Your COMPLETE Travel Guide to Chacahua, Oaxaca in Mexico!

Travel Guide to Chacahua

Chacahua is a magical island nestled on Oaxaca’s pristine coastline of Mexico, one of the few places which still preserve its local essence and is not totally taken over by tourism! The Chacahua Village is located on the southern tip of Chacahua Lagoons National Park, around 3 hours from Puerto Escondido (door to door).

Here you’ll find nothing other than real natural beauty, unspoiled beaches, wildlife, perfect waves (the main reason I came here), and a VERY chilled vibe… life here is very simple but has everything you need to make you happy!

If you want to visit Chacahua, first of all, congratulations… you won’t regret it! Secondly, it is good that you found this post because there is very little information on the net due to its untouched nature.

In this travel guide about Chacahua, Mexico, you will find some useful tips that will help you enjoy this small town to the fullest and to come already prepared for some shortages the island has (that I wish I knew before!).

P.S: I am also a little jealous of you, this place is truly a dream without time and space! Well, enough talking…

Let’s jump right in!

1. How to get to Chacahua, Mexico

Just so you know, this will definitely be the “hardest” part of all your vacation in Chacahua. Due to its location off the beaten path, the trip to Chacahua is kind of a hassle, but it is an experience itself and I personally enjoyed it!

But where exactly is Chacahua? Chacahua, (on the internet you will find it under “Parque Nacional Lagunas de Chacahua”) is located on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca, about 60 km west of Puerto Escondido. 

For this reason, Puerto Escondido is the most convenient starting point to get to Chacahua town.

NOTE: if you check google maps, don’t confuse this Chacahua (located on the Chacahua Lagoon) with the small town southeast of Puerto Escondido, near Mazunte, which is also called Chacahua! 

Getting to Puerto Escondido

How to get around Puerto Escondido

Puerto Escondido hosts a small airport that receives domestic flights. The easiest way to get here is to fly internationally to Mexico City, and then take a domestic flight to Puerto Escondido. It will take you 1 hour and cost you about US$50.

Otherwise, if you’re in Oaxaca City, you can take a small bus (colectivo) for about 8 hours, which will cost you $35 as there are no direct flights to Puerto Escondido.

Traveling from Puerto Escondido to Chacahua:

1. Take a colectivo (small vans that travel a specific route) from Puerto Escondido city center, just close to the main bus terminal of ADO, to the Rio Grande. You need to get off at the intersection with El Zapotalito: the journey will take you around 1 hour and cost 55 pesos (US$3).

2. Once you get off the minibus, take a taxi to El Zapotalito, where you’ll find all the boats going to Chacaua. You won’t have any problem finding it: the white and green taxis will already be there waiting for you as this is a common route! The journey will take you not even 5 minutes and cost you 20 Pesos (US$1).

Traditional taxis Puerto Escondido

Once you get to El Zapotalito shores, you will have 2 choices to finally get to Chacahua:

3a. Take a direct boat (they call it “lancha”) to Chacahua’s main square: it will take you 45 minutes and around 200 Pesos (US$10). With this option, you will spend longer on the Lagoon waters and less on the road, and people told me the scenic ride is beautiful. 

I personally didn’t take this option, but it is probably more enjoyable than the second option so I would suggest doing that.

or

3b. Take the quick boat to Chacahua Island (10 minutes, 50 pesos/ US$2) + a colectivo from the dock to Chacahua town (45 minutes, 50 pesos). This is the local transportation, so you will share both rides with local people and all their merchandise (groceries, fish, etc.).

The first boat ride is actually quite nice, passing through some mangroves and giving you amazing views of the Lagoon waters. What is not so nice is the second ride on a bumpy dirt road… and if there are too many people you may even have to do it all standing!

NOTE: The lancias (boats) and colectivos within the island start running around 6.30 a.m to 5.30 p.m. (don’t expect to find any info about this on the internet), while the colectivos to and from Puerto Escondido run at any hour of the day!

Once in Chacahua

Traveling from Puerto Escondido to Chacahua

Chacahua village is VERY small, so you’ll be able to walk everywhere (barefoot). 

The island has two main sides: the beach, facing the ocean, and the other side facing the lagoon (part of it). If you want to go from the beach to the lagoon, you’ll have to pass through the main square, just in the middle of them and that’s pretty much the whole island in a nutshell! 

