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Oaxaca Road Trip: My 10-Day Oaxaca Itinerary

See the highlights of Oaxaca on this 10-day Oaxaca road trip that’ll take you from the city through the Sierra Madre mountains to the pristine beaches of the Pacific Coast.

Poised in the southern reaches of Mexico, Oaxaca (pronounced ‘wa-ha’ka’) is so diverse that you can drive from one end to another, and feel like you’ve traveled across continents. With just 10 days in Oaxaca, we went from the vibrant cultural capital of Oaxaca city to the wild Sierra Madre del Sur mountains and all along the rugged Oaxacan coast to the boho surf beaches of Puerto Escondido.

Our Oaxaca road trip gave us an opportunity to pack in a good mixture of culture, nature and adventure into one trip – some of the highlights included celebrating Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca city, climbing the Monte Alban pyramids, dipping in the Hierve el Agua petrified falls, and releasing baby turtles in Puerto Escondido.

In this Oaxaca guide, I will share with you my 10-day Oaxaca itinerary, exploring the best the state has to offer along the way. I also included useful driving tips for Oaxaca, hotel and restaurant recommendations, and best time to visit Oaxaca below.

oaxaca road trip - oaxaca itinerary - 10 days in oaxaca

Table of Contents

Oaxaca Itinerary & Guide

How to Get to Oaxaca

The most convenient way to get to Oaxaca is by flying into the Oaxaca International Airport (OAX), located just outside of the city. The small airport serves mainly domestic destinations (Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey), but also has flights from Los Angeles, Houston and Dallas.

Direct flights from Los Angeles to Oaxaca cost around US$300 return. Flights from Mexico City to Oaxaca cost only $50 return(1hour). Budget travelers can also just take a bus from the Terminal de Autobuses del Sur in Mexico City to Oaxaca; it takes 6-7 hours depending on traffic. Pre-book your bus tickets here.

For this Oaxaca itinerary, I suggest flying into Oaxaca Airport (OAX) and flying out from Puerto Escondido Airport (PXM). It’s slightly more expensive but it’ll save you an extra 6.5-hour drive back from Puerto Escondido to Oaxaca. Puerto Escondido is a tiny airport, and it only serves Mexico City, Guadalajara and Tijuana. Check here for flights to Puerto Escondido.

oaxaca itinerary

Getting Around Oaxaca State

Hiring a car is the best way to explore the Oaxaca state – the drive from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido in particular is best done by car as bus drivers along the route are notorious for their reckless driving and crazy speed (more on safety below). We rented a car for our entire 10 days in Oaxaca, exploring both the capital city and the surrounding Mayan pyramids, Sierra Madre mountains and the laidback Oaxacan coast. 

I always book my car rental from Discover Cars as they offer the best prices and excellent customer service. An economy rental car in Oaxaca costs around $200 for a whole week, which is less than $28 a day. The current price for gas is 23.50 MXN (around $1) per liter.

Note that if you intend to fly into Oaxaca and out from Puerto Escondido, you will need to book a 1-way car rental. That usually comes with an extra charge. Also, you’ll need to book flights from one of the cities that serve PXM.

Check Car Rental Prices

driving in oaxaca - oaxaca road trip

10-Day Oaxaca Itinerary

To hit the main spots, you’ll need at least 10 days in Oaxaca to explore at a comfortable pace. The Sierra Madre del Sur mountains separate Oaxaca from the coast; it takes 6 hours to drive from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido so you definitely need time to from one area to the other.

In this Oaxaca itinerary, I’ve packed in a good mixture of old town wanders, foodie experiences, mountain escapes, and beach bumming. Here is a summary of our 10-day Oaxaca itinerary. I will be giving a day-to-day breakdown below.

  • Days 1-3: Oaxaca City
  • Day 4: Day Trip to Monte Alban, Villages and Mezcaleria
  • Day 5: Day Trip to Hierve el Agua, Mitla and Teotitlán del Valle
  • Day 6: San Jose del Pacífico
  • Days 7-10: Oaxaca Coast

Download my Oaxaca itinerary on Google Maps.

Oaxaca Itinerary Day 1

There’s a whole load of things to do in Oaxaca city, so make sure to reserve 3 days to explore this cool city. The historic center of Oaxaca is a World Heritage Site, packed with over 1200 registered historic sites.

