Playa Zipolite is a rustic seaside town located on the southern coast of Mexico’s Oaxaca state, between Huatulco and Puerto Escondido. Zipolite’s claim to fame is that it’s one of Mexico’s very few “swimsuit optional” beaches and for its distinct hippie vibe which began in the 1960’s. The town is lacking in building codes and banks, but abundant in charm and chill.
Some say Zipolite means “bumpy place,” named for the craggy outcroppings that line the beach. Others claim the name is Zapotec for “beach of the dead” due to the dangerous underwater currents just offshore. Either description is accurate for this beautiful, but sometimes dangerous, stretch of coast.
The pristine, gold-sand beach is popular with foreign tourists looking for an off-the-beaten-path tropical destination, and will delight those looking for sun and fun.
Waves are strong in Zipolite, particularly in the afternoon, making it a popular spot for surfing. Caution should be exercised because the undertow is always strong. If you’re a beginner, no need to worry…. it’s easy to find locals willing to give private lessons close to shore.
Drive over to Puerto Angel at dawn, get into a boat and set off to see one of the most dramatic sunsets in Mexico.
While you’re in the boat mentioned in #2 above, continue your sea quest for about three miles until you reach La Boquilla Beach – a stunning, secluded, crescent-shaped beach. The boat ride itself is photo-worthy with scenes of the towns, ocean, and rugged coast all along the way.
Zipolite Beach is not crowded and has a long stretch of sandy coast for walking. La Boquilla is as near secluded as you can get, making the crescent coast a walker’s paradise. There is a small hotel, Bahia de Luna, on La Boquilla beach where you can grab a bite to eat or frosty drink.
Aha! Got you, didn’t I? There are numerous size rocks jutting out of the ocean just off shore where the more adventurous can hurl themselves into the air and eventually sink into the cool, refreshing sea.
The clear aquamarine water offshore can be a bit chilly but is great for spotting marine life, especially near the rocks offshore.
If you’re looking for bathwater-warm, aqua water to soak your toes, La Boquilla Beach will not disappoint. The water here is crystal and calm and perfect for snorkeling or just socializing.
This portion of the Pacific Ocean is teaming with dolphins and other sea life. On one of our boat excursions, we were able to observe two turtles mating right next to our boat. They, however, took no interest in the gawkers on board.
You won’t find any high-end resorts at Zipolite. What you will find are rustic inns and hostels. El Alquimista offers by far the best accommodations right on the beach. It includes a beachside restaurant and bar on premises. The large, tropically-decorated thatched-roof cabanas have four-poster beds and stunning palm-lined ocean views. Each cabana has its own cozy terrace appointed with hammocks and thick, cushioned lounge furniture. If you want air-conditioning in your room, make sure you request it because some of the lower level cabanas rely solely on cross breezes from the ocean. For me, though, being lulled to sleep by the sound of the surf and breeze is heaven.
La Providencia. Eat. Here. Just about a block from the beach, Chef Paco and Host Javier serve the best food in the area, arguably in the entire state of Oaxaca. Don’t let the whimsically-decorated outdoor patio ambiance fool you… the cuisine is exquisite. I recommend the tasty shrimp empanada appetizer and either the coconut shrimp in mango salsa or tender beef medallions for the entrée. Try not to lick your plate.
Old friends or new friends, everyone is deliriously happy at Zipolite! Do try the mezcal, an organically made local liquor, similar to tequila but with a distinctly smoky flavor. Mezcal can range as high as 52-proof and is traditionally taken straight with a slice of fresh orange coated in sal de gusano (salt mixed with chile and ground worms). If shots are not your thing, my all-time personal favorite drink, the margarita, is always a good idea.
As the sun climbs high into the sky, there’s no better escape than the refreshing water of the infinity pool at El Aquimista. You can peek through the perfect landscape of palm trees and bougainvillea to gaze at the ocean beyond. The deck is fitted with over-sized cushioned lounge chairs, and you can even find shade in parts of the pool.
Did you know that you can enjoy health benefits of Vitamin D while you’re having fun in the sun?
Of course you’ll see the ubiquitous tee-shirts, but most of what you’ll find in Zipolite is handmade and unique. A few locals stroll along the beach selling their wares, but they are laid back and not obnoxious. There are small, charming shops lining the main street along the beach as well as friendly family-owned shops inland.
14. Sunset at Punta Cometa
Comet Point is a rocky peninsula, jutting out from the west end of Mazunte beach. It’s the southernmost point of the state of Oaxaca and one of the only places you can view either a panoramic sunrise or sunset over the Pacific. It’s about a 30-minute uphill hike along a wooded and rocky path to get to the point, but beware that the walk back, while downhill and easier, gets dark quickly after sunset.
What would a Mexican vacation be like without a little chill time, even better if you can take advantage on the beach. Which do you prefer, a hammock to lull you into a blissful nap, or a beach bed with billowing curtains to shade the sun and filter the breeze?
Zipolite can be reached by flying into Huatulco or Puerto Escondido and then driving along the coastal highway. Or, you can take the scenic route, as I did, driving from Oaxaca City along a narrow, winding, sometimes nail-biting road that takes six hours.
The area in and around Zipolite is a must-do for anyone looking for a unique sunny vacation spot. You could try to find the experiences above on your own, but if you do not have unlimited time, a better option would be to contact Cantimplora Travel. Operated by Samantha Calzada and Bernie Buendia, a warm and friendly couple who specialize in off-the-beaten-path adventures, Cantimplora aims to also be eco-friendly as well as gives 10% of their profits back to the local community.
Disclosure: The author was honored to be the guest of Cantimplora Travel during her stay in Zipolite, but as always, the opinions, reviews and experiences are her own.