Ten years ago, the coastal town of Sayulita was a dream. The kind of dream you have in a hammock nap, an icy bucket of Pacifico beers tucked under a palm tree just an arm's length away. But for those who know Sayulita now, and appreciated it for what it was then, their best piece of advice is to stay away. Still, hope is not lost for dreamy west coast Mexico beach towns with spiritual vibes, earthy free-spirits, and price tags meant for shallow pockets.

Mazunte, tucked between Puerto Escondido and Huatulco, is just one of these places. Mexico's state of Oaxaca is still an off-the-beaten-path gem, but one that is being mined at a rapid rate. Still, Mazunte manages to retain its rugged, quaint, Mexican charm. Surfers know this stretch of coast for the epic southern Mexican surf, and luxury travelers have been discovering Huatulco because of the cruise port and its nine beautiful bays. But Mazunte still remains on the tipping point and, for now, is that quintessential Mexican dream coast town.

Mazunte is the sister village to nearby Zipolite, an adobe-colored town said to be a calling point for free spirits, naturalists and aging hippies. But just down the beach, Mazunte hugs two beaches, Playas Rinconcito and Mermejita. A haven for backpackers, leathery sun worshippers, yogis, surfers and artists, this is the town to see before it becomes, frankly, too cool. It's almost there. It just doesn't know it yet.

Where to eat

One of the best spots to dine in Mazunte won't be slinging tacos or ceviche. Instead, Alessandro is dishing out some fantastic Italian food. Expat Italian chef has just six tables in a small corner restaurant, but he knows his way around homemade pasta, fresh fish, and strong, Oaxacan mezcal.

For funky fusion fare, El Copal is the restaurant at one of the local hotels. Shrouded in jungle foliage with festive wooden accents, flowers, and bright Mexican masks, this is the spot for dining with a view over Mermejita beach.

Dining gets back to basics at Comedor los Traviesos. But if you're looking for down-home, traditional Oaxacan and Mexican cooking, look no further. This is the best place in town for traditional tlayudas, a local Oaxacan specialty, made up of crispy tortillas stuffed with meat and cheese and grilled over charcoal. It might not be fancy, but what it lacks in elegance it makes up for in authenticity and charm.

Where to stay

Mazunte is good for a trip on its own, but only if you can truly embrace life at a snail's pace. For those who want to pass through to get a sense of the vibe, it's best to stay in either nearby Huatulco or Puerto Escondido.

Huatulco has been cultivated to tourism, but a far cry from other beach towns in Mexico, Huatulco was developed with a low-rise, eco spin.

Devotees to Las Brisas will love their Huatulco property, which is done up in the Mexican style with views over the Pacific. There are five room categories, as well as the option for an all-inclusive or EP plan. There sort has four beaches to choose from, whether it's a secret beach, a central beach with bar service, Tornillo Beach, which is thought to be one of the best in Huatulco, and Ventura beach, which has a protected cove for snorkeling.

Puerto Escondido, to the north, is a surfer's paradise, all who are drawn to the world-famous Zicatela pipeline. A more luxe hotel option in this section of tow is Hotel Escondido, a member of Grupo Habita. A quiet refuge on a stretch of undeveloped beach, Hotel Escondido is a far cry from the Reggaeton surfer bars of Playa Zicatela. It's a tranquil refuge of 16 cabanas, a spa, pools, and a gourmet restaurant. Open patios with lazy hammocks and plunge pools stare out to the rugged, cobalt-colored water. It's a perfect escape for those who want the best of both worlds: from exploring the nightlife of Playa Zicatela, or completely disconnecting from the rest of the world.

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