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Posted 02 May, 2022 | No comments
Posted in: Mexico

The southern state of Oaxaca has some of the best beaches in Mexico, not only because of big waves and golden sand, but because of laid-back villages, inexpensive beachside cabanas, and unique cuisine that’s one of the most delicious in the country.

In this post, I’ll list the 10 best beaches in Oaxaca you won’t want to miss.

The 533-km long Oaxaca coastline provides an exciting and affordable alternative to the tour groups and all-inclusive resorts of other top beach destinations in Mexico, such as Cancun, Acapulco, and Puerto Vallarta.

best beaches in oaxaca mexico

The beaches in Oaxaca don’t have luxury-brand shopping malls, cavernous nightclubs, and hard-sell timeshare scams, but rather yoga retreats, hiking trails, sea turtle sanctuaries, and world-famous surf breaks.

During my ten years living in Mexico, I visited the beaches of Oaxaca many times, usually spending several weeks at Zipolite, Mazunte, or Zicatela. Then I’d take day trips to another Oaxaca beach or to a small village in the mountains.

Time moves slowly in the best beach towns in Oaxaca, and it’s a region you can visit over and over again, always discovering something new. Visiting the beach is one of the top things to do in Oaxaca

In this post, I’ll list the 10 best beaches in Oaxaca and tell you where they’re located, who they’re good for, and what you can do while there.

1. Zipolite

Zipolite was the first Oaxaca beach I ever visited, and it still holds a special place in my heart.

Whether I’m traveling to nearby Mazunte or farther away to Puerto Escondido or Huatulco, I always make sure to take a side trip to Zipolite for a stroll down the beach and some swimming.

best beaches in oaxaca zipolite

Where is Zipolite?

Look at a map of Oaxaca, and you’ll see that the Pacific coast comes to a point at roughly the midpoint of the state.

Slightly inland from that point is the town of San Pedro Pochutla, at the crossroads of two highways: one that follows the coast, giving access to the beaches of Oaxaca, and one that heads north across the mountains to Oaxaca City in the center of the state.

A smaller road branching out from San Pedro Pochutla takes you to some of the best beach towns in Oaxaca, including famous names Zipolite and Mazunte. You can find Zipolite on the map, here.

These Oaxaca beaches are celebrated as low-key budget hangouts, and for decades they’ve been attracting independent travelers (and lots of hippies) from the U.S., Latin America, Europe, and beyond.

Who is Zipolite For?

In Mexico and abroad, Zipolite is particularly infamous because it’s the only nude beach in the country.

Don’t let this deter you if you’ll be traveling with family, however, because all kinds of people visit Zipolite. Most Mexican tourists, for instance, are far too conservative to bare it all in public.

The beach is long, wide, and lovely, and since it faces the open ocean, it’s suitable for surfing and bodyboarding. The hotels along the beach are still mostly inexpensive family-run affairs, where you can get an oceanside room for as little as $20 USD in the offseason.

You can take the stairs over the bluffs at the far eastern end of Zipolite to visit Playa del Amor (the Beach of Love), a secluded spot popular with nudists. It’s good for swimming too because it’s somewhat protected from Zipolite’s otherwise big waves.

How to Get to Zipolite

Another important thing about Zipolite (and Mazunte) is that it’s well connected to both Oaxaca City and other parts of the Oaxaca coast.

Frequent colectivos (public transportation, either passenger vans or covered pickup trucks) depart from San Pedro Pochutla and go to Zipolite, Mazunte, and other nearby villages.

The closest proper town to Zipolite is Puerto Angel, which has an authentic public market where you can get some of the most delicious mole anywhere.

A fifteen-minute walk from Puerto Angel takes you to Bahia Estacahuite, a secluded bay with three small beaches and cliffs of weathered, tan-colored rocks. It’s a fantastic place to relax and snorkel, although it can get packed on weekends.

☞ SEE ALSO: Digital Nomad Guide to Living in Oaxaca

2. Mazunte

Mazunte and Zipolite are close enough that you can stay at both on one trip, or at least visit one on a day trip from the other.

mazunte best beach in oaxaca

Where is Mazunte Beach?

Located 6 km west of Zipolite, Mazunte is another chill beach town with a slightly larger village and a similar range of colorful bungalows and reggae-blasting beach bars. Find it here on the map. 

Who is Mazunte For?

