Las Islitas, San Blas

Stoner’s Point Nayarit

One Of The Longest Waves in Mexico

Stoner’s Point in 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.

The community of San Blas has a lot of history. The Huichol (Wixárika) people consider the area a holy place and their origin story takes place on a small island just off the coast. For the Spanish it was one of the most important ports on the Pacific. Gold was sent to the Philippines to buy Chinese silk and spices that were sent back to Spain. Today San Blas is a Naval training center, a fishing town (commercial and sport) and favorite beach town for the population in Tepic.

Playa Borrego is a 3 minute drive south of the town square. It is mostly inconsequential beach break. You are not going to buy a plane ticket to surf this wave. The star of the show is Stoners Point on the northern edge of Matanchén Bay. When it’s on you should cancel your plans and spend a few days posting up in San Blas.

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.

There is another break on the inside called Las Islitas or Matanchén Bay. There was a time when it was considered the longest wave in the world by the hodads at the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s a gimmick that even the longboarders are going to get board with. Las Islitas is a good place to teach your kid or spouse to surf but not much else.

If you drive in to Las Islitas you need 4×4 or at least a truck with good clearance to make it all the way out to the point. If not, you can park a half mile down the point and walk in. Make sure to visit the old Spanish fort and the abandoned 18th century church on the bluff overlooking the city. The views are awesome and the tour guides have some great stories.

Surfing Cuyutlán, Colima, Mexico

My Favorite Beaches Within A Few Hours Of Guadalajara

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.

Boca de Pascuales y Cuyutlán

Boca de Pascuales, Colima, Mexico
Boca de Pascuales, Colima

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.

Palo Verde Estuary in Cuyutlan, Colima
Palo Verde Estuary in Cuyutlan

San Blas and Stoner’s Point

San Blas Surf
San Blas Surf

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.

Las Islitas, San Blas
Las Islitas, San Blas

La Ticla, Michoacan

La Ticla Michoacan
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.

Surfing La Ticla Michoacan
La Ticla Michoacan

Sayulita

Sayulita Beach, Nayarit
Sayulita Beach, Nayarit, Mexico

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.

Surf Sayulita, Nayarit, Mexico
Sayulita Surf

Barra de Navidad y Cuastecomates

Surfing Barra de Navidad, Jalisco
Barra de Navidad, Jalisco

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.

Mismaloya Beach, Puerto Vallarta

Mazatlán

Surf Centro Historico Mazatlan
Surf Centro Historico Mazatlan

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.

Surfing Sayulita, Nayarit, Mexico

Sayulita, Nayarit: Mexican Surf Mecca

Sayulita is usually the first thing that comes to mind when people in this part of Mexico hear the word surf. This stretch of the Riviera Nayarit has become a favorite vacation destination for Tapatios and international travelers alike. Nayarit is a warm water tropical paradise and Sayulita is the cultural center. It is an international community that loves Mexico and loves to surf. It is a destination for artists, musicians, chefs and creative folks from all over Mexico.  

Downtown Sayulita
Downtown Sayulita

Sayulita used to be a small fishing village situated in front of a decent wave. Nowadays it is an international community with home prices that are denominated in dollars. There is a thriving restaurant and bar scene, plenty of surf shops for ding repair, lessons and rentals; and you can surf out front. The surf gets crowded with beginners taking lessons and is more often than not a longboard wave. There are plenty of local rippers who will be showing you how it’s done on a shortboard, but if you are interested in upping your wave count I would recommend a longboard.

Sayulita Longboard surf

What sets Sayulita apart from the rest of the Nayarit surf scene is the town. There is a diverse and international aura that is woven into, some might say on top of, your traditional Mexican beach town. Lots of people who love Mexico have moved here and blended their own culture to the cultures found throughout Mexico. There is live music to be found every night of the week. The wine shop is run by a couple from Los Angeles and has a better selection of wine than I can find in Guadalajara; and they offer classes on mezcal, tequila and Mexican wines. As you walk around the main plaza you notice that restaurants have placed tables in the streets and there is a feeling of European bistros with a distinctly Mexican touch.

