Oaxaca’s Magic Coast
I blew a big kiss
to Oaxaca City, my host
and boarded the van
headed straight for the coast.
Past tiny quaint villages
through the mountains we wove
I began speaking openly
with the local who drove.
We spoke of the stars
of the changing Earth and tides
and with what he said next
I thought I had died.
Here in the mountains
in the middle of Mexico
he began to tell me something
I heard in Costa Rica weeks ago.
He told me there were children
born from the crystals under the eclipse
here to light the way for the rest of us
like indigo flashlights through the mist.
And I wondered how it was possible
that a bus driver who had never traveled
was relaying the same message
a healer told me in another part of the world.
This prophecy for positivity an uplifting meditation
confirmation that the Earth is raising its vibration.
Little did I know right then
that I was on my way to a magical land
where an entire lifetime happens
within a single day span.
In Zipolite I arrived that first afternoon
where the waves are violent and strong
as the vultures circled above me
I knew I was where I belonged.
I watched the fabulous, the rich, and the nude
vacation in luxury with nothing to do
by the next day I followed their lead
and checked into a cabana right on the beach.
I wandered until I found a hidden cove to swim
then treated myself to a two hour rub down.
Under the stars I dined with myself
I smiled at the sea in a state of utter bliss
and thanked Zipolite for giving me this gift.
But life on the road said it was time to go
to learn something new somewhere new
to the hippie haven Mazunte I rode
in a passing truck I saw my Oaxaca City crew.
I took it as a sign that I was going the right way
and immediately I found the perfect place to stay.
A funky traveler spot overlooking the ocean
my bed swung suspended from the ceiling
I dropped off my bags and headed for the beach
as I walked I got a funny feeling.
Behind me I saw a man
who I had noticed checking in at reception
eventually at the beach’s dead end
we arrived at the same destination.
It turns out this European man with jaguar tattoos
lived in Mexico off and on for ages
so enchanted with the Mayan culture
he lived in the jungle to learn from the sages.
Like a child my eyes grew wide
“tell me everything!” I replied.
As we burned on the beach under the hot sun
he told me about the Mayan beliefs that he loved.
He wanted to learn yoga
so I led him though a breathing exercise
we inhaled and exhaled with the ocean
to connect with the force that keeps us alive.
We each had the files that the other one needed
and under that palm tree we happily traded.
The next day came and it was his time to wander
so I bid farewell to my tattoed Latvian brother.
Then I climbed up the hill to practice some yoga
in San Augustinillo at a very sacred center.
We held energetic postures
for longer than I knew how to stay
then surrendered in savasana
I entered the 11/11 11:11 doorway.
The sun melted down and she beckoned me closer
I went into the forest and emerged at the ocean.
I walked to the point
of sacred ceremonies from the past
I felt the energy of the shamans
and all of the spells they cast.
Crowds of people sat honoring the sun
strangers no matter I felt community with everyone.
And after I walked that winding grassy path
to the ocean with no one where I could cry at last.
The moon she was new and showing her shadow
After so long without a single tear
I let myself sit with every single fear.
I cried for everything that I didn’t want to let go
I cried for everything I was afraid I’d never know.
I looked to the ocean with each crashing wave
and thanked her and embraced her as she washed it all away.
The next morning I knew
I had received my medicinal dose
again I packed my bags
and went further up the coast.
Puerto Escondido greeted me with a bit of a shock
the city and development made me feel lost.
So an angel came to help me to know where to go
dressed in the costume of a So Cal surf bro.
But somehow I knew that it wasn’t my place
and there were other things that I needed to face.
Still I felt full of anxiety and worry
I wondered if I was leaving in too much of a hurry
I called to my angels and asked them again
please show me that I’m guided by a greater plan.
Moments after asking the blessings came flowing
I felt such peace and a deep sense of knowing.
I trusted that I should go because I felt it in my heart
that this was the time for a brand new start.
So… Which Beach on Oaxaca’s Coast is Best for You?
Oaxaca’s coast has a beach for everyone, but when researching which one was right for me, I wasn’t finding much information. So I decided to visit them all. Puerto Escondido, the surf and party town, Mazunte, the most natural and yoga centric, and Zipolite, with a very chill vibe and a nude beach. Here’s the best and the worst of each of Oaxaca’s sweet little beach spots.
