Hierve el Agua, a thermal spring in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, Mexico

Things to do in  Oaxaca

A colorful Indigenous homeland

Gorgeous scenery meets traditional culture, ancient history, and creative energy in Oaxaca, a state that enchants from rugged mountains to the Pacific Coast’s wave-swept surf beaches. Things to do in Oaxaca are just as varied. Outdoor pursuits include surfing, hiking, birding, and mountain biking, and with its distinctive cuisine and mezcal distilleries, the entire state is a trending destination for foodies. While nature abounds, the region’s urban heart is the city of Oaxaca, a cultural capital and traveler hub.

Top 15 attractions in Oaxaca

Huatulco National Park (Parque Nacional Huatulco)

Tracts of untouched forest, coral reefs, and mangroves characterize the UNESCO-designated biosphere reserve Huatulco National Park (Parque Nacional Huatulco). Unlike other stretches of the Oaxacan coastline, Huatulco National Park is a meticulously preserved hotspot for rare creatures, virgin beaches, and hiking trails.More

Cascadas de Llano Grande (Llano Grande Waterfalls)

Nestled in the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca, the Cascadas de Llano Grande (Llano Grande Waterfall) is an ideal spot for hiking, swimming, and rappelling. Its shallow pools and multiple cascading waterfalls give ample opportunity for all kinds of water activities: Climb a tree, leap off the rocks, or swing from a rope into the pristine waters below.More

La Crucecita

La Crucecita sits just inland from Santa Cruz Bay on the coast of Oaxaca. Originally built as the service town for the Huatulco resort area, today La Crucecita has an authentic atmosphere draws that visitors from the beaches to its lively streets. Highlights include a traditional market, a historic church, specialty shops, and restaurants.More

Maguey Bay (Bahía Maguey)

Maguey Bay (Bahía Maguey) is an easily accessible bay with a popular beach of the same name. A handful of busy seafood shacks line the beach, and visitors can sip cold beers on patio chairs, or splash around in the bay’s calm, clear waters. You’ll find lots of amenities here, too, as Maguey tends to be one of Huatulco’s busier bays.More

Chachacual Bay

Chachacual Bay (Bahía Chachacual) is just half a mile (one kilometer) long, but its world-class snorkeling, impressive birdlife, and serene setting continue to attract travelers to its sunny shores. This tiny bay in Huatulco is best reached by boat and still relatively untouched, making it the perfect destination for those seeking a bit more privacy.More

Cacaluta Bay (Bahia de Cacaluta)

Cacaluta Bay is the largest and least accessible of the Huatulco bays. This heart-shaped Oaxacan inlet, which served as a stunning backdrop to the blockbuster Mexican film Y Tu Mamá También, has good snorkeling just a short swim from shore. Its serene setting offers a nice alternative to the noise and excitement of Santa Cruz Bay.More

Santa Cruz Bay (Bahía Santa Cruz)

Home to Huatulco’s harbor, Santa Cruz Bay (Bahía Santa Cruz) is located just minutes from La Crucecita and offers shops, restaurants, hotels, and easily accessible beaches. It’s the jumping-off point for boat tours of Huatulco’s bays, or for hiring small fishing boats to visit some of the coast's more remote spots.More

Playa La Entrega (La Entrega Bay)

The southernmost beach in the Santa Cruz area, Playa La Entrega—or La Entrega Bay—offers over 600 feet (182 meters) of sandy shoreline; beautiful coral reefs; and clear, calm waters ideal for swimming, scuba diving, and snorkeling. Highlights include a variety of tropical fish, on-site seafood stalls, and proximity to the scenic Huatulco Bay Lighthouse lookout.More

Hierve el Agua

One of just two so-called “petrified waterfalls” in the world, Hierve el Agua—which literally translates to "Water Boils"—is a rock formation with cliff-top pools above it. Visitors can cool off in natural spring waters, which are touted to have healing properties, then hike down to the base of the waterfalls.Hierve el Agua is currently closed to the public as a result of a local land dispute.More

Monte Albán

One of the oldest cities in the Americas, Monte Albán—an ancient Zapotec capital—is perhaps the most important archaeological site in Oaxaca and among the largest in Mexico. Head to Monte Albán’s flat mountain top for views of the city, then explore the vast site’s temples, tombs, underground tunnels, and ball court.More

Zipolite Beach (Playa Zipolite)

Let it all hang out on Zipolite Beach (Playa Zipolite), the only legal nudist beach in Mexico. Popular among LGBTQ+ travelers, hippie spiritualists, and adventurous backpackers, Zipolite Beach is characterized by clean sands, swaying palms, and rough seas better suited to surfing than swimming.More

Teotitlán del Valle

Teotitlán del Valle—best known for the handwoven rugs, blankets, and textiles made by its inhabitants—has been a historic weaving town since the pre-Hispanic period and remains a key Oaxacan handicraft destination. Visitors can browse and buy handmade products throughout the town, admire the surrounding Sierra Juárez scenery, and visit the modest colonial church.More

