Over the past six years I’ve spent living in Oaxaca part-time, I’ve made it my personal mission to eat, drink and explore as much as I possibly can. I get a lot of questions from friends and travelers about tips and recommendations for Oaxaca and so I’ve finally condensed them into one comprehensive guide! These are my personal favorites, and not an exhaustive list by any means, but I hope it helps you get the most out of your time in Oaxaca. (Note that “Oaxaca” can refer to both the state of Oaxaca, and its capital city, Oaxaca de Juarez.)
The Miha Oaxaca Travel Guide is broken up into sections to make it easier to find what you're looking for:
Part 1. Planning your Trip & Where to Stay
Part 2. Food, Drink & Nightlife
Part 3: Activities & Day Trips
Part 4: Shopping
Part 5: The Oaxacan Coast + Mountains
The historic center of Oaxaca City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
WHEN TO GO
The best time of year to enjoy Oaxaca is October through March, when the summer rains have ceased, but before the hot season has descended upon the city. Some people don’t mind the heat of April-May or the daily rains from June-September, but fall and winter is my preferred time to be in the city.
Take note of the high seasons, which include Día de los Muertos (October 31st - November 4th or so), Semana Santa (Easter week - dates change every year), and Guelaguegtza, which is an annual celebration of Oaxaca’s distinct indigenous cultures that takes place in the end of July. People will reserve accommodations a year in advance for these popular events, so plan ahead if you’re trying to come during these dates.
Dia de los Muertos altar laden with offerings for the deceased.
HOW TO GET THERE
I prefer flying directly to Oaxaca de Juarez instead of taking a bus from Mexico City, even though you can save a buck taking the bus. Dealing with traffic in CDMX and coordinating bus times makes it not worth the savings, in my opinion.
In order to get from the OAX airport into the city center, there are affordable shared taxi vans (~85 pesos per person) or private taxis ( ~335 pesos per vehicle), both of which you buy tickets for at a counter in the airport. Alternatively, you can walk off the airport grounds and find a private taxi that will take you in to the center for about 200 pesos.
If you have time to go to the Oaxacan coast, it’s well worth the trip. More on the beach later, but for itinerary planning purposes, I recommend a minimum of four days in Oaxaca City, and three days on the coast. I often prefer to buy individual tickets instead of round trip when I’m including the coast in my visit. For example:
Home → Oaxaca de Juarez
Oaxaca de Juarez → The Oaxacan Coast (airports in Huatulco or Puerto Escondido)
The Oaxacan Coast → Home
For flying in and out of Oaxaca City (and for flying home from the beach) you can check Google Flights, or the like. For checking flights to the coast from OAX, you’ll want to search for airlines directly, as these small domestic airlines often won’t show up on flight aggregate sites.
TAR offers flights to Huatulco and Aerotucan offers flights to Puerto Escondido and Huatulco. Both of these airlines, but especially Aerotucan, often fly VERY tiny plans. Not ideal for someone scared of flying but quite the thrill otherwise. These flights typically cost $100 USD one-way, but you can get occasional discounted fares.
Other options for getting to the coast include a camioneta (microbus) that takes about 7 hours, costs about $20 USD, and is essentially hairpin curves up and then down a mountain the entire time. Not for the faint of stomach. Lastly, you can take a big ADO bus, which costs about $30, takes 10 hours, and is best done overnight if you can sleep on a bus.
Tiny plane over the Oaxacan Coast.
WHERE TO STAY
The best option for accommodation in Oaxaca City is via Air Bnb. Like many other popular cities, the best apartments in the city center have converted from long to short-term rentals, which sucks for local residents, but bodes well for tourists.
The most ideal neighborhoods (barrios) to stay in are:
The Centro is the most walkable, but also the busiest and potentially noisy, with the latter three being more residential, and a pleasant 10-20 minute walk into the centro.
A general rule of thumb is that the closer you are to Templo de Santo Domingo (5), the closer you are to the heart of the city.
Another thing to keep in mind is that while the Zócalo (6) has historically been considered the city center, the tourist-y center has shifted north, and the further you head south of the Zócalo, accommodation options will probably be cheaper and less catered towards foreigners. As it’s more of a local neighborhood, at its best it will feel like an authentic Mexican experience, and at its worst there could be a higher chance of opportunistic crime.
Templo de Santo Domingo.
If you’re looking for a hotel or hostel instead of Air Bnb, I recommend, listed more or less from budget to upscale:
Hostel Casa Angel - A really great hostel owned by a pair of local brothers, with a range of dorm and private room options, and large shared spaces including a great rooftop terrace, in the heart of the city.
Hotel Las Golondrinas - A great value, Golondrinas is a family-owned, centrally-located option with clean, simple rooms and a beautiful shady garden patio.
Hotel el Diablo y La Sandia - A boutique hotel with two locations (the one on Calle Libres is the one in the Centro) and colorful, beautifully appointed rooms with uniquely Oaxacan style.
Casa de la Tía Tere - The gem of this hotel is the lush plants hanging down from balconies that surround the pool. They offer suite options with two rooms and a kitchenette, which makes for a comfortable longer stay.
Hotel Casa Oaxaca - Sister-business to the restaurant of the same name, this hotel is stunning in its minimal design, featuring white-washed rooms, antique furniture, a beautiful pool, excellent food and drink service, and even a temezcal offering (sweat lodge native to this region).
Hotel Los Amantes - A new renovation in a beautiful colonial building, the hotel is owned by Los Amantes mezcal brand and the mezcal theme runs strong throughout. Designed by the Amantes Creative Director and local artist Guillermo Olguin, the hotel has a distinctive artistic touch, with rooms named for different types of agaves and mezcal bottle vases on each table. The rooftop bar boasts one of the best views in Oaxaca, especially for sunset.
Quinta Real - Quinta Real is old school luxury. This is where Spanish royalty stay when they come to Oaxaca. The hotel occupies an entire city block, which was once a convent. Much of the original architecture remains, and the updates have been done impeccably. If you want over-the-top opulence, this is the place for you, although you may never want to leave the grounds.
The pool at Quinta Real.
Questions or suggestions? Please let me know in the comments!