We’ve compiled the best of the best in Oaxaca - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Iglesia de Santo Domingo

    Centro Historico

    With a 17th-century facade framed by two domed bell towers and an interior that's an energetic profusion of white and real gold leaf (typical of the Mexican baroque style), Santo Domingo is Oaxaca's most brilliantly decorated church. The interior of the dome is adorned with more than 100 medallions depicting various martyrs. Saturdays are usually wedding days. Pass by to see the wedding in process and the traditional dancing afterwards. Look up at the ceiling just inside the front door to see a gilded rendering of the family tree of Santo Domingo. If you stop by as the sun sets in the afternoon, the light playing on the ceiling is the best show in town.

    Macedonio Alcalá at Adolfo Gurrión, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, 68000, Mexico

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Mon.–Sat. 7–1 and 4–7:30, Sun. 7–1 and 4–7
  • 2. Laguna de Manialtepec

    Las Negras

    One of the most leisurely day trips from Puerto Escondido is a journey to this tranquil lagoon surrounded by mangroves and lush wetlands just 20 minutes from town. It's home to more than 300 species of migrant and resident birds such as pelicans, hawks, and roseate spoonbills. Although a half-day tour by motorboat, kayak, or canoe with Lalo Ecotours or Canadian naturalist Michael Malone of Hidden Voyages Ecotours (December–March) is the most convenient way to visit, you can also take public transportation and hire a local guide once you arrive. At certain times of the year, the lagoon glows with luminescent plankton and a night-boat tour offers the opportunity for the truly intrepid to jump in and swim amid the phosphorescence.

    Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico
  • 3. Monte Albán

    The massive temples of Monte Albán, perched atop a mesa, make this one of the country's most spectacular archaeological sites. This vast city was home to more than 30,000 Zapotec. Despite its size, experts estimate that only about 10% of the site has been uncovered. Digs are sporadic, taking place whenever the budget permits. Monte Albán overlooks the Oaxaca Valley from a flattened mountaintop 5,085 feet high; the views are breathtaking. Either the Zapotec or their predecessors leveled the site around 600 BC. The varying heights of the site follow the contours of distant mountains. The oldest of the four temples is the Galería de los Danzantes, or the Dancers' Gallery, so named for the elaborately carved stone figures that once covered the building. Most of the originals are now in the site museum, but you can still see some in the temple. Experts are unsure whether the nude male figures represent captives, warriors, or some other group; the theory that they were dancers has been discarded because some appear to be bound. The Zapotec constructed most of the buildings along a north–south axis, except for the so-called Observatorio (Observatory). The arrow-shape structure is set at a 45-degree angle, pointing toward the southwest. It's thought to have been an observatory, as it's more closely aligned with the stars than with the Earth's poles. The Juego de Pelota, or ball game, was played in the well-excavated court. Hips, shoulders, knees, and elbows were probably used to hit a wooden or rubber ball. The details of these games are sketchy, but there's speculation that they were a means of solving disputes between factions or villages, of celebrating the defeat of a rival, or of worshipping the gods. Although human sacrifice is thought to have been connected with the ball game in certain parts of Mesoamerica, there's no evidence that it happened in Monte Albán. No one knows for sure whether the Zapotec abandoned the site gradually or suddenly, but by AD 1000 it stood empty. Years afterward the Mixtec used Monte Albán as a lofty necropolis of lavish tombs. More than 200 tombs and 300 burial sites have been explored. The most fantastic of these, Tumba 7, yielded a treasure unequaled in North America. Inside were more than 500 priceless Mixtec objects, including gold breastplates; jade, pearl, ivory, and gold jewelry; and fans, masks, and belt buckles of precious stones and metals. The tomb is north of the parking lot but is seldom open. At Monte Albán you'll find a small site museum with a gift shop. The cafeteria isn't half bad, and has a great view of the valley; sadly, it closes with the rest of the site at 5 pm.

