A Hidden Gem on the Pacific Coast
Nestled on the Pacific Coast of the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, Mazunte is a small town known for its laid-back atmosphere and beautiful beaches. With a population of just over 2,000 people, Mazunte is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of bigger metropolitan areas like Mexico City, where I’ve mostly been residing since becoming an expat in 2017.
The reason I’m writing this is because I just spent nearly two weeks in Mazunte over the holidays, my first real vacation since starting RCRDSHP. In this post, I’ll share what I learned about the region, including photos and recommendations.
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Getting There and Around
There are several ways to get to Mazunte, depending on your starting location and preferred mode of transportation. One option (the one I chose) is to fly from Mexico City into the Puerto Escondido airport (PXM), which is located about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Mazunte. My airfare on Aeromar cost about 200 USD round-trip, and the flight on propeller planes that seat about 80 people or so, takes a quick hour and twenty minutes, much faster than expected given how far away the tropical Oaxaca coast feels from the cool, mile-high capital city.
Another option is to fly into the Huatulco airport (HUX), which is located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Mazunte. The airfare cost was roughly the same, but the local transfer is twice as long, so doesn’t really make sense.
Rental cars during the holiday season were ridiculously expensive, so I grabbed an official taxi to Mazunte for 1200 pesos, equivalent to about 60 USD. I later found out that if you’re willing to leave the airport on foot, you can take find cheaper transportation: around $20-$30 for a taxi or $1-$2 for a bus. However, I was loaded with luggage and the temperature was over 30 degrees C so convenience trumped economic concerns.
Once you arrive in Mazunte, you can easily get around the town and surrounding area by foot, bike, or scooter. I rented a scooter for 10 days, at a total cost of 150 USD, plus a few dollars to fill up the tank.
Note that scooters can be dangerous for inexperienced riders (like myself) given that the region is mountainous. I fell over trying to make a sharp turn on the first day, resulting in a few scrapes and damaged ego. A week later, perhaps after starting to get a little too comfortable with my skill level, I experienced a harrowing, high-speed near-miss on a mountain curve when I went too wide and drifted over into incoming traffic. A few inches further and I would have certainly been seriously injured or worse.
If scooters and brushes with death aren’t your thing, there are plenty of cheap local taxis available. “Buses” are available too, although they consist of pickup trucks with a shelter in the back, and are often way too packed for comfort, especially in times of pandemic.
Where to Stay
I opted for an Airbnb up the hill from the main road, which set me back about 90 USD per night for a rustic, open-air, single-room cabin. It had a full kitchen, mosquito nets over the bed, and a hammock on the porch. You could also see a little bit of the ocean over the treetops. On the good side, the walk to the closest beaches only took 15 minutes. On the bad side: no hot water, lots and lots of bugs including mosquitoes and spiders everywhere, and barking dogs at night.
I got over the lack of hot water pretty quickly, since it’s so damn hot during the day. The bugs, not so much. By the end of the nearly two weeks I was covered in mosquito and ant bites from head to toe, including (annoyingly) on my right lower eyelid.
The next time I visit for a short-term vacation I may pay a little more to have air conditioning and hot water, or maybe a better location overlooking the beach (like where I snapped the photo below.)
Also I tend to spend at least a couple hours on the computer even when I’m on vacation, so a desk with a comfortable chair would be nice.
Despite the heat and occasional discomfort, I found myself intrigued with the idea of staying a longer time in Mazunte, maybe at a yoga retreat or simply just being a beach bum, and if I were to do that then I’d probably consider staying in a "posada." Posadas are the local equivalent of a hostel or campsite, and they offer basic but comfortable accommodation at a much lower price than traditional hotels.
Posadas usually consist of a series of small rooms or cabins with shared bathrooms and common areas. Some posadas also have camping sites with basic amenities such as running water and electricity. Most posadas offer bed linens and towels for an additional fee, and some may include breakfast in the room rate.
Posadas are apparently a popular choice for Mexicans and travelers who want to save money on accommodation or meet other like-minded travelers. They are also a good option for those who plan to spend most of their time outdoors, as they often have outdoor common areas and are located close to the beach or other attractions. Prices start at around $10-$15 per night for a shared room or cabin, and $20-$30 for a private room. Camping sites start at around $5-$10 per night. The high season is winter, since the summer is extremely hot and rainy.
