15 Must-Sees for Your Bucket List
Puerto Escondido is the kind of place where you want to get lost for awhile. To forget Zoom calls and daily obligations for a bit and sink into the sounds of crashing waves and a simpler life. All you really need is a swimsuit and a bottle of sunscreen. I should know—this past fall, bordering on burnout during one of the busiest periods I’d ever had at work, Adam and I stole away for a few days to this paradise on the coast of Oaxaca. Within two hours, I’d forgotten that my email inbox even existed.
But let’s back up a bit. I’m guessing that at this point, some of you are asking: where is Puerto Escondido and why should I go there? I first heard about it myself on our trip to Oaxaca City last year. As I fell head over heels for this magical state in Mexico, I got curious about its many other areas (Oaxaca is Mexico’s biggest state, and it’s vast). Locals told me that I must check out the laid-back port town in the south of Oaxaca called Puerto Escondido.
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How to Spend a Long Weekend in Puerto Escondido
It must be said: this guide to Puerto Escondido comes from a very specific point-of-view, covering only the part of the coast that I really explored. From our home base at Hotel Escondido, it’s a stunning stretch of beach about 40 minutes from the more bustling beaches like Zicatela and La Punta. Once we discovered the riches to be found dotted along this one long (and extremely bumpy) dirt road, we didn’t want to leave. Unspoiled beaches with rocky outcrops, massive waves, desert plants growing like crazy over every dirt path and rock wall—it’s paradise.
So, with that disclaimer, here’s what to do in Puerto Escondido on a long weekend trip.
How to Get to Puerto Escondido
Puerto Escondido has a small airport that’s an easy hour-long flight from Mexico City. Take a taxi from the airport (our hotel had one waiting for us outside the exit doors ready to make the 40-minute drive).
If you’re planning to explore up and down the coastline, you’ll want to rent a car. However, if you’re sticking to this guide, you’ll be able to ride a bike along the beautiful dirt roads around Hotel Escondido and Casa Wabi, and access everywhere you need to go.
What to Pack
Repeat after me: you will not be dressing up while in Puerto Escondido. It’s one of the most carry-on friendly destinations since you’ll basically be wearing the same uniform the entire trip. During the day, a swimsuit topped by a linen button-down and cutoffs. At night, pair a lightweight blouse or easy sundress with flat sandals (remember, you’re riding a bike!). No heels, no hair dryer—it’s that kinda place. I was actually surprised by how hot it gets here during the day, so plan to dress as cool as possible and wear a hat at all times.
Pro tip: Bring ear plugs. The jungle sounds outside our room were loud. The first night, I was awoken several times by birds screams and frogs croaking.
Where to Stay in Puerto Escondido
There are some incredible Airbnbs in Puerto Escondido and I was taking notes for future trips if we come back with the kids or a group of friends. However, since this trip was just Adam and I, we knew we wanted to try out one of the beautifully-designed hotels on the stretch of road near Casa Wabi.
Hotel Escondido was our home base for the trip, and if I had to choose, it would win best hotel in Puerto Escondido (though the hotels below are close seconds). It’s a true refuge in the jungle, and feels incredibly restorative from the moment you enter its rock-walled passageway that leads straight onto an unspoiled beach. The hotel’s restaurant serves incredible dishes all day, there’s a lap pool where you can hang out and stare at the crashing ocean just steps away, and the tiny spa offers all kinds of beautiful services. Pro tips: Guests at Puerto Escondido have to be at least 16 years old. And, borrow the hotel’s bikes and ride them everywhere.
Casa Sforza is a striking new hotel in Pueblo Del Sol. Its contemporary cement structure is juxtaposed by furniture made of local wood and ceramics, and there’s an impressive focus on sustainability and supporting the surrounding community. It’s an incredible experience for any design-lover.
Hotel Terrestre is actually Hotel Escondido’s sister property. Because it’s a three-minute bike ride away, we spent quite a bit of time indulging in its great restaurant and exploring the unique Hammam experience. With 14 villas overlooking the ocean, this is a wellness obsessive’s dream. The hotel operates completely off the grid using 100% solar power. Guests are encouraged to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature, synchronizing their day with the cycle of the sun.
Where to Eat in Puerto Escondido
One of the best things to do in Puerto Escondido is to sample as much regional fare as possible. Below, I’m naming the best restaurants from our trip. I do think there are some decent restaurants in La Punta and Zicatela, but if you’re planning to stick around the Casa Wabi area, you can keep yourself wonderfully nourished by the fish tacos and mezcalitas along this stretch of beach.
A low-key spot that’s technically a mezcal bar. But if you consider yourself in the know, then you’re ordering the nightly “chef’s menu” prepared right in front of you at the huge cement bar. Though it’s nothing fancy—a few low tables and chairs strewn around under the palm trees—Cobarde has a wabi-sabi cool factor all its own. Make a reservation by DM on Instagram.
