Tourists are becoming more aware of the civil unrest in Mexico and are gravitating to the safer, more peaceful and beaches in the southern part of the country. The south-facing beaches that line the Pacific Coast on the Isthmus of Mexico still retain their authentic, small-town charm while offering all of the modern conveniences that you would expect in more popular locations. The following beachside towns and the areas nearby are just a small sample of what the Pacific Coast of Oaxaca, also known as the Playa Chica, has to offer.
Beaches of Oaxaca: The Bays of Huatulco
The full resort experience, complete with high-class restaurants and hotels, can be enjoyed in Huatulco and the several small towns that surround it. One of the two international airports in the province of Oaxaca is located here and the hospitality industry has taken advantage of this convenience, but only under the strict vigilance of local indigenous groups. Thus, development has been very restrained and you can enjoy a variety of beach and nature-related activities in an unspoiled environment. The nearby resorts offer fully guided tours to nearby markets and tourist attractions as well as typical beach activities like snorkeling and fishing. Enjoy rustic Mexican culture and its natural coastline during the day before retiring to your modern, air-conditioned resort at night.
Beaches of Oaxaca: Mazunte
Just north of the Bahais de Huatulco is Mazunte, a bright and beautiful little city that is dotted with colorful restaurants, a variety of hotels and activities for travelers. Everything from scuba diving to yoga retreats to vegetarian cooking classes can be found in Mazunte, but one thing you won’t find are large resorts. Instead, look for luxury in the upscale spas and apartment rentals perched on the edge of the main road. Mazunte is conveniently located between two other small cities that also have much to offer in the way of seaside fun and Mexican culture, San Augustanillo, and Zipolite.
San Augustanillo is definitely the more modern of the two and offers a choice of upscale spas and specialty shops and an impressive array of health spas, exercise studios, and hotels perched on picturesque cliffs. Head south to nearby Zipolite if you are a more budget-conscious traveler or looking for more Mexican authenticity. A getaway known for its bohemian collection of cheap and simple but authentic restaurants and hotels, the translation of the name means “Beach of the Dead” in the language of the local Mixtec tribe. Although this seems needlessly dramatic considering Zipolite’s peaceful, laid-back atmosphere it aptly describes nearby swimming conditions. The undertow here is notoriously strong and severely limits any opportunities for water sports or other related activities,
overpowering even the strongest swimmer. The gently curving beach is lined with stark red and yellow flags to mark the more and less dangerous spots. Better to stay on land instead and enjoy one of Mexico’s few nude beaches, complete with friendly vendors hocking handmade art, clothing, jewelry, and food. Be warned that Zipolite offers little in the way of modern amenities like air conditioning, bank machines, and internet access but still has a variety of choices for food and accommodations for the backpacking student or the budget traveler who wants to enjoy the best of Mexico.
Beaches of Oaxaca: Playa Azul
South of Huatulco, on the way to the industrial port city of Salina Cruz, you can find the yet undiscovered beaches of the Mexican Pacific Coast. You will not find any resorts or hotels here, although you are welcome to pitch a tent at various locations or perhaps rent a humble room attached to one of the occasional restaurants that line the beach. Playa Cangreco and Playa Azul are two of the few beaches that have names or roads to accommodate them. The floor is sand and the tables and chairs are plastic, but the food is fresh and delicious, caught in the nearby ocean and prepared by a local family. Aside from the folks who maintain these restaurants, permanent housing or structures are scant here and if you decide to explore these beaches, be sure to shop for certain amenities and essentials along the main road. Many more beaches with varying levels of civilization line this part of the coast, and the closer to venture to Salina Cruz the more likely you will be able to find a beach with a larger restaurant, a hotel or even a dance club.
The Pacific Coast of Oaxaca offers a safe, relaxed and authentic experience of Mexico that can suit the needs and desires of any type of traveler, whether you come to Mexico to enjoy a luxury resort or a traditional palapa.
Whipperman, Bruce. “Moon Pacific Mexico, Including Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, Acapulco, and Oaxaca.” (8th Ed.), September 2007.