Is Puerto Escondido safe? Yes – provided that you take precautions and use the same common sense you would when traveling anywhere else in the world. This guide, written by a local expat will help you plan your trip to the beach town safely.
Puerto Escondido is a beautiful coastal city located in Oaxaca, Mexico. It is known for its stunning beaches, great surf, and laid-back atmosphere.
The city’s location some 254km south of Oaxaca City makes Puerto Escondido a great extension to any trip to the state capital. People are often apprehensive about their safety when traveling anywhere in Mexico and Puerto Escondido is no different.
Perhaps the fact that Puerto Escondido is not yet as popular a destination as places like Cancun, Tulum, and Puerto Vallarta makes people even more anxious.
Mexico doesn’t always receive the best media portrayal, particularly in the United States. However, this is largely unwarranted.
More than 40 million international tourists travel to Mexico each year and most visits are trouble-free. Tourist areas are kept safe by the Mexican authorities and Mexico on the whole is a diverse, culturally rich country that doesn’t deserve the “dangerous” reputation it often has.
Is Puerto Escondido Safe?
Puerto Escondido is generally safe for tourists, as is the state of Oaxaca on the whole. The city is home to a population of just 45,000 people and has more of a small-town vibe about it.
Puerto Escondido is one of the very best surfing destinations in Mexico – perhaps only overshadowed by Sayulita in Nayarit. It is home to some of the most stunning beaches on Mexico’s Pacific coast and offers plenty of opportunities to swim, snorkel, relax by the shore, or indulge in traditional cuisine in luxurious hotels and restaurants.
Check your government travel advice before you travel
The US Department of State provides a state-by-state breakdown of the safety situation in Mexico. States are divided into four different categories based on their perceived safety.
They are recognized as places to exercise normal precautions (Campeche and Yucatan state), places to exercise increased precaution, places to reconsider traveling to, and places to avoid traveling to. Oaxaca state is recognized as a place to practice increased precaution.
In other words, it is generally safe to travel here, you just need to be aware of your surroundings. There are no travel restrictions in place for Puerto Escondido.
The US government’s advice can sometimes appear sternly worded. But it does give a good representation of what the safety and security situation is like in each individual state.
The UK travel advisory also recognizes Oaxaca as a safe place to travel.
Crime statistics for Puerto Escondido
Puerto Escondido is generally safe for tourists. The city relies heavily on tourism, and locals are aware of the importance of keeping visitors safe.
Committing crimes against tourists here is generally frowned upon. The increase in tourism to the area has led to a slight increase in petty crime like pickpocketing and bag snatching. But this is no more a problem here than in any other global city.
The data website Numbeo interviews residents of different global towns and cities about how safe they feel in their area. They award the location with a number on a scale of 1 to 100 with 100 being the most dangerous, and 0 being very safe.
Puerto Escondido has a “moderate” safety rating of 50 on Numbeo. Crime has increased in recent years and the main concerns are muggings and robberies.
Car thefts and break-ins are a worry for locals but they are still not super common and this is not something that is going to impact you as a tourist. Violent crime in the area is rare.
It is also useful to compare safety in Puerto Escondido with safety in other Mexican cities. For example, Tijuana has a crime rating of 82.69, while Guadalajara has a crime rating of 73.74.
Safety Tips for Visiting Puerto Escondido
A lot of staying safe in Puerto Escondido comes down to common sense. Some useful tips that ought to help you while planning and during your trip are detailed below.
Watch your belongings in crowded places
Most petty theft that happens in Mexico (and in general) is opportunistic. Always make sure that you have eyes on your personal belongings and take extra care in busy streets and crowded marketplaces like Mercado Benito Juarez, Mercado Zicatela, and the Alfonso Pérez Gasga Night Market.
Never keep your wallet, phone, or other valuables in your back pocket where someone can easily grab them. In crowded places, consider walking with your backpack in front of you rather than over your shoulder.
If you travel frequently, you might want to consider investing in a theft-proof backpack like those offered by Pacsafe. Theft-proof bags are a little pricier than regular backpacks but they come with additional safety features.
(E.g. they are waterproof, slash-proof, and come with a TSA-approved mesh locking system).