The heart of the city is the Zócalo (or Plaza de la Constitución), or main square. It’s surrounded by some of the most important historic buildings in Oaxaca City, including the Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace), the Catedral de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Cathedral), and the Templo de la Compañía de Jesús (Church of the Company of Jesus). 

Regardless of when you visit, you’ll likely find street performers and musicians around the Zócalo, from folk singers to marimba bands. The Zócalo is often the site of festivals, concerts, and other cultural events throughout the year. Check the local calendar to see what’s happening during your visit.

Walk the Car-Free Macedonia Alcalá

From the Zócalo, amble along the pedestrianized Andador Turístico, Calle Macedonia Alcalá, which runs all the way to the Templo de Santo Domingo. You’ve probably seen photos of this street before: colorful papel picado (paper flags) dangling between rows of iconic pastel historic houses. 

This bustling pedestrianized street is flanked by arts and craft shops, cafes, and restaurants, and it’s a great place to soak up the local atmosphere. Along the way, you’ll pass by some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, including the Palacio de Gobierno, which features a beautiful mural by the artist Arturo García Bustos depicting the history of Oaxaca.

walking on calle alcala - oaxaca itinerary 10 days

Visit the Templo de Santo Domingo

One of the most iconic landmarks in Oaxaca, the Templo de Santo Domingo is a symbol of the city and a major gathering point. It was originally built in the late 16th century by the Dominican order and is considered one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in Mexico.

Many of Oaxaca’s buildings – including this church – were constructed with green volcanic stone, as evident from the greenish tint in the stonework. The church’s ornate facade is covered in intricate carvings, while the interior is filled with stunning frescoes, gold leaf embellishments, and impressive altarpieces. 

templo de santo domingo - oaxaca coast itinerary

See the Lush Botanical Gardens

Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca, located next to the Santo Domingo Church, is a beautiful oasis in the heart of the city dedicated to the preservation and study of the indigenous plants of Oaxaca. The garden features over 1,200 species of plants, many of which have cultural and medicinal significance to the local people. Covering nearly 7 acres, the garden is home to a wide variety of plant species native to Oaxaca, ranging from towering cacti to towering hardwood trees.

The gardens only allow visits by guided tours; make sure to come early to have a spot. If you speak Spanish, there are regular tours throughout the day for 50pesos per person. English tours are only held at 11am Monday to Saturday, for 100pesos per person. There are also French and German tours. Refer to the website for details.

oaxaca botanical gardens - oaxaca road trip itinerary

Where to Stay in Oaxaca

Luxury: Otro Oaxaca

One of the most unique places to stay in Mexico, Otro Oaxaca is the truest embodiment of simple elegance and raw, brutalist design. If you’re an architectural nerd, then spending a couple of nights here will rouse your intrigue. The hotel features two principal patios that serve as windows to the sky. Check rates here.

Luxury: Parador San Miguel Oaxaca

This historic hotel, housed in a restored 16th-century mansion, is a true icon of Oaxaca City. The rooms are spacious and elegantly decorated, with antique furnishings and traditional artwork. The hotel also boasts a beautiful courtyard and rooftop terrace. Check rates here.

Mid Range: Hotel Azul de Oaxaca

We stayed at this beautiful boutique hotel with a central but quiet location. The stylish and modern hotel with a focus on sustainability and local art. The rooms are bright and colorful, and the hotel’s restaurant is known for its innovative takes on traditional Oaxacan cuisine. Check rates.

Budget: Paulina Youth Hostel

A great budget option for travelers looking for a clean and comfortable place to stay in Oaxaca. Located in the heart of the historic center, the hostel offers private rooms and dorms at very affordable rates. Check rates.

oaxaca hotel - road trip in oaxaca

Oaxaca Itinerary Day 2: Oaxaca City

Get Lost in the Smoke Alley

Oaxaca’s biggest appeal is its food. Oaxacan food is known for being unique and completely distinctive from other Mexican cuisine. The largest markets in Oaxaca City are  Mercado de Benito Juárez and Mercado 20 de Noviembre just to the south of the historic center (the two almost merge together) and both offer senses-assaulting experiences. 

See also  How to Get from Cancun to Tulum 2024

Meat lovers should head straight to the Pasillo de Humo (Smoke Alley) at the eastern entrance of Mercado 20 de Noviembre. Stall after stall of meat vendors serve up succulent meat, grills blazing and smoke billowing out. The most common meats here are tasajo (thinly sliced beef), arrachera (steak), costilla (pork ribs) and chorizo (spicy sausage). They’re all good and portions are huge!

