Welcome to the guide to experiencing the ultimate adventure in Oaxaca, a paradise of abundant nature and vibrant culture in Mexico. Enjoy different outdoor activities that can transform your visit to this magical corner of the world into an unforgettable experience.
From exploring the ancient Zapotec ruins to surfing the waves of the Pacific, preparing traditional Oaxacan dishes to enjoying panoramic hikes in the mountains, there is something for every type of adventurer in Oaxaca.
Whether you are an experienced mountain climber or a culture lover looking to learn about local traditions, this outdoor activities guide in Oaxaca has something for everyone.
Explore the Ruins of Monte Albán
Monte Albán’s History
Monte Albán is an archaeological site located just 10 kilometers from the center of the city of Oaxaca. This site was the ancient capital of the Zapotecs and is one of the most important ceremonial centers in Mesoamerica. Founded around 500 BC, Monte Albán flourished as a center of political, economic, and cultural power until around 750 AD. Its impressive structures and complex history have earned it the designation of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
How to Get to Monte Albán
To visit Monte Albán, you can choose from several options. Tourists can take a taxi from any point in the city of Oaxaca or opt for one of the many guided tours that include transportation. There are also public buses that regularly depart from the city center to the archaeological site. Once at the main entrance, you can access the site after purchasing a ticket at an affordable cost for travelers.
What to Expect
Upon arriving at Monte Albán, visitors can expect to explore the imposing ruins that dominate the Oaxaca valley. Among them are the Great Plaza, the Ballgame Court, the Observatory (also known as Building J), and numerous tombs and altars. Additionally, you can visit the on-site museum, which offers a deeper insight into the Zapotec civilization and its customs. Travelers should be prepared to walk under the sun and are advised to bring water, a hat, and sunscreen. The panoramic views from the top of the pyramids are simply spectacular and provide a perfect backdrop for photography.
Enjoy the Beach in Huatulco
Beautiful Beaches of Huatulco
The Bays of Huatulco are a true paradise for those seeking to enjoy practically untouched beaches and crystal-clear waters on the coast of Oaxaca. This destination offers more than 30 beaches, some accessible by land and others only by sea, guaranteeing a unique and intimate experience with nature. Among the best-known beaches are Santa Cruz Beach, La Entrega Beach, and Cacaluta Beach, each with its own particular charm and options for all tastes, from total relaxation to exciting water sports.
Outdoor Activities in Huatulco
In addition to traditional swimming and sunbathing, Huatulco offers a wide range of outdoor activities. Adventure lovers can dive or snorkel to explore the rich marine life in the nearby reefs. For those who prefer to stay on the surface, kayaking and paddleboarding are excellent options. There are also boat tours to explore the various bays or to go fishing. And for a dose of adrenaline, you can try paragliding or jet skiing on the waves of the Pacific.
Local Food on the Beach
Enjoying Oaxacan cuisine on the beach in Huatulco is another pleasure offered by this destination. Visitors can taste delicious fresh seafood, grilled fish, and ceviches at the numerous restaurants and palapas along the shore. Classic dishes like tlayudas, Oaxacan cheese, and empanadas filled with various local ingredients are also available. To cool off, nothing beats a fresh fruit agua fresca or a regional mezcal, all while enjoying the sea view and the gentle coastal breeze.
Adventure in the Sierra Norte
Hiking in the Sierra
The Sierra Norte de Oaxaca is an ideal destination for nature and hiking enthusiasts. With its well-established network of trails, known as the ‘Pueblos Mancomunados’ (Commonwealth Villages), it offers routes ranging from short hikes to multi-day treks through cloud forests and mountainous areas with spectacular views. These paths are also a great opportunity for mountain biking or horseback riding, always amidst the impressive biodiversity and landscapes offered by the Sierra Norte.
