Puerto Escondido is a laid-back coastal town on Mexico’s Pacific coast, in the state of Oaxaca. In spite of its name – which translates as ‘hidden port’ – Puerto Escondido is certainly no secret. Each year, the town attracts thousands of backpackers and tourists eager to experience its famed surf, long stretches of sandy beaches, and vibrant nightlife. But is Puerto Escondido safe to visit?
Mexico as a whole has a bad reputation when it comes to personal safety, and perhaps rightly so. However, the vast majority of violent crimes that occur in the country don’t implicate tourists. The gang-related violence that the country has become famous for usually happens between warring cartels and the police. Tourists are very rarely targeted or caught in the crossfire of this violence. Luckily, Puerto Escondido is located in one of the safest parts of Mexico, Oaxaca. While no place is without its dangers, Puerto Escondido is generally considered a safe place to visit – so long as you follow some basic rules.
Join us as we break down all you need to know to stay safe in Puerto Escondido: from whether to drink the tap water, to the best tips for staying safe at night.
Is Puerto Escondido safe for tourists?
As a general rule, is Puerto Escondido safe for tourists? The simple answer is yes – so long as you keep your wits about you and use some basic common sense. Puerto Escondido sits in the state of Oaxaca, which is one of the safest areas in Mexico. According to Numbeo.com, Puerto Escondido has a moderate level of crime, scoring 56.25. For context, this is significantly lower than Mexico City, which scores 79.61, and Tijuana, which scores 81.57.
That’s not to say that tourists come across zero harm in Puerto Escondido. Petty crimes such as pick-pocketing and mugging are unfortunately common. Data from Numbeo.com suggests there’s a moderate chance of being mugged or robbed, scoring 47.06. This is just a fraction higher than your chance of being mugged or robbed in New York (46.37). Nonetheless, it’s advisable to keep your valuables secure by locking them away in your hotel or hostel or simply not bringing them on holiday here.
Is Puerto Escondido safe at night?
While Puerto Escondido is generally safe at night, it’s important to take extra safety precautions during this time. Numbeo.com finds that it is moderately safe to walk alone in Puerto at night, scoring 42.65. This contrasts with a considerably higher score of 77.94 when walking alone during the daytime.
With the vast majority of muggings and assaults happening in secluded and unlit areas, it goes without saying that tourists should stick to busy and well-lit streets. If walking alone at night, consider taking a registered taxi to avoid any unnecessary risk. Another top piece of guidance is to never venture onto the beach at night. This area can be particularly dangerous at night time, so don’t be tempted to take a late-night stroll along the sand.
As in almost any other destination, tourists who behave a certain way make themselves obvious targets for locals looking to make a bit of easy cash. Flashing your expensive iPhone in public, talking loudly in English, or staggering around drunk can all make you stand out as easy fodder for those with poor intentions. Even when in a large group, it’s important to remember where you are and keep your wits about you. Before setting off, have a clear idea of where you’re going, and speak to trusted locals about the areas that are best to avoid.
Is Puerto Escondido safe for solo female travelers?
If you’re planning a solo trip, you may be wondering if Puerto Escondido is safe for single female travelers. Broadly speaking, the answer is yes. This may come as a surprise to people who have read countless articles on the high levels of gender-based violence and femicide in Mexico. However, while Mexico certainly has a grave issue in this area, female tourists are largely exempt from violence and maltreatment. Puerto Escondido is a safe destination for solo female travelers, so long as they take some obvious precautions.
As we’ve mentioned above, Oaxaca is one of the safest states in Mexico, and plenty of women safely travel by themselves to this area every day. However, gender bias exists in every corner of the globe, and Mexico is no exception. Mexico has a culture of machismo, meaning that milder forms of harassment such as cat-calling are fairly common here. In order to steer clear of unwanted attention, some women opt to dress in a more modest fashion, but there are also plenty who choose not to police their appearance in such a way.
Ultimately, the trick to staying safe as a woman in Puerto Escondido is really just about common sense. It’s advisable to take the same precautions you would at home. For example, make sure not to leave your drink unattended while at a bar or club. Similarly, avoid walking by yourself in poorly lit, quiet areas at night, especially on the beach. Take registered taxis instead, or if you’re backpacking, consider linking up with some fellow travelers from your hostel and heading out as a group.
Is tap water safe in Puerto Escondido?
Unless you’re used to the drinking water in Mexico, you probably don’t want to drink the tap water in Puerto Escondido. It won’t kill you, but it could leave you feeling very unwell. Trust us, having an upset tummy is an even more unpleasant experience in Mexico’s heat! If you’re extra sensitive, it’s probably a good idea not to ask for ice in your drinks, either. You should remember to wash any fresh fruit and vegetables with filtered water, too.
Instead of drinking water directly from the tap, many travelers rely on bottled water. However, this generates a huge amount of plastic waste which is terrible for the environment. There are a number of more environmentally sustainable alternatives for the eco-conscious traveler. For example, the SteriPen water purifier is a great investment for ensuring that you have access to filtered, drinkable water wherever you go. Similarly, the LifeStraw bottle filters out bacteria, parasites, chemicals, and microplastics as you drink.