    Monte Albán, Oaxaca, 68140, Mexico

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: MX$64, Daily 8–5
  • 4. Museo de las Culturas

    Centro Historico

    This gorgeous museum is laid out in a series of galleries around the cloister of the labyrinthine Ex-Convento de Santo Domingo. On the ground floor are temporary exhibits and a collection of antique books. On the second floor you'll find rooms dedicated to Oaxacan music, medicine, indigenous languages, and pottery. More than a dozen other salons have been organized chronologically. Here you'll find such Monte Albán treasures as the stunning gold jewelry from Tomb 7. Signage is in Spanish only, but English-language audio tours are available. Several lovely second-floor balconies have views of the botanical garden. The on-site shop has a wonderful collection of books, including coffee-table volumes on the art and architecture of Oaxaca. There are also plenty of maps and travel guides.

    Macedonio Alcalá at Adolfo Gurrión, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, 68000, Mexico

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: MX$59, Tues.–Sun. 10–8, last entrance at 6:15
  • 5. Playa Carrizalillo


    In a region full of beautiful beaches, Playa Carrizalillo can still take your breath away. The high cliffs that surround it ensure that it's never too crowded. The aquamarine water is clean, clear, and shallow—perfect for swimming and snorkeling, especially around the rocks that frame the beautiful cove. Sometimes there are waves large enough to lure novice surfers. A handful of palm-thatched restaurants offer free use of loungers if you buy food and drinks. The beach is a MX$25 taxi ride from El Adoquin with access to the stairs through an orange archway on the Rinconada. From there it's 167 steps down to the water, but the steep stone staircase is well maintained and there's a handrail to help you along. Amenities: parking (no fee); toilets; food and drink; water sports. Best for: swimming; snorkeling; surfing.

    Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, 71980, Mexico
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  • 6. Playa Manzanillo

    Of Puerto Escondido's seven beaches, Playa Manzanillo, which rings Puerto Angelito, is one of the safest for swimming. It's also one of the best for snorkeling, with a sandy ocean floor (watch for the occasional large rock), some coral formations, and calm, clear water. Locals are working towards Blue Flag eco-certification, so you'll see recycling bins, solar-powered lighting, and eco-toilets. Dogs must be leashed. You can reach this beach on foot (a 15-minute walk west of the Adoquín), by taxi (MX$25), or via a pathway from Playa Angelito. There's a long staircase down to the beach. The beach offers plenty of shade and is lined with casual beach restaurants (Palapa de Carrasco is a top choice) with lounge chairs. Amenities: food and drink; toilets; water sports. Best for: swimming; snorkeling.

    5a Sur, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, 71980, Mexico
  • 7. Playa San Agustinillo

    This divine stretch of sand between Zipolite and Playa Mazunte is fringed by elegant coconut palms. It's somewhat safe for swimming, although the current can be strong. Keep to the western edge of the beach for the calmest waters. Early mornings you're likely to see people practicing yoga poses on the sand; there are several yoga schools nearby, including the world-renowned Hridaya Yoga Center and Solstice Yoga. Afternoons, as on neighboring beaches, vendors roam the sand selling ice cream, roasted peanuts, and serapes. Several excellent restaurants offer grilled fish, pizza, and welcome shade from the strong sun. Hang out for the day in a beach lounger; they're free with the purchase of food. Amenities: food and drink; water sports. Best for: swimming; walking; surfing.

    San Agustinillo, Oaxaca, 70900, Mexico
  • 8. Zona Arqueológica Bocana del Rio Copalita


    The recently excavated Copalita archeological site is just 10 minutes from Huatulco's sleek hotel zone (a MX$70 taxi ride from La Crucecita's main plaza) but feels like a step back into another era. The well-designed site, a joint project by FONATUR and Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, features the restored archaeological remains of the ancient city of Copalitan, occupied by the Zapotec and Mixtec peoples as far back as 500 BC. Plan to spend a few hours browsing the modern museum and its well-curated collection of ceremonial objects such as obsidian knives, jade jewelry, and funeral masks, and leave time for a stroll beneath a canopy of tropical trees to reach a spectacular cliff-side lookout across the Copalita River. Along the way, there are restored buildings from the Classic Period, including the Serpents Pyramid, a ball court, the Great Temple, and a pre-Hispanic lighthouse. Take insect repellent, a hat, water, and sturdy walking shoes.

