The Boho Mexican Beach Destination You Didn’t Know Existed

It's perfect for a low-key and beautiful honeymoon.


Photo courtesy of Villas Carrizalillo

Does the idea of a seemingly endless expanse of sapphire blue Pacific Ocean–fringed beaches sound appealing? What about fantastic Mexican cuisine on the cheap? A tropical, postcard-perfect cove in which to swim or take easy, warm-water surf lessons? (Or alternately, for those experienced in larger swell, the famed Mexican Pipeline?) And the opportunity to spend your sunset releasing baby sea turtles into the salty waves? 

If you’re a couple who loves going off the beaten path, journeying to places most of your friends haven't heard about, then Puerto Escondido might be your perfect warm-weather honeymoon. The surfy beach town is in the state of Oaxaca—known as the birthplace of mezcal—and is accessible directly from certain U.S. cities as well as Mexico City (an awesome first stop for foodies and culture junkies) and Oaxaca City (an authentic, charming town with an excess of mezcalerias, incredible meals, shopping, and history). 

A bit sprawling, Puerto Escondido comprises what feels like a string of laid-back beach villages. Its name, which means “hidden port,” has a romantic legend behind it—one you’ll likely hear from your guide on a colorful and super-tasty Puerto Food Tours experience. These intimate, upbeat walking tours are the perfect way to start your honeymoon, since you’ll not only learn about and taste-test some of the best eateries and dishes around but also glean helpful tips and information from the local guides that might inform the rest of your trip. If you’re unfamiliar with Oaxacan cuisine, try the “Made in Oaxaca” option and get to know everything from mole and tortillas to cheese and fish tacos. 

It’s very easy to eat well on this coast. Especially if you head to Playa Carrizalillo, where there are excellent, easygoing restaurants with outdoor seating: Lebanese food at El Sultan, delectable Mexican fare and unreal sunsets at Espadin Restaurante, and the most gourmet comida in the area (yet wonderfully still quite accessible and unfussy), Almoraduz Cocina de Autor. There, chef Quetzalcoatl Zurita uses his favorite childhood ingredients to create haute Oaxacan plates that will stick in your memory for a long time to come.   

Equally indelible will be the experience of releasing baby green sea turtles on Playa Bacocho with Vive Mar, a volunteer-run program that is responsible for keeping safe thousands and thousands of eggs laid in the sand annually. It’s the perfect way to spend sunset (be sure to get there by 5 pm), beyond sipping a mezcal cocktail from your perch above the flawlessly beautiful cove at Villas Carrizalillo, one of the dreamiest small hotels around, with private access steps to the sand. 

There are plenty of cute Airbnbs to book, like the teeny architectural Casa Tiny, near architect Tadao Ando’s oceanfront Fundación Casa Wabi, a modern museum, artist residency, and exhibition space. Boltholes like Hotel Escondido feel fantastically chilled out, with palapa-style roofs, hammocks, pools, and a spa. Up the coast in its own quiet setting is Vivo Resorts, a luxe option for those who like to have all their food, drinks, and sand spread right in front of them. Set on a 12-mile beach on Oaxaca’s Emerald Coast, with the Sierra del Madre mountains as the backyard, this several-pool getaway is where you can wile away days with micheladas or margaritas, relax at the spa, play pickleball or practice yoga, and dine on locally caught seafood in complete comfort. (If you fall in love with it, you just might want to look into continuing the honeymoon forever by buying a residence.) 

Besides swimming in the turquoise sea, paddleboarding, surfing (Carrizalillo is where the gentlest waves are for learning), and boat snorkeling trips to see all sorts of marine life, there’s a unique aquatic highlight that’s like the cherry on top of a magical honeymoon: bioluminescence. Laguna de Manialtepec is a picturesque lagoon encircled by mangrove trees where this fantastical phenomenon takes place each evening. Hop a boat for a several-hour tour that begins before sundown for the chance to see the lagoon’s wildlife, cruise through a beautiful winding channel that leads to the ocean, enjoy some cervezas as the sky turns pink, and then return to the lagoon for a dip in the glowing waters under a starlit sky. It may feel a little freaky to slip into midnight-black water, but it’s so incredibly worth it. You and your love will feel as if you’re swimming through chunky glitter, watching the brilliance disperse as you blow bubbles, swim breaststroke, or make figure eights. It’s impossible to capture the golden droplets with a camera or iPhone, making it even more intimate and special. It’s just you two swimming, sharing an experience no one else can see, trailing diamonds in your wake. 

The current outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. As the situation remains fluid, we’ll be sharing tips and stories from industry experts to give you of-the-moment advice and help you navigate wedding planning today. For the most up-to-date guidelines and latest on travel restrictions and requirements, check the CDC and U.S. Department of State websites.

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