Puerto Escondido is a small town on Mexico’s southern Pacific coast known for large waves, surfing, and nightlife. Translated as “Hidden Port” in English, Puerto Escondido is one of our favorite destinations in Mexico since it doesn’t draw in thousands of tourists like the Yucatán Peninsula. This detailed guide will show you wheelchair accessibility in Puerto Escondido so that you can enjoy it to its fullest.
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Accessible beach access in Puerto Escondido
Puerto Escondido is designed for surfers. Nonetheless, we could feel- and most importantly see- that a surprising amount of effort has been made to promote wheelchair accessibility in Puerto Escondido.
Don’t get us wrong- wheelchair accessibility in Puerto Escondido is far from what you’d expect in the U.S. However, enough accessible resources have been implemented that combined with flexibility and humor, you can make do.
Let’s first take a look at wheelchair accessibility at three of the most popular beach areas in Puerto Escondido.
If the purpose of your visit to Puerto Escondido is to watch surfers, Zicatela Beach is a must. This beach is home to the “Mexican Pipeline” surf break. In other words, really long-lasting waves, at really high heights.
The height of the waves varies depending on the day, but regardless of when you visit, you can be sure that you’ll get to watch surfers.
A brick sidewalk runs along Av. Del Morro that follows Zicatela Beach. If you have a beach chair, you’ll be able to roll from the sidewalk to the sand, cutting between the countless restaurants that line the shore. There’s also a wooden boardwalk that leads to the beach near the Mirador Romance de Verano.
And by the shore, we mean many, many feet of the sandy area between the sidewalk/restaurant area and where the waves break. Zicatela Beach has a stunningly wide, white sand beach.
Since the waves are so strong, it’s common for a gust of water to come up five or more feet past where the water line seemed to end. Therefore, we recommend keeping a healthy distance between the waves and your chair.
The port area is technically an extension of Zicatela Beach, but between being divided from the largest sandy area of Zicatels Beach by a small river and the road setup being different, we thought it was best to create a separate section for the port.
An advantage of the port compared to Zicatela Beach is that the distance from the road to the surf is shorter. There are also two cement roads that lead down to the beach, making it easier to enjoy the views if you don’t have a beach chair. The waves are also calmer, so it’s a good place to swim.
One entrance to the port’s beach is on a side road beside the Mi Super Precio minimarket. This entrance is ideal because it offers space to park a vehicle. The sand is also more packed down. You’ll need to create your own wheelchair accessible parking spot since parking spaces aren’t marked.
A disadvantage to this entrance is when the water level of the river is higher, you may be blocked from getting to the beach…unless you’re up for rolling through a few inches of water.
In this case, head to the end of the road where the heart of the port is located. Here, you’ll be able to go down to the beach by means of a sloped, cement slab. The incline is a bit steep, so manual wheelchair users may need assistance going back up.
Carrizalillo Beach is among one of the calmest beaches in Puerto Escondido, wave-wise. However, nothing about Carrizalillo Beach is wheelchair accessible.
Steep stairs lead from the upper cliff down to the beach. There aren’t any roads leading there, so walking is the only option.
Nonetheless, you can get pretty views looking down at Carrizalillo Beach by driving along the cliff.
A note on beach chairs
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we didn’t find any place offering beach wheelchairs for rent, so you’ll either need to bring your own or rely on some (superduper) pushing power from a travel companion.
Need a beach chair? Check out this one on Amazon.
Aside from surfing, the next biggest draw to Puerto Escondido is visiting one of the bioluminescence lagoons in the area.
Visiting the bioluminescence lagoons as a wheelchair user will require assistance, as the boats don’t have a ramp. We visited the Manialtepec Lagoon, which is the closest option to Puerto Escondido (about a 30 minute drive), so everything we share in this section will be based on that.
Once you arrive to the Manialtepec Lagoon port, you’ll wheel down a cement slab to the river’s edge. Here, someone will lift you into the boat.
The boats are designed with one or two chairs per side, depending on the size of the boat. From the boat, you’ll be able to lean over and stir up the bioluminescence critters and watch the light dance in your hand.
During the tour, there will be a chance for swimming. The water is accessed by abled-bodied people by means of jumping in or stairs. We recommend speaking with your guide in advance if you’re interested in swimming.
Lifejackets are provided and required to be worn.
Planning for the bioluminescence tour
If you’ve got your heart set on taking a bioluminescence tour, don’t be in Puerto Escondido around a full moon. The light from the moon takes away from the incredible sparkle of the bioluminescence creatures.
