21 Amazing Things to do in Puerto Escondido – A Guide for non-surfers!
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Ah, Puerto Escondido – a town with pristine beaches, surf, wildlife, shopping, and an endless amount of things to see and do! It isn’t a surprise this beach-side Mexican town is quickly growing in popularity for vacationers from all over the world.
What was once only a destination for pro-surfers and Canadian Expats is now a place for any type of traveler. With the wide variety of things to do and see, Puerto Escondido offers everything from massive parties and night clubs to turtle conservation projects to incredible food! There are so many activities in Puerto Escondido it’s truly unreal!
All of this is what drew us to finally check out this Pacific gem for ourselves.
It’s safe to say we had high expectations, but it’s also safe to say our expectations were exceeded!
If you are looking for a beach-side Mexico destination that is gorgeous, safe, offers tons to do, and still maintains authentic Mexican local culture at every turn – then Puerto Escondido is THE place for you!
In this blog, I’ll outline 21 amazing things to do in Puerto Escondido to prove that there is so much more to this town than surfing, as well as offer a few general travel tips for your upcoming trip to Puerto Escondido, Mexico.
Intro to Puerto Escondido, Mexico
Puerto Escondido is located on Mexico’s southern pacific coast in the state of Oaxaca. It is most easily reached by bus from the state capital city of Oaxaca, but also has a small airport that offers plenty of domestic flights from other places in Mexico such as Mexico City or the Yucatan Peninsula.
With only 45,000 residents, Puerto Escondido really is a relaxed tiny town. By taxi or collectivo (shared mini-van), you can pretty much get anywhere your heart desires in the area in under ten minutes!
The town stretches along the coast covering several beaches. Each beach offers its own unique attractions and things to do. Puerto Carrizalillo is the beach perfect for swimming or learning to surf, Puerto Angelito is right in the middle of town and offers boat tours and incredibly fresh seafood restaurants, and Playa Zicatela is the surf hot spot with a wicked nightlife.
What is special about Puerto Escondido in comparison to other popular beach destinations is the authenticity. Unlike places like Puerto Vallarta or Cancun, Puerto Escondido has kept its original charm that offers tons of culture. Expect many people not to speak English, small local al pastor taco stands and many smaller guest houses as opposed to massive skyscrapers and 5-star resorts.
To me, this is Puerto Escondido’s charm.
When to Visit Puerto Escondido
There is no “right” answer for this. The truth is, it really depends on you and the activities you want to do while in Puerto Escondido, Mexico!
The rainy season is from May to November. While this isn’t the ideal time of year for relaxing on the beach, the waves are the best in July and August for experienced surfers. For those who are budget travelers, you’ll also find cheaper prices this time of year.
I visited in October and while it rained most days, the rain only came for about an hour or two in the evenings so it didn’t disturb my trip at all.
From December to April is the dry season. This is also the peak season. It won’t rain during these months and the ocean is a little calmer which is better for those not wanting to surf.
21 Incredible Things to do in Puerto Escondido, Mexico
So, now that I’ve convinced you this charming beachy town is a must-visit, what exactly should you do in Puerto Escondido?
Luckily, there are a ton of activities to do and places to explore! Below are what I consider to be the absolute best things to do in Puerto Escondido (I’m sure you’ll love most of them!)
1. Swim with Bioluminescent Plankton
This is first on my list simply because I think it is likely the most popular activity in Puerto Escondido. Plus, if you have never seen bioluminescent plankton before than it really is a must-do in my opinion!
For me, I swam with bioluminescent plankton in the ocean in Cambodia a couple of years ago. So in all honesty, it wasn’t the most exciting tour for me here in Puerto Escondido. But with that said, I was traveling with some friends who this was a new experience for and they found it quite fun!
But what are bioluminescent plankton, and what is the tour in Puerto Escondido, Mexico about?
On a tour from Puerto Escondido you will be swimming with the plankton in a lake rather than the ocean. Every time you move the plankton shine, it is as if you’re swimming in a body of water filled with glitter! It is hard to explain, but totally cool!
The tour we did picked us up at our hotel at 8 pm. From here we drove for about 20 minutes before parking. We then walked through the jungle for 5 minutes and boarded a boat. The boat seated about 15 people and came with life jackets. We drove around for about half an hour before finding the best spot to swim. Here, we stopped the boat and hopped in to see the glittery plankton!
Surprisingly, the water was warm. Our tour guide explained that it is a natural thermal spring, hence the warm water!
Hot tip: Book your tour online in advance in order to avoid being ripped off. You can book with random salespeople who walk the beaches in Puerto Escondido but they will try to charge you as much as possible. If you do manage to get a good price (like we did) then you will likely get stuck with a large group of people and non-English speaking tour guide (it isn’t fun to have no idea what is going on!) Booking online gives you the security of a written description outlining what you’ll get as well as the ability to read reviews and leave your own!
