Ok, first things first. Oaxaca is pronounced WA-HA-KA.
From the moment we arrived, we fell in love with this city. The energy and sense of community was palpable. We drove past vibrant walls dripping in bougainvilleas, food carts lined with people in their neighborhoods and my favorite sound of all, people speaking Spanish. I grew up in a Spanish speaking home so nothing feels more like home than being surrounded by this language. This was our first time in Oaxaca so we couldn't wait to explore the next day.
Where we stayed:
We spent the first 4 nights of our trip at Casa Oaxaca and loved our stay there. I adore this gorgeous boutique hotel in the heart of the city and would return in a heartbeat. Adam liked it too but he didn't swoon over it the way I did. Our room was spacious, the bathroom was very clean and the toiletries were high end. We were happy with the service and the pool was my favorite place to relax while at the hotel.
Casa Oaxaca is definitely considered a luxury, high-end hotel in town, even though the nightly rate is lower than what we're accustomed too. Think $120 per night. Hotels in Oaxaca are very affordable and you can find other options for much less ($40-$50 per night). Breakfast was included in our stay and was plenty of food to sustain us through lunch.
Some nice features: bottled water was provided in-room daily as well as cold bottled water at the front desk to take with you, fresh, local fruits in your room daily, and fresh flowers on the desk in the room. There's also a little library with books about Mexico, travel and literature. It's the details, right? Speaking of fruit, we had fruit there that we didn't even know existed. It was a really cool learning experience.
Pro tip: This hotel has 6 rooms total, so book early. Also, request a room far away from the street. Our room (#1) was quite noisy. Next time I'm requesting room 6! (pictured below behind the pool)
Adam and I love to relax when we go on vacation so Casa Oaxaca seemed like a great compromise to a beach vacation. We wanted all that the city had to offer, but we could still opt to lay poolside for a few hours each day. We tend to do beach vacations during the winter so this felt like a necessary balance for us.
The service at Casa Oaxaca was on point. Anything we needed, they were there to help. They even have cooking classes on-sight that you can reserve as a group or individuals. We didn't realize this and scheduled a cooking class elsewhere but if we had known, it would have been super convenient.
Our last 3 nights we stayed at Hotel Azul, a few blocks walk from Casa Oaxaca. Still in the center of town, but off of the busier streets a little, this hotel has a much more contemporary feel and is a much larger property. It felt much quieter inside the hotel than Casa Oaxaca and has the coolest courtyard lined with the tallest cactus fence I've ever seen. There's also a great rooftop terrace where you can enjoy a snack and beverage or just get some sun.
Breakfast was included in our stay here as well and on the weekend they offer a buffet style breakfast. The hotel has some other fun amenities like bikes, a library, an audiovisual room and they packed us a lunch for our early morning departure when we checked out!
Where we ate:
Breakfast was included with our stay at Casa Oaxaca and we loved the egg dishes, fresh fruit and coffees each morning. We also had a light dinner at the hotel restaurant one evening and that was great too. Our very first night in Oaxaca we ate dinner on the terrace at Casa Oaxaca - the restaurant- and it was really nice. Casa Oaxaca the restaurant has a lovely ambience, solid food and great service. It felt a little bit touristy, to be honest, but not terribly so.
Holy cow. We had one of our most memorable meals here! The reviews on tripadvisor are kind of all over the place which we found puzzling. We only had dinner here once but we were tempted to return again and again. We highly recommend the agua de maiz and the mezcal cocktails were good too. The only part that didn't blow us away was the dessert. After a stellar meal, dessert felt a little lackluster. I will however never forget the arroz con huitlacoche. Holy deliciousness. Seriously, the entire meal was fabulous. You can read more about the chef here. Their weekend brunch is supposed to be great too. It's on my list for next time.
We probably walked by this casual eatery a dozen times before we actually stopped in to eat. Tlayudas are a Oaxacan specialty so we knew we needed to try some before we left. It's sort of like an open face pizza and comes with lots of tasty accoutrements. Adam really loved this place!
Suculenta & Boulenc - coffee, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Suculenta and Boulenc are separate places but recently joined forces in a new location. We loved going for coffee and pastries in the morning and also their pizza and salads for dinner. Be sure to stock up on preserves and hot sauce for souvenirs and gifts too! The blackberry (zarzamora) fermented kefir is some of the best I've ever had and the huitlacoche y champignon "pizza roll" was outstanding! This is the only place we saw gringos and hipsters congregated on a regular basis 😂 Don't let that deter you, this place is a must.
Pro tip: the local Mexicans pronounce Boulenc, Boo-lank.
We didn't have this place on our radar until a conversation with a shop keeper on our last day in Oaxaca. She asked where we'd eaten and told us her favorite spots in town. Once we told her we had never heard of this place she picked up the phone and called Origen to get us in! "The chef just won Top Chef Mexico and the mole negro is buuuuuenìsimo". She was right, our meal was buenísimo!
Vacation wouldn't be complete without a daily stop at Manolo Nieves. Mexican ice cream is the best you guys! True story, I went everyday looking for their cajeta ice cream (it's on the menu) and they never had it in stock 😢. Highly recommend the tres leches, oaxacan chocolate and strawberry. There are multiple locations so there are plenty of opportunities to get ice cream.
I wish I could tell you that flying to Oaxaca from Boston was super quick, non-stop and inexpensive. Sadly, none of these things were true for us. We booked our trip about a month in advance on United Airlines and picked the itinerary that sucked the least. We flew from Boston via Houston and had a 6.5 hour layover before taking a small plane to Oaxaca. Also, I hate small planes. Our flight to Oaxaca ended up having mechanical issues so we sat on the tarmac for 2 more hours before eventually flying to Oaxaca. Once we arrived, we got a very inexpensive colectivo (taxi/shuttle) to our hotel. There's an ATM at the airport in case you didn't exchange money ahead of time. You'll need Mexican pesos for the colectivos!
Stay tuned for my next post with what we did and where to shop! Thank you for reading! Bon appetit also has a new article all about Oaxaca. Have y'all read it? I'd love to hear about your favorite spots in Oaxaca if you're been before. Leave a comment below if you'd like.
Note: We received two complementary nights at Hotel Azul. As always, all opinions and images are my own. Thank you Hotel Azul for hosting us!