TIP: Mercado 20 de Noviembre can be crowded and overwhelming. However, the lively atmosphere and incredible food make it well worth a visit. If you’re nervous, join a food tour with a local guide or a cooking class that includes a market tour! Here’s a look at some of the best cooking classes in Oaxaca.

smoke alley oaxaca - 10 days in oaxaca

Sample the Legendary mole

Oaxacan food is as diverse as it is distinctive, and none of the dishes is more iconic than mole. It’s part sauce, part marinade, often drenched over chicken or other meat. With seven definitive versions (each with its own unique recipe), mole is a complex and intricate dish that is quintessentially Oaxacan. Many foreigners struggle to like this dish, but I honestly cannot understand why. It’s sweet, spicy, sour, and bitter all at once!

Mole recipes vary, but in general, it’s made up of chocolate, chiles, red and green tomatoes, fruit, spices, nuts and seeds. The ingredients are blended into a paste, then watered down with stock, and slow-cooked for hours (or days) until it forms a rich flavorful sauce. Mole is usually eaten with chicken or meat and rice.

mole - oaxaca itinerary

Mexico Travel Requirements

  • Mexico has no travel restrictions, and there’s no need for proof of vaccine or PCR tests on the plane. Anyone is welcomed to travel to Mexico.
  • However, I always recommend travelers to buy travel insurance, whether you’re traveling for a year or a week. These days, it is particularly important to have travel insurance that covers COVID-19. Read my travel insurance guide.
  • Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date.

Visit the Oaxaca Textile Museum

Two blocks to the east of the Zócalo is the interesting Museo Textil de Oaxaca dedicated to the art of weaving in Oaxaca, with exhibits showcasing traditional techniques and textiles from different regions of the state. The small museum was founded in 2006 by the Alfredo Harp Helú Foundation and is housed in a beautifully restored 18th-century building in the historic center of the city.

The museum’s exhibits showcase the intricate designs, vibrant colors, and diverse techniques used by local weavers and artisans, as well as the cultural and historical significance of these textiles. Admission is FREE.

Snap Photos at Callejon San Pablo

Right next to the Textile Museum is an alley that leads to the Centro Cultural San Pablo. The art space is decorated with giant sculptures, mural art and colorful umbrellas hanging overhead. There’s a cafe with outdoor seating as well as a casual flea market selling handmade crafts, wooden art and locally designed clothings. See its location on Google Maps.

oaxaca itinerary 14 days - callejon san pablo

Browse the Atemporal Design Market

Just a few blocks north is a cool, eclectic design market housed in a crumbling half-restored building. It features a curated selection of products, ranging from artisanal icecream to locally-brewed mezcal and trendy fashion.

The focus of Atemporal Market is on showcasing homegrown products of Oaxaca, with an emphasis on sustainable and ethical production methods. The vibes here are hip and alternative, in contrast to the traditional markets that Oaxaca is famous for (I’ll talk about below).

atemporal design market - oaxaca itienrary 10 days

Oaxaca Itinerary Day 3: Neighborhoods

Wander around Colorful Jalatlaco

Start day 3 with a wander through the eclectic and colorful district of Jalatlaco just to the east of the historic center. Even though it’s one of the oldest districts in Oaxaca, it’s becoming the hippest area in the city

Wander through the cobblestoned streets, admiring the mural art, and stopping at one of the many cafes or restaurants for a bite to eat. The district has an artsy feel, thanks to the art studios and galleries that line its streets. Exploring this area is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Oaxaca for photographers and Instagram fans.

jalatlaco - oaxaca road trip itinerary

Check out Xochimilco

To the north of the historic center (across the highway) lies Xochimilco, the oldest neighborhood in Oaxaca. It’s also chocked full of multihued houses, street art and narrow cobbled alleys. A spot worth checking out is the 18th century aqueduct that runs along Callejon Rufino Tamayo.

Our absolute favorite restaurant in Oaxaca is also located here: Ancestral Cocina Tradicional serves reimagined Oaxacan dishes made from locally grown products and ingredients in a beautiful setting. In 2021 and again in 2022, the restaurant was recognized by the the Mexico Gastronomic Guide of Culinary Mexicana as one of the 250 top and best restaurants in Mexico. Book your table here.

