Beautiful Beaches of Oaxaca Mexico, January 2021

At the north west end of Puerto Escondido is this gem of a beach: Playa Carrizalillo.

We rented a car for $60 US a day for 3 days (including insurance and a one way drop off fee) and drove from Oaxaca city over the mountain pass to the Oaxacan coast. You can do it in a day but it’s a bit gruelling so we broke up the trip with a night in San Jose del Pacifico. A super twisty road but gorgeous views of cloud frosted valleys below was very rewarding.

View from our cabana in San Jose del Pacifico.

We stayed in mellow, hippie vibe Mazunte for a couple nights before driving to Puerto Escondido to return the car.

Street art in Mazunte.
Bone marrow appetizer in Puerto Escondido.
Sunset in Puerto Escondido.

There are several small cove beaches and one very long beach to explore in Puerto Escondido. We stayed in a small apartment with a pool at the quieter north west end and had the choice of walking to beaches, restaurants and bars or taking a taxi to the long, busier beach.

Playa Manzanillo (within walking distance of our place) was a great place to sit in the shade of an umbrella restaurant and drink pina coladas.

Then we took a two hour air conditioned taxi back down the coast to our new favorite beach spot, Huatulco. We made ‘home base’ the town of La Crucecita and rented a scooter for 8 days so we could explore all the bays we could possibly drive to. Parque Nacional Huatulco prevents you from driving to every bay but a snorkel charter can get you there.

White throated magpie jays are common in the jungle of Huatulco.

There are 9 bays and over 30 beaches to explore in Huatulco with clear waters and tropical fish. Since we travel light we don’t pack actual snorkel gear. We just have one pair of goggles that we share and we know how to float!

Xquenda Huatulco Spa, where we stayed for Ian’s birthday.
Playa Entrega became one of our favorite beaches with calm water and good snorkeling.
San Augustine had some of the best snorkeling and gorgeous water.
Playa Cacaluta is a tropical dream come true. Bring water because there’s nothing out there except you!

After plenty of sunshine, sunscreen, cervezas, micheladas, margaritas, too much food and a flat tire on our scooter it was time to head back to the mountains! We bought tickets at $37 US pp for an eight hour overnight bus to San Cristobal de las Casas in the state of Chiapas. Woo hoo!

Sunset from the lighthouse in Huatulco.

History, Mole and Mezcal in Oaxaca Mexico, January 2021

Sunset at Templo de Santo Domingo Guzman.

Churches in Oaxaca are like Starbucks in Seattle. There’s one on every corner. I spotted six while sipping a smoky tasting mezcal margarita on a rooftop bar overlooking Templo de Santo Domingo Guzman. Each church has its own unique color scheme, adding to the overall charm of Oaxaca. We found Oaxaca to have a mellow vibe with sweet, helpful people even though it’s a city of over 300,000 souls.

The Anador is a pedestrian only street in Oaxaca city.

Oaxaca is famous for several things including cheese, chocolate, mezcal and seven different moles. The most complex mole is negro mole with up to 27 ingredients and takes half a day or more to make a batch.

A sampling of the seven moles of Oaxaca.
Negro mole for dinner on the plaza.

A half hour bus ride for 80 pesos ($4 US) takes you to Monte Alban. A World Heritage site that was the capital of the Zapotec civilization where you can walk among pyramids, tombs, temples and ball courts over 2,500 years old.

Due to Covid only a few hundred visitors are allowed each day. Get there early!
The carvings on the blocks depict sacrificial captives and calendar information.
A ball court. Unlike other ball courts in South America it appears the winners of the game weren’t sacrificed at this site.

Another fun day adventure was taking a colectivo out to a mezcal farm for 80 pesos ($4 US). It was a 45 minute drive out to the semi-desert country. We had to pass through a Covid checkpoint where our temperature was taken, we had to get out of the car and the car handles were sprayed with disinfectant and our hands were cleaned with sanitizer.

At the mezcal farm we learned there are hundreds of types of agave but mezcal is typically made from 12 varieties. You can buy a bottle made from a single varietal or blends, similar to wine. Tequila is made from one type of agave only, the Weber Blue agave. For mezcal it takes 7 to 15 years depending on the species for the plant to mature and form a pina at the heart. The pina is charred then chopped up and crushed by a stone wheel pulled by a horse to create a mash. We tasted this mash and it was sweet, similar to sugar cane.

The distillation process at the mezcal farm.

Then the mash was cooked in copper kettles over a wood fire to distill it, then distilled a second time. The mezcal can be consumed in one month or aged up to 4 years. After our tour we had the pleasure of tasting at least a dozen single plant and blended mezcals.

Mezcal tastes were served with orange slices dipped in three choices of salt: dried crushed maggots and salt, hibiscus flowers and salt or dried crushed grasshoppers and chili with salt (those three little black dishes).

After our stay in Oaxaca city we rented a car and drove the gnarly twisting road towards the coast and our destination of Mazunte. Half way to the coast we stopped and spent the night in San Jose del Pacifico at 8,000 feet and saw this gorgeous sunset! That night we enjoyed a wood fire in a private cabin while dreaming of the beach…..our next destination.

Lavender clouds billowing below in the valley as the sky burned vermilion!