Cultural Experience in Sierra Norte Communities
Visiting the Sierra Norte de Oaxaca is not only an experience of contact with nature but also an immersion in the rich Zapotec culture. The communities of the Sierra have managed to maintain their ancestral traditions and offer visitors a warm welcome. It is possible to stay in community cabins, enjoy local guides who share their knowledge of history and customs, and participate in workshops on crafts or local gastronomy. This community tourism experience is an enriching exchange that benefits both visitors and host communities.
Flora and Fauna of the Sierra
The Sierra Norte is a region of extraordinary biodiversity. Walking its trails offers the possibility of encountering various species of endemic flora and fauna. You can observe trees such as pines and oaks, medicinal plants, and a wide variety of mushrooms, especially during the rainy season. As for fauna, it is possible to spot birds like the quetzal and the hummingbird, mammals like the jaguarundi and the opossum, as well as an astonishing variety of insects and butterflies. For nature enthusiasts, the Sierra Norte is undoubtedly a destination that offers discoveries at every step.
Exploring the River at Hierve el Agua
How to Get to Hierve el Agua
To reach Hierve el Agua, a natural wonder located about 70 kilometers east of the city of Oaxaca, you can choose to rent a car or join one of the numerous tours offered in the city. Another option is to use public transportation to Mitla and, from there, take a taxi or a local truck directly to the site. The journey offers panoramic views, and although the last part of the road can be a bit tricky, arriving at this spectacular place is well worth any effort.
What to Do at Hierve el Agua
Hierve el Agua is famous for its rock formations resembling frozen waterfalls and its natural thermal pools at the top of a mountain. Visitors can bathe in these natural pools overlooking the mountainous landscape, a perfect moment for relaxation and contemplation. Additionally, there are trails that allow exploration of the area and the discovery of the “petrified waterfalls” up close, as well as the observation of irrigation systems used since pre-Hispanic times.
To ensure a safe and enjoyable visit to Hierve el Agua, it is advisable to follow essential safety tips. It is always advisable to swim cautiously in the natural pools, as they can be deeper than they appear. It is recommended to visit the site with suitable hiking shoes, as the paths can be slippery. Additionally, it is important to bring enough water to stay hydrated and sunscreen for sunny days. Finally, it is always best to follow the indications of local guides and informative signs to take care of both the natural environment and personal safety.
Discovering the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve
The Biodiversity of Tehuacán-Cuicatlán
The Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an area of exceptional biological diversity located between the states of Puebla and Oaxaca. It is one of the richest and most varied ecosystems in Mexico, especially known for its enormous collection of cactus species and its columnar forest. Additionally, it has an important diversity of flora and fauna, including endemic and endangered species such as the golden eagle and the jaguar. This place is an extraordinary testimony to the adaptation of life in a semi-desert environment.
Activities in the Reserve
For adventurers and nature enthusiasts, the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve offers a wide variety of activities. Ecological trails are perfect for trekking and bird watching, where you can appreciate the surprising flora and follow the traces of local fauna. It is also possible to visit the archaeological sites located within the reserve, such as the ancient pre-Hispanic city of Tehuacán Viejo. Other activities include mountain biking, photographic safaris, and cactus tours, where you learn about the different species and their use in traditional medicine and local craftsmanship.
Tour Guides in the Reserve
To make the most of the experience in Tehuacán-Cuicatlán, it is recommended to have the service of tour guides. Guides know perfectly the most attractive and safe routes, detailed information about the biodiversity of the reserve, and the stories and legends of the region. Additionally, the use of local guides contributes to the sustainable development of communities and the conservation of the reserve, as it promotes education and respect for the environment. By hiring local guides, visitors can have an enriching and responsible experience, connecting deeply with this wonderful corner of Mexico.
Surfing in Puerto Escondido
The Most Popular Surf Beaches
Puerto Escondido is a globally recognized destination for its excellent surfing conditions. Two of the most prominent beaches are Zicatela, famous for the powerful wave known as the Mexican Pipeline” that attracts professional surfers from around the world, and La Punta, a more suitable option for intermediate-level surfers with long, less intense waves. Both beaches offer an exciting experience for surfers looking to challenge their skills and enjoy the warm waters of the Mexican Pacific.