Watch Sunset on a Rooftop Bar

One of my favorite things to do in Oaxaca is having dinner and drinks at a rooftop bar in town during sunset. Most rooftop bars are concentrated along Calle de Ignacio Allende, where you can take in sweeping views of the Templo de Santo Domingo and the historic center. I highly recommend booking a table in advance as these rooftop bars get busy.

We really enjoyed the food and drinks at Praga Oaxaca (pictured); their botaca oaxaqueña (snack platter) was filling and flavorful. The next-door Terraza los Amantes is bigger and more stylish. At the street corner is Gozobi, a colorful and eclectic restaurant with a huge rooftop and well-priced contemporary Mexican menu. We had dinner here on our last night and loved the grilled octopus in black squid ink and seafood risotto.

sunset rooftop drinks - what to do in 10 days in oaxaca

Mexico City Travel Guide: Practical Resources

  • 📱 Get an eSIM on Airalo to get cheap internet data

  • Oaxaca Itinerary Day 4: Day Trip

    Next, this Oaxaca itinerary will bring you on a day trip out to the southern reaches of Oaxaca. You’ll first visit the Monte Alban pyramids just 20 minutes from downtown Oaxaca, then continue south along Highway 175 to visit three villages that are known for distinctive arts. Finally, you’ll end the day at a mezcaleria, or mezcal distillery to explore the agave plantations and taste the quintessentially Oaxacan spirit.

    Climb the Pyramids of Monte Albán

    One of the most popular things to do in Oaxaca is to do a day trip to the ancient ruins of Monte Albán just outside the city. Built by the Zapotecs, this is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in all of Latin America.

    The ancient city was built on the hilltop to the southwest of Oaxaca, and from here, you can get spectacular views of the Sierra Madre mountains. Unlike other famous ruins like Chichen Itza, you can actually climb the Monte Alban pyramids. From the top, you can see the sheer scale of the pyramids, temples, and ball courts. Read my guide to Monte Alban.

    As at any archaeological site, hiring a guide can give you much deeper insights to the Zapotec civilization. We drove our car rental here and it was an easy 20-minute drive from the center. But if you don’t have transport, it’s wise to book a guided tour as you will have transport and guide included. Book this simple half-day tour or a full-day tour that covers lunch and visits to artisan workshops.

    monte alban - things to do around oaxaca

    Visit San Bartolo Coyotepec

    With a large indigenous population, Oaxaca has a rich handicraft-making tradition. The villages that surround Oaxaca city specialize in a different form of artisanal work and give interesting insights to country living in Oaxaca. If you want to understand more of Oaxacan life or buy souvenirs, these art towns in Oaxaca are the places you need to go.

    The nearest art village to Oaxaca is San Bartolo Coyotepec, just 20 minutes south of Oaxaca centro. This is where the famous barro negro (black clay) comes from, and many artisans live here and display their work in the numerous workshops here.

    oaxaca road trip - black pottery village

    See the Alebrijes of San Martin Tilcajete

    Continue 20 minutes south along Highway 175 to the village of San Martín Tilcajete, famous for their alebrijes. Alebrijes are crafted from either paper maché or carved from wood, and at first glance, they appear to be animal figures. However, upon closer inspection, you’ll discover that each figure is a combination of several animals. The wooden Oaxacan alebrijes, which have become incredibly popular, were first created by artist Manuel Jiménez Ramírez, As each one is handmade, no two alebrijes are alike. 

    alebrije - oaxaca road trip

    Buy Textiles in Santo Tomas Jalieza

    Just a 10-minute drive further south from Tilcajete is Santo Tomás Jalieza Oaxaca, best known for its textiles. Here you’ll see the entire textile-making process — from hand-dying the yarn with natural materials, to how the famous Oaxacan rugs are made on a loom.

    TIP: If you don’t drive, I suggest booking this private tour of the artisan villages where a guide can share his knowledge on the artisanal history of the area.

    Take a Mezcal tour

    Oaxaca is known to produce some of the best mezcal in Mexico. Mezcal has a unique, smoky taste I absolutely love, thanks to the underground roasting of the plant. Currently undergoing a revival of sorts, mezcal is gaining fame all around the world, even though it’s long been popular in Mexico.

    The backcountry of Oaxaca is dotted with plenty of mezcalerias where you can learn about the production process from local farmers and taste different kinds of mezcal. A 20-minute drive further south of Santo Tomas Jalieza is Real Minero, a family-run distillery that has been making mezcal for over four generations. Their tours and tastings are a great way to learn about the artisanal production process and sample some truly exceptional mezcals. This highly-rated experience is one of the best things to do in Oaxaca for couples and solo travelers.

