San José del Pacifico: a small, unassuming town high in the Oaxacan mountains. An unlikely candidate, but nevertheless the town is the magic mushroom capital of Mexico.
The tourism that psychedelic mushrooms bring is a lifeline to the town, which otherwise would see hardly anyone visit. However, taking magic mushrooms isn’t the only thing to do in this unique town. Nature lovers will also enjoy the stunning scenery.
But, whatever your reason for visiting, this complete travel guide will help you get to San José Oaxaca Mexico, plan some activities, choose the right accommodation and much more.
Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a qualifying purchase.
|Things to Do
How to Get to San José
Where to Stay
Where to Eat
Altitude in San José, Oaxaca
ATMs | WiFi
Why It’s Famous
The Best Time to Visit
Is it Worth it?
Things to do in San José del Pacifico, Mexico
Ok, I’m putting this first because let’s be honest, most people come to San José del Pacifico Oaxaca just to take magic mushrooms. Probably about 90% of people. If you’re in the 10%, skip to the next activity!
This isn’t a shady secret of the town. You’ll find signs directing you to magic mushrooms, in addition to a large amount of psychedelic street art.
And, almost everyone will be able to point you in the direction of someone selling mushrooms.
The safest option when buying magic mushrooms is to visit a Shaman who has picked the mushrooms themselves (they grow freely in the wild around the town). The Shamans will be able to hand-pick you a dose that suits your size and what you want to experience.
There’s some debate about whether you should wash the mushrooms. A quick rinse with water will remove the literal shit that they grow in and won’t affect the psychedelic properties.
No one wants to be tripping and getting ill, wash your mushrooms and enjoy them raw.
As ever, do make sure you’ve researched what to expect beforehand. And ideally, be with someone you trust.
From July to October is when there’s the greatest supply of magic mushrooms. This is the same time as Mexico’s rainy season, which brings the perfect conditions for them to grow.
During the mushroom season (July to October), fresh mushrooms are available to buy almost everywhere in this Mexico mushroom town. But Rubi’s is perhaps the most recommended by travellers.
Outside of mushroom season (November to June), fresh mushrooms are more difficult but not impossible to come by. The ones on sale may have been preserved or may just be ordinary mushrooms.
You should be much more cautious during this off-season time. It’s probably best to ask for recommendations from other people in the town at the time if you do want to buy any.
Expect to pay around 300 to 400 pesos per dose in the mushroom capital of Mexico.
TOP TIP: Very few people speak English in San José, which means you’ll need to practise your Spanish skills. The Mexican Spanish for magic mushrooms is hongos – while ordinary mushrooms are champiñones.
Another useful phrase will be cuánto cuestan – meaning how much do they cost. Make sure you’ve practised your numbers before heading out to Mexico’s Mushroom Mountain Town.
The Legality of magic mushrooms in San José
The decriminalisation of psilocybin mushrooms is increasing across North America. Whilst in some parts of South America such as Peru and Brazil, they’re completely legal.
In Mexico, the use of magic mushrooms by indigenous users is decriminalised (though not officially) in native culture. Additionally, it is legal to pick wild psychedelic mushrooms.
Technically the use of magic mushrooms by tourists in San José is illegal.
But the town is an independent area where locals make their own rules. Which, unsurprisingly includes allowing the selling and consumption of magic mushrooms.
There’s no permanent police presence in this Oaxaca mushroom town. And many people report that they’re not allowed in the town.
However, on my last day in the town, I saw both the National Guard (guns blazing) and Municipal Police drive through on the main road.
In summary, taking magic mushrooms in San José is a normal activity and one that won’t see you get in any trouble. However, travelling with magic mushrooms beyond the town is a big no-no and you won’t have any protection from local laws.
Relax and watch the clouds
This is definitely a rainy season activity, but San José is known for being a town above the clouds. Although, that is more often a town inside the clouds.
Grab a beer, a book, headphones or the like and just sit and watch the world go by.
As someone who gets bored very easily, this is not an activity I could participate in for more than 5 normally. But, the landscape changes so quickly here.
Clouds roll in from higher land, filling the valleys before dissipating just a few minutes later. Plus, at times you can actually see the clouds forming from the vast surrounding forest.