There are all sorts of lodging options from beachfront campsites and hostels to boutique resorts and villas. I really liked the Airbnb options and thought that Casa Cereza was a particularly good deal.

Sayulita is not the end of the story. You probably wouldn’t fly to Mexico to surf only one wave when there are so many options close by. Renting a car will give you access to a plethora of great surf spots nearby. Some of the best spots may require an additional boat ride.

Sayulita Beach, Nayarit
Sayulita Beach, Nayarit, Mexico
Mazatlan: Playa Los Pinos

Road Trip Mazatlán: A Weekend of Surf and Seafood

It’s nice to return. There are places that we may not visit often but we hold dear. Mazatlan is where I drove my truck off the ferry from Baja and first experienced a Mainland Mexico surf trip. Mazatlan to me is surf, seafood and banda music. The Historic Core is like a time capsule with an evolution of architectural styles dating back to the 19th century with glimmers of 20th century art deco. This is where Hollywood used to party in the 1940’s and even though the hotels are a little run down the soul still shines through. Mazatlan is a seafood Mecca with the best food on the Pacific Coast. Plus, there are waves. There are waves right off the boardwalk in downtown, there are world class point breaks north of town and super fun beach breaks just south of the marina. This town absolutely loves the beach.

Mazatlan is classic beach town and the locals absolutely adore their 21 kilometer long boardwalk. Around sunset the malecón is packed with locals and tourists alike taking it all in, usually with a Pacífico in hand. There are dozens of beach parks, monuments, attractions and surf spots that need to be experienced. These are just a few of my favorite spots.

Alberca del Mar

Mazatlan has a fairly rugged coastline. Lots of reef and consistent swell energy are a dangerous combination for the novice swimmer. What better way to enjoy the warm ocean water than a pool built into the rocks. At high tide on a big swell the waves hit the breakwater but the pool is still safe for novice swimmers and families. The kids will love the concrete slide that empties into the pool. Just remember that no glass of any type is allowed near the pool.

Alberca del Mar, Mazatlán
Alberca del Mar, Mazatlán

El Clavadista

Is he going to make it? Is he not going to make it??!! Much like the Quebrada in Acapulco, the local cliff divers know how to put on a show, and make a few pesos in the meantime. The Sanchez Taboada Esplanade is perched on the cliffs where the tourists like to take in the sunset and grind on you overpriced corn, fried bananas and tostilocos. The real show is put on by the cliff divers who have to time the incoming sets and plunge 40 feet to the rough sea below. Make sure to hook up the assistant with a few pesos, the show it worth it.

El Clavadista, Mazatlán
El Clavadista, Mazatlán

Monumento A Pedro Infante

Pedro Infante is probably the most famous movie star of the golden age of Mexican cinema, and he just happens to be from Mazatlan. Make sure to get a photo with the Pedro Infante monument and chat it up with the other Pedro Infante fans about what your favorite movie is. My favorite is Escuela de Vagabundos (1955) with Los Tres Garcia (1947) a close second.

Monumento a Pedro Infante, Mazatlan
Monumento a Pedro Infante, Mazatlan

Playa Los Pinos

In the morning it is one of the best waves in the region and in the afternoon it is the favorite local beach in the Historic Core (the wave still works in the afternoon but good luck finding parking or even a cab for that matter). Playa Los Pinos is an awesome left point break that runs from the Casa de la Marina all the way to the Ocean Sciences campus of the Autonomous University of Sinaloa. You can expect rides as long as 100 to 150 meters. The wave is soft, rolling and best suited for a longboard/funboard but watch out for sea urchins on the inside where the wave stands up again. It is a picturesque surf spot with a 19th century canon perched on the cliff just above the take off spot. In my experience the locals were awesome and everyone was taking turns.

