Twelve Top Bars in Oaxaca for 20- to 30-Year-Old Tourists

Bar Cantinita in Oaxaca Gets Good, Mixed Crowds Credit: Alvin Starkman

Bar Cantinita in Oaxaca Gets Good, Mixed Crowds Credit: Alvin Starkman

Oaxaca’s top 12 bars for young adults are located both downtown and in the suburbs, and vary in terms of cover, ambiance, music and nightly promotions.

Oaxaca, Mexico is known for more than craft villages, markets, ruins, museums, gastronomic excellence and art scene. For youthful visitors to Oaxaca, the city’s bars, cantinas and nightclubs hold additional allure. In fact, there are more Oaxacan night spots for tourists in their twenties and thirties, than bars for the older set.

The conundrum is knowing which clubs have a cover which nights, which offer promotions, and type of ambiance (i.e., music and live bands). Downtown bars tend to get a mixed crowd, while those further away from the centro histórico are more apt to be patronized by mainly locals. Of course Oaxacans who meet foreigners often bring them along to their favorite bars, downtown or uptown. Some are open seven days, others close one night weekly, and some seem to mix it up. But the closer the bar is to the heavily touristed areas, the more likely it will be open every night; high rent and traffic dictate.

Bars and Cantinas in Oaxaca Without a Cover Charge Any Night
Ghost Bar is Small, But Boasts a Following Credit: Alvin Starkman

Ghost Bar is Small, But Boasts a Following Credit: Alvin Starkman

Cantinita gets healthy crowds most evenings because of its prime location on Oaxaca’s pedestrian walkway, Alcalá. The bar is accordingly patronized by many tourists; locals also attend. The most active nights are Fridays and Saturdays. Depending on the day, a live rock or salsa band may be playing. Otherwise there’s a DJ selecting pop, reggaeton, rock, electronic, salsa and cumbia tunes. The bar boasts free botanas and bottle service (purchasing an entire bottle of liquor). It also has daily promotions. For example, bring along five muchachas on a Thursday and get a free bottle; on Wednesdays there are singing and dancing contests, with alcoholic prizes; on Tuesdays get a free bottle if your birthday falls that week; and Monday means a michelitro (a liter of michelada [beer spiced with chili and one or more of lime juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire, etc]) for 30 pesos.

Nude, located beside Cantinita, gets mainly Mexican patrons. Weekends and Wednesdays the bar tends to be the most crowded. Some nights there is live music. Otherwise there’s a DJ playing pop, reggaeton, hip hop and electronic. Its main promotion is a liter of cocktail for 50 pesos, hard to beat.

La Bola is similar to Nude in terms of crowd demographic, although unlike Nude it’s not downtown, but rather in San Felipe on Camino Antiguo. The hot bar nights are Fridays and Saturdays. The DJ plays pop, reggaeton, electronic, rock, salsa and cumbia. There’s live music on Saturdays. Bottle service is offered.

There are three small clubs along Matamoros / Murguía (same street, different part), named Ghost Bar, Caos and Kabbalah (actually more, including Juan Pachanga, but these are the main ones). Once again location dictates a healthy mix of locals and foreigners. They are basically open nightly and play reggaeton, hip hop, electronic and salsa. Their specials are similar, including michelitros for 25 pesos, regular domestic beer for 10, and cocktails for 25 or 50 pesos.

Bars and Cantinas in Oaxaca with a Cover Some or All Nights

In most cases the bars, cantinas and nightclubs in Oaxaca which charge a cover do so on some but not all nights, and the amount may vary depending on the night – and in some cases based on hour of arrival, whether male or female patron, and so on. However, a cover charge does not appear to dissuade healthy throngs of Oaxacans and young tourists from attending.

The usual cover at Elefante is 35 pesos. Elefante, on Calle 20 de noviembre, gets a mixed crowd, with its busiest bar nights Wednesdays and Saturdays. Music is pop, reggaeton, hip hop, electronic, rock, salsa and cumbia. Its main promotion is vodka and rum on Wednesdays for 10 pesos, and beer for 15 pesos until midnight.

Depending on the night, the cover at La Tentación on Matamoros is 10 or 35 pesos. Like Elefante, this cantina gets both locals and tourists. Hopping nights are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Tuesdays there is live reggae and ska, and Fridays and Saturdays bands play salsa, cumbia and meringue. Otherwise there’s a DJ. Pitchers of brew cost 60 pesos, and a “yarda” will set you back 175 pesos.

Básico brings in predominantly locals despite its cover of 50 pesos for women and 100 pesos for men, depending on the night. The bar is in Colonia Reforma on Naval Militar. The “best” nights are Fridays and Saturdays. However, this bar does a brisk business throughout the week hosting special events. Music is mostly pop and electronic. Promotion is restricted to bottle service.

Bambú is known for its lofty cover of 100 pesos for men, free admission for ladies. However day of the week dictates a difference. Since its busiest evening is Wednesday, there’s no break on this weeknight. But it does offer free drinks (barra libre) from 9:30 until midnight (beer, tequila, rum, vodka, whisky) and bottle service at 400 pesos. The crowd is mainly local because of it location in the Plaza del Valle area of Oaxaca, along Avenida Universidad. Music is pop, reggaeton, hip hop, electronic, salsa and cumbia.

Freebar on Matamoros, finds a following of foreigners and locals. Cover varies depending on the night, usually around 20 pesos; but some nights it’s waived. When there is a cover, a free beer is offered. Its most popular evenings are Wednesdays and weekends. Michelitros cost 25 pesos. There are bottle promotions from time to time. Music is pop, reggaeton, hip hop, electronic, rock, salsa and cumbia.

Of all the Oaxacan bars with a cover, Casanova on Murguía takes the prize for the most modest entry, at 10 pesos. It’s also unique in that if one is fortunate enough to arrive earlier than most, there are comfy couches at the back. With those two incentives the bar gets both locals and tourists. Weekends are top nights. There’s generally live rock, salsa or reggae. Otherwise a DJ plays pop, reggaeton, electronic, salsa and cumbia. Its proudest promotion is three liters of Indio beer for 120 pesos. It also offers bottle beer at 20 pesos, and micheladas for 30 pesos.

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