South America

How Many Days in Oaxaca: The Perfect Itinerary

Oaxaca is a beautiful state in Mexico with a lot going on. So you might wonder, how many days do you ideally need to explore Oaxaca without being in a rush? And how to best spend your time in the beautiful area?

Oaxaca offers palm tree-lined, golden sand beaches along the Pacific coast. But there are also small mountain towns and interesting ruins with a rich history for you to explore.

I have spent 6 weeks in Oaxaca and know the ins and outs of the country. To help you plan your trip and have ample time to see it all, I have created this amazing Oaxaca itinerary for you.

So whether you prefer experiences in nature, learning about history or trying out new food, this Oaxaca itinerary is for you. It is designed for you to see the best of the state – while still being on a slow travel journey. 

Keep on reading to find out about the best places to visit, where to stay and the top activities and day trips. And of course how much time you need for each stop.

Let’s get to it, Oaxaca is waiting for you!

stunning cathedral in oaxaca city with agave plants in front of it

Table of Contents

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How Much Time in Oaxaca? Itinerary at a Glance

As someone who spent almost 6 weeks in Oaxaca, I truly know how what slow-paced travel means. You’ll want the time to immerse yourself in the culture and absorb everything about the place you are traveling to.

So, this isn’t an action-packed, whistle-stop style itinerary. This Oaxaca itinerary is rather designed to really explore each place and discover the true magic of Mexico.

For this Oaxaca itinerary I suggest 4 main stops: Puerto Escondido, Chacahua, San José del Pacifico and Oaxaca City. From each of these stops, you can add day-trips as well to your itinerary.

For each of these destinations, I’d recommend the following days as a minimum. In my opinion, there is no maximum time to spend in Oaxaca, since there is so much to do.

☀️ Puerto Escondido: Stay at least 4 days, but ideally 7 days

☀️ Chacahua: Stay least 2 days, ideally 3 nights

☀️ San José del Pacifico: Stay at least 1 day, but 3 nights is ideal

☀️ Oaxaca City: Stay at least 3 nights, but it’s easy to spend a week or more here  

google maps road trip map for oaxaca itinerary showing which places to visit in oaxaca
Oaxaca RoadTrip Itinerary Map

Puerto Escondido

Puerto Escondido is located on Oaxaca’s Pacifico Coast. Puerto Escondido was once a sleepy town but is now growing into one of the most popular destinations for visitors.

It is known for its beautiful beaches, stunning sunsets and easy-going vibe. I found it so easy to see the appeal of Puerto Escondido when you stand on its sandy shores. 

As mentioned before, I suggest you stay at least 4 days in Puerto Escondido. If you have some more time on your hands, a week is ideal to spend in the area.

Find below some tips on how and where to spend your days in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca.

amazing sunset picture of oaxacas beautiful puerto escondido region with stunning colors and the author walking on the beach

How to Get to Puerto Escondido

Flights operate daily into Puerto Escondido’s small and central airport. It is connected with the rest of the world via Mexico City.

From the airport, it’s just a short taxi ride to your hotel in the town. You can also pick up a rental car at the airport to get around town.

Where to Stay in Puerto Escondido

Puerto Escondido has 5 different neighborhoods. They mostly correspond to the different beaches located along its long shoreline. 

Centro is the cheapest and most local experience, as it’s away from the beach. You can expect low prices, but relatively low standards compared with the other areas. The international clientele isn’t the main market for hotels here. 

Bacocho is a bit out of the way as it’s at the end of the town. So, I’d recommend staying somewhere with easier access to the rest of Puerto Escondido. This way, you spend less time and money on taxis or trucks.

Rinconada, Zicatela and La Punta are the three most popular Puerto Escondido neighborhoods to stay in.

Of the three, Rinconada is the most authentic. La Punta is most popular with backpackers. It has lots of international cuisine and small-town charm. Lastly, Zicatela is the home of nightlife although without the charm of La Punta.

Things to Do in Puerto Escondido

If you are looking for great things to do in your week in Puerto Escondido, I have some ideas. As you can see, there is a lot to do and you’ll also want some time to relax at the beach. So make sure to plan ample time for Puerto Escondido.

