The ultimate backpacker’s guide to Puerto Escondido, Mexico
Ah, what a magical place it is! Puerto Escondido is an awesome beach town on the west coast of Mexico in the Oaxaca region. I booked four nights and stayed a month. It’s an easy place to get stuck, this town has it all. Incredible backpacker vibes, raging parties, beautiful beaches, sunny weather and tasty food.
The whole time I was in Puerto Escondido, I did not see a drop of rain or a cloud. I was travelling through April, when the weather is super hot, I’m talking 30-38 degrees. Sometimes all you can do is chill by the beach or pool, or sit under some air conditioning! Don’t let this deter you though, Puerto Escondido is one of my absolute favourite places in Mexico and it’s generally safe for tourists. For me, it far outweighs the more popular beach areas like Tulum, Cancun or Playa Del Carman in the Yucatan and Quintana Roo regions. I found those areas overrated, expensive and touristy and I cannot understand why anyone bothers with them. The West Coast is the best coast baby!
This is a big blog with everything you could ever need for Puerto Escondido. I’ve listed the best areas to stay, food places, nightclubs, accommodation, things to do, getting there and getting around, the low down on beaches and other hot tips. You’re welcome.
How to get there
Puerto escondido is super accessible by plane as it has its own airport. I flew from Mexico City for about $120 AUD including baggage using Viva Aerobus Airline. You can also get buses from Oaxaca City or Mexico City.
Bus from Oaxaca City:
You have two options for buses from Oaxaca City. The first is by colectivo (basically an 8-12 seater van/bus). This way takes about eight hours and it’s the cheapest. The downfall is the bus is nicknamed vomit van because the roads are crazy windy. If you don’t get motion sickness, take this option! You get the colectivo from La Solteca S.C.L in Oaxaca City and it costs roughly 250 pesos ($18 AUD).
The second option is to take the ADO night bus that doesn’t take the vomit van route. This is a normal bus and has a toilet etc. It will take about 12 hours and is a bit more expensive but what’s the price of not vomiting? You can book your ticket here and it will cost roughly 600-700 pesos ($50 AUD). There are multiple locations for pick up.
Bus from Mexico City:
The ADO bus will be your best bet. It’s a longer journey and you want to be comfy! The bus time is roughly 18 hours and will set you back about 1,000 pesos ($75 AUD) and you can buy them here. My flight from Mexico City was $120 and took 30 minutes, so if you have the money and don’t want to break up the journey in Oaxaca City, catch a flight (not a feeling).
Areas to stay
There are four main areas of Puerto Escondido. I stayed in all of them except for the Centro area. Here’s the low down on each and a lil map for some visual representation.
La Punta (called Brisas de Zicatela on the map)
My favourite area of Puerto Escondido is La Punta! Everything you could dream of lives here. Like minded backpackers from all corners of the world are everywhere, walking around barefoot and soaking up the sun and saltwater. There are plenty of awesome bars, wholesome cafes, cute shops and good restaurants. La Punta is also next to one of the best beaches and it’s where the nightlife kicks off. Plus, the sunsets are beautiful! If you want some surf lessons, this is the most popular area too. Stay in La Punta people!
I also loved Zicatela. Zicatela is a lot more chill than La Punta until about 11pm. That’s when everyone comes to this area to hit up the lively techno clubs or play pool in Esmeralda, a massive pool bar. You have some good cafes and dinner options here and it’s a bit cheaper (not as many as in La Punta though). The beach is beautiful and it has some of the best pipeline surf in the world. The downside is the waves are pretty big so many people don’t swim here and you can be told off for getting in the water. I still swam, staying in the shallows, but if you’re not well versed at getting out of a strong current, perhaps don’t do that.
One huge plus of staying in Zicatela is the cheap cabañas. If all you want to do is eat, swim and tan but you need some shade too, this is the place for you. You can find restaurants with cabañas to relax in by the water for WAY cheaper than La Punta and other areas. All you have to do is buy some food and/or beers. There are no fees or minimum spend for using them! I spent about $20 on beers and nachos and had a cabaña for a whole day next to a good swimming spot. To find them, go to the Zicatela beach near the night clubs, walk towards the right of the beach (opposite direction to La Punta) and you’ll see some more local looking glorious, shady, comfy cabañas!
