Although Oaxaca has only a sprinkling of formally maintained places for camping, many inviting beach and inland country spots are customarily used informally. For camping locations, see the maps at the beginning of each destination section. For descriptions and details, see specific destinations.
Camping at beaches is popular among middle-class Mexican families, especially during the Christmas–New Year’s week and during Semana Santa, the week before Easter. Other times, tent and RV campers usually find prospective camping spots uncrowded. The best beach spots typically have a shady palm grove for camping and a palapa (palm-thatched) restaurant that serves drinks and fresh seafood. (Heads up for falling coconuts, especially in the wind.) Cost for parking and tenting is often minimal, typically only the price of food at the restaurant.
Beach days are often perfect for swimming, strolling, and fishing; nights are usually balmy—too warm for a sleeping bag, but fine for a hammock (which allows more air circulation than a tent). Good tents, however, keep out mosquitoes and other pests, which may be further discouraged with good bug repellent. Tents are generally warm inside, requiring only a sheet or light blanket for cover.
As for camping on isolated beaches, opinions vary, from dire warnings of bandidos to bland assurances that all is peaceful along the coast. The truth is probably somewhere in between. Trouble is most likely to occur in the vicinity of resort towns, notoriously, on the outskirt beaches of Puerto Escondido , where a few local thugs have harassed isolated campers.
When scouting out a place to camp, a good general rule is to arrive early enough in the day to get a feel for the place. Buy a soda at the palapa or nearby store and take a stroll around. Say “Buenos dias” to the people along the way; ask if the fishing is good: “¿Pesca buena?” Use your common sense. If the people seem friendly, ask if it’s seguro (safe). If so, ask permission: “¿Es bueno acampar acá?” (“Is it OK to camp around here?”). You’ll rarely be refused.
Visitors can still rent beachfront palapas (thatched houses) in Puerto Escondido  and Zipolite , near Puerto Ángel , adjoining Mazunte  and Ventanilla, and east of Puerto Escondido, at Roca Blanca  and Playa Chacahua. Amenities typically include beds or hammocks, a shady thatched porch, cold running water, a kerosene stove, and shared toilets and showers, for $10 per day per person.
The bad news is that security has been a problem in some palapas, notably at Puerto Escondido . The good news is that the Puerto Ángel  area has some of the better palapas, such as Lo Cósmico and Shambhala. The best news of all is that palapas are usually right on the beach, so you can walk right out your front door onto the sand, where surf, shells, and seabirds will be there to entertain you.
Oaxaca’s mountain and rural backcountry offer additional camping opportunities. Private owners and communities maintain picnic areas and informal campgrounds at choice sites, such as springs, waterfalls, caves, sabineras (cypress groves), and on rivers and reservoir shorelines.
Invariably, such inland sites are on private (particular—par-tee-koo-LAHR) or communal land. As a courtesy, you should obtain permission to set up camp either from the site manager, the closest neighboring restaurant or house, or at the nearest presidencia municipal or agencia. Such permission, sometimes for a small fee, is usually granted almost automatically. Please reciprocate by keeping your campfire, if permitted, modest and under control, respecting local etiquette (don’t swim or sunbathe in the nude), cleaning up thoroughly, and carrying away all your trash.
For an informative and entertaining discussion of camping in Mexico, check out The People’s Guide to Mexico by Carl Franz.
Campers who prefer company to isolation usually stay in trailer parks. Oaxaca has five modest but recommendable RV trailer parks: two in Oaxaca City , two in Zipolite  by the beach, near Puerto Ángel , and one in Puerto Escondido , on the beach.