2. Things to do in Chacahua, Mexico

When you get to Chacahua, you will immediately feel its unique and special vibe, and you will relax in a matter of minutes. This means you will probably want to just chill all day on its long white sand beach… and you should!

But there are many other things to do when the laziness goes away, and the great thing is that they all involve being in contact with nature: exploring the lagoon, going on a boat tour, surfing, swimming in the bioluminescence… and much more! Let’s see them one by one:

2.1 Simply enjoy the beach!

enjoy the Chacahua beach

As I mentioned before, the main Chacahua beach is itself an attraction, stretching for miles and allowing you to have endless walks with breathtaking ocean views. 

But if you don’t feel like walking, just lay down on the white sand, swim, get a massage (you will find them from the many signs on the beach), or take a break from the hot sun in the countless beachfront local bars… and get a “coco frio” -fresh coconut- it will bring you life!

PRO TIP: Whether you are chilling or walking, keep always your eyes on the ocean, you could spot whales and dolphins at any time… and they swim very close to the beach! Sometimes at night, you could even see big turtles coming to the shores to lay their eggs!

Another cool (and dangerous if you’re a foodie) thing on the beach is that there are soo many food vendors coming to you at any time of the day offering you extremely delicious snacks: platano frito (fried plantains), empanadas, fresh juices, healthy energy balls… How can you say no?

2.2 Take a tour of the Chacahua Lagoons National Park 

Chacahua Lagoons National Park tour

As you might know by now, Chacahua Village lies in the Chacahua Lagoon National Park (Lagunas de Chacahua), so having a boat tour through its incredible wild nature is definitely a must!

If you haven’t already caught the long boat ride on the way to the island (check section #1) you can explore the many parts of the Laguna de Chacahua with a boat tour. From crocodiles (yes, you heard it right!), to charming mangroves and bird watching… There’s plenty to see here!

To find a tour, you just have to walk around the small (and only) main square of Chacahua, a few minutes walking from the beginning of the beach, and ask one of the many men selling tours of the lagoon. 

NOTE: There’s no tour center you can go to, everything is arranged by talking, and locals rarely speak English so you might have to practice your Spanish skills before asking!

Another option is to visit the Chacahua Lagoons National Park as a day trip from Puerto Escondido, especially if you don’t have much time to stay on the island. 

Check out this boat tour: a local guide will take you to all five lagoons of the park, mangroves, a bird sanctuary, and Corral island for US$90!

Price: 

  • Tour with locals: 250 pesos (US$13)
  • Day trip from Puerto Escondido:  US$90

2.3 Surf Surf Surf!

Chacahua Surf Camp

In Chacahua I can really say that I found one of the best beaches for surfing I’ve ever experienced in my whole life!

Here the (right) waves are long, soft, and they break at different points so there’s plenty for anyone (even if sometimes it gets quite crowded).

The waves type are perfect if you have just started surfing or if you want to improve your skills, and there are literally waves ALL day, regardless of if the tide is high or low (but if you can, it is better to surf doing low or mid tight)!

There are also waves all year round, but they might get a little too big for you during the rainy season (from May to September), unless you are a pro surfer… then you’ll have a lot of fun!

If you don’t have your own board, no worries: most of the beachfront restaurants, other than being also accommodations (we’ll see this further on), rent surfboards and give lessons for reasonable prices.

The best place to learn surfing for beginners is Chacahua Surf Camp: you will find it by walking for about 10 minutes from the beginning of the beach (where the pier is).

Price:

  • Surf rentals: 100 pesos (US$5) for 1 hour / 250 pesos (US$13) for 24-hours 
  • Surf lesson: 500 pesos (US$25) for a 2-hour lesson

2.4 Watch the sunset at el Faro (the lighthouse)

El Faro de Chacahua lighthouse

Across the lagoon, right on the other side of Chacahua Village, there’s another island hosting a hill with a lighthouse on top, called “el faro”. 

This is the best spot to enjoy some of the most stunning sunsets you’ll ever see, while from Chacahua beach you can see spectacular sunrises, but not sunsets.

To get to the island where the lighthouse is, you need to catch a 10 peso/$0.50 boat from the main square (it will take you literally 1 minute) with a local, and then have a 15-minute steep and sweaty hike up to the lighthouse! Once there, well… just sit and enjoy the unforgettable sea views!

PRO TIP: make sure you get there around 1 hour before the sunset so you can secure yourself a spot. This place is known in Chacahua and gets quite crowded. Ah… and don’t forget the mosquito repellent!