    Blvd. Copalita–Tangolunda tramo 15, Bahías de Huatulco, Oaxaca, 70989, Mexico
    No phone

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: MX$80, Tues.–Sun. 8–5
  • 9. Alameda de León

    Centro Historico

    This shady square, a bit smaller than the zócalo, is bordered by the massive cathedral on one side and the post office on the other. Locals gossip on wrought-iron benches or read the newspaper while their children chase pigeons and blow bubbles. Throughout the day, street artists perform alongside the cathedral.

    Oaxaca, Oaxaca, 68000, Mexico
  • 10. Arquitos de Xochimilco

    Centro Historico

    These stone arches were part of the 18th-century aqueducts that carried water into the city. Through many of the arches you'll find twisting streets or secluded plazas. It's a pretty section of the city for a stroll, far from the crowds in the Centro Histórico. The arches are a 5- to 10-minute walk north of Santo Domingo church. Follow Calle Garcia Vigil north; the arches are north of Calle Cosijopi.

    Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico
  • 11. Bahía Chahué

    Bahía Chahué

    Although several hotels, shops, and restaurants (serving mostly lunch and dinner) are near the main road, Boulevard Benito Juárez, the area is still being developed. A marina is located at the eastern end of the bay. Playa Chahué itself has a negative reputation: people reportedly drown here more than water conditions seem to warrant. At the main beach you'll find a swimming pool, changing rooms, restrooms, a restaurant and bar, children's playground, and shaded lounge chairs at the Hotel Castillo Club de Playa Chahué (admission MX$100). Amenities: food and drink; parking. Best for: walking; partiers.

    Blvd. Chahué, Bahías de Huatulco, Oaxaca, 70987, Mexico

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Club de Playa Chahué daily 9–6
  • 12. Bahía Santa Cruz

    Bahía Santa Cruz

    The aquamarine, calm waters of this bay are a nice spot for swimming, although the area can be busy with tourists, vendors, and touts when cruise ships are in town. This is the most developed of Huatulco's nine bays. Browse for quality keepsakes in the upscale shops; dine with your toes in the sand at a seafood restaurant; mingle with the locals in the central zócalo; stroll the promenade; or just sip a cool drink and take in the lively beach scene. You can arrange boat tours, snorkeling excursions, and fishing trips at the marina. Amenities: food and drink; toilets. Best for: swimming; walking.

    Paseo Punta Santa Cruz, Bahías de Huatulco, Oaxaca, 70980, Mexico
  • 13. Bahía Tangolunda

    Bahía Tangolunda

    One of the largest and most impressive bays in the Huatulco area, Tangolunda is also the most developed, with a string of luxury hotels, a golf course, and a small shopping mall with restaurants across from the Barceló hotel on Boulevard Benito Juárez. It's about 10 minutes by taxi or bus from La Crucecita. The most swimmable section of the beach is at the easterly stretch near Dreams Hotel. If you're not staying at one of the hotels, there are few amenities directly on the beach, but you can inquire about a day pass at the Barceló or Dreams. Expect to see lots of vendors plying wares such as silver jewelry and inexpensive wooden toys. Amenities: food and drink; water sports. Best for: swimming; walking; snorkeling.

    Blvd. Benito Juárez, Lot 1, Bahías de Huatulco, Oaxaca, 70989, Mexico
  • 14. Barra de Navidad Colotepec

    Just 15 minutes east of Puerto Escondido, the Colotepec River meets the Pacific in a mighty estuary that ebbs and flows with the tides. Here, a medley of community-led ecotourism projects offer experiences such as boating through Laguna Palma Sola (home to 350 crocodiles), dining at La Ballena palapa restaurant (named for a 68-foot-long gray whale that once washed up on the sand), and bird-watching. Fuel up for the return trip with a tasting of tobala mezcal, sourced from wild-harvested agave, at Los Cántaros mezcaleria near the Colotepec Bridge.

