If you are looking for what to do in Oaxaca for a week, then you have come to the right place. The state of Oaxaca, located in the south of Mexico on the Pacific coast, is known for its surf beaches, regional cuisine, and artistic culture.
The capital of Oaxaca coincidentally named Oaxaca City is equally diverse. We spent a few weeks wandering around the city, sipping locally sourced coffee, dining in Oaxacaquenan restaurants and sampling the local booze.
We put together a shortlist of our favorites to help you navigate what to do in Oaxaca for a perfect week in Oaxaca.
Where to Grab Coffee in Oaxaca
If you are looking for what to do in Oaxaca then indulging in the coffee culture that is so prevelant throughout the city is a must. Coffee is an essential part of a morning routine. Everyone has their favorite cafe at home, so why not in Oaxaca? We have sat in the seats, drank the coffee and tested the wifi at many of the cafes in downtown Oaxaca.
For Coffee: Filemon | Coffee Producers
Located in Barrio Xochimilco and slightly off the beaten path, the coffee at Filemon is the best we found in the city. Par for the course here, you can have your morning brew prepared any way you like here. Whether it’s Aeropress, Chemex, espresso, you name it, they have it. The seating is limited here, but they offer to-go cups for those looking for a quick hit before setting off to explore Xochimilco.
For Ambiance: Marito & Moglie Cafe
Marito & Moglie is well known among expats living in Oaxaca and there is little wonder why. They offer your standard selection of espresso and Chemex coffees. While their preparation methods may be limited compared to other cafes in town, their coffee is superior to most. High ceilings, exposed brick walls, warm rustic decor, leafy plants and a sunny terrace, as well as super charming staff, make this a wonderful place to enjoy a coffee and a good book. Marito & Moglie closes at 4 pm.
For Work: Sho’ Cafe
While not the best coffee in town, the space, outfitted with plenty of tables with power outlets, makes it an ideal place to work.
For more information on cafes in Oaxaca, check our article The 8 Best Cafes in Oaxaca.
Where to Eat in Oaxaca
There is no better thing to do in Oaxaca than to eat your way through the charming town. Similarly to San Miguel de Allende or Mexico City, the restaurants in Oaxaca are of another caliber. There are upscale, trendy restaurants catering to tourists. Local hole in the wall cocinas visited mostly by locals. And of course, your quintessential street food stalls.
So if you are looking for what to do in Oaxaca, look no further than one of our favorite restaurants to enjoy while in Oaxaca?
For Upscale Dining: Casa Oaxaca
Known as one of the best restaurants in Oaxaca, it is obvious why when you dine here. The food is impeccable, the ambiance subtle and inviting, and the service top-notch. Make sure you request an outdoor seat on the upstairs patio to dine under the stars. The menu is a la carte and reasonably priced. The wine list, the best in Oaxaca. Enjoy this five-star restaurant at less than half the price of similar quality restaurants back home.
For the Best Vegetarian Breakfast: Marito & Mogile Cafe
Marito & Mogile Cafe may be on the list twice, but there is a reason. Their attention to detail is above and beyond the other cafes in the city and you can tell in their breakfast offerings. The avocado on toast rivals those in Australia, the caprese sandwich includes only the ripest tomatoes and the yogurt bowl looks like a photograph. This cafe is a must for anyone exploring Oaxaca.
Lunch with a Twist: Cabuche
Cabuche is the top pick for a delicious and affordable lunch in Oaxaca. Walking in, Cabuche feels more like a local establishment that has been upgraded only for the gringo scene. The food here is simple but executed perfectly. Think delicious pozole soup, yummy tacos filled with guisos and outstanding burritos (which is not really a Mexican thing but was born in San Fran). The staff put a lot of TLC into this restaurant and it shows.
Delicious Street Tacos: Taco del Carmen
When locals go to eat places, you know it is a good thing. Just off the main walking street, Tacos del Carmen serves up great tacos for breakfast and lunch in the city. Grab a few tacos, sit down with the locals and enjoy some of the best Oaxacan style tacos in the city.
For more details on eating out in Oaxaca check out our article Where to Eat in Oaxaca: Amazing Food for Every Budget.
Where to Drink in Oaxaca
Bars like cafes are a dime a dozen in Oaxaca. Locals (and expats) have caught on to the fact that Westerners travel to Oaxaca primarily to dine and drink, and they have capitalized on it. After spending a few weeks in Oaxaca, we’ve narrowed down our favorite bars for every type of boozer.
For the Mezcal Maven: Mezcalogia
Mezcalogia’s small and intimate space is inviting, the bartenders are helpful and friendly, and the mezcal delicious. Try one of their locally distilled mezcals or one of their banging cocktails. Go early though as this little watering hole fills up quickly.
For the Beer Buff: Oaxaca Brewing Co.