Another option if you don’t feel like going up to the lighthouse, once you get off the boat you can head down to the other beach, where you can also see the sun disappearing below the horizon with fewer people than at the lighthouse!

2.5 Swim with the Bioluminescent Plankton 

5 Bioluminescent Manialtepec Lagoon

One of the best things you can do not just in Chacahua but in your whole life is swimming in the bioluminescence water (a plankton present in the water which makes it glow at night) of Chacahua National Park!

In order to do that you will need to join a night tour of around 1 hour which will take you to the middle of the lagoon by boat. The locals know a spot where you can best see the Bioluminescent Plankton shining.

Once there, you can dip into the water and start moving: you will feel like you are swimming in the stars! I know what you are thinking but don’t worry, there are no crocodiles in some areas of the lagoon and locals know what they’re doing.

Since there are no tour agencies on the island, again you will need to find a local to bring you on his boat, but that won’t be a problem: most of the time they come to you on the beach offering bioluminescence tours.

Otherwise, just go to the main square on the day and ask yourself, ask for the “Lagunas de Chacahua” tour!

PRO TIP: It is better if you can see the bioluminescence during a new moon when it will be super clear, and DON’T do that with a full moon, or you might not be able to see anything!

Price: 100 pesos (US$5)

3. Where to stay in Chacahua

One of the things I love about Chacahua is that it doesn’t have any fancy resort chains ruining the pristine beaches.

Apart from one single hotel, the town just hosts cabanas run by locals and campings!

And don’t expect to find any info on the net, to find accommodation here you just have to go there and ask people: there are plenty of choices! But let’s talk about all the options more in detail:

Cabañas 

Cabanas basic houses in Chacahua

Cabañas (basic houses) are the main accommodation option in Chacahua and you will find most of them on the beach or facing the lagoon. 

You can decide to rent a room or the whole Cabaña: the most basic room without a toilet starts from 400 pesos (US$20 dollars) a night, but prices can be much higher for a room with more facilities and space.

As I said before, it’s basically impossible to find them on the net, so what I suggest you do is walk along the beach and ask the many beachfront bars/restaurants: they all offer Cabañas and camping options until you find what you are looking for. 

PRO TIP: If you can go to Chacahua with just a backpack or small luggage… walking on the beach (and crossing the lagoon on a small boat) with a huge suitcase is not a very pleasant experience!

I stayed in Terra tipi: it has some of the best shared bathrooms and showers (but don’t expect anything fancy) and is one of the only restaurants on the island with wifi… and the food is good!

Even though not much is online, I did manage to find 3 properties on Booking.com (including the only hotel in Chacahua).

NOTE: You will notice that these options aren’t rated as high as the ones we normally recommend, but I added them here for those of you who want to have the security of booking in advance, or if your Spanish skills are not the best. 

Where to stay in Chacahua
  • Hotel Sanmara – This amazing 4-star hotel is right on the beach and has everything for a quiet and comfy stay! Here you’ll find an outdoor swimming pool, air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi (each with a private bathroom), and a sun terrace. 
  • Cabañas La Isla – This property is literally a 1-minute walk from the beach and offers rooms with a private bathroom, free wifi, a fan, and even a terrace… plus some of the best views of the sea and islands!
  • Cabañas las Palmas Chacahua – These Cabañas are perfect if you come to Chacahua with friends or family, offering quadruple rooms with good AC, a nice bathroom, and a balcony. Plus the owners are very friendly!

Camping 

Chacahua camping

The cheapest way of staying in Chacahua is camping (or sleeping in hammocks), a super popular option, especially among surfers! Again, to find the campgrounds you just have to go there and ask.

You will find all the camps on the beach, offered by the beachfront bars/restaurants or by the Chacahua surf camp. If you’re up for camping, you have 3 options:

  • Camp with your own tent: the cheapest and best option, it will cost you 60 pesos (US$3) per night
  • Rent a tent: if you don’t have a tent, some places (not all) offer the option to rent it, even giving you a mattress and bed sheets if you need them. Renting a tent will cost you around 100/150 pesos (US$6) depending on the camp.
  • Hammocks: literally any camping will also give you the option to sleep in a hammock for around 50 pesos (US$2.50) a night… just bring some warm clothes or a sleeping bag, at night it gets quite cold and humid!