Here are my favorite things to do in Puerto Escondido:

  • Release newly hatched turtles into the ocean at Playa Bacocho every evening (this was my favourite!)
  • Watch world-class surfing events from the shores of Playa Zicatela
  • Take a surfing lesson around La Punta
  • Experience life as a local at Benito Juarez Market
  • Find the hidden Playa Coral and snorkel in the rock pools
  • Visit the most paradise-like beach at Playa Carrizalillo
  • Grab a beer and watch sunset from Zicatela Beach
Puerto Escondido Beach stunning white sandy beach with lush jungles in oaxaca

Day Trips From Puerto Escondido

As well as having its own beautiful beaches, Puerto Escondido is surrounded by some of the best beaches in Oaxaca. And if you love being by the ocean, then exploring beyond Puerto Escondido will unlock even more beautiful beaches and fun-filled days.

Mazunte and Zipolite are two towns located east along the Oaxaca coast. Both are a lot smaller than Puerto Escondido, but are getting super popular. Many people look to find more authentic destinations outside of the well-known towns, and I suggest to visit those two.

You can stay for a few days here, but if you prefer to have a base and not move every couple of days, then a day trip from Puerto Escondido is perfect.

chacahua beach amazing shot taken from above over the blue ocean and white sandy beach

Chacahua National Park

The Chacahua National Park is a place that isn’t very well-known, but it’s been growing in popularity year after year. My advice would be to visit soon before it changes too much and gets overrun with tourists.

What awaits you are miles of unspoiled beaches in the beautiful Lagunas de Chacahua National Park and the most slow-paced, laid-back culture I’ve ever experienced.

It’s definitely paradise and you have to add it to your Oaxaca itinerary. As mentioned before, I would ideally stay 3 nights the park. You can probably also see it in a shorter amount of time, but it is much more enjoyable when staying longer.

How to Get to Chacahua from Puerto Escondido

Getting to Chacahua isn’t easy, but that’s what keeps the crowds away from this magical and remote paradise. 

From Puerto Escondido, you’ll need to first get a colectivo (shared minivan) to the highway junction by Zapotalito. When you arrive, there’ll be shared taxis waiting to take you down to the pier.

Finally, you can take a boat through the mangroves of the lagoons directly to Chacahua town.

You can also opt for a cheaper short boat trip and shared truck to the town. 

Where to Stay in Chacahua

Chacahua has an ever-growing number of cabanas, guesthouses, hotels and even hammocks and tents available. But most of these options aren’t available to book online. 

My Tip: You’ll get the best price and the biggest selection if you book in person when you arrive. If you’re visiting over the weekend or around national holidays, it’s probably best to book a couple of nights online and then extend or move once you’re there to avoid missing out. 

Things to Do in Chacahua

Despite being small, there are plenty of things to do in Chacahua. But don’t forget to plan some time to just chill out! Three days should be enough time to enjoy this area to the fullest on my Oaxaca itinerary.

My favorite things to do in Chacahua are:

  • Walk up to the lighthouse and take in views of the rugged Oaxaca coast
  • Go on a nighttime bioluminescence tour around the lagoons
  • Make the most of the beginner-friendly waves and take a surfing lesson with a local
  • Swim in the mouth of the lagoon to keep cool
the author overlooking the stunning village of san jose del pacifico in oaxaca that you should definitely visit if you have enough time

San Jose del Pacifico

Nestled high in the mountains of Oaxaca, San José del Pacifico is a unique town that feels a world away from the paradise-like shores of the Pacific coast. It is an unassuming and small town, so you wouldn’t expect it to attract so many visitors. 

Funnily enough, this town is famous for being Mexico’s magic mushroom capital, thanks to their indigenous use. As a result, you can find psychedelic artwork and souvenirs all around the town. 

Unlike anywhere else in Mexico, I loved my time in San José. Plus, the cooler mountain climate is a welcome reprieve from the scorching heat of the coast – you’ll need a jumper and coat here!

If you are wondering how many days you need in San Jose del Pacifico, Oaxaca, I got the answer. Make sure to stay at least for one night here. I really recommend three nights for the best experience.

How to Get to San Jose del Pacifico

The way to San Jose del Pacifico is an easy, but not too pleasant ride up through the mountains from either Oaxaca City or the coast.

Small minivans run from Zipolite, Pochutla (you can get a bus here from Puerto Escondido) and Oaxaca City. The journey will be taking roughly 3 hours. 