Puerto Escondido: Waves and Babes
If you’re looking for world famous waves and the best party scene on the coast, head to Puerto Escondido. Arguably the top place in Mexico for expert surfers, Playa Zicatela has some of the most intense and exhilarating waves anywhere. Before I went to Puerto Escondido, people warned me that it was overdeveloped and very touristic, and compared to Zipolite and Mazunte it definitely is. However, it’s still very chill by most standards, and nothing on the beach is built over two stories high.
La Punta, at the far end of Puerto Escondido, maintains the small town feel of Mazunte and Zipolite but with a surfer vibe. In the day the beach is a bit of a ghost town, but by sunset the surfers fill the ocean and the entire community comes together to watch. Nearby beach coves like Playa Manzanillo are great swimming spots, but they tend to be quite touristic and crowded.
Pros of Staying in Puerto Escondido
World class surf and waves for varying levels
Best party scene on the coast
Best options for clean, affordable accommodation
Great sunsets and community atmosphere
Conveniently located to the airport and bus stations
Cons of Staying in Puerto Escondido
You can see the city lights from the beach at night
Less magical/mystical atmosphere than Mazunte or Zipolite
More spread out and not as easy to walk everywhere
My Top Recommendations in Puerto Escondido
I highly recommend staying in La Punta, which has more of a community atmosphere than the rest of Puerto Escondido. It’s just a single dirt road with hostels, bungalows, and restaurants, and located right in front of an intermediate level surf break. In La Punta I ate at Lychee, a Thai restaurant with yummy food, sand floors, and very cool vibe.
I stayed at One Love Hostel, which is admittedly in the middle of nowhere (about a 20 minute walk from La Punta or a 15 minute collectivo ride from town) but nonetheless it’s one of the nicest hostels I’ve ever stayed at. The space is spotless, has a gorgeous yoga platform with excellent instructors, the restaurant has some of the best food in Puerto Escondido, and the people who run it are lovely. Even if you don’t stay the night, I recommend coming in for dinner. If you do stop in, tell Nico (the French owner) and Mike (my So Cal bro) I say hello.
Puerto Escondido has a pretty solid health scene, and you can stock up on amazing treats, snacks, organic produce, and every beauty product at a little health food store in La Punta (the area is so small you can’t miss it.) Just outside of La Punta you can stay at The Sanctuary for ongoing drop in retreats and cleanses. They have daily yoga, meditation, and healthy vegan food. In town you can also check out Spirulina for healthy smoothies and salads.
Most people come to Puerto Escondido for the surf, but you can also do the typical snorkel tours (offered all along the coast). Unique to Puerto Escondido is the opportunity to swim in a lagoon with phosphorescent plankton. I didn’t do this tour but apparently it’s amazing during New Moon.
Mazunte: Hippie Heaven
You immediately feel the vibe of Mazunte when you walk the dusty road down to the beach. A melting pot of expats and travelers converge at the French bakery in the morning and at the mezcaleria at night. You’re bound to meet at least one shaman and to befriend all kinds of unexpected characters.
Pleasantly, Mazunte’s beaches are more swimmable than Zipolite and Puerto Escondido, but you do need to watch for the strong currents and rocks. Of all of the towns in this area, Mazunte manages to have the most nature, with the protected Punta Cometa, virgin beaches, and turtle nesting grounds. It’s also full of yoga, healers, and alternative culture.
Pros of Staying in Mazunte
Amazing nature and viewpoints, especially the Punta Cometa
Alternative, hippie “traveler” vibe
Best place to experience local culture of the three towns
Excellent yoga center close by, lots of yoga in the town
Easy to walk everywhere
Very close to Zipolite, five minute taxi ride, and you can walk to San Augustinillo
Cons of Staying in Mazunte
Less beachfront accommodation options than Zipolite and Puerto Escondido
Closest airport is in Puerto Escondido, an hour and a half away
My Top Recommendations in Mazunte
The best way to feel Mazunte, is to simply wander and see what you discover. It’s very hot with little shade in the day, so many people choose to hide out under an umbrella on the main beach in town, or take a boat tour to snorkel with dolphins and turtles. You can also visit the turtle center on the main road and the famous Cosmeticos de Mazunte with tons of local, all natural products from sunscreen to shampoo.
Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to visit the beaches, especially Playa Mermelita just beside the Punta Cometa. At sunset walking out along the Punta Cometa is a stunning, spiritual experience. Crowds come to all enjoy the view in silence.
In mid November there’s an international Jazz festival, which brings all kinds of talent, vendors, yoga, and parties. However, the town completely fills up so be sure to have accommodation booked ahead of time. (My mistake!)
