The state of Oaxaca (pronounced: wah-HA-ka) in Southern Mexico is home to what could be considered the most-famous beachbreak in the world: Zicatela Beach, aka Puerto Escondido.
But few realize that the potentially fatal monster of a wave is flanked on both sides by incredible surf spots, many of which are well-kept secrets guarded by the kinds of people you don’t want to piss off.
Some local knowledge is key to really enjoying the region, as many of the best waves are sand-bottom right points located miles from the highway down little more than bike trails.
Puerto Escondido has some pretty intense crowds, complete with their own homegrown locals who rival the guys on O’ahu’s North Shore, so mind your Ps and Qs in the water, and be humble. As the swell increases in size, the men are separated from the boys, so if you’re the former you might find it manageable.
The points to the east used to be empty, but recent publicity and stories of perfection on the scale of the Superbank have caused an influx of visitors. Get it before it has Kirra’s crowd.
Thievery is probably your biggest concern, as Mexico is infamous for rip-offs and corrupt police. It’s also a very hot, muggy place, so heat exhaustion is possible, but if you’re gonna paddle out into 20-foot Puerto Escondido, losing your wallet or getting prickly heat are the least of your worries.
The Seasons: Surfing in Oaxaca
The prime surf season, summer is also the rainy, muggy season, beginning in June and lasting until October. Water temps are in the 80s; air temps in the 80s and 90s. Most surfers visit Mexico in summer.
This is when the booming south swells begin to taper off, but there is still plenty of action, especially at the beachbreaks. Temperatures cool a bit, the rain eases, the tourists go home … but the surf is still there.
The “coldest” time of year, with air and water temps hovering in the 70s. It’s pretty dry, too, and south swells are nonexistent, so the Mexican surfer instead must focus on spots that catch northwest and west swells. Not a bad time of year, but not the best.
We reckon that spring is the best time to visit Mexico because it’s still dry, temps are warming up but not too much, the tourist masses have yet to arrive, and you get those early-season south swells creeping up the coast.
When to Go
Oaxaca has consistent, year round surf, but many consider summer (April-Oct) as the prime surf season. Quality swells are generated from lows off New Zealand and these provide regular 3-10ft (1-3m) SW swells.
Add the heavy action of the tropical storms or “Chubascos”, generated off mainland Mexico, which churn up swells of 6-15ft (2-5m) between June-Oct. Many of these hurricane swells are just too unruly and closeouts are common.
Double overhead days are far from rare and during the height of the swell you will often see waves getting to triple overhead. Some of the time the combination of wind and swell is far from ideal. Between Nov and Feb, there will be lots of glassy or N wind days, but less of the strong swells. When the summer swells are pumping, there’s more chance of onshore, due W winds, blowing from 39% of the time in April to 17% in July. Afternoon seabreezes are an almost daily occurrence.
The summer rainy season brings winds from all directions, but mainly a mild W-NW or a better E-SE. Tidal range is minimal and has little effect on most spots.
|dominant swell||NW –||S –SW||S –SW||S –W||S –W||NW –|
|swell size (ft)||3||4-5||5-6||7-8||6-7||3-4|
|dominant wind||W –NE||W –NW||SW –NW||W –NW||W –NW||W –NE|
|water temp (C)||27||27||28||28||28||27|
Let’s check the surf now . . .
Oaxaca Soul Surf:
Surf Lessons in Oaxaca, Mexico
Oasis Surf Academy
Oasis Surf Academy is rated the “Best Surf School in Puerto Escondido” They have a very warm, familiar and relaxed atmosphere.
You can just get lessons or you can stay in one of their apartments and enjoy some tacos at Juan’s Fish tacos right out front. Oasis has great quality surf equipment and Roger (one of the instructors) is even a shaper so if you damage your board he can repair it for you or just give you a new one to use.
All of the instructors, Roger, Roger Jr., Sebastian, Enrique, Julio and Tito are fun, speak good English, bond great with kids, patient with beginners and those that don’t speak Spanish. They even offer Spanish lessons! Impresionante!
