Santa Domingo church in Oaxaca, Mexico (family trip to Oaxaca, Mexico)After two trips in two years to Oaxaca, Mexico (I think we can call that an annual tradition, right?!), I feel confident saying this is a destination that is great for families.

Located in the mountains of southern Mexico, the weather in Oaxaca is travel friendly for most of the year and especially nice and warm during New England’s cold fall and winter months! The food — in restaurants, in the markets, and on street corners — is fresh, tasty, and cheap! And everything is so very affordable compared to many other similar-feeling vacation locations.

Thinking about planning a trip to Mexico? Here are a few highlights from the trips my toddler and I have taken to Oaxaca!

Things to do

Hierve el Agua

Incredible views, pools, and waterfall-like rock formations are just 40 miles southeast from Oaxaca and make for a fun day trip. The facilities are clean and include small changing rooms and bathrooms right by the parking lot and down by the pools. The path from the parking lot to the pools is filled with food and trinket vendors — grab something to eat before heading back.

Hierve el Agua in Oaxaca, Mexico
Hierve el Agua

Arbol del Tule

We stopped by the Arbol del Tule in Santa Maria del Tule on our way back from Hierve el Agua. This tree is said to be the widest in the world! In addition to the tree, you can visit the town’s Mercado Gastronomia (food market) and the Mercado de Artesanias (textile and clothing market).

Arbole del Tule near Oaxaca, Mexico
Arbole del Tule

Cempasuchil Fields

Planted in June and July and in full bloom by October and November, the campasuchil fields are worth a visit! These beautiful orange marigolds are essential for any proper Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration, and the fields around Oaxaca make for a wonderful family photo — no professional photographer needed! If you travel to Oaxaca right before or after Día de Muertos, you’ll see these flowers adorning shop windows, cemeteries, and streets all around the city.

cempasuchil field, day of the dead flower, marigolds

The Temazcal

The temazcal is a prehispanic ritual for cleaning, detoxifying, and purifying one’s mind, body, and spirit. It is an herbal steam bath, during which a healer (curandera) will perform a cleansing ritual to release bad energies from your body. Think a VERY hot sauna in a clay hut with herbs, honey on your skin, and a lot of space to clear your mind, skin, and soul! I wouldn’t recommend this for younger kids, as they would need to stay sitting for an extended period in a hot, steamy hut. But locals do take even babies into the temazcal, so it’s not unheard of!

Where to eat

Mercado de la Merced

The center of Oaxaca — Centro — is full of little food markets that are bustling with activity, fragrances, and really good food. We loved Mercado de la Merced — from the fresh produce stands to the Oaxacan cheese stands all the way to mole dishes and the bags of spicy chapulines (grasshoppers). You can’t go wrong at this market.

A Oaxaca food tour

For some additional help in finding your way around the street food of Oaxaca, try a food tour! These usually last a few hours, so better for families with older children — or for an adults-only excursion, if that’s in the cards for you. There are many different companies that offer tours, so you can choose one that works best for you!

Ocotlán de Morales market

This one is located about 20 miles south of the city, but it’s worth it for one of the main attractions — the Eat with Frida stand. The woman cooking the food, whose family has owned the business for more than 70 years, is Beatriz, and she is always in full Frida Kahlo garb. This would seem to be a tourist trap if the food wasn’t so good!

The many family-friendly restaurants in Centro

If you’ve visited the markets and want a more traditional restaurant experience, there are lots of wonderful family-friendly places to eat in the city!

Where to stay

Centro

The center of the city is full of affordable hotels and is small enough that you could stay in Centro, explore the city by foot, and enjoy everything it has to offer with very minimal additional travel and logistics.

Keep in mind that in addition to all the things you’ll plan to see, you’ll also likely experience a parade or two (possibly one every day!) in Centro, fireworks throughout the day and night, and general merriment in the city and its surroundings. You’ll get used to the noise very quickly!

San Felipe

For a more residential (and slightly quieter) feel to your stay, try San Felipe del Agua — it’s about 20 minutes north of Centro and 100 pesos by taxi. It’s a slightly more upscale neighborhood that boasts some great hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, cheese shops, and my preferred accommodations with Somos Retreats.


 

Michal Biletzki
Michal is a Single Mother by Choice to a double-donor miracle baby, Alma born in 2020, who was conceived in the Ukraine on March 10th, 2020 (you remember THAT week). Originally from Israel, Michal has been in the USA since 2004, with 9 of those in the Boston area – six as a grad student (many lifetimes ago) and three as a mom, non-consecutively. Getting to motherhood a little later in life, Michal holds a PhD in Political Science from Boston University and has been working in non-profit fundraising since 2011 – currently at Northeastern University, where she is setting her sights high (and far), planning to work there long enough to be able to get Alma through college for free! Michal and Alma live in Waltham, right next door to Alma's grandparents, with their beloved mutt, Grizzly. Michal loves the door motherhood has opened for her in building her and Alma’s community, surrounding them both with new friends and is excited to share her experience and diverse perspectives with the larger Boston Moms community!

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