The Pacific Coast in Mexico has rather blown up in popularity over the last five years. What used to be sleepy surf villages has now become everyone’s favorite Mexican escape, and it’s got every kind of beach vibe you could possibly want.

Despite the Oaxacan coast finding a larger audience post-pandemic, it remains a laidback alternative to commercial tourist spots like Cabo and Cancun.

With surfers originally blazing the trail around here, the Oaxacan coast has a chilled atmosphere with plenty of picks for beaches to suit your style.

Whether you want the party life, a secluded beach adventure, or a mix of both, I’ve got all the best beaches to hit up along this magnificent coast.

Let’s jump in.

Where is Oaxaca?

When I first visited Oaxaca, I had no idea it was a whole state. I thought it was just a city in Mexico, so you can imagine my surprise when I learned that traveling in Oaxaca might mean going to a whole different area that has over 300 miles of coastline.

Oaxaca City

The capital city of Oaxaca is called Oaxaca de Juárez, which is where most travelers start their journey. It’s about an hour’s flight from Mexico City or 6 hours by bus.

Once you’re in Oaxaca City, you’re only a 3-hour drive away from the most vibey beaches and magical towns Mexico has to offer. This journey used to take around 7 hours through windy mountain roads, but a new road opened in 2024 shortened this route considerably, making the Oaxacan coast more accessible than ever!

What is the Oaxacan Coast Like?

When most people think of Mexican beaches, they imagine the crystal clear waters and white sand beaches of the Caribbean coast. But the Oaxacan coast is very different because it’s on the Pacific side.

The beaches here are known for their rugged beauty, with rocky cliffs and crashing waves.

Due to the rough waves, not all of the beaches are perfect for swimming (or ideal for children), but there are still plenty of calmer beaches.

Birds on the beach and people swimming in the sea in Puerto Escondido.

Some of the best surf competitions are held in Oaxaca, and for good reason! The swells here can reach up to 20 feet, attracting surfers from all over the world. Even if you’re not a surfer yourself, watching the competitions or trying your hand at bodyboarding can be just as exciting.

The towns themselves can range pretty drastically from the party scene in Puerto Escondido to the laid-back vibes of Huatulco, so there’s something for everyone on the Oaxacan coast.

Best Towns on the Oaxacan Coast

Puerto Escondido

Up first is the most popular beach town on the Oaxacan coast, Puerto Escondido. This beach town has seriously flourished in the last ten years. What once started as a low-key surfers’ paradise is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico.

But it’s a bit of an anomaly because Puerto Escondido still maintains its small-town charm. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a definite party scene here, and it can get quite crowded in the high season, but there are also plenty of quiet spots to escape to.

Playa Bocacho in Puerto Escondido.

Escondido isn’t that big of a place, but it stretches pretty far. The three main areas to stay in are Zicatela, Carrazillo, and La Punta. They all have different vibes, and I think it’s important to note that they aren’t really walking distance from each other, or even biking distance for that matter, because of the hills.

You’ll usually need to take a taxi to get between the three areas. While this is annoying, the upshot is that several distinct areas might as well be different towns altogether. There are loads to do within each area, and making a little day trip to the others is the perfect way to spend the day.

Accommodation in Puerto Escondido

If you’ve decided on a stay in PE, don’t miss our hotel tips for Puerto Escondido. Whether you’re solo, a couple, a family, or a digital nomad, we’ve got the best picks for you!

Zicatela (Puerto Escondido)

Zicatela is the most popular area of Puerto Escondido. It’s the surfers’ hub and where you’ll find some of the biggest waves (known as the Mexican Pipeline). You can even take surfing lessons here! But even if you’re not into surfing, Zicatela has a lot to offer.

Playa Zicatela beach with grass and wildflowers.

The beach itself is beautiful and stretches for miles, but keep in mind if the swell is high, the waves can literally take you out if you’re not careful.

The beach is far back from the crashing waves, so it’s not really a swimming spot, but it’s perfect for lounging and watching the surfers. (The sun can be brutal here, so make sure to bring a big enough umbrella and lots of sunscreen.)

The main street in Zicatela is also called “La Principal” and is lined with restaurants, bars, and shops. At night, the beach bars are pumping music until early in the morning. You’ll find everything from reggaeton, electronic and live music at the different bars.

Personally, I think Zicatela is great for an afternoon or a night out, but it’s not my favorite area to stay. It feels a bit more like a spread-out hotel district, and while it’s quiet, other areas have more atmosphere.

