I’m going to let you into a little secret, ok? Lagunas de Chacahua, Oaxaca. That’s it, that’s the secret.
This is one of the last few places in Mexico unspoiled by tourism. It’s a place that perfectly balances rustic charm and natural beauty with a level of tourism that supports the island and its inhabitants.
Chacahua – with its national park status – is remote. It’s off the beaten path and not easy to get to. But there’s not a high-rise hotel in sight.
Instead, there’s miles of beaches, perfect surfing waves, as well as lagoons, mangroves and a whole host of wildlife. And, in the heart of it all is a small town of just over 400 people who live and work in the beachfront cabanas and restaurants.
So, if you’re looking for a place that’s unspoiled, raw and real, then Chacahua Mexico is the place for you. And you best visit soon, because the secret is getting out, it won’t stay under the radar forever!
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Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a qualifying purchase.
Where is Chacahua, Oaxaca?
Parque Nacional Lagunas de Chacahua (Chacahua Lagoons National Park in English) is on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca, about 60 km west of Puerto Escondido. The town itself is located on the southern tip of the national park. You can see the location on Google Maps here.
But, you need to be careful! If you do just type in ‘Chacahua Oaxaca’ to Google Maps, it will show you a small village east of Puerto Escondido, near Mazunte. This is NOT the place that you’ll be looking for! It has no beaches, no rustic charm and, well, nothing to do. Make sure to search for Parque Nacional Lagunas de Chacahua Oaxaca (or star the link above).
What makes Chacahua Island so special?
Probably the mix of rustic charm, unspoiled beaches, great surf and it not being as well known as towns like Puerto Escondido, Mazunte or Zipolite. You just feel like you’re on a desert island in paradise and this does mean you have to go without some luxuries for a few days.
It’s not that the island is a secret. And most backpackers who spend more than a couple of days in Puerto Escondido hear about it.
However, very few people make the journey west via colectivo and boat to reach its sandy shores.
Perhaps it’s the perceived difficulty of the journey. Or perhaps it’s the lack of facilities, internet and phone signal. But, either way, it makes Laguna de Chacahua Mexico a unique place to experience.
Although word is starting to get out about Isla Chacahua, luckily, the town is in a national park. And, Mexico’s laws tightly control any new buildings and possible environmental impact here. So, hopefully, the rustic charm will be preserved for many more years and travellers to come despite levels of tourism slowly growing.
How Do I Get to Chacahua?
Pretty much the only way to get to the island is from Puerto Escondido. And, unless you have your own vehicle, it’s a journey of at least 3 legs! Trust me, it’s worth it in the end!
Firstly, Puerto Escondido is easily reached from both Oaxaca City and San Cristobal de las Casas by an overnight bus. While, the towns of San Jose del Pacifico, Mazunte and Zipolite are just a short bus ride away.
For those from further afield needing to reach Puerto Escondido, there is an airport just a 10-minute town from the centre of the town. Flights arrive all throughout the day from Mexico City, where you can connect to 100s of destinations across Mexico and the world.
If you’re really short on time, one-day tours from Puerto Escondido are available at a premium. This whistle-stop day trip includes a boat tour of the mangroves, a Chacahua bioluminescence tour, lunch and time in the town to swim, relax and eat.
How to get to Chacahua From Puerto Escondido
- First, take a colectivo from Terminal TUR (next to the ADO/OCC bus station) for 70 pesos per person. Ask for El Zapotalito. There you’ll be dropped off on the side of the road at the junction.
- Cross over the road and wait at the small shelter for a shared taxi (if there’s not one already there). These are specific taxis that take people from the colectivo drop-off and into El Zapotalito all day. The taxi costs 20 pesos per person, regardless of how many people get in.
- In El Zapotalito, you have two options.
Option A, take a quick (10 minutes or so), 50 pesos per person boat to the island followed by a colectivo for 50 pesos per person (it’s really a truck).
This goes along a dust road into the town but I didn’t find it too bumpy. The colectivo picks you up straight from the jetty where the boat drops you off and takes about 25 minutes to reach the town. But, you might have to help them load up with the supplies that are being delivered to the town!
Option B is to get a longer (45 to 60 minutes), direct boat all the way to the town.