2. Go Dolphin Watching
Puerto Escondido is world-famous for dolphin watching! Here, only a few miles from the shore it is possible to see hundreds of dolphins! They travel in large packs and work together to trap (circle) their food (fish).
A dolphin watching tour usually goes for about 3-4 hours. Most boats seat up to 8 people and include a guide (not all of them speak English so be sure you get what you paid for!)
When you’re out on the boat, expect to also see plenty of sea turtles. We must have seen 20 turtles including a few that were engaged in the act of reproducing which we were told goes on for 3 hours??
To me, this is a must-do tour in Puerto Escondido! And for only about $45 USD per person with a guarantee of seeing dolphins, you really can’t go wrong!
Hot Tip: If you ever get seasick or motion sickness it is likely you’ll get a bit woozy on this tour. The waves can be quite large and on the small boat, it is easy to get a bit seasick. Buy some sea sickness medicine from any pharmacy in town and take the medicine a good half hour before departing to help prevent this!
This particular dolphin watching tour promises an English speaking guide and has amazing reviews!
3. Try Sport Fishing
During particular seasons you can catch some incredibly big fish in Puerto Escondido!
The most popular sport fish you can catch the Blue Marlin (up to 14-feet long), these fish are catch and release only (thank goodness!) but you will also be able to catch other fish for eating such as the red snapper, grouper, or tuna.
These ones you can keep and grill up for dinner that night if you so choose!
Catching one of these massive rare fish is a once in a lifetime experience! Unfortunately, we never landed the elusive Marlin but we did catch about 15 other fish which we divided up to the crew to take home to their families!
You can book a fishing tour when you arrive in Puerto Escondido at one of the many tour operator offices, or even at the beach. Just be sure to negotiate a good price and all inclusions!
Obviously it largely depends on your group’s size on high expensive it is but expects to pay around 3,000 to 4,000 pesos for the smaller less professional boats thats seat up to 6 people and around $450 USD for a pro boat that can take 10 to 12.
4. Release a Baby Turtle into the Ocean
Turtle conservation is a huge project in Puerto Escondido. In fact, volunteers monitor more than 30 kilometers of beach surrounding Puerto Escondido in order to ensure turtles eggs don’t get stolen by people who still eat them.
They also have several turtle egg hatcheries to help shade the eggs from the sun. With rising temperatures, more females are born so the shade helps even the numbers out – but you’ll learn much more about that once you arrive!
At Playa Bacocho every day they give visitors the chance to release a turtle into the ocean. This project is run by the conservation organization. Every day at 5 pm all you have to do is show up at the beach with 100 pesos and you’ll be able to set your own baby turtle free.
It is actually a really neat experience that they take very seriously. You’ll learn all about the turtles and how important this project is before getting your turtle. You’ll also get very detailed instructions on how to properly release the turtle.
I’ve been to a few turtle releases in my life and I have to say, this one in Puerto Escondido was the best! It was clear that they are making huge efforts towards increasing survival rates and take the whole process very seriously. It is a very organized and well-run experience.
100% of the proceeds go right back towards this project so it is a great cause!
To me, this is a “must-do” activity in Puerto Escondido!
Hot Tip: You can book a tour to do the turtle release on a different beach with only your small tour group. This is a lot more of an intimate experience as the public release at Bacocho Beach for only 100 pesos gets very busy (and there is the chance they will run out of turtles for everybody!) This particular turtle release tour has incredible reviews and you are guaranteed to release AT LEAST one turtle!
5. Go Snorkeling
Beautiful crystal-clear water means perfect conditions for snorkeling!
If you want to snorkel you have two options: 1) go on a snorkel tour, or 2) rent snorkel gear and explore on your own.
The only problem with going on your own is that the beaches around Puerto Escondido are mostly sandy, and don’t offer a ton of interesting reefs to explore with a snorkel. During low tide, you could head out to the rocks at Playa Carrizalillo, but you will want to be careful as the waves can be rough and rocks are sharp!
The best option, in my opinion, would be to do this catamaran and snorkel trip out to Huatulco Bay. This way you not only get to snorkel but also explore the Huatulco Bay and have a relaxing catamaran ride. A win-win if you ask me!
Despite being a small town, Puerto Escondido has a wild nightlife. The best place to go for partying is the area of Zicatela. The main road that runs parallel with the beach offers a large selection of bars, night clubs, and restaurants.
Every night of the week there is a party going on. The club Canabrava is infamous for their lady’s nights and cheap drinks, whereas Barfly is the place to be any time after 10 pm on the weekends.