My tip: If you get travel sick, I’d recommend getting anti-sickness bands and/or tablets. Also make sure to bring a soft drink to sip on. There are a lot of winding roads with tight turns, but I promise it’s worth it. 

Where to Stay in San Jose del Pacifico

The popularity of San José del Pacifico has also grown in recent years. As a result, there are more modern accommodation options available than there were previously. 

Given the chilly mountain weather and high humidity from literally being in the clouds a lot of the time, having somewhere warm and comfortable to go back to is important.

Alto de la Sierra is my favorite place to stay. Its wooden cottages in the woods offer a unique place to stay with a slice of luxury inside. 

My Favorite Things to Do in San Jose del Pacifico

Being in San José del Pacifico is all about enjoying nature. I’d recommend the following activities for your trip:

  • Climbing to the mirador for views of the mountains or of the moving clouds – although at over 8000 feet above sea level this did quite literally take my breath away!
  • Enjoying one of the many hiking trails through the forests
  • Experiencing the mirador in the trees for a viewpoint with a twist
  • Sitting and watching the sunset over the beautiful landscape
Beautiful Oaxaca City with lots of colorful decorations next to cute little houses that need to be on your Oaxaca itinerary

Oaxaca City

Oaxaca City is stunning – and it offers a not too hot, never too cold climate. Year-round daily highs of at least 77 Fahrenheit means, that there’s never a bad time to visit. 

I found that it’s an easy place to be, the kind where you’ll come for a few days and stay for many more. Oaxaca City has all the amenities you need… supermarkets, shops, attractions, transport links, great restaurants and a bustling market. 

I spent countless days wandering around the charming streets, enjoying the warm weather and taking day trips out to other areas of Oaxaca. And I didn’t really want to leave!

That being said, you need to stay at least three days in Oaxaca City. Ideally, you have a week in Oaxaca City, for a great experience.

How to Get to Oaxaca City

From San José del Pacifico, take a small minivan back down through the mountains. They leave from the only main road in the town and you can buy tickets on the day itself.

Alternatively, from the coast, you can take a minivan through the mountains. That will be taking around 6 to 7 hours.

Larger coaches operate along a longer but less mountainous route, taking around 12 hours with the option of overnight transport. 

Mexico City is around 8 hours from Oaxaca City by overland public transport. But you do have the option for a short flight.

Finally, Oaxaca Airport has international routes to the US or you can connect through Mexico City to many destinations around the world. 

Where to Stay in Oaxaca City

My one piece of advice would be to stay as close to the center as possible in Oaxaca City (near the Zócalo).

You’ll get to pick from a wide selection of hotels, apartments, guesthouses, and other properties. But in a city of this size, you can pretty quickly be a bit of a walk away from the center.

And, if you’re happy to do that, no problem. But, I think it’ll really make your experience of the city by being in the heart of it.

Author’s Tip: Additionally, if you’re visiting for Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos), make sure you book as early as possible. Accommodation usually is fully booked a few weeks out. 

Things to Do In and Around Oaxaca City

With so much to do in Oaxaca City, you might not know where to start. Within the center of Oaxaca city itself, I’d recommend you…

  • Walk up to the Monumento a Benito Juárez for panoramic city views
  • Enjoy a stroll around the botanical gardens
  • See the Santo Domingo Church
  • Shop for souvenirs and tasty treats at Mercado Benito Juárez and Mercado 20 de Noviembre
  • Go for a street food dinner at the Netflix-famous Tlayudas La Chinita, considered one of the best food stalls in Latin America
  • Take a walking tour to learn about the history, architecture and culture of Oaxaca City
  • Try Mezcal in one of the local shops then enjoy a drink on a rooftop bar for sunset

Day Trips from Oaxaca City

But what also makes Oaxaca City is the number of day trips you can do. If you stay a whole week in Oaxaca, you’ll have enough days to also book a couple of day trips.

My top picks of day trips from Oaxaca City are:

  • Monte Alban Ruins. Even by Mexico’s standards of archaeological sites, this one is impressive with its hilltop location and well-preserved buildings
  • The petrified waterfall of Hierve el Agua is a unique place with stunning rock formations, pools and springs with splendid views over the hills and considered one of the best waterfalls in Mexico
  • The archaeological site of Mitla with its fascinating history! Plus, this site attracts fewer visitors than Monte Alban
  • Visiting a Mezcal distillery to see the whole process from agave to bottle

Is it Safe to Travel to Oaxaca?