However, you’ll need to negotiate the price with whoever has a boat and is going (you’ll probably have to ask around). Fares range between 200 to 600 pesos per person depending on group size, negotiation skills and your level of Spanish!
PUERTO ESCONDIDO TO CHACAHUA IN SHORT: Puerto Escondido to El Zapotalito by colectivo (70 pesos) | Shared taxi to the jetty (20 pesos) | Either a boat and colectivo (100 pesos) OR a direct boat to Isla Chacahua Mexico (200 to 600 pesos)
From wherever you get dropped off in the town of Chacahua, Oaxaca, you’ll have to walk to your accommodation as there are no taxis or other forms of transport.
Personally, I would recommend getting the long boat at least once (either outward or return journey). And then the short boat + colectivo the other time if you’re looking to save money.
With the long boat, it’s almost like a tour combined with transport as you’ll get to see most of the lagoon as well as the El Corral mangroves.
Where to stay in Chacahua
There are more options than ever in Lagunas de Chacahua National Park, with options to cover all budgets – shoestring to treat yourself types. Generally speaking, there’s two types of accommodation: cabanas or al fresco sleeping in a tent or hammock.
While you’ll probably get the best price by turning up and asking around for a room. I think it’s always wise to book at least one night, especially in high season or at weekends.
Importantly, booking online also means you’ll save your cash, which is important since there’s no ATM on the island. Best to save that for food and activities rather than accommodation since you have to withdraw all the cash you think you’ll need before coming.
Cabanas are the main form of accommodation in Laguna de Chacahua Oaxaca Mexico. And, there’s plenty along the beachfront and slightly set back from it too. My top options are:
- TOP OVERALL PICK: Cabanas La Isla. Located right next to where the Laguna Chacahua meets the Pacific Ocean, these cabanas have everything you need. Bed, mosquito net, private bathroom with shower, awesome views and the best internet I found on the island. I stayed here for 5 nights in total and couldn’t recommend it more!
BOOK HERE: Cabanas La Isla
- UNIQUE STAY: Porã Chacahua. Ok, the accommodation is technically yurts and tents. But it’s fancy yurts and tents with a perfect location right on Chacahua Playa. Although this does mean shared bathrooms and it’s also a 30-minute walk from the main area of the town. But, you get to relax in paradise and isolation. And there’s even a shared kitchen to boot.
SEE IT HERE: Porã Chacahua
- BEST FACILITIES: Hotel Sanmara. Isla Chacahua’s first hotel, first with a pool and definitely the fanciest! Enjoy the 3rd-floor pool with views over the beach and sea. The rooms even have air conditioning, which is rare in Laguna Chacahua! If you’re looking to treat yourself, this is the place for you.
SLICE OF LUXURY: Hotel Sanmara
- NO FRILLS: Cabañas Alta Mar. Another beachfront property that offers 24-hour service with double and family rooms. Though it claims to be a 5-star hotel, I would dial your expectations back slightly. But, nevertheless, the cabanas are beautiful, highly rated and not to be missed. Rooms come with fans and private bathrooms as well as a hammock. And there’s a shared area with hammocks and sunbeds for the ultimate relaxing day!
CHECK AVAILABILITY AND BOOK: Cabañas Alta Mar
These will require you to book directly or through social media. Remember, avoid sending money directly to people or businesses. Ideally, use payment protection provided by third-party intermediaries such as booking sites or PayPal.
- Charly’s Cabanas & Camping. Basic accommodation at budget-friendly prices just a stone’s throw from Playa Chacahua and the main area of bars and restaurants. Although, the property does have a restaurant onsite and a communal kitchen with the basics.
CONTACT VIA FACEBOOK OR WHATSAPP: Charly’s Cabanas & Camping
- Cabañas El Paraiso. Boasts family rooms, hammocks, a restaurant and helpful staff to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. Basic accommodation a short walk from the town but right on the beach.
Chacahua Camping/hammock Options
This is the most budget-friendly accommodation. Many of the restaurants along the beach will let you use one of their hammocks or hang your own.
Generally, the cost is around 50 pesos per night. But you might also be able to do it for free in exchange for buying lunch and/or dinner from them each day.
Another option is camping. Some places have tents ready set up and charge less than 100 pesos per night.
