Oaxaca is one of the most unique, culturally-rich regions in all of Mexico. Located southeast of Mexico City and west of the Guatemalan border, Oaxaca has a stunning Pacific coastline and breathtaking mountains.
But when is the best time of year to experience it? If you’re planning a vacation to Oaxaca, researching ahead of time can help you find the best time of year to visit. Below, read about Oaxaca’s weather, seasons, crowds, and prices.
That way, you can determine the ideal time for your vacation, as well as avoid the least desirable weeks. You’ll get to experience Oaxaca the way you’ve imagined and come home with a lifetime of happy memories.
Why You Should Visit Oaxaca
It would be quicker and easier for us to tell you why not to visit Oaxaca! It’s one of Mexico’s best-kept tourism secrets. If you enjoy being outdoors, Oaxaca is a literal paradise. There’s the pristine coastline with its wide beaches and prime surfing.
If you like to scuba dive, you’ll discover a wealth of marine life, including turtles, dolphins, and migrating humpback whales, from December to February. Head inland away from the coast, and you’ll discover more wonders.
See bioluminescent plankton, bathe in natural springs, and witness a “frozen” waterfall of limestone. You can also take a guided day trip into the UNESCO Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve.
Learn about Mesoamerica’s incredible biodiversity, stunning plants and wildlife, and agriculture. You can indulge your other senses with unbelievable food and drinks.
Oaxacans invented mezcal, and there are plenty of places to do small-batch tastings at special mezcalerias, or you can tour a distillery. The secret is out on Oaxacan food, too. There are several unique cuisine styles and restaurants to tickle your taste buds.
Many of them are in the neighborhoods of Oaxaca City and small downtowns in the surrounding countryside, where you’ll also find boutiques and shops with locally-made, one-of-a-kind items. Oaxaca is a foodie’s paradise!
If you’ve ever seen the ornate, brightly-painted animals, it’s a traditional Oaxacan art. You can see artisans at work and shop for some beautiful pieces.
Don’t skip Monte Alban, either. This pre-contact religious site was likely used for human sacrifice but is also a stunning work of human ingenuity and engineering. You can get beautiful views of the Tlacolula Valley and beyond.
Overall Best Time to Visit Oaxaca
The best time to visit Oaxaca is during April, May, September, and October. You should visit Oaxaca in late spring or early fall.
While summer can be hot and busy, the short seasons before and after have beautiful weather. You can visit for any outdoor activities you want to do. Since you’re shouldering the peak season, businesses are in full swing, but crowds aren’t as bad. In other words, it’s perfect.
Since Oaxaca is north of the equator, its hottest months are June, July, and August. While temperatures remain relatively mild through the winter, most people prefer late spring or early fall.
If you like it on the warmer side, visit during April and May. Temperatures stay above the 60s but rarely top 90 degrees Fahrenheit. September and October are a little cooler. Overnight, temperatures may dip into the 50s and often remain under 80, even in the afternoon.
Even though spring is warmer, we like both seasons for beach activities. While the air is cooler in the fall, the water is warmer. The closer you visit to summer, the more rain you’ll see. Still, it’s drastically less than during the summer.
Most popular tourist destinations worldwide see a lull in the months before and after summer, and Oaxaca is no exception. Nothing has yet shut down for the off-season (and many businesses don’t at all). Hotel prices start to dip, and you can find better deals on tour packages.
There are a few holidays and events worth checking out, too. Mexico is a heavily Catholic country, so Easter is a big deal. Mexico celebrates its independence day on September 16 (not May 5–Cinco de Mayo–as many Americans believe).
Dia de Los Muertos on November 1 is one of the year’s most important cultural and religious celebrations. You’ll see preparations for it throughout October.
Cheapest Time to Visit Oaxaca
The least expensive time to vacation in Oaxaca is during the off-season, from November-March.
These are the winter months but don’t worry, the weather is still lovely, even if it’s a bit colder. Low temperatures can dip into the low 50s and high 40s, but that almost only happens overnight. Most days, you’ll see temperatures in the 70s.
Average highs for all five months are above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Because it’s a bit on the cooler side, there’s also considerably less rainfall. Oaxaca receives less than one inch of rain (on average) during the entire five-month winter period.
Compare that to June, which gets more than six inches of rain in the month alone. Prices for accommodations of all kinds fall during this season, including hotels and rentals.
The downside of that is that sometimes amenities are less available, too. Some restaurants have limited hours, are open only on weekends, or serve smaller menus.
Except for the Christmas Season
Remember that this low-tourism, low-price season doesn’t include the holidays. Depending on when Christmas and other holidays fall, prices spike a few days prior and stay high until after New Year’s. Then, things return to quiet until our favorite season begins in April.
There are many festivals celebrated during this period other than Christmas and New Year’s, including:
- Dia de Los Muertos (November 1)
- Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe (December 12)
- Los Posadas (December 16-24)
- Maria de la Soledad (December 18)
- The Epiphany (January 6)
Again, expect prices to rise for everything during this time. Make sure you also account for more expensive, more crowded flights.
Least Busy Time to Visit Oaxaca
There are a few times of the year to visit if you want to avoid crowds in Oaxaca. Crowds tend to be very low from mid-November through mid-December.
This is true in many popular tourist locales throughout the world. Although Mexico is close to the US, Oaxaca is too far south to get much Thanksgiving tourism. Crowds also fall from mid-January through the end of February.
Once March begins, spring breakers start to flock all across coastal Mexico. Easter sometimes falls early in March, too. If you’re looking for a more authentic experience, you might want to visit during this less-busy season. As with most tourist regions, restaurants depend on business from locals to survive the off-season.