Be careful on beaches with strong currents and waves
One of the major highlights of visiting Puerto Escondido is the gorgeous beaches in the area. As you head along the coast away from the town center, you discover secluded spots and hidden coves that most tourists don’t know about.
Some of them, like Playa Zicatela, are famous for their excellent surfs. But as appealing as that sounds, Zicatela definitely isn’t a beginner’s beach.
The beach is often nicknamed “the Mexican Pipeline” because it produces powerful waves that are often as much as 40-60 feet high! The currents here are strong and unpredictable and the riptides and undercurrents that they create can easily drag you out to sea.
If you are new to surfing, it is better to start out with the calmer beaches like Carrizalillo Beach or La Punta. La Punta is a good place for intermediate surfers because the waves are smaller and they break over a sandy bottom.
If you want to attempt surfing at Zicatela Beach, it is a good idea to hire a local guide. (You will find lots of surfing schools and tours along the coast).
Is Puerto Escondido safe at night?
Puerto Escondido has an amazing, varied nightlife scene that has something for every taste and preference. Savannah and Cactus are two of the most popular beach bars in the area.
Savannah overlooks the Pacific, while Cactus is more of a club that hosts live entertainers, and fire jugglers, and plays house, dance, and electronic music until the early hours. If you are looking for something a little more lowkey, Mombasa is a cozy spot in La Punta that often hosts live musicians.
Meanwhile, Espadín is a chic cocktail bar that is known for its excellent in-house mixologists, its mezcal and tequila tastings, and its sunset views over Playa Carrizalillo. Basically, you would be missing out on something special by not experiencing Puerto Escondido by night.
Being safe at night comes down to using the same common sense as you would at home. Don’t leave your drink unattended, be wary of accepting drinks from over-friendly strangers, and don’t walk home alone intoxicated.
You are generally okay walking down the Adoquín in the evenings – this is the main strip that runs beside Playa Principal. The strip along Playa Zicatela is also safe. Just be careful not to wander off down dimly lit streets and into unfamiliar areas.
Taking cabs in Puerto Escondido
You need to be careful when taking cabs in Puerto Escondido. There is no Uber or other ridesharing apps in the area and there seems to be no plan to introduce these services in the near future.
The best way to get a cab here is to ask your hotel receptionist/concierge or Airbnb host to order one for you. They will have a list of trusted contacts and that is safer than just hailing a random street cab.
Once you find a driver you like, you can take their card/contact details so that you can call them whenever you need a cab.
Taxi drivers are often a law unto themselves the world over. Scams are not unheard of in Mexico and cabbies may often take you on a roundabout route through town or overcharge you because they assume that as a tourist, you do not know the correct rate.
“Express kidnappings” are also a concern in Mexico. Although these are not common in Puerto Escondido, express kidnappings happen when an unsuspecting tourist gets into a cab, the cabbie drives a short distance and his/her accomplices enter the vehicle.
The tourist is forced to hand over their valuables and withdraw funds from an ATM. You shouldn’t terrify yourself into thinking that every taxi driver is a potential kidnapper but it isn’t worth the risk of getting into a random cab, no matter how small.
Are solo female travelers safe in Puerto Escondido?
Yes! Solo female travelers are perfectly safe to travel in Puerto Escondido.
The town sees a steady trickle of tourists every year, throughout the year. You won’t stand out as a tourist, even if you are alone.
Puerto Escondido is a beach town so you can feel comfortable walking around in shorts, sundresses, or whatever you feel most comfortable in. (This entire website has been created by a solo female traveler in Mexico that has traveled alone to over 10 states.)
Safe areas to stay in Puerto Escondido
There are no dangerous areas or neighborhoods that you should specifically try to avoid in Puerto Escondido. So, when you are searching for hotels or hostels, you don’t have to worry about accidentally booking somewhere in a sketchy spot.
Still, La Punta de Zicatela, Rinconada, and Playa Bacocho are the main tourist areas and arguably among the safest areas to base yourself. When you stay in these districts, it also means that you have a range of restaurants, shopping, and nightlife options right on your doorstep.
If you are looking for something a little more tranquil and quiet, you might also like spending a day or two in Huatulco or San Jose del Pacifico. Of course, wherever you travel it is always a good idea to sense check the past reviews of the hotels and properties you are considering.
