Apart from shopping for international surf designs, beachwear and crafts (some tacky, some classy), Escondido offers little beyond the standard beach activities: swimming, surfing, lazing on the sand, eating, drinking and watching beautiful sunsets, though if you have time there are a growing number of places offering everything from salsa to cooking lessons, in addition to the usual Spanish – ask at the information booth.
The choice of beaches, even within a couple of kilometres of town, is impressive. Note that wherever you are, the surf should be treated with respect – the waters along Zicatela, especially, have a lethal undertow.
It’s possible to take a boat (M$50) to all the beaches below, and some further afield, from the beach in front of the Hotel Rincón del Pacífico on Playa Principal. It should then return to pick you up at an agreed time. The same boats charge M$400 for a full tour of the coast, beaches and local turtles (45min), while specialized turtle tours are M$1500.
Playa Principal and Playa Marinero
Puerto Escondido has several beach areas, beginning with the town beach (Playa Principal), which stretches round to the east and south from the old town centre, frequented primarily by Mexican families. The sand here is perhaps a little overused, and shared, too, with the local fishermen and the activities of the port. A little to the east, beyond where the Laguna Agua Dulce occasionally reaches the sea, Playa Marinero is quieter and sometimes graced with gentle waves – it’s a good place to learn to surf.
The real big stuff is past Playa Marinero, beyond the little headland, where Playa Zicatela stretches for 2km, cluttered with palapa bars the whole way; this is the preferred hangout of most foreign travellers. One of the world’s top surf beaches, Zicatela (“place of big thorns”) regularly receives beach breaks of around four metres and can maintain the surf swell for days on end. This spot is referred to as the “Mexican pipeline”, because the breaking waves curl into perfect cylinders – permitting expert surfers to momentarily ride inside the tubes. Surfboards and boogie boards can be rented from a number of places along Zicatela beach. When the waves are really nasty, consider your strength and fitness (you can check the wave reports online at one of the internet cafés, or ask in one of the surf shops) before venturing into the water: occasionally even experienced surfers drown, although there are salvavidas (lifeguards) patrolling the beach. If the pipeline is too much for you to handle, continue east for a little over a kilometre down the beach to La Punta (“the point”). La Punta is a much easier break, though it can also be exceptional when the swell is up. It usually provides good, slower waves that are excellent for longboarding and is recommended as a spot to learn to surf when the waves are smaller.
Puerto Ángelito to Punta Colorada
Everything is much calmer in the coves to the west of the town. Puerto Ángelito is the closest, divided in two by a rocky outcrop, with a second beach, slightly further inland from Ángelito, called Manzanillo. They’re about twenty minutes’ walk from town, either by a track that leads to the left off Peréz Gasga, or direct from the highway on a signed road leading down opposite El Padrino restaurant (the two paths meet above the beach). An alternative is the concrete footpath that sets out from the western end of the town beach, dipping and turning over the coastal rocks and eventually climbing up to a road. Follow this inland, then turn left along the road signposted “Playa Manzanillo”, which turns into steps going down to the beach. You can also drive or get a taxi to drop you off at the top of the steps to the beach. Both little inlets have small beaches and excellent snorkelling among the rocks (if you can avoid the boats), but you’ll have to bring your own gear or rent some at great expense (M$100/half-day) from the makeshift restaurants lining the beach.
The next bay, Playa Carrizalillo, is a spell-binding cove reached by continuing west along the same track. At the end you have to scramble down over 160 steps to reach the sand, guaranteeing that there won’t be too many other people around – it’s the best beach in the area and well worth the effort. Playa Bacocho is further, following the highway out towards the airport and then cutting through the new hotel zone. There aren’t a great number of hotels here yet, so the sand is still somewhat secluded, though swimming isn’t considered safe – the beach is pounded by heavy surf and has a strong undertow. Punta Colorada, a little-visited, clean beach around the point at the far end of Bacocho is perfect for body-boarding and boogie-boarders; you’ll get tubes, and left and right breaks up to two metres high – it tends to be shallow however.