Surfing in Puerto Escondido: your complete guide

Jip Bottema
November 8, 2023
5 min read


What started off as a small surf town has grown into one of the most famous surf spots in the world. Admired, celebrated, enjoyed (and yes, occasionally feared), the breaks in Puerto Escondido allow surfers of all experience levels to enjoy the waves. Even if you are just an onlooker, visiting this surfing hotspot is an excellent idea. 

Nestled on the beautiful coast of Oaxaca, Mexico, Puerto Escondido has earned a well-deserved reputation as a surfer's paradise. The town has been a destination for surf crowds since the 1950s, with its popularity surging during the '70s and '80s as advancements in board production took off. 

Ever since its humble beginnings, the popularity of this "Hidden Bay" (that's the meaning of the town's name) has continued to rise, and there's no sign of that changing anytime soon.

With its powerful and consistent waves, stunning beaches, and vibrant local culture, Puerto Escondido beckons surfers from around the world, providing an unforgettable experience regardless of your skill level. From beginners seeking gentle waves to experienced surfers craving the thrill of colossal barrels, Puerto Escondido offers a variety of surf breaks to cater to every surfer's desires. Let's dive into the different surf breaks you can explore in this tropical haven.

Surfing Seasons in Puerto Escondido

When it comes to surfing in Puerto Escondido, timing is everything. The waves ebb and flow with the changing seasons, offering surfers a variety of experiences throughout the year.

So, grab your board and let's dive into the exciting world of Puerto Escondido's surfing seasons.

Peak Season: May to September - Conquer the Mexican Pipeline

From May to September, Puerto Escondido becomes a playground for adrenaline-seeking surfers. Zicatela Beach, famously known as the "Mexican Pipeline," awakens with monstrous waves that challenge even the most daring wave riders. These swells, reaching legendary heights, create a heart-pounding rush as surfers navigate towering barrels and unleash their skills on the powerful waves. It's a show-stopping spectacle that attracts experienced surfers from all corners of the globe, ready to conquer the mighty Mexican Pipeline. However, it's worth noting that these waves demand respect and caution. If you're a beginner or prefer tamer waves, it's best to observe from the safety of the shore or opt for the smaller swells closer to the shore. Sasha Donnano is a pro surfer and a local and he explains: “Surfing in Puerto during the summertime is incredible. This place turns into a real surfer paradise. If you have enough experience, you’d be able to grab the best wave of your life on any given day in Zicatella. But even La Punta and the surrounding breaks are pumping and you can have so much fun”.

He remembers one particular summer swell very well: “AlthoughI have many incredible memories of Puerto Escondido, one of the coolest memories I have is from back in 2015. We had probably the biggest swell in history here in Puerto and the waves in Zicatela were just unbelievable. Waves were 60ft+ and only the best (and bravest) big wave riders in the world paddled out to surf. No, I didn't surf them, but even just being able to witness that made me realize how special and powerful this place is. And, it taught me to always give respect to the ocean here”.

Off-peak Season: October to April - Perfect for Beginners and Intermediate Surfers

The months from October to April are ideal for those looking for a more relaxed and playful surf experience. As the peak season subsides, Puerto Escondido transforms into a welcoming paradise for beginners and intermediate surfers. This is the time when you can truly enjoy the less intense, yet equally satisfying breaks along the coastline.

Unveiling the Epic Surf Breaks of Puerto Escondido

By now, you might have figured that if you decide to go surfing in Puerto Escondido, you're in for a treat. You will find locals and people who travel from all over the world to enjoy these waves. Jhony Corzo, World Champion and local has many incredible memories from Puerto’s famous three surf breaks: La Punta, Zicatela, and Carrizalillo. He shares the significance that these magical breaks have had on his surfing career: "I had my first-ever barrel experience in La Punta when I was starting to surf on a boogie board. It was an incredible experience and showed me what being inside a barrel feels like. After that, I wanted so badly to feel the same but on a surfboard. He goes on to explain:

“Zicatela taught me how to have confidence, braveness, and a lot of courage, not just in the water but overall in life. It truly helped me surf well in the most powerful conditions, no matter where I travelled.

Carrizalillo holds a special place for me as it is where I participated in my first-ever surfing contest when I was just six years old. The fact that I won made it even more special. I am convinced it has led me to where I am today in my surfing career, and to this day, I chase the sensation of winning. It is something I want to keep doing for the rest of my career."

