Last Updated on August 28, 2021
Playa Zipolite in Oaxaca, Mexico is a place where travelers book for 3 days but end up staying for 3 weeks. This stretch of golden sand, the only legal “clothing optional” beach in Mexico, is perfect for surfing, beach walks, and catching up on a good book. Find out the best things to do in Playa Zipolite and get all the tips you need to plan a trip.
First of all: don’t let the “legal nude beach” part scare you away if that’s out of your own comfort zone. Before I visited, I was honestly a little worried that I would be the only one in a bathing suit. But it turns out that there are plenty of travelers of all stripes in Zipolite. One exception would the annual Zipolite Festival Nudista in January/February each year, which books up quickly for the event.
The draw of Playa Zipolite (pronounced see-poh-LEE-tay) is its low-key vibe and wide, golden beach where you never have to go far for a great meal and a cold beer. Honestly, Playa Zipolite reminded me of Tulum from 20 years ago, with its beach cabanas and bohemian flair. There are no big resorts here, just thatched-roof huts and rustic hotels, with a few more upscale options.
Need some beach time at a place where you won’t have to fight crowds for a quiet patch of sand and a table in a restaurant? Read on for the inside scoop on this old-school Mexico beach town.
🛈The Haphazard Traveler Pro Tip: 2021 Travel
If you plan to travel outside the U.S. this year, be sure to research the current conditions in your intended destination and any entry requirements. Get the latest travel information from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico on re-entry requirements and local conditions. Additionally, all travelers returning to the United States must show documentation of either a negative test or recovery. Find the CDC requirements here and stay safe, friends!
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In this Guide to Playa Zipolite, Mexico
Getting to Zipolite, Oaxaca
Most travelers arrive in Zipolite via Puerto Escondido or Huatulco, other cities on the Pacific Coast of the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Puerto Escondido is about 40 miles away, while Huatulco is 30 miles away.
Both towns have airports, PXM and HUX respectively, with flights from Mexico City. From there you can either rent a car, take a taxi, or hop on a bus.
Once you reach Zipolite, you won’t need a car as the downtown area is very small and walkable. On this part of the coast, it’s common to get around locally with shared taxis called pasajeros or camionetas. These are pick-up trucks with bench seats and a tent covering in the back for passengers.
If you think you’ll rent a car like I did, check out my guide to driving and renting a car in Mexico. The Oaxaca coast is an easy drive, and having a car is great if you plan on staying in a few cities or exploring without tours.
🛈The Haphazard Traveler Pro Tip
Remember to get some cash from an ATM before leaving the airport if you don’t yet have any pesos. Sometimes ATMs in small towns are broken or out of money, and you won’t want to be without cash in Zipolite. Most smaller places don’t take credit cards.
Getting to Zipolite From Huatulco Airport | HUX
From Huatulco Airport (HUX), you can take a taxi from Huatulco to Zipolite for around $30-50 US. There is a taxi stand outside the airport on the main road which is usually cheaper than booking a taxi inside.
You can also take a combination of bus and shared vans. Grab a taxi to the ADO bus station; get a ticket to San Pedro Pochutla, and then take a cab or shared taxi to Zipolite.
Getting to Zipolite From Puerto Escondido Airport | PXM
From Puerto Escondido Airport (PXM), you can take a taxi from Puerto Escondido to Zipolite for around $50 US. There is a taxi stand outside the airport on the main road which is usually cheaper than booking a taxi inside.
Or grab a taxi to the ADO bus station and buy a ticket to Crucero San Antonio, and from there take a cab or shared taxi to Zipolite
Need info on the ADO bus? Check schedules and reserve tickets.
Things to Do in Zipolite
So, the beauty of Zipolite is that you’re not supposed to really do anything in Zipolite. 😉 Take a surf lesson, read a book or snooze under a palapa, and be sure to take advantage of the 2-for-1 happy hour drinks. (OK, but seriously, I’ve got a few tips – keep reading!)
Playa Zipolite & Surfing
Zipolite Beach is a long, golden stretch of sand a little over a mile long, surrounded by dramatic cliffs at either end. And the current here is strong. So strong that there is speculation that this is why the place is named Zipolite, which translates from Zapotec as “beach of the dead.”
In any case, it’s great for surfing, and you can find an instructor on the beach or by asking at your hotel if you want to take a lesson. But for swimming, I’ll recommend some hotels below with pools.
If you stay at a beach hotel, there will be chairs and loungers you can use. Or head to one of the beach bars and rent a chair and palapa (thatched umbrella) for the day. The servers will keep you supplied with drinks and food so you can just stay put!
Beach Walks at Playa Zipolite
One thing that you must absolutely do at Zipolite is to take a walk at sunrise and sunset. The sun rises at the east end of the beach behind Playa Amor, and sets at the west end behind the hotel El Alquimista. It’s a great time for photos of people and the cliffs silhouetted by the sun.