La Punta (Puerto Escondido)

La Punta is the cool kid on the block in Puerto Escondido. It’s a super laid-back area with tons of character and charm.

Squint your eyes and it feels a bit like a mini version of Bali. It has a younger surfer vibe, where you can enjoy all manner of international cuisine and swig mezcal cocktails in the beach bars.

La Punta beach shops.

The main beach here is a great spot for swimming and hanging out with friends. There are also plenty of surf breaks along the beach for all experience levels.

One of the best things about La Punta is the nightly beach volleyball sessions. Just about everyone in the town comes out for sunset, and you’ll have groups playing until the sun goes down. Others will be swimming, playing with fire, or even just enjoying a cold drink and taking in the views.

Another great thing about La Punta is the variety of accommodation options. You can find everything from budget hostels to luxury hotels here, giving you more flexibility in terms of where you want to stay.

And then, of course, you can’t forget about the food; you’ll find loads of chic little restaurants and cafes serving delicious and healthy options. And don’t worry about missing out on nightlife; there are still plenty of bars here with live music and a great atmosphere.

Carrizalillo (Puerto Escondido)

Carrizalillo isn’t actually an area in Escondido; it’s a beach, but it’s one of the best ones in all of PE, making that whole area a must for visitors. The water is crystal clear and calm, and the gentle waves are perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

It’s also the best spot in Puerto Escondido to catch an epic sunset. There are several beach bars and restaurants where you can grab a drink or some food while you watch the sun go down over the Pacific Ocean.

Manzanillo beach, PE

But let me tell you, the stairs to get down to Carrizalillo are not for the faint of heart. It’s a steep and long climb down, but it’s totally worth it once you reach the beach. Just don’t be shocked when you see locals casually running up and down the stairs easily while you struggle to catch your breath!

I should mention that on the weekends this small bay can get pretty packed as there is limited space. But I’ve also spent mornings here with hardly anyone there.

You can also stay in the area of Carrizalillo, with a few options for accommodations ranging from budget-friendly to more luxurious. It’s a lot calmer here, and you’ll find plenty of yoga and eco-retreats in this area.


If you’re into walking around barefoot and aligning your chakras, then you’re going to want to head down to the hippy Puebla of Mazunte. It’s only about 45 minutes from Puerto Escondido, but it feels like a different world entirely.

With pretty much just one main road and a few small streets, Mazunte is a serene and relaxed place where the only thing on your agenda is taking it easy and maybe doing some shrooms. The beaches here are beautiful, but the real draw is the unique culture and atmosphere of this little town.

A beach in Mazunte.

You’ll find cute little cafes and local restaurants here that all have a very laid-back vibe. It’s a great town if you need some vegan and vegetarian options. But don’t worry, even if you’re not, Mazunte still has all your favorite greasy Mexican meat-filled dishes.

Mazunte can often be a little sleepy, so if you’re looking for a big night out, look elsewhere. Most of the people who fall in love with Mazunte are those who appreciate a slower pace of life. I highly recommend it for digital nomads who like a sprinkle of spiritualism.

A road in Mazunte with stores at the sides.

There is more than enough to do in Mazunte to keep you busy, from spending days at the beach, visiting the National Mexican Turtle Center, learning to skimboard, and, of course, all of the breath work and yoni massages they have going on.

Being not particularly spiritual myself, I wondered if the Mazunte scene would still be for me. But even as someone who doesn’t really do any yoga or meditation, I found it to be a delightful town, and it’s probably my favorite on the whole Oaxacan coast. While it’s definitely quite hippie, it also can’t be pigeonholed as only that — so, if you’re simply looking for a relaxing place to stay, then Mazunte is a perfect choice.


If you’re into doing nothing and doing nothing naked, then you are going to absolutely thrive in Zipolite. This tiny beachside town is located just 6km from Mazunte, it can either be a peaceful day trip or a quiet retreat.

So you’ve either already heard about Zipolite, or you’re wondering what the heck does being naked has to do with anything. The answer is simple, Zipolite is the official first and only nude beach in Mexico.

Beach in Zipolite, Oaxaca coastal town.

But don’t worry, if being naked isn’t your thing, you can keep your bathers on, ha! For everyone else—well, they’ll be free as a bird, or whatever other poetic way you want to put it.

Aside from its nudist reputation, Zipolite also has some of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico. The current can be strong, so make sure to be careful if you decide to go for a swim. But it’s also a great beach for learning how to surf because the waves are consistent and a bit smaller than the ones in Puerto Escondido.