I have two favorite beaches to recommend in the Mazunte area, and don’t recommend Mazunte’s beach itself, where the shore drops off quickly and makes the waves and undercurrent way too strong for my preference.
The first is San Agustinillo, a small but stunning beach located just over the hill about 10-15 minutes walk east from the center of Mazunte. Known for its clear blue waters and soft white sand, San Agustinillo is a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing.
One of the unique features of San Agustinillo beach is that it is surrounded by lush tropical vegetation, which provides a natural shade and helps to keep the beach cool and refreshing. There are palm trees and thatched umbrellas scattered along the beach, offering additional shade for those seeking a break from the sun. Day’s rent for an umbrella and chairs will set you back about 10 USD, or you can chill in the patio area of the several beachfront restaurants.
San Agustinillo is popular with surfers and bodyboarders, thanks to the consistent waves and moderate currents. I did a lot of body surfing myself, often to the point of exhaustion, but it was so much fun. My suggestion is to arrive after lunch and stay until the sun sets around 6pm in order to take in the gorgeous sunset vistas.
About 10-15 minutes drive past San Agustinillo from Mazunte is the beautiful beach of Zipolite, known for its bohemian atmosphere and liberal attitudes. One of the unique features of Zipolite is that it is one of the few beaches in Mexico that welcomes nudism.
The history of Zipolite as a nudist beach dates back to the 1970s, when it was discovered by a group of young travelers who were drawn to its unspoiled beauty and laid-back vibe. At the time, nudism was not widely accepted in Mexico, and the authorities turned a blind eye to the nudists on Zipolite beach. As word spread, more and more people started visiting the beach, and it became a popular destination for gays and others seeking alternative lifestyles.
Today, Zipolite beach is still a place where people can freely express themselves and enjoy the natural beauty of the beach without the constraints of clothing, as long as you don’t mind the occasional gawking grandma or the potential awkwardness of being naked around tons of not-naked local kids running around. While the beach is not officially designated as a nudist beach (whatever that means), nudity is absolutely tolerated and accepted. There’s even a beachfront hotel called “Nude” at the west end of the beach with a buzzing bar, terrace, and pool full of fun naked people.
Even if you’re not planning to go nude, the beach itself is wonderful, with fine white sand and a long distance out in the water before it gets deep, meaning the otherwise strong waves are fun and manageable. And actually I did a lot of naked bodysurfing at Zipolite (ehh, sorry for that mental image) but it was fucking awesome.
I had the taxi driver swing me by a large supermarket in Puerto Escondido on my way to Mazunte, and stocked up on over a week’s worth of food with the full intention of eating in most days. Probably not the greatest idea, since there were plenty of affordable food options at local restaurants, including tons of vegetarian specialty places.
My favorite restaurant by far, where I ate three dinners in the span of two weeks, is called “El Armadillo.” It’s full vegan and features amazing Moroccan cuisine. It’s also the top-rated restaurant in Mazunte, so if you happen to want to go there make sure to make reservations beforehand.
Menu recommendations include the beet salad, kefta, and “plato marroqui” (which includes hummus, tabbouleh, falafel and cashew-based tzatziki). The attention to detail in this place was NOT what I expected for a place in a beach village, but rather more like what you would find in a major city expensive restaurant
I also ate fresh local grilled fish at a place called FISH and LOVE. They don’t take reservations, so make sure to go early and queue up in front of the table displaying what’s available. When your table is ready, you pick the fish that you want before they seat you. It’s basic (no menu) and you get a small salad and baked potato on the side, because the star is really just the fresh fish.
Mazunte is a popular destination for yoga enthusiasts, with several studios and retreats offering daily classes and longer programs. The town's relaxed and natural setting, combined with its close proximity to the beach, makes it the perfect place to practice yoga and find inner peace.
In addition to the studios, there are also several retreat centers in the area that offer yoga programs as part of a larger wellness experience, including at the expansive Hridaya Yoga global headquarters which I walked past almost every day. I wasn’t able to do enough yoga on this trip, but I’m hoping to do a multi-week yoga retreat there later this year.
Overall, Mazunte is a hidden gem that offers something for everyone – from beach lovers and nature enthusiasts to foodies and culture buffs. In my opinion, it’s so much better than any of the major tourist destinations in Mexico such as Cancun and Acapulco, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be returning on a regular basis!