A Complete Travel Guide to visiting Chacahua, Oaxaca
A Complete Travel Guide to visiting Chacahua, Oaxaca

A Complete Travel Guide to visiting Chacahua, Oaxaca

Chacahua, Oaxaca (Las Lagunas de Chacahua) is a national park on the southwestern coast of Mexico. It’s a magical place known for its virgin beaches, idyllic lagoons and bioluminescent plankton that light the water at night.

The national park is roughly a 2-h journey from Puerto Escondido—a small city and popular backpacker destination further south—and makes for an adventurous trip to escape the crowds.

I’ve been to Chacahua twice, 7 years apart. Its beach is one of my favourites in the world and in this complete guide, I’ll share all the info you need to visit this amazing place.

If you don’t have time for the full read, then I’ve summarised the key info in an FAQ section towards the end.

How to get to Chacahua, Oaxaca from Puerto Escondido

First things first, let’s get the logistics out of the way. Pretty much anyone who goes to Chacahua gets there from Puerto Escondido. The journey takes between 2 h – 2 h 30 m and is broken up into several legs. 

Starting at Puerto Escondido, you need to head to the TUR bus terminal. From here you’ll take a colectivo bus to El Zapotalito. The last time I did the trip the colectivo ticket cost 55 pesos. The driver will ask where you’re heading so as to let you know when to get off. The colectivo journey lasts about 1 h 15 m.

You get off the colectivo at the intersection with El Zapotalito. Now you need to take a colectivo taxi to the town of El Zapotalito. The taxis are parked up there at the intersection. The taxi ride was a fixed price of 25 pesos per person when I was there last and it took about 15 minutes.

El Zapotalito sits on the water’s edge and you have two options to cross the water and get into the Lagunas de Chacahua National Park.

  1. You can get a direct boat from El Zapotalito to Chacahua town. The boat journey takes roughly 45 minutes and costs around 200 pesos per person. It’s a picturesque ride as you pass through mangroves and speed by small islets.Make sure to ask how much the direct boat journey costs before you get onboard. On my second visit to Chacahua, we were offered a tour around the mangroves as part of the direct trip. The tour option cost 600 pesos.
  2. You can take a short boat ride to the nearest dock for 50 pesos. Then you take a colectivo truck to Chacahua town, costing another 50 pesos. The dirt road to the town is bumpy and the hard wooden benches in the back of the colectivo pickup truck aren’t the most comfortable. This final leg of the journey takes between 45 minutes and an hour.

I’ve done both options and strongly recommend the 45-minute direct boat journey for 200 pesos. It’s a scenic and much more comfortable ride. I don’t recommend the boat tour because the regular boat trip is nice enough and you get a sense of what the full tour would be like.

Things to do in Chacahua, Oaxaca

From sitting on the beach all day to swimming, surfing and hiking, Chacahua can be as chilled out or as active as you like.

Surf in Chacahua

Chacahua is an ideal surf spot for all abilities. Closer to the beach the waves are only a few feet high, meaning beginners can catch them. Further out the waves get bigger and way out back they can barrel.

The only thing is that if you want to surf at Chacahua, then you’ll need your own board. I never saw a place renting them. Although, with the national park becoming more popular, it probably won’t be long until you can rent a surfboard there.

A surfer rides a wave in the ocean. There are large hills in the background.

See the Chacahua bioluminescence

The main reason why people come to Chacahua, Oaxaca is to see the bioluminescent lagoons at night. The natural phenomenon is pretty awe inspiring, even when the light-emitting plankton are not at their most active. You can head out onto the lagoon on a boat trip lasting around 1h 30 m and costing about 250 pesos per person. There are usually people in the town centre in the evenings who’ll approach you to sell you a tour.

The bioluminescence is visible all year round. However, our boat driver told us last time I was there, which was November, that it’s more active earlier in the year.

The first time I went to Chacahua 7 years earlier, I met two Basque girls, and they asked a local to take us out on his canoe. I can’t remember how much we paid him, but paddling with an oar was a much more enjoyable way of experiencing the lagoons at night than with a speedboat. I highly recommend you try and find a local with a rowing boat if you can. 

Climb to the lighthouse

There’s a lighthouse (el faro) atop a hill on the other side of the mouth of the lagoon. Boats take you across the lagoon mouth and a return trip costs 20 pesos. The boats run until late into the evening.

It’s a quick and steep, fun hike to the top where the views over the national park are commanding. You can see the vastness of the area and untouched palm forests.

House on the shore of a lagoon as seen from the top of the Chacahua lighthouse hill.

Once you get out of the boat on the lighthouse side of the lagoon mouth, head behind the restaurants directly in front of you.

There’s a road behind the restaurants and you can go left or right. Head right and after a few metres you’ll see a sign on your left-hand side saying ‘no-entry’. Ironically, this is one of the routes up to the lighthouse, and the one we took.

The start point of the trail going up to the lighthouse in Chacahua/

The hike is narrow and rocky in some spots so I recommend wearing trainers. Also, the mosquitos love to hang out there as there’s plenty of shade from the sun, so bring repellent.


