Why not read our Retirement Reviews.
For a detailed breakdown of Holiday and Retirement Costs, read about Zipolite GRANDPAcking Costs.
I made my way from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala to Zipolite, Mexico by Lancha, Shuttle, and long distance ADO bus.
I booked a Double Room with Cable TV and Private (hot water) Bathroom for GTQ100 (US$14.50) / night including Breakfast. I got this rate down from GTQ240 / night by booking 7 nights and paying up-front. I ended up staying there for 1 month.
The Jarachi’k room was small but comfortable and had a terrace overlooking the lake. There was no space in the room for furniture … once again, I used my clothes line to hang my clothes.
It was time to move on to Zipolite, Oaxaca, Mexico …
LAKE ATITLAN, GUATEMALA TO ZIPOLITE, MEXICO:
I chose to go via Tapacula. Read more details about that journey here.
Playa Zipolite is a beach community located in the San Pedro Pochutla municipality on the southern coast of Oaxaca State in Mexico … between Salina Cruz (to the east) and Puerto Escondido (to the west).
Zipolite is best known as being one of Mexico’s very few nude beaches and for retaining much of the hippie culture that made it notable in the 1960s and 1970s.
The name Zipolite probably comes from the Nahuatl word sipolitlan or zipotli, meaning “bumpy place” or “place of continuous bumps or hills”. However, some claim the name means “beach of the dead” in either Nahuatl or Zapotec because of dangerous underwater currents just offshore.
Since its beginnings in the 1960s, Zipolite has evolved from an handful of beachfront cabanas and palm-thatched palapas to concrete, but still basic, hotels and other structures with a few more amenities.
The community consists of a 1.5km stretch of beach with a main street that parallels it. It has a central neighborhood, Colonia Roca Blanca, situated at the western end where many of the hotels and restaurants are located.
Further behind the beach is a larger road that connects Zipolite with other local communities such as San Agustinillo, Mazunte, and Puerto Angel.
I already had the AT&T SIMcard that I purchased in Playa Del Carmen a few months before. Even though I had no credit on the SIMcard, it was still operational 5 months later.
In Zipolite, you get poor wifi coverage. My AT&T signal never got past ‘E’ for ‘Enough’. At times, it was almost unusable. I suggest that you buy a TELCEL SIMcard to get a better signal.
You should get free wifi in your hotel but, again, the signal is usually poor and very ‘variable’ … and, often, drops in and out of its internet connection … especially in the cheaper hotels (where you will be staying). There are many restaurants and bars that provide a similar poor quality of wifi; many places provide no wifi at all.
It took me less than 2 weeks to burn up my 300MBs of data (even though things like Facebook and Dualingo are free). Whilst in Zipolite, I topped my SIMcard up with another MXP300 and bought another 1 month plan that included 1GB of data.
Playa Zipolite is about forty meters wide and 1.5 kms long, with medium grain gold coloured sand. You can walk it end-to-end in about 15-20 minutes. The beach is lined by palm trees and rustic cabins, hotel rooms and hammocks with a few more sophisticated lodgings on the western end. This beach is part of the Riviera Oaxaqueño, which includes the nearby beaches of Puerto Angel and San Agustinillo.
In Zipolite, the beach stretches from a small isolated cove called Playa del Amor on the east side to the new age Shambala retreat on the west end which is partially sheltered by rocks.
Zipolite is one of the very few beaches in which nudity is tolerated.
There are no more accessible beaches east of this point. To get to more beaches you need to cut back to the main road and walk 2-3 more kms towards Puerto Angel.
Walking back west along the main beach you walk towards the sun set.
To get to the next beach, you need to cut back to the main road and walk about 2kms to San Agustinillo.
The swimming on Zipolite Beach is not good. It is a surf beach with strong undercurrents. You will find Yellow and Red flags on the beach to let you know where the safe spots are. You are very unlikely to ever see a Green flag. This is not a good beach for young families.
Whilst I was there a young man drowned. He got caught in a strong rip that dragged him close to the rocks. He got hit by a big breaking wave, probably got knocked unconscious hitting the rocks underwater, and never emerged again. His body was washed up by the tide 50 meters down the beach about 2 hours later.
Zipolite has volunteer Life Guards. They regularly have to whistle at bathers to get them to move to a safer part of the beach and / or to keep closer to shore.
WHERE TO STAY:
Almost all the establishments that face the beach have palapa sheltered restaurants / bars in front and lodging in the back. These lodgings can vary from wood huts, to simple concrete structures and often include hammocks and places to pitch tents.
