If you’re looking for what to do in Puerto Escondido, you’re in the right place. This Mexican surfing town quickly became one of my favorite destinations on the Oaxacan coast.
There is no shortage of things to do in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. There are beautiful beaches, amazing wildlife, world-class surfing, and incredible day trips nearby. Not to mention it’s located in Oaxaca which is known for producing some of the best food and mezcal in Mexico. And this comprehensive guide will prove that you don’t need to be a surfer to enjoy this beachside destination.
A trip to Puerto Escondido will appeal to just about everyone due to the wide range of activities available. I attribute some of this to the distinctly different areas of the city – Centro, Rinconada, Zicatela, and La Punta. But no matter which of these areas you prefer to stay, most are a quick walk, taxi, or colectivo ride away from the best things to do.
I’ve curated this list of Puerto Escondido activities from my month-long visit, so let’s dive in (to food and mezcal first of course!)
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1. Taste the Food of Oaxaca
The state of Oaxaca is known for its incredible food. And there’s no better way to discover a city’s food scene than by taking a food tour led by a local.
I definitely recommend you book this Oaxacan Food Tour towards the beginning of your trip so that you have time to return to your favorite places. These tour guides are passionate about Oaxaca and the history of Puerto Escondido.
The tour includes a visit to the local mercado where you’ll learn about the different foods in Puerto Escondido. You’ll also visit a variety of restaurants and food stands in the city while the guides explain the origins of what you’re tasting.
2. Book a Mezcal Distillery Tour
Oaxaca is also famous for mezcal, a distilled liquor made from the agave plant. Only nine states in Mexico are allowed to produce mezcal and Oaxaca is by far the most well-known. A tour is a perfect way to learn (and taste!) this trending spirit that has a long history in Mexico.
Antoine starts this mezcal tour with an interactive presentation about mezcal, its history, and the process of production. You’ll then tour an ancestral mezcal distillery just outside of Puerto Escondido that has been in the same family for six generations!
There you’ll be able to try 10 different types of mezcal. And mezcal will of course be available to purchase and take home, though you should not feel pressured to buy.
3. Dolphin, Turtle, and Whale Watching Tour
If you’re visiting during whale season, roughly November – March, you should absolutely book this whale watching tour in Puerto Escondido. After a slightly disappointing tour with others from my hostel, I booked this one a few days later which was a much better experience.
Before you go, it is important to keep in mind that nothing is guaranteed in nature. Most tours will guarantee dolphin and turtle sightings. The whales prove to be a little more elusive.
But the established tours are in communication with each other throughout the morning. If someone spots a whale, they will share the location with each other so that everyone has the best experience possible. This is definitely one of the top things to do in Puerto Escondido.
4. Turtle Release at Playa Bacocho
Every evening before sunset, a large group of people gathers at Vive Mar located on Bacocho Beach. This organization is made up of primarily volunteers with a mission to protect the sea turtle eggs that are laid on Oaxacan shores.
For a 100 peso donation, you are given a jicara (dried gourd) bowl with a baby sea turtle inside. Everyone then lines up to release their baby turtle. The volunteers stand nearby to throw sand at any predators (mainly birds and crabs) that show interest in the hundred or so baby sea turtles as they journey across the sand into the ocean.
The turtle release at Playa Bacocho has to be one of the top things to do in Puerto Escondido. The passion of the volunteers is evident as they explain a little about the different types of sea turtles in Oaxaca in English and Spanish.
To participate, arrive at Bacocho Beach at 5 pm. Vive Mar is located just to the right of the main entrance to the beach.
If you prefer a semi-private experience with more explanation about the turtles, you can book this turtle release experience which includes transport to a different beach further west with a similar organization.
Bonus To Do in Puerto Escondido – Watch a Movie on the Beach
After the turtle release on Playa Bacocho, stay to watch the sunset and a movie. On Wednesday nights during high season (mid-November to mid-May), Villasol Beach Club hosts Cine en la Playa.
Each week a different movie is projected onto a screen set up on the beach. Plant yourself in a provided chair next to the ocean and enjoy a movie under the stars.
Entrance to the movie is free. Food and drinks are available for purchase. You can check which movie will be playing on their Facebook page. They typically announce the movie a couple of days before.
5. Plan a Beach Day
Puerto Escondido has the most accessible beaches of any location along the Oaxacan coast. In this guide to Puerto Escondido beaches, I detail a different beach for every day of the week.
In fact, most places to stay in Puerto Escondido are within walking distance of a beach. This means you could plan a beach day every day and well, that’s the main reason you’re here, isn’t it?
