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Two Gay Expats - Oaxaca - Colorful Streets

From cobblestone streets in Centro to dramatic street art in the Jalatlaco neighborhood, Oaxaca dazzles visitors with its old world charm, creative arts, and of course, incredible food and nightlife! 

Two Gay Expats - Oaxaca - Centro
Oaxaca Centro

Overview – Located in southwestern Mexico, Oaxaca, also known as Oaxaca City or Oaxaca de Juárez after the former President of Mexico, is the capital city of the state of Oaxaca. It is home to two of the most important archeological sites in the country as well, Monte Albán, the former capital of the Zapotec empire, and Mitla. 

Along with its fascinating history, Oaxaca is known for its cuisine, including cheese, chocolate, and Mezcal, and its handicrafts from the colorful alelbrijes figures to beautiful textiles. In the nearby village of Teotitlán de Valle for example, you will find numerous family-owned production facilities of gorgeous woven rugs. Deservedly so, Oaxaca is often called both the culinary capital of Mexico as well as that of artisan craft. In addition, Oaxaca is the epicenter of the colorful and traditional Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead celebrations for those near and dear who have passed on to the next life. These celebrations occur annually on November 1st and 2nd, and are a highlight of any trip to Mexico!

In terms of popular places to stay, we highly recommend the Centro neighborhood as close to the main church, Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, as possible.This location will provide easy walking (or transit) options to the best restaurants, bars, and activities in and around Oaxaca. Alternatively, we can also vouch for the Jalatlaco and Reforma neighborhoods, as we spent a good amount of time in each and both are also an easy 10-15 minute walk to the main attractions in Centro. 

Things to see and do in and around Oaxaca

1
Get lost in Centro Walking the colorful cobblestone streets in Centro is a must to find your own hidden gems. You will no doubt also find incredible street performers as well as fascinating street art.
2
Lunch on a rooftop with a view Amazing rooftop dining and drinking spots are popping up all over Oaxaca. Two of our favorites are Pitiona and the new Vaca Marina!
3
Learn about Alebrijes Wander through one of the local craft markets like Aripo, our favorite, to find these colorful handicrafts popular all over Mexico! Check out our video above for more info.
4
Reserve a mezcal and mole tasting Another must in Oaxaca and it's best to do as soon as possible on arrival. You'll learn which mezcals and moles you prefer when eating and drinking your way through the city.
5
Explore street art in Jalatlaco For sure one of the coolest neighborhoods just outside of Centro. Jalatlaco also has a gorgeous church, colorful streets and perhaps the best street art in Oaxaca!
6
Climb the ruins at Monte Albán One of the most important archaeological sites in the country, Monte Albán was the capital of the Zapotec empire for over 1,000 years. The impressive site is well preserved and massive.
7
Take a day trip to Hierve El Agua As our destination highlight, it's worth mentioning again how fun and amazing this mini adventure from Oaxaca is to see the petrified waterfalls and stunning mineral pools.
8
Order craft cocktails at Selva This was our favorite cocktail bar in Oaxaca! Grab one of the two balcony tables for excellent people watching. Reserve ahead.
9
Go dancing at gay Club 502 Order a bucket of beers or your favorite cocktail to get warmed up for a night of dancing at the best gay club located right in Centro!
10
Try grasshoppers Oaxaca grasshoppers or chapulines are an important ingredient found at many of the city's top restaurants. We loved trying them in our salsa at Casa Oaxaca. Locals say if you eat grasshoppers, at some point you will return to Oaxaca, so why not?
Two Gay Expats - Oaxaca - Vaca Marina Lunch
Perfect Weather for a Rooftop Lunch - Vaca Marina, Oaxaca Centro

When to go – As with travel in most of Mexico, November through April seems to be the sweet spot. And this recommendation applies here in Oaxaca as well. For reference, in November and December when we are here, nights are cool in the 50s, but quickly warm up to the 70’s and low 80’s by afternoon. Also, there is next to no humidity and we have enjoyed clear skies and sunshine every single day! If possible, book well in advance for Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead celebrations which occur annually on November 1st and 2nd. 

Getting here – Most likely you will arrive by air to the modern and sparkling clean Oaxaca Airport (OAX). Thankfully, there are nonstop flights to a few U.S. cities, including Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Tijuana (for San Diego). In addition, there is a direct flight from Cancun if you would like to add a food and shopping trip on to a beach holiday in Gay Cancun, Playa, or Tulum without having to connect in Mexico City.

