The beaches of Oaxaca are located well away from Oaxaca city, 8 hours by bus, 6 to 7 hours by car or just 30 minutes by air. The drive to the beaches (bus or car) can be an incredibly beautiful experience, it can also be a very frightening experience, depending on the conditions of the roads. In the summer it is not at all uncommon to find the roads temporally (or not so temporally) washed out, or impassable, due to heavy rains.
You can fly to Huatulco or Puerto Escondido from Oaxaca. Flying will make the trip effortless, on your part, and relieves any of the worries about road conditions. If you must have a car, you can rent a car in either Huatulco or Puerto Escondido. The driving time from Huatulco – Puerto Angel – Puerto Escondido, is approximately one hour to each (from one to the next).
The coast of Oaxaca, at least for now, has remained one of México’s relatively undiscovered beach areas. At this point in time the Oaxaca coast has managed to preserve it’s natural beauty. The publicity blitz that is promoting Huatulco will slowly change this status. Hopefully this area will never become blatantly overcrowded.
The Oaxaca coast used to be one of the sea turtle’s worst enemies, lately it has become a savior of this endangered species. This is now one of the few remaining places in México that you can see these beautiful creatures on a regular basis, in any numbers.
Bahías de Huatulco is one of México’s newest planned resort complexes. Although still in the development stages, this incredible location offers some of the most beautiful bays and beaches in the country.
The natural beauty of the nine bays of Huatulco and the surrounding area provided the perfect starting place for the Mexican government to try to duplicate the success of some of their other planned resorts. They have built an international airport, a nearby city, La Crucieta, to house the needed workers.
The dream is progressing, a little more slowly than originally planned, but that is keeping the area from becoming really popular, too fast. Huatulco is still in the early stages of development and that can be a real bonus to visitors who are looking for a new beach destination that is not yet overcrowded.
The summers are hot and steamy here, which will keep this area a bargain paradise during the summer season, in the winter the weather here is no less than spectacular. The incredible beauty of the beaches combined with balmy days, warm water temperatures and relatively cool evenings, will surely entice many visitors from the colder northern climates during the winter.
Water sports will occupy much of your time in Huatulco and there is certainly no lack of water related activities here. Great scuba diving and sport fishing is relatively close to shore and all of the other water sports you would expect at a world class resort exist here. Snorkeling in some of the more protected bays can be downright incredible.
A glass-bottom boat tour to each of the bays is a must, if you have enough time. If not, you can arrange to visit only the beaches you choose. Horseback riding is offered on a few of the beaches and extended rides into the jungle can be arranged and provide an interesting alternative to spending the entire day at the beach or in the water.
If you golf, you are sure to enjoy the beautiful Tangolunda Golf Course, an 18 hole (72 par), championship course, designed by Mario Schjetnan, which is beautifully blended into the surrounding jungle. The course features a spectacular waterfront green on the 13th hole.
The Tangolunda Golf Course also has some very nice tennis facilities which, like the golf course, are open to the public. Most of the hotels in Huatulco also have tennis courts, but as a general rule they are for the exclusive use of their guests.
Nightlife is more or less restricted to the bars and discos of the major hotels, although the nightlife scene in La Crucieta, near Santa Cruz, has improved to the point of becoming worth a look. Shopping, banking facilities and the many reasonably priced restaurants make spending a late afternoon or extended evening, in La Crucieta, a possible alternative to the hotel disco scene of Huatulco..
It seems inevitable that Huatulco will, in time, become a success, given the natural beauty that the project had to start with. For those seeking an, as yet, undiscovered beach paradise, this just might be the place you have been searching for.
Puerto Angel is one of those, incredibly tranquil and extremely beautiful, fishing villages that still really do manage to exist in México. Reminiscent of a far-off port, somewhere in the South Pacific, this area really is a step back in time. Maybe just few steps back – to the 60’s and 70’s era of the hippies, who have flocked here for decades.
As in any town with a small population (under 4000), Puerto Angel lacks most of the amenities associated with modern resorts, with only a few hotels, most of which are fairly basic. You will not find any fancy restaurants here, but no lack of great food either. Fresh seafood, of all kinds is, of course, the local specialty. The overall atmosphere is very kicked back, and hopefully will manage to remain that way for many years to come.
Fishing is still very much a part of every day life in Puerto Angel as evidenced by the daily gathering of fishermen at the small pier on the main beach. There is an active panga fleet which is also a source of much of the local food supply.
These small boats can be rented, for fishing or snorkeling trips, directly from the beach, on the pier or from a local travel agent. Marlin, sailfish, wahoo, snapper, grouper, dorado and snook are all caught locally, not too far from shore. If you manage to get lucky, you can have your catch prepared at one of the beachside restaurants.
