So when I first moved to Guadalajara I thought I was going to be driving to the beach every weekend. With the price of gas, tolls and accommodations it is a little less frequent. It seems that I have traded frequency of surf sessions for quality of waves. I am dialing in the beaches of the five coastal states closest to Guadalajara and have been scoring epic surf.
The beaches in this part of Mexico have waves for all ability levels and offer great surf year round. As the seasons change so do the options. In the summer the south swells in Colima are monstrous. The beach breaks in Colima can be twenty foot tall while two states over in Nayarit the point breaks are head high but reeling down the line for a quarter mile. A little surf science and forecasting skill will reap huge rewards.
These are my favorite beaches that are easily accessible from Guadalajara. Most of them are surfing beaches but I had to include Puerto Vallarta. I love Puerto Vallarta even if there are no waves. The old section of town and Mismaloya are about as romantic as it gets. Get a copy of John Huston’s Night of the Iguana (1964) and listen to the director’s commentary. You will be booking tickets before you know it.
After around ten or eleven in the morning the black sand beach will start to burn your feet. The beach isn’t particularly pretty. It’s mostly an agricultural community with coconut farms as far as the eye can see. The locals are not an inviting group of people either. It is easily one of the most competitive breaks in Mexico and if you make a mistake you will be reprimanded. The wave is dangerous and an error in judgement can cause grave bodily harm. Every surfer in Guadalajara has a horror story about being held down by a big set at Pascuales and most of them never return.
So why is this one of my favorite beaches??!! Well, the surf is amazing. I have gotten the best barrels of my life here, and my worst injuries too. I don’t even surf this place when it gets big and I am still scared of it. But I love it. This is the big leagues where the pros come to shoot videos and get photos published in the magazines. But all it takes is one draining barrel to make you a believer in the virtues of Boca de Pascuales.
After a good morning of surf head over to Cuyutlán to the turtle sanctuary. You can get up close and personal with two species of turtles common to the region. There is an excellent estuary tour of the Palo Verde Reserve where you will see lots of wildlife. The tour never gets old.
San Blas has become my new favorite surf spot. The drive in from Guadalajara is really easy. It is all freeway without those mountainous curves that you have to go through to get to Puerto Vallarta. I can usually make it in two and a half hours depending on what the traffic is like getting in and out of Guadalajara.
Stoners Point needs a serious swell to wake up. If the open ocean buoy is less than 4ft it is going to be a lake. When you see a serious south-west swell you should cancel your plans a post up in San Blas for a few days. The wave runs down, has a ton of sections and quarter mile long rides are common. The wave starts off mellow with an easy drop and quickly stands up and races down the line.
La Ticla, Michoacan
La Ticla is a magical Purépecha village with Trestles-like cobblestone rivermouth and world class surf. The food is spectacular. This is where I first tasted a tortilla made with locally grown heirloom corn ground on a metate (prehispanic grinding stone). This is a special place for the surfing community in Guadalajara to spend long weekends camping.
This is rural Mexico so don’t expect any cell phone service or modern hotels. The area had some security issues a while back because the local Indians took up arms and fought off invading drug cartels. The federal government didn’t take kindly to the Indians setting up a checkpoint on the coastal highway and forcefully removed them. Today the region is calm but don’t take chances driving at night.
Quickly growing into one of Mexico’s premiere destinations, Sayulita is the surf capital of Nayarit. Just a few decades ago this was a sleepy fishing village 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta. Today Sayulita has a minor league baseball team, boutique hotels and international cuisine. You can still find a good taco but you might have to look a little harder to find it.
Sayulita should be your base camp for exploring the Nayarit coast. There is a great bar scene, plenty of surf shops and a decent wave out front. If you rent a car you can surf out front in the morning, head over to Punta Mita in the afternoon and be back to Sayulita before happy hour starts. Life congregates around the main plaza so grab a chocolate covered banana and take it all in.
Barra de Navidad y Cuastecomates
Barra de Navidad is a hidden gem along the Costa Alegre in the State of Jalisco. There is a super fun longboard wave right off the jetty. In the summer the waves can get big but remain unintimidating. The natural harbor used to recieve Spanish ships bringing treasures from the Philippines and China. There is still a narrow sandbar beach that separates the estuary from open ocean swells. The fisherman keep their boats on the estuary side while the surfers hang out on the ocean side.
One of the coolest beaches in this area is Cuastecomates. This is the first beach in Mexico to build infrastructure to accommodate handicapped beach lovers. The inclusive philosophy has taken off and includes wheelchairs for the sand, ramps that go right out to the water and a good rural hospital. The beach tucked into a cove that is protected from the surf which makes for great snorkeling.
Puerto Vallarta y Mismaloya
I don’t know what I can add to the conversation about Puerto Vallarta except that it is just as relevant today as as it was 50 years ago. John Huston is one of my favorite directors and Puerto Vallarta will always carry the glamour of a golden era.
The southern part of town is fabulously lush, green and the epitome of charm. The cobblestone streets and tile rooves preserve an air of rustic coastal life. Puerto Vallarta has grown into a reasonably sized city the life south of the Río Cuale still feels like you are stepping back in time.
It is hard to find better food on Mexico’s Pacific Coast than you will find in Mazatlan. The name Mazatlan is synonymous with deer but the local specialty is shrimp. From upscale eateries to down home street food, there is no shortage of exciting culinary adventures.
The historic core is a treasure of early 20th century architecture and there are waves right off of the boardwalk. People around here love the beach and spend lots of time on the boardwalk taking in sunsets.