COMPLETE GUIDE For Oaxaca Mexico - Top 10 Things To Do In 2022
Updated: Jul 10, 2022
Looking for an awesome backpacking route that you can do in Mexico in 3 - 4 weeks?
The state of Oaxaca is the perfect place if you're looking for some beautiful beaches, surfing, mountains and Mexican culture! It is also considered to be one of the safest states in Mexico.
Here I tell you everything you need to know (things to do, where to stay, how to get there etc.) for your trip to Oaxaca, Mexico:
Table of Contents
1. Puerto Escondido
Puerto Escondido was the very first stop on my trip to Mexico. It is also known as the surf capital of Mexico. From May to September the waves can get really big and the wave at Zicatela beach, aka the Mexican pipeline, attracts big wave surfers from all over the world.
If you wanna surf there (either as beginner or intermediate) it's best to go there between October and April since the waves are smaller. The main intermediate surf spot is called La Punta. However, when I was there it was really crowded and an overall bad vibe in the water. It's okay if you go with a surf instructor, though. He will push you into the wave.
Before I went to Puerto, I though it is a small surfer village (which it was until a few years ago). It is slowly turning into a more and more touristic place, especially around the area of La Punta (which reminded me a lot of Canggu in Bali).
There are a lot of good coffee places and vegan restaurants, you can do yoga, etc.
I've seen many surf places that turned into that sort of thing. It's up to everyone's personal taste, to like it or not.
Where to stay in Puerto Escondido?
I stayed for two weeks in Puerto, since I needed a good internet connection. Hostel Selina has really fast Wi-Fi and you don't need to sleep there to use it. Of course you can, but it is 25 USD for a dorm bed.
I stayed at Casa Punta which had a nice family vibe thanks to the volunteers. It's the perfect place to meet other people. Dorms are 19 USD and private rooms 42 USD per night. Directly across is Hostal Akumal which belongs to the same owner (18 USD per night) . The best part about it is the rooftop.
La Punta has definitely one of the best sunsets in Mexico...
If you don't want to stay in the busy area of La Punta, the area around the beautiful beach Carrizalillo is a bit more quiet. Tower Bridge Hostel costs 13 USD/night and comes with its own swimming pool and a delicious breakfast (for an extra 3 USD).
Another cheap hostel (where you can also camp) is Hostal Shalom.
Are you planning to go to Mexico during Covid? You can enter the country neither needing a Covid-test nor vaccination. In the bigger cities there are certain regulations in place like wearing a mask or social distancing, but overall the country offers a really free travel experience.
2. Laguna de Chacahua
What can I say about this place.. I planned to stay there for a weekend and ended up staying for almost 4 months. It was absolute paradise for me!
Chacahua is about 2 hours North-West of Puerto Escondido. It's a lagoon that can only be reached by boat, so it certainly feels like island life there.
It has its own community which needs to be respected. Although there are only a few houses there, over the past two years it has grown immensely. I hope it keeps its authentic vibe...
For surfers Chacahua offers everything they can dream of. You have an awesome point break to the right which is pretty consistent as well. If it's working you can surf a really long wave. If you're a beginner, it's also a good place to catch your first white-water waves.
Apart from surfing and chilling there is not much to do. There are almost no cars, so it is a very relaxed place and perfect to have bonfires on the beach.
In Chacahua you can watch the sun rise...
and set (from the lighthouse on the other side)...
The only tour I'd recommend doing there is the bioluminescence tour. At night a boat takes you through the lagoon where you can see tiny plankton glowing in the water. It's an incredible experience!
Where to stay?
In Chacahua you book everything on site. The most time I stayed at Surf Camp Chacahua where you can sleep for 4 USD/night in a hammock or tent. It has a really chill family vibe...
If you're looking for a cabaña Terra Tipi is a good address.
How to get there
From Puerto Escondido (location) you can take a mini-van (approx. 1 h, 70 pesos) which let's you off at the main street here. There are taxis already waiting that bring you to the harbor in Zapotalito (10 mins, 25 pesos)
From there you have two options:
1) Direct boat (approx. 30 - 45 mins, 200 pesos; beautiful views of the lagoon)
2) Short boat ride (10 mins, 50 pesos) & colectivo (approx. 30 - 45 mins, 50 pesos)
Mazunte is another beautiful beach along the coast of Oaxaca.
To put it in plain words: While Puerto is all about surfing and party, Mazunte is about yoga and cacao ceremonies (of course it is simplified a lot).