Playa Los Pinos: Surf
Playa Los Pinos: Surf

Playa Cerritos and Playa Brujitas

On the far north end of Mazatlan is Playa Cerritos and Playa Brujitas. This was the first time that I has driven through the Zona Dorada to see the north end of town. Honestly, not really impressed. The Zona Dorada reminds me of Tijuana’s Avenida Revolución on the beach. The waves are inconsequential beach break without much form and the instant there is a hint of westerly wind it all goes to hell. Swimmers beware because the currents are strong and push right into the rocks. After spending the day at Brujitas ae didn’t see much reason to leave the Historic Core again. Maybe one day we will go stay at the El Cid Resort because that is where my wife used to stay with her family when she was little, but the Zona Dorada pales in comparison to the Historic Core.

Where To Eat In Mazatlán

To put it mildly, I love the culinary scene in Mazatlan. A lot has changed since the last time I was there. I now live in Guadalajara and work in the hospitality industry once again. I get a lot of insider recommendations about where to eat, travel and surf. One of my close friends is from Torreon, Coahuila and spent the first 18 years of his life vacationing in Mazatlan. He understands the types of street food stalls and taco stands that I thrive on and made me a comprehensive list of must-see experiences. I want to share some of my favorites with you.

El Cuchupetas

El Cuchupetas, Villa Union, Sinaloa
El Cuchupetas, Villa Union, Sinaloa

Located in the neighboring community of Villa Union, El Cuchupetas is one of the best restaurants in Sinaloa. It is a mandatory stop as you are coming into town, and you will want to repeat on your way back out. It’s a couple blocks off the highway in a discreet neighborhood and has taken over buildings on three of the four adjacent corners. 

Oysters at Cuchupetas
Oysters at Cuchupetas

El Cuchupetas is a home style Sinaloa kitchen that has access to some of the best seafood known to man. I have never tasted a better oyster than the dozen I was served on a busy Friday afternoon. The shrimp a la diabla is made with real chiles and uses NO ketchup. The sauce is rich and smokey with notes of bacon fat. Which leads me to the bacon wrapped shrimp, stuffed with cheese. The order only comes with four pieces and I could easily put back 20.

It’s crazy when you try food that you are familiar with but something is different. I eat shrimp all the time but never like this. The shrimp ceviche doesn’t smell like shrimp, it smells like lime. The shrimp are all perfect. There are no bits but all complete pieces of shrimp. In a number of dishes I ate the head, tail, shell in all.

Camarones Cuchupetas
Camarones Cuchupetas

I also bought a t-shirt. I love that so many people recognize the logo. The restaurant is full of pictures of the owner with famous people. Where we sat I saw pictures of Andres Manuel López Obrador, Diego Luna and Carlos Slim. I can only imagine the other celebrities that have passed through those doors.

Stop number one set the bar really, really high.

El Toro Pesado

El Toro Pesado, Mazatlan, Sinaloa
El Toro Pesado, Mazatlan

El Toro Pesado is a street cart serving scallops that I found on YouTube. I had to ask around to find him because he is a little ways off the tourist track, just chilling in the shade under a tree. The owner is an older man whose nickname is El Toro Pesado and he has been preparing scallops, octopus and shrimp for decades. I felt like I was sitting at a sushi bar watching a master chef at work.

I ordered a plate of all scallops. A few chiltepin chiles go into the molcajete and are ground up with lime juice. The plate has red onion, chile, lime and scallops, nothing more. Eating scallops and telling stories with this old man was one of the best experiences of a weekend filled with awesome experiences. It felt authentically Mazatleco.

Cahuamanta La Mexicana

Cahuamanta in Mazatlan
Cahuamanta in Mazatlan

I love soups. In San Diego I eat a ton of pho, in Guadalajara I can’t get enough birria. I was super stoked to try a new soup with a protein that I wasn’t familiar with: manta ray. Nothing like a big bowl of soup after a long surf session. Cahuamanta La Mexicana is right around the corner from Los Pinos Beach, and it’s packed to the gills. In fact it is kind of hard to order. Not much of an organized line but more like a bunch of people pushing their way up to the soup Nazi. Just as I make it up front some kid behind me calls out his order and I get skipped again.

