The time has come to reveal my favourite place in all of Mexico. This is saying something, as I had the opportunity to travel far and wide in that beautiful country, and got to explore many of its memorable sights. However, the best trip I took over the year that I lived there was to the beach of Zipolite.
I first heard about Zipolite from a coworker, during a conversation about Mexico’s best beaches. After doing a bit of research, I knew that I had to check it out for myself. Zipolite is located on the Pacific coastline in the southern state of Oaxaca, in between the much more frequented destinations of Puerto Escondido, the legendary surfer hangout to the west, and Huatulco, the family-friendly resort town to the east. Zipolite is not the easiest destination to get to, but you can take a bus or fly into either one of the aforementioned nearby towns, and then either take a local bus or a taxi to Zipolite.
Zipolite is a simple place: it’s a two-and-a-half kilometre-long beach and the small community that has sprung up around it. One of Zipolite’s prime attractions is its simple and peaceful way of life, thanks to the area’s lack of development and infrastructure. Spared from the unbridled consumption which has engulfed Mexico’s more popular beaches, Zipolite retains its authenticity, an authenticity that many of the country’s more well-known beaches have in large part lost. This lack of development lends itself well to Zipolite’s other attraction, which is its spiritual vibe, propelled forth by its hippie community. Zipolite is a place that is in harmony with the nature around it, as the laid-back mentality of its people soon reveals to visitors.
There are many reasons to like Zipolite. The beach is beautiful and there’s plenty of room to stake your claim of it, as Zipolite is well off the beaten path. Although the beach is spacious, you can easily walk from one side to another in about thirty minutes. The waves are quite powerful, which is great if you like to dive into them as I do, but it must be said that caution should be exercised when swimming as the water is also known for its strong currents. Zipolite also accommodates all budgets; you can elect to sleep in a hammock right on the beach, or you can stay in the swanky, all-white “Nude” hotel, towards the west end of the beach, along with everything in between. Speaking of nude, Zipolite is one of Mexico’s only nude beaches, although most of those who choose to go au naturel tend to cluster around either side of the beach, especially the east end’s Playa del Amor. Hidden away from the main beach by a cliff and accessible only by going up steps carved into the rock, it’s a great place for a swim – if you don’t mind the locals who like to dawdle around the top of the cliff, sneaking furtive glances at Playa Del Amor’s sunbathers.
There may not be much infrastructure, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot to do for those with a little imagination and sense of adventure. A great way to start the day at Zipolite is with a yoga class, of which there are several good options available. I took a great yoga class at El Alquimista hotel on the west side of the beach. El Alquimista also has a fantastic restaurant, where you can enjoy a romantic dinner on the beach, lit only by candlelight and the moon, your table and chairs right on the sand as you listen to the sound of the waves. I also highly recommend checking out Hotel Shambhala, picturesquely perched upon the cliff at the very west end of the beach. If you follow Shambhala’s winding steps up from the sand, you eventually arrive to a sort of outdoor spiritual ground, painted in colourful patterns and decorated with eclectic and esoteric structures and sculptures, with the view of the Pacific extending far beyond. It’s very peaceful and an excellent place to meditate. Shambhala also has a charming restaurant, where the main draw isn’t the decent food but the unbeatable setting – especially if you snag one of the tables that overlook the entire beach. It’s a fitting reward after a morning yoga class.
While Zipolite may not be the most bustling place, that’s also kind of the point – to get away from it all. However, visiting during peak season is a great idea, because unlike the rest of Mexico’s tourist beach destinations, Zipolite isn’t swamped during these high seasons – in fact, it has just the right amount of people. There’s still plenty of room everywhere: from the beach, to the restaurants, to the yoga classes. You’ll have more opportunities to meet fellow travellers, and your nightlife options will certainly be more numerous, see existent. When we were there it happened to be a full moon, and we ended up at a full moon party on the beach, which needless to say was an unforgettable experience. Visiting Zipolite outside of peak season surely also has its appeal; who doesn’t dream of having a beautiful beach all to themselves?
If you ever get a little tired of Zipolite (which you won’t), you can always take a daytrip to the neighbouring towns. Zipolite is part of a small string of towns, along with Mazunte and St. Agustinillo, that dot the beach between Huatulco and Puerto Escondido. Mazunte in particular has its charms, especially for more family-oriented visitors. The turtle sanctuary is worth seeing; the beaches in the area are known sea turtle nesting areas, and you can see the little guys (along with the big ones) in all of their glory at the turtle sanctuary.
Zipolite is the kind of blissed-out hippie paradise that can easily suck you in, making you stay longer than you had originally planned. Just ask the friendly German couple that runs the Posada Castillo Oasis, where we stayed, or the perpetually tanned Italian woman who helps run Shambhala, which has weathered several severe hurricanes in its forty-year history. Yet there is something intangible about the atmosphere in Zipolite that draws you in. Perhaps it’s the fact that the very existence of such a free-spirited place in otherwise traditional Mexico, a country where 83% of the population professes to be Roman Catholic, makes it an anomaly. Regardless, if you’re looking to escape technology and the stress of city life, there is no better place to come chill out for a few days (or weeks) than Zipolite, far away from BlackBerrys and balance sheets, where your only responsibilities are soaking up the sun and forgetting about the world outside of those magical two-and-a-half kilometres of sand.
WHERE: The closest airport is in Huatulco, although the airport in Puerto Escondido isn’t too far away either. From Huatulco you can take a bus to Pochutla or Puerto Angel, then take a taxi or a collectivo from there.
WHEN: Year-round, but peak seasons are during Semana Santa in April (when we went) and between Christmas and New Year’s (when Shambhala hosts a spiritual festival celebrating all religions and beliefs).
HOT TIP: Plan on staying here longer than you originally intended.