Similar to Puerto Escondido, it used to be a small village with not so many tourists and it was indeed a "pueblo mágico". However, over the past years it has grown immensely. For me it was a bit too much, so I moved on to Zipolite (where it was also easier to find cheap accommodation). I haven't stayed in Mazunte, but Cabañas Balamjuyuc Mazunte Ecohostel offers dorm beds for 12 USD/night.
I really liked the beach in Mazunte. One part is a small bay surrounded by cliffs which felt a bit like a hidden pirate bay for me.
From Punta Cometa you have an awesome sunset view...
The walk to get there leads along some cliffs overlooking the ocean...
How to get there
Mazunte is only an hour drive from Puerto Escondido. You can take a public bus for 80 pesos from the main road in Puerto.
By car it takes about 15 mins from Mazunte to Zipolite. We camped there directly at the beach for a few nights which was only 120 pesos/night.
Zipolite is a nudist beach where it's totally accepted to either be naked or keeping your clothes on...
The waves can get quite big there. We had a lot of fun swimming and jumping in the waves. It offers also a little bit of surf, but more suitable for advanced surfers...
Zipolite is famous for its beach parties! It is not uncommon to party until sunrise...
Between Mazunte and Zipolite is another beautiful beach called San Agustinillo. It is a bit quieter than the other two...
5. Oaxaca de Juárez
Oaxaca de Juárez is the capital of Oaxaca state. It is well-known for its food and culture.
Free things to do in Oaxaca city
You can explore the city walking around or take a free walking tour, every day at 11 am starting at the main square (Zócalo) in front of hotel Marqués de Valle.
Visiting one of the many markets is a perfect opportunity to get an impression of everyday life in Oaxaca. Mercado 20 de Noviembre is one of the biggest, but there are many smaller ones around the city where you can submerge yourself and experience all different kinds of tastes, sights, sounds and smells...
Furthermore, there is a lookout (Cerro del Fortin) from which you have a an excellent view of the city.
Coffee & cacao
Oaxaca is one of the cities in Mexico with the best coffee culture. You can find nice cafés and restaurants at every corner.
If you're not into coffee, there is also a lot of high-quality cacao which you can enjoy as a hot chocolate or buy 100 % raw at really decent prices.
Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Oaxaca
If you happen to be in Mexico on the second of November, Oaxaca is an awesome place to be! A friend of mine was there and she was simply amazed by how the whole city went crazy celebrating this day. The streets are filled with people, in different costumes, dancing, all having a good time...
Where to stay in Oaxaca city?
Like in San Cristóbal there is also an Iguana Hostel in Oaxaca city. It is a bit bigger and more of a party hostel than the one in San Cristóbal. Azul Cielo Hostel is a cozy sociable hostel as well. Both cost 11 USD/night for a dorm bed and come with free breakfast. They also offer private rooms (30 USD at Iguana and 53 USD at Azul Cielo).
6. Hierve el Agua (Day-Trip)
About 2 hours outside of Oaxaca city you can find this natural wonder: Hierve El Agua. It is a set of rock formations that resemble cascades of water...
One of the highlights there is a pool where you can swim and that offers an amazing view of the surrounding area...
How to get there
About 2 hours outside of Oaxaca city Hierve el Agua is basically in the middle of nowhere. Nevertheless you can get there by public transport.
First, you need to take a bus from this bus terminal to Mitla. It is 20 pesos (~ 1 USD) and takes about an hour.
From Mitla you can take another colectivo to Hierve el Agua which takes 30 mins and costs 40 pesos.
7. Mitla Ruins & Tree of Tule (Day-Trip)
Mitla literally means the "place of the dead" or "underworld". What makes this place unique are its elaborate mosaics. The geometric designs cover tombs, panels and entire walls...
The entrance fee is 65 pesos (~ 3.50 USD). If you're interested in archeological sites, Mitla is definitely worth a stop!
Tree of Tule - World's "largest" tree
About 30 mins out of city you can find the world's "largest" tree. Why quotation marks? It is not the largest tree, at least not by height or volume. It has the widest girth with a diameter of 14 meters.
Scientific measurements aside, it is a really majestic and impressive tree that is definitely worth visiting...
How to get there
You need to take a bus from this bus terminal to Mitla. It is 20 pesos (~ 1 USD) and takes about an hour. When you get off at the Mitla bus station it is about 20 mins walking to get to the ruins.
Tree of Tule
To get to Tule simply catch any local bus on Boulevard Jose Vasconcelos (Highway 190) that has written "Tule" on it. It takes about 30 mins and costs 7 pesos.
It is definitely possible to combine the three attractions (Hierve el Agua, Mitla Ruins and Tule Tree) on one day trip if you start early. They are all on the same way.