If you are planning a trip to the Oaxaca coast (which we highly recommend), the easiest option is to fly to the small airport in Puerto Escondido (PXM) or Huatulco (HUX). Most flights connect through Mexico City (MEX), however there is an option on a prop plane from Oaxaca (OAX) to both coastal towns with Aerotucán. We know at least a handful or friends and neighbors who have made this trip. In addition, you can rent a car like we did to take the super scenic Hwy. 175 to/from Oaxaca. It takes between 6-8 hours depending on stops. 

Finally, the ADO bus and minivan company Lineas Unidas offer service between the beach towns and Oaxaca as well as Mexico City albeit with much longer schedules. We must have passed dozens and dozens of Lineas Unidas minivans on our road trip from Puerto Escondido to Oaxaca, so they are an extremely popular option. 

Pro tip – It’s super easy with reasonable prices to hire a taxi directly at the Oaxaca airport. You will see the taxis lined up across the street from the small terminal building. We prepaid as required 300MXP or just under $15USD for our ride to Centro. Taxis are also plentiful and easy to hail on the street in Centro. 

Where to stay – For the ultimate in luxury, the Quinta Real Oaxaca is our pick for the best hotel in Centro. With its privileged location, you are mere steps from the main Church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán as well as the best restaurants, bars, and shopping in Oaxaca. The hotel itself is housed in an expertly restored 16th century convent and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t worry though! The Quinta Real Oaxaca offers modern amenities in this historic setting, including a stunning lobby, relaxing pool and bar, well-equipped gym, restaurant, and cute gift shop—all among impeccably maintained grounds. They also have a massive and beautiful venue for weddings if that’s in the cards! 

Two Gay Expats - Oaxaca - Selina Oaxaca Hotel - Entrance
Selina Oaxaca's Pink Exterior in Centro
Two Gay Expats - Oaxaca - Selina Oaxaca Hotel - Courtyard
The 'Cactus' Courtyard

If you are looking for an excellent budget option, look no further than Selina Oaxaca. This popular poshtel chain is located in a pink courtyard building directly across from the Quinta Real in the heart of Oaxaca. As typical of Selina properties, you will find plenty of co-working spaces, free WiFi, a bar and restaurant, and a popular rooftop terrace at this location. In terms of room choices, Selina offers private suites on down to shared budget rooms with bunk beds. FYI, given pretty much everything faces the courtyard, you may need earplugs if you are an early or light sleeper. Overall, the location, friendly atmosphere, and excellent value make Selina a strong contender for where to stay in Oaxaca. 

Where to eat and drink – If the way to a man’s heart is truly through his stomach, then be prepared to fall in love with Oaxaca! As Mexico’s culinary capital, Oaxaca’s restaurant and bar scene deserves so much more than a cursory highlight. As such, for our in-depth review of the very BEST restaurants and bars in Oaxaca, as well as our related YouTube Video, head over to The Best Restaurants and Bars in Oaxaca post here!

Two Gay Expats - Oaxaca - Gay Club La Costa - Dancer
Dancer at La Costa

Where to find gay nightlife – After dark, Oaxaca comes ALIVE! To explore this party town’s super fun nightlife scene, follow this link for the BEST GAY BARS and clubs in Oaxaca!

Other Services

Banking – There are a variety of banks (and ATMs) highly concentrated around the Zócalo in Centro, including BBVA, HSBC, and Santander among others. 

Fitness/Gym– Unfortunately, there are few options to work out in Centro, but there is a well-equipped gym by the pool at the luxury Quinta Real Hotel listed above. We also found the popular Calipso Fitness Center in Centro offers day passes.  

Two Gay Expats - Oaxaca - Prissa Wines & Liquors
Prissa Wines & Liquors - Reforma, Oaxaca
Two Gay Expats - Oaxaca - La Contra Wine Shop
La Contra Wine Shop - Centro, Oaxaca

Wine/Liquor store – A short walk from Centro is Prissa Wines & Liquors in Reforma, the best spot for both purchases in Oaxaca! Alternatively, in Centro, check out La Contra Wine Shop. As a bonus, they have a separate room dedicated to local Mezcals for that perfect gift or to stock your bar at home!

*** To see more of our adventures in and around Oaxaca, check out our Ultimate Guide to Oaxaca, Best Restaurants & Bars in Oaxaca, Best Gay Bars & Clubs in Oaxaca, and day trip to Hierve El Agua YouTube videos and be sure to smash that like button and subscribe! And, of course, follow us on social media @twogayexpats for more gay travel inspiration!