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Your Guide to Puerto Escondido

Coco Nogales shares everything you need to know before traveling to Playa Zicatela

Over the years, Puerto Escondido has become synonymous with big (and punishing) sand-bottomed barrels. But there are still days when the Mexican Pipeline is much friendlier than what you saw at the 2017 Puerto Challenge this year. “It’s really fun when its 4 to 6 feet,” says homegrown Puerto charger Coco Nogales. “It’s nice, especially with the right swell direction. As long as it’s peaky, you're going to have a lot of fun. It’s when its 10-foot plus that things start to get gnarly.”

Since Coco Nogales grew up in Puerto Escondido and still lives there today, we couldn’t think of anyone better to ask for some Puerto Escondido travel tips. “This place is paradise,” he said when we rang him. “The quality of life here is really nice. It's cheaper than a lot of places, it has really good food. I'm not thinking about going anywhere else.” For those of you who do want to go somewhere else, specifically down to mainland Mex to score tubes and tacos, here’s everything you need to know before booking that plane ticket to Oaxaca:

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE TOWN

“It's a small village. It's a unique place. People are really friendly. Like any other place, if you are polite, you will get respect back. But also, if they feel that someone is coming into their place without respect, they are going to, like any other place, have a reaction. But, everyone is cool as long as you are cool.”

The best time to go
“The season starts from late April to the beginning of May and goes until early September. There are actually waves up until November, but the prime time would be May to August. September and October could be really good or really stormy, it just depends. Of course, it’s going to be more crowded between June, July and August, so if you want less crowd, come during September, October and early November.”

Places to stay
“There are a few places you could stay. One is Bungalows Zicatela which is right in front of the beach. I think the rooms range from 20 to 50 bucks, depending on the room you want to stay in. The hotel has a restaurant and it's a cool place to hang out. The other place I like is Hotel Ines. It’s kind of like Bungalows Zicatela; it’s right in front of the peak of the wave and it'll be 30 or 50 bucks a night. Both places have WiFi, too.”

Best places to eat
“There's a place call Mana that is on the beach. It pretty much has everything. It's a nice place to get good food; they have everything from pizzas to pasta to chicken to fish to tacos. Also, Bungalows Zicatela has a great restaurant, as well. It depends on what you're going to eat because there are a lot of options, but you'll probably spend between $10 and $15 per meal. There are ATMs in town, so no need to get money at the airport.”

Photo: Dunfee

Transporation
“If you come during a swell and you plan to surf other places besides Puerto, then you can rent a car if you want to do your own thing. If not, there are guys here that can take you places to go surf somewhere else.”

What to do during the day
“Normally people don't surf-mid day here because it's so hot. Unless it’s really good, then people will go out for, like, an hour. But normally guys go out from 7 in the morning until about 11 o’clock.”

What to do when the surf goes flat?
“You can always go to another beach to go snorkeling or free diving. Although, in the summer time, it never really goes flat. There are always little waves somewhere.”

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Photo: Stacy

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE SURF
“If you're looking for really big swells, it'd be best to keep an eye on the charts. If not, there are always 6-footers and there are always waves here. If you just wanted to come for a mellow, fun time, come anytime in the summer. Another way to score is to come for a month and just hang out. That way you can get to know the locals. I think Puerto is a place where you really need to put some time in.”

What type of swell to look for
“The south swells are better—anything from 185 to 200 degrees is the best situation for Puerto. The west swells between 205 and 215 aren’t the best because the wave becomes more walled and more closed-out. Anything between 190 and 200 is peakier and that’s when the Carmelita rights start working. Sometimes it’s very unpredictable. This year we've been having a lot of south swells so far, nonstop with good direction.”

What to know before paddling out
“It's always good to study the place before you go out–study what the waves are doing and where it's breaking so you learn where to be and where not to be. That is very important. Some people never do this and they go out and sit in the wrong place and get pounded or get in the way of other surfers. It’s a fast, powerful wave. Even today, I still have a lot of respect for this place. You've got to be really focused out there and try to make no mistakes. Just go out there with a lot of respect for the locals, be committed and very careful, and you will have a good session.”

Where to paddle out
“When the waves get big, you usually paddle out to through the bay. Normally when it's big, the main beach is breaking non-stop all over the place, so it’s really difficult to make it out. So most people just go around.”

Where to line up to get the best waves
“Puerto is really shifty. You just have to line up wherever the wave is breaking. It's a big beachbreak and it moves a lot, so pay attention where it's breaking.”

The best tides for Puerto
“Puerto is best when the tide is low going high. The waves get bigger and the incoming tide helps to push the swell. Sometimes in the morning, when the tide is super high and sucking out, the waves get really slow and the sets aren't as big. When the tide is high, the barrel isn't as good. And if it's too low, there's a lot of current and it’s more dangerous because there is less water. When it starts getting to mid tide, there's a moment like 2 hours before high tide that is the best.”

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Photo: Fox

EXTRA TIPS

If you’re not an experienced surfer
“Beginner surfers who don't have experience shouldn’t paddle out–for their own safety and for the safety of other surfers. Now there are all these flotation devices and people go out there without experience and sometimes that can be dangerous. Don't go out if you don't feel 100% ready for those waves. Stay on the beach and be safe.

Other waves to check out
“There’s Barra de la Cruz, two hours south of Puerto, and then if you go up north, there’s a right point which is really nice. There’s no guarantee what you're going to surf. It's not like other places, where if the wind is bad then the trip is ruined. When you come and surf Puerto and the waves get big, you can decide where to go. We also have La Punta, a left point that is really fun.”

What boards to pack
“If you're really going to charge bigger waves, then you need a 9'0 or a 9'6". But normally, if you come to Puerto, you need a shortboard. You should bring a 6'10″ and a 7’6″ or an 8'0″. I usually ride a rounded pin for the barrel, but lately, I've had a magic board. It's a big board and it's a swallow tail, which has been working really well.”

What to do if you ding or break your board
“Visit my friend Miguel Ramirez — we call him Mike. He’s been the guy for the past 10 years. There are a few ding repair options, but Mike is the best.”

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Photo: Chachi