Travel Guide •  Oaxaca, Mexico

8 Unique Ways To Experience The Best Of Oaxaca in 2024, Mexico

Last Updated On:  March 11, 2024

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Oaxaca is one of the 31 states of Mexico. Located in the central part of the country and only a 45-minute flight from Mexico City, it is such an easy addition to any trip to Mexico.

Due to its unique blend of culture, food, and history, it is getting more attention than ever. With its colonial-era streets, Baroque churches, and laid-back vibe Oaxaca attracts travelers from around the world, satisfying the modern bohemian curiosity for tradition, culinary highlights, and history.

The minute we arrived in the city of Oaxaca, I knew this was my kind of place. The energy, the colorful buildings, the historic center, and the love of art and food. Oaxaca is actually so much bigger than most people realize. It stretches from the historic center, across epic mountain ranges all the way down to the jagged coastlines of the Pacific Ocean. Nash and I were lucky enough to spend a whole week in Oaxaca so we got a pretty good taste of what the state has to offer.

This blog post is designed to provide a quick overview of all the best things Oaxaca has to offer, from the best hotels and best restaurants to all our favorite must do’s, so you can plan the perfect itinerary for your trip to Oaxaca!


Favorite Hotel:

Closest Airport:

Xoxocotlán International Airport (IATA)

8 Unique Ways To Experience The Best Of Oaxaca, Mexico
8 Unique Ways To Experience The Best Of Oaxaca, Mexico

7 of the Best Accommodations in Oaxaca

Before we dive into the best things to do in Oaxaca, let's find you a place to stay. Below are 6 of our favorites for every budget!

Boutique Hotel

Placed in a 19th-century house, this contemporary boutique hotel is the perfect blend between the old and the new. Due to its central location and with just twelve rooms the hotel feels almost residential.

Boutique Hotel

A thoughtfully designed hotel with a clean and minimal style boasting a big courtyard and 18 individually designed rooms located in the heart of the UNESCO heritage center of Oaxaca.

Boutique Hotel

This beautifully designed boutique hotel boasts 20 suites, each with its own stunning mural that it is named after. Everything from location to the customer service is on point.

Boutique Airbnb

Casa Criollo is a peaceful Airbnb that sits behind its pretty famous sister restaurant Criollo and features 2 bedrooms, a built-in steam room, an outdoor plunge pool, a living room, and a relaxing outdoor lounge space. The design is everything and perfect for a family or group of friends.

Affordable Boutique Hotel

If you are looking for a more simple and traditional kind of lodging experience then look no further. This beautiful boutique hotel is not only stunning and inviting but also affordable. There is so much love for detail and you couldn't possibly ask for a better location. 

Cheap Hostel

This place is more than just a hostel but offers a community and a home away from home. The dorm rooms are comfortable and offer privacy, and the breakfast is delicious. Definitely recommended if you are traveling on a budget.

Luxury Hotel

Flavia Hotel Oaxaca is located about 15 minutes by car from the Oaxaca City Center. Although the hotel is quite luxurious and absolutely beautifully designed the distance to all the sights might not be for everyone. However, if you are looking for a quiet place to recharge and retreat then look no further. The hotel features a stunning outdoor swimming pool and a rooftop restaurant & bar with breathtaking sunset views over Oaxaca. Flavia Hotel features 11 rooms with cozy stone fireplaces, a wardrobe, and a work desk.

8 Unique Ways To Experience The Best Of Oaxaca, Mexico
8 Unique Ways To Experience The Best Of Oaxaca, Mexico

1. Join A Free Walking Tour

Price: Free (Recommended to bring cash for tip)

Duration: 2.5 Hours

A great way to get familiar with Oaxaca is to join Oaxaca’s free walking tour. This 2.5h hour walking tour run by locals, will give you an insight into the culture, history, art, and gastronomy of Oaxaca. The tour guides are more than happy to answer any questions you might have and will provide you with their personal recommendations for what to see, where to shop, and most importantly where the locals eat. After all, Oaxaca is known for its mouth-watering cuisine.

If you take a minute to check out their website you will also see that they offer private guided tours as well as Oaxaca Flavors Food Tour. While this one isn’t free it might be worth paying for if you love food and would like to get an insider’s look into why Oaxaca is the capital of food in Mexico. Get ready to wander through tiny back streets and into the kitchen of places that have been running for generations.

Make sure to bring cash so you can tip your guide for the time and effort invested in providing you with this insightful guided tour through her/his hometown.

2. Stay at Hotel Sin Nombre

Price: Starting from $150/night

On-site Restaurant: Restaurant Sin Nombre

Staying at Hotel Sin Nombre was easily one of the highlights of our trip to Oaxaca. There is just something so peaceful about entering the quiet yet spacious courtyard of this design-forward boutique hotel.

