

Paddleboarding

Things to Do in Puerto Escondido — Fun Things to Do in Oaxaca, Mexico paddleboarding

Paddleboards are available to rent on Playa Carizalillo and Playa Zicatela. We recommend Playa Carizalillo because the water is much calmer. Only a skilled paddle boarder should consider Playa Zicatela.

Manialtapec Lagoon

Things to Do in Puerto Escondido — Fun Things to Do in Oaxaca, Mexico Laguna Manialpatec Lagoon

At the convergence of a river and the Pacific Ocean, this lagoon is rich in flora and fauna. Laguna Manialtapec is only 20 minutes from Puerto Escondido, and there are a number of activities available here. This includes kayaks and paddle boards.

I recommend just taking a boat tour with an experienced guide. We saw iguanas in the trees and lots of birds like ibises and spoonbills. In the distance, over a sandbar, we saw stingrays leaping out of the water.

Bioluminescence

If you want a truly magical thing to do in Mexico, then this is it. A special type of plankton in the area glows bright blue when the water surrounding it is agitated. The purpose is to scare away predators, but the effect is mesmerizing.

Imagine running your hand through the water, triggering bright blue streams of light. It’s very hard to photograph, but amazing to see. Visibility varies, so ask when you arrive how it if the time is right. It’s best to go on or near a new moon because the lack of moonlight makes visibility better.

There are two main places to see the bioluminescence in Puerto Escondido. Laguna Manialpatec (mentioned above) is the closest but has less predictable visibility. Laguna Chacagua is over an hour away but has much more predictable places to see it.

Remember that you’re visiting a lagoon late at night. It’s supposed to be dark, and that can be scary for some people.

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Where to Stay in Puerto Escondido

Villas Carrizalillo Review — Best Place to Stay in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico hammock & palapa

There are many places to stay in Puerto Escondido — everywhere from dingy backpacker hostels to upscale resorts. The selection is larger down at Playa Zicatela, but we think that Playa Carizalillo is the best beach in Puerto Escondido for kids.

That’s one reason (of many) that the best place to stay in Puerto Escondido is Villas Carizalillo. These villas overlook our favorite beach and the views, the service, the food, and the atmosphere are hard to compare. We’ve stayed here twice and will happily return.

Where to Eat in Puerto Escondido

Things to Do in Puerto Escondido — Fun Things to Do in Oaxaca, Mexico grilled fish lunch on Playa Carrizalillo

There is no shortage of good food in Puerto Escondido. Most food options are either on the Rinconada or down at the road that follows Playa Zicatela, but I enjoy eating at the shacks on the beach as well (see image above). Here are a few restaurants that I can recommend.

Our Top Picks for Where to Eat in Puerto Escondido

El Cafesito

This Mexican/Western bakery and café has two locations. The first is on Playa Zicatela and the other on the Rinconada near the entrance to Playa Carizalillo. Hearty breakfasts, generous dinners, and delicious baked goods. Good service, too.

Espadin

Villas Carrizalillo Review — Best Place to Stay in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico Hibiscus Margarita

This is the restaurant on the Villas Carizalillo grounds, and it’s open to the public. Espadin is by far our favorite place to eat in Puerto Escondido.

Expect traditional Mexican and Western cuisine, but often with a twist. Exceptional tacos, steaks, fish, and Mexican mole. Our boy ate their immense burgers and fish sandwiches numerous times. The girl ate her weight in watermelon guacamole. Keiko ate the salads (spinach & shrimp, jicama & beet, etc). I had a little bit of everything and wanted more.

They serve excellent juices and cocktails, too. My favorite was the hibiscus margarita. Or I should say margaritas. As in plural. Because I had many of them.

The entire restaurant sits on a ledge overlooking Playa Carizalillo and the views are spectacular. Experience at least one sunset here.

La Parrilla Mixteca

Cheap and cheerful local taco place in Puerto Escondido town. Clean place, generous portions and ridiculously cheap. We fed over 20 people to a breaking point (with drinks) for 150 pesos a person.

Other Places to Eat in Puerto Escondido

Things to Do in Puerto Escondido — Fun Things to Do in Oaxaca, Mexico ceviche restaurant

Costeñito Cevichería

Have some really good ceviche with your toes in the sand. We also had some delectable grilled fish and octopus — all cooked up in the shell of a Volkswagon van that’s now converted into a grill in front of the restaurant.

El Sultan

Middle Eastern food. Hummus, pitas, and falafels. Locations on Playa Zicatela and the Rinconada near the entrance to Playa Carizalillo.

Restaurante Pascale

Fine dining on the beach. Come here for things like steak and seafood cooked over a charcoal grill.

Almoraduz Cocina Mexicana de Autor

For foodies only. This is a cutting-edge dining experience, with a revolving menu based on local ingredients. It’s experimental (and expensive), but exactly what some people are looking for.

Rosarito

Typical beach bar & restaurant with decent prices. The menu is huge, but I’d stick to the standards: fish tacos, shrimp enchiladas, etc.

Conclusion: Things to Do In Puerto Escondido

Things to Do in Puerto Escondido — Fun Things to Do in Oaxaca, Mexico under an umbrella on playa carrizalillo

Have you been to Oaxaca? Where did you go? Did you reach the coast? Out of all the things to do in Puerto Escondido, which would you most like to do on your next trip? Let us know in the comments.

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Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. That means that if you buy something or book a hotel in Puerto Escondido using one of my links, we might get a small commission. You pay nothing extra, so don’t worry. Also, everything you see here is just my personal opinion. I only recommend places, activities, and gear that I believe will genuinely help my readers. We loved our time in Puerto Escondido with kids, and I think there are lots of fun things to do in Puerto Escondido for families, for couples, and for solo travelers. If you know of more fun things to do in Puerto Escondido, let me know!

Comments

  1. Jason,great article!! We’ll be in PE in late feb and will try to see some of the places/things that you’ve highlighted.

  2. Francesco Cunsolo says:

    Puerto Escondido is not a hidden beach, it’s a large town, further down the coast you can find beaches that are out of the way, all the way to Tapachula.

  3. The beach sounds awesome Jason but that local market looks fun too. One of my fave aspects of the tropics; visiting local markets for super cheap and fresh fruits and veggies. Especially fruits. Love it. The water looks delightful though. I’d spend hours lazing on those beaches then taking a dip to cool off.

    Ryan

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