©istock/BAIIIAD
©istock/BAIIIAD

The magical nature of Chacahua

4 minutes to read

If you are a nature lover, water lover, island hopper, and adventurer, then Chacahua has everything your heart desires. Located a few hours west of the popular surfer town of Puerto Escondido in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, Chacahua is an island surrounded by lagoons and the Pacific Ocean. It is sparsely inhabited, almost wholly protected, and at certain times of the year, completely virgin. The magical nature of Chacahua is tangible, intoxicating, and enchanting, especially when you can explore and relax unencumbered by huge crowds.

Chacahua, Oaxaca
Chacahua, Oaxaca
Chacahua, Oax., Mexico
©istock/Travel_Nerd
©istock/Travel_Nerd

There are so many different activities to experience that you can easily spend a whole week in Chacahua if you wanted. All activities revolve around the vast ecosystem of Chacahua’s lagoons, mangroves, forests, and, of course, the Pacific Ocean. There are plenty of small hotels and campsites to stay directly on the island, so you do not have to travel back and forth from Puerto Escondido or another town on the mainland.  

How to get there

You will have to use various forms of transport to get to Chacahua, and you can combine different transportation operations to fit your time constraints and budget. The most expensive option is to take a taxi from Puerto Escondido lasting around 2 hours, then charter a boat to get over to mainland Chacahua

Zapotalito, Oaxaca
Zapotalito, Oaxaca
El Zapotalito, Oax., Mexico

You can also take a cheaper taxi ride to the town of Zapotalito and either charter a boat or take a cheaper collective boat to the Chacahua. The cheapest option would be to take a collective van from Puerto Escondido to Zapotalito, followed by a collective ferry to the farthest point in Chacahua, and then take another taxi to the center of Chacahua. Again, the cheaper the option, the longer it will take you to get there.  

©istock/Jenn Holsh
©istock/Jenn Holsh

Lagoon tour

If you decide to charter a boat to Chacahua, this will undoubtedly include a 40 min to 1 hour-long tour of the surrounding lagoons. Some of the lagoons are full of crocodiles, while others have an abundance of birdlife, not to mention that each lagoon is a slightly different color with differing clarity levels as well. If you do not charter your own ferry to Chacahua, there are lagoon tours that you can take from the mainland or once on the island.

©istock/mariakray
©istock/mariakray

Another must-do activity on Chacahua is the mangrove tour, which takes you meandering through the natural arboreal tunnels created by Chacahua’s intricate mangrove root systems. In addition to mangroves, you will see a wealth of fish, birds and amphibians that feed and inhabit the mangroves. Be sure to go before high tide for the best water visibility.

Lagunas de Chacahua National

The island community of Chacahua is one of the various small beach towns within Lagunas de Chacahua National Park, which is a giant protected nature reserve with coastline, forest, and freshwater and saltwater lagoons. You can access the park long before even arriving in Chacahua as Zapotalito is one of the towns within the park where ferry crossings to Chacahua are available. 

Lagunas de Chacahua National Park, Oaxaca
Lagunas de Chacahua National Park, Oaxaca
Lagunas de Chacahua National Park, Oaxaca, Mexico
©istock/El Neri
©istock/El Neri

You are free to explore the park on your own, but a local tour guide will give you a much better and safer exploration of the park that caters to your specific wild-life interests. There are bird watching tours, crocodile tours, turtle sightings, guided hikes, and a few specialized reserves including a crocodile sanctuary and an ecological reserve (Reserva Ecologica) on the mainland of Chacahua.

Beach activities

Chacahua lies amongst various lagoons but also has a 10 mile stretch of Pacific coastline large rock formations and jetties. Within the inhabited areas of the island, there are a growing number of beachside restaurants ending in this stretch of beach that seems to go on forever. Needless to say, there is plenty of room to spread out to enjoy long swaths of beach all to yourself for sunbathing, picnics and swimming. 

©istock/Travel_Nerd
©istock/Travel_Nerd

When it comes to the Pacific Ocean, I must mention surfing. Chacahua has great waves for all skill levels, and they are all much safer than the enormous pipeline wave sets seen in Puerto Escondido. Chacahua has two different wave sets:  short and long. Short sets will spit you out parallel to where you caught them, while longwave rides take you to the far end of the beach so once you have ridden, you will most likely have to get out and walk back to the other end of the beach to catch the next wave. Whichever you choose, they are both extremely fun and safe.

©istock/GeofGoldswain
©istock/GeofGoldswain

Lastly, the Chacahua coast has amazing snorkeling and scuba diving spots, with a plethora of fish species as well as jellyfish, octopi and manta rays. You will see a ton of local snorkel and scuba offerings upon your arrival to the town and beach.

©istock/bicho_raro
©istock/bicho_raro

Chacahua is the epitome of nature’s bounty with countless opportunities to witness magical interactions between the numerous species of flora and fauna native to this region’s land, sea, and lagoon ecosystem. A trip to Chacahua should be a top priority on your Oaxaca itinerary


The author

Julia Holland

Julia Holland

Hello, I am Julia and I live in Mexico. I came to Mexico as an anthropologist working in Chiapas and I fell in love with this country: the pure and savage beauty of nature, the humility and warmth of the local people, the rich and varied culture. I decided to stay and Mexico is what I call home.

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