Surf Camps in Oaxaca, Mexico
Las Palmeras Surf Camp
Las Palmeras Surf Camp is located in the town of Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, approximately 2.5 hours south of Huatulco, Oaxaca, where your plane will land. Hautulco is located in the central (coastal) part of Oaxaca, approximately 4 hours south of Puerto Escondido and about a 1.5 hour flight from Mexico City.
The house features air conditioning in the bedrooms, hot water, high speed Internet with WiFi, cable television and all of the comforts of a modern home. They offer surf sessions, 3 meals a day and alcohol (extra $).
Punta Chivo Surf Camp
Punta Chivo Surf Camp located in Salina Cruz offers everything from airport pickup and dropoff, access to secret spots via hummer, they avoid crowds as much as possible and even have drone photography to get some rad shots of you riding those waves.
Where to stay in Oaxaca, Mexico
Hotel Santa Fe
Hotel Santa Fe is located in Puerto Escondido right on the beach. They have a very friendly staff and a restaurant with yummy food including vegetarian cuisine but you are also in easy walking distance to all of the restaurants in Zicoleta.
The rooms have AC’s and are old school Mexican style. Hotel Santa Fe has 2 pools and beautiful grounds to explore! Check out their Facebook page.
Hotelito Swiss Oasis
Hotelito Swiss Oasis is also located in Puerto Escondido about a block from the main drag and beach. If you get a downstairs room you get your own hammock, upstairs you get your own balcony.
Rooms come with a fridge stocked with beer for a small fee like 15 pesos or something and the hotel is known for awesome customer service and is very clean! What more could you ask for?
The only thing that might be an issue is finding the place, I guess some cab drivers don’t know exactly where it is? So just make sure you have the correct address and you’re ready to go!
One Salina Cruz
One Salina Cruz is of course located in Salina Cruz, Mexico. Nothing too fancy just a descent place to stay and within walking distance to Walmart, where you should apparently stop at on the way to grab some bottled water since that seems to be a rare commodity at this hotel.
Reviews include: “Average, but one of the best is Salina Cruz” and “Excellent Value”
Where to eat in Oaxaca
La Olita is located in Puerto Escondido. Their fish and shrimp tacos/burritos are awesome made with fresh ingredients Baja style. They have yummy guac, gold beer and mojitos. The establishment is small and unassuming with a “hip ambiance”.
The owner is a super cool local surfer that goes out of his way to make your experience enjoyable. The only issues I see is that the hours of operation are a little scattered. So make sure you give them a call or check out trip advisor to make sure they’re open before you head their way!
Cayuco Mezcal y Cocina
Cayuco Mezcal y Cocina is located in the sand at the west end of Zicatela beach in Puerto Escondido. Enjoy the relaxed ambiance while you watch the beautiful sunset and eat their amazing ceviche! (Seriously people say it’s the best they’ve ever had).
Some of the other favorites are their Mahi-mahi, seared tuna and cold tomato soup with mussels. The location is ideal if you have little ones with you or you just want to stick your toes in the sand while you eat since the tables are at grade on the beach.
They have live music on Thursdays but that’s their busiest day so expect delays receiving your food or drinks since they only have one server as of February 2015. Hopefully they’ve hired one more person since then so you can get that ceviche más rápido!
La Ola located right on the beach in San Augustinillo looks like a great place to just relax have a couple of shrimp tacos, some tuna tartar and some fresh squeezed tangerine juice or a clamato while you watch the waves. If you’re lucky you might run into the crazy lady with “the lord’s chips” they sound delicious.
Things to do in Oaxaca
Laguna de Manialtepec
Laguna de Manialtepec is a natural habitat made by a sand reef which separates the lagoon from the sea. The best time to go is right before sunset, at dark the water turns phosphorescent just like in the movie “The Life of Pi”. You can rent a canoe of your own or take a guided tour (if you’re staying at the Hotel Santa Fe they will hook you up with an awesome tour guide) Don’t forget your bug spray!