    TIP: Those who prefer not to drive can join this tour to visit an artisanal local farm where you get to walk in the agave fields and watch how the farmer harvests the agave.

    mezcal tour - oaxaca itinerary

    Oaxaca Itinerary Day 5: Day Trip

    Start day 5 of your Oaxaca itinerary bright and early as you’ll need to drive 1.5 hours to Hierve al Agua. The road there is fantastic, though it becomes an unpaved road once you leave the highway and head towards the petrified falls. That said, you won’t need a 4×4, a normal sedan works just fine.

    We made it a point to first visit Hierve el Agua and then the rest of the sights on our drive back to Oaxaca city as we knew it would get crowded and hot later in the day at Hierve el Agua. We also did it as a day trip and stayed at the same hotel in Oaxaca city so we didn’t have to keep moving hotels.

    Explore the Hierve el Agua

    One of the most unique geological formations I’ve ever seen, Hierve el Agua is a highlight of this Oaxaca road trip. The mineral formations that resemble cascading waterfalls are absolutely unique, and the natural springs and pools are a refreshing place to cool off after a hike. Read my guide to Hierve el Agua.

    While the name Hierve el Agua means “boiling water” in Spanish, the water can actually be a bit cold. It’s still nice and refreshing to take a dip, especially after hiking. There are short trails that weave all around the various pools and to the bottom of the Oaxaca waterfalls. You don’t need to be fit to walk them; my 7-year-old loved traipsing up and down the trails. Most of the trails lead to glorious views of the stunning valley.

    Hierve el Agua was closed for a period of time due to disputes between the ejido owners, but it is now opened to the public once again. It is a popular spot and gets crowded pretty fast, so try to get there as early as you can. It’s opens at 7am, it’s worth getting up early.

    TIP: If you don’t have transport, I suggest booking a tour as and there is no public transport. You can get there by taxi for around 600 MXN (US$30). This day tour costs just 850 MXN (US$42.5)and brings you also to Mitla.

    hierve el agua - oaxaca coast trip
    hierve el agua - road trip to oaxaca coast

    Explore the Mitla Ruins

    On your way back to Oaxaca, make a stop at the Mitla archaeological site, just a 30-minute drive from Hierve el Agua. While Monte Alban was the political centre for the Zapotecs, Mitla was the religious centre. Mitla archaeological site features intricate geometric patterns and designs carved into the stone walls, which are believed to have had religious significance for the Zapotec people. Its name comes from the Nahuatl word meaning the place of the dead, or the underworld.

    Right outside the archaeological site is a big market where handmade crafts and textiles are on sale. This is also a great spot to get some local food, snacks or icecream.

    mitla oaxaca

    Learn Weaving in Teotitlán del Valle

    Another worthwhile stop enroute back to Oaxaca is Teotitlán del Valle, 30 minutes from Mitla by car. This artisan village has gained fame for its traditional Zapotec weaving techniques and colorful textiles. In the local workshops, you can learn about the process of making the textiles. We visited the Centro de Arte Textil Zapoteco Bii Dauu and learned how they use natural dyes made from plants, insects, and minerals to create yarn that is then woven into textiles.

    See the World’s Biggest Tree Trunk

    On the road back to Oaxaca city, stop at the Tree of Tule, a massive Montezuma cypress tree that has the world’s widest trunk with a diameter of 46 feet (14m). It takes at least 30 people to wrap around it. 

    According to scientists, the Tule tree is almost 2,000 years old. But the Zapotec people believe that the Wind God Ehécatl sowed the seeds of the tree around 1,400 years ago. Today, you can still find it standing tall in front of the Templo Santa María de la Asunción church in the pueblo (small town) of Santa Maria del Tule, in the peripheries of Oaxaca city.

    TIP: You can easily combine Hierve el Agua, Mitla, Teotitlan del Valle and the Tule tree into one day trip. We did that on our own as we had a rental car. If you don’t drive, check out this day tour that brings you to all four sites.

    tule tree - oaxaca road trip to coast

    Oaxaca Itinerary Day 6: Mountains

    Drive to San Jose del Pacífico

    It’s time to leave Oaxaca city behind and kick start your Oaxaca road trip! Getting to the Pacific coast from Oaxaca City can be a long and tedious journey as you’ll be crossing the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains. The most direct route is along Highway 175, which zigzags its way through the mountains and forests of the Sierra Madre del Sur.