It isn’t hard to guess that the interior was influenced by the traditional Riad that we immediately fell in love with while visiting the vibrant city of Marrakech in Morocco. Hidden behind a nondescriptive door you will find Hotel Sin Nombre, located right in the heart of the Old town in Oaxaca. The hotel features a total of 18 rooms and a spacious rooftop restaurant with a small plunge pool to cool off during the hot summer days.

other hotels nearby

3. Try traditional Oaxacan Cuisine

Price Range: $-$$

Opening Times: 1pm-10pm except Sundays

We stumbled upon Levadura de Olla Restaurante while leisurely exploring the old town of Oaxaca. We were immediately drawn to the cute lights that set the mood within the adorable little courtyard that night. What makes this restaurant a must when visiting Oaxaca is its focus on traditional Oaxacan Cuisine.

The menu takes you on a journey through the culinary customs of the local people of Oaxaca with a variety of mole dishes and very interesting traditional beverages such as aqua de maiz. Try the squash blossom tamale with red and black mole, it was surprisingly delicious!

This is as authentic as you can get in Oaxaca. The staff hardly speaks English and the menu is all in Spanish. If you don’t speak any Spanish make sure to download the Google Translate app.

If you are more of a hands on kind of person and rather learn to cook your own traditional Oaxacan meal then we recommend signing up for this traditional Oaxacan cooking class. Here you get the chance to be invited by a local to her house and learn to cook like she learned cooking from her mom. Visit the local market, the biggest in Oaxaca and help pick fresh and organic ingredients. The menu has options for Vegans vegetarians and meat lovers. The meals will be prepared over a wood stove and enjoyed in company.

4. Grab A Signature Cocktail at SELVA

Price: $$

Opening Times: 4PM-11:45PM (Mon-Thurs), 5PM-12:45PM (Fri & Sat)

SELVA Oaxaca was high on our list for many reasons but the main one was because we had to see the interior in person and it did not disappoint. If you are planning on only getting one drink at this fancy cocktail bar then make sure to order their signature cocktail “Selva”.

While we chose to sit inside to admire all the little design details SELVA has to offer, their two balcony seats are absolutely adorable and a great place for watching people as well as the sunset.

QUICK TIP: We highly recommend making a reservation because it is known to get busy, but don’t hesitate to stop in spontaneously, they might have availability.

8 Unique Ways To Experience The Best Of Oaxaca, Mexico
8 Unique Ways To Experience The Best Of Oaxaca, Mexico
8 Unique Ways To Experience The Best Of Oaxaca, Mexico

5. Admire the Santa Domingo Church

Price: Free

Opening Times: 7AM-1PM & 4PM-7:30PM (Mon-Sat), 7AM-1PM & 4PM-7PM (Sun)

The Templo De Santo Domingo de Guzmán is adjacent to a former monastery and one of the most iconic sights in Oaxaca. The church features colonial Baroque architecture and is now home to the breathtaking Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca. While the finely carved Baroque facade is already impressive to admire from the outside, wait until you see the inside. Adorned with gold and pictures of biblical stories beautifully covering the ceiling, the Church is free to enter and worth the time to appreciate at a slow pace.

If you have additional time and are interested then you can also visit the Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca, an expansive botanical garden. Reservations are recommended as the guided tours only happen during specific times of the day.

Our favorite way to experience the plaza right out front of the church is to get a delicious cup of coffee from Café Brújula, from right across the cobblestone street.

6. Participate in a cleansing Temazcal ceremony

Price: 800MXN or 40USD (+500MXN or 25USD to add a massage)

Included: 45-minute temazcal & 1-hour massage (pick up and drop off included)

For those of you who are looking for a deeper experience than just ticking sights off your list when visiting Oaxaca, then we highly recommend participating in a traditional Temezcal ceremony at Temezcal Oaxaca. Nathan the owner and his wife own the most serene property just 30-minutes outside of the old town.

Nathan’s grandma has been performing Temazcales in Oaxaca since 1991, which inspired him to start his own temazcal in October 2021 with the mission to preserve this prehispanic tradition and share it with travelers in Oaxaca. What differentiates Temazcal Oaxaca from other Temazcal places is mainly that they offer private sessions to enhance intimacy and relaxation.

Solo travelers, couples, or small groups of friends are invited to participate in this symbolic ceremony of rebirth. The price per session comes inclusive of pick up and drop off which only adds to the seamless experience. They offer sessions Monday-Saturday 10am, 1pm or 4pm.

We booked a couples session paired with a full body massage after the Temazcal and it was just what we needed after traveling through Mexico for almost a month.

