This Under-the-radar Oaxaca Beach Town Was Just Named a Top Summer Destination — Near a Lagoon That Lights Up at Night

Puerto Escondido, Mexico, is one of the most-searched destinations by Americans looking to travel internationally.

Oaxaca is one of the most fascinating destinations in Mexico. The southwest state, famous for its delicious cuisine bursting with mouth-watering flavors and unique ingredients (grasshoppers, anyone?), mezcal, and a one-of-a-kind arts scene steeped in local traditions, is also home to thousands of miles of pristine shoreline and low-key beach towns. And in the center of it all is Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca's, which Airbnb just ranked as one of the top international summer spots for U.S. travelers. Airbnb looked at the destinations U.S. travelers searched for in the first few months of 2022, and Puerto Escondido was the fourth most-popular destination.

The sun sets over a deserted Playa Zicatela, as waves from the Pacific Ocean come crashing in, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico
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The small coastal town has remained relatively under-the-radar and looks nothing like resort-dotted Tulum or Riviera Maya, offering plenty of charm and authenticity. Puerto Escondido attracts a steady flow of surfers and backpackers who flock here to surf a notoriously powerful beach break on Zicatela beach and take in the laid-back vibe.

But Puerto Escondido is now attracting more than just surfers to its beautiful stretches of sand, thanks to the town's tasty food and vibrant nightlife that keeps travelers busy and well-entertained. Zicatela Beach has many waterfront bars and cafes offering cold drinks, live music, and unbeatable ocean views.

Humpback Whale diving next to a tour boat in Puerto Escondido mexico.
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And speaking of beaches, there are plenty in the area. With its powdery white sand and emerald-hued waters, the idyllic Playa Carrizalillo, nestled in a quiet bay and surrounded by swaying coconut palms, is the perfect spot to spend an entire day. And if you're looking for a family-friendly beach, the calm waters along Playa Manzanillo make it ideal for snorkeling, swimming, and stand-up paddleboarding.

The emerging destination is also one of the world's most popular turtle nesting areas; Oaxaca's shoreline attracts thousands of sea turtles every year who come to lay their eggs. Playa del Palmarito, west of Puerto Escondido, is one of the largest nesting beaches along the Mexican Pacific Coast, where travelers can observe this fantastic event during the prime nesting season between July and January. Whale and dolphin watching is also a popular in the area: Humpback whales migrate here between December and March, while dolphins can be seen year-round.

And if you really want to be left spellbound by nature, visit Laguna de Manialtepec, located about 11 miles west of Puerto Escondido. This coastal lagoon lights up at night thanks to phosphorescent plankton that shows up between August and December.

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