A relatively new brewery just on the outskirts of town. The beer selection might be limited, but what they do, they do well.
For the Cocktail Connoisseur: Aloha Oaxaca
Don’t have enough time to visit the coast while visiting Oaxaca or perhaps you have been and are missing it already? Get your beach fix at Aloha Oaxaca. Beach vibes, kitsch decor, friendly staff, and delicious but deadly cocktails await you on this island paradise. Finding this treasure, however, is not assured as it is hidden behind a courtyard terrace restaurant. Here’s a hint, it is nearby the Church of Carmen Alto on Calle de Manuel Garcia Virgil.
For more on where to booze, head over to our article A Bar for Every Boozer in Oaxaca.
What to Do in Oaxaca
Oaxaca has quickly become one of the artistic hubs in the country. With many art galleries to choose from, there is something for everyone. Our top picks:
- Casa Murguia, technically a shopping mall with restaurants, clothing and galleries, the art galleries inside at the time of writing were interesting and unique.
- Voces de Copal has interesting sculptures of various animals found throughout Mexico. Plus, you can sample their mezcal while perusing the gallery.
Visit the Tree of Tule
While technically not in Oaxaca city proper if you are looking for what to do in Oaxaca then visiting the Tree of Tule is a must. It is not every day that you can visit the widest tree in the world! It might not sound special, but after having visited both the Tree of Tule and the giant sequoias in California trust me this enormous tree is impressive.
Pro-tip: If you are overlanding, check out Overland Oasis. A great place to stay especially for those needing to give some attention to their rig. Calvin can help with almost all repairs or if he cannot do it, he knows someone who can. Tell them Kelli and Eddie sent you!
Explore Monte Alban
We hesitated in visiting Monte Alban as we already explored Teotihuacan just outside of Mexico City. Thankfully we did as the view alone is impressive. The backdrop of the pyramids set against the Oaxacan mountains is simply stunning. Go early to avoid most of the tourists and the strong Oaxacan sun.
No, you won’t need your net and magnifying glass. We are talking about the Volkswagen Beetle (aka. bug). Volkswagen has a manufacturing plant in the neighboring city of Puebla and it seems that everyone back in the 70s rushed to Puebla to buy the brand new car on the market. Hundreds of the early model VW bugs still putter about the city. These old classics make for some great photo opportunities. So join the hunt for the most classic bug out there!
Visit on Day of the Dead
If you have the opportunity, visit Oaxaca on Day of the Dead. The city has a different buzz about it and you can experience the real Day of the Dead (a little different to the version portrayed by the James Bond movie). It is a cultural experience not to miss in Mexico.
Where to Stay in Oaxaca
Located in the center of town, it is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway. Their attention to detail is impeccable, the service is top-notch and the location superb. The cafe downstairs also serves some of the best coffee in the city.
- Address: Miguel Hidalgo 911, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
- Cost: $$$
Located just outside the Barrio of Xochimilco, Casa Maye has everything you need for the weekend and for less than $100 per night. Not right in the center of things, but a short walk from everything. Plus, you can spend a few hours exploring Barrio Xochimilco and dining at some of the secret spots before they are discovered.
- Address: Margarita Maza No. 416 Col. Centro, 68000 Oaxaca City, Mexico
- Cost: $$
Day Trips from Oaxaca
San Jose del Pacifico
This mountain town deserves more than one day, but we included it anyway. Just three hours from Oaxaca lies the city of San Jose del Pacifico. You won’t find much here, just a few restaurants, stores, and hotels. But what you will find is breathtaking sunsets, nature in abundance and relaxation.
Find out more on San Jose del Pacifico in our article Overlanding San Jose del Pacifico: Shrooms, Saunas, Sunsets and S’ghetti.
The archaeological site, Yagul, is approximately 45 minutes east of Oaxaca. Yagul is protected by the federal government protects as it was declared as one of the four Mexican Natural Monuments in 1998.
A particular highlight for us was the Palace of the Six Patios, a maze of passageways to six different patios. Don’t get lost from your party or it might be difficult to find them again!
Another highlight, the place was completely empty. Unlike Monte Alban which swarms with tourists starting from about 11:00 on-ward, hardly any other tourists were around on the Sunday we visited. If you are in Oaxaca on the weekend and looking to get out of the city, pick these ruins over other activities in the area to avoid crowds.
Swerve the Hierve
Hierve el Agua at one point was a beauty of nature. Now, overrun with tourists and vendors selling micheladas and coco frios, the once beautiful place is now more of a trap. While it might be a sight to see during the rainy season or not on a Sunday, but when we were visiting it was mainly mud and hoards of tourists. Our advice, skip the long drive.
Find anything helpful? Leave us a comment and let us know! We like them all. The good, the bad and the ugly.
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