Mexico’s Affordable Paradise: Oaxaca Coast

Puerto Escondido - Image Credit Nicole Leigh West

Flaming sunsets, swaying hammocks and azure seas don’t often come with an affordable holiday price tag. Head to Mexico’s Oaxaca coast though, and you’ll find charming beach towns with unique personalities to suit yours, on a budget. Here's where to go.

Puerto Escondido

If you’re a surfer, Puerto Escondido’s Playa Zicatela will put a smile on your face most days, with the famous ‘Mexpipe’. For everyone else, this happy beach town brings locals, expats and travellers together at beachfront restaurants, bohemian boutiques and sweet-smelling cafes.

Playa Carrizalillo is a superstar among Mexican beaches, with sparkling views as you walk down 100 or so steps to reach the soft sand. Once there, you’ll float in a clear, sheltered cove and sip fruity cocktails with a mezcal shot or two, from shady shacks at the foot of the cliffs.

Eat on the waterfront and you can expect to pay tourist prices. However, just a block or two back from any stretch of sand, you’ll find tasty bites for a fraction of the price. In terms of accommodation, rustic rooms on Airbnb cost, on average, around $30 AUD per night. Hostel beds near the ocean are a bargain for about $9.

Puerto Escondido is what you want it to be. Playa La Punta is the spot for backpackers and hostels, Playa Bacocho is a romantic couple’s playground and Playa Zicatela is party central. No matter where you choose to stay, it’s easy to get around and those flaming sunsets follow you everywhere.

Mazunte

For artists, writers, boho beach bums and hippies, stumbling on Mazunte is like landing in heaven. This hidden gem has plenty of non-residents strolling around in chilled-out bliss, but it hasn’t succumbed to tourism. It’s tiny, in that you can walk around the whole town within an hour, or less if you’re fast.

The beach is a wide arc of yellowish-white sand, flanked by lush headlands and lined with casual restaurant shacks. Swimming here is a dream, however, even on calm days, the wave breaks onshore with astounding force and powerful undertow. It becomes a fun challenge to get in and out, without getting pummelled. Once you clear the break, the iridescent water is cool, undulating and totally addictive.

Treehouse-style abodes dot the surrounding valley, and it’s possible to simply show up and book a room for a cheaper price than you’ll find online. Camp, book a hostel bed or a fully-equipped apartment, for $50 and under. As for dining, feast at gourmet beachfront restaurants like Siddhartha, for about $10 per main meal, or pick up a fresh taco for a dollar.

For remote workers, this is one of the best cheap beach towns in Mexico, where laptop-friendly cafes abound. Though the internet is a bit patchy, a local sim card is enough to keep you connected. When, or if you ever have enough of swimming, eating and strolling, you’ll find yoga classes, beachside movies, quirky boutiques, mini-festivals and plenty of new friends to keep you busy.

Zipolite

Have you ever wanted to wander, stark naked, on the beach – without feeling self-conscious? Zipolite is the place for you. Big resort developers haven’t moved in here yet, so the clothing-optional beach survives. There’s nothing sleazy about it either. This place is truly free, easy and a beautiful flashback to what we’d all perhaps imagine a ‘hippie haven’ is meant to look like.

In fact, the town’s somewhat official logo is, ‘where people come to do nothing’. Nothing, that is, except bliss out on an extraordinarily beautiful beach in a vibe that’s utterly relaxed and, more importantly, authentically so. If you do feel like some action, join the naked, fit residents jogging on the beach, shop for wooden toys or catch a movie at Firefly Cinema.

Two main streets feature a range of hippie shops and restaurants, from trendy pubs to cool cafes and rustic local eateries. Accommodation ranges from stylish beach abodes to cute cabins in back streets that still offer the soothing sounds of crashing waves, for well under $50 AUD a night.

Getting there

To get the beach towns on the Oaxaca coast, you can fly from Mexico City to Puerto Escondido. Renting a car is the best way to explore the region, with straightforward routes and relatively good roads to get around. However, buses and taxis are also available between towns.

The Pacific Coast beaches are dramatically overshadowed by Mexico’s Caribbean superstars, and herein lies their beauty. Chilled-out, stunningly beautiful and unique in character, they’re all deserving of the high holiday price tag, but blessedly free of it – as well as mass tourism.

Get there before everyone else does.

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