Copalita Ecological Park and Ruins (Parque Eco Arqueológico Copalita)

Still relatively unknown to tourists, the Copalita Ecological Park and Ruins (Parque Eco Arqueológico Copalita) sit on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in the Huatulco resort area. Remnants of pyramids, temples, a ball court, and a pre-Hispanic lighthouse dot the lush landscape of the archaeological park, which also includes a massive stone believed to have once been used in sacrifices.More

Tule Tree (Arbol del Tule)

Estimated to be around 2,000 years old with a 177-foot (54-meter) circumference, the gnarled Tule Tree (Árbol del Tule) is one of the world’s oldest and widest trees that was once thought to be multiple trees merged together; however, it's actually a single Montezuma cypress specimen. Visitors can admire its girth both up close and from a distance, as well as explore the pretty church courtyard it calls home.More


Steeped in history and mysticism, the ancient burial site of Mitla—which translates as the “Place of the Dead”—dates back to 900 BC. Notable for its mix of Zapotec and Mixtec architecture, adorned with elaborate mosaics and ornate stonework, it’s one of Oaxaca’s most important archaeological sites.More

Top activities in Oaxaca

Monte Albán/half day tour

Monte Albán/half day tour

Street Art Bike Ride

Street Art Bike Ride

Full-Day El Tule, Mitla & Hierve el Agua Tour from Oaxaca
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Hierve el Agua, Tule Tree, Mitla and Mezcal Distillery Tour
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Only Hierve el Agua and Mezcal Distillery Tour
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Kayak Huatulco Sunrise

Kayak Huatulco Sunrise

Caballos y Aguas Termales

Caballos y Aguas Termales

Food & Markets Tour

Food & Markets Tour

Chacahua National Park
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Chacahua National Park

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All about Oaxaca

When to visit

The dry, sunny months from November through April are Oaxaca’s high season, perfect for hiking and biking through the state’s scenic mountains. The period starts with distinctive Day of the Dead celebrations in the days leading up to Nov. 1, when Oaxaca city is at its most enchanting. While July–August is considered shoulder season, those months’ moderate temperatures and Guelaguetza—an Indigenous culture bash generally held in late July—offer a great alternative.

Getting around

The main gateway to Oaxaca is Oaxaca International Airport (OAX), a short taxi ride outside Oaxaca city. From there, buses, minibusses, and shared taxis shuttle travelers to every corner of the state, though narrow, winding roads mean long-distance trips can be time-consuming. Visitors prone to motion sickness should come prepared with remedies or consider hiring a private car for more flexibility.

Traveler tips

  • Don’t call it tequila—Oaxaca’s signature spirit is mezcal distilled from dozens of varieties of agave.

  • Bring plenty of layers if you’re headed to the mountains, where nighttime temperatures can dip below freezing.

Local Currency
Mexican Peso (MX$)
Time Zone
CST (UTC -6)
Country Code

People Also Ask

What is Oaxaca best known for?

Oaxaca is known for its culinary traditions, offering artisanal mezcal spirits, pizza-like tlayudas, and the thinly sliced beef called tasajo. Mole sauces are another specialty. While many foreigners just know the chocolate-rich black mole (mole negro), Oaxacan chefs prepare seven distinctive kinds, including red, green, and yellow.

How many days do you need in Oaxaca?

If you’re visiting Oaxaca city alone, plan to come for at least three days to browse markets, visit museums, and stop at the nearby Monte Alban Archeological Site. Add a few more days if you’re hoping to visit coastal surf beaches or traditional villages in the Oaxacan mountains.

What is the best month to visit Oaxaca?

Visit Oaxaca city at the beginning of November to experience its unique take on Day of the Dead celebrations, which include elaborate decorations, public altars, parades, and other festivities. November’s mild, dry weather also makes this an excellent time for outdoor pursuits in the nearby mountains and scenic Pacific coast.

Is it safe to travel to Oaxaca right now?

Yes, Oaxaca is generally considered safe. The state has lower crime rates than nearby states, but theft can be an issue in tourist areas. For example, not all locals and travelers feel comfortable walking at night in Oaxaca city. When in doubt, it’s a good idea to call a taxi.

What are the most popular things to do in Oaxaca with kids?

Oaxaca is an excellent destination for travelers with kids, and children are warmly welcomed. Popular kid-friendly activities in Oaxaca include the Monte Alban archeological site and swimming in the colorful pools at Hierve el Agua. Local markets, such as Oaxaca city’s Benito Juarez Market, overflow with enticing colors and treats.

What are the top attractions to visit in Oaxaca?

Top attractions in Oaxaca span history, culture, and nature. In and around Oaxaca city are the Monte Alban archeological site, Santo Domingo de Guzman Temple, the Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden, and the Museum of Oaxacan Cultures. A 1.5-hour drive away are the travertine pools Hierve el Agua, a colorful site photographers love.

Frequently Asked Questions
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