    The drive is an exceptionally scenic one and trust me it’s well worth stopping to smell the roses and soak in the fresh mountain air. We broke up the 6-hour drive with a night’s stay in the mountain village of San Jose del Pacífico, about 7,500 feet (2,300 meters) above sea level.

    It’s surrounded by the cloud forest, a unique ecosystem characterized by its high humidity, dense vegetation, and abundant wildlife. We made a stop at El Bosque Encantado to walk on the hanging bridges and go on the giant swing that swished high above the forests.

    San Jose del Pacífico is also known as the mushroom capital of Mexico. Its psychedelic mushrooms are believed to have medicinal properties and are used in traditional ceremonies by the local communities. The small town has a bohemian, hippy vibe that we really liked.

    san jose del pacifico - road trip in oaxaca
    swing ni san jose del pacifico - oaxaca coast itinerary

    Mexico Travel Requirements

    • Mexico has no travel restrictions, and there’s no need for proof of vaccine or PCR tests on the plane. Anyone is welcomed to travel to Mexico.
    • However, I always recommend travelers to buy travel insurance, whether you’re traveling for a year or a week. These days, it is particularly important to have travel insurance that covers COVID-19. Read my travel insurance guide.
    • Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date.

    Where to Stay in San Jose del Pacífico

    Luxury: Alto de la Sierra by Rotamundos 

    Housed in beautiful A-roofed cabins, this hotel provides the best accommodation in the area. It’s a bit further from the main road, but the facilities are great. Check rates here.

    Mid Range: Cabañas Camino al Cielo

     We stayed at Cabañas Camino al Cielo and we were pleasantly surprised by the incredibly good facilities. The family cabin was well-designed, warm and cosy and the view was insane. Check the rates here.

    Budget: Hostel Cabañas La Cumbre

    For those on a budget, I would recommend the Hostel Cabañas La Cumbre. However, the internet at the hostel is ultra slow and there is often no hot water, but if the hostel/backpacker style is your thing, this is perfect for you.

    Oaxaca Itinerary Day 7: Beach Time

    The next day, it’s a 3-hour drive all the way south to the Pacific Coast. The Oaxacan coast is less developed than Cancun and the Riviera Maya, and is a great choice if you’re looking for a wilder and less commercialised beach experience. Along the coast, the scenery is both dramatic and serene, with towering cliffs and jagged rocks jutting out of the sea, while big waves lap at the golden sands.

    Make a Splash at Huatulco Beach

    Once you reach the coast, turn east to Bahia de Huatulco, where you’ll be staying the night. The area has nine bays and 30+ beaches. Many of the beaches are easily accessible by car from the town center, which is called La Crucecita. It’s a very small town but most of the things to do in Huatulco are out at sea, so it’s definitely a good spot to book a boat tour.

    We had lunch at one of the beachfront restaurants, then booked ourselves in for a boat trip around the Bahia de Huatulco. Boats run pretty much all day long until just before sunset. A standard private boat tour costs about 2500 MXN (US$125) per boat. It starts at Marina Santa Cruz and goes all the way to Bahia San Augustin with two stops for snorkeling.

    playa huatulco - places to stop on a oaxaca road trip

    Where to Stay in Huatulco

    Luxury: Secrets Huatulco Resort & Spa

    Located on a private beach in the Tangolunda Bay, Secrets Huatulco Resort & Spa offers luxurious amenities and services for a truly indulgent vacation. The resort features multiple infinity pools, seven gourmet restaurants, a full-service spa, and spacious suites with private balconies or terraces. Check rates.

    Mid-Range: Hotel Castillo Huatulco

    Nestled in the heart of La Crucecita, Hotel Castillo Huatulco offers comfortable rooms and a great location at an affordable price. We stayed here and really enjoyed the rooftop pool with stunning views of the town and the ocean. Check rates.

    Budget: Hostal Chikuaa

    For budget-conscious travelers, Hostal Chikuaa offers a cozy and affordable accommodation option in the heart of Santa Cruz. The hostel features a communal kitchen, lounge area, and rooftop terrace. Check rates.

    Oaxaca Itinerary Day 8: More Beaches

    The last part of your Oaxaca road trip takes you to your final destination, Puerto Escondido, via a few rugged beaches and hippie towns. Rise early, put on your swim suit, pack your bags, and get ready to continue exploring the Oaxacan coast.