A true omakase sushi menu set in a thatched roof treehouse in the Oaxacan jungle? Suffice it to say, this was one of the most special dining experiences I’ve ever had. Chef Keisuke Harada moved to the coast from Mexico City and his 10-course menu is a true work of art. And thanks to the great playlist and boisterous team, the experience is also really, really fun.
If you’re not looking closely, you’d easily miss the wood sign pointing the way to this palapa tucked into the palm trees. But if you did, you’d be missing out on an authentic and delicious Oaxacan meal. The incredibly fresh ingredients are prepared right in front of you: guacamole (with or without grasshoppers), octopus ceviche, tsayludas, and other specialties, washed down with a spicy cucumber mezcalita.
If the surrounding spots hadn’t been so delicious, we could have easily eaten every single meal at Hotel Escondido and been perfectly happy. Huevos Rancheros for breakfast under the palapa, mezcal margaritas and ceviche on the beachside deck, steps from crashing waves—it’s hard to beat. If you only eat one meal while you’re at Hotel Escondido, make it the battered fish tacos. Best of my life.
Just down the road is the architectural stunner, Hotel Terrestre (sister property to Hotel Escondido). A similarly delicious menu served in a striking brick and concrete setting, it’s the perfect way to mix things up without roaming too far from home. If you can, go for dinner on Thursday when they fire up the massive wood-burning oven for pizza night.
What to Do in Puerto Escondido
Puerto Escondido is made for exploring—making a loose plan, then allowing yourself to get sidetracked by a hidden path that goes down to the ocean, or a palm-covered beach bar that’s calling your name. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Created in 2014 by artist Bosco Sodi and designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando, this incredible artist residency is situated on a remote stretch of Oaxacan beach. An arresting main building with a 312-meter-long concrete wall acts as the framework, surrounded by exhibition spaces, studios, and bungalows where the artists live. I’m not sure which was more inspiring—the contemporary art on display, or the building and grounds themselves.
Book a reservation online for a guided tour. It’s the only way to see the property, and well worth a visit to see this “meditative community filled with introspection and connection.”
El Papelillo Sauna
At the end of the long dirt road is a small sign that simply says “El Papelillo.” Just inside the wooden gate is one of the most special wellness experiences I’ve ever had. A remote sauna that’s literally tucked into the Oaxacan jungle, El Papelillo is intended to “connect you to Mother Earth and take you back to our roots.” You pour water over the open fire inside the sauna, lay on the wood bench and savor the benefits of this detoxifying tradition: boosting metabolism, supporting the circulatory system, and calming your breath. One thing I know for sure: as I showered off after and drank an ice cold cerveza, I’d never felt so completely relaxed in both body and mind.
Hammam at La Terrestre
I’ve never been to a true Hammam, and I certainly didn’t think the first time would be in Oaxaca, but here we are. In the center of La Terrestre hotel is a beautiful brick tower that houses four chambers featuring four traditional water experiences: a hot jacuzzi, steam room, rain shower, and cold plunge. You book an hour-long private session in which the hammam is yours to rotate between the relaxing experiences. The end result is a deep sense of well-being bordering on a coma.
Swim in the bioluminescent waters of Manialtepec Lagoon
One of nature’s best-kept secrets and only found in a few places on earth, Bioluminescence is a phenomenon where tiny organisms in the sea make the water glow at night. One such spot, Manialtepec’s Lagoon, is located about 20 minutes from Hotel Escondido. You can book a driver at the front desk, and when you arrive, a private motorboat takes you out into the lagoon to experience the magic.
Day trip to La Punta and Zicatela
As mentioned, we stayed mostly outside the main beaches that draw more tourists, but we did venture into La Punta one day to check out the thatched-roof beach bars, eat some açai bowls, and wander around the main street. It’s one palm tree-lined stretch of dirt road, with hippie vibes and backpackers on repeat. Based on friends’ recommendations, the best restaurants in La Punta are Fish Shack, Chicama, Lychée, and Ala Burger.
Surf (if you’re brave)
Puerto Escondido is known as a surfer’s mecca. However, during the time of year when we were there (October) the waves were a bit too aggressive for beginners (as in, we would have died immediately). However, if you head into La Punta or Zicatela on a good surf day, you can stop by one of the surf shops and grab a board and an instructor to hit the waves.
Mezcal Factory Tour
Mezcal is a way of life in Oaxaca. A centuries-old artisan tradition, it’s revered in Oaxaca in a way that feels almost religious. Family-owned farms and factories are found all throughout Oaxaca state, including Puerto Escondido. You can book a car to take you to one of the factories in the area to see how mezcal is produced. And of course, you’ll want to taste its diverse varieties.