• Amanda

Puerto Escondido Vs. Mazunte: Choosing the Perfect Beach Destination in the Mexican State of Oaxaca



The beach towns in the Mexican state of Oaxaca feel worlds away from tourist hotspots and all-inclusive resorts like Cancun and Tulum. Despite enjoying plenty of relaxing long weekends visiting the Mexican Riviera, eating all the food, and drinking way too much tequila, these days, my tastes lean more toward off-the-beaten-path destinations. The Oaxaca region fits the bill with gorgeous beaches, vibrant culture, and an epic culinary scene, the beach towns of Oaxaca stole my heart. For anyone looking to escape the crowds and experience some cultural immersion - check out Puerto Escondido and Mazunte.




Oaxaca is located in the Southwest Pacific region of Mexico, almost to the very tip of the Guatemalan border. Getting there was an adventure, as there aren’t any direct flights from the US like there are to more popular tourist destinations like Puerto Vallarta and Cancun. We spent a few days exploring Mexico City before hopping on an hour flight to Puerto Escondido. We spent several days in both Puerto Escondido and Mazunte, which are only about an hour away from each other.


Despite their proximity, the vibe changed significantly between the two towns. If you’re planning a trip to Oaxaca and can’t decide between Puerto Escondido and Mazunte, this guide will help you pick the best spot for your perfect beachy adventure in Mexico.

For insane surfing and wild nightlife - head to Puerto Escondido


We arrived in the intense Puerto Escondido sunshine mid-week and quickly found a gorgeous bungalow-style room right on the main surfing beach Playa Zicatela. Our room had a killer view of the famous wave known as the Mexican pipeline, air conditioning, a kitchenette, and a gorgeous deck and loft space. There was also a large communal pool that made all the difference during the mid-day heat. I’ve never seen a bungalow built on a rooftop, so major props to Hotel y Bungalows Aquario for originality.




Puerto Escondido itself is less of a town and more of a mid-size city. There are definitely all of the amenities one could ever need, including hospitals, 24-hour grocery stores, and plenty of restaurants. There were lodging options for every type of traveler - from luxury to extreme budget hostels. Ultimately, we decided on our hotel because of its location - it was in the middle price range at about $100 per night and just slightly more expensive than the nearby hostels.


Our first evening in Puerto Escondido was perfectly relaxing. We walked a few steps from our hotel to a gorgeous little bar on the beach and enjoyed fresh ceviche and tasty margaritas while watching the sunset over the ocean. There were hardly any tourists, as we visited during the off-season in mid-July. Most of the other travelers seemed to be vacationing from Mexico City and other inland parts of Mexico. The only other Americans were surfers that were holed up for the summer in hotels and hostels in the hopes of surviving the Mexican pipeline.




After eating, drinking, and enjoying a leisurely beach walk, we turned in early and enjoyed the sound of crashing waves as we drifted off to sleep.




The following day, Puerto Escondido got a bit intense. Sean found us some coffee, and we drank it on our balcony and noticed that the predicted swell had indeed rolled in overnight. The waves were far from friendly - they were huge and powerful and rumbled the ground. We watched surfers thrown from their boards into the chaotic ocean for most of the early morning.


The goal of the trip to Puerto Escondido was for Sean to surf some big waves and me to practice on the smaller waves down the beach. We rented a scooter for about $15 and road about 15 minutes down the beach to the “beginner beach” La Punta. When we arrived, the waves were solid 6-8 footers, which was too big for me but provided a good warm-up for Sean.


It was as if the city itself grew in intensity as the swell moved in. It was a full moon, and the sun, the waves - everything just stronger throughout our stay. As early as Thursday, the party had started, and I doubt there was a quiet place in all of Puerto Escondido. Each bar and club lining the beach was pumping different styles of music as if in competition with one another. Puerto Escondido is definitely the place to go if you’re looking for incredible nightlife.




I was looking for more relaxed vibes, yoga on my balcony, restorative sleep, and surfing, so for me, the party vibes were super overstimulating. I woke up at 5 in the morning only to realize the clubs hadn’t calmed down at all, and the music was louder than ever.