8. San José del Pacífico
San José del Pacífico is a small village up in the Oaxacan mountains. It is a convenient stop if you go from Puerto Escondido to Oaxaca (or vice versa).
The mushrooms are one of the reasons why this village got quite famous among backpackers...
If you want to take some fresh ones, it is best to come during the rainy season between July - October. However during the rest of the year you can get dried ones (which might be less effective).
The locals of the area use them as natural medicine, for example in traditional ceremonies like Temazcal.
NOTE: I can totally recommend doing a traditional temazcal-ceremony. You sit in a small wood cabin (sweat lodge) around hot coals singing some mantras to cleanse yourself of bad energies. It is about 150 pesos (~ 6 USD) in San José.
San José is surrounded by beautiful nature and offers a lot of amazing hikes around the area. I definitely recommend hiking to the near-by village San Mateo.
Enjoy some quiet time
I've heard from several people that they thought San Jose had a special energy. Maybe due to the low phone reception, the magic mushrooms or the beautiful nature around. It is definitely a place where you can take time for yourself, look inwards and relax far away from the hectic world out there.
Where to stay?
One of the most beautiful and most special hostels to stay in Mexico is Bostel Rancho Viejo!
In case you're wondering what a "bostel" is... it is a combination of the Spanish word"bosque" (forest) and hostel. It feels like your own cabin in the woods, but at the same time like a really sociable place.
It combines modern and natural wood elements well and it has a fire pit outside, simply a beautiful place and for sure worth the money (20 USD/night).
It can get chilly at night, so you might wanna ask for an extra blanket.
How to get there
As I already mentioned San José is between Oaxaca and the coast (Puerto Escondido). From these two cities you can reach it quite easily by car or bus.
1. From Puerto Escondido
There is no direct bus from Puerto Escondido to San José. First, you need to take a bus from Puerto to Pochutla which takes about 1.5 hours and costs 60 pesos (~ 3 USD). The bus leaves every 20 mins at the main road near the big supermarket Chedraui.
In Pochutla you need to take a shuttle to San José which takes another 3 hours and costs 150 pesos (~ 7 USD).
2. From Oaxaca
From Oaxaca you can go directly by shuttle to San José. It takes about 3 hours and costs 100 pesos (~ 5 USD).
NOTE: From either side it's a windy mountain road that gets you there, so prepare yourself (and maybe take a motion sickness pill).
Another beach area which is definitely worth mentioning - Huatulco and its coastline!
The city of Huatulco itself is not that exciting. It's quite touristic, but there are not many backpackers around...
From the center it's about 30 mins walking to the main beach Playa Santa Cruz. It was quite crowded and felt really touristic as well.
The real beauty comes once you leave Huatulco and explore the coast outside the city. I can say Bahía de Cacaluta was one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever been to!
Crystal-clear, turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and absolutely nobody around... An absolute dream!
To get there you need to take a taxi until the end of the beach road (approx. 20 mins, 70 pesos). From there it is another 30 mins walk through a nice forest until you end up in paradise.
Where to stay?
In Huatulco you can stay at Hostel Azul y Blanco. For 12 USD/night it has all the facilities you need. But as I said earlier Huatulco itself is not the best place to meet other young backpackers.
How to get there
From Mexico City you can either fly (~30 - 70 USD) or take an ADO bus to Puerto Escondido and go from there to Huatulco (~ 60 USD).
From Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido or San Cristóbal (Chiapas) there are also ADO buses (~ 15 - 30 USD).
10. San Agustin
If you're looking to spend some relaxed days at a calm beach, San Agustin might be just perfect for you. It is only 1.5 hours away from Huatulco.
At midday the bay is visited by some tourist boats, but from late afternoon until the next morning you have the beach almost to yourself.
In San Agustin the water is very clear and you can swim (and snorkel) around the rocks.
At Bahía Riscalillo you can snorkel as well. It's about an hour walking to get there.
Definitely watch the sunset from the other side of the bay. It's beautiful!
Where to stay?
In San Agustin we camped at Don Taco which is basically on the beach and run by a Dutch couple. You can rent a tent or use your own. It's the perfect place to chill in a hammock and spend a few lazy beach days...
How to get to there
From Mexico City you can fly to Huatulco International Airport (~30 - 70 USD). From there you can take a taxi to San Agustin or try to catch the local bus.
How long does it take to visit all these places?
You can do this itinerary in 4 - 6 weeks, but obviously it really depends on your travel pace. You might wanna chill for 2 weeks in Chacahua for example...
If you still have time, you can go to Chiapas which is an overnight bus-ride away from Puerto Escondido or Oaxaca.
Heading to Guatemala afterwards?
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Safe travels and enjoy your trip!!