    Drive to the Nudist Beach, Zipolite

    Your first stop is the nudist beach of Zipolite, a 1 hour 15 min drive away. While nude sunbathing is technically illegal in Mexico, it is tolerated at Zipolite Beach. Clothing is optional and most people do wear bikinis, just a handful will be nude.

    Zipolite Beach boasts the longest stretch of sandy beach on the Oaxacan coast, so there’s plenty of space for swimming and surfing. Though at times the waves can be choppy, they are generally manageable and offer plenty of entertainment. My 8-year-old daughter loved this beach!

    playa zipolite - oaxaca road trip

    Stop by San Agustinillo & Mazunte

    Continue westwards for just 16 minutes and you’ll reach Mazunte, another cute hippie town that has far better-priced restaurants than next-door San Agustinillo. A worthwhile place to visit here is the Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga, a research and conservation center dedicated to the protection of sea turtles in the region. You can learn about the different species of sea turtles, the threats they face, and the efforts to conserve them.

    mazunte beach - 10 days in oaxaca
    mazunte turtle center - oaxaca itinerary 10 days

    Hike to Punta Cometa

    In the afternoon, hike out to the rock outcrop of Punta Cometa for stunning views of the coastline. The 45-minute hike to Punta Cometa is a scenic one, bringing you through a lush tropical landscape. See the trail route on Google Maps.

    To get to the trailhead, take the main street of Rinconcito to Camino Mermejita. This road leads up the hill and eventually to Mermejita Beach. After five minutes, you’ll see a cemetery on the left and then a road with a group of signs, including one for Punta Cometa. Follow the trail until you arrive at the entrance. There is also a park worker in the evenings who keeps count of the people arriving. 

    sunset at punta cometa - driving from oaxaca to puerto escondido

    Stay in Puerto Escondido

    Finally, drive around 1.5hours to Puerto Escondido, the main hub of the Oaxacan coast. This was our favorite spot on the coast and we wished we had more time here! The beach town has grown into a proper city and now has a huge selection of accommodation to choose from. Stay the night here and then explore the next day.

    Where to Stay in Puerto Escondido

    Luxury: Hotel Escondido

    This stunning adults-only boutique hotel has a stylish decor and beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. The hotel’s design blends rustic and modern elements, with luxurious amenities and private plunge pools in some of the rooms. Check rates here.

    Mid-range: Selina Puerto Escondido

    Selina is a popular chain of hostels and hotels in Latin America, and their Puerto Escondido location offers a great balance of affordability and comfort. The hotel hosts events and activities for digital nomads, such as salsa lessons and surf lessons, making it a great place to meet other travelers. Check rates.

    Budget: Bungalows Zicatela

    This charming surf hostel is located in the heart of Puerto Escondido’s famous surf neighborhood, Zicatela. The hostel offers a variety of affordable dorm rooms and private rooms, as well as a communal kitchen and outdoor spaces to relax and socialize. Check rates.

    Oaxaca Itinerary Day 9: Puerto Escondido

    Puerto Escondido has become a magnet for surfers and travelers seeking a bohemian lifestyle. The town is known as one of the best surf spots in Mexico. The surf culture has infused the town with a laidback, easygoing vibe, attracting hippies and free spirits. The town is actually bigger than we expected, and there’s a wide array of activities on offer.

    Take Surfing Lessons

    Playa Zicatela has played an important role in putting Puerto Escondido on the map. It’s home to the so-called Mexican Pipeline. Surfers from all over the world come to ride the waves here.

    If you haven’t surfed before, sign up for a 2-hour surfing lesson here. The instructor will adapt the lesson to your level: if you are a beginner, he’ll push you into the waves, and if you are intermediate, he provides you with coaching and help you catch the waves on your own.

    oaxaca itinerary - surfing zicatelas

    Chill at Playa Carrizalillo

    The best beach in Puerto Escondido, Playa Carrizalillo, is rather secluded and requires a bit of effort to access. Walking down to the beach isn’t the issue, it’s climbing up the 167 steps on the rocky cliff face that’s hard work. The jade green water and perfect waves make it well worth the trek. Choose to lounge on the sundecks, slurp on fresh oysters shucked right on the beach, or go for a hike up the cliffs to more remote coves.

    oaxaca road trip - playa carrizalillo

    Release Baby Turtles

    On the windswept Playa Bacocho, you can actually help to release baby turtles and watch them waddle into the sea. Vive Mar is a turtle sanctuary that protects 27 km of coastline, from Bacocho Beach to Vijia Beach. Four species of sea turtles (out of seven that exist in the world) nest here.

