Oaxaca & Huatulco
Our fourth stop was Oaxaca the foodie capital of the country and situated in central Mexico, it is also famous for its colonial buildings. To give the city its correct name it is actually called Oaxaca de Juarez and is the capital of Oaxaca state. It is very popular with tourists and there is a lot to see in the city as well of course as a great eating and drinking culture. The city has an airport and the easiest way to reach it is by internal flights, we used Aero Mexico and were impressed by the service and price.
Oaxaca state also has the Pacific coastal area and we spend some relaxation time in Huatulco famed for it’s nine bays the area was recommended by a Mexican friend and was an excellent choice, we stayed in La Crucecita which was ideal and close to the Bahia de Santa Cruz the most centrally located bay. The area can be reached from Oaxaca de Juarez by small plane, but not with baggage, or by van or bus. We took the overnight bus which uses a longer route but the twisting road for the first and last few hours is pretty horrendous. The bus was extremely comfortable but not a journey we would repeat. There are internal flights from Mexico city which we used for our return trip. If you use the ADO bus there is an office in Oaxaca at 20 Noviembre 103.
Check out the usual booking sites such as www.booking.com or www.hotels.com we stayed at The Parador del Dominico www.paradordeldominico.com and it was a good choice with an excellent location and helpful staff, most rooms have an outdoor patio area which is lovely for relaxing after exploring the town.
Again check out the usual booking sites such as www.booking.com or www.hotels.com we stayed at The Villa Blanca Hotel in la Crucecita, www.hotelesvillablanca.com it was ideal, close to one small beach and five minutes from the centre of town, a taxi cost 30 Pesos, just over one pound ! The buffet breakfast was fabulous and the pool area and room terraces great for chilling out.
You really are spoilt for choice in Oaxaca for places to eat and drink and while we tried to fit in as many as possible in our five days there were so many we didn’t get a chance to try.
La Biznaga, Calle Manuel Garcia Vigil 512, we ate here twice, once for dinner and once for lunch and really enjoyed the food and the atmosphere, it is a casual and relaxed place and that suited us, the food both times was very good.
Los Danzantes, Calle Macedonio Alcala 403-404, had read great things about this place and managed to book a table for dinner, the setting is fabulous and we thoroughly enjoyed the food, the service was less than wonderful particularly when it came to the length of time it took for the wine to arrive and the fact it could have been better chilled.
Expendio Tradicion, the corner of Reforma & Murguia, we found this on our second night when we popped in for a drink before dinner, the cocktails are excellent and the service was friendly and helpful. Having seen the food being served we went for their set lunch menu which was top quality and amazing value. Wish we had been able to try the dinner menu but unfortunately we did not have time.
El Distilado, Calle 5 de Mayo, 409, we booked the six course tasting menu before our trip and were delighted by the choice. Excellent food and service and although more expensive than most places, it was well worth the price.
Pitiona, Calle Ignacio Allende 108, we only wanted a light meal and perhaps this was not the best choice, we shared a dish of suckling pig tacos and when we asked for cutlery were told the chef prefers you to use your hands, well this customer does not. We were eventually allowed cutlery as they were impossible to eat without but were not impressed with the service.
Casa Oaxaca, Calle la Constitucion 104, this boutique hotel has a roof top restaurant and a small bar area, we popped in a couple of times for a drink, good atmosphere but prices are on the high side.
Tastavins, Calle Murguia 309, I had found this wine bar before our trip and it was close to our hotel therefore we visited it on our first evening, what a gem, the wines are incredibly reasonably priced and with each glass is a small free tapas, they also do other dishes and platters of meat and cheese. The staff were great and it is very popular so worth booking a table if you want to eat.
There are a number of bars specialising in Mezcal, we went to Los Amantes but were disappointed in the lack of information given when we did a tasting, Expendio Tradicion is a better bet or Cortijo la Mezcaleria which we didn’t get a chance to try but looked good.
Terra-Cotta, Av. Gardenia 902, was our go to place to eat in Huatulco both for lunch and dinner, the food and service was great, the setting lovely and it was incredible value for money.
La Crema, Av. Gardenia 311, upstairs, a great bar with excellent drinks and lovely service. They serve pizzas which we didn’t try but they looked very good. Just wish we had found La Crema on our first night.
Below La Crema is another bar called I think Xillo, a decent place and nice staff, there is also a terrace bar across the square called Casa Mayor which is worth trying.
Tequila is probably what springs to mind when you think of Mexico and there is certainly a lot drunk with meals and in bars. A relation of Tequila is Mezcal as both come from the Agave plant although are produced in different ways and from different areas of the country. Mezcal has a smoky flavour and is richer and sweeter than Tequila. To confuse matter a third drink is also produced from Agave called Pulque, it is a creamy, yeast type drink, low in alcohol content but almost died out when beer became popular. There has been a revival and flavoured pulque, called curado is becoming “trendy” and the flavoured varieties are very enjoyable.
Oaxaca is the place to try Mezcal as it comes mainly from the surrounding area, there are a number of bars and restaurants that specialise in the drink and many shops selling bottles for taking home.
Beer is very popular, many of the main brands like Corona, Sol, Modelo and Pacifico are owned by the big breweries but they are still worth trying and craft beer is becoming very popular.
Frequently drunk are Micheladas, beer with lime, ice, spice and clamato juice or similar. Made with the right proportion of beer to juice it is actually a really enjoyable drink.
Wine in Mexico is gaining popularity and there are of course imported wines readily available, prices seem to vary hugely. Mexico has also become more a producer of wine in recent years, we tried both white and red and in general I liked the whites we tried the reds I found less successful.
The Templo de Santo Domingo is definitely worth visiting and a must is the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca. The Botanic Gardens are also worth visiting but it can only be done as a tour at set times, there are English speaking tours at certain times. You do get a fantastic view of the gardens from the Museo de las Culturas.
Monte Alban, is just a few kilometres outside Oaxaca and is one of Mexico’s most spectacular archaeological sites with the remains of the Zapotec temples, palaces, platforms and an observatory. The setting is beautiful and it can be reached by bus or your hotel can arrange a taxi to take you & collect you for a very reasonable price. Try and go early in the morning when it is less crowded and also not too hot.
Mercado Juarez, south of the Zocalo is a great market for shopping for gifts and food items such as chillies and coffee, the Grano De Oro stall is known to sell the best coffee in the city. The great thing about the market is the total lack of hassle, you can walk round without feeling pressured by stall holders.
Nearby is the Mercado de Artesanias which is also worth a visit and the Mercado de 20 Noviembre which is packed with places to eat although the pressure from stall holders to eat at their place can be a bit relentless, there is also a part which specialises in grilled meats but it is incredibly hot & smoky.
Relaxation was the main thing to do during our stay in Huatulco, the Bahia Chahue was walking distance from our hotel, off season it was quiet but there is a bar & restaurant there.
Bahia Santa Cruz, is a 30 peso taxi journey away and is the most popular nearby beach it is also where Cruise Ships dock, there are several bars and restaurants but you get hassled as soon as you set foot on the beach by waiters.
La Crucecita town is very cute and the main square, Zocalo, packed with stall selling souvenirs and clothes there is a lovely church on the square to visit.