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Must visit places in Oaxaca, Mexico

April 29, 2024
Alfie Laurence

Oaxaca is perfect for an all-rounded cultural relaxation trip in Mexico, thanks to its dependable sunshine, pretty towns, and ‘miles and miles’ of golden sand. It’s much cheaper than its popular counterpart, Yucutan, and likely to be a bit cooler too. Oaxaca (pronounced Wa-ha-ca) is the most ethnically and linguistically diverse province of Mexico. It’s wildly beautiful, rich in culture, and friendly. The country’s capital, Oaxaca de Juárez creams in so much history, beauty, and art, it can make your head spin. Its cobbled streets are reminiscent of its Spanish colonial past and it’s the birthplace of some of the most delicious, organic and tasteful foods around. Let’s discuss the must visit places in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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Hierve el Agua

Oaxaca de Juárez

Oaxaca de Juárez has kept hold of its colonial past and historical architecture throughout the centuries, and this is notable at first glance as you wander through the clunky, cobbled streets and grand plazas. Oaxaca is extremely colourful and is a UNESCO heritage location. Once you’ve settled into one of the many comfortable and friendly hostels such as Iguana, Ticuchi, or Azul Cielo, you can weave your way through the streets on one of the many free walking tours around the city. Its culture is interesting, and the city has a vibrant art scene. Oaxaca’s culinary reputation within Mexico deserves more recognition. The gastronomical experience in the city has deep local roots, and whichever food tour you decide to take will transport you to a wide range of the best spots in town. You may start at the Mercado Orgánico, a hidden courtyard behind a shop, which takes you into a stall-based local sourced food market. Make sure you try a tlayuda, mole negro, and mole rojo, memela and my favorite chicken tinga… Yum!

Some tours that are the most popular in and around the city include visits to Árbol de Tule, Hierve el Agua, which is a set of cliffs and rock formations in the shape of petrified falls, and a tour of a local mezcal plantation, e.g. Mal de Amor (see photo.)  Tours run daily around the city and in the outskirts every day. There are some fantastic eateries in Oaxaca: Los Muchitos, Tastavins, El Tendajon, Origen, Calabacitas Tiernas. Late night cocktails at La Madre, La Casa del Agave, and live music at Nueva Babel. Oh, and your favorite dancing bar Txalaparta & Herr Tlacuache! Thank you to my friend Emily for helping me compiles these lovely recommendations.

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Our Tour out to the Mezcal fields at Mal de Amor

San José del Pacifica

A few hours climb into the cordillera above Oaxaca, you’ll weave your way through pine forest until it feels like you’re touching the sky. You will notice the change in altitude as well as the change in air cleanliness. It’s fresh, it’s cooler and it feels amazing. San José del Pacifica is a mountain village, inhabited NY the indigenous people, The Zapotecs. The main activity to do here is magic mushrooms. If you’re planning to take magic mushrooms in San José del Pacifico,  just make sure you do some research, speak to some people to get the best recommendations of where to buy. The cost varies between 400-800 pesos depending on the dose. July to October is mushroom season and when fresh ones are most commonly available. You’ll see a lot of street art and murals of mushrooms around the town so it’s no secret. The number 1 place to buy magic mushrooms – recommended by plenty of travellers – is Rubi’s. 2 or 3 nights in San José del Pacifico is enough to enjoy the newly built Bostel Rancho Viejo. The hill side chalets feel like ‘cloud-forest-canopy’ tress houses, their surroundings are so lush, and the warmth of a glass of wine and a fire at night is at your fingertips; it’s a haven for relaxation. The town itself is small, only one street or so. There are restaurants and supermarkets.

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Campfire Setting at Bostel Rancho Viejo

The main activity involves a cracker of a footpath that runs through the heart of the Bosque Nido de Águila or the Eagle’s Nest Forest. It’s about an hour and a half summit and it can be quite steep, depending on the route you take. The ‘mystical’ forest is a haven for wildlife and insects. Make sure to download ‘Maps.me’ before you head up there just so you know where to descend. It can be tricky. The geology and biodiversity of the region is phenomenal. You have dry woodland with trees reaching over 40m and wet, cold marshland; sounds a delight and it certainly is. On a clear day, find your way to one of the Miradors to get a view of the coast. That’s where we’re heading now.

San José del Pacifico really is a special place and, for me, a must visit place in Oaxaca. I’d had an intense few days socializing and partying in Oaxaca de Juarez and so it was really nice to feel the stillness of nature up in the hills.

Puerto Escondido

For me, Puerto Escondido is a must visit place in Oaxaca Province. It boasts a lively, young, up-beat ambience, helped by its late-night clubbing culture and party scene along Zicatela beach front. As a place that is ever expanding and becoming a permanent home for many American and European expats, you’ll quickly see why there is such a pull. La Punta Zicatela is the modern, vibrant part of town with sushi bars, up-market taco restaurants and independent, boutique, shops. Wine and dine at one of the beach-facing spots and enjoy the sunset with a game of volleyball outside of Punta Vida hostel. Jungle wrapped bays of white, sandy beaches with water clear that swimming feels like floating in mid-air. If you’re a surfer, keep an eye on the swell and head over to one of the many beaches. For the best fish tacos, head to Fish Shack. For cocktails, its Mombasa. For late night dancing it’s Cactus and Mar y Wane. You’d be a fool not to be there for a weekend boogie. Stylish accommodation is not in short supply, either – you may want to rent an AirBnB on the beach front or go for a more sociable hostel vibe like Casa Punta.

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Playa Manzanillo

Laguna de Chacahua

Possibly one of the most up-and-coming spots in Mexico is Laguna de Chacahua. It’s beautiful, it has great surf and rustic charm, and that’s why I’d say it’s a must visit place in Oaxaca. Access is only by bus, then taxi, then boat, you swerve through shrub and mangroves to arrive at this very modest town. The west side faces the Laguna and the east side faces the sea. Phone signals and light pollution both fall away in Chacahua, making it a wonderful place to contemplate the night sky. There’s plenty to do in the area by day, including kayaking and surfing. The sunrise on the beach is outrageous and there are camping grounds and hammocks all along the town. It’s a great space for beginners’ surf and by night there are bioluminescence tours. A few nights are plenty, there is no ATM or Wi-Fi on the lagoon so enjoy a few days to disconnect and ride the waves, dude.

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Sunrise on Chacahua
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Written by

Alfie Laurence
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