It started with a simple and precautionary question, “What is the baggage policy on this airline?”
It was early morning in Mexico City, and we were packing our bags after an aggressive night of shopping. We had a flight to catch, and the Uber was on its way. I went to my phone to search for my ticket in my emails. That’s weird… I opened my laptop and searched again. No…way…
“The car is here. What’s going on?” I looked at my sister and squeaked, “I can’t find my ticket. I don’t think I booked……..!!” Can you imagine? The flight was in a little over an hour, the car was downstairs, and I just realized I didn’t book my ticket. To top it off, there were no seats, no flights, on any airline, available. After searching my credit card charges and confirming I definitely didn’t book this ticket, I did an emergency search on my options. I could fly the next day, eat my return ticket and chill in Mexico City by myself for another week, or take an 8 hour bus ride down to Oaxaca. These options were far from ideal.
In that moment, all I could do was get in the car to the airport. In my mind, I was going to talk to the airlines myself and make sure there were no available seats, or options. The next bus was in a couple hours. I could take a car to the bus station or wherever, from there. I made my way straight to the check in desk and asked them to confirm whether I was booked for this flight. I wasn’t. I asked if I could buy a ticket. I couldn’t, full flight. Same with the other airlines. Sigh. I did what I could. I told my sister to just go, give me the extra bags, I’ll take it to left luggage and take a freakin’ bus.
As I stood alone in the airport with too many bags, I refreshed my Google Flights in a last ditch effort, and LO AND BEHOLD, holy smokes, there was a flight that was leaving in 30 MINUTES, the same time as my sister’s flight. It popped up out of nowhere. Seriously, where the heck did this come from? It was in the next Terminal, a 5 minute bus ride away. Just imagine. Me sprinting with two bags to the bus, frantically booking this ticket on my way to the next terminal, refreshing due to technical difficulties, getting to the gate and being told they don’t have my ticket, blah blah long dramatic back and forth later, paying that extra arm and leg after all, there are miracles, I was on a flight to Oaxaca that landed the same time as my sister. OH MY GOD. 🙏🏼
Anyway, that’s the prologue to our trip. Oaxaca was the mother freakin bomb diggity, I cannot recommend it enough, and I can’t wait to go back!
What to Know: If you take a sliding scale and go from Quintana Roo to Mexico City to Oaxaca, like me, you have basically just experienced the 3 extremes of Mexico. Oaxaca is one of the 31 states of Mexico, and one of the poorest. It’s known for its indigenous people and culture, and their amazing food – noticeably different from the rest of Mexico. We loved Oaxaca. Oaxaca City is small, but bustling with local life. There are markets, museums, artisanal crafts, cooking classes, mezcal, and killer food. !!, I’m so excited for you to experience Oaxaca! Go with an open heart. I guarantee you will love it.
Travel Logistics: We were in Oaxaca City for about 3 days, a tad shy. I recommend more, definitely no less. We were debating between an extra day here or in Puerto Escondido; it was a tough call, and we made a game time decision to leave on the 3rd day on a night bus. In retrospect, we would have left CDMX earlier to spend more time in Oaxaca.What to Pack: It’s a small city with a local feel, dress comfortably.
Where to Stay: We booked pretty last minute (either the night before or the morning we flew), so there weren’t many options. We got pretty lucky despite; we stayed in a hotel right off the Zócalo, and we couldn’t have been luckier with the location.
How to Get Around: It’s a small city, walk!
Local Tips: Take a cooking class!
Travel Tips: Eat. Shop. Absorb. Relax.
What to Eat: Try the local specialties: Mole, Tlayuda, Chapulines, Caldo De Piedra, Mezcal, Quesillo, Chocolate, Tamales.
Shopping: I got hot chocolate and a wooden whisk, a specialty of Oaxaca (and upon Ross’ request). I went to both Chocolate Mayordomo and Chocolate La Soledad, two of the big producers. There are many options in the markets too. We also bought mole, chile de agua, and coffee. The textiles were beautiful, I got a scarf I didn’t need. I also got a bookmark I didn’t need. 😬 They are pushy with those bookmarks! At one point, I said lo siento, no leer. She laughed, and I ended up buying one, haha. If I had more time and space, I would have bought so much more, including ceramics and some art pieces. There are a lot of goodies in Oaxaca!
Day 1. Walk around. We dropped our bags at our hotel and wandered through the city center (Zócalo). The square was bustling with local life – on this particular Thursday afternoon, families were gathered to watch a school performance and vendors were selling snacks, toys, and balloons. Local vibes right off the bat. We wandered north, dipping in and out of shops and art galleries, scoping cooking classes along the way. We got to another square and went into Templo de Santo Domingo, one of the most beautiful churches/monasteries my sister and I had ever seen. The artwork on the ceilings were 😍
Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca was next door, highly recommended. This beautiful monastery turned museum has many rooms, and tons of history! They recommend at least 2 hours. We went near closing and had just under 2 to walk through. I’m not sure if there was an audio option, but if there is, get it. Everything is in Spanish (presumptuous of me to think there would be English translations!). We love art, history, and anthropology, and would have loved to have a better understanding of what we were looking at!
