I recently did a road trip through Oaxaca Mexico to Puerto Escondido with a few friends, it was such an awesome experience! I want to share how we did it because it was really easy when all was said and done. If you love road trips add this one to your bucket list. Travel to Puerto Escondido is extremely popular right now, make the most of your travel time in Mexico and see more destinations in one trip!
Oaxaca Road Trip Quick Itinerary
- Huatulco: 1 night, 1 full day, leave with enough time to make it to Zipolite by sunset.
- 1.5 Hour Drive to Zipolite: 2 nights, 1 day
- 20 minute drive to Mazunte: 1 night, 2 days
- 1 hour drive to Puerto Escondido: 3+ days & nights depending how much time you have. There’s lots to do in Puerto Escondido. I recommend planning your trip so you land here for the weekend, especially if you work remote as there is not good WiFi.
- 4 hour drive to San José del Pacifico: 2 days, 1 night
- 3 hour drive to Oaxaca City: 3+ days, again depending on time. You can work remotely in Oaxaca City, the internet is great. This is a great place to rest for a day and catch up on work then explore the beautiful city.
Renting the Car
There’s an international airport in Huatulco where you can rent a car in person. I recommend waiting to book in person verses online. All fees will be disclosed to you in person and you can compare rates and fees at the rental booths. Remember the rate you see online does not include insurance, drop off fee, or security deposit. If you’re traveling solo a rental car does not make sense financially, you can take a bus to all these places if you’re solo but, the ideal situation is 3-4 people sharing all costs.
Rental Car Cost:
$25 USD/day insurance covers one driver
Refundable Security deposit: $250, not charged to the credit card. Drop off fee: $50 USD, we dropped the car in Puerto Escondido because one of our friends was flying out from there.
Options Options Options: Where to return the car after your Oaxaca Road Mexico Trip?
- Keep the car the whole time and return car in Oaxaca City
- Return car in Puerto Escondido and take the bus to San José and Oaxaca City. (It’s a van/bus, it’s cheap and easy.)
- Another option, you could definitely start this trip in Oaxaca City and do the whole thing backwards.
First Stop: Huatulco
The meeting place of the Sierra Madre Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, forming nine bays and over 30 beaches. The color of the water in Huatulco took my breath away, that gorgeous clear turquoise sparkle is my favorite color.
What to do in Huatulco:
- Visit as many bays as possible by boat
- Relax on the white beaches
- Eat fresh oysters
- Hike one of the many trails overlooking the bays
Second Stop: Zipolite
This is the only legal nude beach in Mexico. Though I am far from a nudist, but definitely not a prude, I fall somewhere between the two; so this sounded like fun… not to mention it’s gorgeous (and cheap!). The name comes from the Zapotec tribal language and translates to “beach of the dead” because of the dangerous currents. This is a great place to hang out on the beach or in a pool (so get a hotel that has one!) but not so much in the ocean. The waves actually did look deadly. The vibe here is still similar to the one it had upon its popularity in the 70s of peace and free love. The small pueblo has a gay friendly culture and lots of beach night life, that’s why I recommend two nights here and only one night in Mazunte, because Mazunte doesn’t have much nightlife especially during the week.
What to do in Zipolite:
- Lose your tan lines
- Relax & do nothing
- Party on the beach
Third Stop: Mazunte
Next up on the Oaxaca Mexico road trip was Mazunte, a very small and inexpensive beach town with a hippy vibe. I found the cost of things (food, drinks, clothing) to be the cheapest in Mazunte of all the places we went. I can see why many people from Sayulita have relocated here, I imagine Sayulita was very similar to Mazunte at one point. Mazunte has not been taken over by hotels/resorts yet and feels authentic to a Mexico beach town. The pueblo has at least one hostel on every block, that’s the culture of Mazunte, many solo travelers meeting new friends in this off-the-beaten-path destination. Tip: if you’re working while traveling the wifi was better here than in Puerto Escondido, basically you’re working with the same speed as PE with way less people.
What to do in Mazunte:
- Hike Punta Cometa and visit Playa Cometa. Everyone says to go for sunset, BUT we went just after sunrise and honestly I would way rather catch the morning light by myself than go at the same time everyone else does. We could see from the lower beach how many people were up there for sunset.
- Wake up early for sunrise, Mazunte has epic sunrises, we were lucky enough to see it from our balcony at our eco hostel, Cabañas Balamjuyuc.
