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The Pacific South

Mexico's Pacific South

Comprised of the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero, Mexico’s Pacific South is a popular region for visitors. Whereas Mexico’s northern and central areas were dominated by the Aztec culture when the Spanish arrived, these southern states were inhabited by the Maya, as well as older cultures such as the Zapotecs and Mixtecs, who built the magnificent city of Monte Albán, near present-day Oaxaca. Some of Mexico’s best beaches can also be found in this area, including the legendary Acapulco.

Chiapas

The southernmost state in Mexico, Chiapas was once part of Guatemala before it became a state of Mexico. It is a state known for lush forests, rivers, canyons, and other beautiful natural surroundings. Deep in the Chiapas jungle, in a protected area named Palenque National Park, are the ruins of Palenque, one of the largest and most important Maya sites. The city peaked during the Maya classic period, about 600-700 A.D. The ruins of Palenque are a must-see for any ancient history buff. Deep inside one of the temples, archaeologists found a huge, ornately carved stone. It depicts a man amidst intricate devices, and some have named him “the astronaut.” Another highlight is the palace, a multi-story building made of stone. The capital of Chiapas is the charming colonial city of San Cristobal de las Casas.

Oaxaca

High in the western Sierra Madre range, the city of Oaxaca is a must-see for the visitor to Mexico’s pacific coastal region. The capital of Oaxaca state, it is an inland city and not located on the coast itself. What the city lacks in beaches, however, it more than makes up in culture and charm. The beautifully restored historical center was declared a world heritage site in 1987. The old town is full of charming cafes and restaurants, as well as a number of museums. Check out the Oaxaca culture museum, housed in a former monastery. On display are several relics unearthed from nearby Monte Albán’s famous “tomb 7.”

Monte Alban

Barely ten kilometers outside of Oaxaca is the ancient city of Monte Albán. It was first built by the Olmecs around 600 B.C. Later cultures lived there as well, and the city reached the height of its power around 800 A.D. when the Zapotecs lived there. Later, the Zapotecs went into decline and the site was abandoned until the Mixtecs arrived in the twelfth or thirteenth century and used it as a burial ground for their nobility.? It is a sprawling ruin on top of a hill with an excellent view. There are many temples and buildings, and some finely carved stone blocks, showing human figures that appear to be dancing. There have been several tombs discovered at Monte Albán: the most important one is “Tomb 7,” the contents of which are on display in Oaxaca.

Acapulco

Perhaps Mexico’s most famous beach resort city, Acapulco is located in the state of Guerrero about 325 kilometers from Mexico City. Nicknamed “the Pearl of the Pacific,” it is the most popular beach resort in Mexico. There are dozens of beaches in and around Acapulco, and they are generally clean and safe. More than simply beaches, Acapulco offers scuba diving, sport fishing, tennis, golf and good shopping. The lively night life is legendary and there are good restaurants and hotels. Also in the state of Guerrero is the “Silver City” of Taxco, a charming colonial city known for silver products.

Zihuatanejo

The traveler who has had enough of the enormous, slick resorts in Acapulco can go a couple hundred kilometers to the south. The fishing village of Zihuatanejo is modern yet quaint, and also offers nice beaches and many of the same sorts of water sports as Acapulco. Visitors like to stroll down the cobblestone streets of the town center. Like Acapulco, Zihuatanejo has a lively night life. Nearby, the Ixtapa tourist complex offers some of the best sport fishing in the world as well as sailing, windsurfing, diving, and several golf courses.

Puerto Escondido

About 320 kilometers south of the city of Oaxaca is Puerto Escondido, a small fishing village that has since become known as a popular travel destination. The beautiful green water gives the area its “Emerald Coast” nickname. Puerto Escondido is known for surfing: there are a variety of good surfing spots, appropriate for any skill level. Expert surfers can ride the four meter high breakers off of Zicatela beach.