Despues del museo, we went to Los Danzantes for dinner. Highly recommended. The space was beautiful – open and outdoors – and the staff was so friendly. The food was great, and we ended up tasting their amazing selections of mezcal, which was fun!
After dinner, we walked through the Zócalo again, where lights were lit and people were hanging out, dancing, buying snacks, and enjoying life. We noticed a bunch of tents throughout the square, that we hadn’t noticed earlier in the day. Interesting… stay tuned for the cultural exchange.
Day 2. Oaxaca Perfection. We started our morning with a walk over to the markets –
Mercado Benito Juárez – awesome food market. Great place to buy Oaxaca cheese, mole, chocolates, mezcal; fresh produce; meat so fresh; and of course, the ever famous chapulines, grasshopper snacks. They let you sample them… as adventurous as I am, my recent trips to Mexico are proving bugs aren’t for me 😅 I’m going to share all the meat market images in a separate post… they’re pretty jarring.
Mercado 20 de Noviembre – hop next door to this market – a mix of artisans’ goods, food stalls, and of course, Pasillo de Carnes Asadas, the meat hall. We were a little turned off from the meat images in Mercardo Benito Juárez, so weren’t quite in the mood for meat. Instead, we had Caldo De Piedra and tamales at one of the food stalls off to the side – try the soup, if you want to taste local cuisine. The next day, we had tlayudas at one of the main lunch stalls. Honestly, compared to everything the city has to offer, it was not very good. I know the books say to try food in this cafeteria, but I would recommend passing, try something else.
After the markets, we went to Chocolate Mayordomo. My sister ordered the hot chocolate, I ordered the iced chocolate. Get the iced. We continued wandering through the city, admiring the local bustle of every day life – the street foods, the crafts being made, people selling balloons, art galleries… ❤️!Casa Oaxaca El Restaurante 🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽 We were lucky to get seated for lunch with no reservations. We walked by to check availability, and just as we were about to be turned away, there was an opening for 2 – prime seating, too! Happy dance. If you are in Oaxaca City, you must come here. This might have been my favorite meal in Mexico to date – more than Pujol and Quintonil perhaps! I loved that many ingredients were far out of my comfort zone, creating a wonderful culinary and cultural experience. Everything was so good. The cocktails were delicious – and strong… 😜 The food was excellent- great flavor, beautiful presentation, top notch service, and a wonderful cultural experience. The entire experience was a perfect package.The most memorable dish was a very special buñuelo (so far from what I was expecting) topped with chicatanas (ants), chapulines (grasshoppers), and chinicuiles (maggots). 😳 It was actually really good, but I just couldn’t finish my half. We also ordered the beef tongue- I usually love tongue at BBQs, but… I don’t know if it’s because I had just seen some gruesome images of entire cow heads and tongues hanging at the market… or because I had never seen tongue sliced in this way, but… in that moment, I just couldn’t. As I get older, I’m becoming more sensitive to meat…
We loved our meal. We had so much fun, and left the restaurant with a healthy buzz. We walked around some more, and decided to watch the sun set from the roof of Hotel Los Amantes- a popular spot for visitors. We came across a coffee shop, Blasón, where we had some kick ass coffee. I had no idea Mexico/Oaxaca made excellent coffee! We bought a few bags for home. This is where it gets even more fun. We were whisked away in a local wedding celebration! SO fun!! The entire wedding party was celebrating down the street, bride and groom led by a lively band, massive puppets, dancers, followed by their guests dancing and celebrating behind them as they made their way through the city. The entire city gathered and cheered the couple as they passed, joining the celebrations down the street. Love!
We ended up back at the Zócalo, where the evening’s activity was a musical performance, and the elderly dancing together or with the grandchildren. This city ❤️
Day 3. Cultural Exchange. We decided to catch the bus to Puerto Escondido later that night. We booked our stay for Puerto Escondido, packed our bags, and checked out. We wandered the city one last time, making our purchases of chocolate, mole, textiles, and other goods. We walked through the Zócalo, where the tents were still up, accompanied by multiple signs. We tried our best to translate, and later asked our hotel. We learned that the people living in the tents were all displaced and protesting the governor for aid. 😢 A reminder of the struggles in our world and the realities of this city we are visiting as tourists, a reminder of how blessed so many of us are, and a reminder to give thanks, be generous, and live joyfully for what is.
