Puerto Escondido

The town and its surroundings offer some stunningly beautiful beaches with world-class surfing, good facilities for visitors, and the town is a good base for various interesting excursions. However, Puerto Escondido is at risk of becoming a case study in unsustainable tourism development, as parts of it has become downtrodden and ramshackle. It was a small and sleepy fishing village as recently as the 1980s, until the population rapidly increased, perhaps in response to grandiose plans for Acapulco-style development. These never panned out and tourism instead developed in a low-rise and haphazard manner, creating a negative environmental and social impact. The state tourist police now patrol both the main beach and tourist areas. They are English speaking and helpful.

Puerto Escondido is now a bustling and commercial seaside resort in the last decade.
El Adoquín
, the city's pedestrian tourist mall along Avenida Pérez Gasga near the beach, teems with Mexican families in season, sunburnt foreigners and hardcore surfers throughout the year; December to January are the most crowded, May to June the quietest (and hottest) months. A handful of luxury hotels are clustered above Playa Bacocho.
Playa Zicatela
, home to the Mexican Pipeline, is where surfers and their crowd hang out.

The real town, where prices are lower and there is less of a hard-sell atmosphere, is located up the hill on the other side of the highway. There is an ample selection of hotels and restaurants in all areas. Many fast-talking '
amigos
' are found at all the nearby beaches and other sites frequented by tourists offer an impressive array of goods and services for sale or hire; be polite and friendly but also wary, since there is no shortage of overpricing and trickery.
Sedetur information kiosk
, delpuerto@aoaxaca.com
, is run by Gina Machorro, who possesses in-depth knowledge of the town and region. Known and loved by locals and visitors alike, she speaks English, Spanish and French and generally takes the time to give help and advice. (See Activities and tours, page , for her walking tours of the area.)

Safety

Even with the vast improvements in security, safety is an especially important issue in and around Puerto Escondido. A safe and pleasant stay here is possible with the appropriate precautions, but carelessness can have severe consequences. Never walk on any beach at night, alone or in groups. Although there are lifeguards now paid by the government, the ocean currents at Zicatela can be treacherous.

The
Playa Principal
, abutting El Adoquín pedestrian mall, has the calmest water but it is very close to the city and not very clean. A few fishermen still bring in the catch of the day here. The local government began building a small pier for them and the tourist craft, but it remains unfinished, and a monument to poor planning. Immediately to the south is
Playa Marinero
, with slightly stronger surf (reportedly a good place for beginners), also built up with hotels, bars and restaurants. Further south, past a rocky outcrop called Rocas del Morro, lies the long expanse of
Playa Zicatela
, which claims to be Mexico's best surfing beach, with the Mexican Pipeline producing the world's fastest-breaking waves (they can
be more than 3½ m high). It makes for breathtaking viewing. It is suitable only for experienced surfers and very dangerous for swimming. To the west of the main bay, past a lovely headland (being built up with condominiums) and a lighthouse, are a series of picturesque bays and beaches, all accessible by road or boat from town.
Playa Manzanillo
and
Puerto Angelito
share the Bahía Puerto Angelito and are the closest (an easy 15-minute walk). They
are pretty with reasonably safe swimming but very commercial; every square millimetre of shade is proprietary here, so prepare to fry or fork out for a parasol. Further west is
Playa Carrizalillo
, with swimming and more gentle surfing than Zicatela, accessed by a steep path of 170 steps, or by boat or taxi.
Playa Bacocho
is next, a long beautiful stretch of less-developed beach, where the ocean, alas, is too dangerous for swimming but makes for great sunset viewing.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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