Playa Carrizalillo area
This little area has lots of cute restaurants, cafes and the most swimmable beach. There’s no crazy party scene but it’s not far if you want it. The beach is relatively flat and easy to swim in (although it’s down some steep stairs). Yet again I’m showing my Australian beach snobness here, but the water felt like a warm bath to me and I didn’t like how flat it was. I need those refreshing salty waves! If you’re in the area I would go here for a visit though as it’s super beautiful.
Puerto is bloody hot and through the day, you want to be near the beach. Being in the centre means you’d have to get a colectivo, taxi or hire a scooter to get to the water everyday. The Centro area is more local, I’ll give it that, but you’d be missing the greatness of the nightlife and cool food spots if you stayed there. Not worth the hassle in my opinion, although there are more hostels here that I’ll list below.
The smaller areas of Puerto Escondido are super walkable. You can also walk between each of them in about 30 minutes if you can withstand the heat. Taxis are pretty cheap too and they’re safe. But then there’s fun scooters and colectivos too.
If you’re spending some time in Puerto Escondido and want to hit up many different areas, hiring a scooter or quad is your best bet! For one day I paid 1,000 Pesos ($72 AUD) for a quad or you can get a scooter for 300 pesos ($21 AUD). The longer you hire one the cheaper it is. It’s also cheaper to hire them from Zicatela than in La Punta.
Please use the colectivos instead of taxis if you can, they’re so fun and so cheap!! Colectivos are trucks with bench seats in the back and a blue canvas cover. You literally stand on the side of the road on the highway, flag them down and they pull over. Jump in the back and pay a whole 10 pesos ($1 AUD) no matter how far you go. To get off, you ring the bell and like magic they pull over. You can do this to travel between all areas that are just off the highway and they run until about 8-9pm. Oh and you can drink muchos beers in there too and no one cares.
The best food spots
There are so many good food places! I have a huge list but these are my favourites and the places I frequented the most:
Fish Shack, La Punta – Holy fuck it is so good, you could eat here everyday. Get the coconut fried shrimp tacos
AMOKI JR, La Punta – Right next to Fish Shack you can get giant tasty burritos
Malagua Cafe, La Punta – Amazing acai bowls and Australia level good coffee
Piyoli Punta, La Punta – Great breaky but the curry shrimp tacos are SO tasty and different
Lychee Thai Food, La Punta – Beautiful Thai food and tasty seafood
Chicama Peruvian Restaurant, La Punta – Proper bougie Peruvian fusion food, ceviche here is bomb
The Boneyard, La Punta – Tasty cheap burgers and fries (also mentioned as my fave bar)
Alaburger, La Punta – Really nice burgers, atmosphere and pizza
Vietnamese Place, La Punta – Don’t expect Vietnam level Vietnamese but it’s still really nice and fresh
Spirulina, Zicatela – Everything is amazing but especially the chocolate chip gorilla pancakes
Elephant Garden, Zicatela – Good iced coffee, eggs and bagels
El Taco Brown, Zicatela – A proper OG Mexican taco style restaurant, the pastor was my fave!
Tripling as food, bars and entertainment, there are three spots that have a load of food trucks and drinks in one location in La Punta, mad fun, mad tasty. The first is called Food Market (more food less entertainment), the second is Espacio Cometa and the third is Punta Origen (my favourite one). They have food ranging from sushi to burgers to tacos and muchos cocktails. Depending on the night of the week, there are open mic nights and live gigs at these awesome venues too. Heading there is a night out in itself!
The best bars and nightlife
Everything good is happening in La Punta until 11pm. Then people jump in taxis and head to Esmeralda Pool Bar in Zicatela, then onto whatever nightclub is banging for the night. The nightclubs change each day of the week and stay open until 6 or 7am.
The Boneyard, La Punta – My favourite bar in all of Mexico! There’s a skate bowl in the middle and you just drink cheap beers, smoke and watch the skaters. Shoes and shirts are optional and there’s a mad little tattoo place and vintage clothing store. The staff are so friendly, the alcohol and food are cheap and the music is great. I went here almost every day, call me Tony Hawk.