4. Important things to know about Chacahua

Important things to know about Chacahua 1

Chacahua is quite wild and undeveloped, so there are some things you probably take for granted but won’t find here (or, on the contrary, things you wouldn’t expect). 

Check out this list of info so you can come prepared during your visit to Chacahua: 

  • Cash is king – on the island they accept only cash in restaurants, shops, or accommodations so make sure you bring enough with you
  • ATMs – don’t expect to find ATMs in Chacahua, there’s only a supermarket in the main square where you can withdraw money but they charge you a commission of 10%.
  • Internet – in Chacahua there is no phone signal, but you can find some restaurants (like Terra Tipi) or cabanas that offer wifi if you pay. Anyways, the wifi you can find is quite patchy, so get ready to disconnect during your visit to Chacahua!
  • Water – as in almost all of Mexico, DON’T drink water from the sink, and, if you can, also wash your teeth with bottled water… you can really get sick (in case there’s a hospital)!
  • Beach Bugs – sunset is the worst moment when it comes to mosquitos and sand flies (an almost invisible insect of the sand). They literally eat you alive and the bites are itchy for days… so wear pants and a lot of bug repellent as soon as the sun goes down!
  • Bartering – As in all of Mexico, you can always barter here if you want to but honestly, locals already give you pretty fair prices and I didn’t feel the need 
  • Use sunscreen and sunglasses – the sun is extremely strong from 10 a.m to 5 p.m
  • Bring stomach medicines – there are few pharmacies on the island where you can find them, but it’s always better to be prepared… especially with the water issue

5. Where to eat in Chacahua

Where to eat in Chacahua

In Chacahua most of the places serving food are located either on the main Chacahua beach or on the lagoon side, and they offer more or less the same things: a lot of fish, tlayudas (a huge quesadilla with veggies or meat), Mexican breakfast, etc. 

I gathered here my favorites, where the quality of food is better than average:

  • Terra Tipi – this beachfront restaurant has a very wide variety of dishes, including some vegan options, and they’re all good. Try the delicious wraps and the cheesecake for dessert… it is to die for!
  • Dos Hermanos – this is one of the best restaurants on the island if you want to eat fish, so prices are a little higher than on the rest of the island but still reasonable. You can have a big grilled fish (super fresh) for 150 pesos (US$8).
  • Sabato Pasta – this is not a proper restaurant, but just some chairs and tables under a big tent-top. Here some friends of mine cook a delicious (and vegan) Italian pasta every Saturday night (it’s kind of an event) while during the week a local lady serves the best lentil soup ever, with a platano inside!
🤩 Range of activities:Large
👪 Family-friendly score:High
🏄 Best free activity:Surfing
✨ Top paid attraction:Bioluminescence tour
🏨 Best hotelHotel Sanmara
🐟 Must try food:Grilled fish
📅 How many days:3-4
🍽️ Dinner for 2:US$15

Frequently asked questions about Chacahua, Mexico

Frequently asked questions about Chacahua

🏝️Is Chacahua, Oaxaca an island?

Yes, Chacahua is an island that is part of The Lagunas de Chacahua National Park, in the Oaxaca region. The island host also has Chacahua town, where you’ll find most of the accommodations!

🏄 Is Chacahua, Oaxaca, a good place to surf?

Yes, Chacahua is one of the best places to surf in Mexico, having incredible waves all year long!

🚣‍♂️ How to get from Puerto Escondido to Chacahua, Oaxaca, Mexico?

1. Take a colectivo to Río Grande 
2. Get off at the intersection with El Zapotalito
3. Take a taxi to Zapotalito
4. Join one of the boats bringing you to Chacahua.

🏖️ What are the best things to do in Chacahua, Oaxaca, Mexico?

When you visit Chacahua, just relax on Chacahua’s main beach, surf the perfect waves, watch the sunset at el faro, see the bioluminescence with the new moon, or join the many boat tours of the Lagunas de Chacahua Parque Nacional!

Conclusion

best things to do in Chacahua

Congrats! You reached the end of this travel blog about my beloved Chacahua, an island in the Oaxaca area of Mexico, about 3 hours from Puerto Escondido. 

Whether you’re going to Chacahua to surf its perfect waves, chill on the beach, or enjoy its wild nature, you’ll love this place.

I hope my experience and tips will help you to spend the best time on this magical island, and if you have any questions about it please leave them in the comments… looking forward to answering you!

Have the best time!

Elena 

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