And, once there’s a break in the clouds, you can see for miles and miles! A truly unique place.
Climb up to the San José del Pacifico Mirador
The altitude will make the climb to the viewpoint hard, but the views from the top will make any pain disappear instantly!
For just a small entry fee (and a sweaty walk to the top), the views from the Mirador are incredible. I could have spent hours watching the clouds, enjoying the view and taking photos.
There are actually several viewing platforms at the Mirador.
The first is just below the Mirador sign. But, if you continue climbing up the steps carved out of the mountainside, there are another two wooden platforms above with even more spectacular views.
This is an absolute must-do experience when in San José. Even on a cloudy day, the way the clouds formed and then disappeared was really magical.
One minute you’d have no visibility. Then you’d blink and see mountain after mountain for miles around.
You can find it on Google Maps by searching for Los Altos del Golan.
Mirador in the Trees
To the west of the town is the Mirador in the trees (Mirador Los Pinos). For just a few pesos, you get to climb to various viewing platforms and lookouts in the trees (safely strapped in with a harness).
The perfect activity if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush. While the landscape will be best enjoyed outside of the rainy season, a break in the clouds at any time of year will leave you with jaw-dropping views.
Temazcal ceremonies aren’t exclusive to San José, you can find them across the southern states of Mexico. Temazcal – a low-heat sweat lodge, like a sauna – is an indigenous ceremony meant to purify the body, heal the spirit and enrich your health.
Temazcal Los 4 Elementos (with Shaman Navarro) is located along the main road in this Oaxaca mushroom town. It’s a short walk from the town or you can take a tuk-tuk for just a few pesos.
With miles and miles of mountains and forests, this town is a hiker’s dream.
Popular San José del Pacifico hiking routes include continuing uphill behind La Cumbre hostel or to one of the even smaller towns around. Another option is to just walk through the magnificent and never-ending forest – like this 3.5-mile route.
Where can I watch the sunset in San José del Pacifico?
You’ll want to get to one of the highest spots in the town for the best view. La Cumbre hostel (you can visit the restaurant and outdoor seating area even if you aren’t staying), the mirador sign and the mirador in the trees are all good spots.
How to get to San José del Pacifico Oaxaca
How to get From Oaxaca to San José del Pacifico
Buses operate all day from Oaxaca City to San José del Pacifico Mexico, taking approximately 3 hours with a short stop in Miahuatlán. The two companies operating buses in Oaxaca City are just a block or so apart: Lineas Unidas & Eclipse 70.
Lineas Unidas charge 140 pesos for a one-way ticket. While Eclipse 70 charge 150 pesos (there’s no saving for a return ticket).
Both companies have buses leaving every 30 to 45 minutes for most of the day. Additionally, both companies operate well into the night but with less regular schedules.
Tickets can be bought at the offices of both companies, just ask for San José del Pacifico.
However, the easiest way is to book tickets online to San José from Oaxaca City for the date and time you want. Then all you have to do is show up at the right time and get onboard.
Booking tickets online has only become possible in the last year or so. And this is going to make a huge difference to those who like to book their transport in advance and guarantee themselves a seat.
How to get From Puerto Escondido to San José del Pacifico
To travel from Puerto Escondido to San José del Pacifico Oaxaca, you’ll need to first get yourself to San Pedro Pochutla.
ADO and OCC buses run this route regularly. And tickets can be booked online or hop on a local bus from in front of the Chedraui supermarket.
From the bus station in Pochutla, walk across the road to Terminal Lineas Unidas or a few metres along the road to the Eclipse 70 terminal.
Buses for both companies run every 30 to 45 minutes and you can buy your ticket to the Mushroom Mountain of Mexico at the ticket office of each company (about 200 pesos).
Combined tickets for the ADO/OCC bus and the minivan to San José can be booked online for a stress-free experience.
From Huatulco to San José del Pacifico
Similarly, from Huatulco (La Crucecita), you have to first get to Pochutla. ADO and OCC buses operate between these two places, taking around 1 hour.
Then walk over to the Lineas Unidas or Eclipse 70 bus terminals and hop on a bus into the mountains.
From Zipolite, Puerto Angel and Mazunte to San José del PAcifico
Additionally, Lineas Unidas also operate buses directly from the beach towns of Puerto Angel and Zipolite to San José del Pacifico Mexico.
