Oaxaca is the largest state in Mexico and includes not only the artisan-hub capital city of the same name, but also miles and miles of sand and surf along the southern Pacific Coast. Mazunte is one of these beach towns, a cool six-hour drive from Oaxaca City and about an hour and a half from the most popular beach destination in the state: Puerto Escondido.
I never planned to visit Mazunte, although it was recommended to me by both locals and foreigners. I planned to spend time in Puerto Escondido for my beach fix, and then in Oaxaca City. After that, the plan was to move on to the Yucatan Peninsula. But as my time in Oaxaca was winding down and I started looking into where to go next, I realized that the Yucatan is huge. There was so much to see and do, so many places to visit, that I would barely be able to get a small taste. And there is SO much to see and do in Oaxaca. There are mountain ranges—the Sierra Norte & Sierra Sur, as well as the southern part of the Rockies. There are pyramids and ancient ruins from the Prehispanic civilizations that settled here. And there is a coastline full of beaches, each with its own flavor. I decided, instead of venturing to an entirely new area and getting a tiny overview of each place, that I would spend the rest of my time in Oaxaca, and at least feel like I had a solid stay in Mexico’s largest state. So after taking a 12-hour overnight bus up from the coast just days earlier, I back-tracked, this time with a six-hour winding ride in a little passenger van, all the way back to the Oaxacan Coast.
And now, flying back to Boston, exhausted but relaxed, I’m so glad I made the decision to stay and to visit this magic little beach town.
If you’re into yoga and meditation and reiki you’ll love it. i
And if you’re not, you’ll still really love it.
If you search the internet for information on Mazunte, you are sure to find blogs about this “secret spot” in Mexico, or a sleepy little beach town. Despite the fact that Mazunte has outgrown its secret spot status, becoming a known and sought-after destination for tourists in the last 5-10 years, its small scale and size allow it to maintain that off-the-beaten-path feel, creating an oasis for its visitors.
Mazunte is much smaller than it’s more popular and populated neighbor, Puerto Escondido. Boasting one main road lined with shops and restaurants, where the cars drive, and one perpendicular road, with bars and restaurants leading to the sea, it is hard to get lost in Mazunte. If you do, you can just ask someone—literally anyone—for directions, and they’re likely to know the way.
There are the usual suspects here—swimsuit shops and people trying to sell tours, but it is to a smaller extent than anywhere else I have visited in Mexico, maybe in the world. I did not see, in Mazunte, people buying cheap trinkets. Nor did I see buses full of people coming and going in tour groups. In fact, the largest tourist draw here seems to be experiences: surfing, yoga, meditation, massage.
Fair warning if you’re thinking of visiting: This is a hippie haven. Unkempt hair, shoeless feet, and nary a bra in sight. All a-ok, but as much as I appreciate wokeness and living authentically, places like this can be a bit much for me at times. People meditating and stretching next to you at the beach (especially interesting the day I visited Zipolite, the nude beach down the road), speaking in their sing-song voices with their lanky white bodies sooooo chill and relaxed from all the hours and hours of yoga lead by other foreigners, exploring their inner consciousness. I’m not trying to throw shade, but it provokes a lot of questions for me. Questions about equity and local cultures and looking only within rather than opening and involving yourself with the outside world. Questions that would better be addressed in another, separate post.
Don’t let me scare you off from visiting this place because it’s amazing. If you’re into yoga and meditation and reiki you’ll love it. And if you’re not into any of those things you can still really love it. Just like I did.
You'll know you're on the right track to Punta Cometa when you see this
The road to Playa Mermejita
Farewell breakfast with new friends <3
So, what to do in Mazunte if you’re not a surfer or a yogi? The good news for us basic travelers: There’s plenty!
Go to the beach, obviously.
There are three main beaches in Mazunte: One that shares the name of the town, the main beach Mazunte. There is Playa Rinconcito, which is actually the last bit of Mazunte beach, furthest west and closest to the rocky lookout, Punta Cometa. This part of the beach is good for swimming, as the water in Mazunte can be pretty rough (hence the emphasis on surfing.) In this little cove of Rinconcito, you can find some gentler surf during the day. On the other side of Punta Cometa, to the east you can find Playa Mermejita. (yes, mermaid beach!) This long stretch of surf is less populated than Mazunte and you might just feel that “secret spot” feeling afterall. The day I ventured over to this side, the waves were very rough, much too intense for my doggy-paddle swimming abilities. There were red flags up that day, signifying it was unsafe to swim. Be on the lookout for these flags when beaching in Mazunte. Safety first.
There are other, smaller coves where you can soak up the sun and feel like Gilligan in your own deserted island. Punta Cometa is one such cove, and can be reached by following the trails that weave their way through the famous lookout point. Taking a colectivo, shared ride service in the back of a truck, you can reach nearby San Agustinillo or Zipolite—Mexico’s only nude beach. I definitely recommend visiting if you’re open-minded enough to see naked bodies on the beach. If you’re not, maybe that’s even more reason to visit.
Zipolite, Mexico's only nude beach. (Zoom in to see for yourself!)
Catch a sunset—and a sunrise—at Punta Cometa.
This is one of the most popular things to do in Mazunte, and each evening you’ll see other people making the pilgrimage to the lookout spot. You can ask anyone in town how to get up there and they’ll be able to tell you. But so can I. Starting from the main street leading to the sea, Rinconcito, you’ll take Camino Mermejita. You’ll know it’s the right street because it’s a hill and because of the beautiful murals on the stone wall. (See above.) Follow this road until it forks, where the straight path takes you to Playa Mermejita, and taking a left will bring you to Punta Cometa. There are signs along the way and a few different places in which the road forks. But don’t be alarmed. I took a bunch of these trails and all lead to stunning views. I recommend taking the right or westernmost route to watch the sunset, and for sunrise in the morning, take the left trails to see the east.