Surf Schools in Puerto Escondido
For those looking to learn to surf or improve their techniques, Puerto Escondido offers a wide variety of surf schools. With experienced instructors and options for all levels, these schools provide individual and group classes, as well as the rental of boards and necessary equipment. Learning in these schools not only guarantees quality instruction but also a safe introduction to the sport, respecting the sometimes challenging conditions of the sea in this corner of Oaxaca.
Best Time for Surfing
The best time to surf in Puerto Escondido is during the months of April to November, when the waves reach their maximum size and shape, especially attractive for advanced and professional surfers. However, the rest of the year also offers suitable conditions mainly for beginners and intermediates. It is important to note that Zicatela can be very demanding, even in the low season, and is recommended only for experienced surfers. At any time of the year, it is essential to respect the sea and follow the safety recommendations provided by local lifeguards.
Oaxaca offers a wide variety of exciting outdoor activities for adventure lovers. From exploring ancient archaeological sites to rafting in wild rivers and hiking in breathtaking landscapes, Oaxaca offers the perfect mix of culture, history, and adrenaline.
Additionally, the region prides itself on having exceptional food and a welcoming atmosphere that will make you feel at home. Without a doubt, adventures in Oaxaca are an experience not to be missed.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Monte Albán, and why is it relevant to the history of Oaxaca?
Monte Albán is an ancient Zapotec city, founded in 500 BC and known for being one of the earliest and most important urban centers in Mesoamerica. Its historical significance lies in the intricate tombs, temples, and plazas that have provided archaeologists and historians with a deep insight into the ancient Zapotec civilization.
What outdoor activities can be done in Huatulco?
Huatulco is famous for its beautiful beaches and its port. Outdoor activities in Huatulco include swimming, diving, sport fishing, yacht tours, rafting, and jungle hiking.
What can be found on a trip to the Sierra Norte de Oaxaca?
The Sierra Norte de Oaxaca, also known as the Sierra Juárez, is a perfect place for hiking, bird watching, and cultural experience. Here you can find a varied flora and fauna, as well as meet the indigenous communities that preserve their traditions and culture alive.
What is the best way to get to Hierve el Agua?
Hierve el Agua is a wonderful place with carbonate water formations resembling petrified waterfalls. You can get to Hierve el Agua by car or in a shared van from Oaxaca. It is also popular to take a group excursion with a travel agency.
Why is the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve special?
The Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve is one of the most biodiverse areas in Mexico and is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It is unique for its diversity of cacti and other desert plants, as well as for its varied fauna.
Is Puerto Escondido a good place to learn to surf?
Puerto Escondido is famous for its strong waves and is an excellent place to learn to surf. There are many surf schools that offer classes and board rentals. Zicatela Beach is known as the most challenging surf beach, while La Punta and Carrizalillo are more suitable for beginners.
When is the best time to visit Oaxaca for outdoor activities?
The best time to visit Oaxaca depends on the activities you want to do. For hiking and exploring ruins, the dry season from November to April is ideal. For water activities like surfing and snorkeling, the months of May to October are better due to the warm water temperatures.
What should I expect when visiting the Sierra Norte?
The Sierra Norte is known for its ecological and cultural diversity. Visitors can expect picturesque trails for hiking, welcoming indigenous communities, and a wealth of local flora and fauna. During the rainy season, the area is especially beautiful with waterfalls and rivers full of life.
What are the beaches of Huatulco like?
The beaches of Huatulco are known for their crystal-clear waters and golden sand. The area has 36 beaches and 9 bays, each with its own special charm. Some are perfect for swimming and snorkeling, while others offer excellent opportunities for surfing.
How much time do I need to explore Monte Albán?
To fully explore Monte Albán, it is recommended to spend at least half a day. More time would allow for a more detailed exploration of this fascinating archaeological site. If you are a history enthusiast, you could easily spend an entire day here.