Oaxaca Travel Guide

Mexico is always a good idea!

Where is Oaxaca Mexico?

Oaxaca State is located in south-central Mexico, with Chiapas State to the east. These two states are popular with those seeking culture travel in Mexico.

Q: How do you pronounce Oaxaca?!

A: You’re not alone in wondering, How do you say Oaxaca?, as its a very common question! Oaxaca is pronounced waa-HA-kah.

Oaxaca Mexico map

Best Oaxaca Travel Destinations:

oaxaca travel - colorful flags and colonial buildings in oaxaca city, mexico

Oaxaca City, Oaxaca Mexico

Known for its famous Day of the Dead holiday celebration, Oaxaca City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the state’s capital and cultural epicenter. When talking about the city, most will just say Oaxaca, though its official name is Oaxaca de Juarez.

Is Oaxaca worth visiting? Absolutely! Oaxaca, in a word, is magical. It’s hard not to fall in love with the friendly, humble people, colorful mercados (markets) and artisan towns, festive street parties, delicious Oaxaca food, and more.

oaxaca travel - staircase down to a beach cove in puerto escondido, mexico

Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca Mexico

The most popular Oaxaca beach town! One of the things that put Puerto Escondido, meaning hidden port, on the map are its surf waves. However, even non-surfers will enjoy all the beautiful Puerto Escondido beaches as well.

How do I get from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido? Though there’s only about 100 miles between Oaxaca City and the beaches of Oaxaca, this isn’t the easiest trip. Head to this article for detailed information on all options on how to get to Puerto Escondido from Oaxaca City.

Best things to do in Oaxaca:

Best Oaxaca tours:

Oaxaca Travel Blogs

Oaxaca Travel FAQ

Is Oaxaca safe for travel?

Oaxaca consistently ranks among the safest states in Mexico. Oaxaca City, the most popular place for tourism in Oaxaca, is a medium-sized city that feels more like a small town. The beaches on the Oaxacan Coast are also known to be quite safe.

To venture off the beaten path in Oaxaca, head to San Jose del Pacifico, where many go to do magic mushrooms, and the Pueblos Mancomunados. This group of eight self-governing, indigenous Zapotec villages in the Sierra Norte, is popular with tourists seeking a unique experience.

As with traveling anywhere, you’ll want to follow general travel safety guidelines — like not walking home alone at night, watching your alcohol consumption and staying aware of yourself and surroundings. For an added safety measure, pack these travel safety items, dress in a way so your Mexico outfits blend in with the locals, and buy a Mexico SIM card.

Want to hear about Mexico travel safety from the experts? Check out my Is Mexico Safe for Travel? article.

A great place for slow travel in Mexico, you could spend a month in Oaxaca and not see all the top spots and hidden gems. From the mountains in the northern part of the state, to the beautiful beaches all the way south, and so much to see in between — Oaxaca would make a great longer trip.

Since most people don’t have a month, you’d realistically need at least six full days to explore both Oaxaca City and one or two Oaxaca beach towns. If you’re just staying in one part of the state, either the city or the beaches, three full days will suffice.

📍 best OAXACA Mexico sites

Oaxaca City, Puerto Escondido, Bahías de Huatulco, Mazunte, Monte Alban Ruins, San Pablo de Mitla, Hierve el Agua

📍 OAXACA Off the Beaten Path

Zipolite Beach, Lagunas de Chacahua National Park, San Agustín Etla, San Agustinillo Beach, Pueblos Mancomunados, San Jose del Pacifico (Oaxaca mushroom town), Oaxaca Artisan Towns (Ocotlan, Teotitlan del Valle, San Martín Tilcajete, San Bartolo Coyotepec, Santa María Atzompa)

🌵 Oaxaca City

The best time to visit is during the Oaxaca dry season from October to May. Overall, northern and central Oaxaca have a temperate, desert-like — though you’ll want to try to avoid the rainy season from April to September, as it rains quite a bit. During the other months, you’ll enjoy warm, sunny days and cool, crisp nights.

The most popular time to visit Oaxaca is during Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead), held Nov. 1-2 each year. The Guelaguetza Festival in July is another popular time for Oaxaca travel.

🏝 beaches on the oaxaca coast

The beaches of Oaxaca have a much more tropical climate than Oaxaca City. The rainy season lasts from April to late-October or November, and the coast of Oaxaca sees a lot of rain.

The best time to visit the beaches of Oaxaca is from November-April, when the temperatures are mild and the humidity and mosquitoes are at bay. This is also during the annual whale migration, when pacific gray, humpback and blue whales swim along the coast of Oaxaca to their breeding grounds.

Oaxaca city

For Oaxaca City, you’ll want to fly into Oaxaca City International Airport (code: OAX), located about 20 minutes from Centro Historico (Historic Downtown Oaxaca City). From there, you can book private transportation, take a taxi, colectivo (small, shared van) or rental car to your accommodation. Note: There is no Uber in Oaxaca state.

🚙💨 Traveling from Oaxaca City to the beaches? Check out this detailed guide, Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido & Huatulco: 5 Transportation Options.

Oaxaca beaches

On the beaches of Oaxaca, there are two airports; the first is Puerto Escondido International Airport (code: PXM), for those traveling to Puerto Escondido and Chacahua.

The second, Bahías de Huatulco International Airport (code: HUX), is the better option for Huatulco, Mazunte and Zipolite, San Agustinillo and Puerto Angel.

🗣 Mexico Language

Mexico Fun Fact: There’s actually no official language of Mexico!

Spanish is the most widely-spoken, so some mistakenly say Spanish is the official language of Mexico. However, the government actually recognizes 68 national languages, including the Nahuatl Aztec language, and the Maya language.

💰 Mexico Currency

Mexican Peso — Exchange rates vary, but have hovered around $18-21 pesos to $1USD for about the last decade. You will find some places that take U.S. dollars, but usually at an unfavorable rate, so stick to using pesos in Mexico.

☀️ Mexico Weather

Mexico is a big country — the 7th largest on Earth, in fact! It’s hard to generalize the weather in Mexico, because it will vary greatly by where you’re traveling.

In general, temperatures are mostly mild everywhere all year long, though summers on the coast are hot and humid, and winters in Central and Northern Mexico are on the colder side. Throughout the whole country, the rainy season runs from (about) April through September.

✈️ Mexico Busy Season & Slow Season

• Mexico Busy Season: The busy season in Mexico runs October to March, as this is the dry season and you’ll get the best weather. December is the busiest month for tourism in Mexico.

Mexico Slow Season: If you don’t mind some rain, you’ll often find the best travel deal during the Mexico slow season of April to September. Do keep in mind that June 1-November 1 is Hurricane Season, and Mexico beaches are all susceptible.

Mexico Shoulder Season: The shoulder season is that magical time when prices are still low and the weather is good. The Mexico shoulder season is from about mid-October to November and January to early-April.

🧳 Download your FREE Mexico Packing Checklist!

Check out this ULTIMATE Packing List for Mexico — so you know what to pack and what NOT to pack for Mexico! This article offers advice on packing for Mexico City (and all cities), and packing for a Mexico beach vacation.

Beyond what Mexico outfits and clothing you’ll want to bring, here are a few extra things to consider:

• Filterable Water Bottle: Mexico is close to the Equator, so you’ll need to stay extra hydrated.

A filterable, refillable water bottle not only keeps you hydrated, but also filters your water so you don’t get sick in Mexico.

The LifeStraw Refillable Water Bottle and Britta Filtered Water Bottle are both great options.

• Mexico SIM Card: Want to be able to use your phone in Mexico?! Of course you do! Pick up a TELCEL Mexico SIM card before your trip, and swap it out on the plane while you’re waiting to exit, so you have phone and data service the second you arrive in Mexico!

• Anti-Hangover Meds: Planning to party hardy?! Make sure you’re not wasting any of your precious travel time with a hangover. Liquid I.V. has about 70,000 reviews on Amazon, and is considered the best defense against a hangover.

• Sun Hat: No matter if you’re headed to the beach or a city, you’ll want to wear a hat to shield yourself from the strong Mexican sun. This cute sun hat is the perfect stylish and practical accessory for your Mexico vacation.

 Sunscreen: As you’ll want to reapply a few times throughout the day, a light, Mineral-Based Sunscreen is ideal. Headed to the beach? Do your part to practice responsible tourism in Mexico by only using an eco-friendly Reef Safe Sunscreen while swimming. You can even ditch the sunscreen altogether and opt for a Long Sleeve Swimsuit instead.

 Bug Repellent: Mosquitoes are common throughout Mexico — especially on the beaches! REPEL Insect Repellent is an eco-friendly brand that’s DEET-free and plant based, with a pleasant lemon and eucalyptus scent. Don’t want to use a spray? Pick up some Mosquito Repellent Bracelets.

No — U.S. passport holders do not need a visa to travel to Mexico. For non-U.S. citizens, head here to see if you need a Mexico travel visa.

When you go through Immigration and enter the country, you’ll receive your Forma Migratoria Multiple, or FMM Tourist Card. If you’re coming by plane or cruise ship, there is no charge; for those driving across the border, the FMM costs about $30USD. In most circumstances, all visitors get a 180-day (six month) visa — so you can legally stay up to six months!

🚨 Have your FMM on you at all times

Keep in mind that though it’s called an FMM card, it’s actually just a small piece of paper. Keep your FMM on you at all times in your wallet, as this proves your legal status in Mexico. It’s rare, but if an officer stops you, they can ask to see your FMM.

🎫 Don’t lose your FMM!

Be sure to keep track of your FMM, as you’ll have to give it back to an Immigration officer at the airport, cruise port, or land crossing when you’re leaving the country.

If you lose your FMM, there is a $600 peso ($30USD) cost to replace it, and some paperwork you’ll need to fill out before you can leave the country. If you’re flying home, plan to arrive at the airport about one hour earlier than you normally would to do the paperwork and pay the fine.

As this question doesn’t have a yes/no answer (I wish it did!), I do my best to answer it in depth in this article, Is Mexico Safe for Women: 20 Mexico Solo Travel Tips You Need. However, for the most part, Mexico is actually statistically quite safe for all travelers — including solo travelers! Check my Solo Female Mexico Travel page for more info.

Mexico solo travel guides

Mexico is a big country, and it has plenty of amazing solo female travel destinations — like the ones featured in this article, Mexico Solo Travel: 20 SAFE Destinations for Female Travelers. In it, you’ll get recommendations of places to visit in Mexico, from solo travelers who have actually been to them.

🎧 solo travel podcasts

• Ep. 34 | Planning your first Mexico solo trip
• Ep. 40 | Tips for safe solo travel in Mexico
• Ep. 53 | 30 Solo female travel tips, Pt. 1

To answer the question, Is it safe to drive in Mexico?YES, it’s considered safe to rent a car and drive in Mexico. As the country is quite large, road trips are a great way to see a lot in a little time, and especially popular in the Yucatan Peninsula and Baja California Peninsula.

The one caveat to Mexico driving safety is that you’ll be in a foreign country, unfamiliar with their laws and customs. Head here for a complete guide to Renting A Car in Mexico: Everything You Need to Know, where you’ll also get 10 useful Mexico driving tips!

🚙💨 Looking for the best Mexico car rental company? Discover Cars works with both local Mexican companies and international companies to get you the best rates. Not only do I recommend them — I also use them!

As a general rule, you’ll want to know at least a few words of Spanish when visiting anywhere in Mexico. This is both a sign of respect, and will also help you have a better, smoother trip.

If you stick to the more touristic places in Mexico, you should be fine with basic Spanish. For those planning to venture off the beaten path, be advised most people in pueblos (small towns) speak little to no English.

Here are some options:

  • Brush up on your Spanish: Use a language-learning program like Rocket Spanish, so you’re confident, and conversational, before your trip.
  • Download the Google Translate App: For this to work at all times, you’ll need a Mexico SIM card with data — as the app won’t work when you’re off-WiFi.
  • Travel with a Mexico phrasebook: This Lonely Planet Spanish Phrasebook is an Amazon best seller, and a great non-digital language assistant!
  • Save the infographic below as an image on your phone. This way, you have access to these common words, phrases and questions even when you’re off-WiFi.
List of useful spanish words and phrases