The mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico, have long beckoned to me. At midpoint, between the coast and Oaxaca City, they are roughly a three-and-a-half hour drive on dramatically winding roads. Unless you have your own car, you’ll likely make the trip in one of the ubiquitous white vans that make the drive from the coast to the city around the clock; it’s not a journey for the faint of heart nor weak of stomach.
Tourists usually come to the region for two reasons: to escape into nature and hike the magical cloud forests, or to partake in the world of magic mushrooms. These mushrooms, also known as psilocybin mushrooms, have long been part of the region’s culture and traditions. In the 1950s a Mazatec shaman, María Sabina, opened up one of her ceremonies to a foreigner. The short of that is that she was essentially shunned by the community and the tourists have kept coming in search of spiritual revelations, particularly during the summer months when the mushrooms grow abundantly throughout the forests.
I visited this past March, drawn by the hiking and opportunity to breathe in some fresh air — a luxury for someone who resides in Mexico City, where despite a wealth of greenery and perfectly manicured parks, the air pollution is pretty bad.
Despite my increasingly mixed feelings on Airbnb (my last rental had one (one!) single fork), it’s still often the easiest way to go. That’s how I stumbled across this chalet in San Miguel Suchixtepec, about 30 minutes south of slightly better known San José del Pacifico. While the photos were persuasive — a log cabin-like vibe and expansive windows overlooking the forest — it was the reviews that sealed the deal. Specifically, that nearly each review of the 66 listed mentioned a dog named Yuna.
“Yuna stole our hearts. This place is magical and beautiful.”
“The cabin is gorgeous, really well equipped and the location is beautiful. Yuna the dog is a treasure.”
“ Yuna is the friendliest dog ever, and she would go on a hike with you around the mountains if you are up for that.”
“Everything was perfect and Yuna is the sweetest dog who will be missed greatly.”
So, you can imagine that as a dog lover, I had no choice but to book it so that I too could experience the wonderful Yuna. What I hadn’t realized is that she was more than just the resident dog — she was essentially the Airbnb host.
If we are getting into specifics, the host is actually a woman named Daniela, who runs more than a dozen listings with her stepfather Eduardo. Both live in the coastal town of Huatulco, about three hours from the chalet. Eduardo adopted Yuna nine years ago and took her to the mountains with the idea that she would take care of the property.
And she truly does. She greeted my friend and me when we arrived after dark, just like the listing cautions against doing, and walked us down the dirt road leading to the cabin. Inside she gingerly placed her paw in my hand, as if to introduce herself. She passed the night with us, a constant companion as we sipped mezcal and made guacamole.
The next morning she took us hiking, leading us down the “trail” with the spry energy of a dog much younger than 9, stopping every minute or so to turn around and ensure we were still behind her. When we passed a seemingly intoxicated man, she gently let him know there would be no messing with us. There was something so wise and soulful about Yuna that I’ve never encountered in a dog before, not even my own, my beloved Bella.
As I write this, I wonder — do I sound like a crazy person who is anthropomorphizing a dog?
Just to be sure, I got in touch with a past guest, Tradito. He confirmed, it’s not just me.
“As soon as we arrived there we met Yuna and immediately we fell in love. She welcomes you, you know. She’s like one of the hosts of the place, it’s just incredible,” Tradito says. “Yuna is a really special being. It’s not just that she’s a unique dog, it’s like a person. She’s another being. She’s a dog from the mountain, and they just have another thing in their head.
Also, because curious minds want to know, I asked Daniela if she ever thinks about bringing Yuna to live with her at the beach?
“I have thought so many times about bringing her with me, but Yuna has always been free. She has never worn a collar or a leash in her life,” she says. “She likes to run to the river, go up and down the mountains, hunt, and she is used to the cold. It’s hard to leave her but I think it would be very selfish to bring her.”
Plus, she added, taking Yuna away would detract from the overall Airbnb experience.
“I think Yuna teaches us all to be just like her, happy, loving, humble. I feel that she shares love to you every time she looks at you. That forces you in a good way to disconnect and enjoy nature.
Have you ever met a Yuna or stayed at an Airbnb that came with a pet? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.