By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
27 Jul 2011

The Top Destinations of Mexico's Pacific South

Oaxaca

103616The city of Oaxaca is one of the treasures of Mexican colonial architecture. The gorgeous city center, or ZĂłcalo, is a haven of peace and tranquility. Tall trees cast shade on locals and visitors ...
City
Oaxaca, Mexico

Acapulco

Acapulco…even the name conjures up images of sandy beaches, tall cliffs, beautiful young men and women in swimsuits sipping piña coladas. This world-class beach resort has been a visitor ...
City
Acapulco, Mexico

San CristĂłbal de las Casas

The spiritual capital of the southern state of Chiapas, the city of San CristĂłbal de las Casas is a friendly town known as a good base from which to explore the wonders of the state of Chiapas, from ...
City
San CristĂłbal de las Casas, Mexico

Zihuatanejo

Located on Mexico’s west coast in the state of Guerrero, nestled into a quiet bay area, Zihuatanejo is a popular vacation destination for Mexicans, people from all over the world, and Spring ...
City
Zihuatanejo, Mexico

Santo Tomas Jalietza

104842 Charming and rustic, Santo Tomas Jalietza is one of many small artisan pueblos in the Oaxaca City region. Head south from Oaxaca City on Route 175, pass San Bartolo Coyotepec (or stop for a peek ...
Market, Shopping, City
Mexico

Palenque

107260The Mayan Ruins of Palenque Palenque refers to two different things: first of all, the important Mayan ruins located in the southern Mexico state of Chiapas, and to a small town of the same name ...
City
Palenque, Mexico

Taxco

107433 Two hours to the southwest of Mexico City, not far from Acapulco, sits Taxco, one of the most romantic, charming and important towns in all of Mexico. Resembling a small European village, the ...
City
Taxco, Mexico

Teotitlan Del Valle

135792In the eastern arm of the Oaxaca valley, nudging the Sierra Madre Mountains is Teotitlán del Valle, worth the half-hour side trip from Oaxaca. Along the 4 kilometer turnoff from Highway 190 into ...
City
Teotitlan Del Valle, Mexico

Toniná (ruins)

138878Far out in the lush green countryside of southern Mexico, surrounded by trees, fields, cows and chickens, the Mayan ruins of Toniná are tiny compared with the sprawling complexes of Palenque and ...
City
Toniná (ruins), Ocosingo, Mexico

Tuxtla Gutierrez

Many visitors hop right over Tuxtla, land of the rabbits, and focus on the more popular Mayan ruins, natural wonders, and quaint colonial towns of eastern Chiapas. However, Tuxtla de Gutierrez, ...
City
Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico

Chiapa De Corzo

“Never surrender!” is the unofficial motto of Chiapa de Corzo. Many cultures have inhabited this nook in the Rio Grijalva since 1500 BC, including the warrior soctón or chiapa Indians. In 1528, ...
City
Chiapa De Corzo, Mexico

The Best Beaches in Mexico's Pacific South

Acapulco Beaches

107432Acapulco offers beaches for all tastes and all are easily accessible from anywhere along the Costera road. West of town are the small bay beaches of Caleta and Caletilla, both of which are tightly ...
Beach
Acapulco, Mexico

Playa Las Gatas

Based on the crowds, this is easily Zihuatanejo’s most popular beach both in and out of tourist season. Water taxis from the downtown pier at Playa Municipal only cost $3.50 roundtrip. This is the ...
Beach
Zihuatanejo, Mexico

Playa Angelito

This is definitely the kiddie beach of Puerto Escondido. Lots of locals bring their families here, and you can see everyone from infants to the elderly enjoying themselves. Bring your inner tubes ...
Beach
Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Playa Zicatela

This is the surfing beach. New and experienced surfers alike come here to test the waves. The waters are pretty rough here, so swimming is not recommended. It is a great place to hang out and get ...
Beach
Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Playa Carrizalillo

This quiet, secluded beach is in a lagoon and the waters here are quite calm. This is a place to relax without the busy atmosphere of the other beaches. Buy a drink from the palapa bars so you can ...
Beach
Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Playa Principal / Playa Municipal

This beach is the main beach right in front of the downtown area, and it is referred to by either Playa Principal or Playa Municipal. Though not a swimming beach, a few locals will take their kids ...
Beach
Zihuatanejo, Mexico

Playa La Ropa

This is the beach in the Zihuatanejo bay area most recommended for swimming. The waves are gentle, the beach is clean and the scenery is beautiful. Vacationers as well as locals gather here for fun ...
Beach
Zihuatanejo, Mexico

Beaches Summary

There are seven different beaches in Puerto Escondido, each with its own style and flair. Instead of choosing a beach based on its location, choose a beach based its atmosphere and the available ...
Beach
Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Playa Bachoco

This beach is away from civilization on the outskirts of town and off the beaten path. Walk farther and farther away down this long beach to see what the land was like when it was uninhabited. ...
Beach
Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Playa Manzanillo

