The state of Oaxaca (wah-hah-kah) has a special magic felt by Mexicans and foreigners alike. A bastion of indigenous culture, it’s home to the country’s most vibrant crafts and art scene, some outstandingly colorful and extroverted festivities, a uniquely savory cuisine and diverse natural riches. At the center of the state in every way stands beautiful, colonial Oaxaca city, an elegant and fascinating cultural hub. Nearby, the forested Sierra Norte is home to successful community-tourism ventures enabling visitors to hike, bike and ride horses amid delicious green mountainscapes. To the south, across rugged, remote ranges, is Oaxaca’s fabulous tropical coast, with its wide sandy beaches, pumping Pacific surf, seas full of dolphins and turtles, and a string of beach towns and villages that will placate even the most anxious of travelers: surfer-heaven Puerto Escondido; planned but relaxed Bahías de Huatulco; and the mellow delights of Mazunte, Zipolite and San Agustinillo.