Along the Pacific Coast in the Mexican state of Oaxaca is a stretch of shoreline full of golden sand, wildlife, and relaxed vibes. All you need is a swimsuit and a no-frills attitude to enjoy this piece of paradise.
Boutique hotels, hammocks, and weathered wooden chairs line the beaches instead of commercial high-rises catering to all-inclusive stays. The area has the right balance of affordability resulting in a steady stream of backpackers and budget travelers from around the world.
Brad and I beach hopped over a three-week period to five locations: Zipolite, San Agustinillo, Mazunte, Puerto Escondido, and Huatulco. Each town has its own unique character and easy pace. The hardest part will be deciding which to visit!
Let it all hang out, and I mean that literally, at Playa Zipolite. This nude beach caters to a crowd that isn't afraid to bare themselves, whether during a casual conversation or refreshing dip. Leave the tan lines behind!
Although I didn't have the guts to untie my bikini, I felt a sense of empowerment by the people who did. Their freedom was infectious even as I averted my eyes while strolling the beach each afternoon.
One of the great aspects of Zipolite is the lack of organized activities. Occupy your time with sunbathing, cocktails, and fresh ceviche. A neat spot for swimming is nearby Playa del Amor which has a beautiful cove surrounded by rock cliffs.
I highly recommend Hotel Descalzo for a quiet stay. The 12 cabins are steps away from the beach and feature comfortable amenities. I took full advantage of the deep bathtub on multiple occasions. Its beach bar, brunch restaurant, and exclusive guest loungers with thatched umbrellas made everything stress-free.
The jewel of the Oaxaca coast is undoubtedly Playa San Agustinillo. The main road through town, Calle Principal, has several restaurants and small hotels. It's impossible to get lost and a wonderful place to unplug.
Grab a few drinks at the bodega before claiming a spot at nearby Playa de los Elefantes. Vendors often walk by selling empanadas and ice cream cones if you need a snack. The manageable waves offer enjoyable swimming conditions. I felt pure joy diving into the surf!
This town is very peaceful with a convenient location. Zipolite, to the east, is a ten-minute drive away and Mazunte, to the west, is only a fifteen-minute walk.
Calling all modern-day hippies! This hangout has the perfect blend of eclectic restaurants, trendy shops, and yoga studios. A hotspot on the coast, Mazunte enthralls your spirit with its chill atmosphere and turquoise water.
Head to Playa Rinconcito and experience the colorful atmosphere. Rent an umbrella, order a cerveza, and catch a whiff of Mary Jane. Melt away your troubles on the warm sand while listening to a backpacker strum on his guitar.
Oaxaca has a plethora of wildlife including five species of sea turtles. The Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga is a rehabilitation center for injured ones. The outdoor habitats and indoor aquarium provide an up close look for $41 pesos ($2 USD) per person.
A must-do activity is the hike at Punta Cometa to see stunning rock cliffs and fiery sunsets. Multiple lookout points offer breathtaking views of the coastline. Alcohol is strictly prohibited and bags are subject to search at the entrance. Come early for a good seat!
The biggest and most popular of the Oaxaca beach towns is the carefree surf hub of Puerto Escondido. Plus the domestic airport makes getting here easy. With so many beaches to explore and seafood tacos to devour it's no wonder travelers make an appearance.
One of the best areas to stay in is Punta Zicatela. The beach here is ideal for surf lessons and mesmerizing sunsets. Hole-in-the-wall restaurants and bars along unpaved roads offer delicious options. My favorite mouth-watering meal was the griddled coco al ajillo shrimp tacos at Fish Shack La Punta. Yum!
Descend the 157 steps to the tranquil cove of Playa Carrizalillo to experience a little slice of heaven. The cove is perfect for swimming and snorkeling. A few bars line the beach, but it's best to bring snacks or eat before you arrive since options are limited.
Journey to Playa Coral for an unforgettable day at a secluded beach. The entrance is through the Villa Mexicana Hotel, which charges a fee of $80 pesos ($4 USD) per person. Included in the price is a hamburger with fries or couple of beers. You can also gain access for free via Playa Bacocho.
Don't let the adjacent deteriorating waterpark and buildings intimidate you from uncovering this hidden oasis. It's the perfect place to mellow out and take an afternoon nap. Look for small fish seeking refuge from the waves in the tide pools on the west side.
Afterwards, walk approximately 20 minutes west along the shoreline towards Playa Bacocho for an unforgettable opportunity. Vive Mar, a conservation organization, works to monitor sea turtle eggs in a protected enclosure safe from poachers and animals.
Beginning at 5:00 PM, for $100 pesos ($5 USD), you can release a hatched baby sea turtle into the Pacific Ocean. This remarkable activity is available every day since olive ridley turtles breed consistently throughout the year. Our turtle, Leonidas, made a successful trek into the surf after a few tumbles. To experience such a magical moment was a highlight of my life!
Bahías de Huatulco
The gorgeous nine bays along Parque Nacional Huatulco are often overlooked by tourists due to its inconvenient location. The main town, La Crucecita, is where you'll want to stay to have access to the beaches, national park, and marina.
It's a popular vacation spot for locals and our visit during Easter weekend was crowded. Even so, the low-key area is easy to navigate and the biodiversity makes it worthwhile. Adventure seekers will feel right at home with scuba diving, hiking, zip-lining, fishing, mountain biking, and river rafting.
We booked a boat tour along the bays which included a snorkeling stop at Bahía Chachacual. The shallow waters showcased a variety of marine life including sergeant majors, damselfish, black-nosed butterflyfish, and Cortez rainbow wrasses. We even spotted a humpback whale on our way back to port!
Taxis and colectivos (shared transportation) will be your go-to options for getting around the area if you don't rent a scooter or car. Booking a coach bus through OCC or ADO is a reliable method for longer distances.
Cash is king in the smaller beach towns so be sure to bring enough with you during your trip. ATMs are scarce and often out-of-order. However, some more established restaurants will take credit cards.
Each of the above beach towns has its own special charm and authentic appeal. Break away from the major destinations of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum to immerse yourself in the unspoiled coastline of Oaxaca!