We went out one Friday night and ended up starting in a small bar with amazing live music, then heading to Barfly, and then heading to an outdoors after party.
We saw for ourselves that the people in Puerto Escondido like to party and we were happy we joined them (although the hangovers the next day weren’t overly enjoyable!)
7. Kayak the Manialtepec Lagoon
Only a short 20-minute drive from Puerto Escondido is the Manialtepec Lagoon, a sanctuary for birds. Here, you can jump on a kayak and spot fish and various birds as you paddle through tunnels made of mangroves.
The only way to do this activity is on a guided tour. This particular tour is a sunrise experience offering the best chance to spot wildlife!
8. Visit Chacahua
Chacahua National Park is a beautiful area to explore offering the chance to see reptiles, relax on the beach, and surf!
To get to Chacahua from Puerto Escondido you must drive for about an hour and then get a boat across a lagoon. Many people stay at Chacahua for a couple of nights to really relax and explore, but it is also possible to visit on a day trip from Puerto Escondido.
At Chacahua there is a pristine beach perfect for surfing. There are also various lagoons around small islands that you can visit as well as a reptile sanctuary where you can see crocodiles!
9. Explore the beach bay of Carrizalillo
Playa Carrizalillo was my personal favorite beach around Puerto Escondido! Although the steep staircase to get to the beach isn’t all that fun on the way up (quite the workout) it is totally worth it.
As you start to descent to the beach along the stone stairs the view is incredible!
Then, once at the beach, there are tons of restaurants to eat at or just relax on lounge chairs under umbrellas
The waves at Carrizalillo are good for beginner surfers, but also calm enough that this beach is perfect for those who just want to swim. You can easily spend a day here alternating between swimming, eating, and drinking!
10. Eat fresh seafood on the beach
You can’t come to Puerto Escondido and not eat seafood! And the best place to do so is right at beachfront restaurants.
Playa Carrizalillo has a large selection of restaurants but I did find them to be a little overpriced. There are also literally dozens of seafood restaurants to choose from at Playa Zicatela but again they can be a little pricey.
Instead, I personally loved eating at the restaurants at Playa Angelito. They were relaxed and reasonably priced. Just be aware, many of these restaurants close around 6 pm so it is best to hit them up for lunch or an early dinner!
You can eat whole grilled fish, octopus, oysters, lobster (when it’s in season), ceviche, and more! At Playa Angelito expect to pay around 150 pesos for a whole fish that’s enough for one person or 250 pesos for a fish big enough for two.
11. Go to Huatulco
Only a 2-hour drive from Puerto Escondido is Huatulco, a very popular tourist destination and national park. In fact, many tourists stay here and never visit Puerto Escondido (what a shame!) The area has lots of large and expensive resorts but also is located on a bay of turquoise water ideal for swimming and snorkeling.
You can go on a day tour to Huatulco or take a local bus and spend a night or two.
I recommend taking this catamaran tour from Puerto Escondido, it will be much more fun than driving!
12. Ride an ATV through the Jungle
Looking for a bit of excitement and adrenaline? An ATV experience is the way to go! It is easily one of the most exciting things to do in Puerto Escondido!
The dense jungle and rolling hills create the perfect scene for racing an ATV! You’ll have lots of laughs and get a bit of a rush at the same time! Just be sure not to wear your nicest clothes as your likely to get dirty!
This particular ATV tour comes highly rated and offers high-quality equipment and safety gear.
13. Go horseback riding
When you think of a beach-side town, horseback riding probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, am I right?
Well, in Puerto Escondido horseback riding is one of the most popular things to do! But instead of riding along the ocean on the beach, most of the horse riding tours actual take you out to the lagoons and thermal waters.
To me, this is a super unique experience!
Check out this horseback riding tour that takes you to hot springs!
14. Stay at a hotel with a pool
Okay, this might not really be a “thing to do” but to me, it is important to mention. In Puerto Escondido, it is hot, especially in the rainy season when it is humid.
Having a pool at your accommodation will be a lifesaver and I guarantee you will use it!
We stayed at a lovely place called Casa Losodeli, and to be completely honest, it was one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed at.
The owner was so friendly and so were the staff who went out of their way to be helpful whenever possible. The place was spotless and the massive pool in the garden setting was perfect. They offered everything from budget dorm rooms to one-bedroom apartments.
If I ever return to Puerto Escondido, I will stay at Casa Losodeli again, no questions asked. However, if you are looking for something a little cheaper or a little more luxurious there are tons of hotels and hostels to choose from in Puerto Escondido!
15. Check out La Reforma Waterfall
Yes, there is a massive gorgeous waterfall near Puerto Escondido. The waterfall is about an hour and a half drive from Puerto Escondido but it is beautiful and makes for a fun day trip!