What to Know: Puerto Escondido is the beach destination on the Oaxacan coast of Mexico. Way different vibes from Quintana Roo (Cancun, PDC) – it’s super laid back, attracts a surfer crowd, and overall feels more local than touristy – it’s not as developed as other resort/beach destinations. We went during the lull before the holiday crowds, and were lucky to have the beaches almost all to ourselves.
Travel Logistics: As you know from my previous entry, I booked this trip very last minute (the day before I flew out) and booked (or didn’t book apparently) everything according to my sister’s itinerary. I was not looking forward to this leg of travel: the 7-8 hour bus ride from Oaxaca City down to Puerto Escondido. I get motion sickness, and all the reviews were horror stories of rough rides through the mountains.
It wasn’t until we were in Mexico City we learned there were small flights, maybe one every few days, that flew from Oaxaca to PE. Well… we were kicking ourselves for not having known sooner – they were already sold out by the time we realized. We also read about the option to charter a plane, which after reading all the bus reviews, we were seriously willing to do. Our voicemails for a pilot were met with no response 😦 So the bus we rode. It actually wasn’t that bad, it was just a major time suck. We decided to journey in the evening, where we would lose less daylight (albeit not get any views). The bus ride wasn’t as bad as people said – not overly bumpy, and nothing a little motion sickness medicine couldn’t take care of.
What to Pack: Beachwear! Don’t forget SPF, a hat, a book, and a speaker for the beach. It’s always nice to bring snorkel gear if you have it!
Where to Stay: We stayed at Shavanna Hotel Boutique, which was nice and proved to be pretty convenient. I remember being confused by the layout of the beach areas and where we should stay, but learned everything is easily accessible by taxi. I like where we stayed – it’s close to the bus stop, the airport (our hotel offered free shuttle service), a local market, the “restaurant row,” and one of the beaches, Playa Carrizalillo. Our hotel also offered free rides to other beaches during the day. Pretty sweet.
How to Get Around: Taxis. Make sure you have MXN$.
Local Tips: There are several beaches, all a quick taxi ride between one another. There was no night life when we went, not sure if there ever is one, but we were happy clams in our hotel. We hung out by the pool, did face masks, and watched Frida in bed 🙂
Travel Tips: Relaje.
What to Eat: Not as many interesting options as Oaxaca City, but we still found some gems. There aren’t many options, and your options are clustered in either Rinconada or Zicatela. If you’re not staying super close, I suggest you eat before heading back home from the beach. Don’t wait too late!
- El Cafecito, El Sultan for casual eats
- Costenito Cevicheria, Coco Fish Zicatela, Smoked Fish Taco for seafood
- Espadín Restaurante for sunset dinner and drinks
- Almoraduz Cocina de Autor for a quality meal
- Mercado Benito Juarez, hands down the best option for real local flavor
Shopping: My sister bought a hammock from a vendor on the beach 🙂
Playa Zicatela. Known for its surfing, this is the biggest beach in PE. It’s crazy, we had this massive, sandy beach all to ourselves, both days we visited! Pros to going early December, before the holidays. The beach was really nice to lay out on, go for walks on, and even swim in some areas; though it’s pretty rocky and meant more for surfing than it is for swimming. El Cafecito was our beach grub staple. Super easy, reliable, tasty, and awesome mojitos! We also tried Costenito Cevicheria which was right on the beach and had a trendier feel. A great option if you want seafood!
Playa Marinero / Playa Principal. We walked all the way down from Zicatela, to what must have been Marinero and Principal, though we didn’t realize it at the time. We walked on the road a little bit and came across this beach during sunset, where families were gathered and fishermen were bringing their nets in and collecting their catch.
Playa Carrizalillo, pictured above. Beautiful and secluded, this beach was actually the closest to us from our hotel. You descend down to this secluded paradise, where the beach is more swim and snorkel friendly. It’s smaller than Zicatela (the biggest by far), and more bustling, with a younger touristy crowd. We loved laying out with our speaker and books, people watching, and being able to swim more easily. Close to “restaurant row” in Rinconada. Obviously, El Cafecito was our after beach go-to.
Playa Puerto Angelito + Playa Manzanillo. Two petite beaches, separated by some rocks. Definitely more of a local vibe than touristy. We walked through Angelito, which had a boats docked on the beach, to Manzanillo, where we parked our bums on the beach. There are food and drink options here, and we ended up moving to one of the beach chairs and ordering beach drinks for the rest of our last day in paradise.
Almoraduz Cocina de Autor. Our last meal in Puerto Escondido. Noteworthy for its elevated menu, it’s the best option for a nice meal in PE. The cocktails were awesome, and the food was beautiful and delicious. Get the tasting menu, it’s only $500 MXN!
Mercado Benito Juarez. Our happiest discovery. Go here for real local flavor – you will definitely be the only non-local person. We were drawn to all the food stalls: fresh juices, tamales, huaraches… oh man, so good. Great place for breakfast/lunch before heading to the beach!