Most bathrooms are shared. There is no high-rise development here and almost none of the lodgings offer air conditioning or hot water.
This is what you find if you do a search 2-3 weeks in advance of your arrival.
HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):
AGODA list no properties in Zipolite.
PLEASE NOTE: Hotel and Hostel search sites sometimes display prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. You may have to add up to 20% to the displayed price to get the final price.
FYI, the cheapest listing (US$16), above, equates to MXP350 after taxes.
VACATION RENTALS (Weekly Rates):
If you plan to stay a week or more, another good option is to use AirBnB or TRIPADVISOR.COM to book a Holiday Rental / Vacation Rental.
Holiday Rentals are usually rented by the week. A comparable search reveals the following … please note that these prices are in US$s …
No Vacation Rentals within GRANDPAcker price range.
Vacation Rentals are, usually, displayed INCLUSIVE of TAXES but EXCLUSIVE of any Security Deposit (if required). BUT, the displayed price may be EXCLUSIVE of the host site’s Service Fees (which can add as much as 16%).
In S.E. Asia, I wouldn’t touch AirBnB with a barge pole … in my opinion and experience the accommodation that you find is an absolute rip off. However, in Mexico they are definitely worth a look.
You can stay anywhere on this beach. There are many seafront properties to choose from. There are more, usually cheaper, ones set back within 50 meters of the beach.
There are many accommodation options within our GRANDPAcking Budget of up to MXP500 (US$27) / night.
If you ‘walk in off the street’ (rather than book online), expect to pay MXP350-500 / night for a Double Room with sea views and balcony. It is hard to get a discount on this price … these rooms are very popular and they don’t need to discount them.
To get a cheaper room, you need to forego the seaview … but you can still stay in a beachfront hotel. You can negotiate long term discounts on these off-beachfront rooms.
If you continue reading, you will see that I advise against booking online. You will pay too much (perhaps DOUBLE what you need to). Once you get to Zipolite it should be easy to get a decent GRANDPAcking Standard room for under MXP250 (US$14) / night.
Places like Zipolite fill up over Christmas, New Year, and Holy Week (Easter). At these times of year, room prices can quadruple … avoid them if you can.
I wanted to stay on the beach.
For more details, read my post on San Pedro to Zipolite.
If you want the best accommodation prices, you need to get to Zipolite and negotiate directly with the hotels. If you are arriving in Zipolite late, you may want to book 1 night in advance so that you have time to look around without any pressure.
Have a look yourself:
You can walk everywhere.
I paid MXP20 for the 15-20 km-ish Blue Colectivo ride to Zipolite from Pochutla; the journey took nearly 1 hour. A Taxi would have cost MXP100 … which is OK if you can share it with other people; a Taxi would get you there in 20 minutes.
See my Rules Of Thumb for how much you should pay.
The main street has a collection of restaurants in a 100 meter stretch. There are very few (if any) ‘cheap’ options.
You will pay a 25%-50% premium to eat on the beachfront.
The best ‘Value For Money’ Breakfast at A Nice Place is, probably, their Canadian Breakfast which comes with 3 eggs (scrambled or fried), toast (or tortillas), savoury potatoes, 3 pieces of bacon, and coffee (or juice) for MXP80 (US$4.50).
For a cheap Lunch you will need to get onto the streets.
You won’t find many Taco Stalls (only 1 or 2) … there aren’t many super cheap options to be found.
There are some nice meals to be had on the beach. A Fish Fillet meal with a melted Oaxacan cheese and mushrooms sauce costs as little as MXP100 at the Sal Y Pimienta. You can get cheaper Fish Fillet options for MXP85. A Guacamole is a reasonable size and costs MXP40. They also do a big cocktail for only MXP50 (which is bigger and better than the 2-for-1 Happy Hour cocktails that you get elsewhere for MXP60).
Again, for the cheaper options hit the streets. A typical meal (like a spaghetti carbonara) will cost MXP80. The cheapest meal MXP60.
Just remember that, with these places, they don’t mind if you turn up with your own drink in hand.
Expect to pay MXP50 (US$2.75) for a cheap Breakfast with coffee. Expect to pay MXP50 (US$2.75) for a cheap Lunch with Fruit Drink. Expect to pay MXP75 (US$4.00) for a cheap Dinner with Fruit Juice.
The standard price for a 350ml bottle of local beer (like Corona) is MXP18 … this can rise to MXP25 on the beach … but MXP20 is more normal in the budget beach bars (such as A Nice Place and Filipe’s).