- Get some sun and food on the beach
- Stay at a hostel to meet other travelers
- Visit the cute shops and cafes
- Take photos of the beautiful landscape
- Drink wine on Playa Mermejita at sunset
Fourth Stop: Puerto Escondido
About Puerto Escondido
This was my favorite destination on our Oaxaca road trip, I will definitely visit again. Zicatela beach and its intense surf break is the main tourist attraction to Puerto Escondido. The break holds major surf competitions and attracts surfers from all over the world. My first tip is: if you’re a girl traveling here you will be widely outnumbered by men, it’s the perfect destination for a single girls trip, (Sayulita is the opposite fyi for single guys). Punta Zicatela was my favorite area which is just a short taxi ride away from Playa Zicatela. Punta Zicatela was like an upgraded version of Sayulita, the bars and restaurants were all delicious; the unique decor and vibe reminded me a lot of Bali. The crowd in this area of PE is mostly backpackers, digital nomads, and surfers in their 20s and 30s, so I fit right in. Zicatela in general is surf and party destination, but Puerto Escondido itself is large and has a resort area if that’s more your vibe. I would move to Puerto in a heartbeat if it weren’t for the terrible internet.
What to do in Puerto Escondido:
- Surf. You likely can’t handle surfing at Playa Zicatela unless you have been surfing your whole life, but there are other breaks that are less intense.
- Go to Playa Carrizalillo. This was my favorite beach of the entire road trip. *Be aware it is very crowded on the weekends.
- Eat awesome food! My favorite restaurant was The Fish Shack
- Party at Bonita Escondida hostel, trivia night on Tuesdays gets wild. We also stayed at this hostel for part of our time in Puerto Escondido.
- Head to a late night jungle party. *For comparison honestly the one I attended was not nearly as fun as the jungle parties I have been to in Sayulita. The sound system was better, the music was great, but it was much more complicated to get to, it was 40 minutes away and had an over-priced cover charge.
- Watch the skaters and make friends at The Boneyard
- After-party at the beach bars in Playa Zicatela. The bars in Punta Zicatela close at midnight.
Fifth Stop: San Jose del Pacifico
About San Jose del Pacifico
Hidden in the mountains of Oaxaca is this quaint little village with incredible views. So, what brings so many backpackers here? It’s beautiful and its location is a great stop on a Oaxaca road trip between the beaches and Oaxaca City, but why they really come here: it’s the magic mushroom capital of Mexico. Little cabins line the edge of the mountains with views for days. Mezcal tasting and Temazcal ceremonies are also very popular in this area, but I would say generally people come to getaway in nature and eat mushrooms.It’s not a big secret, you’ll find cute mushroom souvenirs everywhere, and if you want to eat them, medicinally of course, it won’t be hard to get your hands on some.
What to do in San Jose del Pacifico:
- Go hiking
- Stay in a cozy cabin at Cabañas Rancho Viejo
- Eat magic mushrooms
- Sit by a fire and connect with your friends
- Temazcal Ceremony
- Drink homemade Mezcal
Final Stop: Oaxaca City
About Oaxaca City
Oaxaca City was a very close second as my favorite destination in Oaxaca, I’m consistently torn between city life and beach life… the beach always wins. Oaxaca is a heritage tourism destination because it’s so rich in Mexican culture. The city’s colonial-era architecture is mixed with street art and markets everywhere. It’s also well known as the mezcal capital, so don’t skip a tasting. You’ll find the best handmade clothing and textiles in all of Mexico here, this is where most of the artisan clothing you see all throughout the country originates from. During my time in Mexico the most common selling point I’ve heard vendors say is “it’s from Oaxaca” and while they’re not always telling the truth you’ll understand why they say that once you see the textiles here.
What to do in Oaxaca City
- Shop the street markets for handmade and unique clothing, jewelry, bags, textiles
- Do a mezcal tasting and learn all about this agave spirit
- Eat at one of the food markets, I went to Mercado 20 de Noviembre and my favorite mole spot was called Fonda Sofi
- Mole! You must eat mole in Oaxaca, it’s incredible
- Take a day trip to Hierve el Agua *As of May 2021 It’s currently closed and has been since the pandemic and over-tourism, but I will be back to visit as soon as it reopens
- Try the “foodie” spots. There is so much incredible food in this city, I can’t stress that enough
That about wraps up the Oaxaca, Mexico road trip. Feel free to message me for any tips on instagram @madyinmexico