It is possible to walk to this beach from Puerto Angelito, but it is over a lot of rocks, and it’s rather dicey. Playa Manzanillo has a lot of boats, is very rocky, and is rather small with icky ...
Beach
Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Playa Principal

Dive down 30 meters and see the San Andreas Fault, which is right in front of this beach. This is the bay where the boats are anchored, and they leave regularly for tours. It is not really a ...
Beach
Puerto Escondido, Mexico

The Top Museums of Mexico's Pacific South

Museo Parador Santa Maria

Just 10 kilometers from the Chinkultic ruins, the Museo Parador Santa Maria is a stunning 18th century hacienda converted into a plush hotel and museum. As you come through the stone gate, the first ...
Museum
Comitan De Dominguez, Mexico

Xonaxi Cosana

104793In a city that truly appreciates cultural arts, the contemporary photo gallery, Xonaxi Cosana, is no exception. It is here that the contemporary cultre of Mexico, Oaxaca and Mexican is shown ...
Museum
Oaxaca, Mexico

Museo Casa De Juárez

127443If you can’t read Spanish, then there is little to do at the childhood home of Benito Juárez, who lived here for ten years (1818-1828). Juárez was one of Mexico’s most influential presidents, ...
Museum
Centro Historico, Oaxaca, Mexico

Museo Belber Jimenez

A fashion historian's paradise, this brand new museum (opened May 2008) showcases the private collection of Federico Belber Jimenez, a Mixtec Indian born in poverty who beat the odds and went on to ...
Museum
Centro Historico, Oaxaca, Mexico

Museo Arqueológico de Comitán

The art deco façade of the Museo Arqueológico de Comitán gives way to traditional Comitán interior design, a flowery patio surrounded by corridors leading to the house’s different rooms. ...
Museum
Comitan De Dominguez, Mexico

Casa Museo Belisario Dominguez

Belisario Dominguez was a prominent local doctor and senator in the years leading up to the Mexican Revolution. Just one block south east of the ZĂłcalo, the Casa Museo Belisario Dominguez is housed ...
Museum
Comitan De Dominguez, Mexico

Museo Arqueologico de la Costa Grande

Located at one end of Zhiuatanejo’s Playa Principal next to the canal, this museum is dedicated to the history and artifacts of the ancient people of the Pacific coast of Mexico. Everything is ...
Museum
Zihuatanejo, Mexico

Cultures of Oaxaca Museum

Within the expansive structure of Santo Domingo, which was originally a monastery, lays the Cultures of Oaxaca Museum. The museum has an impressive collection of archeological artifacts, many from ...
Activity Info., Museum
Oaxaca, Mexico

Contemporary Art Museum

The structure that holds this art museum was built toward the end of the 17th century by a family whose coat of arms can be seen on the front of the building. It is commonly misthought that the house ...
Info., Museum
Oaxaca, Mexico

Adventure Tours in Mexico's Pacific South

ChiflĂłn Waterfall

107301This spectacular waterfall is a couple of hours from town but it is worth heading out to. A 30-minute easy walk along a riverside path heads up to a viewpoint over the falls, where the river tumbles ...
Adventure Tour
San CristĂłbal de las Casas, Mexico

Sumidero Canyon

107303This is probably the best trip to do out of San CristĂłbal and it is cheaper to do it on a tour than it is to go individually. It is only an hour to the boat dock from where launches go when they ...
Boating, Adventure Tour
San CristĂłbal de las Casas, Mexico

Grutas de San CristĂłbal

107300This large cave is nothing special but is an interesting short outing that lies about 30-minutes from the town. Illuminated with natural light and with a footpath running its full length, it is not a ...
Hiking, Adventure Tour
San CristĂłbal de las Casas, Mexico

Misol-Ha, Agua Clara and Agua Azul

107276If you have time to do something other than go to the ruins around Palenque, then make sure this is it. After a short drive you will arrive at the first spot, the pretty jungle waterfall of Misol-Ha, ...
Hiking, Adventure Tour
Palenque, Mexico

Lagunas de Montebello

107302This is a peaceful and pleasant place. The park is made up of more than 50 lakes deep in impressive forest and while many are simply smallish pools of varying colours there are some with rock ...
National Park, Adventure Tour
San CristĂłbal de las Casas, Mexico

Hierve el Agua

This is a very unique place where water from hot springs tumbles down through several pools on the mountainside. Over years it has left mineral deposits that make the whole cliff look like a frozen ...
Adventure Tour
Oaxaca, Mexico
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