Oaxaca City and popular tourist spots like Puerto Escondido are generally safe. But no place is 100% risk-free, right?

Some areas in Oaxaca state may have higher crime rates, like those close to highways or less touristy regions. Always a good idea to do a bit of research and ask locals for their take.

Do you need travel insurance in Oaxaca? Yes, travel insurance in Oaxaca is highly recommended.
Unsafe roads, water sports accidents, and food poisoning are only a few examples of when travel insurance could come in handy. EKTA offers worldwide travel insurance with 24/7 service and no hidden fees or restrictions.

Living in Oaxaca as a Digital Nomad

Oaxaca is becoming a hotspot for digital nomads! Since it takes a while to see all of the beautiful area, you might want to consider a longer stay to have more days to travel Oaxaca.

It’s got good internet, coworking spaces, and plenty of coffee shops to work from. Plus, the cost of living is pretty affordable.

The city is packed with culture, food, and history, so you’ll have lots to explore when you’re off the clock.

How to Pronounce Oaxaca?

At this point, you probably also wonder how to pronounce Oaxaca. I had some Spanish in High School, but this word still has my respect regarding pronunciation.

So here it is: Oaxaca is pronounced “wah-HAH-kah.”

The name comes from the Nahuatl word “Huāxyacac,” which was later Hispanicized to “Oaxaca.”

Nahuatl was the language of the Aztecs, so the name has deep roots in Mexico’s history.

Conclusion: So, are you ready to go to Oaxaca?

The enchanting beauty of Mexico awaits! Get ready for the beautiful beaches of Puerto Escondido, the tranquil escape to Chacahua, the surreal experience of San José del Pacifico in the clouds and finally the rich culture of Oaxaca City.

By travelling slowly, you’ll get to experience the different landscapes and immerse yourself in the culture to truly appreciate it for what it is. Whatever your travel pace, I hope this itinerary helps you discover the magic of Oaxaca.

As we have discussed, you will need quite a bit of time to experience Oaxaca to the fullest.

Puerto Escondido needs at least 4 days, but ideally, you have 7 days to explore the area. As we’ve heard, you should stay at least 2 days in Chacahua. 3 nights would be ideal.

San José del Pacifico needs at least 1 day, but 3 nights there would be ideal.

Lastly, in Oaxaca City you should stay at least 3 nights. But with many great things to do in the area you can stay a lot longer.

If you are looking for more amazing things to do in South America, check out Santa Marta Colombia or the beautiful ABC Islands.

FAQ: How Many Days in Oaxaca?

How many days in Oaxaca?

To really dig into Oaxaca, I’d say give it at least a couple of weeks. You’ll want time to explore Oaxaca City, hit up the markets, and maybe even take a cooking class. Don’t forget the nearby attractions like Monte Albán and Hierve el Agua. If you’re also thinking of beach time in Puerto Escondido or another coastal spot like Chacahua, add a few more days. Basically, the more time, the better.

Best Places to visit in Oaxaca State?

In Oaxaca, definitely check out Oaxaca City for its food and culture. Monte Albán offers ancient ruins with killer views. For natural beauty, Hierve el Agua has unique “petrified” waterfalls. Chacahua is another amazing spot worth a visit. If you’re a beach lover, Puerto Escondido’s your go-to for surf and sunsets. Make sure to check out San Jose Del Pacifico as well.

How to say Oaxaca?

Oaxaca is pronounced “wah-HAH-kah.” The name has roots in the Nahuatl language, which was spoken by the Aztecs. It originally went by “Huāxyacac,” but the name was later Hispanicized to Oaxaca. So, when saying it, think three syllables: “wah,” “HAH,” “kah.” Easy once you get the hang of it!

blonde girl pink dress in front of blue door santorini

About the Author

Sabrina is a passionate travel blogger and content creator, based in the Netherlands. She spends about half of the year traveling to various destinations together with her husband.

She provides slow-paced itineraries that focus on quality over quantity. Sabrina wants to help her readers to get more out of their travel experiences – while doing less. Read more.