Puerto Escondido and Mazunte are two of the main hotspots, so you may be left scratching your head as to which to choose.
Here we’ll explore both Puerto Escondido and Mazunte, including why both are worth a visit as well as what you can do in each. Where you’ll want to have your main base on the Oaxacan coast will depend on your preferences and the vibe you’re looking for.
Plan your stay in Puerto Escondido
Why Visit Puerto Escondido?
Puerto Escondido has all the hallmarks of an ultimate beach destination. There are many incredible stretches of sand to lounge on, as well as spots that are ideal for surfing.
Here we’ll also find some incredible once-in-a-lifetime things to do, such as releasing turtles into the Pacific as well as swimming in a lagoon filled with bioluminescent plankton that sparkles in the night.
While Puerto Escondido is quite popular nowadays, it’s still much less so than Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas, so you definitely won’t be swarmed by vendors and tour companies the minute you arrive.
Best Beaches in Puerto Escondido
The great thing about Puerto Escondido is that it has many beautiful beaches spread out along the town and nearby departments, each with its own particular style and crowd.
If you’re after the most picturesque beach you’ll want to head to Carrizalillo, which is a turquoise bay sandwiched between two cliffs. Here it’s safe to swim, and you can also enjoy watersports when it’s less packed (best on weekdays).
La Punta has the best overall vibe, where you’ll find a mix of locals and tourists sipping margaritas from the shaded palapas, as well as those enjoying the lapping Pacific waves. It also has really good surfing conditions, where different sections are ideal for both pros and beginners.
Top 5 Things to Do in Puerto Escondido
1. Participate in a Turtle Release – Puerto Escondido is home to various turtles such as the Olive Ridley and Hawksbill species. Although they’re seasonal, you can still release baby turtles year-round with the conservation programs. Head to Playa Bacocho in the mid-afternoon, where you can meet your own little friend before leading him into the ocean.
2. Learn to Surf – Although the scene can feel somewhat intimidating and more geared toward experienced surfers, some areas in La Punta are ideal for beginners to catch their first wave. You can either book a class online or join one of the various surf schools found along Calle Alejandro Cárdenas Peralta.
3. Visit the Bioluminescent Lagoon – There are only a few places in the world where you can see bright blue plankton light up a lake at dusk. The Manialtepec Lake near Puerto Escondido is one of them, and it’s best to go on a tour during the new moon (when nighttime skies are at their darkest).
4. Watch the Sunset from Zicatela Beach – Although it’s not so safe for swimming, the long, wild beach of Zicatela definitely has its own charm. Here you’ll find little crowds, and is also one of the best spots for watching those epic dark-red sunsets take over the skies of Puerto Escondido.
5. Head on a Local Food Tour – As well as being the perfect place for trying various Mexican foods, Puerto also has its own bustling food scene. The best way to get involved is with a knowledgeable, local food tour, where you can try out local staples such as Tlayudas and Smoked Fish Tacos.
Accommodation Options in Puerto Escondido
If you’re looking for an affordable option you’ll want to stay at Punta Mar. Located right on La Punta Beach, you’ll be staying in a stylish hostel with both dorm and private rooms to choose from.
If you’re after a more deluxe and memorable accommodation option, then the Punta Zicatela Hotel is perfect for you. Here you’ll be sleeping in a beautiful room overlooking the Pacific Ocean, along with an on-site swimming pool and bar.
Plan your stay in Mazunte
Why Visit Mazunte?
If you’re after a more relaxed setting in a charming Pacific town, then Mazunte is your place.
Located roughly 65 km east of Puerto Escondido, it has a bohemian vibe as well as a more community and health-focused mindset (similar to that of Tulum — but without the crowds!).
There are many incredible natural spots to visit here, which include Punta Cometa for its elevated views as well as Playa Mermejita (which is one of the most stunning Pacific beaches in all of Mexico).
Best Beaches in Mazunte
Overall Mazunte has fewer beaches than Puerto Escondido, but it’s home to arguably the most beautiful of the two.
Mermejita is the name, which has a beautiful, scenic coastline along with a more hidden atmosphere (no restaurants or services here). To get here you’ll need to hike over Punta Cometa, however, it’s very much worth the extra effort.
Rinconcito is the most popular beach of all, which is the closest to Mazunte’s town center. Here we’ll find a better atmosphere with crowds enjoying various restaurants and bars close by. It’s the most ideal for swimming, however, you’ll still want to be careful as currents can get quite strong at times.