Also, although it doesn’t happen too frequently, it’s possible that an extra large hightide could enter the lagoon. In this case, the extra saltwater decreases the oxygen level in the freshwater, turning the bioluminescence plants red by day and glowless at night.
A high tide happened just before our arrival. However, since we had two weeks, we were able to take the bioluminescence tour at the end of our stay.
We were impressed by how honest the tour agencies were. Not a single one tried to sell us a bioluminescence tour during the recovery period.
Wheelchair Accessibility in Puerto Escondido town
The main touristy part of Puerto Escondido is built along a road with a mild incline. The road ends at the main port where you can then take the cement ramp down to the sandy beach.
There are sidewalks of average width along the entire street. We encountered drop-down curbs at all intersections on the main road.
Since under normal conditions Puerto Escondido is a quiet town, you shouldn’t have issues perusing the sidewalk along the main street with your chair.
Tourist stands and tour agencies line the sidewalk, but we found that there was always enough space to pass by.
Although most of the tourist shops in town have a step to get into, there are lots of items on display on tables along the street, making them perfect for wheelchair users.
Like tourist shops, most restaurants in town also have a step to get into. Some restaurants offer a few tables with outdoor seating on the sidewalk. However, we recommend splurging on the extra few pesos to eat at one of the beachside restaurants with tables in the sand.
Wheelchair accessible restaurants in Puerto Escondido
As mentioned already, you’ll have a lot of beachfront restaurant options to choose from. However, we wanted to highlight Rosarito Restaurant in Zicatela Beach.
Rosarito Restaurant has an accessible, covered deck with ocean views. Not only is their restaurant accessible, but they have three signs pointing you in the direction to the accessible deck.
This is a great option if it’s raining and/or you don’t have a beach chair. There are also nearby restaurants to Rosarito that are also accessible, although they don’t advertise it like Rosarito does.
Wheelchair accessible nightlife in Puerto Escondido
Beachside restaurants turn into party mode in the evenings, particularly on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
You’ll be able to roll up to most of them in your chair, as much of the seating and partying overflows from the restaurants out onto the beach.
If you’re not in the mood to fight sand and party it up in a large beach chair, consider hanging out at Selina Hostel.
Located in popular Zicatela beach, Selina has a flat entry from the sidewalk, located across the road from the beach. They have a wooden boardwalk that runs through the rightmost side of the bar and pool area.
They also have seating in a sandy area (the sand is a couple of inches deep), but with tables within a few feet of the entry, so with a little bit of support, you’d have a front seat for whatever live DJ they have on many evenings.
Psst! If you’re concerned about safety during your Mexico trip, don’t miss my article on Is Puerto Escondido Safe? I analyze its safety from personal experience and data-driven facts.
General tips on wheelchair accessibility in Puerto Escondido
Below are some tips to keep in mind when planning your accessible trip to Puerto Escondido.
- Accessible parking spaces are pretty much non-existent and so are regular parking spaces. Most people create their own parking spaces on the side of the street.
- With the exception of holidays and weekends during high season, Puerto Escondido isn’t a crowded place. Parking and sidewalk sharing usually isn’t an issue.
- We didn’t encounter any accessible public restrooms. So, plan your day around making periodic stops to your hotel room.
- If you need to take a taxi, you’ll need to call one (recommended) or flag one down off the street (not recommended). You’ll need to be able to self-transfer into the usually rather small, well-worn taxi cabs.
Wheelchair accessible hotels in Puerto Escondido
Does it come as a surprise to you that wheelchair accessible hotels in Puerto Escondido are few and far between?
Nonetheless, there are a couple. Punta Esmeralda Suites & Hotel is located on Zicatela Beach, but in a quieter section as it would take you about 10 minutes to roll into downtown Puerto Escondido.
Aldea del Bazar is another, slightly more upscale option. This hotel is closer to the Playa Carrizalillo side of Puerto Escondido.
When doing research for this post, we found out to both our pride and disappointment that we are the first bloggers to talk about wheelchair accessibility in Puerto Escondido. We hope with time Puerto Escondido sees more accessible travelers, and we hope that it starts with you.
If you’ve visited Puerto Escondido as a wheelchair user, we’d LOVE to hear about your experience, tips, and tricks in the comments section. We’d equally love to hear from you if you’ll be traveling to Puerto Escondido and have accessible questions.
If you’re considering another beach destination in Mexico, make sure to check out our guide on wheelchair accessibility in Cancun.
P.S.- Traveling to Mexico City? Don’t miss our post on 16 Wheelchair Accessible Things to do in Mexico City.
Laura has been wandering the globe for over a decade. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.