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Sitting along the Pacific coast in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido is a beach-lover's paradise, boasting one of the most beautiful coastlines in the entire country. Catering to a more casual and eclectic set of visitors than nearby Huatulco, the city's 8 main beaches attract surfers, backpackers, and travelers looking for a less tourist-centric destination. During the day, Puerto Escondido is the perfect place to swim, snorkel, surf, dive, or simply sunbathe on the beach. Once the sun goes down, the city comes alive with a free-spirited nightlife scene full of laidback bars, bustling cafes, and high-energy dance clubs.
Puerto Escondido is a destination known for its beaches-some with calm waters for swimming and snorkeling, while others offer world-class waves to satisfy even the most die-hard surfers.
Playa Zicatela - Of Puerto Escondido's many beaches, the most famous is Playa Zicatela, a sprawling stretch lying southeast of the city center. Dubbed the Mexican Pipeline-nicknamed for its similarities to the legendary Banzai Pipeline in Oahu-the spot draws surfers from all across the world, with waves that can reach up to 20 feet (6 m) between April and November. While the water isn't safe for swimmers or even inexperienced surfers, the area delights others with its colorful shops and cool eateries. Boasting the largest selection of restaurants in town, the district is where you'll find everything from Oaxacan-style tacos to pizza and sushi. Also home to plenty of beachside bars, some open until the wee hours of the morning, this is the place to be if you're looking to party with the expats.
Playa La Punta - Just south of Zicatela, the stretch of sand called La Punta is a calmer location, fine for swimming but mostly fit for beginner and intermediate surfing. Here, you can take a lesson with the Puerto Surf School, go horseback riding on the beach, or take a hill up into the hills. With Zicatela continuing to grow in popularity, more budget hotels and eateries have popped up in La Punta to cater to those looking for a bargain.
Playa Marinero - Directly north of Zicatela, Playa Marinero is a small beach sitting on the eastern side of the bay. The water here is gentle enough for swimming while still offering light waves to please beginning surfers and bodyboarders alike. A great spot for people-watching or just kicking back on the beach, the district also has a small selection of beachside restaurants for a quick yet tasty lunch.
Playa Principal - Around the other side of the bay in front of the town proper, Playa Principal is most popular with locals, a place where you're sure to see fisherman selling their catch and families playing soccer on the beach. The area offers nice conditions for swimming, though you should plan to head elsewhere if you're wanting to surf. Just off the gray-hued sand on the main road of El Adoquín, you'll find a vibrant strip of casual eateries, souvenir shops, and mezcal bars. Anchored close to shore, boats and water taxis can be hired to take you to inaccessible beaches or out for a day of scuba diving.
Playa Puerto Angelito & Manzanillo - To the west, past a jagged coastline of cliffs, sit the tiny twin beaches of Playa Puerto Angelito and Playa Manzanillo. Overlooking a quiet crescent-shaped cove, these small stretches of sand are relaxed and laidback, offering perfect waters to snorkel and swim. At both beaches, find a handful of family-owned eateries set inside thatched cottages called palapas. While Puerto Angelito can get a bit crowded, with visitors being brought there by bus, Manzanillo is much more quiet as you need to walk at least 5 minutes from the main road to reach it.
Playa Carrizalillo - Further west, Playa Carrizalillo is much like the twin beaches, with calm water for snorkeling and swimming, perhaps the best conditions in the city. The most secluded of all the beaches, Carrizalillo is reachable either by a steep, 167-step rock stairway or via water taxi from Playa Principal. No matter how you choose to get there, you won't be disappointed by its golden sand and crystalline water. A small selection of restaurants can be found on the beach, along with others back up on the main road of Benito Juárez.
Playa Bacocho - The furthest west of the beaches, Playa Bacocho is the most upscale part of the city, with luxury beach clubs offering sun chairs, live music, and cocktail-serving waiters. The beach itself is soft, fine sand surrounded by towering palm, while the aquamarine water is moderate for surfers but not good for swimming. Come here in the evening to soak in some of the best sunset views in the region.
Bask in some of the most breathtaking sights of the Oaxacan landscape on a journey into the coastal mountains. From Puerto Escondido, set off on a drive to the quiet village of La Reforma. Upon arrival, embark on a hike that takes you along the river and through the verdant forest. Eventually the river opens up into a lake, into which a cascading waterfall flows from the height of 148 feet (45 m). Here, enjoy free time to take in the beauty of the falls or go for a swim in the cool pool. Dig into a hearty Mexican lunch at a local restaurant before heading back into town.
Get to know the most beloved places in Puerto Escondido on a tour that takes you to explore the city by land and by sea. With a local guide leading the way, browse the range of colors and incredible flavors on offer at the lively Benito Juárez Market. Gain insight into the centuries-old tradition of mezcal-a cousin of tequila-and even sample some of the authentic libation for yourself. After a drive down to the water, board a boat for a ride along the coast. Scope out the region's beautiful beaches while keeping your keys peeled for sights of sea life such as turtles, manta rays, and schools of tropical fish.
For even more of the region's spectacular nature, spend a day in Chacahua Lagoon National Park. On a small boat, cruise the peaceful waterways of the lagoon, taking in sights of foliage on the banks, crocodiles in the water, and birds like the majestic tiger heron flying overhead. Upon reaching a beach, you're treated to a fresh seafood lunch of garlic shrimp or crispy mojarra. Kick back in a hammock for some quiet time in the park before making the drive back to Puerto.
To see what the city has to offer at night, head to the Manialtepec Lagoon in the evening. Beginning your journey at sunset, cruise out into the water, watching as the sun sinks below the horizon. Now, with the moon high in the sky, gaze down at the water below. Thanks to millions of tiny microorganisms, this natural phenomenon glows at night with a brilliant luminescent blue. Marvel at the way the extraordinary hues play against the pitch black sky as you quietly float over the otherworldly wonder.