About a fifteen minute walk from town on the way to San Augustinillo, you’ll find Hridaya Yoga Center, an incredible healing sanctuary. They host retreats, workshops, yoga teacher trainings, drop in yoga classes, and free sunrise meditations. There is an amazing community here and the teaching is exceptional, albeit very alternative.
Just walk the main drag and you’ll find plenty of restaurants offering anything from homestyle Mexican to refined French Cuisine. My favorite place in Mazunte is El Tiburon, with a huge menu of green juices and smoothies, plus all kinds of superfoods. Just next door you’ll find ultra popular La Baguette with very affordable and unbelievably delicious French pastries and fresh baked bread. It’s especially busy in the morning when locals spill out onto the street drinking coffee and nibbling on quiche. Two doors over is the sweet lil mezcaleria Las Tortuguitas with all kinds of craft mezcal on offer.
For a “real” dinner La Cuisine does a beautiful three course dinner melding French technique with local Mexican ingredients. The chocolate cake is one of the best I’ve tasted in my life. Fish Taco El Rey serves up cheap and delicious tacos and oddly… Thai curry. Also check out Ek Balam and say hi to my friend Emi, the “Jaguar Shaman” who cooks up only what’s fresh that day and occasionally organizes temescal.
During my time in Mazunte, I stayed at Posada de Arquitecto ($5 for a dorm bed, $20 and up for cabana), a hip and rustic hostel right on the main beach. The rooms are basic yet stylish (albeit a bit overpriced), and the restaurant has a great view of the ocean. They have yoga every morning (more traditional style, don’t expect Vinyasa flow, lol) sometimes in Spanish sometimes in English depending on the students. For cheap digs on the beach, check out Hostal La Isla ($10-$15). For something more upscale, check out the eco friendly cabanas at El Copal ($60 and up) on Playa Mermelita.
Zipolite: Let it all Hang Out
Zipolite is most famous for its nude beach set in a dramatic cove where waves crash against giant rocks. Most of the beach is developed, though it manages to be the least populated of all of the towns. It certainly has the greatest vacation vibe. The ocean is very rough here, but you can bodyboard and surf, or just sit around and do nothing. Which is really the lovely thing about Zipolite. It’s a place to do nothing.
Pros of Staying in Zipolite
Very relaxed atmosphere
Amazing yoga spa (L’Alchemista)
Waves for surfing and body boarding
Very close to Mazunte and San Augustinillo, five minute taxi ride
Cons of Staying in Zipolite
No direct view of the sunset
Pretty developed beach
Hard to swim
Closest airport is in Puerto Escondido, an hour and a half away
My Top Recommendations in Zipolite
The ocean may be rough for swimming, but if you stick to the little cove down by Playa del Amor you can float and play safely. Most locals go into the ocean at Playa del Amor or at the opposite end of the beach with surf boards or body boards. It’s also nice to walk up the cliff behind the town to check out the little private beach cove where you can sometimes swim depending on the conditions. There are also twice daily snorkeling and boat tours that take you to see dolphins, turtles, and whales when in season.
If you can afford it, there’s really no better place to stay than El Alchemista. The beautiful, simple, beachfront cabanas (starting at $70) have porches with hammocks overlooking the ocean. The restaurant sits on the sand surrounded by candles at night with an extremely friendly staff. Oh, and they have yoga classes every morning and a spectacular spa. I took myself on my “honeymoon” at El Alchemista, and I can’t imagine a better one. The highlight was my two hour deep tissue massage plus crystal healing with Illuvia, easily one of the best massages I’ve ever had in my life.
Right beside El Alchemista are the more budget options Lo Cosmico (cabanas for around $20) and the hippie sanctuary with stunning views Shambhala ($5 for dorm, $15 for private). During high season, Shambhala has daily guided meditation and a unique traveler scene. I also stayed at Castillo Oasis (rooms starting at $20), a very darling place, impeccably clean, and with so many wonderful touches that make it feel like home. I adore the owner, from Austria, who treated me like family. It’s a great deal for the price. The only downside is that it’s not on the beach, and it’s about a 30 minute walk from the other hotels and restaurants.
And with that you have it. The good the beautiful and the naked of Oaxaca’s best beach towns. Ready to explore them yourself? Or have you been to Oaxaca’s Magic Coast already? Which beach was your favorite? Let us know in the comments! xo