The waves at Zicatela had grown to 15-25 foot monsters, and I was reminded of the memorial full of the many names of surfers who hadn’t survived the famous Mexican Pipeline each time Sean entered the water. He caught some amazing waves, but things got dicey at times with the powerful beach break and strong rip tide.


Still, after a near-death experience, little sleep, and having my stuff stolen from the beach, I would return to Puerto Escondido for a surf/party trip anytime the waves weren’t quite so aggressive. The beach was perfect for sugary white sand, and the food was terrific. There were plenty of options for activities like horseback riding, swimming with bio-luminescence, and soaking in hot springs nearby.


Best places to stay in Puerto Escondido

Hostels

  • Selina Puerto Escondido

  • Nomad Hostel and Beach Club

  • Bonobo Surf Hostel

Mid-Range

  • Hotel Santa Fe

  • Hotel San Juan

  • Villa Bonobo

  • Casa de Olas

Luxury

  • Villas Carrizalillo Hotel

  • Hotel Escondido

  • Casa Joseph Zicatela

For relaxation and boho vibes, head to Mazunte, Mexico




Mazunte is one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos, a special designation by the Mexican government for the country’s most enchanting towns. Magical is the perfect word to describe this tiny town that has remained relatively untouched by the enormous sky-rise resorts and vacation condos that line the coast of other Mexican beach towns. The community focuses on eco-tourism and wellness travel with plenty of small-scale lodging, yoga studios, and wellness retreats.


It was a short and easy drive from Puerto Escondido to Mazunte through the Mexican countryside. The roads were scattered with fruit stands and surrounded by lush greenery, and we enjoyed stopping for fresh coconuts and bananas along the way. When we arrived in Mazunte, I fell in love immediately. The energy was so calming, and the peace and quiet were perfectly refreshing after the chaos of Puerto Escondido.




The buildings seemed to blend in perfectly with the natural surroundings, created with natural materials and thatched roofs. A narrow cobblestone street ran parallel to the coastline, but the view was crowded with jungle greenery. When we finally caught sight of the beach, I was awestruck. The sand was a rich red color with swirls of black from the rich clay found in the area. Just off the coast, huge boulders towered into the sky.


We ended up staying in two unique accommodations in Mazunte just to experience some variety of what the area had to offer. The first palace we stayed at, Cabanas Punta Placer, had beautiful treehouse-like bungalows located right on the beach. Our room was lovely and bohemian, and the view from our little balcony was breathtaking.




The waves were still huge from the swell hitting the coastline but not nearly as foreboding as the waves at Zicatela, so we splashed and swam for a few hours until the sun began to set. After cleaning up, we enjoyed an excellent Mediterranean-inspired meal at a nearby eatery with a garden-like outdoor dining space.


The following day involved yoga on the balcony, a tasty breakfast at a local cafe, and lots of hanging in the shade to avoid the extreme midday heat. In the late afternoon, we walked through town and then hiked up into the hills of nature preservation, Punta Cometa, to watch the sunset. The waves crashing on the rugged coastline and the epic red sunset was unforgettable. I absolutely recommend catching a sunset from the overlook on your visit to Mazunte. It was one of the highlights of our entire trip.







We had to get some work done for the second part of our stay, so we needed a place with great WiFi, and found it at Cabana Sicaru. Located just down the street, it seemed to be recently opened. It had artsy boutique-style rooms, ice-cold air conditioning, a vast swimming pool, and a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. Our time at Cabana Sicaru was incredibly relaxing. It was a great spot to get some work done, relax by the pool, and a perfect jumping-off point for exploring the village of Mazunte.


Best Places to Stay in Mazunte, Mexico

Hostels

  • Los Winchys Hostel

  • Hostal Casa del Angel

  • Cabanas Balamjuyuc Mazunte Ecohostel

Mid-Range

  • Cabanas Punta Placer

  • Cabanas Sicaru

  • Hotel Boutique Madre Tierra

Luxury

  • Casa Lú Mazunte

  • Zoa Hotel



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