Playa Amor in Zipolite has a great little community and surfing culture. You’ll find a bunch of hostels, hotels, cafes, and restaurants that make it such a lively place to explore. It’s also said to be the friendliest LGBTQ+ community in all of Oaxaca. You’ll find people of all backgrounds and orientations here.

If you’re looking for a low-key, off-the-grid beach destination with beautiful beaches, great surf, and an inclusive community, then Zipolite may be the perfect spot for you.

San Agustinillo

San Agustinillo is like the middle child. It never gets paid any attention but maybe by that one aunt who seems to remember everyone’s birthday. Located between the bustling town of Zipolite and the quaint village of Mazunte, it’s often overlooked by travelers, but the ones who happen to find it are among the luckiest.

A beach in San Agustinillo.

This small beachside community has cozy cafes, colorful restaurants, and a beautiful stretch of golden sand beach. It has a laidback vibe that attracts travelers looking for a more peaceful atmosphere than the nearby party towns. Or it’s the perfect alternative to Mazunte if for any reason you’d like to be based further away from its lively main street or its spiritual scene.

The half-moon bay of Playa Elefante is one of my favorite beaches in Oaxaca. The water is calm and perfect for swimming or snorkeling, unlike most of the beaches on the Oaxaca coastline.

One of the best things about San Agustinillo is the accommodation that’s directly on the beach; from the coastline, you can see little cabanas all dotting the hillside. It’s the perfect place to disconnect from the world and just relax and unwind. And it’s only a 15-minute walk from Mazunte if you need a bit more action.

Puerto Angel

Puerto Angel will give you a look into what the rest of the Oaxacan coastline looked like before the tourists took over. It’s a small fishing village that still maintains its authentic charm and traditional way of life. Located just a 15-minute drive from Zipolite, it’s another great option for those looking for a more low-key beach experience and some of the yummiest ceviche and seafood you’ll ever taste.

The waters of Playa Panteon are gorgeous turquoise that can be hard to find on the Pacific, and because of the horseshoe shape of the beach, the waves are not as strong, and the water is perfect for swimming. You’ll be surrounded by the rocky mountains of the Sierra Madre del Sur and can take a boat ride out to see the dolphins, whales, and sea turtles.

Puerto Angel is also home to one of the most famous seafood markets in Oaxaca, where you can find a variety of fresh fish, shrimp, octopus, and more. You can also visit the local fishing cooperatives and see the daily catch being brought in by the fishermen.


Finally, there is Huatulco, which I must admit I gave only a cursory look. Being the only place purpose-built from the ground up as a resort, it has a different atmosphere from all the more organically-grown beach towns.

When I first learned about Huatulco, I was a little confused. Is it a town? Is it a region? Well, turns out it’s both! Huatulco, short for Bahias de Huatulco, is a region made up of nine bays and 36 beaches. It’s located about an hour and a half drive from Puerto Escondido and offers a completely different vibe.

Beach in Huatulco, Oaxaca coastal town in Mexico.

Because it stretches across so many different bays and beaches, it attracts a wide range of visitors, from families to honeymooners. The beaches here are more developed, with resorts and larger hotels lining the coastline.

You can go snorkeling, diving, or take a boat tour around the bays to see stunning rock formations and hidden coves. Whale watching is another possibility in winter.

Huatulco’s vibe is much more upscale than Puerto Escondido’s, but that doesn’t mean it completely lacks authenticity. Because it’s so big, you can easily set out on an adventure to find the nooks and crannies of the region that are still untouched by tourism.

While Huatulco is not my personal favorite, I will say that if you like to stay in a place that’s more neat and organized, or perhaps you’re on a family vacation and want an all-inclusive resort, then Huatulco is the place to look.

Which Coastal Town in Oaxaca to Choose

The mother of all questions—which coastal town in Oaxaca should you choose? Well, it ultimately depends on what type of experience you’re looking for.

If you are looking for some gnarly waves and a backpacker vibe, Puerto Escondido is about to steal your heart. But if you want to do some tantric yoga or a cacao ceremony, Mazunte might be calling.

Regardless of whether you want to lounge on the beach naked in Zipolite or watch the whales from a luxurious resort in Huatulco, the Oaxacan coastline has something for everyone.

And here’s the best part, none of the towns are THAT far from one another. Within a couple of hours’ drive, you can go from catching waves in Puerto Escondido to the tranquil eco-lodges of San Agustinillo.

So, if you have the time, why not plan to visit a few of them? You’ll get to see all the different sides of Oaxaca, and I bet you’ll even be begging for more.

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