    They run turtle release programs everyday at 5pm, and anyone can join for a small fee of 300 MXN ($15). The program runs all year long. The volunteers at Vive Mar first provide an educational talk about the turtles, then explain the process of hatching, and how the baby turtles need to crawl across the sand to reach the ocean. You can then join in the excitement of releasing the turtles into the water.

    Releasing baby turtles is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for both adults and kids alike. Our daughter said it was her favorite experience on our Oaxaca road trip — it was mine too!

    oaxaca road trip - turtle releasing in plaay bacocho

    Oaxaca Itinerary Day 10: Home

    Sadly, it’s the last day of your Oaxaca road trip and time to head home! I suggest flying out from the Puerto Escondido Airport (PXM) if your budget allows. Puerto Escondido is a tiny airport, and it only serves Mexico City, Guadalajara and Tijuana. Check here for flights to Puerto Escondido.

    You will however need to book a 1-way car rental, with pickup from Oaxaca Airport and drop-off at Puerto Escondido Airport. That usually comes with an extra charge. Also, you’ll need to book flights from one of the cities that serve PXM.

    We ended up driving back to Oaxaca for our flight home, and that took us around 6.5 hours direct (with a short stop for lunch on the way).

    Oaxaca Travel Guide

    Best Time to Visit Oaxaca

    The best time to visit Oaxaca is from October to April, when the weather is dry and mild. This is also the time of year when many of the city’s festivals and cultural events. 

    In general, Oaxaca has a desert climate with hot days and cool nights. Pack a light jacket regardless of the time you visit as the temperature drops drastically in the evening.

    The busiest time of the year runs from late October for the Day of the Dead, through mid-January. It’s also crowded in July, when Oaxaca celebrates the Guelaguetza, the biggest Oaxaca festival.

    best time to visit oaxaca - guelaguetza dancers

    Is it Safe to Travel to Oaxaca?

    Oaxaca is generally considered a safe destination for travelers. According to Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography, the state of Oaxaca had a homicide rate of 8.6 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2022, lower than the national average. The state government also reports that the number of homicides decreased by 33% from 2021 to 2022. 

    We went to Oaxaca at Day of the Dead so it was extremely crowded, but we still felt super safe. However, it’s worth noting that as with any destination, there is still a risk of crime, particularly in certain areas and at certain times. Petty theft, such as pickpocketing, is one of the most common types of crime reported in Oaxaca.

    oaxaca road trip - day of the dead in jalatlaco

    Driving Tips in Oaxaca

    • In Mexico, you drive on the right side of the road.
    • Driving in Oaxaca city can be stressful as traffic is usually crazy, especially during peak hours. Driving outside of Oaxaca city is a lot more relaxing and managable.
    • The mountain roads in the Sierra Madre del Sur are steep and winding, be prepared to spend hours navigating hairpin bends. The government is currently building a faster route from Oaxaca to the coast, but nobody knows when that will be completed.
    • Always keep your driving license, car rental papers, and proof of insurance handy.
    • The main road hazards are reckless drivers; they tend to go very fast, changing lanes as and when they like without signaling. Be wary of these drivers and keep calm!
    • Avoid driving at night as you won’t be able to see the speed bumps and drivers go even faster than usual.
    oaxaca road trip - dirt road

    Oaxaca Road Trip Tips

    A Oaxaca road trip is the absolute best way to see the state and experience everything it has to offer. Just pack a sense of adventure and tons of patience to navigate the mountain road and I guarantee you’ll have the trip of your lifetime!

    I hope you’ve found this Oaxaca itinerary useful. Feel free to leave a comment below if you need any help with planning your Oaxaca road trip. For those who are planning to travel more of Mexico, check out other articles I’ve written on Mexico:

    Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links i.e. if you book a stay through one of my links, I get a small commission at NO EXTRA COST to you. Thank you for your support!

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    oaxaca road trip - oaxaca itinerary - 10 days in oaxaca

    2 thoughts on “Oaxaca Road Trip: My 10-Day Oaxaca Itinerary”

    1. Me gusto mucho la información, realmente se antoja ir a las playas de Oaxaca como las de Huatulco, también hay que hablar de la basta gastronomía que tiene y de los hoteles increíbles.

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