6. Learn How to Surf
Surfing is one of the most popular things to do in Puerto Escondido. And if you’ve never tried this sport, it’s a great location to learn since there are several surf breaks at various skill levels. You’ll find surf lessons at several of the beaches.
But I recommend you book a surfing lesson with an experienced teacher, like Donovan. He is well regarded as a top surfing instructor with incredible patience.
Reviews from beginners praise his teaching style which often helped them to catch several waves during their first lesson. And even intermediate surfers are impressed with the knowledge they gain from his surf lessons.
7. Go Snorkeling
The calm bays and crystal clear water on the Oaxacan coast make it a great area for snorkeling. If this is a priority, you will definitely want to visit Huatulco, where I would argue snorkeling is better. But there are a couple of places to go snorkeling in Puerto Escondido.
In fact, there’s an opportunity to snorkel from the shore at two of my favorite beaches – Playa Manzanillo and Playa Carrizalillo. Both are calm bays, though you will want to be careful of boats and the rocks, especially at Playa Carrizalillo.
8. Watch Surfers Ride the Waves
Whether you’ve decided to take up the sport yourself or not, it’s always fun to watch surfers catch a wave. There are several beaches where you can do this, depending on the season and even the day.
In the summer, the most popular is Zicatela Beach, where professional surfing competitions are held during the high surfing season. La Punta is a great place to watch surfers during sunset. And at Playa Carizalillo there are always surfers at the break on the left.
9. Play Volleyball
On the long stretches of beach, you can find a friendly game of volleyball every afternoon.
This is especially true in La Punta, though I often saw volleyball games at Playa Zicatela and Bacocho as well. The courts are sometimes but not always associated with a beach club. Just ask if you can join the next game.
10. Walk Along the Andador Escénico
This is a short walk that takes you along the ocean from Playa Principal towards Rinconada. A series of concrete pathways and steps guide the way as the ocean crashes into the rocks below. I highly recommend timing this small hike during sunrise or sunset when the sun is not as intense.
If you want to do the entire walk, you will need sturdy shoes. The elements have taken their toll, creating precarious passages at some points. And you may want to think about the tide and avoid windy days which intensify the waves.
I started this path from here during sunrise. I only made it halfway due to time constraints, but also because it would have required climbing over rocks to continue further. Alternatively, you can start on the other side where the path starts from the beach.
11. Watch the Sunset Over the Ocean
There are several amazing places to watch the sunset in Puerto Escondido. And due to the way the coast curves around and points to the west, the sunset views are often directly over the ocean.
The following locations are some of the best locations to watch the sunset for various reasons.
Mirador Las Tortugas
This turned out to be one of my favorite places to watch the sunset in Puerto Escondido. Some argue it’s better than the sunset at Punta Cometa in Mazunte. While there are similarities, I would definitely disagree. Punta Cometa has a mystical atmosphere that’s hard to beat.
Mirador Las Tortugas is relatively easy to get to. It’s located along the western edge of Rinconada with a paved road leading directly to the path down the hill.
The path itself requires some mobility but it’s fairly short. If you’re unable to climb the path down to the rocks near the crashing waves, you can watch the sunset from the top near the road.
It doesn’t draw near the crowd as Punta Cometa, but if you want more privacy you can carefully climb either of the side paths to claim your own spot of tranquility.
Sunset at Playa Bacocho
After helping baby turtles start their new life in the ocean, you should definitely take a moment to reflect. Plant yourself in the sand and turn towards to ocean to watch the sunset at Playa Bacocho.
I believe I caught a particularly beautiful sunset here. But I also think the wide-open sky and slight turn of the coastline make for a stunning show as the colors fill the sky after the sun sets below the horizon.
Sunset at Playa Zicatela
I nearly wrote off this sunset location even though it’s one of the most popular places to watch the sunset in Puerto Escondido. At first, I found the straight coastline a little bit boring. But then I watched the sunset on Playa Zicatela a little further down towards La Punta.
With less view of the city, the straight-on sunset above the ocean was mesmerizing. Simply watching the waves come into shore with the setting sun above is an experience that can’t be missed.
Sunset at La Punta
If you walk the main road in La Punta until the end, there’s an opening to the beach. It gets busy in the evening as people come to watch the surfers and the sunset. In fact, this is probably one of the most popular places to watch the sunset in Puerto Escondido.
On the left is a large rock cliff with fishermen casting their nets, birds circling overhead, and surfers along the break trying to catch the last waves of the day. The entire scene is lovely as the sun sets behind the rocks.
