Living in Puerto Escondido:
Un Sueño Posible
Table of Contents
In France the immediate response to inquiries is “No,” which frequently can be interpreted as “I don’t know.” In Mexico, it’s the opposite. Most requests are met with an enthusiastic “Yes!” If obstacles surface, solutions are always found. And Puerto Escondido, an eclectic beach town on the coast of Oaxaca state, embodies this can-do-attitude.
In 1990, a local businessman and condominium tycoon resolved to build a scenic walkway, Andador Escenico, along the coastal cliffs from Playa Principal to Puerto Angelito. The municipality did not stop him but mocked the idea calling it “un sueño imposible”.
The businessman went ahead with the project regardless, hiring 200 men. The walkway took two years to complete.
It was closed down in 2017 as the path had deteriorated. But visitors still attempt to conquer this oceanic walk featuring marine life, splashing wave spectacle, and inspiring mansions at the top of dramatic cliffs. The end of the walkway is marked by a mirador. Overlooking the town, a stone plaque that reads a message left by the businessman.
“Un Sueño Posible”, a possible dream.
Standing at the mirador, over the glistening ocean under the tropical sun, and the surfers bobbing on the horizon, saltwater breeze, it’s impossible not to dream.
Inspired by the plaque’s inscription, enamored visitors look to invest in the thriving tourism of La Punta or grab their own slice of paradise in tranquil Bacocho, and here is why.
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How to Get There
Originally, Puerto Escondido was frequented by surfers and Mexican vacationers. But became especially popular during the pandemic thanks to the influx of Digital Nomads. And while the number of visitors continues to grow, Puerto Escondido’s authentic charm is still unspoiled by mass tourism.
Puerto Escondido is less developed than other beach destinations like Cancun and Playa del Carmen. There are no chain hotels and resorts, no cruise ship docks, and getting there is an adventure in itself.
The local one-conveyer-belt airport receives only domestic flights, so a layover is inevitable. The other option is taking an 8-hour bus ride through the winding mountainous roads from Oaxaca city. Luckily, the extra challenge of getting there puts a cap on the number of tourist arrivals.
Where to Stay
La Punta, the southern part of Puerto Escondido, still resembles a fisherman’s village with sandy streets and shoes optional vibe, akin to early Tulum. Most lust over this prime tourist location for potential business ventures. It is peppered with surf schools, yoga studios, bohemian accommodation, and boutique stores. This side of town also has the best dining options in Puerto Escondido.
Sandy streets of la Punta merge into paved ones of Zicatela, the nightlife hub that lacks the atmosphere of La Punta. Playa Zicatela stretches for 3 kilometers, dotted with beach clubs, hotels, and souvenir shops. But most importantly, it is home to the Mexican Pipeline. Surfers from all over the world flock to challenge the large consistent waves and the annual surfing competitions.
This laid-back district is perfect for couples, families, and beach bums. It is close to a cluster of beaches, Playa Carrizalillo being the gem in Puerto Escondido’s crown. Positioned at the bottom of a long flight of stairs that sparkle in the sun makes for a unique experience paired with the emerald hues of the bay.
El Centro is the downsized commercial part of town. ATMs, transportation, and the town’s biggest grocery store Chedraui are all located in this district. Travelers prefer not to stay here as it’s far from the beaches and gets hectic. But those looking for a local and budget-friendly experience would be pleased.
In any case, Puerto Escondido is well connected by taxis that charge a flat fee of 50 ($2.5) pesos to any part of town, and colectivos, hop on and off trucks that charge 8 pesos per ride ($0.40)
Bacocho is mainly a residential area where locals and expats reside. The sense of community is especially felt here, away from the tourist scene. The feature of this neighborhood is the endless stretch of coastline, where people gather for a weekly open-air movie night at the beach.
While the town is separated into these diverse neighborhoods, oddly it is also split into two municipalities, Colotepec and Mixtepec. There is no clear border, which has caused conflict in the past, but it seems to divide Puerto Escondido down the middle somewhere at El Centro. The La Punta and Zicatela fall under Colotepec municipio and El Centro to Bacocho belong to Mixtepec. Unfortunately, the touristy side of town experiences frequent power outages, which constantly causes issues for Digital Nomads settled there. Expats lean towards Riconado and Bacocho when buying property for its stability and sense of community.
What to Do in Puerto Escondido
The ocean is the main entertainer in town, but there are other things to do in Puerto Escondido.
Surf & Other Water Sports
The town is best known for its world-class surfing. While the pros tackle Zicatela’s waves that can reach 10 meters in height, beginners can learn the ropes at La Punta and Playa Carazalillo.
Playa Marinero is popular among body boarders and boogie boarders. And Playa Carazalillo and Angelito’s calm waters are great for snorkeling.
Sea Turtle Release & Wildlife
Before a law was released in the 1990s that made killing turtles illegal, communities living on the Pacific coast endangered the creatures’ existence. Nowadays, most coastal towns in Mexico have their own sanctuaries where people can partake in turtle releasing at a small fee.
Puerto Escondido’s turtle shelter is located at Playa Bacocho. It is an educational experience and supports a great cause as proceeds go straight toward local sanctuaries.
Another magnificent wildlife experience is whale and dolphin watching. Humpback whales pass through this part of Mexico, so there is a chance of spotting them from the shore or while sailing.
Horseback Riding & Hiking
Aside from marine life and ocean experiences, there is also romantic sunset horseback riding along beaches, horseback riding through jungles, and hot springs. Bird watching in mangroves, hikes and waterfalls are other popular activities to do in Puerto Escondido.
Wellness & Sustainability
People live an active lifestyle filled with outdoor activities, and yoga studios are in surplus. Restaurants serve wholesome meals with fresh ingredients, and brightly decorated fruterias casually nudge visitors to make healthier choices.
Residents and businesses take recycling initiatives, sorting plastic, to reduce waste and preserve the environment.
The Oaxaca coast is a gold mine of beaches best explored by renting a car. In Puerto Escondido alone there are 8. Located south of Puerto Escondido are the peaceful Mazunte and Zipolite, famous for their hippy vibe and nude beach.
Located two hours from Puerto Escondido, Huatulco is a more touristy and luxurious beach town. There is an airport and cruise ship dock, and it gets very crowded during peak season. But it has pristine beaches, some of which appeared in the film Y Tu Mama Tambien, where the characters give chase along the coast of Oaxaca.
A typical day in Puerto Escondido will always end at the beach to watch the sunset. Sunsets there are unlike any other. As the golden hour approaches, the entire town makes their way to the beach to watch the color show, accompanied by cold coconut or beer.
Luckily, the long coastline has more than enough space for everyone to spread out. Some meditate in solitude, others get involved in a game of beach volleyball, and performers put on shows for kids. Everyone exchanges friendly greetings, tourists and residents, united by this daily ritual.
Discovery of the Hidden Port
Legend has it the town was named after a young Mixtec woman who was kidnapped by pirates and managed to escape in the bay’s jungles. The pirates referred to her as “La Escondida” every time they searched the bay of what is now known as Puerto Escondido.
In the beginning, it was occupied by few permanent settlers due to a lack of water supply. The port was used for coffee shipments until wells were dug in the 1940s, and it became a fisherman town.
Once a best-kept secret, the pristine beaches were discovered by tourists when the coastal highway was constructed in the 1960s. It connected Puerto Escondido to Acapulco and Oaxaca; tourism began to flourish and word quickly spread.
The region’s idyllic climate attracts tourists all throughout the year. Temperatures hold steady at 68F lows and 86F highs. The rainy season is from June to September, but even then, the showers are short. Prime conditions for those in search of an endless summer.