For both of these options, there’s no way to book in advance. Rather, it’s a case of turning up and asking each place if they have availability.
Don’t expect much in the way of facilities, there’s likely to be a cold shower, maybe a plug socket or two, and possibly – but not likely – WiFi.
Sadly, there isn’t yet a Chacahua hostel in the typical sense of dorms, private rooms and shared living spaces.
But given the island’s popularity with backpackers, whoever opens the first Chacahua hostel is for sure going to get plenty of guests!
Best things to do
Surf the waves
The waves along the shores of the national park are perfect for surfing. And, in fact, Chacahua is better suited to beginners than the fiercer waves in nearby Puerto Escondido.
In addition to being accommodations and restaurants, most of the beachfront properties have surfboards to hire. Some even have kayaks. Alternatively, you can bring a shortboard from Puerto Escondido as the collectivos and taxis have roof racks or you can fit it in the aisle.
To enjoy the Chacahua surf, you can either go out by yourself/with friends or ask around the island for someone willing to give you a lesson. Again, the price depends on your negotiation skills. Alternatively, check out Chacahua Surf Camp.
Relax on the beach
You can’t visit the pristine beaches of Chacahua National Park without sitting for a while and enjoying them. But be careful not to dip your toes too close to the water’s edge, or you might be taken out by a strong wave!
Swim in the Chacahua Lagoon
The waves might be good for surfing here, but they’re too rough for swimming. But, there’s one place on Chacahua Island that’s perfect for swimming…
And that’s the estuary of the lagoon, just a stone’s throw from the main beach. There’s no waves, just a small beach and a gentle current flowing from the sea into the lagoon. For a lazy river-like experience, step off the beach sandbank at one end, float slowly downstream for 20 or 30 metres and then walk back up onto the beach!
Climb to the lighthouse
Across the mouth of the lagoon, sits a small lighthouse (El Faro in Spanish) on top of the hill. While the lighthouse itself might not be much to look at, the views from the top are incredible – one of my highlights of Laguna de Chacahua!
Take a boat to the other side for a few pesos. Then one of the locals will likely point you in the direction of the walk start point as soon as they see you’re a tourist.
It’s a short but steep and sweaty almost straight uphill walk to the top. You can climb up inside the lighthouse – you used to be able to climb out through the hatch too, but when I visited this had been padlocked shut.
You’ll probably have to wait a little bit for a boat ride back while using any means available to flag down the boat driver on the other side. But, your (perhaps wavering) patience will be rewarded eventually!
Bring a camera and wear sturdy footwear as you’ll be climbing on rocks, tree roots and dirt paths. As an additional side note, the lighthouse is also one of the best places on the island for phone signal!
Release Baby Turtles on Playa Chacahua
Chacahua Beach is popular with surfers and sunbathers, but it’s also a popular nesting spot with turtles. Three species of turtle nest their eggs in the sand of Chacahua Playa: Olive Ridley, Leatherback and Green or Black turtles.
The volunteers and staff from Campamento Tortuguero Bahía de Chacahua Oaxaca collect the eggs, incubate them and then release them to make sure as many as possible reach the sea.
Visitors can release a turtle onto the beach, where it will then make its way into the vast Pacific Ocean. Or, for a more unique experience, you can accompany the team as they collect the eggs – possibly seeing fully-grown turtles – in the dark of night.
The baby turtles hatch about 1.5 months after being nested on the beach. So, it’s best to check with the sanctuary whether they are releasing any during your stay. Alternatively, you can also release them on Playa Bacocho in Puerto Escondido.
Best enjoyed during a new moon (Google is your friend for finding out when that’ll be), the bioluminescence in the Chacahua National Park’s lagoon is simply spectacular. Even during a full moon, you can still see it if you time your trip out before moonrise or after moonset so it’s still as dark as possible.
As there are no tour agencies on the island, this will again be a case of finding someone willing to take you out on their boat to see the Chacahua bioluminescence. Perhaps best to ask during the day for that night. Expect to pay around 100 pesos per person.
During a new moon, you might also be able to see the bioluminescent plankton from the shores of Playa Chacahua or the mouth of the lagoon.
Boat tour of the lagoon and mangroves
If you didn’t catch the long boat on the way to the island or if nature activities are more your thing, find someone with a boat to give you a tour of Laguna Chacahua.