When you turn and look towards the other side, the curve in the land also gives you a nearly full view of the Puerto Escondido coastline with the colors of the sunset reflecting into the clouds above the palm trees.
12. Bioluminescence Tour, Puerto Escondido
Go swimming under the starry skies at a lagoon near Puerto Escondido as the sea life lights up the water. You want to book this bioluminescence tour when the skies are darkest (around a new moon is best) so that you can see the chemical reaction called bioluminescence.
It’s an amazing phenomenon that is not as uncommon as you might think. If you’ve ever seen a firefly, you’ve seen bioluminescence. Yet there’s something special about seeing the water around you turn an almost neon blue-green.
The first time I ever swam to see bioluminescence, I was nervous about swimming in a dark lake. But then, the water lights up around you for a magical experience. Just keep in mind, the best time to experience this is near a new moon.
13. Go Salsa Dancing at Congo Bar
Wednesday nights in Puerto Escondido are for salsa dancing at Congo Bar. This place gets crowded! And even the open-air terrace gets hot.
If you’re keen on salsa dancing, arrive early when there is more space. There are drink specials until 11 pm and around midnight, the live salsa music turns to Reggaeton.
What To Do in Zicatela, Puerto Escondido
This area is best known for surfing but there are a few other interesting things to do in Zicatela. Not surprisingly, most revolve around the beach. Zicatela is also known for the best nightlife in Puerto Escondido.
14. Eco Gym on the Beach
If you struggle with the motivation to work out, perhaps doing a workout on the beach will inspire you. Paradise Gym is an eco-gym located directly on the beach in Zicatela. That’s right, you can hear the sounds of the ocean while you exercise.
It’s a unique concept that features workout equipment made from wood and other natural materials. While the day pass is a bit expensive, the value increases drastically with a week or month pass. And their operating hours (7 am to 7 pm weekdays, 10 am to 5 pm weekends) are plentiful.
They also offer yoga and other classes on the second-story palapa deck. Here you’ll find the best views of the ocean. And to top it off, the on-site smoothie bar from Ki’luum means you won’t have to leave the beach to refuel after your workout.
15. Play Pool on the Beach
While Playa Zicatela may not be a swimmable beach, it is lined with restaurants and beach bars that ensure a good time.
In fact, you don’t even need to leave the beach to play a game of pool. Restaurante Bar Esmeralda is best described as a pool hall with a tropical vibe.
It’s located directly on the beach. About a dozen pool tables are set up under the open-air palapa. It’s a nice atmosphere that gets busy in the afternoon and evenings. Keep in mind, the quality and prices of food, beers, and cocktails are pretty standard for a beach bar.
16. Go Skydiving at Playa Zicatela
For an unforgettable experience, go skydiving at Zicatela Beach. You’ll take in the views of Puerto Escondido from a different angle – 17,000 feet in the sky.
Skydive Puerto Escondido employs only USPA certified instructors who value safety first. But of course, skydiving comes with its own risks that you should research before you go.
Keep in mind, this skydiving outfit is only open during high season. During that time, they offer tandem jumps every two hours from 9 am – 5 pm. You’ll need to book at least a day in advance.
If you’ve always wanted to try this exhilarating sport, I can’t imagine a better landing than on the beach at sunset.
Things to do in La Punta, Puerto Escondido
Looking for what to do in Puerto Escondido, specifically La Punta? This popular spot is liveliest during the day and early evenings.
There’s a big restaurant scene here with a lot of international food. You can read about all my favorites in this post about Puerto Escondido restaurants. Some places stay busy later, though most people venture to Zicatela for nightlife.
17. Hike the Point at La Punta
At the far end of the beach, just past the surf break is a large cliff from which La Punta gets its name. You should definitely take the time to explore this point as I think this is one of the top things to do in Puerto Escondido, Mexico.
What you’ll find is stunning rock formations along a stroll to a more secluded beach. Wander this area in the morning when the soft light illuminates the rocks. Or later in the day when you can frame the beautiful colors of the sunset through the large arch.
To get there, look for a path on the left that leads up the cliff before you get to the small cave area. It’s a fairly easy climb that can even be done in sandals.
18. Tuesday Night Trivia at Bonita Escondida
Everyone in La Punta knows that Tuesday night is trivia night at Bonita Escondida, the biggest party hostel in Puerto Escondido.
But the beauty is, everyone’s invited.
The open pool and bar area is the ideal location to host this party. There is often a professional giving tattoos and piercings. When speaking with the manager he told me nearly the entire staff has their nipples pierced!