7. Indulge in a Plant-based Tasting menu at Hotel Sin Nombre

Location:  Hotel Sin Nombre

Price: $40 USD p.p

Opening Times: Lunch & Dinner (call to reserve your spot)

You don’t have to be a vegan or vegetarian to try the innovative tasting menu at Hotel Sin Nombre in Oaxaca. Nestled within a restored 17th-century mansion sits the one-of-a-kind Restaurante Sin Nombre. The open courtyard is flooded with natural light during the day and lit up with candles at night to create the perfect dining ambiance. The seating area is lined with white pillows and surrounded by floor-to-ceiling white flowing curtains. Shoes have to be removed before entering and the low seating tables add a bit of a Mediterranean flair to the experience.

This plant-based tasting menu serves innovative Oaxacan-style cuisine and is for those looking for an experience rather than a feast. Out of respect for land-preservation and harvest cycles, the menu changes every 3 months according to the local ingredients available. The 8-course tasting menu is only $40USD! So with a drink and tip, you get a fine dining experience for around $60USD. I don’t want to get too much into detail but let’s just say you are in for a treat.

8. Take a day trip to Hierve el Agua

Location:  Hierve El Agua

Price: $25MXN p.p.

Opening Times: 7AM-5PM Daily

Hierve el Agua is quite a fascinating sight nestled amid the rugged desert mountains of San Lorenzo Albarradas in the state of Oaxaca. Famous for its natural travertine rock formations formed by excess minerals in the spring, it is one of the few natural wonders of its kind in the world. The only other calcified pool formations we have seen are the terraced thermal springs in Pamukkale, Turkey.

If you don’t want to join a group excursion, getting to Hierve el Agua requires renting a car. While the drive is not difficult it does take around 1.5h one way. Google Maps will take you the wrong way so be sure to take this route. This will take you through San Pablo Villa de Milta & Xaaga before heading on a dirt road over the mountains.

To avoid any disappointment don’t let the Spanish word “hierve” fool you. While it translates as “boil”, the mineral pools above the waterfalls are by no means boiling, rather the contrary, they were too cold for us to even soak in them.

You can easily spend a full day in the area, exploring and hiking, however, the main draw can be accessed within minutes from the parking lot. We actually booked a hotel in Mitla for one night so we didn’t have to drive all the way back to Oaxaca City and watch the sunset at Hierve el Agua. If you have the luxury of time then we recommend doing the same.

QUICK TIP: If you are already planning on visiting these petrified mineral waterfalls, then we would recommend adding a stop at the archeological ruins in Mitla as well as the widest tree in the world, El Tule. See below for more details.

8 Unique Ways To Experience The Best Of Oaxaca, Mexico
8 Unique Ways To Experience The Best Of Oaxaca, Mexico
8 Unique Ways To Experience The Best Of Oaxaca, Mexico

9. Visit “El Tule” Tree and explore the Zona Archaeological in Mitla

Price: From $1,190 per person includes daily breakfast & amenities 

Find Out More: Book here

Just outside of Oaxaca City are two unique archaeological sites: the ruins of Mitla and the famous El Tule tree. Both are said to be almost 2,000 years old. The El Tule tree is said to be the world’s largest tree and can be found in a city named Santa Maria del Tule. If you don’t want to join a tour or rent a car then you can also catch a bus. Santa Maria del Tule is only 10km outside of Oaxaca City and can easily be reached by public transportation for (7 pesos / $0.40). From Oaxaca City, buses depart for El Tule every 10 minutes from the 2nd-class bus station which you will find just before McDonalds near the ADO Bus Terminal in Oaxaca City.

The ruins in Mitla are of Zapotex and Mixtex origin and used to be a religious center for priests. Human sacrifices were part of the norm and often involved cutting out a living heart from a person to be sacrificed to the gods. Tickets can be bought on sight. I wasn’t able to find an online website that sells tickets so you can either book your visit with a tour or buy your ticket when you get here.

We decided to rent a car and started our adventure at Hierve El Agua before spending the night in Mitla so we didn’t have to drive all the way back to Oaxaca Center in the dark. After witnessing the most beautiful sunset at Hierve El Agua we checked into Hotel San Judas for the night, a simple yet clean hotel right in the heart of Mitla boasting stunning views of its surroundings.

We highly recommend grabbing breakfast or lunch at Origen Maiz Restaurante which overlooks the cutest souvenir market. This little gem was an unexpected surprise and we enjoyed a delicious traditional Oaxacan breakfast while soaking up the sun on their inviting rooftop terrace.

The Iglesia de San Pablo (Church of Saint Paul) with its three red domes was one of our favorite sights in Mitla but it’s hard to miss if you are visiting the ruins since they are located right behind it.

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8 Unique Ways To Experience The Best Of Oaxaca, Mexico
8 Unique Ways To Experience The Best Of Oaxaca, Mexico

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