So, if you’re in Mazunte, get yourself along the coast to either of these. I’m not sure of the exact ticket cost, but this is likely to be around 200 pesos.
However, buses from Puerto Angel and Zipolite to San José only run about 5 to 6 times a day, so I’d recommend checking the schedule at the ticket office before you want to travel.
Luckily, you can now book tickets online for the journey from Zipolite to San Jose. And, this comes with the added benefit of getting to see what time the bus departs without having to find the ticket office beforehand.
Travel time to the mushroom capital of Mexico is around 3 to 4 hours from Pochutla and the coast.
Alternatively, take local transportation to Pochutla before getting a ticket for the minibuses to San José as described above.
There are small moto-taxis (like tuk tuks) to shuttle you around the town for fixed prices. Expect them to fit two people or one person and luggage.
TOP TIP: If you are going to San José and coming back to the same place as you were before (i.e. Oaxaca to San José del Pacifico and back to Oaxaca), ask to leave your big bags in your accommodation.
I travelled with just my day pack of valuables and a fold-up 20-litre rucksack with enough (warm) clothes for my 3-night stay. Walking uphill to the hostel is tough with the altitude. Don’t make it harder by carrying 15 to 20 kilos of luggage!
Find the best prices and the best dates with flight comparison sites like Skyscanner!
Make sure you use tools such as ‘Add nearby airports’ and set your departure airport as wide as possible (you can just put the United States or Mexico) to see the cheapest places to fly from! Check prices for your trip here…
Where to go after San José del Pacifico?
Luckily, leaving San José is much simpler than getting there.
The bus stops and ticket offices for both bus companies are located opposite each other on the main road (pictured below).
Buses operating in both directions pull up outside their respective company office, rather than on certain sides of the roads. So, you don’t need to worry about that!
To get from San José del Pacifico to Oaxaca City, head north with either Lineas Unidas or Eclipse 70. The journey takes about 3 hours and drops you off just a few blocks from the main plaza.
You can book tickets to Oaxaca City online in just a few clicks.
If you’re heading from San José to Puerto Escondido next, take a minibus south to Pochutla. There you’ll need to take another bus along the coast as there are no direct options.
Combined tickets for the two parts of the journey to Puerto Escondido can be bought online in one purchase.
For Mazunte or Zipolite, try to get a bus running to Zipolite or Puerto Angel. You can see the times written on the Lineas Unidas roadside hut in San José. Or, you can travel via Pochutla, getting local transport the rest of the way.
Direct minivans to Zipolite from the mountains can be booked online in advance or even just a few hours before.
And if you’re travelling to San Cristobal de las Casas next, take a minibus to Oaxaca City and then an overnight bus. I’d recommend leaving yourself plenty of time to get dinner and buy snacks and drinks for the journey in Oaxaca.
Or you can head south to Puerto Escondido, then travel from there to San Cristóbal. Perfect if you want some beach time first.
Avoiding travel sickness
The buses that run to and from this mushroom town of Oaxaca are comfortable and spacious.
This is essential because the mountain roads you’ll be driving along are windy and narrow. So much so, that the buses are nicknamed vomit vans by many a traveller.
So, here are my tips to avoid travel sickness when travelling to/from San José:
- Sit as near to the front of the bus as possible. You want to avoid the back row of seats as much as you can. Here, you’ll also be thrown around the most by the speed bumps and potholes.
- Use travel sickness wristbands and put them on before you get on board. If you’re particularly prone to travel sickness, you can pick up anti-sickness medication in a pharmacy before travelling to San José.
- Avoid eating a big meal right before travelling. Bring a soft drink to sip from regularly throughout the journey.
Where to stay in San José del Pacifico Oaxaca Mexico
When it comes to San José del Pacifico accommodation options, there are three choices. Private accommodation in the town, hostels and then cabanas outside the town.
Cabanas in the Town
For a quite luxurious San José del Pacifico accommodation option, Alto de la Sierra has all the mod-cons as well as free water, fruits and snacks throughout the day.
The rooms are modern with TVs and desks. Plus, there’s also a bar, garden and terrace on site, all just a 10-minute walk away from the town centre.
