A Day in San José del Pacifico, Mexico’s Magic Mushroom ParadiseMain image by Angelobcn under Creative Commons license. Other photos by Trisha Mukherjee. Travel Features mexico
Nestled in the mountains of Mexico between Oaxaca de Juarez and San Pedro Pochutla, San José del Pacifico is a tiny town known around the country for its abundance of magic mushrooms. In reality, it is home to so much more. Although many visitors spend one evening here before moving on to the coast or the city, you might find yourself wishing for more time in this magical place. Rushing through San José del Pacifico seems antithetical to a town where meandering clouds slowly roll in and out, so if you decide to spend a full 24 hours here, make sure to slow down, take a breath, and enjoy the natural beauty. Here’s how to do it.
8:30 a.m.: Wake up.
Rise from your warm and comfy bed in Cabañas la Cumbre to get some steaming tea from the café and look out over the clouds stretching out for miles ahead of you. You won’t have much internet access, and you don’t need to be in a rush. Get comfy in a hammock and appreciate the magical view in front of you before getting ready to start the rest of your day.
10:00 a.m.: Hike to the mirador.
Descending the steps from Cabañas la Cumbre to the road, turn left and walk approximately 10 minutes until you see a long set of stairs reaching up to your left. These are the stairs to the mirador, a row of several massive letters like the famous Hollywood sign, that sits high in the hillside. The stairs up to the sign will provide a good leg workout, but don’t be discouraged on the way up—it’s closer than you think! When you reach the sign, take a seat at the platform and watch the clouds over the curves of the land. You will see roads appear and disappear and cars suddenly emerge from the white of a thick cloud. The mysticism in the air might provoke you to sing or meditate, and my advice would be to give into the urge and get lost in the moment.
12:00 p.m.: Ride the giant swing.
At Ecoresort Ben’zaa, which is approximately a 10 minute walk away, fly over the clouds on a giant swing. Thrillseekers will love the feeling of suspension and knowing there is nothing below you. While there, learn about the Zapotec traditions followed in much of San José del Pacifico and the Nahuatl origins of many names around the town. Afterwards, you can continue to stroll around the quiet, misty streets. It’s hard to get lost, so don’t hesitate to go in whichever direction calls to you.
1:00 p.m.: Have a lunch full of mushrooms.
The non-psychedelic mushrooms in San José del Pacifico are just as incredible as the psychedelic ones. Several restaurants on the main road of San José del Pacifico have mouth-watering mushroom quesadillas, burritos, and soups. If you want a warm soup perfect for the chilly weather, try the sopa de champiñones at La Montaña.
2:30 p.m.: Read a book, enjoy nature, unwind, and disconnect.
San José del Pacifico is not like other towns and cities where there are tens to hundreds of activities to check off a list. Instead, it can serve as a place to disconnect from the worries and deadlines of normal life and relax amongst the trees, birds, and mist. Take the time to read that book you’ve been trying to get through for a couple months now, have a fully present conversation with a friend or a stranger, write down your thoughts and reflections in a journal, or simply relax and enjoy the view from wherever you are.
5:00 p.m.: Watch the sunset.
The sunset in San José del Pacifico cannot be missed. No matter what you’re doing, simply step outside and watch as the sun dissipates into a haze of orange and yellow and pink amidst a thick layer of evening clouds.
5:30 p.m.: Do a temazcal ceremony.
The temazcal (Nahautl for house of heat) is a pre-Hispanic ceremony centered around a sweat lodge. To many Indigenous peoples who have been doing temazcal ceremonies for millennia, the mud dome in which the ceremony takes place signifies the womb, and your emergence from it after the ceremony signifies rebirth. Typically lasting around two hours, the ceremony is best experienced with a temazcalero, who will be your guide and can teach you about the meanings of each part of the temazcal. Although each temazcal varies, many have a pit in the center that the temazcalero will fill with heated stones. Then, they will pour water over the stones, causing the inside of the dome to fill with hot steam. Throughout the ceremony, they may sing songs and offer honey, herbs, and mud to cleanse your skin. The inside of the dome gets very hot and breathing may feel more difficult, but it is an incredibly rewarding experience. If you’d like to do a temazcal with an experienced Indigenous temazcalero, contact Temazcal Yolitzli.
8:00 p.m.: Dinner at Taberna de los Duendes.
Located on the main road, this Italian restaurant serves authentic pasta that’s as good as it gets. The chef, in fact, came to San José del Pacifico from Italy and started his own restaurant. Be prepared for a starter of garlic bread and a hearty serving of whichever dish you choose.
10:00 p.m.: Stargaze.
It’s rare to find an area of the world with so little light pollution. Before going to sleep, bundle up in a warm jacket and thick socks and marvel at the constellations and galaxies that sparkle, crystal clear, in the sky above you.
8:30 a.m.: Wake up.
Rise and shine! It’s your second day in this magical town. Spend your first few hours with some hot tea and a book.
10:00 a.m.: Go on a trip.
If you’re able to stay longer and are interested in the psychedelic experience San José del Pacifico is famous for, consider doing magic mushrooms the next day, especially if you would like to do a Temazcal on Day 1. Temazcaleros advise that you do not do a temazcal after taking mushrooms. If you choose to take shrooms, keep in mind that the best season for hongos is from July to October. You can find them around town in practically any shop, hotel, or restaurant. If you would like a guided experience, you can contact the people at Temazcal Yolitzli who will prepare you mushroom tea and take you on a surreal walk through the forest to a grove of pine trees where you can embrace the effect of the psilocybin amidst the sanctity of nature. Although many visitors stop briefly in San José del Pacifico to take mushrooms and move on, it is much more than a fun activity—for many Indigenous residents, it is a sacred celebration dating back to pre-Hispanic times, so please give the experience and the people who share it the respect they deserve. Afterwards, take some time to relax as the effects of the mushrooms fade before you move on with your journey.
Trisha Mukherjee is a writer and audio journalist based in NYC. Her work focuses on human rights, women, immigration, the environment, travel, and adventure around the world. She is a producer at iHeartMedia and an AIR New Voices Fellow. Find more of her work at trishawrites.com.