Through a sweaty, Dramamine-induced stupor, Dani and I stood shocked at the derelict ‘private’ hostel room we had been so excited to reach after an nine-hour trip from the outskirts of Oaxaca to Mazunte which involved a bumpy ride in a tuktuk, a local city bus, a winding five-hour shuttle-colectivo and a forty-minute wait for a thirty-minute ride in the back of a pick-up truck. We had thought we were staying with a local character, Carlos Einstein, a self-proclaimed but friendly-looking shaman who had a hostel on a fairly remote beach in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. It turns out that shaman Einstein had abandoned his seaside hostel a few months earlier in favor of a place in town at the end of a lonely path.
This was explained to us upon arrival at his former, run-down hostel by the friendly but very lazy Americans that have since taken over the place. On our way to check out his new hostel, in hopes that it would be nicer than this other option, we were met by locals who warned us not to stay there: Apparently, Carlos is more than a flirt and sexual assaults here have been reported by many female travelers.
We turned back around instantly and, with no alternative option as the sun set, headed back to the original beach-side hostel and set our packs down on its cement floor, careful to avoid the pools of water that had collected throughout the room. The shower was nothing but a hose in the wall, the toilet could only be flushed by pouring a bucket of water into it, and a very old, mildew-ridden pair of underwear was discovered in the bed as we attempted to hang our own mosquito net over the ripped and moldy one that came with the room.
The next morning, we took a stroll through the village and looked at some other posadas and it turns out that right next door was the charming Posada Ziga, which is the last hotel on the beach before the Turtle Sanctuary. We moved in, cleaned up and as we laid in the hammocks on our own private terrace, we immediately felt more positive about this gorgeous Pacific coast beach village.
Sleepy beach village
With only 702 inhabitants, Mazunte is about as sleepy as a beach town can get. There is a lot of laying on the beach reading or just staring out at the incredible ocean view. The town’s main (and only paved) street, Avenida Paseo del Mazunte, connects Mazunte to its neighbors. The street is lined with small shops and restaurants on either side – typical Mexican restaurants with ‘comida corriente’ and gringo-friendly spots including three pizza places and relaxed hang-out cafes. At our own Posada Ziga, the restaurant served strong coffee and standard fare along with perfect views of the entire Mazunte beach. It was the perfect place to celebrate our first 100 days on the road.
Mazunte was essentially uninhabited until the mid 20th century when the market for sea turtle eggs and meat developed and the town became the center of sea turtle hunting, complete with its own turtle slaughterhouse. All that has changed with the prohibition of the turtle meat trade in the 1990’s and today the town survives on turtle conservation at the Mexican National Turtle Center and the small but steady trail of tourists to the area.
Watch the sunset at Punta Cometa at least one night during a stay in Mazunte. ‘Comet Point’ is a short walk from Mazunte through the forest out onto some beautiful (safe) cliffs where beachgoers come to watch the sunset on the most southern part of the state of Oaxaca. This walk can also lead to the nearby black sand beach of Mermejita which seems almost completely uninhabited.
Posada Ziga has clean, comfortable rooms and free wi-fi from $25 USD (shared bathrooms) or $35 USD (private bathroom), while the slightly more expensive Posada del Arquitecto is one of a few quality hotels on the other end of the half-mile beach. Cabanas Miramar further up the hill on the way to Punta Cometa offers cabins from $25 USD, and for a more exclusive getaway try the Casa Pan de Miel which runs from $110.00 – $250.00 (USD). However, unless Mazunte is your choice for an exclusive weekend getaway, there is no need to overspend as Posada Ziga or El Architecto offer clean, quality, mosquito-free accommodation with stunning sea views.
The popular beachtown of Zipolite is situated three km from Mazunte, but we would recommend staying a few nights there rather than an day trip from Mazunte. Between Mazunte and Zipolite the beach is nearly vacant, except for the tiny fishing village of San Agustinillo (roughly 230 inhabitants). The beach in San Augustinillo is surrounded by such steep cliffs that large resorts and hotels are impossible to build. We did not stop here, but as it is right on the way between Mazunte and Zipolite, beachgoers in the area could easily spend a day at the here for a change of scenery.
From either Mazunte or Zipolite, make sure to hop on a camioneta to La Ventanilla beach, two kilometers west of Mazunte, for a wildlife tour of the lagoon. Ventanilla means small window, named after a rock formation of one of the nearby cliffs that looks like a small window out to sea.
The long stretch of undeveloped Ventanilla beach is home to twenty-five Zapotec families that are dedicated to preserving the ecology of the area and volunteer to protect the hundreds of sea turtles who lay their eggs here each year. The volunteers also serve as passionate and incredibly knowledgeable guides who offer two-hour tours of the lagoon for only $35 pesos or $3 USD. Thousands of acres of mangroves contain a wide variety of wildlife, including iguanas, turtles, herons, ducks, woodpeckers and crocodiles that will swim right up to the boat and even on to the guide’s paddle!
After two lazy days in Mazunte, we headed the two miles down the main street to the Zipolite – read our post on Zipolite here!