Is Puerto Escondido safe for surfing?
Puerto Escondido is certainly safe for surfing, but it’s important to know your limits. The coastal town is a particular hotspot for pro-surfers. People from around the world come here to experience the coastline’s mountainous, rolling waves. Most famously, Playa Zicatela is home to the Mexican Pipeline. Here, you’ll find waves of up to 40ft, which anyone but a seasoned surfer would be a fool to attempt. Luckily, there are plenty of other beaches offering surf opportunities suitable for those of all abilities. In order to stay safe while surfing in Puerto Escondido, make sure that you find a beach that matches your ability. What’s more, you should always follow the advice of the lifeguards.
As one of Mexico’s leading surfing hotspots, it won’t come as a surprise that there are some pretty crazy waves in Puerto Escondido. While great for surfing, many of the area’s beaches can be dangerous to swim in. In order to keep safe from strong currents, it’s best to do your research before diving into the water. Playa Zicatela, for example, has some of the town’s strongest waves, so isn’t very safe for swimmers. On the other hand, there are a good range of swimming spots in beaches to the West of Playa Principal, including Puerto Angelito, Manzanillo, and Carrizalillo.
There are other safety risks that come from the natural world in Puerto Escondido. For example, Puerto Escondido does also occasionally suffer from earthquakes. In 2017, for instance, the strongest earthquake in a century – measuring 8.2 on the Richter scale – shook Mexico’s southwestern coast. Puerto Escondido was among the areas affected. While not a regular occurrence, natural disasters such as these do pose a risk to tourist safety in Puerto Escondido. There are also a number of dangerous animals in Mexico that you should keep an eye out for!
Is public transport safe in Puerto Escondido?
On the whole, public transport is safe in Puerto Escondido. When it comes to getting to local beaches, people tend to take colectivos, which are small, shared taxis that are perfectly safe. There are also plenty of taxis, which are safe to use – but be sure to look for certification that the taxi cab is registered. If you do get on larger, public buses, keep an eye on your possession, as tourists with plenty of bags can become targets. It’s also worth noting that Puerto Escondido isn’t a huge place, so you won’t need to rely too heavily on public transport to get around. Depending where you stay, many of the journeys are walkable.
Top 7 Puerto Escondido Safety Tips
In summary, Puerto Escondido is a perfectly safe place to visit, so long as you use a bit of common sense and take some fairly obvious precautions. Here’s a list of seven useful tips to make sure you have a safe and worry-free trip to Puerto Escondido.
- Follow local guidance. The best people to give you the most up to date safety tips and answer any questions you may have are those who have the most experience of the area – the locals! Be sure to speak to hotel staff, tour guides, and any other trusted local about safety risks and places to avoid in Puerto Escondido. Remember: the media often paints a negative view of Mexico as an extremely dangerous destination. If in doubt, ask someone who is likely to know from first-hand experience. As an added bonus, locals will also give you the best steer on the best places to visit, and where, as a tourist, you’re likely to get ripped off.
- Keep your valuables out of sight. This one is fairly obvious, but it’s so important that it’s worth repeating. Don’t draw attention to yourself by wearing flashy jewelry (even if it’s not expensive jewelry), using smartphones, tablets, or expensive-looking cameras in plain view of others, or carrying large amounts of cash. Be conscious of the way you carry your possessions, too. For example, don’t walk around with your smartphone in your back pocket, or use a bag without a secure zip. It’s definitely worth buying a money belt that you can wear discreetly under your clothing to ensure that your belongings are out of view of prying eyes.
- If you’re mugged, don’t resist. Here’s hoping you’ll never have to act upon this advice, but do try to remember that should you be mugged, it’s not wise to struggle. While no one wants to hand over their possessions, it’s always the safer option than risking angering a potentially-armed criminal. You could end up losing more than just your wallet.
- Never head out without sunscreen and water. Without meaning to sound like your mother, you should always arm yourself with sun protection and water in Mexico. Puerto Escondido gets hot, and sun-induced illnesses, such as sun stroke, are among the biggest safety threats you’ll encounter here.
- Stick to the more touristy areas of Puerto Escondido. We get it, it can be fun to venture off the beaten track and explore areas less touched by tourism. But this can be dangerous when you don’t know your way around. Unless accompanied by someone who does, it’s safer to stick to the more busy and popular areas.
- Make sure to get your bearings. Familiarising yourself with Puerto Escondido is the easiest way to ensure that you don’t wander into somewhere you really shouldn’t. Most hotels and hostels will provide a map of the area, so be sure to spend a little bit of time when you arrive getting your bearings. It’s also a good idea to be clear on directions before you set off anywhere. This way, you can walk with purpose and avoid drawing attention to yourself as a tourist.
- Don’t go onto the beach at night. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: never go onto the beach after dark! This is probably the golden rule of keeping safe in Puerto Escondido. While it can be tempting to take a dip by moonlight, the beach is not safe at night. To avoid becoming the target of mugging, robbery or worse, steer well clear.