Puerto Escondido has long been high on the list of Mexico's backpacker destinations, with a reputation as a place to party on par with Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, but without the fancy hotels or bars.
Nicknamed the 'Mexican Pipeline', Playa Zicatela, attracts some of the world's best surfers to it's annual surf comp, and the beach draws a daily international crowd.
Personally, we did not enjoy Puerto Escondido. The beaches, although objectively pleasant did not hold the beauty we found elsewhere in Mexico and the backpacker culture was overwhelming. Whilst it is certainly nice to enjoy the odd comfort of home, the abundance of tacky entertainment, widespread spoken-English and inflated prices meant we were planning our exit almost as soon as we arrived.
Great for: If you want to relive your drunken youth, overpay in restaurants and catch some crowded surf, then here's the perfect spot. The beach is large and clean and the sea pleasant enough for swimming, though can be rough at certain points in the day.
As with many spots along Mexico's Pacific Coast, surfers make a bee-line for the waves here and, if you've been road-tripping in more remote places like Barra de Nexpa or Zipolite, you may welcome a few days catching waves and catching up on luxuries in more developed and western-style surroundings.
Lining Playa Zicatela are numerous surf shops offering beginners surf lessons. Prices are around $400 pesos per person for a two hour lesson. The highest-rated surf school in town in Puerto Escondido Surf Lessons.
Avoid if: You like anything Mexican. Though there are some nice cafes and beachside restaurants, the strip along Zicatela is overdeveloped, with building work still on-going, and lacking in any charm or character. There are more beautiful beaches, cheaper accommodation and better surf only a few hours away.
Must do: Spend a few hours sipping coffee, indulging in a gin and tonic or enjoying an excellent full-English in hipster surroundings at the restaurant attached to Hostel Pakololo.
Getting there: Most companies leaving from main hubs on the coast will travel through Puerto Escondido. In the town there are two main bus stations.
Near Playa Principal, is the OCC Terminal with arrivals/departures for eastward locations, used by 1st-class OCC and 2nd-class Sur buses. If you arrive here, it is around a 20 minute walk to the main Playa Zicatela, but a taxi will take you there for around $25.
The main terminal is on the other side of town and is best for long-haul trips up the Pacific Coast, with services provided by Altamar and Turistar. A taxi is recommended to reach here, and should cost no more than $40.
Budget-breaker or maker? Breaker. We gave Puerto Escondido an honest chance, but it just wasn't our cup of horchata. Some may go there, have a party on their one week vacation and have a great time – and that's totally fine. However, we were much happier spending our money elsewhere on the coast.
Some budget accommodation is available, with deals available on cabanas, but short-term stays are likely to land you in a dorm given the high demand for the few doubles cheaper than $300. Cheap eats are quite scarce, with your best option being to visit the large beach-side restaurants or eat at one of the few local taco places (about 60% cheaper than the more tourist focussed ones on the same street), or venture into town.