Puerto Escondido is in the state Oaxaca and is a small town on the beach along the Pacific coast. Although there are several beaches in this town, one of the most important ones to visit is Zicatela. If you are surfer, Zicatela Beach will seem like heaven to you; if you want proof, check out its rankings as it consistently appears on the list of best beaches around the world for this sport. Although surfing is the main attraction, there are plenty of other things that make this beach a must see on Mexico’s Pacific coastline. Because of this, everyone who visits Zicatela has a great time, not just the surfers. Here are some of the reasons you should consider Zicatela when you want to plan a beach getaway.
As mentioned, the main attraction in Zicatela is surfing. The good news is that even newbies can have fun as there are plenty of surf instructors available on the beach who can teach you the basics and even more advanced techniques. Although, if you are a newbie keep in mind that your teacher will probably take you to a nearby beach to start as the waves in Zicatela are large. Some of the ideal spots for beginners include Playa Principal as well as Carrizalillo in the north and Punta in the south. The reason instructors usually recommend beginners avoid Zicatela is because of the powerful waves and strong currents which are great for the pros, but dangerous if you are learning.
Because the waves in Zicatela are so great, each November they host the International Surf Competition and athletes from around the world come to compete. This beach is known as the Mexican Pipeline and is one of the top ten surfing beaches in the world and most likely the cheapest one to travel to. Because of the cheap living and amazing waves, many international surfers moved to this beach and joined the locals. Now these surfers are teachers living in paradise. Some of the most common countries you will find people from include Brazil, Canada, the US, Australia and parts of Europe.
When looking for lodging in Zicatela you will find plenty of options. Because the beach is long, hotels had a lot of room to develop. Although you can find lots of hotels, there are not large resorts such as those in other towns. Despite this, the prices are low and the rooms are good. Keep in mind, however, that mosquitos are a problem, especially in the hotels to the north of the beach, so always pick a room that has mosquito nets and well-sealed.
Although there aren’t as many lodging options in the south at the moment, developers are making plans. The best option if you want to stay for a month (or more) is to rent a small room. These will usually include a bed, bathroom, gas and a small stove and if you are really lucky, you may even get a great view, a pool or a terrace.
Although Zicatela is a beautiful beach, it is not ideal for swimming. Although there are always lifeguards near the center and usually some on the edges, the waves are simply too large and the currents too strong to make swimming recommended. There will be more lifeguards during Easter, spring break and the December holidays because of all the tourists but I you want to swim, try going to Playa Carrizalillo. Here it is not only safer, but you can occasionally see migrating whales while standing on the shore!
If you just want to take in the sun, this beach is for you. Zicatela has a long stretch of sand and there are plenty of places to rent an area protected by an umbrella. There are also options so you can enjoy a beer, cold coconut or soft drink without ever having to get up. Remember, that although Zicatela is great for relaxing, head somewhere else to swim.
Sea Turtle Release
If you visit Zicatela at the right time of the year you can have a once in a lifetime opportunity to join volunteers in Puerto Escondido as they release baby sea turtles, letting them enter the ocean. If your timing is right, simply go to the lifeguard station in the middle of the beach around 6pm and you will get a baby turtle to bring to the water and release. It is a touching experience watching the turtles enter the sea and families and animal lovers alike will love the experience (and people urge you to join). You can see the nesting area next to the lifeguard station no matter the time of the year and this is where people bring turtle eggs to hatch and release.
If you want to see some turtles in the ocean, you can take a boat tour. On this trip you will also get the chance to see some dolphins and whales if you are lucky. Although the tour leaves early it is worth it as you almost always see turtles. But don’t be confused by the high amount of sea turtles in Zicatela; it is due to the community’s protection efforts.
When To Visit
Although Zicatela is beautiful to visit no matter the time of the year, if you want to avoid crowds you shouldn’t come during Easter, Spring Break or the December holidays. The rest of the time, you will get to enjoy a fairly empty beach on a low-budget that will make you wonder why you didn’t come sooner.
You have a few options to get to Zicatela. If you are in another city, you can try take a second class, first class or luxury bus (depending on your budget and preference) to Puerto Escondido. Once there you are just a 6 to 10 minute taxi ride away from your hotel. If you prefer flying, the area does have an airport, Puerto Escondido International Airport (PXM) but there aren't many flights, only coming from Mexico City and several other destinations. If you want more flight options, try going to Bahias de Huatulco International Airport (HUX) as this is less than two hours away from the beach and has many more flights from a range of destinations.Credit: Pete Olerup