The first thing you’ll notice about San Jose Del Pacifico is how stunningly beautiful it is — just layers upon layers of lush green mountains and rolling clouds as far as the eye can see. Urban hustle-and-bustle is a million miles away, and life starts to feel just a little slower.
You know those unexpected travel pitstops that end up being the highlight of your trip? San José del Pacífico, a tiny mountain town on Highway 175 between Oaxaca City and the beach towns of Oaxaca’s Pacific Coast, turned out to be just that for us.
We were in Oaxaca City, and our plan was to head directly to Puerto Escondido before fate interfered. The night before our departure, I stumbled across this blog post by The Partying Traveler (thanks dude).
“Babe, there’s a magic mushroom town in the mountains on our way to Puerto Escondido,” I said, bemused.
“LET’S DO IT!” was Lenza’s immediate answer.
Did I mention that San Jose Del Pacifico is known as the “magic mushroom capital” of Mexico? Local people have been partaking in rituals involving magic mushrooms and other entheogenic plants since ancient times. In the 60s and 70s, hippies from around the world caught wind of this small town in the middle of the mountains with its mystical rituals, and San Jose Del Pacifico became the far-out destination that it is today.
In fact, mushrooms are so normalized in the local culture of San Jose Del Pacifico that you might find a child handing your just-purchased goods to you.
We did not get around to trying mushrooms this time around, but we loved our time in town and would highly recommend a visit for anyone who finds themselves in Oaxaca. Read on for more information on what to expect, where to stay, what to do, and good tips to know ahead of time.
What to Expect in San Jose Del Pacifico
The first thing you’ll notice about San Jose Del Pacifico is how stunningly beautiful it is — just layers upon layers of lush green mountains and rolling clouds as far as the eye can see. Then there’s the energy. Urban hustle-and-bustle is a million miles away, and life starts to feel just a little slower.
San Jose Del Pacifico is tiny — the estimated population is 700 — and the downtown consists of one main road with several restaurants, hotels, and shops. A drive up into the hillsides leads you to the residential areas of town, and you can find a few more guest houses and local businesses.
Though San Jose Del Pacifico isn’t a food destination, we found some yummy charcoal-grilled chicken with sweeping views right away. The family behind the food stall cooks everything from scratch on charcoal and woodfire. They even handmake their own tortillas.
We ate staring at the mountains, then relaxed as chickens and baby goats scurried around below us.
Where to Stay in San Jose Del Pacifico & What to Do
Most people come to town for the reason you’d expect — to have a magic mushroom trip in a beautiful place. Some go on hikes in the surrounding areas, and some take part in traditional temazcal ceremonies (you can ask your hotel for more information on both).
We spent our time in San Jose Del Pacifico just staring at the view. Seriously.
We stayed a La Cumbre, a hostel with cabins stacked on the cliffs and incredible views of the surrounding mountains. We got a private room with two double beds and a bathroom for 800 pesos ($40) a night, but they also have private singles with shared bathrooms for 150 pesos ($7.50) a night. I read in a lot of blogs that La Cumbre has no hot water or internet, but they now have both! There is even a restaurant in the complex, so really, you have no reason to ever leave.
La Cumbre has a very social layout — all you have to do is hang out on the balconies outside of each room and you’ll easily strike up some conversations. We ended up spending the day chatting with travelers from all over the world, drinking mezcal, and roasting s’mores over a fire.
We simply arrived and booked a cabin day-of for accommodation. I did find one Airbnb in the area, and it looks like you can book Cabanas Rancho Viejo and Hostal Mandala Evelyn ahead of time, but I’d recommend trying your luck at La Cumbre. It was one of our favorite stops in our entire 6-week Mexico trip.
And the sunset. Oh, the sunset. If you go to San Jose Del Pacifico and just watch the sunset, it would be a day well spent.
What to Know Ahead of Time
- It gets chilly. San Jose Del Pacifico is 8000 feet above sea level. Bring warm clothes and don’t be shy about asking for extra blankets.
- Bring enough cash! I didn’t see an ATM in town, and it’s best to come prepared.
- Magic mushrooms are not hard to find. Every store, cafe, and restaurant seems to have a sign advertising them! At La Cumbre, you can set up a magic mushroom nature walk or guided shaman ceremony directly with the front desk. One trip costs between 200-300 pesos ($10-$15)
- Still, practice discretion. Mushrooms are prevalent, and I’ve heard that San Jose Del Pacifico is not policed and that town folk govern themselves. Still, it’s always smart to practice some discretion. Take it or leave it.
- And there is a peak mushroom season. The rainy season between June and August is apparently when you can find the most potent mushrooms. Our friends tried some when we visited in early November and they didn’t do their job, so to speak.
How to Get to San Jose Del Pacifico from Oaxaca
San Jose Del Pacifico is a three-hour drive from Oaxaca’s city center. If you can, I highly recommend getting a rental car. The mountain roads are very windy but you won’t find crazy traffic like in the cities. If you book ahead of time, you can get rates as low as $10-$15 a day, or $100 or less a week at agencies at Alamo (though renting a car in Mexico is certainly not a pleasant experience…more on that later).
Alternatively, you can get there by colectivo. The company to look for is Eclipse 70, and their bus stop is at Calle de Armenta y López 504. Buses leave about every half hour so there is no need to book ahead of time. Be warned if you get car sick easily. We saw a poor girl who had thrown up all over herself on the way. A ticket costs between 100 to 200 pesos ($5-$10).