Traveling between Oaxaca City and Puerto Escondido
Oaxaca City and Puerto Escondido make a nice travel pairing. You can choose to travel between the two cities overland (by driving or by bus) or by flying.
Flights from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido (and vice versa) take upwards of 3.5 hours despite the short distance, because they require a transfer in Mexico City. Since flights usually cost at least $100 each way, this is not the most economical option either.
If you are driving, expect the journey between the two cities to take around 8 hours. By bus, expect it to take 11-12.
A lot of people complain about the road between Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido being filled with twists and turns, making people sick, and taking longer than scheduled. The reality is that it’s not that bad.
Pack some Dramamine if you get motion sickness. The ADO bus costs around $30 USD for a one-way journey.
Standard seats are pretty spacious and comfortable as-is. If you pay extra for Ado Premium, you get even more legroom, as well as complimentary drinks and snacks.
Is public transport safe in Puerto Escondido?
One thing to note about Puerto Escondido is that the city is somewhat spread out. Route 200 is the main road that runs through town and separates all the different districts.
Getting cabs is cheap and easy enough to do. If you are on a budget or want to have a real “local” experience, you can get a collectivo.
Collectivos are small local minibusses that run to various routes around town and leave when full. Sometimes, they get pretty crowded, some people have to stand up and there is no air con.
Colectivos are perfectly safe, they are just not the most comfortable option. They only cost a couple of pesos. If the place you are going to is not a designated stop, the driver may drop you off somewhere along the road en route.
Puerto Escondido is located on the Pacific coast of Mexico, which is prone to hurricanes and earthquakes. The hurricane season runs between May and October, with the highest chance of hurricanes being around August and September.
That being said, fatal or particularly damaging hurricanes are rare. At most, you will typically only see tropical storms that may knock out the internet or electricity for an hour or two.
Rain doesn’t normally last all day either. After the showers subside, things usually clear up quite quickly so you can prepare for a day at the beach.
Since 1948, only four tropical storms and four category 1 hurricanes have made it to shore from the Pacific Coast. You should be aware of the weather conditions and follow the instructions of local authorities. In case of a natural disaster, travelers should follow evacuation procedures and seek shelter in a safe place.
Purchase comprehensive travel insurance for your trip
Travel insurance is a smart and prudent choice for anyone who plans to travel anywhere, and that includes taking a trip to Puerto Escondido. Today’s health is not promised tomorrow and even with the best will in the world, you can never know what is around the corner.
Travel insurance can protect you from unforeseen and unexpected events and the costs that come with them. A comprehensive plan should include at least $250,000 USD worth of medical coverage.
You should also look for policies that come with additional extras like loss/theft of luggage, repatriation, and hiking. Make sure that you print out or make a note of your policy number as this is the first thing you will be asked for if you need assistance in Mexico.
Can you drink the tap water in Puerto Escondido?
The water in Mexico is not safe to drink. It is purified at the source but often gets contaminated en route to your tap and has the potential to make you very sick.
Even locals do not drink the water. When you arrive at your hotel/Airbnb in Puerto Escondido, you will be given a couple of complimentary bottles of water.
You are usually given 2 bottles per day of your stay. It’s a good idea to then go and buy a larger bottle at your nearest Oxxo/convenience store.
Consider traveling with a reusable water bottle like a Lifestraw so that you can fill it up with mineral water each day. That way, you can minimize your plastic waste while out sightseeing.
Is there cartel in Puerto Escondido?
Cartel activity exists in virtually all parts of Mexico – including in areas popular among tourists like Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Tulum, and Puerto Escondido. In fact, tourists’ demands for drugs actually encourage the cartel’s presence, which is why you shouldn’t do drugs in Mexico.
Still, if you don’t go looking for trouble in Mexico, trouble won’t go looking for you. You don’t need to worry about the cartel as they don’t seek to harm tourists.
Final thoughts on safety in Puerto Escondido
Puerto Escondido is one of the safer destinations that you can visit in Mexico. It is a perfect place to travel to for the chance to relax by the Pacific Coast and offers a fascinating colonial history, spicy Oaxacan cuisine, and a cosmopolitan vibe.
Do you have any further questions about planning your trip to Puerto Escondido? I am a British Travel Writer living in Merida in the Yucatan.
I’m happy to assist with any questions you may have. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
Enjoy your time in Mexico! Buen Viaje! Xo