Sometimes, you want to be like Ariel and go where the people are. In Mexico, that might mean heading to Cabo or maybe Cancun, having one too many resort margaritas, and dancing the night away. Other times, you just want to get away from it all and enjoy the serenity of crashing waves. If you’re seeking for the latter, you’d do well to book yourself a flight to a tiny coastal town called Puerto Escondido.
The town’s name literally translates to “hidden port,” and true to its name, the destination remains low-key. Unlike more popular destinations, this is a spot for serious surfers and others who simply want a chill time with their lovers or loved ones (or even just solo). Fly in on a Friday afternoon (keep in mind you’ll likely have to make one or two stops on your flight—did we mention it’s fairly escondido?), and you’ll have plenty of time to explore the town on a mellow weekend getaway.
Check into your digs! There are many options to choose from—depending on the kind of experience you want to have. But for those who enjoy a bit of light pampering, a private beach, and access to a sea turtle program (more on that later), you may want to pick Vivo Resorts as your home away from home. Multiple pools, a lending library, on-site dining and entertainment, a spa, and more can be found on this pleasant Oaxacan property owned by a former Olympian.
Either sleep in or, if you’re restless, head into town and do some laid-back partying at Casa Babylon. Recommended to me by a lifelong local, Babylon is part library, part night club. Folks are welcome to come by and read during the quieter hours, or dance to live bands (reggae, rock, hip hop, you name it), drink mojitos and beer, and just enjoy the vibes.
Get up at dawn and head straight to Zicatela beach. Puerto Escondido is known worldwide for having some of the biggest waves, especially at Zicatela, and surfers love to hit the water early. There are dozens of eateries right on or by the beach, so pick up some coffee and a plate of chilaquiles from a place like The Spot, then either watch the surfers or brave the waves yourself.
Once you’ve had enough sun and surf, take a tour of the town. Unlike some other marketplaces, the vendors at Mercado Benito Juarez aren’t looking to haggle with you or bring you closer to their wares. Bring plenty of pesos (folks in Escondido generally don’t accept U.S. dollars) and get to shopping. The fresh produce, while impressive, generally isn’t the kind of thing you’d be able to bring back home. Pick up some fruit to snack on and keep going till you reach the fresh cheeses (try the quesillo with some fresh tortilla) and the taco stands for a light lunch. You can also pick up a few artisan goods here (pottery and textiles), although insiders might be able to point you in the direction of even cheaper (and just as colorful) textiles in other parts of town.
Depending on the time of year, you just might be lucky enough to take part in a sea turtle release back at Vivo. The resort works in conjunction with the Palmarito Turtle Camp, who hatch the baby turtles on site then bring them to hotel grounds for safe release. The experience may leave you grinning from ear to ear as you watch these hatchlings slowly crawl down the sand until the waves welcome them home.
You should also look into booking a night tour at the Laguna Manialtepec for your second night here. This lagoon is bioluminescent, meaning it contains organisms that respond to touch by lighting up in the dark. It’s an experience not to be missed.
Leave Sunday to be your most relaxing day. Roll out of bed and enjoy a leisurely brunch and maybe a swim in the pool at Vivo. Feel free to schedule a nice massage or other treatment at their outdoor spa while you’re at it (the Oaxacan chocolate wrap is a delightful experience on a breezy day, but a mani-pedi is always a safe bet, too).
If you’re a coffee snob like I am, take a quick trip over to Bi Nisa Cafe, a local, family-owned coffee shop where the owners may treat you to samples of Oaxacan chocolate, locally made peanut butter and various fruit jams, and of course, coffee.
Next, head to Espadín Restaurant for lunch with sweeping views of Carrizalillo Beach below. Order up some watermelon guac and queso fundido and a little mezcal for starters, then feel free to enjoy whatever else your appetite demands. And once you’re done, walk down the hundred or so flights of stairs to dip your toes in the sand. Pro tip: If you buy a beer or other beverage from one of the eateries on the sand, you’re welcome to use their chairs and umbrellas throughout the afternoon.
Don’t forget to stop by El Adoquín before you finish packing. This is the quintessential place to find all of your inexpensive (but still ridiculously cute) souvenirs. From hand-made coin bags to beautifully crafted purses, t-shirts and toys, colorful alebrijes, and plenty more, you’ll find it all in this no-frills, open-air market. It’s the perfect way to close out a weekend in one of Mexico’s grandest hidden gems.