Puerto Escondido has surfable waves most days of the year. The Zicatela Pipeline is one of the world's heaviest and scariest beach breaks; it's normally best with the offshore winds in the morning and late afternoon, and at its biggest between about May and August. Even when the Pipeline is flat, the point break at Punta Zicatela works almost day in, day out. Playa Carrizalillo has good beginners’ waves. Several professional surf contests are held annually at Zicatela: dates depend partly on swell forecasts, but there's always an event during the November fiestas. In 2015 the World Surf League's Big Wave Tour came to Zicatela for the first time.

Long- or shortboard rental is typically M$130 to M$150 per day; bodyboards are normally M$80 to M$100. You can buy secondhand boards for between M$1800 and M$5000 at several surf shops on Zicatela.

Numerous surf shops, schools and individuals at Zicatela, Punta Zicatela and Rinconada offer surfing lessons. Lessons normally last 1½ to two hours in the water, with prices including board use and transportation to wherever the waves are most suitable (often Carrizalillo).