    Laguna Palma Sola, Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, Mexico
  • 15. Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad

    Centro Historico

    This baroque basilica houses the statue of the Virgin of Solitude, Oaxaca's patron saint. According to legend, a mule that had mysteriously joined a mule train bound for Guatemala perished at the site of the church; the statue was discovered in its pack, and the event was construed as a miracle—one commemorated by this church, which was built in 1682. Many Oaxaqueños are devoted to the Virgin, who is believed to have more than the usual facility for healing and miracle working. In the 1980s thieves removed her jewel-studded crown; she now has a replica of the original and a glass-covered shrine. Take a look at the chandeliers inside; they're held aloft by angels.

    Av. Independencia 107, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, 68000, Mexico

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Daily 7–2 and 4–7
  • 16. Catedral Metropolitana de Oaxaca

    Centro Historico

    Begun in 1544, the cathedral was destroyed by earthquakes and fire and not finished until 1733. It honors the Virgin of the Assumption, whose statue can be seen on the facade above the door. The chapel at the back of the church and to the left of the altar houses the revered crucifix of El Señor del Rayo (Our Lord of the Lightning Bolt), the only piece to survive a fire that started when lightning struck the thatch roof of the original structure. There's no clapper in the bell, supposedly because it started to ring on its own accord back in the 18th century. A recent scrubbing has made this a contender for the city's most gorgeous church. On festival days, the cathedral is filled with flowers.

    Av. Independencia 700, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, 68000, Mexico

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Daily 7–7
  • 17. Centro Academico y Cultural San Pablo

    Centro Historico

    The Ex-Convento San Pablo has been turned from dereliction into a stunning new cultural and academic center for the city of Oaxaca. Visitors can enjoy the ongoing program of artistic and musical events, as well as the café, the children’s library, archaeological exhibition, restored chapel, and the interesting Moroccan-Oaxacan restaurant with roof terrace. San Pablo really is a triumph of sensitive restoration creating a truly public space.

    Independencia 907, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, 68000, Mexico
    No phone

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Daily 10–8
  • 18. Centro Fotográfico Álvarez Bravo

    Centro Historico

    This small gallery and study center is named for the self-taught Mexico City photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo (he won his first photographic competition here in Oaxaca). Exhibitions change every month or two. The building is beautiful, and sitting around the pond watching the hummingbirds is a wonderful experience.

    Calle M. Bravo 116, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, 68000, Mexico

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Wed.–Mon. 9:30–8
  • 19. Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga

    Mazunte's local economy was once based on processing the golfina (olive ridley) turtle for its meat, shell, and oil until the government put a ban on turtle hunting in 1990. Poachers aside, Mazunte is now devoted to educating the public on the species. Four of the world's eight species of marine turtles come to lay their eggs on Oaxaca's shores. July through September is peak nesting season. At the Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga, a dozen aquariums are filled with the turtles that flourish here: green turtles, hawksbills, leatherbacks, and olive ridleys. Tour guides give explanations in English and other languages.

    Paseo del Mazunte s/n, Mazunte, Oaxaca, 70946, Mexico

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: MX$28, Wed.–Sat. 10–4:30, Sun. 10–2:30
  • 20. Cosméticos Naturales de Mazunte

    Cosméticos Naturales de Mazunte, an association of natural cosmetic producers in Mazunte, began in 1996 with a group of mostly women and funding from The Body Shop. Their workshop still produces natural cosmetics made with ingredients such as avocado oil, coconut oil, beeswax, and sea algae. Tour the facility and learn about the production process and then stock up on aloe vera shampoo, conditioner, natural insect repellent, scented soaps, and other tempting products in the store. Prices are lower and the selection better here than in other outlets.

    Paseo del Mazunte s/n, Mazunte, Oaxaca, 70946, Mexico

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Mon.–Sat. 9–4, Sun. 10–2

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