If damp rooms, thin walls and basic facilities sound like your nightmare, you’ll love this place. Get the full mountain experience but with a slice of luxury to retreat back to each day to relax.
San José del Pacifico Camino al Cielo is a good option for those looking for more privacy. This one-bedroom apartment has a TV, private bathroom, fireplace, balcony and garden, as well as hot water and an outdoor kitchen.
Hostels in San José del Pacifico Mexico
Rancho Viejo comes in two parts: a hostel with shared rooms and private cabanas, with everything up to a 3-bed chalet. But, it’s all in one location, so everyone benefits from the shared spaces
It’s located a short distance from the town, but you can walk that in 25 minutes or take a 10-minute tuk-tuk.
The dorms sleep 6 people, in light, airy rooms with under-bed lockers. You’ll also enjoy the use of the living room, kitchen and terraces, as well as free yoga classes.
And on the other hand, the private rooms are some of the fanciest around. Each comes with a private bathroom as well as fantastic views and outdoor space. Honestly, just beautiful!
Most of the rooms come with a fireplace and wood, perfect to keep you cosy and warm in the cool mountain evenings.
This is where I’d stay if (well, hopefully when) I come back to this town. Rancho Viejo really shows that you don’t have to sacrifice comfort, privacy and good facilities to stay in the town. If you’re not on a shoestring budget, this is the place for you…
Cabañas La Cumbre is one of the only hostels actually in the town.
The hostel is located at the top of the town with impressive views over the valleys and hills below. Beds in the hostel start at around 300 pesos, although double, triple and quadruple rooms are also available.
Book directly on the La Cumbre website or enquire at reception when in San José Oaxaca. They also sell magic mushrooms at reception and can book a temazcal ceremony for you.
> > > RELATED POST: Thinking of staying at Cabañas La Cumbre? Then you’ll want to check out my complete guide and review of this hostel + forest accommodation!
Another option is Hostal Mandala Evelyn. Though, this is more of a hotel than a hostel with private double rooms costing around 450 pesos per night. There’s also a communal terrace perfect for watching the clouds or stars and meeting others.
Cabanas Away from the Town (In the Forest)
If you’re looking for a more off-the-grid or back-to-nature accommodation experience in San José del Pacifico Mexico, staying in the forest is a must-do. Don’t expect phone signal or WiFi, but do prepare for a unique stay.
Use Google Maps to look for cabañas to the east of the town not available on booking sites. Alternatively, Cabañas La Cumbre (the hostel above) also have some cabins in the forest available. These can be booked on their website.
For groups, Cabana en el Bosque is a cost-effective option.
This chalet sleeps 6 adults in three double beds, as well as having a private bathroom, log burner, balcony and stunning forest views. Transport is available from the town by tuk-tuk but the owners here are also willing to organise transport for you.
Although you can visit for just the day, staying for 2 or 3 nights is what I’d recommend. This will give you time to fully experience the magic of the town, as well as its ever-changing weather and beautiful views.
San José del Pacifico Restaurants
For such a small town, there are plenty of tasty food options to pick from.
La Taberna de Los Duendes is one of the top restaurants in town, located on the main road.
If you’ve worked up an appetite from a long day of walking or a long day of doing nothing, this is for you. Expect large portions of fresh pasta, certainly big enough to feed two adults.
Another popular option is Tatsu, which serves Asian cuisine and has plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. Including sushi, dumplings and Pad Thai
For pizza, try La Chusmita. It’s an accommodating place, even offering half-and-half pizza as well as vegan options high up in the mountains.
Local food as well as cafes and convenience stores can be found along the main road.
Altitude in San José, Oaxaca
San José del Pacifico Oaxaca Mexico is located at an elevation of 2500 metres in the mountains.
This is also the threshold at which people usually start to experience altitude sickness. Particularly those ascending rapidly to altitude or people who have never spent time at this elevation before.
The risk of altitude sickness is greatest if you are coming to San José Oaxaca from the coastal towns of Puerto Escondido, Mazunte or Zipolite.
Symptoms include headache, sickness, dizziness and tiredness. These usually start 6 to 24 hours after reaching altitude.
If you are coming from the coast, I’d recommend adding an extra day to your stay to allow you to acclimatise and any symptoms to pass.
