Luxury and authenticity, Puerto Escondido, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, offers the best of both worlds. A two hour drive west of the tourist hub of Huatulco, Puerto Escondido is a quaint fishing village of around 45,000 population and is far enough off the beaten path to offer the opportunity for some peaceful rest and relaxation, while at the same time offering a veritable treasure trove of unique experiences. And the World is discovering this new Oaxacan oasis.
In 2018, National Geographic voted Puerto Escondido “the place to visit next year” in Mexico, the only Mexican state on the magazine’s Best Trips list — citing its 17th century architecture, gardens, and “music, folklore, art, culture, gastronomy and identity.” Travel and Leisure also named Oaxaca City the sixth best city in the world for its “thriving culinary scene and cultural depth.” And, “Oaxaca is one of the safest states in Mexico,” said USA Today recently.
Following are some of the best things to do, in one of the best places in the world.
The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos), which runs October 31 to November 2, is one of Mexico’s largest and most celebrated holidays, drawing visitors from around the world. Oaxaca takes centre stage in all of Mexico for the best place to celebrate this important holiday, according to travel bible Lonely Planet.
The Fiestas de Noviembre is another popular annual event in Puerto Escondido, with something happening almost every day during November and into the first week in December. And, of course, you can bring your own party with you any time of year, in the form of a spectacular destination wedding.
Puerto Escondido hosts several professional surfing competitions and is consistently ranked in the top 10 surf breaks in the world by various travel and surf publications. Nicknamed the “Mexican Pipeline” due to the similar power and shape of the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu, the 15-foot plus waves that break on Zicatela Beach draw surfers and bodyboarders from around the world, including to the November competition associated with Fiesta de Noviembre. Several surf schools operate in town, starting beginners out on some of the calmer breaks at other beaches in the area.
Speaking of beaches … Puerto Escondido has several to choose from, all featuring pristine sugar-sand beaches, clear turquoise waters and a water temperature close to the average annual air temperature of 28 °C.
Playa Principal, the main beach fronting the town, is lined with palm trees and thatch-roofed bars. La Punta Beach offers smaller waves, while Carrizalillo Beach is set in a picturesque cove backed by steep cliffs. West of Zicatela over the El Moro rocky outcrop is Playa Marinero, which is the best beach for swimming as the surf and undertow are much less. Playa Carrizalillo is a 300-metre-wide hidden gem of white sand beach in a small bay about a 15-minute walk from town and accessible only by foot or water taxi.
#4 Eco Tours
About 10 km west of Puerto Escondido is the Laguna de Manialtepec, with a very rich biodiversity, created by three different aquatic ecosystems coming together: salt water from the Pacific Ocean, fresh water from the Manialtepec River and the deep water of the lagoon itself. This extraordinary ecosystem is full of mangroves and is home to about 300 different species of tropical birds and animals, such as pelicans, seagulls, ibis, storks, cranes, jacanas, buzzards, kingfishers, swans, raccoons, weasels, deer, wild boar, foxes, otters and jaguarundi. The area also is attractive to scuba divers because of the variety of fish, large oysters, lobsters and manta rays.
Dolphin watching tours are popular, with four types of dolphins in local waters: spotted, spinner, common and bottlenose. In late December and January there are literally thousands of spinner dolphins in the ocean off Puerto Escondido, meaning guests often see anywhere from 10 to more than a thousand during a tour of just a few hours. Between November and March there are many humpback whales to be seen, along with a few pilot whales and orcas. One of the most moving eco-activities visitors can take part in is the release of baby sea turtles into the ocean. A great place to do this is on the beach in front of Vivo Resorts thanks to the Palmarito Sea Turtle Camp, and Vivo Foundation which has saved more than 300,000 turtles to date.
At least two fishing tournaments are held every year, one for sailfish in November and another for tuna in February. Playa Principal, in the heart of town, is the primary place to hire boats which take tourists to otherwise inaccessible beaches, to see dolphins and marine turtles or for deep-sea fishing for sailfish, marlin, tuna or dorado. Closer to shore are found roosterfish, amberjack, king mackerel, grouper and others. And, when you return to the beach, your guide may be able to arrange to have your catch cooked in a local restaurant or filleted to take back and grill at your condo If you like fish, but not fishing, head for the beach at dawn when fishermen arrive to sell their fresh catch.
No trip to Puerto Escondido is complete without trying out some of the family-run restaurants and local food markets. While Puerto Escondido’s history goes back even further, it was firmly established in the 1930’s as a port for shipping coffee, much of the cuisine is based on seafood and local plants, which include eleven species of banana, chocolate and, yes, coffee. Of course, you’ll still find your favourite Mexican staples based on corn, rice, beans and chili peppers, as well as Tlayudas (Mexican pizzas) and Tamales Oaxaqueños (Oaxacan tamales). The region is often referred to as the “Land of the Mole” because of its famous coloured sauces – mole – comprised of combinations of fruits, beans, seeds, nuts and spices, traditionally served over meat or rice. If you’re feeling adventurous, sample the chapulines – grasshoppers toasted with garlic, lime juice or chili – these crisp snacks make a tasty appetizer, especially with a cold cervaza.
In addition to specific festivals and events throughout the year, you’re literally surrounded by local culture. Handcrafts such as loose-fitting blouses, shirts, vests, wraps, tapestries, handbags, bags, jackets, hammocks, carved stone jewelry, silver and seashell items can all be found easily, however, the main market in the town centre generally offers the best selection and prices.
Take the time to visit the small village of Bajos de Chila, which has a small archeological zone of the Chatino culture. This site has a Sun Stone which represented the solar deity and a statue of a high-ranking priest.
Whether you prefer to be covered in chocolate and hibiscus for an outdoor massage; want to limber up with some yoga classes or tai chi on the beach; or just float tranquilly in the infinity pool to the sound of the pounding surf, Senses Spa by Elaina, at Vivo Resorts, will rejuvenate both body and mind in a tropical garden setting. Offering professional spa services, plus a meditation zone, juice bar and lounge, plus traditional Oaxacan sweat lodge, it’s a spa experience like no other. If you’re looking for a more traditional workout, Oceanview Fitness – also located in the 53,000-square-foot Clubhouse at Vivo –overlooks the pools and Pacific Ocean.
#9 Night life
The place to go for some after-dark fun in Puerto Escondido is Pérez Gazga Avenue, known locally as “El Adoquin” or “La Zona Adoquinada” (the paving stone street). Beginning with a statue of Benito Juárez, and running parallel to the beach, this strip of bars, hotels, cafes, restaurants, nightclubs and shops is pedestrian-only after 5 p.m. Relax with friends, spend a romantic evening gazing at the ocean with your special someone, or dance the night away – the choice is yours.
Vivo Resorts is a gated community of luxury condominiums and private homes located an easy 30-minute private shuttle from downtown Puerto Escondido. Founded by two-time Canadian Olympian and World Cup champion downhill skier Cary Mullen, Vivo Resorts occupies 75 acres of beachfront on the southern tip of the Emerald Coast of Oaxaca, including more than 730 metres of frontage on Palmarito Beach and offering ocean views from every suite. Luxury suites come in 1, 2, and 3-bedroom units with full kitchens. For more inforamtion visit, www.vivovacations.com.
For more information, visit http://www.vivoresorts.com.