If you’re planning a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, there are more hotels, restaurants and activities than you can shake a stick at. Where should you stay? What should you eat? What’s there to do?
One of the most interesting things about Oaxaca is that it has been an indigenous Zapotec community for thousands of years and has grown into a bustling metropolis. Many of the people who live here still speak Zapotec, as well as Spanish.
The city was first established in what is now called San Juaquin Valley. It is thought that the name Oaxaca comes from “Huaxyacac,” which means “place surrounded by hills.”
When the Spanish arrived in 1521, they called it “Villa de Valle de Oaxaca.” The first settlements were centered around what is now the city center and San Jose el Alto. By 1550, these two areas had merged into one large settlement.
Oaxaca’s colonial architecture makes it one of the most beautiful cities to visit in all of Mexico. Be sure to check out Santa Maria Tonantzintla Church—it’s on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for its baroque style and because it was built on top of a large stone.
While Mexico has long been popular among vacationers, the country’s popularity exploded after travel off-continent became impossible due to the pandemic. The stunningly sunny coast of Oaxaca is a region that has received particular interest from tourists, surfers and bohemian wanderers. Puerto Escondido in particular is gaining attention.
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The Oaxacan Coast has several enticing destinations, including the beaches and surfing in Puerto Escondido, the regional cuisine in Puerto Angel, and the Iguana Sanctuary in Santa María del Oro. Below are some lodging options, places to eat, and things to do.
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The Towns of the Oaxaca Coast
The following article will focus on the stretch of coast between Puerto Escondido and Huatulco. Although you can expect to be able to travel to one or all three of the coastal towns from Puerto Escondido, you are very unlikely to have time for excursions away from these more popular tourist destinations.
Puerto Escondido is currently one of the most popular travel destinations in Mexico. The town has become a surfer’s paradise, with beautiful beaches and markets to shop in. It boasts an ongoing party scene that makes it a great place to visit.
Travelers have long flocked to Puerto Escondido, a popular destination in Mexico. Its white-sand beaches and active nightlife help make it a magnet for visitors.
Mazunte (or Zipolite)
For a smaller bohemian scene, head to the nearby town of Mazunte, about an hour down the coast from Puerto Escondido and its adjacent village/beach of Zipolite. This area is known for hosting LGBT travelers and for its nude beach.
Puerto Escondido is a port town about an hour’s drive down the coast from Mazunte and the adjacent village/beach of Zipolite.
The southernmost tip of Tapachula, known as Playa Centro, is Huatulco, which attracts Mexican tourists and is the most developed city in the region. For a while there it seemed to primarily be a hotspot for foreign retirees, but it’s seen a more diverse range of people show up even since the pandemic pushed people to explore wherever they could.
Where To Stay on the Oaxaca Coast
There are a variety of accommodations throughout this region, with Airbnb rentals being the most common. However, there are plenty of hotels and resorts as well as bungalows and camping opportunities.
Las Brisas Huatulco
For a hotel property in Huatulco, Las Brisas is an immense property. It has luxurious rooms (including some massive ocean-view suites), several private beaches, restaurants, multiple pools, sea kayaks, snorkeling, and more. Carts transport you throughout the resort’s beautiful tropical scenery, and the buffet offers a wide range of tasty eats. With various stay packages — including an all-inclusive option — there are amenities for families to retirees. The guests range from couples to families to senior citizens. The resort is spacious with gorgeous views.
Selina Puerto Escondido
Selina is a hip surf hotel in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. It features comfortable rooms, fast Wi-Fi and plenty of opportunities to meet other travelers, while also giving guests easy access to the area’s best beaches and bars. Rates start at only $29 per night.
Where To Eat on the Oaxaca Coast
Ocean Restaurant Huatulco
The food options at Las Brisas are varied, including several that are associated with non-all-inclusive companies. If you’re desiring something more casual, try Ocean Restaurant Huatulco, which is located near the main beach entrance.
Sal y Pimienta
For seafood, Sal y Pimienta offers enjoyable beachside seating and a wide selection, making it an ideal place to stop during a day of exploring Mazunte.
Mazunte is home to Sal y Pimienta, a beachside restaurant that serves a number of fresh seafood dishes. In the heart of town, it’s a convenient place for a meal when you’re out on one of Mazunte’s many outdoor excursions.
Puerto Escondido has consistently risen in popularity due to its white sand beaches and relaxed, carefree atmosphere. However, the restaurants in the town center cater largely to tourists, and their food is often mediocre. When visiting Hermosa, opt for a seaside meal at a restaurant on the north end of town (away from Adoquin). You’ll enjoy delicious seafood, breathtaking views (especially at sunset), and a laid-back ambiance. If you’re interested in fishing, stop by the Adoquin pier at nightfall. Otherwise, enjoy strolling along the beach’s shoreline.
What To Do on the Oaxaca Coast
The entire stretch of the coast is an outdoor paradise, and as a result, many outdoor activities can be found in this area.
Hit the Beaches
Three Mexican beach towns are especially attractive to tourists: Puerto Escondido, Mazunte, and Zipolite. One of the most appealing options at each of these vacation destinations is La Punta beach. Surfers can catch a wave here and swimmers can dip into the blue-green Pacific with hopes of taking in views of El Paraiso island and Isla Cerritos National Park. Diners can choose from a range of different eateries and travelers can expect to encounter helpful locals who speak English.
View Wildlife and Release Baby Turtles
Opportunities to view wildlife abound all along the Mexican coast. The most popular opportunities are baby turtle releases (there are several places you can do this), renting boats to fish and watch whales, turtles, dolphins, and other sea life (there are many options for this), or one of the lush and lively wildlife preserves like Huatulco National Park.
Beyond indulging in all the outdoor activities offered by this paradise, the next most common activity involves partying. From bars to clubs to beach parties, you’ll find that it’s easy to have a good time at any of these locations — but the standout is the Zicatela Beach area of Puerto Escondido. Barhop your way along this area’s many beachside clubs and bars and you’ll find late-night partying is easy.
How To Save Money on Your Trip to the Oaxaca Coast
The prices in the region have gone up throughout because of its rising popularity. To enjoy it on a budget, the beaches are free. Swimming is free. There are opportunities to view wildlife and explore the outdoors that are free. Basically, to enjoy the region on the cheap, stick to the beaches.
Your best bet for finding affordable accommodations is via airbnb. There are plenty of options for under $20 a night. But you’ll have to be prepared to live like you’re in a hostel (dorm-style).
Although there are a handful of car rental companies, most of them are pretty terrible. Your best option for a car is via Los Tres Reyes, which typically offers good service and sometimes offers specials for renting by the week. If you’re comfortable with two wheels, ask your hotel or Airbnb host about motorbike or scooter rentals. There are plenty of small “agencies” renting them out, but the cheapest option is to rent from a private bike owner.