Just keep an eye on the waves – a sneaker wave caught me, and drowned my camera! (Luckily I still had my iPhone for the last few days of the trip.)
But seriously, be very careful in the surf here; there are lifeguards, but it’s not a swimming beach.
Playa Amor is a little enclave at the east end of Playa Zipolite. To get here, you’ll need to climb a set of steps over the rocks (consider bringing flip flops for this part as the steps can get hot!). You’ll find more people availing themselves of the naturist option here, and it’s a gay-friendly spot. There’s a beach bar for drinks and snacks. Overall it’s a fun, laid back vibe.
Yoga Classes in Zipolite
To relax and recharge, you can take a yoga class from a local studio. Check out El Alquimista hotel or La Loma Linda.
El Adoquin & Exploring Zipolite
The main street in Zipo is a brick-paved avenue known as Colonia Roca Blanca, but informally referred to as “el Adoquin.” It’s lined with little shops and restaurants, and local artisans set up displays in the morning and evenings.
Zipolite also has street art – take a wander around the streets off el Adoquin and see what you can find!
Day Trips from Zipolite, Mexico
If you’re looking for more activities, visit nearby Mazunte to visit a sea turtle research center and hike to Punta Cometa for spectacular views and sunset. From November to March, book a boat tour from one of the boat captains on the beach to go turtle, dolphin, and whale spotting. Check out my guide to Mazunte.
You can also head to Puerto Escondido for more surf and sun – get all of my best tips for Puerto Escondido.
Or for the best snorkeling on the Oaxaca coast, head to Huatulco. Grab my guide to Huatulco beaches which includes tours to explore the area.
Where to Eat in Zipolite
Zipo has lots of culinary options from street tacos to candlelit beachfront dining (which I recommend – even solo travelers deserve a romantic dinner!). Stroll the Adoquin for tacos and tlayudas – the Oaxacan version of a tostada with meat, beans, cheese and other toppings. Basically, follow the locals and you’re bound to turn up something good!
You can also dine beachfront at several places including Sal y Pimienta for burgers and fish tacos and Posada Mexico for Italian. I recommend Restaurante El Alquimista for romantic dinners on the beach as well as La Providencia for upscale dining with fresh ingredients and Oaxacan flavors.
Drinks, Happy Hour & Nightlife in Zipotle
The great news about Zipotle is that 2-for-1 happy hour is a common event, and there are cheap beers for those who aren’t into mojitos. (But seriously, who is that?) In any case, check out Ron’s place, El Hongo, and many of the beach hotels, including where I stayed, Posada Mexico.
Also, it’s Oaxaca, so you need to know where the closest mezcaleria is! Be sure to check out Gota Gorda Mezcaleria. If you haven’t met mezcal yet, it’s a spirit distilled from agave, the same plant used to make tequila. But mezcal has a special, traditional production process that gives it a smoky flavor. Mezcal has exploded onto the craft spirit scene in the last few years, so you’ll want to try it in Oaxaca and take a bottle home as a souvenir.
Nightlife in Zipolite is pretty subdued, although during the busy season there are often bands and DJs at local restaurants and bars, including right on the beach.
🛈The Haphazard Traveler Pro Tip:
Mezcal is for sipping, not shots. Don’t out yourself as a mezcal noob by throwing it back.
Where to Stay in Zipolite
Zipolite has lots of options for budget and mid-range stays, and even a few new luxury hotels. As I mentioned, the sea is not safe for swimming, so consider booking a hotel with a pool. The budget options below will likely not have AC; be sure to check before booking if this is important to you.
$ La Loma Linda | Rooms & Bungalows with Yoga and Feldenkrais
La Loma Linda features eco-friendly rooms and cabanas, set into the hillside of Zipolite just a few meters from the beach. Options vary from budget single rooms with a shared bath to private cabanas with a kitchen and sea views. The hotel also offers wellness activities like yoga, massage, temazcal (sweat lodge), and Feldenkrais, an exercise therapy method that aims to reorganize connections between the brain and body. La Loma Linda is a great pick for longer stays, solo travelers, backpackers, and anyone who wants a serene budget stay with friendly service.
$ Posada Mexico | Budget Beachfront Zipolite Hotel
Posada Mexico is a charming budget hotel with a great beachfront restaurant and happy hour. Full disclosure: rooms here don’t have AC and showers only have cold water! But each has a small yard with a hammock, and there is a large covered deck overlooking the beach for reading and relaxing, as well as beachfront chairs and meal service. This is my top budget pick – I stayed here and loved it, but keep reading if you need a little more luxury!
