Puerto Ángel, a colorful fishing town on the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico, is often left out of the conversation when it comes to beach towns in the region.

Alongside San Agustinillo and Playa Zipolite, Puerto Ángel is known as the “Riviera Oaxaqueña” in Mexico. While many prefer the surfer vibes in Puerto Escondido and the beach party vibes in Zipolite or Mazunte, the town has been criminally dismissed in the discussion of blissful coastal vibes.

It’s true that you should expect boats rather than surfboards, family-run restaurants rather than fancy chain ones but Puerto Ángel has plenty to offer if uncrowded golden-sand beaches and crystal clear oceans is your kind of aesthetic. 

I initially discovered the beach town as recommended by a friend during my travels in Oaxaca state. My curiosity about this quieter and lesser known part of the coast persuaded me to postpone my trip to Puerto Escondido, so I could experience it for myself. 

Credit: Amara Amaryah. Puerto Ángel – town centre.

After an 8-hour drive from the city to the coast and a stop at Pochutla where most travelers got off to travel west to Puerto Escondido, I arrived, a few minutes short of sunset to the sound of the ocean lapping over itself on the principal beach and heart of the town, Playa Panteón.

As I arrived, I met my friends and ordered dinner at one of the many umbrella beachfront restaurants, I quickly learned why Puerto Ángel was considered a charming though ‘rough around the edges’ town left for the slow-moving travelers. From the fact that the locals know everyone by name and don’t shy from introducing themselves so that you transition out of stranger territory, right down to the slow, barefoot paced way of life— it is the perfect place to indulge in the simplicity of being a traveler. 

The fabric of the town remains beloved by a few because of its quiet magic, it’s unmatched golden hours and it’s family-run, community-facing energy. Here are a few reasons why I recommend incorporating Puerto Ángel into your next Oaxaca trip.

Being such a small, walkable town, there is only so much that you can explore before you run out of things to see. In this sense, it isn’t the dream spot for tourists. Travelers, though, and those open to the less packaged version of Mexico’s Oaxaca coastline, will appreciate the town better. Enjoy fresh fish on the beach and when the family at the table beside you invites you over, sit with them and drink, eat, swap music— this is the beauty of the town. 

The town does have a few things that you absolutely want to add to your list, such as water taxi’s on the crystal clear sea or walking into the town to enjoy the authentic fisher town vibes. Head in either direction, and you’ll find your selection of pristine beaches.

Credit: Amara Amaryah. Puerto Ángel – art mural in the town.

Another reason to visit Puerto Ángel as a Black traveler is to feel welcomed, praised even, for being Black. Coming from Oaxaca City, which is considerably more conservative (being a city), I found my time in Puerto Ángel refreshing. Having conversations about the African diaspora, Jamaica and the African descent communities further along the Oaxaca coast (such as Chacahua and Pinotepa) is what kept me there for almost a week, indulging in all the conversation I didn’t previously have in the city.

The family-run restaurants which lined Playa Panteón were a delight, a simple and modest delight. Expect traditional Oaxaca cuisine, the best selection of fresh fruit juice and an even better selection of fish—fresh tuna, red snapper, lobster and octopus—caught fresh from the ocean you will dine over. 

Aside from the warmth and simplicity of the town, one of the things I most enjoy about Puerto Ángel is how easy it is to support local livelihood. Nothing is catered to tourists, there are no special and inaccessible parts of the town for the local people, which made me feel comfortable and reminded me to be a responsible, considerate traveler. For instance, the small selection of available hotels are locally run, centrally located and have the most impressive beachfront, sunrise views.

Of course, there are parts of this town that won’t work for some. Perhaps this is not the ideal place for remote workers and digital nomads because of the sometimes unreliable Wi-Fi connection or, I should add, vegans who are looking to stay here long-term and need a variety in their dishes beyond rice, beans and tortilla.

Part of the magic of visiting Puerto Ángel is stripping things back to basic to truly relish in this under-visited part of the coast for a little while. It is worth a visit, even if for a few days to disconnect and take in the beauty of the laid back fisher town vibes.