The Best of Oaxaca
This two-week adventure explores Oaxaca’s most fascinating, charming, and simply beautiful places. First-time visitors will want to spend their time in and around Oaxaca City and valley and enjoy a few days relaxing on the coast.
Although you could successfully begin this itinerary most any day of the week, the ideal would be to plan your Thursday, Friday, and Sunday for visiting the Valley of Oaxaca towns of Zaachila, Ocotlán, and Tlacolula, when their tianguis (native markets) are at their biggest and best. The itinerary below starts in Oaxaca City on a Monday.
Monday: Arrive in Oaxaca City. Stroll the zócalo (central plaza), visiting the cathedral and mysterious Santa Cruz de Huatulco at the Catedral de Oaxaca. Take a table and enjoy the scene and dinner at a plaza-front café, or at Casa de la Abuela upstairs.
Tuesday: After breakfast, stroll through the Mercado Juárez and continue to the adjacent San Juan de Dios church and market. Return uphill along Andador Macedonio Alcalá, sampling the handicrafts shops and the sights (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Ex-Convento de Santa Catalina). Enjoy lunch at the Hostería de Alcalá restaurant.
Spend the full afternoon at the church and museum in the Centro Cultural de Santo Domingo. Eat dinner at either Los Pacos restaurant or Manantial Vegetariana. In the evening, take in a Guelaguetza folkloric dance performance.
Wednesday: Follow your individual interests. For arts and handicrafts, check out the shops and galleries you missed on Day 2, or visit the Museo de Rufino Tamayo or the ethno-botanical garden by the Iglesia de Santo Domingo. For churches, visit the beloved San Agustín and the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad and its museum. During the evening, enjoy a music concert (Oaxaca State Band, Marimba Ensemble, or Oaxaca Orchestra) in the zócalo.
Alternatively, you might travel northwest of town, first to San José El Mogote archaeological zone and its community museum, continuing to the market at Etla, and then northwest to Suchilquitongo Community Museum and the Cerro de la Campana archaeological zone.
Thursday: By 8 a.m. head southwest to Zaachila to explore the archaeological site and the market. Have lunch at a Zaachila market food stall or La Capilla restaurant. Return via the Cuilapan de Guerrero church and Arrazola woodcarver’s village.
Saturday: Enjoy a midmorning visit to Monte Albán. Allow around three hours, including the bookstore and museum. Eat lunch in the cafeteria or bring a picnic. Return downhill via Santa María Atzompa pottery village and handicrafts market.
Sunday: Head east early, first to the great El Tule tree. Continue to the wool textile store-workshops and community museum at Teotitlán del Valle. Have a noon lunch at Restaurant El Patio on the highway.
Since the Oaxaca coast stretches about 200 miles (320 km) from east to west, it’s best to divide your overnights between Puerto Ángel, on the east side, and Puerto Escondido, on the west side. Arrive in Puerto Ángel. Stroll the beachfront and follow the andador (walkway) to Playa Panteón for sunning, swimming, or snorkeling. Have dinner at Beto’s or Restaurant Alquimista.
Spend Day 9 enjoying the nearby beaches. Drive or bus west to Playa Zipolite and its diminutive Roca Blanca district. Breakfast at Restaurant San Cristóbal; swim, surf, and sun for an hour or two, and then continue via San Agustinillo village for a visit to the Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga at Mazunte. Stroll Mazunte village and beach; visit the Fábrica Ecología de Cosméticos Naturales de Mazunte, a cosmetics and soap factory. Have lunch or an early dinner at either Tanya’s or Armadillo restaurant.
On Day 10, drive, tour, or ride a colectivo to ]node:41161 link Crucecita] for a day in Huatulco; transfer to a taxi to Santa Cruz de Huatulco early enough to catch one of the excursion boats to tour Bahías de Huatulco. Return midafternoon and go to Crucecita for a walk around the plaza-front handicrafts shops and market. Dine at Restaurant La Crucecita, or splurge at the Italian Restaurant Giardino del Papa.
Travel west an hour to Puerto Escondido. Stroll the adoquín (pedestrian walkway) and soak in the scene from a shady beachfront restaurant. Catch a boat ride (or a taxi) for either or both Bahía Puerto Angelito and Bahía Carrizalillo for more beach fun, and lunch at a beachfront palapa restaurant. Head back east over to Playa Zicatela for a sunset dinner at the Hotel Santa Fe restaurant. Cap the evening with a balmy stroll, shopping, and nightclubbing along the adoquín.
On Day 12, head out for a wildlife-viewing excursion at Laguna Manialtepec by private tour, car, or bus (independent travelers get off and hire a boat at lagoon-front Isla El Gallo).
Depending on your own inclination, Day 13 might be a good time for simple poolside or beachfront relaxing, watching the daredevil surfers at Playa Zicatela or perusing the adoquín shops. If you’re up for adventure, enjoy a day (or overnight) excursion west to Lagunas de Chacahua or an upland overnight in either Nopala or Juquila, to visit Oaxaca’s adored Virgen de Juquila.
Wind down on Day 14 by taking a morning walk along Playa Zicatela or the seafront andador from the main Puerto Escondido beach. Alternatively, go on a fishing excursion, do some snorkeling at Playa Carrizalillo, get a scuba lesson, or ride horseback along Playa Zicatela.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition