The road from the city of Oaxaca to the coast is an incredible drive that takes you up to nearly 9,000 feet before dropping back down at sea level in just a few hours.
On our way from Hierve el Agua’s petrified waterfalls we wrapped back around the outskirts of Oaxaca before turning off onto Highway 175, which is reportedly the most scenic of the three highways the lead to the coast.
We had been in inland Mexico for a long time now, ever since leaving the Puerto Vallarta area.
It was time to head back to the beach!
San Jose del Pacifico
The road began to wind wildly up the mountains and the temperature dropped while the plants and environment changed around us.
The clouds closed in around us and a light rain began to fall as we reached the highest part of the pass… I had to roll up the truck windows and reach back for my jacket. It was chilly!
We decided to break up the drive to the coast, so we stopped in at San Jose del Pacifico and wandered into Hotel Cabanas, which offered private little mountain cabin rooms with a nice view of the surrounding valleys.
The hotel was only 350 pesos per night, the rooms had a TV, but no internet, you had to pay by the hour in the lobby for that.
We tucked into the thick blankets. It was nice to feel truly cold for the first time since leaving the United States.
Off to Zipolite
The following day we wound back down the mountains and felt the temperature and humidity creep up once again.
It took us another four hours of driving to reach the crashing waves of the Pacific in Zipolite.
The surrounding countryside is green, wild, and tropic. It felt like we’d driven a very long way from Seattle for the first time, with a new and unfairly terrain. Lots of little shacks and vendors on the side of the road selling fruits.
This part of Mexico’s coast is still very much removed from the major tourist trade, and is nothing like Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, or Cabo San Lucas.
We found a place right on the beach called La Havana which had rustic little elevated cabanas for 150 pesos per night (about $10) with an absolutely incredible view of the crashing waves.
It felt like we’d found paradise.
In the distance we saw the bare butt cheeks of a couple walking past…
Zipolite has become well-known for being one of the few nude beaches in Mexico.
I gotta say it’s a little strange to have people walking past your door and letting it all hang out, but that’s the way it is here.
Nudity is tolerated, even on the main beach in front of town, and this place has become popular with the hippy backpackers especially.
We were mostly just blown away by the incredible view and the cheap prices.
It was a short walk to “town” which isn’t more than a couple blocks, where you could grab a beer for 15 pesos ($1) or a bite to eat like a tlayuda — a traditional Oaxacan dish, with a baked tortilla topped with all sorts of goodies that resembles a Mexican pizza — for just 40 pesos ($3).
Life in Zipolite is quiet, relaxed, and peaceful. Most people come here to do nothing at all, just laze about and enjoy beach life.
I loved just hanging out on the chairs on our porch, swinging in the hammock, or walking along the beach at sunset.
We managed to break away from paradise to explore a little further up the road, and made our way towards Mazunte, another coastal town just a short drive away.
We were hoping to see sea turtles and made our way to the National Mexican Turtle Center to seek out info or a tour, but were told that they weren’t expecting any activity in the coming days.
After a few nights of rustic living in Zipolite we decided to splurge on a slightly nicer place to stay… Andrea was aching for a real shower, instead of the salty shower at the cabanas in Zipolite.
Budget options were not plentiful in Mazunte, but we decided to stay at Hotel Arigalan for 750 pesos per night (5x more expensive than we paid in Zipolite).
But they had good internet and A/C, so it would be worth it.
Instead, we found that the internet was “down” after checking in and the A/C only marginally worked. It felt like a huge rip-off.
The hotel did have a most excellent view though, high on a bluff overlooking the ocean.
The saving grace (besides the nice shower) was hiking down the steep steps later that night and wandering into a delicious wood fire pizza place that sat right on the edge of the sandy beach and lapping waves.
Zipolite vs Mazunte
Zipolite is decidedly more rustic, wild, and less-developed, whereas Mazunte is more refined and upscale.
Zipolite is like the dirtier place where hippies go to walk around naked.
Mazunte is like the nicer place where foreigners pay big prices to go on a yoga retreat.
I liked Zipolite much more than Mazunte, personally.
Traveling to Oaxaca on your next trip? Book the perfect room on Booking.com today!
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- Driving in Mexico: Tijuana Border Crossing and Mexican Auto Insurance
- Welcome to Baja California, Mexico – First Nights on the Road
- Behind the Scenes House Sitting in Baja California
- Driving Mexico’s Baja Peninsula from San Quintin to San Ignacio
- Snorkeling off the Coast of Loreto in Mexico’s Baja California
- Beautiful Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and Problems with the Police
- How to Go from Baja California to Mainland Mexico – TMC Ferry from La Paz to Los Mochis
- The Police Welcome Us to Mainland Mexico – Arriving in Los Mochis
- Driving Mexico’s Beautiful Pacific Coast from Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta
- The Town of Tequila and the La Cofradia Factory Tour
- On the Road from Lake Chapala to Morelia, Mexico
- What it’s Like Driving into Mexico City
- How to Overland Central America – What to Know Before You Go
- The Top 10 Things to Do in Mexico City
- Don’t Drive through Mexico or Central America: You Will Be Kidnapped, Killed, or Worse!
- An (Almost) Free Vacation – Three Weeks House Sitting in Mexico City
- Visiting the Ancient Teotihuacan Pyramids in Mexico
- Tombs and Tunnels in Cholula, Mexico and Visiting Puebla
- The Wild and Rugged State of Oaxaca, Mexico
- Three Things You Must Do When Visiting Oaxaca, Mexico
- The Petrified Waterfalls and Infinity Pools of Hierve el Agua, Mexico
- The Hippie Beach Retreat of Zipolite, Mexico
- Ecotourism Among the Mangroves and Wildlife in La Ventanilla, Mexico
- Never Drive at Night: Overcoming Blockades and Protests in Oaxaca, Mexico
- Visiting Mexico’s Stunning Sumidero Canyon in Chiapas
- An Honest Opinion of San Cristobol de las Casas, Mexico
- Ranking the Best (and Worst) Countries in Central America for Travelers
This is part of our Road Trip Central America series on our overland journey.
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