You will find Happy Hours everywhere (especially on the beach). Some last all day … others end at 7:00pm. Happy Hours rarely include beer. The typical Happy Hour is 2-for-1 cocktails made from local spirits. The normal price is MXP60 for 2 cocktails.
The local stores sell 1.2L bottles of beer (such as Dos Equis) for MXP32 (plus MXP8 deposit on the bottle).
The Posada Mexico (on the beach) does all day 2-for-1 cocktails for MXP60. It also puts on free entertainment 2 or 3 nights each week. It is one of the nicer beach bars to sit in to watch the sun set and / or catch an evening show. The meals are over-priced though.
There is only really one ‘bar’ in town: Ron’s Bar. The drinks aren’t the cheapest in town, but if you want a nice bar vibe later in the evening, you can usually bet on Ron’s to deliver. Ron’s is popular with the expat community … and a good place to meet and talk to that crowd.
YOUR HEALTH & SAFETY:
The main problem is Petty Theft … which is a ‘typical’ problem in Central America.
You might get the odd local drunk touting you on the beach at night … they are harmless.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:
Nightlife in Zipolite is subdued, however, in the high season (Nov through May), some surprisingly good musicians pass through town. The local band, the Zipolite Beach Billies, hosts a weekly open mike that is very popular among tourists and locals alike.
There is a large yoga community in Zipolite with classes being offered at the Alquimista and Loma Linda.
Zipolite and the surrounding area are perfect for engaging in all kinds of activities such as:
- Walking on the beach
- Sun bathing
- Body surfing
- Boogie boarding
- Fishing trips where you may see dolphins, whales, sea turtles, etc
- Excursions to the lagoon, to other beaches and other bays in close vicinity
Apart from Yoga and Feldenkrais you also have a choice of:
- Cleansing by a local healer
- Temascal (sweat lodge)
- Spanish lessons
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
You don’t come here to shop. The local Superminis only cater for the basics.
In the evenings you will find street-side stalls selling hand made trinkets.
There are no banks in town. An ATM has been recently installed in the Roca Blanca. It is a rip off: the maximum withdrawal is only MXP4,000 and you get charged MXP109 for the privilege.
There is a Santandar Bank ATM in Mazunte. There are several other bank branches in Pochutla.
In Zipolite, there is no currency exchange either, but many places take US$s (at a poor exchange rate). Very few places accept credit cards.
There are no Supermarkets, only Superminis. You are best to bring any ‘rarities’ that you need with you. Typical prices:
- Beer: 1.2L MXP32 (plus MXP8 deposit on the bottle)
- 5 Gallon Water: MXP17 (plus MXP80 deposit on the bottle)
- 1 Litre fruit water: MXP15
WHEN TO GO:
Zipolite has a tropical climate … you will find sun all year round with an average temperature of about 31° Centigrade.
In the winter months (the dry season), the air usually feels a little dryer and therefore cooler than in the summer. You can expect a refreshing breeze most of the time.
Come May the rainy season begins and after the first rains you can witness the revival of nature to a lush dark green surrounding. This is when you get mosquitoes.
Rainy season, however, does not mean that it rains every day for months. Typically there may be a thunderstorm for a couple of hours but, then, the sun comes out again.
ZIPOLITE vs MONTERRICO:
I find myself wanting to do a comparison between Zipolite (Mexico) and Monterrico (Guatemala). Both are surf beaches with a similar ‘hippie’ vibe:
|Zipolite – Barisa Marina – US$8.00||Monterrico – El Delfin – US$15.00|
Zipolite beats Monterrico in all respects.
From Zipolite I head to Oaxaca City for 1 week before moving on to San Cristobal de las Casa and Palenque.
I will tell you more about that in a future post.
Zipolite has something special about it. It has an easy-going and relaxed vibe.
But, it will not suit many GRANDPAckers. You need to have a bit of ‘hippie’ in you.
For most of the time you are relaxing in a hammock on the beach, dipping in the water, body surfing, reading a book, walking the beach … and, just enjoying a peaceful life.
Zipolite has a small expat community.
Most ‘westerners’ should get a free 180 day Tourist Visa on entry into Mexico. You cannot renew this Visa whilst in Mexico … you MUST leave the country and come back in again. The good side is that you only have to do a Visa Run twice each year … and Guatemala (and San Pedro La Laguna) is not far away.
Is Zipolite somewhere to stay for several months as you alternate between home and / or other Retirement Location(s)? YES.
Can a retired couple with no assets live easily, comfortably, and happily here with their only source of income being a standard NZ Married Couple’s State Pension? YES.
Zipolite makes it into my Retirement Reviews.