$ Casa Nudista | LGBT Nudist Hotel with Pool and Garden Setting
Gay and naturist travelers will want to consider Casa Nudista, a relaxed stay in the heart of Zipolite. This mandatory nudist hotel features a swank pool, lush garden, onsite restaurant, and artistic touches throughout. Located close to Playa Amor, Casa Nudista offers large rooms with sitting areas and private baths, as well as dorm rooms with shared baths. On Saturdays, the hotel hosts events with house music until late.
$$ El Aquimista Yoga Spa | Secluded, Stylish Beachfront Hotel With Pool
El Alquimista is a secluded, boho-chic beachfront hotel with AC, a gorgeous (adults-only) pool, a spa and yoga studio, plus a restaurant for meals right on the beach. I missed staying here – it was booked for my dates – but I had dinner here twice and loved its style and ambience. There are even beachfront bungalows right on the beach with their own terraces. If El Aquimista is available, book it before someone else does!
$$ Casa Sol Zipolite | Artistic Accommodations with Pool in Quiet Location
Casa Sol is a tranquil guesthouse in Zipolite, with an artistic design, stylish pool, included breakfast, and personalized service. Featuring spectacular views thanks to its clifftop location, Casa Sol is located in a quiet setting off the main center of Zipolite with the beach just a short walk away. Rooms offer unique features: all are large and have AC, while one features an outdoor soaking tub, and others have a kitchen and terrace. A new villa offers a private pool and space for up to 4. This is one of the top hotels in Zipolite.
$$ Villa Aikia | Adults-Only Beachfront Suites with Pool
Villa Aikia is a beachfront hotel with a chic design, AC, pool, and spectacular views of their private beach. The hotel gets rave reviews for their service and restaurant, as well as the hillside location of the suites. All rooms have a terrace or balcony for views of the beach, and some suites have space for up to 4 guests.
$$$ Casa Kalmar | Secluded Luxury Hotel with Pool and Stunning Views
Casa Kalmar is another cliffside stunner, with expansive views of the beach and jungle. Located in a secluded setting above the beach, you can reach Playa Camarones via a set of steps or head to the main Playa Zipolite a short walk away. Casa Kalmar features an infinity pool, king size beds, private baths, and many rooms have balconies. Breakfast is included. CantaMar is the largest suite, affording a magnificent 180-degree panorama of sea and sky and two private terrace areas on the top level of the hotel.
Want more options? Search all Zipolite hotels ⫸
More Zipolite Planning Tips
When is the best time to visit Zipolite?
Zipolite is warm year-round, with the driest weather months occurring from November – April. The months from June – September see the most rain. Average high temperatures vary from 86-94F, with average lows from 76-79F. Water temperatures average 80-84 degrees.
- Check Zipolite weather averages for your dates from WeatherandClimate.com
High season runs from December to April, with extra-busy periods around Christmas/New Year’s and Semana Santa, the holy week that leads up to Easter. I visited following the Dia de los Muertos festival in Oaxaca, and it was tough finding a flight! Try to book early if you plan to visit during busy season or holidays.
Special Events in Zipolite & Region
The region hosts a few events that you might want to consider when choosing your dates:
- Dia de los Muertos: Oaxaca is one of the best places to experience this Mexican holiday which is celebrated there from October 31-November 1. Get all my tips for Dia de Muertos in Oaxaca here!
- Zipolite Nudist Festival: late January/February. The 2022 dates are tentatively set at Jan. 27-31.
- Mazunte Jazz Festival: typically the second week of November.
- Arribada: this is a mass nesting event when Olive Ridley turtles (known in Mexico as golfinas) come ashore to lay their eggs. Prime nesting season is June – January, so it’s possible to see nesting and hatching turtles during this time! The Oaxaca coast is one of the top 5 turtle nesting areas in the world, specifically the beaches of Mazunte.
Safety in Zipolite
While the Oaxaca coast does not commonly experience the gang and drug-related violence seen in some other states of Mexico, there are occasional reports of crimes in Zipolite and the nearby towns. Travelers should use common-sense safety measures like traveling on roads during daylight hours, enjoying alcohol responsibly, refraining from walking on beaches at night alone, and using the safe in your room to secure valuables. I didn’t have any issues here as a solo female traveler.
- Check the latest Mexico travel information from the U.S. Department of State
Packing for Zipolite
Get packing tips for your trip with my ultimate Mexico packing list.
Grab these packing tips for museum hopping in Mexico City, relaxing on beaches, or climbing ruins and swimming in cenotes. From Cabo to Cancun and everywhere in between, this ultimate packing list for Mexico will have you covered!
Ready to Head to Zipolite?
If you’re looking for a low-key vacation in an authentic Mexican beach town, doesn’t Zipolite sound like the place to be? Hurry up and get here before the rest of the world discovers it – for now, it’ll be our little secret.