Zicatela Beach, La Punta, and Carrizalillo are just a taste of the incredible surf opportunities awaiting you in Puerto Escondido. So wax up your board and get ready to ride the waves, soak up the sun, and create unforgettable memories in this surfer's paradise.

Zicatela Beach - The Mighty Mexican Pipeline

Welcome to the crown jewel of Puerto Escondido's surf scene: Zicatela Beach, also known as the Mexican Pipeline. This legendary break is not for the faint of heart. Prepare to witness towering waves that challenge the bravest of surfers. The thunderous power and monstrous barrels that grace Zicatela are the stuff of surfing legends.

  • Wave Type: Beach break
  • Best Swell Direction: South to southwestI
  • deal Tide: Mid to high tide for more even waves
  • Suitable for: Experienced surfers seeking the ultimate adrenaline rush
  • Understanding the swell: Zicatela Beach is where the waves can get so massive and powerful that they'll make your heart skip a beat. These incredible swells, born from storms in the southern Pacific Ocean, travel an epic journey before crashing onto the shores of Puerto Escondido. The best part? They deliver an adrenaline-pumping experience like no other. When the swell direction aligns from the south or southwest, Zicatela becomes the ultimate playground for massive barrels. Picture yourself dropping in on these giants during mid to high tide, when the waves break evenly and offer a wild ride. And guess what? The offshore or cross-offshore winds from the east work their magic, sculpting clean and perfectly shaped waves that'll have you riding with pinpoint precision and an ear-to-ear grin.

La Punta - A Surfer's Playground

Ah, La Punta, where the waves peel away like a dreamy dance. Located just a short distance from Zicatela, La Punta offers a more forgiving and playful surfing experience. This vibrant neighbourhood boasts a picturesque beach with a lineup of long, peeling waves that entice surfers of all levels. Whether you're a seasoned pro looking to perfect your moves or a beginner eager to catch your first waves, La Punta has something for everyone.

  • Wave Type: Point break
  • Best Swell Direction: South to southwest
  • Ideal Tide: Mid to high tide for smoother rides
  • Suitable for: All skill levels, from beginners to advanced surfers seeking a fun and relaxed atmosphere depending on the swell. 
  • Understanding the swell: This surf spot knows how to charm riders of all levels with its combo of southwest swells and a tantalizing angle to the coast. The result? Long, mesmerizing waves beckon surfers seeking forgiveness and playfulness. When the swell comes rolling in from the south or southwest, it's time to grab your board and get ready for some serious fun. Catch the mid to high tide, and you'll be rewarded with smooth-breaking waves that seem to go on forever. As if that weren't enough, the winds from the east blow offshore or cross offshore, ensuring clean conditions that let you carve and manoeuvre with effortless grace. Prepare to be enchanted!

Carrizalillo Beach - The Tranquil Oasis

Calling all beginner wave riders and relaxation enthusiasts! Carrizalillo Beach is your paradise within paradise. For those seeking a serene and laid-back surf experience, Carrizalillo Beach is a hidden gem. This picturesque cove boasts gentle waves that are perfect for beginners and those who prefer a more tranquil setting. The bay's unique shape provides protection from larger swells, creating a peaceful haven for surfers to enjoy the art of wave riding at their own pace.

  • Wave Type: Beach break
  • Best Swell Direction: South to southwest
  • Ideal Tide: Varies, suitable for all tides
  • Suitable for: Beginners and those seeking a relaxed surfing experience in a beautiful and sheltered bay.
  • Understanding the swell: When those delightful south or southwest swells make their way to the coast, Carrizalillo comes alive with gentle waves that make learning to surf a breeze. This hidden gem boasts a bay shape that acts like a protective hug, shielding you from the overpowering waves. Say goodbye to intimidation and hello to a more sheltered and manageable surf zone. And here's the icing on the wave: The offshore or cross-offshore winds from the east bless you with clean faces and ideal surfing conditions. So kick back, soak up the good vibes, and let Carrizalillo embrace you with its tranquil charm.

These three breaks are just the beginning of the incredible surf opportunities awaiting you in Puerto Escondido. Get ready to ride the waves, soak up the sun, and create unforgettable memories in this surfer's paradise.

Remember, always check local conditions, tides, and surf forecasts before hitting the waves. Safety and respect for fellow surfers are paramount. So wax up your board, put on your wetsuit, and let's dive into the exciting world of Puerto Escondido's surf breaks!

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