If you’re travelling from Oaxaca City altitude sickness is less likely as it is already at 1500 metres above sea level. However, you can still expect any physical activity to require much more effort.
And, you’ll probably be out of breath noticeably quicker. Even a single flight of stairs left me feeling like I’d run a marathon!
Is there an ATM in San José del Pacifico?
No, the nearest ATM is 15 km from the town in San Miguel Suchixtepec. Make sure you bring plenty of cash as places that do accept card payments typically charge a high fee.
There are plenty of ATMs in Oaxaca City, Puerto Escondido and Pochutla to get cash before your trip. The ATM with the lowest withdrawal fee in Mexico is BanCoppel at 18 pesos.
TOP TIP: Very few places accept payments by card (debit or credit) in San José. And, those that do charge an extra 5% to cover fees. Make sure you withdraw plenty of cash before arriving, probably more than you think you need is best.
While cards like Monzo and Starling offer fee-free withdrawals in foreign currencies, I’ve found that every bank in Mexico still charges a fee. Santander and Citibanamex have the lowest fees at around 30 to 35 pesos. This fee is charged per withdrawal, so it’s more cost-efficient to withdraw close to your card’s daily maximum.
Is there WiFi in San José del Pacifico?
Yes, but it’s not reliable or fast. Phone signal is also patchy so isn’t a reliable alternative.
Some places charge for WiFi access. But connectivity is not guaranteed, particularly during bad weather.
Don’t expect all accommodations and restaurants to have WiFi.
Make sure to download your Netflix, wrap up your work commitments and download offline maps before leaving for San José Oaxaca Mexico.
What is San José del Pacifico famous for?
As well-loved are the hiking trails and mountain views, the town is famous for only one reason: magic mushrooms.
Known as the mushroom capital of Mexico, thousands of visitors flock to the town every month to sample the psychedelic hongos.
That said, the town is not that famous. It’s pretty well-known among backpackers and travellers who spend a few months in the country.
But with its remote location and long distance from popular resorts such as Cancun and Tulum, the town is not overflowing with tourists. Yet.
However, this Oaxaca mushroom town is growing in popularity.
Spurred in part by the increase in popularity of Mexico during the pandemic, as it became a haven for travellers looking to avoid lockdowns and border closures. Whether it can continue to sustain this level of tourism and drug use without the authorities acting remains to be seen.
The best time to visit
Perhaps this is a bit of a trick heading because I don’t think there is really an all-around best time to visit.
It’s no coincidence that Mexico’s rainy season and mushroom season in San José Oaxaca happen at the same time. The rainy season (between May and October) will mean a lot of clouds, little visibility and, of course, lots of rain.
While visiting outside of mushroom season (July to October), means you’re more likely to end up buying mushrooms of the non-magical variety from someone trying to make a quick buck. Or, having to pay significantly more for the mushrooms you do want as the demand will outstrip the supply available.
Ultimately, if you’re visiting to take magic mushrooms, the best time to visit is between July and October.
During this time, make sure to have a coat and warm clothes, day time temperatures rarely reach 20 Celsius (68 F) and at night, it’s typically around 6 Celsius (43 F).
Whereas, if you’re going for hiking, views or nature, try to visit outside of the rainy season.
Between November and April, temperatures in San José typically reach the mid-thirties Celsius (93 F), dropping to the low-twenties (72 F) overnight.
Of course, for many backpackers, visiting San José happens purely when they are in or travelling between Puerto Escondido and Oaxaca City. And they’ll take whatever season it is.
Is San José del Pacifico worth it?
As long as you know what to expect, the town is well worth visiting. It’s rough around the edges, there isn’t a huge choice in food, transport to get there is bumpy and it’s pretty off-grid for internet and cell service.
But, if you’re looking to escape the heat of the coast or the bustle of the city, San José Oaxaca Mexico is a great place to spend a few days.
Do you have any questions or want any more information? If so, drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you!
Information is correct as of May 2023 but is subject to change in future.
Looking for more Mexico Travel Guides?
QUINTANA ROO: Punta Mosquito, Holbox: Ultimate Visitor’s Guide
And much more, check out all Mexico Travel Guides here!
PIN IT FOR LATER!