Oaxaca is the perfect canvas for creation, connection, and reflection. It’s also the best place for drinking and eating (often in excess) with whoever you call family—but you have to do it right. We compiled all of our Oaxacan experiences to provide you with the best recs to make the most out of your trip to the magical city of mezcal. We’ll drink to that.
Drop off your bags before you head out:
Before you head to Oaxaca, settle on where you’ll rest your head. We’re all about spontaneity, but a proper hotel booking seems like an important step to get right. Plus, knowing where “home” is only opens the doors to more of those never-ending nightcaps and impromptu walks in the moonlight.
El Diablo y la Sandia, Libres
The Budget B&B
There’s something really charming about a bed & breakfast, in theory. In practice, a good one is incredibly hard to find—maybe the breakfast isn’t actually that good, or the rooms are a little too “unassuming.” El Diablo y la Sandia is everything you’d hope for in a B&B, and then some: the rooms are beautifully decorated with local artisan work, their customer service is A+ and they’re centrally located in downtown. But what sets El Diablo apart from the rest is their beautiful courtyard, where they serve their daily breakfast spread. Social butterflies love it here—as with most B&B’s, you’ll have the opportunity to socialize with other guests around the communal table. If you’re the quieter type, we’d still consider it—$75 a night is a hard price to beat.
The Home Away from Home
While we love the lived-in feel and hominess of a good Airbnb, there’s just something so luxe about the amenities and attention you get at a hotel. Enter: Casa Antonieta, the very best of both worlds. A gorgeous Oaxacan home walking distance from Zocalo old town, the “hotel” features six design-forward suites with a combination of modern and indigenous artwork. With so few guests, you receive a very warm, personalized, and 5-star-hotel-reminiscent service that’s rare to find these days. Plus, most rooms feature blankets from one of our favorite textile artists, BFGF (https://www.bfgf-shop.com/).
The Whole Package
A true hotel experience with concierge, a pool and room service, Casa Oaxaca is the perfect place if you’re looking to pull out all the stops. It’s as central as you can get, with tons of galleries and restaurants a short walk away. That said, their restaurant (Casa Oaxaca El Restaurante) is great and they’re a few steps away from Criollo, one of our restaurant picks below (more on that later). If you’re a sucker for limestone walls and pools (how could you not be?), we think this place is well worth the splurge.
To soak up last night’s mezcal:
If you’ve been following our recommended rotation of eat, drink, sleep, repeat, you’re probably pretty hungover at this point. Trust us, we get it—mezcal is incredibly hard to pass up, and frankly, we don’t think anyone ever should. That’s why we searched high and low for the best restaurants in Oaxaca to help you soak up that mezcal (in preparation to do it all over again later tonight).
For breakfast: PAN:AM
There are truly few things in life better than Mexican breakfast, so it’s hard to find a breakfast place in Oaxaca that doesn’t deliver… but PAN:AM is next level. While their bakery alone is incredible (and perfect for a quick grab-and-go), we recommend a sit-down breakfast in their beautiful back garden. Take your time here: we recommend starting with a cup of coffee and an Oaxacan chocolate croissant for the table. Once that’s started to digest a bit, go for the Divorciadas (accurately described as “bananas” by our co-founder), enchiladas slathered in both red and green salsa. If the croissant didn’t satisfy your sweet tooth enough, opt for the blueberry and honey pancakes and thank us later.
For lunch: Mercado 20 de Noviembre
There’s an incredibly rich history of food in Oaxaca, and unless you’re on a five-year-long vacation, chances are you’ll only scratch the surface. Mercado 20 de Noviembre, a food market south of Benito Juarez, will at least help you get there a little bit faster, as you can try foods from a variety of different vendors. Because this market is primarily focused on prepared food, it’s the perfect spot for a tasty local lunch. If you’re with a group, divide and conquer—send each person to a different vendor before meeting at the communal tables for a family-style meal. And
grab some packaged salsa or mezcal from one of the artisan food vendors as a very thoughtful and even tastier souvenir.
For an afternoon snack: Boulenc
When on vacation, our daily meal count jumps from three to four (sometimes five)—an afternoon snack is crucial, especially if you’re doing a lot of sightseeing. Boulenc is a very popular restaurant (we’re talking 25K followers on IG popular), but our favorite part is their panaderia next door. Their artisanal breads and pastries are displayed on beautiful rustic wooden tables that rival any french pastry cafe, and oh yeah—the pastries themselves are life-changing. Whatever you do, make sure you pair your pastry with their Oaxacan Chocolate Coffee. It’s a local speciality that they do so well.
For dinner: Criollo
With world-renowned Chef Enrique Olvera at its helm, it’s no surprise that Criollo is a must (and of course, a bit of a splurge). You may have heard of his other restaurants—Pujol in Mexico City and Cosme in New York; similar to those two, Criollo effortlessly pairs fine dining with a whole lot of heart—a combo hard to find these days. Set up in an old colonial mansion, the restaurant features minimalist furniture and an open kitchen, all surrounding a cactus garden. Their dinner tasting menus change daily, so be sure to pick a dinner date that’s ready to come in with an open mind and empty stomach. And if you’re more the a la carte type, swing by for weekend brunch instead—we hear it’s pretty killer.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming:
Time for the fun stuff. We said it once and we’ll say it again: Oaxaca is the mezcal capital of the world, which means it’s home to some of the very best bars out there. Whether you’re looking to calmly sip on a fancy cocktail or knock back several beers, they’ve got a little something for everyone—just don’t forget to take a few sips of water every once in a while, too.
For a good time and a long time: SELVA Oaxaca Cocktail Bar
If you’re like us, you’ve always dreamed of being a regular at a bar, where the bartenders know your drink by heart and your booth is unspokenly reserved. SELVA feels like that kind of bar, even on your very first visit. The entire staff makes you feel right at home, and they’re incredibly knowledgeable about all things cocktails. The interior is stunning and will make you feel like you’re in some sort of Bond movie—it’s classy as hell. Try the Acapulque while you’re there—it’s filled to the brim with mezcal, pulque, absinthe, ginger and honey with a cacao bean on the side to take a bite of with every sip.
To experience a true cantina: Cantina Salón de la Fama
Come here for a no frills, dive bar kind of experience. Since 1958, Salón de la Fama has been a popular place for a casual and unpretentious good time. Order their michelada (it’s perfect) and some ceviche (also perfect) and soak up the ambiance, including a wall of vintage movie stars and Mexican movies. It’s rich with history and the beers are ice cold and cheap—need we say more?
If you’re prone to the drunchies: Sabina Sabe
We love this upscale mezcal bar for it’s...mezcal, obviously, but it’s also a worthy contender in the food category. So while their prices are a bit steep, you can knock out dinner and drinks all at once. We’re partial to their mezcal, but they have a wide array of cocktails to choose from. If you’re staying for dinner, try their blue corn ravioli filled with grasshoppers and cheese. If dinner has already come and gone and you’re just working through some drunchies, go for their charcuterie board or a couple of tacos—it’ll do the trick.
If you’ve read this far, you’re a.) a real one and b.) on your way to experiencing the trip of a lifetime. While we don’t claim to be Oaxacan experts, we at Rosaluna have a lot of collective love for that place, and we hope that shines through. And if you’re unable to make it out to Oaxaca anytime soon, fear not—just pick up a bottle of Rosaluna. Conceptualized and crafted in Oaxaca, it’s about as close as you can get.