Why the Oaxaca Coast is the perfect chill spot
I’m not one to hold back my love for central Mexico; see my last post, Mexico: Beyond the Beaches. But let’s get real, sometimes all you really want is sunshine and white sand, and warm breeze tickling your face while you sip a cold coconut. You want to nibble fresh fish tacos in the shade. You want vibrant sunsets on your balcony while enjoying strong yet fruity tequila cocktails. You want to doze off to the sound of cicadas; you want to wake to the sound of birds chirping. You want sand in your toes and sun on your cheeks.
You get my drift…
We spent a total of nine days on the Oaxaca coast, and here, all of our beachy desires were fulfilled. After seven busy days in Oaxaca City; taking daily Spanish classes, working online and exploring the city and nearby attractions, we were pretty tired and ready for some R&R.
As someone who travels all the time, I know a good spot when I see it. Here are the things that make Oaxaca the perfect vacation chill spot:
Oaxaca has beaches that will rival any in the Yucatán. Though most are wilder and better suited for surfing, it’s easy to find calm, hidden bays perfect for a relaxing swim. Back to surfing–the waves here are legendary and attract surfers from around the world(see; the world-famous Mexican Pipeline). Whether or not you’re into riding waves, you’ll probably appreciate the chill vibes and nice services, which result from this being a destination originally built to attract the surfer crowd–i.e. healthy food spots, chill open-air bars, great guesthouses, etc.
All along the coast running south from Puerto Escondido to Huatulco are a series of charming little beach towns–Mazunte, San Agustinillo, Zipolite, Puerto Angel– all easily accessible by local transport. Each have plenty of beachside restaurants specializing in fresh seafood, and serving a plethera of refreshments. Many of them will let you chill on their comfy lounge chairs, hammocks or even swim in their pool if you buy from them. Some of them rent surf boards, boogie boards or snorkeling gear or offer surf or Spanish lessons. Plus, because most tourists who visit Mexico opt for the beaches of the Yucatán, Puerto Vallarta or Cabo, you’ll avoid the big crowds. If you want to spend the afternoon on your own private beach, that can easily be done.
If you’re feeling ambitious, you can book inexpensive boat tours for snorkeling, beach hopping or sighting wildlife such dolphins, whales, sea turtles.
I think every meal we ate on the Oaxaca coast was excellent. From fresh mahi mahi with mango salsa, smoked fish tacos, sushi or ceviche on the beach, the catch of the day with pineapple jalapeño salsa or chipotle cream or blackened with lime cilantro sauce, coconut rice, giant coconut shrimp, and to mix things up–excellent pizza and killer falafel. The list goes on. We were spoiled to stay near Avenida Benito Juarez in PE, where several exceptional restaurants can be found. But in Mexico, it’s never a challenge finding amazing, inexpensive food.
Additionally, it was easy to find cheap beer (often around $1) and delicious cocktails (always less than $5 each) made with tequila or the Oaxaca specialty -Mezcal, mixed with fresh fruit juices.
The accommodation …
While we choose another winner Airbnb (if you haven’t discovered it yet, you are missing out; see here for a discount), there are plenty of solid budget options to choose from in Puerto Escondido from resorts and adorable boutique guesthouses to cheap backpacker hostels.
In Mazunte and Zipolite you can stay, literally, smack dab on the beach. Want to spend your entire holiday in your birthday suit? Try the lovely, beachside Hotel Nude (starting at around $50/night for a poolside bungalow). With a bit higher budget you can rent a private house on a stunning and secluded beach at Bahia de La Luna (from $60-$150/night). And if you really want to go crazy, honeymoon-style, you may want to check out Las Palmas Villas & Casitas; your own luxury condominium, with million dollar views and an infinity pool (starts at $140/night).
We loved our little rental studio so much (called Pargo’s Apartments on Airbnb), there were days we didn’t leave but to grab a quick bite. We had views of the sea (including amazing sunsets), a comfortable king size bed, well-equipped kitchen (with juicer!), nice shower, comfy hammock, and well functioning wifi and a swimming pool–all for around $28/night! Plus our place was perfectly located, walking distance from great restaurants and our favorite beach. We noticed many other excellent options on Airbnb as well, many offering swimming pools, insane views, and all the amenities.
The People & Culture…
Anyone who has spent any amount of time in Mexico will quickly learn–Mexican people are the best. They are warm and friendly, helpful and inviting. We felt so welcome and taken care of by our Airbnb hosts, it was like staying with family.
Additionally the travelers here tend to be a pretty agreeable bunch; we stayed in the part of Puerto Escondido popular with retired Canadians (a lovely, friendly happy bunch), but if you stay near Zicatela (surfing zone), you’ll find the young, fit and beautiful. Head over to Zipolite, you get the free-love hippies and nude beaches. Mazunte is similar sans nudity. Huatulco is eco-friendly luxury–i.e. grown-up hippies who got a job. There’s someplace for everyone.
If you’d like to get a more traditional taste of Mexican life, head to the Puerto Escondido’s Mercado Benito Juarez. Here you’ll find yummy food stalls, impressive produce stands, fresh seafood & butchers, alongside traditional crafts and clothing and even local health and beauty remedies or to the local restaurants and guesthouses found away from the beach, further in town.
Bored? Get a massage, take yoga classes, visit the turtle center, vist the nearby Chacahua National Park and rent a canoe to explore the mangroves. If you’ve got some time, I can’t recommend enough squeezing in a trip to Oaxaca City, 5 hours inland. Here you’ll see just some of the best of Mexican culture–amazing art and handicrafts, excellent museums, impressive architecture, seriously tasty food, and epic markets.
The Weather …
While we were on the coast, days were in the high 80s low 90s, with nights dipping into the 60s. Warm enough to melt away most ambition. Though the days got pretty hot, the weather was perfect for chilling in the pool or dipping in the cool sea. Nights were ideal for eating outside. We didn’t have an air conditioner in our apartment and we were comfortable.
November through April is dry season and May till October is often rainy season (though this does not mean it will rain everyday).
Wait! But it’s Mexico! Is it safe?
The short answer–yes. Oaxaca state has a pretty good reputation in Mexico. I’ve spent a collective 5 1/2 month traveling throughout the country by bus, both as a single female and as a couple, and I’ve never had a single issue with safety. Use normal precaution and common sense and there’s a good chance you won’t fall victim to any crimes.
Reaching the coast is easy from Oaxaca City (which also has an international airport). There are a few shuttle bus companies found on Armenta y Lopez near the Red Cross (for smaller beach towns south of Puerto Escondido like Mazunte, Pachutla, Zipolite) or found on Galeana (for Puerto Escondido); ask around in those areas if you can’t find the offices. We took the direct shuttle from Oaxaca to Zipolite using Atlantida which we were happy with as we found the driver to be careful and safe. I’d strongly recommend taking a Dramamine if you’re prone to car sickness as much of the ride is through mountain roads. The bigger bus companies offer service to the coast, however, due to the routes they must use, take twice the time.
If you’ve got more money and less time, you can also reach the coast by flying into Huatulco or Puerto Escondido.
There are small, very inexpensive though slow, colectivos (shared-taxi pickup trucks) which run up and down the coast between the smaller coastal villages. There is a larger bus that runs between the larger towns (Huatulco, Pachutla and Puerto Escondido). Additionally, there are plenty of regular taxis.
After the coast we headed straight to San Cristobal via ADO night bus–which we found very comfortable.