Inside Mexico's unspoiled surfing paradise, Puerto Escondido

The landscape is changing in the surfing paradise of Puerto Escondido. Will the arrival of new hotels be followed by an influx that alters the unique character of this strip of Oaxaca coastline? Or will the sustainability status quo be preserved? Arta Ghanbari considers the shape of things to come
Inside Mexico's unspoiled surfing paradise Puerto Escondido
Maureen M Evans

Puerto’s allure has quickly acquired international status. It is the fear of locals – including those deeply invested in these developments – that it will become ‘Cancun-ised’ much like Tulum. The digital nomad movement has already started to infiltrate this corner of the jungle, arriving from Australia, the US and Canada, possibly for reasons similar to the appeal of Bali’s Ubud and, indeed, Tulum, which attracted bohemian creatives and entrepreneurs wanting to live off-grid. Plans are in motion to control the height and number of buildings and to, in turn, protect the waves, as elevated structures are known to change their shape.

Unlike Cancun, though, Puerto’s advantage is the difficulty in reaching it. There is no major airport within striking distance and mostly only domestic flights come into nearby Huatulco and Puerto’s own shoebox airport from Mexico City. Also unlike Cancun, the beaches here are certainly not for the faint of heart, with Playa Carrizalillo in town as the exception on a calm day. It is often where beginner surfers are thrown into the water and is the place to find lessons.

Driving here from Hotel Terrestre – on the two-lane coastal highway that connects the states of Chiapas to the south of Oaxaca and Nayarit to the north – I swerve out of the way of bobbing chickens, lazy dogs and a man on a morning errand with his donkey. The mountains wear a thick coat of dark green, bearing rounded tops and soft folds like running lava that is freshly dried. They have been through a lot but it has not made them unapproachable (earthquakes are commonplace here). There is little sign of Tulum around, in fact, there is little else but fields of palms, overgrown mangroves, wide rivers, still lagoons and the occasional ramshackle village, where locals put out tables to sell coconuts, pork tacos and Coca-Cola to the occasional passerby.

Change may be inevitable but, for now, I have the jungle all to myself.

Ways and means

Arta Ghanbari visited Mexico as a guest of Original Travel and Aeroméxico. Original Travel ( offers an eight-night holiday in Puerto Escondido for £2,800 per person, including four nights at Hotel Escondido and four nights at Hotel Terrestre, both on a half-board basis, with car hire and all flights. Aeroméxico ( flies daily from London Heathrow to Mexico City, with daily connections to Huatulco and Puerto Escondido. Flying with Aeroméxico will help to streamline your booking to multiple destinations, while the later departure times from London get into the capital in the early morning and allow you not to lose a whole day travelling.