For such a small piece of land, the trail system is actually pretty extensive. It only takes 10-15 minutes to reach the lookout points if you go directly, but if you’re looking to get more in touch with nature or to sneak in a workout, you can easily spend a few hours roaming (or running!) the numerous trails.
Eat and Drink.
Being a hot-spot for the woke-folk, or a hippie-haven, Mazunte is full of vegan and vegetarian restaurants. There is a vegan Israeli restaurant, another called Horus, and several other restaurants that, while not vegetarian have plenty of options on the menu.
Sea Food, duh. I enjoyed fish tacos at Sahuaro and another spot whose name slips my memory—but if you see the place on calle Rinconcito with food trucks, order yourself a couple of their fish tacos. The ceviche con fruta from Cevichela was to die for and opened up conversation between me and a French girl living in Montreal, who happens to be a friend now.
I had REALLY good chilaquiles at both Siddharta and at the terraza at the Arquitecto hotel.
The ice cream here is more like sorbet, light on the dairy or sometimes dairy free, and there are some refreshing fruity flavors. Coconut is always my go-to but there is also a local flavor called tuna, which is not a fish, but the fruit of a cactus. It’s pink and delicious, almost berry-like. It’s hot in Mazunte so helado is essential.
There are stands selling “cocos frios” all over the place, where you can buy a cold coconut to sip on—with or without alcohol.
If you’re looking to party you certainly can. There are plenty of bars and restaurants where you can grab a drink, and of course there’s always the BYOB to the beach option. That being said, don’t expect to go “bar-hopping” at night. The town is so small that this just isn’t really a thing. After the dinner hour, and heading into the partying hour, there is usually one establishment that hosts all of the party-goers per evening. My 70-year old Swedish friend, Carina, and I went out to dinner and then moseyed into Sahuaro on a Tuesday night, where there was live music and at least half the tourist population. On Wednesday night, after meeting my new French friend at the ceviche restaurant, we decided to go elsewhere to grab a drink. We realized shortly after perusing the entirety of the main street, that the only place with a party atmosphere that night would be the one we had just left. So we headed back to Cevichela, joined this time by Carina, and stayed for the rest of the night where we drank shots of mezcal and cerveza. A DJ bumped house music and people of all ages, some with dreads, some sin shoes, with their fresh-found beach glow, danced the night away.
Chilaquiles are life
Paletas de coco, perfect treat on a hot day.
The National Mexican Turtle Center
In fairness, I did not visit this place. I did release adorable baby sea turtles in Puerto Escondido, which I will be posting more about later. I’ve seen mixed reviews on this place. From what it sounds like the project is a good one, but with a lack of funding it’s a bit run down. Still, probably a good use of a small number of pesos to support sea turtle conservation. The center cares for injured turtles and then releases them back into the wild. My friend Carina was lucky enough to be in town to see the release of two adult sea turtles. The video footage was incredible and it must have been a very special thing to witness in person.
When I call Mazunte magic, I’m not just using flowery language. It happens to be one of the “Pueblos magicos”—places in Mexico that are said to have healing properties and in which traditional Mexican medicinal and wellness rituals are still practiced. Popular services include temazcal—not to be confused with the oh-so-delicious agave-based liquor “mezcal”, massage, and “limpiando”, cleansing, often with an egg.
I did a Temezcal session in Tepotzlan, months ago when I first arrived in Mexico with New Guy. The experience was truly something special but I chose not to do it again in Mazunte. For one thing it was SO DAMN hot during the day in Mazunte—dipping down to a cool 78 in the middle of the night—that I couldn’t bear the thought of sitting in a hot, sauna-like environment. Also, the first time we did temazcal it was a private experience with just the two of us. I’ll recommend that if you ever in your life do temazcal—And seriously you should do it—make it a private visit. In my mind there is nothing relaxing about panting and sweating through the heat in an igloo full of strangers.
If you’ve never experienced any of these traditional Mexican rituals, do yourself a favor and book something. You deserve the relaxation, and let’s face it; You could probably use a good cleansing.
In addition to sea turtles, dolphins (delfínes) and whales (ballenas) are found off the coast of Mazunte. They can sometimes be spotted from land, and I was lucky enough to see some dolphins splashing through the orange glow of sunset from high atop Punta Cometa. There are whale and dolphin-watching boat tours available, which I don’t have any information on, but which sound pretty cool.
And, if you must…
Yoga, meditate, Reiki. The small size and relaxed atmosphere make it a really awesome place for quieting and settling and for introspection. Being really bad at these things, I found my quiet, meditative times in different ways—in my sunrise hike to Punta Cometa and almost-nude sunbathing in the little cove beaches within. Bringing my computer along to write blog posts while I sipped fresh papaya juice and listened to the waves crashing. Taking long leisurely walks on the beach, enjoying my own company. But for others, if you are into yoga or meditation, or if you’re looking to push your personal boundaries of solitude with a silent retreat, this is the perfect place to do it.
Whether you’re a yogi or a turtle fanatic, a sunset chaser or an early riser, a health-first all-natural vegan, or a party-until the break of dawn type, there is something for you in Mazunte. It really is magical. And it was the perfect place to spend my last four days of this incredible three-month journey in Mexico; winding down, turning up, and basking in the beauty of this place, and of this life.