Top 5 Things to Do in Mazunte
1. Walk along Punta Cometa – This rocky outcropping juts out into the Pacific, and offers breathtaking views over the Oaxacan Coast. Once a sacred spot during pre-Hispanic times, today we can instead enjoy some of the most memorable sunsets from the top of these cliffs.
2. Enjoy the less touristy Beaches – The beaches here are much more relaxed compared to those in Puerto Escondido. Playa Rinconcito has many restaurants and a more inclusive vibe, whilst Playa Mermejita is hidden and has fewer people. Just be careful when swimming as the waves can be really strong in both areas.
3. Swim with Wild Dolphins – Mazunte is the perfect place for seeing dolphins, and there are boat tours leaving in the morning on a daily basis. There are several species here including Bottle-nose and Spinner Dolphins, and if you’re lucky you may even see a Humpback Whale (who frequent these waters from December until March).
4. Practice Yoga – It’s no secret that Mazunte is a really chill place to hang out, and here we’ll find several yoga retreats offering lessons and a more healthy lifestyle. If you want to try a lesson without committing to a stay, then I recommend Casa Om, which includes breakfast in the lesson rate. Those after a longer retreat can head to the Hridaya Yoga Centre.
5. Visit the Nudist Beach of Zipolite – Whilst there are other nudist beaches in Mexico, they’re usually private with an on-site hotel. Zipolite is actually a public beach, where you can enjoy a more primitive way of relaxation. Even if you don’t want to take your kit off, there are several restaurants and bars on the sand to enjoy.
Accommodation Options in Mazunte
Travelers looking to stick to a budget will want to stay at OYO Cabañas Abril, which is located in the heart of Mazunte town. It offers comfortable private rooms and has several restaurants and Internet cafes within touching distance.
Are you looking for a more deluxe experience in Mazunte? Then you simply have to stay at Hotel El Copal. Here you’ll stay in a beautiful hotel room either with a beach or mountain view and also get to enjoy the on-site Mexican restaurant, swimming pool, and close access to Mermejita Beach.
Puerto Escondido vs Mazunte: What are the Differences?
As a whole, Mazunte is much more relaxed than Puerto Escondido.
This means you’ll find it less touristy, as well as being better for chilling out with several yoga retreats and quieter spots to get away from the crowds.
Puerto on the other hand has more activities and feel-good vibes on the beaches, as well as a hectic nightlife scene that centers around the area of La Punta.
While both have an array of great beaches, those in Mazunte are overall better.
This is especially so if you’re looking to snorkel or go diving, given the water visibility is better here. You can spot everything from turtles and seahorses to yellow-tailed sturgeon fish.
It’s also important to take into account the scope and flexibility of each destination.
For example, you could easily arrive in Puerto Escondido without anything booked and secure an affordable room, while in Mazunte there’s much less chance (although there are some hostels, you still risk not having the accommodation you want).
Puerto is also much larger, so naturally, you’re going to find a larger range of accommodation, restaurant, and nightlife options that cater to a variety of tastes.
How to Get In, Out, and Around
Puerto Escondido has its own airport, which welcomes domestic flights daily from cities such as Mexico City and Oaxaca City.
Mazunte doesn’t have its own airport, so you will need to fly into Puerto Escondido and then take the bus (around 1 hour), or from Huatulco which also has a regional airport and is an hour to the east.
The one-way flight costs $40-60 and is actually cheaper when departing from Mexico City.
The bus is another popular option for travelers heading through Mexico, and you’ll find the most popular route departing from Oaxaca City.
Check prices and times for buses from Oaxaca City to Puerto Escondido.
From Oaxaca City, you can expect the bus to Puerto Escondido to take roughly 10 hours, with the night bus the preferred option. The ride costs $35-40.
To get from Oaxaca City to Mazunte, you’ll first take the 5-hour bus to Puerto Ángel, and then a 10-minute taxi or colectivo to the town center. The trip costs between $15-20.
Check prices and times for buses from Oaxaca City to Puerto Angel.
Regardless of which you pick, just remember that both bus routes head through winding mountains, and have been known to make many passengers sick during the ride!
Both towns are easily walkable and safe, although in Puerto you may prefer taking buses to and from La Punta which is further away.
Getting between both Puerto Escondido and Mazunte is quite simple, with local colectivos and buses departing on an hourly basis (costing just $2 a ride!).
The journey takes just one hour, which means both are easily accessible as day trips from the other. You can also take a taxi which is quicker, however, it will cost around $50.
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