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Do Not Disturb: I’m In a Zipolite State of Mind

Along comes January on the Yucatán Peninsula, and that is about the time we start to feel the doldrums of our version of winter. It is hard to convince anyone from the north, where the wind blows through the clapboards and an ice storm covers anything that doesn’t move, that here in Mérida, we have our version of winter.

Gray skies and temps in the 50s are the same triggers for those in the north looking for a warmer and sunnier escape.  Fortunately, no passport is required, and in less than three or four hours, travelers can be basking in the sun along the beautiful beaches on the coast of Oaxaca. 

Zipolite vibe, dave o dodge

Playa Zipolite (see puh LEE tay) is a small bohemian beach town reminiscent of Tulum 25 years ago when thatched roofs, hammocks and rustic bars ruled. This area on the Pacific is the perfect place to pull up the drawbridge, sit a spell, and listen to the waves crash. Pack light because there is no need for a collared shirt, long pants, skirts or even shoes. Zipolite redefines what to pack in your carry-on, and less is more. In full disclosure, Playa Zipolite is the only legal nude beach in Mexico, which only underscores the need to bring less.

For the less bold, plenty of holidaymakers are perfectly at ease wearing bathing suits, and almost in equal measure, those who just wear tan lines. The beach can be exactly what you want it to be: deserted coves, beachside cafes, rustic bars and even a beach for the free spirit of the LGBTQ community.

Zipolite, Gay destination
Photo: Adobe Stock

No fighting crowds, no waiting in lines, and no traffic lights. Zipolite has continued to offer a nonconformist lifestyle with its low-key vibe and nonjudgmental attitude. There is nothing to do in this village except chill out by strolling the beach, napping in the sun, or embracing your inner nudist.  

The beach itself is only about two kilometers long, with golden sand and, at times, aggressive surf. Breathtaking views of the mountains and palm groves that surround it only enhance its feeling of isolation. Unlike the beaches elsewhere, these respites from the outside world are complimentary when ordering food or drinks. Here, you can own your comfort zone; nudity is optional, and no one really cares.

Zipolite, Mexico, gay destination, nudist

The town is, at best, a few hundred meters long with only one main thoroughfare, Avenida Roca Blanca, just off the beach. There, eateries serve cuisines from Thai to Italian and even French. Nightly, this avenue comes to life with artists, cafes, and vendors vying for their share of the almighty peso. You will never feel pressured or discouraged for looking, touching or just strolling by their wares. Like the beach during the day, no one cares. 

A candle-lit dinner next to the crashing surf is the ultimate way to dine. Darkness surrounds you except for the collection of candles that light your way, El Alquimista. This is Zipolite’s version of fine dining. The seafood is fresh, and the cocktails sublime. The best part is no shoes are required, and it can be so dark that no one will recognize that T-shirt you have worn the past two nights.

Mao Mau, Thai Food, Zipolite, Gay Destination

With all the thatched roofs and variations of the Buddha, it might feel more like Asia than Mexico. When hankering for something from the other side of the Pacific, try Mao Mau for authentic and perfectly served Thai Cashew, Chả Giò or even Pad Thai. 

Finding the right accommodation can be a daunting task for the first-time visitor. No high-rise hotels or real resorts exist, and the term “all-inclusive” is no doubt against the law here. Zipolite has charming small hotels, guest houses, and private apartments. Comfort level is a personal choice for the beach visitor, where one might be happy in a hammock or tent, while some are very happy with a sea view over the cliffs with breakfast served daily. For the latter, check out Casa Sol Zipolite, a 10-room guesthouse with a lush natural setting with dramatic ocean views.

Zipolite Beach, gay destination, sunset

Getting to Zipolite can be, at times, a test of one’s patience when scouring the Internet to find the best deal because finding that might be a 15-hour day. From Yucatán, flyers connect through Mexico City to either Puerto Escondido (PXM) or Huatulco (HUX). Zipolite is about an hour’s cab ride from either of these airports.  

One can fly directly into the UNESCO-recognized Oaxaca International Airport (OAX) and be fearless by driving or taking a bus down the mountains to the coast. That journey can be up to seven hours one way and harrowing enough to haunt you for a lifetime. Hope is on the horizon: like the Tren Maya, another project quietly making progress is a new road. The Barranca-Larga-Ventanilla toll highway, which is finally slated to open next month, will cut the driving time to only two-and-a-half hours, with much better scenery than the trip to Cancún from Mérida.

Zipolite is not for everyone. Some find it too rustic, unpolished, and muddy, especially during the rainy season. The fact that no one is trying to sell you a timeshare and finding that souvenir fridge magnet has become a virtual scavenger hunt can be a glaring revelation that “you are not in Kansas anymore!” 

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