Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico
It's no wonder that, with a name meaning "hidden port", this corner of southern Mexico is a well-kept secret among locals. Avoiding an influx of resort hotels and rapid development, Puerto Escondido has quietly preserved its reputation as a secluded escape on Oaxaca's Emerald Coast.
While only recently becoming a popular destination among budget-conscious travellers, Puerto Escondido has been a firm favourite of the surf crowd for years. Secret beaches with golden sand and crashing waves have rendered the region one of the world's best surfing destinations. Each November, Playa Zicatela hosts surfing competitions, drawing in crowds of hopeful surfers looking to test themselves against the "Mexican Pipeline", a huge wave that breaks on Zicatela's shores. Those less confident tackling the waves can head for La Punta or Playa Carrizalillo to swim in turquoise waters and sip on freshly cracked coconuts, or head to nearby town Huatulco to enjoy virgin beaches all to yourself.
Unlike Mexico's many tourist-filled beaches and peninsulas, the town (only established in the 30s) is rarely packed - the airport only offers domestic flights, deterring huge crowds of visitors. Those willing to make the trip are rewarded with the area's chilled, easy-going vibe and welcomed with some of Oaxaca's best cuisine. Most of the food is based on local seafood and plants, so taste-test your way through Puerto Escondido's restaurants and markets - Mercado Benito Juárez is the best for fresh food produce, clothing, furniture and other curios.
Laguna de Manialtepec is a bioluminescent lagoon found a 20-minute drive from Puerto Escondido. Visit at night to swim amid plankton that light up the water, or come during the day to spot birds such as pelicans, ibis, cranes, buzzards and kingfishers perched on the dangling mangroves.
Who to take with you
Someone who loves the sea. As well as amazing swimming, surfing and Laguna de Manialtepec, Puerto Escondido is the ideal launchpad for boat trips to spot dolphins, sea turtles and whales. On land, if you are visiting between October and May, head to the centre on Playa Bacocho or ask around for the chance to get involved with the release of baby turtles.
When to go
Where to stay
Thatched ceilings, woven furnishings, a private plunge pool and ocean views are available in each of Hotel Escondido's private cabanas. Spend mornings surfing and swimming along the coast before sipping on mezcal and dozing off on hammocks overlooking the sea.
Most likely to bump into…
While surfer dudes and dudettes are plentiful, Puerto Escondido is gradually drawing in a new creative crowd. Following in the footsteps of Mexico City and Guadalajara, an emerging street art scene is taking over the area. Keep your eyes peeled for incognito artists creating masterpieces on street corners.
Essentials to bring with you
This Heidi Klein zip-detailed metallic ribbed swimsuit should keep everything neatly in place while you scramble back onto your surfboard for the hundredth time.
How to get there
Fly into Mexico City or Oaxaca airports, from which daily flights to Puerto Escondido are available.