Therefore, they cook more authentic dishes and use locally-preferred ingredients in food. Other businesses cater their services to the shift in clientele in a similar way.
Even though many Oaxacans (particularly those in the service industry) speak English, try to learn some Spanish to connect better with locals. They’ll appreciate being able to maintain their casual, at-home feeling.
Another factor that keeps crowds down is that this isn’t prime surfing time. The best time to surf in Oaxaca is April to October when lows from New Zealand bring perfect swells. Therefore, outdoors enthusiasts won’t always flock during the off-season.
Worst Time to Visit Oaxaca
The worst time of year to visit Oaxaca depends on your personal preferences. If you hate crowds, then the worst time to visit Oaxaca is during peak season, which is typically June-August.
Oaxaca has gorgeous tropical weather during peak season, but that’s not for everyone. If you don’t like heat, avoid Oaxaca in the summer. It can be humid, even in the early morning.
Temperatures can reach and even sometimes exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It also rains almost every day. Afternoon clouds roll in, you have a short downpour, and the evening sun returns. Surfing can be a significant draw for many visitors to Oaxaca.
If your priority is surfing, the worst time to visit is winter. Prime waves happen in summer. Avoid June, since it’s the wettest month. Oaxaca offers many amenities and activities year-round. Most outdoor activities (other than surfing) are available and beautiful year-round.
Oaxaca City and the surrounding communities have many year-round residents, so all the restaurants, shops, and other things stay open, too. Finally, there are many cultural events in Oaxaca that happen year-round.
There’s a dance festival in July, a salsa and horchata festival in March, a film festival in December, an annual Carvavale event, and much more. In short, there isn’t a wrong time to visit Oaxaca. Still, we typically advise avoiding June, July, and August if possible.
Things to Consider
There are many things to consider when choosing a time to visit Oaxaca, as well as during the planning process for your visit. Let’s look at a few of them:
- Cost. Prices for everything fall outside the peak season, especially during the winter.
- Crowds. Consider not only the season but also if you might visit during a national or regional busy season, like Mexican Independence Day or Christmas.
- Luxury. While Oaxaca isn’t known for its opulence, you can get better prices on five-star accommodations and experiences during the off-season.
Finally, how you plan to spend your time while vacationing should be another major factor worth considering. Let’s take a closer look. When choosing a time to visit Oaxaca (or anywhere), the most crucial question is what you want to do.
Oaxaca has gorgeous weather all year long, so seasons won’t affect your decision-making as much as they would for a place further from the equator. Still consider the following factors:
- To enjoy sun and warmth with less rain, choose April or October
- If you want the best surfing, opt for the middle of the summer
- The off-season might be preferable if you want to spend maximum time being active outdoors since it’s a bit cooler.
- For local culture, check out the Guelaguetza Festival in July
- To experience a quintessentially Mexican event, visit during Dia de Los Muertos
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s look at some common questions people have about visiting Oaxaca.
Is Oaxaca safe to visit?
Every country and region in the world has pockets or places that you want to avoid. While Mexico is no exception, Oaxaca tends to be quite safe. Always check travel warnings issued by your country of citizenship before booking a vacation.
The US State Department does not typically have travel warnings for Oaxaca or the surrounding areas. One thing to note is the annual protests in Oaxaca, which usually occur in the summer.
It’s common for the area’s teachers to go on strike in the summer, demanding better working conditions. While these are almost always peaceful protests, it’s good to be aware. They happen mainly in the busiest areas of Oaxaca City.
Are there any major festivals in Oaxaca?
Oaxacans celebrate many holidays during the year, including major Mexican celebrations like Dia de Los Muertos and Mexican Independence Day. Also important to Oaxacans is the Guelaguetza Festival in Oaxaca City, typically held in July. This event celebrates regional culture with dance, music, and art.
The main festival takes place at an outdoor amphitheater in Oaxaca City, but surrounding towns also hold their own series of events. Most festivals host vendors, so it’s a terrific time to buy authentic souvenirs.
How do you pronounce Oaxaca?
One sure way to reveal yourself as a tourist is to mispronounce the name of the place you’re visiting. It’s pronounced “Wah-ha-kah.”
How do you get to Oaxaca?
The closest airport is Oaxaca International Airport (OAX), located south of the city. It serves more regional than long-haul or international flights, though. The only direct flights originating outside Mexico are from Los Angeles, Houston, and Dallas-Fort Worth airports.
While there are two other airports within 100 miles of Oaxaca, connecting through Mexico City is the easiest way to get there. Mexico City’s airport is the largest and busiest in the country.
Does Oaxaca get hurricanes or other natural disasters?
It can, but it’s not as common as you might think. For complicated meteorological reasons, Mexico’s Pacific coast is less prone to hurricanes than the Gulf side. Still, it happens. That’s why we always recommend buying travel insurance that covers natural disasters.
Can you see ancient ruins in Oaxaca?
Yes! In fact, Oaxaca has some of the most breathtaking ruins in all of Mexico and Central America. The Zapotec civilization began in the Oaxaca region in the sixth century BCE. They flourished until the 1500s when European diseases and weapons decimated their numbers.
You can visit some of their ruins at Monte Alban (discussed above). Located just southwest of Oaxaca City, many local companies and resorts offer day trips and educational tours.
So, When Is the Best Time to Visit Oaxaca?
The best time for you to visit Oaxaca might be during April, May, September, and October. The weather is ideal, but you avoid the peak summertime crowds. The truth is that Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s most beautiful, culturally-enriching regions.
It has temperate weather and an eclectic collection of visitors and residents alike. You’ll have a fabulous time, no matter when you choose to travel. Happy travels!