The beach is the main difference between Mazunte and Zipolite. The beach at Mazunte (real name Playa Rinconcito) begins at a long point that protects it from the big waves of the Pacific Ocean.

The calm water makes it one of the best Oaxaca beaches for swimming.

Things to Do at Mazunte

In the tall bluffs above the beach, there’s a winding hiking trail that leads to Punta Cometa (Comet Point), a popular place for watching the sunset. Punta Cometa also looks over the next beach to the south, Playa Mermejita, which is enormous and has little development.

Mermejita is an easy walk from Mazunte and a nice place if you want to sunbathe next to the roaring ocean. You can take a long walk down the beach to check out Punta Ventanilla, a rock formation with a hole in it at the end opposite Punta Cometa.

There are plenty of inland activities in Mazunte as well, including yoga and meditation retreats and massage centers.

A well-established international community means that along with plenty of dining options, you can also find bakeries selling European-style bread made with fresh Mexican chocolate.

For something a little different, you can visit the Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga (the Mexican Turtle Center), a museum and research center dedicated to sea turtles, where you can observe turtles of various ages and learn about their lives and the conservation efforts to protect them.

3. San Agustinillo

Within walking distance from Mazunte is San Agustinillo, which is one of the best beaches in Oaxaca for bodyboarding.

San Agustinillo beach in oaxaca

The water continues to be shallow far from the shore, and the waves are regular but not too high, so it’s easy to ride a wave for a long time as it rolls all the way in.

The waves are usually a little small for surfing, but that’s a good thing for beginners. You can rent bodyboards or longboards right there. There’s usually plenty of space to hang out on the beach, as its more renowned neighbors draw all the tourists.

Aside from the surf, San Agustinillo is also a nice place to eat, with lots of fresh seafood in several beachside restaurants, and the slightly more upscale atmosphere of its hotels makes it a step up from the more budget-friendly options in Mazunte and Zipolite.

You can find San Augstinillo on the map, here.

4. Playa Zicatela

Friendly, laid-back Puerto Escondido isn’t only one of the best beach towns in Oaxaca, but in all of Mexico. Here in Puerto Escondido, you’ll find Zicatela Beach. Click here to see it on the map.

Playa Zicatela oaxaca beach

About Zicatela Beach

In Zicatela, the farther east you go, the more scenic and laid-back the beach and its amenities get.

The far east end is called La Punta, where a small village of rustic hotels and international restaurants has grown behind the palm-lined beach. There’s even a Spanish school and a sanctuary for street dogs.

La Punta (the point) is a famous surf break, and it’s popular with surfers and bodyboarders.

If you don’t have your own board, they’re easy to find for rent. Many hotels provide boards for free for their guests, and lessons can be arranged at several surfing schools in Zicatela or town.

Things To Do in Zicatela 

Its restaurants and hotels offer a nice balance of Mexican and international.

Zicatela has everyday attractions such as a genuine Oaxacan public market, Mercado Benito Juárez (named after the beloved Mexican president who was born in Oaxaca), where you can try fresh tropical fruit, fresh juices, and authentic Oaxaca specialties.

Look for tlayudas, a large crispy tortilla covered with beans, cheese, and your choice of spiced meat.

Playa Principal (the main beach) is right in front of town, but it’s quite small and can get crowded. Zicatela is a much larger beach, and many consider it the main beach in Puerto Escondido.

Like Zipolite and Mazunte, Puerto Escondido has a backpacker vibe that attracts a lot of younger travelers.

Families are welcome but may be more comfortable in the hotels closer to the town of Puerto Escondido or more developed parts of Oaxaca, like the resorts near La Crucecita in Huatulco.

How to Get to Zicatala Beach 

Puerto Escondido is a convenient choice for a Oaxaca beach vacation because of its international airport. (The other one on the Oaxaca coast is in Huatulco.)

For most travelers, Puerto Escondido is a half-day bus or colectivo ride from Oaxaca City.

It’s a good idea to arrange transportation to San Pedro Pochutla (the entry point or Zipolite and Mazunte) and then catch a local bus there, because many long-distance buses may take a break there anyway. Instead of waiting for your bus, you can catch another right away, or get lunch and wander around at your own pace.

Besides Zicatela, there are other scenic beaches in Puerto Escondido, including Playa Bacocho, Playa Coral, Playa Manzanillo, and Playa Carrizalillo (listed below), one of the most beautiful beaches in Oaxaca.