Don’t expect the locals to speak English though, so this may be a more visual tour if your language skills aren’t quite there! Negotiate a price and trip length before heading out on a boat to avoid any surprises later.
Does Chacahua Have Internet?
There’s no cable internet. And any WiFi is satellite data, which has variable speed, reliability and coverage. So overall, being on Chacahua Island doesn’t mean you’ll be completely cut off from the outside world, but it might feel like it.
The internet is generally good enough to send messages, check social media occasionally (photo only) and load basic web pages. Don’t expect to be uploading to Instagram, or at all for that matter.
And, don’t expect to be able to download anything or watch videos on social media channels. You certainly won’t be able to have video calls and voice calls will also probably drop in and out.
If you need to work with an internet connection, Chacahua National Park is not the place to be.
Mobile data signal is also close to non-existent, so hot-spotting from your phone signal isn’t possible either. Plus, storms – common in the wet season in the tropics – can cause internet signal to worsen and lead to power cuts, completely cutting off the internet on Isla Chacahua Mexico.
Can you Swim in Chacahua?
Yes, it’s a great way to cool down from the year-round high temperatures. The surf-perfect waves on the beach are a little too rough for swimming. Instead, head to the mouth of the lagoon where the water is calmer.
Where to eat and drink
Most of the places serving food are along the water’s edge – either the main Chacahua beach or the mouth of the lagoon. There’s more choice of cuisines than ever before and you shouldn’t get bored if you stay for a few days.
The options are mostly typical Mexican dishes or fish – vegans and vegetarians may find fewer suitable options. But, you’ll also find chicken wings, spaghetti and chips (french fries) in some of the restaurants – and there’s even a sushi bar that’s opened recently.
Prices are pretty similar to other places along the Oaxaca coast despite the remote location. But, the island is reliant on food deliveries once or twice a week. This does mean that once somewhere is out of something, it can be a few days before it’s on the menu again.
Additionally, pretty much all the restaurants double up as bars serving beers and/or cocktails. Plus, there’s also a small shop in the town’s square that sells snacks, drinks (soft and alcoholic), food, cigarettes and other essentials at reasonable prices.
What to pack (if you’re not bringing your entire backpack)
- Cash, and lots of it. There’s no ATM on the island so you need to bring what you think you’ll need for the duration of your stay (plus a little extra as a buffer). Always bring more than you think you need! Because there’s no phone signal and the WiFi is patchy at best, very few places accept card payments. And, those that do add on large charges. Save money by bringing plenty of money!
- Plenty of sun cream. Self-explanatory, but the Sun just seems so much stronger in Lagunas de Chacahua Oaxaca Mexico. Try and buy reef-safe sun cream if you can and I recommend the big Chedraui in Puerto Escondido for the best prices.
- Bug repellent and a bite remedy. All the bugs and insects seem to come out just before sunset. And, as you’re in a National Park with lagoons and mangroves, there is absolutely no shortage of wildlife to bite you! Repellent and a bite pen, antihistamines or best remedy are all essential.
- Swimming gear. Probably a given for a beach trip but a long-sleeve, SPF-protected swimming top or rash guard is a great item to have here. And means you’ll use less sun cream – and spend less time putting it on!
- Offline activities to keep yourself amused. Books, eReaders, audiobooks, pre-downloaded Netflix, Sims, solitaire, whatever you fancy really! Prepare before you get to Chacahua.
As a final recommendation, leave your big backpack or suitcase in Puerto Escondido. Just bring enough clothes, toiletries, etc for the length of your stay.
You won’t regret it as it’ll be so much easier to move from transport to transport, as well as when you’re packing up at the end. Most hostels or hotels will store bags for a few days, so just ask.
Useful Spanish phrases for your time in paradise
- Are you going to El Zapotalito? ¿Vas a El Zapotalito?
- Do you have a room for tonight? ¿Tienes una habitacion para esta noche?
- How much for a surfboard for one day? ¿Cuanto por una table de surf por un dia?
- Can we go to the other side, please? ¿Podemos ir al otra lado, por favor?
Do you have any questions or want any more information? If so, drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you!
Information is correct as of December 2023 but is subject to change in future.
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