Oaxaca is internationally known for its cuisine, Day of the Dead festivities, beautiful Pacific beaches, and of course, mezcal. The charm and authenticity of Oaxaca City are irresistible to all visitors, and the stark, severe beauty of the surrounding mountains and valleys just adds to its allure. Oaxaca is a very large state with both urban and natural attractions that are not limited to Oaxaca City and the famed Pacific beaches. In fact, one of the most magical destinations in all of Mexico lies about half-way between Oaxaca City and the beaches to the north: San Jose del Pacifico. If there ever were a town that epitomizes “pueblo magico”, San Jose del Pacifico is surely it. Nestled deep within the lush forested highlands of the Oaxacan Sierra, San Jose del Pacifico is the ultimate land of nymphs and fairies. The mountain and forest views are spectacular, and at 2500 meters above sea level, this town is literally in the clouds, enveloped by a constant mist and ethereal fog that materialize its inherent mysticism. San Jose’s seclusion makes it a great place for relaxation and nature hikes, but also offers unique cultural activities worth experiencing.
There are multiple buses and collective vans to San Jose del Pacifico from both the capital and the northern beach region, so renting a car is not necessary. The pueblo itself is quaint, colorful, and welcoming. I recommend checking out the outdoor artisanal markets for high quality, hand-sewn wool winterwear which will certainly come in handy in this cool and cloudy climate. There are nature trails galore surrounding San Jose that are incredibly beautiful and often located in or around campsites and cabin facilities. Most locals are happy to recommend their favorite trails, so do not hesitate to ask!
One of the most popular activities offered in San Jose del Pacifico is the traditional Temazcal or sweat lodge. The humid yet cool climate and lush, forested surroundings are the perfect setting to enjoy a traditional steam bath. Temazcals are offered all over this region, but I recommend Temazcal de Navarro, owned and guided by knowledgeable locals.
San Jose del Pacifico’s most famed attraction is its abundance of magic mushrooms, that is hallucinogenic mushrooms ingested for medicinal, recreational, or spiritual purposes. There are three different species of mushroom indigenous to this region offering different types of hallucinogenic experiences. Locals of all ages treasure and revere these mushrooms and those who sell them are incredibly knowledgeable and respectful of their purported powers of revelation and transformation. Ingesting these mushrooms is not a flippant recreational past time, but a revelatory spiritual ritual that awakens consciousness and restores core values. If the experience daunts you, there are many local guides who will instruct and accompany you through this magical trip. If this experience is not for you, the magic of San Jose is not lost; witnessing a spectacular mountain sunset or enjoying a misty morning coffee while watching dozens of humming-birds buzz around you is magic enough!
An integral part of the San Jose experience is the lodging, and there are plenty of excellent options. Here it is very important to rent a cabin above all other lodging accommodation so that you can truly feel the ultimate relaxation that comes with being surrounded by forest mist, amazing views, and the most soothing forest sounds you will ever hear. My two favorite cabins in San Jose del Pacifico are Cabanas Puesta del Sol and Benzaa Ecoresort. Both have amazing views and very cozy cabins with great front porches. They also have nature trails through the surrounding forests that lead to incredible vistas. Cabanas el Cumbre and Cabanas Rancho Viejo are also great options for a cozy stay in nature.
There are likewise many options to enjoy delicious food in San Jose. Restaurante Itoo, located within Benzaa Ecoresort, offers traditional Oaxacan cuisine with a beautiful presentation, and the restaurant itself has giant windows and a large veranda showcasing a stunning mountain panorama. In the pueblo, I recommend Restaurante Terraza Café and Comedor la Morenita, both offering a wide array of local, traditional cuisine cooked on open grills and flat tops.
San Jose del Pacifico in Oaxaca is the perfect pit stop to break up the long journey from the capital city to the beach and is the most magical forest retreat imaginable.
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