5. Playa Carrizalillo

On the west side of Puerto Escondido, opposite Zicatela, Playa Carrizalillo is in a small cove reached by taking a long staircase. It’s one of the best Oaxaca beaches for swimming, and it’s great for families and solo travelers alike.

Carrizalillo beach in oaxaca

Other nearby coves have nice beaches, such as Playa Manzanillo and Playa Coral, but Playa Carrizalillo feels more secluded (and is usually less crowded) because it’s not so easy to get to.

The only way is the long stone staircase, which is fun on the way down but can be quite arduous on the way up. It’s worth the trip, however, for peaceful swimming in the stunning turquoise water.

You can find a few restaurants that serve fresh seafood, sip mezcal (a local liquor similar to tequila) margaritas, and enjoy the scenery at one of the most beautiful beaches in Oaxaca. Find Playa Carrizalillo on the map, here.

6. Playa Tangolunda (Huatulco)

The largest tourist town in the area is La Crucecita, which is commonly known as Huatulco. It’s a charming village and a good stop for finding a restaurant and getting tourist information.

Playa Tangolunda best beaches in oaxaca

Where is Playa Tangolunda?

Many of the best beaches in Oaxaca are located in the Bahías de Huatulco (Huatulco Bays) National Park, a protected area that contains nine bays and at least 36 beaches, found both in the bays and along the stretches of coast between them.

Bumpy dirt roads lead from the highway to the bays, which despite their location in a national park, have restaurants, small hotels, and other amenities like snorkel rentals.

The nearest beach to La Crucecita (Huatulco) is Playa Santa Cruz, a small sandy beach that can get pretty crowded because it’s so close to the village. It’s worth checking out, however, mainly because its location in a cove means calm water that’s excellent for swimming.

A larger and better-known beach is just down the road. About 5 km directly east of La Crucecita is Playa Tangolunda, a large stretch of golden sand that’s lined with the sprawling resorts Barceló, Secrets, Camino Real, and many more.

Why Choose Playa Tangolunda?

Let’s face it, a palm-roof bungalow with college-aged partiers in the next room isn’t for everyone.

If you’re looking for an all-inclusive experience in a convenient location — next to the town of La Crucecita and close to the Huatulco International Airport — then you’ll find that Playa Tangolunda is the best beach in Oaxaca for pure relaxation in a hassle-free location.

Plenty of other attractions are nearby, such as the Parque Eco-Arqueológico de Bocana Copalita (Copalita Ruins and EcoPark), where there’s a small archeological site, hiking trails, and bike and ATV rentals.

7. Bahía de San Agustín

All of Huatulco’s bays are lovely, and any of their beaches could deserve mention as one of the best beaches in Oaxaca.

Bahía de San Agustín best beaches in oaxaca for snorkelling

Among them, an excellent choice for the Huatulco experience is the Bahía de San Agustín, which has one of the best beaches in Oaxaca for snorkeling.

Because the bay is so well-protected from the ocean waves, most days the water there is flat as glass. You can float out and spend all day looking at the endless fish and sea creatures in the rocks and coral.

Several cheerful restaurants are located around the bay and most rent snorkel gear. Choose the one you like and stay all day, ordering drinks and fresh seafood tacos in the shade.

How to Get to Bahía de San Agustín

As the westernmost bay in the national park, it’s farthest from La Crucecita and a little remote.

From the highway, it’s a 30-minute drive down a dirt road, so it’s a little too far to walk if you don’t have a car. You can take a colectivo to the entrance of the road and hope to find a taxi, but you should probably arrange transportation all the way there and back.

8. Barra de La Cruz (one of the best beaches in Oaxaca for surfing)

Located a little to the east of Huatulco, Barra de la Cruz isn’t Oaxaca’s best-known surf town (Puerto Escondido takes that title), but for a time was recognized as Mexico’s premier surf destination.

surfing beaches in oaxaca

The wave has seen some ups and downs over the years following its first exposure at an international tournament in 2006, the aftermath of which caused unchecked development that damaged the surf.

It has since recovered and is once again a sought-after stop for people on surfing safaris.

The tiny village has a few restaurants, a few hotels, and funky surf shops, with the beach about a kilometer farther down the road.