But back to the trivia. Groups are encouraged to form a team and of course, decide on a fun team name. It’s a friendly game that lasts for a couple of hours before nearly everyone heads out for the night.
Bonus: Bonita Escondida hosts a live band on Monday nights. And again, everyone is invited to attend.
19. Hang out at The Boneyard
Surfing isn’t the only board sport in Puerto Escondido. Skateboarding hangs in there too. And at The Boneyard in La Punta, skateboarders are sometimes front and center.
You can enjoy a beer or snack while watching skateboarders glide through the large bowl in the center of the bar. The increased energy creates a fun atmosphere.
The space also features a tattoo studio, skate shop, and clothing store. Sometimes there is live music, and I’ve heard the pina colada is tasty!
Speaking of hostels… If you’re planning a trip to Oaxaca, you’ll want to check out my guide to the best hostels in Puerto Escondido. It covers the top hostels in Centro, Rinconada, Zicatela, and La Punta.
20. Sunday BBQ in La Punta
If Sunday rolls around and you’re looking for what to do in Puerto Escondido, venture to La Punta for the BBQ hosted at Punta Vida.
This unfinished hostel on the beach hosts a chicken barbeque (with a veggie option), salad, and potatoes. The cost is 200 pesos for food and three beers.
Several of the hostels in Puerto Escondido include this BBQ in their weekly events, so it’s always a good time. The food starts just after 6 pm and stops around 8:30 or 9 pm. There’s often a DJ playing after.
Day Trips from Puerto Escondido
There are a lot of fantastic things to do near Puerto Escondido due to the geography of the area. In many places, the mountains are close to the ocean and ascend quickly.
As a result, there is a wide variety of day trips from Puerto Escondido. Yet many are relatively close to the city. Let’s take a look.
21. Sunrise Birdwatching in Manialtepec Lagoon
Journey on a peaceful sunrise boat ride of Manialtepec Lagoon, home to a wide variety of birds. From the boat, you and the captain will be able to identify ibis, herons, roseate spoonbills, and more.
It’s one of the best things to do near Puerto Escondido even if you’re not a birdwatcher. The lush mangroves around Puerto are some of the healthiest I’ve seen in Mexico.
In addition, when you book this eco-tour, you help create awareness of the importance of the lagoon’s ecosystem. Round trip transportation is included, which you’ll especially appreciate in the early morning hours.
22. Waterfall Hike and Zipline
For more adventurous travelers, this Puerto Escondido day trip is a must. After an hour and a half drive through the mountains, you’ll explore the town of San Juan Lachao before a 45-minute hike to a refreshing waterfall.
Then glide under the canopy along an exhilarating 2,500 meter zipline through the southern Sierra Madre mountains. This tour is one of the top things to do around Puerto Escondido. Click to read the reviews of this tour, which rave about the views and guides.
23. Hot Springs near Puerto Escondido
If you are surprised to discover there are hot springs around Puerto Escondido, then the mountains are closer than you realize. Join a local guide on a day trip from Puerto Escondido to discover Termales Atotonilco by horseback.
You’ll definitely want to book this tour if you’re looking to take a break from the city to explore nature. The hot springs are located in a rural area just outside of San José Manialtepec, about an hour outside of Puerto. Keep in mind, this adventure is only offered on Mondays.
24. Visit Chacahua National Park
Whether you visit for a day trip or for a few nights, a visit to the Chacahua National Park is an incredible experience. The park, which was established in 1937, includes several lagoons and a beachfront. It takes about three hours to get to Chacahua on your own through a series of transportation modes.
The small village of Chacahua is positioned between a mangrove lagoon and the open ocean. It’s a unique, somewhat remote community with an African influence. Lately, it’s been discovered as a surfing destination and with that, tourism has followed. It’s a special place with incredible sunrise and sunset views.
If you’re short on time or only want to visit for a day, you can book this tour which includes transportation. Once you arrive at Chacahua National Park, you’ll enjoy a peaceful boat ride through the lagoon which is full of mangroves and several species of birds. After lunch and a swim along the water, you’ll take a short hike up to the lighthouse for extraordinary views.
25. Go Mountain Biking in Puerto Escondido
Mountain biking enthusiasts should not miss this adventurous exploration of the southern Sierra Madre mountains. Along a roughly 15 km ride, you’ll discover several rural villages near Puerto Escondido.
The ride traverses through mountains and farmland before indulging in a traditional Oaxacan breakfast in one of the small pueblos. Click to read the reviews of this tour which are very positive about the experience, including the guides.
That concludes the best things to do in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. Which of these are you most excited about? Let me know in the comments.