Esmeralda, Zicatela – Over 30 pool tables in an outdoor hall where people wear no shoes, sometimes no shirt and play and drink and be merry
Phi, La Punta – This sick venue opened recently and they spin awesome hip hop tunes and have cute huts on the ground to sit in
SOS, La Punta – You can play darts, pool, table tennis and other fun games here while drinking cheap beer and cocktails
Bikini Bar, La Punta – Sip a cocktail in a coconut and sit on some cute bar swings and totally get like your best ever Instagram shots babes
Mombasa, La Punta: This bar is so fun and they have delicious food too. As the night gets later, the bar comes alive with a DJ and dancing!
Nightclubs for each night of the week (all in Zicatela)
Monday – Cactus
Tuesday – Chula or Xcaanda
Wednesday – Congo (this is closer to Centro area and gets jam packed, wear light clothes)
Thursday – People start at Punta Origin in La Punta (food truck place) then usually go to Chula or Xcaanda
Friday and Saturdays – The weekend is a free for all, you can choose where you want to go or find out if there are any good DJs at the nightclubs in Zicatela. Most people would start at Bonita Escondida, a big party hostel. Go there, make some friends and find out what’s on. Not mentioned on a specific day here is Mar & Wana. It’s a popular techno club on the beach!
I stayed in about five different places in the month I was there. For a place that’s full of backpackers, Puerto’s hostel game is weaaaakk son. Below are some of the best ones, but if you have some mates, consider an Airbnb or hotel with aircon!
One Love, La Punta – Meant to be amazing but it’s small and gets full quickly, so book in advance.
Bonita Escondida, La Punta – Location, beds and party are excellent. Everything else sucks absolute donkey balls. The bathrooms are filthy and some of the staff are arrogant and rude. It’s also full of British 18 year old twats. BUT if you can’t find anywhere else and really want to party for a few nights, it’s a decent option.
Vivo Escondido, Playa Carrizalillo – A social hostel with tasty free breakfast, near a beach and food places. A taxi to La Punta is about 10 minutes from here.
There are two hostels in the Centro area, Tower Bridge and La Escondida Puerto Dreams that are good, social hostels but you’d sacrifice location.
Villa Caselet Hotel, Zicatela – I stayed here to escape the wildness of La Punta for a while. It’s a cheap, cosy hotel with a lovely pool, nice beds, clean rooms and heavenly air conditioning. It’s in a great spot next to fantastic cafes too!
Things to do
Eat, swim, tan and party but you can also:
Watch every sunset possible. The sunset on any of the beaches are beautiful. There is also another breathtaking spot to watch it from surrounded by beautiful cliffs and palm trees called Mirador Las Tortugas. Just pop it into your map and walk towards it. When you get there, there is a guy asking for money to enter what looks like his property, it isn’t. Keep walking further down the road and you’ll see people sitting down a cliff area. B-E-A-uuutttful.
Hire a scooter or quad and beach hop, following the coastline. You’ll easily find more secluded swimming spots.
Get some surf lessons. If you want the number of a great guy I used give me a shout. You shouldn’t pay more than 500 pesos each for an hour (about $35 AUD).
Drink and watch the skateboarders at The Boneyard.
Do a hike with Hikers of Puerto Escondido. These legends do a couple of hikes a week to picturesque places in the area, ranging from easy to hard and some include swimming spots. You’re in a group of about 10-20 lovely people and it’s an awesome way to make friends and do some exercise. After you finish hiking, everyone goes for beers and cheap tacos, wahoo! To book, just request to join the group and comment on the hike you want to do (posted weekly). Then, you go to a hostel for pick up, pay a small amount of cash for fuel and off you go.
Other hot tips
Get cash out before you go. There are a few ATMs around but not many. If you’re staying in La Punta, you’ll have to head into Centro to find a good bank.
If you need some extra fun on your nights out, buy it from the hostel and not the people in the clubs. They sell you bad shit for bad prices.
Do not go onto the beaches super late at night. I heard many stories of people doing this and running into Police who planted bags of drugs on them to bribe them for money! You’ll see tourist police on quad bikes getting around and these guys are there to help you, they’re not the ones to be weary of.
Some of the nightclubs proper search you. I’m talking every zip in your bag, pockets and patting you down. They took my damn Nurofen! Don’t bring anything resembling any kind of fun on your body in obvious spots in case you lose it.
JESUS that was a long one that made me want to go back to Puerto Escondido. I hope you love this place as much as me!
Yours in beach parties and fun,