Exploring Mazunte, Oaxaca (Mexico)
My Mom and I recently took a trip to Mazunte, a small, undeveloped beach town in Southern Oaxaca, less than an hour drive from the Huatulco and Puerto Escondido airports (both which are less than an hour flight from Mexico City!). The region is still relatively undiscovered and very clean, beautiful and safe. Highly recommended for those looking for a relaxing beach getaway at a good price.
Where to Stay:
Casa Pan de Miel: This 7 room boutique hotel is a little luxurious gem. The main communal area is housed under a giant palapa (thatched roof) and looks out over an incredible infinity pool and the successive beach and ocean. The rooms are comfortable and unique, replete with private balconies, hammocks and interesting Mexican art. A delicious breakfast of fresh mango, papaya, Mexican- style eggs, and home- baked bread and pastries is served every morning, along with freshly squeezed juices and local coffee. (The excellent French cook also organizes a dinner for guests a few times each week). The hotel is located up on a cliff with exceptional views of the ocean, but the beach is only a short 5-minute walk down a private stairway.
PuntaPlacer: For a simpler setting and to be directly on the beach, try renting one of the bungalows from this oceanside property. The bungalows are housed in palapas as well, and are bright, airy and comfortable (no air conditioning though!) The advantage is that when you step out of your front door, you are directly on St. Agustinillo beach—the best in the area. The hotel also has an excellent restaurant.
Un Sueno: For the ultimate simple beach experience, go for one of the 12 cabanas at this beachside hotel right next to Punta Placer. This eco-friendly property doesn’t boast hot water or air conditioning, but it’s everything you need if you’re there to enjoy the roaring Pacific located right outside your door. Hammocks and good coffee add to the enjoyable experience.
Where to Eat:
Cangrejo Azul: This simple roadside restaurant serves some of the best food in the region. The French chef got tired of big city life and decided to move to Mazunte, bringing his excellent cooking with him. The décor is all wood, soft lighting and open air and the food is delicious. The menu includes variations on fish caught that morning on the beach (I had the tenderest dorado in a mouthwatering chile adobo sauce) and the fresh fish pastas are delectable. Don’t miss out on the tasty desserts either—a standout is the chocolate chamote cake.
La Termita: This restaurant is located on the St. Agustinillo beach strip and is also attached to a nice posada (hotel). The main draw is the thin crust pizza cooked in the giant pizza oven right on the beach, and it’s a unique experience to eat your pie with your feet stuck in the sand overlooking the Pacific ocean. Come at sunset, order a cocktail and then wait for your delicious pizza to arrive.
What to do:
Take a Boat Excursion: Boats leave daily from the edge of the San Agustinillo beach area and cost approximately 200 pesos or $15 per person (ask your hotel to help you arrange a time/date). The trips usually depart earlier in the morning around 7:30 or 8, in order to be out on the water in time to view the diverse array of marine life in action, and last about 3 hours. When my Mom and I recently took the trip in early January, our boat was soon flanked by dolphins on both sides, jumping into the air and playing with our boat! Next we watched in awe as groups of giant manterays leapt out of the water and bellyflopped back down (apparently they either do this for mating reasons or to avoid predators). We also saw a large number of giant sea turtles, which are now a protected species in this area. At one point, our guide jumped into the ocean and got ahold of a giant turtle and then invited us to all jump in to take a closer look (and even a quick touch—amazing!). After a few exciting hours out on the open ocean, the boat docks in a small bay and all passengers are provided with snorkeling equipment and fins. We saw tons of colorful marine life and I even got to hold a giant balloon fish. Definitely worth the trip!
Visit the National Mexican Turtle Sanctuary: Back in the 1980’s, Mazunte used to have one business—turtle killing. Apparently fisherman would catch and kill between 1000 to 1500 turtles per day, using or selling every part of the animal. When Italian tourists began arriving to the area, pressure was put on the government to stop this bloody practice, which was eventually banned in the 90’s. Today the whole region is about protecting these endangered creatures and one of the main sights to visit is the Mazunte Turtle Sanctuary. Entrance is about $3 and well worth it for what you will learn about the different turtle species and the roles they play in the local ecosystem. When we visited, the interactive area where you can actually touch and hold the turtles was under construction due to hurricane damage, but apparently this is one of the major draws.
Relax on the beach in St. Agustinillo: The stretch of beach along San Agustinillo is definitely one of the best in the area. Choose a seat at one of the many relaxed beachside cafes and restaurants (just sitting in a chair won’t cost you anything!) and enjoy a chilled michelada or fruit smoothie as you look out into the ocean. On most days the waves are good for bodyboarding or for just swimming out into the clear, warm water. The beach is also ideal for walking, and you can always trek back through the town for a relaxing lunch or to view some of the artisan shops.
Hike to the furthest southern point to watch sunset: Ask a local about a spot off of the Mazunte beach that is the most southern outcropping into the Pacific ocean. There is a hiking trail you can follow out onto the rocks that is by far the most spectacular place to view the sunset.
Take a yoga class at Agama Yoga: This branch of the international Agama yoga studio is located a few steps away from Casa Pan de Miel, and the classes are offered in a beautiful open air netted studio with incredible views of the ocean. Aside from individual classes, the studio also offers an impressive array of workshops, intensive courses and teacher trainings. Your first visit is free and definitely a worthwhile experience, just for the setting alone.
When to Go: Summer is hurricane season, and like many destinations in Mexico, the best time to go can be during winter. Try to avoid the overly popular Christmas/New Years season—for us, early January proved to be ideal.