The beach at Chacahua is fun for swimming if you don’t mind some choppy waves that can get big. The water gets deep pretty quickly and so the waves can be big close to the shore too.

I always went for a dip or two in the day to cool off and work up an appetite for the delicious food.

Literally do nothing in Chacahua, Oaxaca

Honestly, Chacahua is the perfect place to just sit and do nothing. Normally, I can’t do this for too long, but the beauty of the area, the hot weather and chilled out vibes had me sitting back and relaxing a fair bit.

As Chacahua is becoming more popular, you’ll meet other backpackers there who you can hang out with.

Watch the pelicans

While I was chilling out, I often watched the pelicans circling and swooping on the hunt for fish, or bobbing along peacefully. Chacahua is a great place to spot wildlife as there are a few species of birds here.

Pelicans floating in the ocean. There are large hills in the background.

Watch the sunrise

The skies turn a hazy orangey-red at Chacahua once the sun starts to come up. And the large hills on the horizon gradually come into the view, piercing through the haze. I highly recommend waking up for a sunrise here.

Large hills visible on the horizon through sunrise haze at Chacahua.

Where to stay in Chacahua, Oaxaca

I stayed in a cabaña on the beach front during both of my visits to Chacahua. The cabañas pretty much all charge between 200 and 250 pesos a night per person.

I recommend these cabins because they’re right on the beach and just a few minutes’ walk from the town centre. The town centre has two shops and more wooden cabins with family-run restaurants. Although the town is pretty basic, there is electricity so you should have a fan in your cabin.

A signpost on Chacahua beach. It has many signs each with a different country written on it.

On my first trip to Chacahua, I spent a night in a hammock. I slept in a restaurant’s seating area on the beach and it cost 50 pesos. It was one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had and I awoke to the rising sun.

There are high end cabins further down the beach and also on the more secluded lighthouse side of the lagoon mouth that are more expensive. These places cost around $50 US a night. Further down the beach there are also a couple of boutique hotels costing over $100 US a night.

Where to eat in Chacahua, Oaxaca

The food in Chacahua is great. The locals are masters at whipping up tasty dishes with freshly caught seafood.

Being a pescatarian I was in paradise. However, it can be a little tricky if you are fully vegetarian or vegan. Although, the locals are really friendly and will make the effort to prepare their typical meat dishes, veggie or even vegan if they can.

At Chacahua, I’d say try any of the restaurants. I’ve eaten at a few and they were all great. However, there was one place I really liked and a couple that looked good that I didn’t try, but wish I had.

Two speedboats parked close to the shore at the lagoon in Chacahua.

In the town centre there’s a place that makes lentil soup. It’s a simple and delicious bowl that really fills an empty stomach for very few pesos. On the lighthouse side, there are a couple of big restaurants right on the shore. They’re called Palapa la Luna, Palapa de Ofelia and Palapa Doña Tere. They were really busy and full of locals, which is always a good sign.

Chacahua, Oaxaca FAQs

Can you swim in Chacahua?

You can swim at Chacahua, although the waves can be choppy and big.

Is there Internet in Chacahua?

Most accommodations at Chacahua have WIFI and offer it free to their guests. You may be able to get WIFI if you’re not a guest by paying a fee or consuming at their restaurant if they have one.

Is Chacahua good for surfing?

Chacahua, Oaxaca is great for surfers of all abilities. There are smaller waves closer to the shore, larger waves further out and big waves out back that sometimes barrel.

Are there ATMs in Chacahua?

There no ATMs in Chacahua and card payment is not accepted. You must bring enough cash for the duration of your trip.

When is the best time to see bioluminescence in Chacahua?

You can see bioluminescence in the lagoons at Chacahua all year round. However, the best time to see it is just before or after a new moon. A full moon will create light pollution, reducing the brightness of the bioluminescence.

How do you get to Chacahua National Park from Puerto Escondido?

To get to Chacahua National Park from Puerto Escondido:

  1. Take a colectivo bus from the TUR terminal in Puerto Escondido to El Zapotalito intersection (1 h 15 m / 55 pesos)
  2. Get off at the El Zapotalito intersection and take a colectivo taxi to El Zapotalito town (15 minutes / 25 pesos)
  3. Take a direct boat from El Zapotalito to Chacahua town (45 minutes / 200 pesos) or a short boat to the nearest dock (10 minutes / 50 pesos) followed by a colectivo truck ride to Chacahua town (45 minutes / 50 pesos)

More travel inspiration on A World Over

So that’s my complete guide to visiting Chacahua, Oaxaca. My final tip would be that if you want to experience Chacahua as a lesser-known, adventurous destination, then go sooner rather than later, if you can.

Although it’s still very much a pristine beach with mostly wooden cabañas, Chacahua is becoming more touristy. In the seven years between my trips, a lot more cabanas and even a few boutique hotels had popped up, and it’s only going to get busier and more expensive.   

That said, it is an incredible place, so regardless of this, I highly recommend a trip to Las Lagunas de Chacahua National Park.

Want more adventure travel advice? Then head to the A World Over blog.

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