The waves can be too large for beginners, although surf shops do offer lessons and rentals. April to September is the best season for waves, although any time is a good time to visit the pretty beach under tall rocky bluffs.

The beach immediately to the west, Playa El Mojón, also has outstanding surfing, and besides, it’s long and less developed. In general, the beaches around Barra de la Cruz are secluded and gorgeous. Find it here on the map

9. Playa Chacahua (Lagunas de Chacahua)

The far western corner of the state contains the Lagunas de Chacahua National Park, a wild natural area with five mangrove lagoons connected by canals.

Playa Chacahua best beaches in oaxaca

Things To Do at Playa Chacahua

The main activity in Chacahua is taking a boat trip through the mangroves to observe crocodiles and tropical birds, but don’t miss out on the beach.

The entire area is bordered by a long stretch of continuous sand that’s one of the best beaches in Oaxaca and possibly one of the best beaches in all of Mexico.

The surfing there is first-rate, and many hotels and small stores along the beach rent boards. You can also climb up the hill to the lighthouse at the top of a hill next to a lagoon, where you can enjoy a sweeping view of the lagoons and the beach.

You can take a day trip from Puerto Escondido or bring your things and spend a few days there, which will give you plenty of time to both explore the lagoons and hang out on the beach.

How to Get to Chacahua

To get to Chacahua, you’ll go to the town of Zapotalito first, which is located about an hour west by bus or colectivo from Puerto Escondido. From there, you’ll have to take a combination of taxis, colectivos, and boats to get into the national park.

It seems quite far-flung, but it’s a well-trod tourist path, so you’ll encounter plenty of options once you’re there. Find Chacahua on the map, here.

10. Playa Las Escolleras

Conveniently located just south of Salina Cruz town, Playa Las Escolleras is one of the best beaches in Oaxaca because it feels so remote but is actually quite accessible.

Where is Playa Las Escolleras?

Unless you head west to Chacahua, most visitors to the Oaxaca coast limit their stay to the area between Puerto Escondido and Huatulco.

Few venture farther east from the Huatulco area toward the next state over, Chiapas, where you can find other remote and rustic beaches near Oaxaca.

The largest town in the area is Salina Cruz, which is located at the eastern border of the state.

Salina Cruz is a major port and contains a massive oil refinery, but it’s otherwise an attractive coastal city with plenty of hotels, a pretty path along the ocean (called a malecón in Spanish), and several beaches nearby.

Who is Playa Las Escolleras For?

Big waves make it a little dangerous for swimming, but it’s still a great place to relax and watch the waves roll in. Because of these big waves, it’s also an up-and-coming surf spot, with a good break at the southwestern point, Punta Conejo.

If you can’t get enough of the sea and sand during your stay in Salina Cruz, more beaches are found west of Escolleras, such as Playa Azul (Blue Beach) and Playa Escondido (Hidden Beach).

Between these two is a large desert-like area of sand dunes that’s popular for zipping around in jeeps and other off-road vehicles.

The closest beach to town is Playa Abierta, but a strong undertow means it’s too dangerous for swimming. But this might end up being the beach you visit first, depending on the location of your hotel in Salina Cruz.

How to Get to Salina Cruz

You can reach Salina Cruz by bus from any town along the coast, such as La Crucecita, San Pedro Pochutla, or even Puerto Escondido on the other side of the state. You can also get there from Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of the state of Chiapas.

Now You Know the Best Beaches in Oaxaca

There you have it, the 10 best beaches in Oaxaca.

Mexico’s southern gem has beach towns that offer something for everyone: budget travelers, families, foodies, hippies, nudists, surfers, snorkelers, birdwatchers, yoga-retreat enthusiasts, Spanish-studiers, crocodile lovers, mezcal guzzlers, and more.

In a state with hundreds of beaches, it’s not an easy task to choose just 10, and I’m certain that anyone who’s spent time in the state can think of others that belong on a list of the best beaches in Oaxaca. Please share your favorites in the comments.

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Ted is a writer and university professor who moved to China in 2020 after living in Mexico for 10 years. He has a Master’s Degree in English Education and has taught ESL/EFL in four countries and many different types of schools. While in Mexico, Ted traveled extensively, climbed volcanos, went on epic bike rides, explored underground rivers, ate countless types of tacos, learned Spanish, and wrote two guidebooks. You can read his stories about living and traveling in Mexico on his blog No Hay Bronca.
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