The waterfall is massive and nothing short of picture-perfect. But the best part is that you can swim in the pool at its base – so much fun!
This particular tour visits La Reforma waterfall before also doing a turtle release in the evening – sounds like an ideal way to spend a day if you ask me!
16. Relax at Playa Puerto Angelito
I mentioned this beach already for eating seafood, but even if you don’t go for food, go for a little look around and swim. Lots of boat anchor here but there is still a sectioned off area for swimmers only.
We also saw people snorkeling here but you do have to be careful because of the boats that use the bay. Regardless, this beach is very popular with local visitors and is much cheaper than the other beaches!
17. Go on a Food Tour
The state of Oaxaca is world-famous for food! For that reason, going on a food tour in Puerto Escondido is a brilliant idea and one of the best tours to do!
Personally, I absolutely love food tours because you learn so much about the food and the area, but also leave super full! More often than not, after a food tour I end up returning to a few of the restaurants a couple of days later just to have seconds!
Food tours need to be booked online in advance as they often only have space for a handful of people. This Puerto Escondido food tour has awesome reviews and visits some special local gems that are guaranteed to be tasty!
18. Take a Surfing Lesson
If you aren’t already a surfing pro, don’t worry, you can learn in Puerto Escondido!
Head over to Playa Carrizalillo and sign up for a private surf lesson. You can either just hire one of the guys at the beach (about 500 pesos for a 2-hour private lesson) or book a lesson online in advance that includes transport.
To be honest, I’ve been surfing quite a few times before but I’m still not an expert at all. I still enjoy taking lessons for the simple fact that the instructor physically gives you a push while you’re paddling to catch a wave which gives you enough momentum to actually get on the wave!
If you don’t want a lesson, you can also rent boards for about 100-150 pesos an hour right on the beach at Playa Carrizalillo.
19. Test your balance on a Paddle-board
If surfing seems a little too extreme, or if the waves just aren’t very good, you can have a go at paddleboarding instead!
At Playa Carrizalillo, the same guys on the beach that rent surfboards also rent paddleboards! Grab one and give it a go!
Alternatively, you can go on a paddleboarding tour in the Manialtelpuc Lagoon!
20. Go Shopping at the Local Market
There is tons of shopping to be done all over Puerto Escondido. Cute shops line busy streets and you will undoubtedly find something that catches your eye.
For the best deals and biggest selection though, head to the local market in central Puerto Escondido. This massive market has everything from raw meat, fresh veggies, to arsenal goods! You can even buy cute clothes for a fraction of the price you’ll find anywhere else in town – just be sure to negotiate a fair price!
21. Go zip-lining through the Jungle
This is another one for the adrenaline junkies! Imagine, soaring high above the trees on a zip-line with views of the ocean and surround mountains – such an incredible experience!
The zip lining in Puerto Escondido is really good and although the ziplines aren’t the longest I’ve done you’ll still have lots of fun!
This particular zip-lining tour also includes a visit to a beautiful waterfall and cliff jumping!
Where to stay in Puerto Escondido
There are a few different areas to stay in Puerto Escondido and we have an entire blog on the best hotels in Puerto Escondido. It includes hotels and hostels in every budget to suit every traveler! However, to quickly give you a little info, here are the main areas to stay:
The area near Playa Carrizalillo – This is the area we stayed and I personally loved it. We were walking distance to Playa Carrizalillo, close to the market and local restaurants, and away from the busy streets but still only a 40 peso taxi to Playa Zicatela!
Playa Zicatela – This is the largest beach area in Puerto Escondido and where the majority of the hotels, bars, and restaurants area. However, you can’t really swim at the beach here because of the rough swells and it has no shade. But if you’re after nightlife and restaurants then look no further.
Playa Punta – This is the beach area to the south of Zicatela but still part of the same bay. This area has more of a “hippy vibe” but is still walking distance to the main area of Zicatela.
All the hotels in these areas come up in search under Puerto Escondido so use the map on Booking.com and select hotels in the area you want to stay.
You can book your accommodation in Puerto Escondido here!
Where to go next?
If your Mexico holiday doesn’t end with Puerto Escondido, then lucky you! There is a huge range of amazing destinations in Mexico to choose from! Some of our personal favorites (that we’ve written blogs about) include:
- Tulum – Cenote diving, ruins, and beaches
- Palenque – the most amazing waterfalls you’ll ever see
- Tequila – Where tequila is made
- Puebla – A cute city with tons to explore just on the outskirts of Mexico City
I truly hope this blog and my complete list of what to do helps get you ready for your travels to Puerto Escondido, Mexico! And, I hope you love the town as much as I did!
November 18, 2019