Located a short walk, or boat ride, from the main beach is Playa Panteón, a pleasant swimming beach with palapa style restaurants lining the beach. This is a favorite with the locals, especially on weekends, when it can get somewhat crowed with families enjoying the pleasant atmosphere. This is a beach where you could easily awake from a nap and think you had been transported to a remote island while you were asleep. Not bad…not bad at all.
Playa Zipolite, (this is the semi-famous hippie and nudist beach), is just a short distance west of Puerto Angel. This is a beautiful but dangerous beach (beware of the strong undertow) and swimming here is not recommended to any but the strongest of swimmers.
The beach is lined with funky restaurants, bars and rustic (read primitive), hostel type, accommodations. Here you can rent a hammock, a room, or a place to hang your own hammock, all at very reasonable rates. If you are offended by nudity (not legal in México, but tolerated by the locals here) stay clear of the west end of Zipolite. There are some nice places to stay in this area, and some great places to eat, but you will have to search them out.
All in all, for most people the main beach area at Puerto Angel will probably prove to be your best option.
If Puerto Angel is tranquil, Playa Manzunte is sound asleep. And “sleepy” is a perfect description for this tiny fishing village, located just five miles west of Zipolite on a fairly decent paved road. Manzunte, for our purposes, actually consists of the two separate beaches of Agustinillo and Manzunte.
This little stretch of beach is what many beach lovers dream of, not a luxury resort in sight, just one of the most pleasant beaches on this entire coast. This approximately one and a half mile stretch of beach is usually safe for swimming, and the snorkeling can be incredible, if there are no big waves.
Pangas can be rented, from the beach, for fishing or snorkeling expeditions. Sunsets here are usually no less than awesome and provide visitors and locals with a fitting finish to what was, most likely; “Just another beautiful day in paradise”.
Manzunte still has a small, but active, fishing fleet that provides fresh fish to the local residents and also the few small restaurants that line the beach. It is possible to get a truly memorable meal, try the catch of the day, at most of these small eateries. This area used to rely on the slaughter of the turtles, that flock to these pristine beaches.
When the Mexican government outlawed the practice, it upset the livelihood of many area residents. The small amount of tourism that has replaced the turtle industry is slowing bringing a bit of relief to the locals. A sea turtle museum, hatchery and research center, dedicated to saving the turtle, (Centro Mexicano de Tortuga) has been established here and is open to the public.
A tour, with guide (some speak English), is possible, very reasonable, and will help with the effort. Afterward, lunch and a few beers at one of the local restaurants will give a small boost to the local economy.
The accommodations are pretty basic, although there is rumor of a new B&B that may up the quality standards. Nightlife is almost nil, drinking on the beach to candlelight, or if there are enough revelers on hand, one of the restaurants might just stay open until 9 PM. Coming from Zipolite, you’ll see a sign on the left, at the entrance to Agustinillo, that reads, “Hamacas y Cabañas”, this is the local hammock factory and they turn out a very nice and very colorful product.
Puerto Escondido, is another fishing village, but this is one that has started to spring to life. Still small by anyone’s standards, with a population of around 30,000, Puerto Escondido has managed to retain much of it’s original small town charm. The town which has seen much growth in recent years is actually divided by the main coastal highway so many tourists will not even notice much of the growth.
Playa Principal, the main beach, remains much the same as it has been for years. This beach is lined with fishing boats, palm trees and beachside restaurants and gets very crowed on weekends as families from the outlying areas come to the beach to relax and swim.
Much of the growth of Puerto Escondido is a result of of the incredible surf break that attracts surfers from all over the world. The “Mexican Pipeline”, at Playa Zicatela, is what draws the surfers, especially during the summer months. Playa Zicatela is located just east of Playa Principal.
With the proper swell, this is one of México best surf spots and never fails to draw large crowds, in and out of the water, when the waves are big. This is a very dangerous spot for casual swimming because of the riptides and the raw power of the waves. This beach is best left to the experienced surfers.
Puerto Escondido has a couple beautiful, well protected, coves that are slightly away from the main tourist routes. Puerto Angelito and Playa Carrizalillo can both be reached by car, but are more easily reached by boat from Playa Principal.
Both offer safe swimming beaches and Puerto Angelito is lined with rustic seafood restaurants, where you can relax and easily spend an entire day. Very crowded on Sundays!
Playa Zicatela stretches east for miles. The area near town, where the surfers test their skills, is lined with hotels, cafes, restaurants, stores and beach side palapa bars. This area is popular with foreign tourists and is where you can find spotty nightlife, although you will often find a late night parties on the beach.
The farther east you go, the more deserted the beach gets. You can also rent horses on Playa Zicatela for rides down this long stretch of golden sand.