While the guy slanging soup says the protein is mantaray I hear Mexicans call all classes rays manta rays; stingrays, bat rays, eagle rays all get turned into manta rays. It is up for debate what particular class of ray I was actually eating.

I ordered a combinado bowl: tuna fin and manta ray soup. I was surprised at how rich the broth was and asked if they used beef broth as a base, which they categorically denied. The rich flavor comes from the manta ray they said. The texture of the manta ray was a little softer than the texture of the tuna fin, almost like it had been served rare and not boiled.

This was a specialty dish that I was always associate with Mazatlán.

El Muchacho Alegre

Banda at El Muchacho Alegre

Mariscos, Cerveza y Banda. Banda music may not be uniquely Sinaloan, but it is something that they do very, very well. It is a genre of music that has taken me a while to warm up to. In these parts it is culturally significant due to the waves of German immigrants that made their way here in the 19th century. Dive in, learn a song or two and see if they will let you karaoke it out in front of the band. It is part of the local culture.

El Muchacho Alegre has some decent seafood but most people are here for the music and the beach front location. One dish that I particularly enjoyed was the octopus chorreada. It is like a big sope, or small corn masa pizza, with sliced octopus and chile. I know some Sinaloan ladies in Guadalajara that sell chorreadas but they don’t sell seafood, just beef. Food always tastes better at the beach and especially in Mazatlán.

El Presidio

El Presidio Restaurant, Mazatlan
El Presidio Restaurant

This was the nicest restaurant that we visited while in Mazatlán. The atmosphere is stunning. An abandoned mansion from the era of Porfirio Díaz is taken back by the jungle. There is no roof and the trees grow through closets and old sitting rooms. There are a couple of enclosed dining rooms but the best tables are in the patio underneath the dimly lit trees.

The menu is ambitiously Mexican with recipes from much of the country. While the presentation and the meats were very well done I felt like the sauces fell short of the versions I had tried elsewhere. The panceta de cerdo confitado was very well cooked but the chile pasilla sauce that accompanies it was insipid. The panuchos de chorizo de camaron were enjoyable but left me feeling like it was a high end imitation of a classic street food. My favorite dish was the Cienaga Salad. Roasted red beets, goat cheese, avocado and roasted cherry tomatoes with a delicate mustard vinaigrette. Everything was balanced perfectly and I may try to make this one at home.

I will recommend El Presidio to my family and friends because it is a beautiful restaurant. They have a very clear vision about what makes the Historic Core great. Just make sure to check the weather forecast before you make reservations. A tropical shower caught the management off guard just as we were leaving.

Pastelería Panamá

This is another local favorite that my wife and her family would always visit while on vacation. There are a number of locations, some just selling desserts and others with a full service restaurant attached to the bakery. The location behind the downtown cathedral is very convenient for going after mass. Be prepared to wait for a table because this is downtown and it will be full on the weekends.

The service and the food are solid. Since this is a bakery I would recommend the thick cut french toast. The menu is ridiculously large and the portions are big enough to share. The coffee could be better but I am picky when it comes to coffee. Make sure to pick up some pastries on your way out. We bought a couple loaves of white bread for the family back in Guadalajara because everyone loves Panamá.

Centro Histórico

Plazuela Machado, Mazatlan
Plazuela Machado, Mazatlan

What I love about Mazatlán is the fact that there is a Historic Core right on the beach. With a few exceptions, most of the historic architecture in Mexico is inland. In contrast with the Historic Core in Mexico City or Guadalajara, I couldn’t find any buildings that date to the Spanish Colonial era. The cathedral is post-independence and most of the interesting buildings look to be from the late 19th and early 20th century. What’s cool about this timeframe is that these buildings were commissioned by Mexicans and not the Spanish.

While it is an absolute must to stroll around the Plazuela Machado and take in the architecture in the neighboring streets, I recommend walking around the periphery a little more. I particularly enjoyed the buildings along Belisario Domínguez as you walk north of the Plaza Republica towards Los Pinos Beach. The area has not been restored as well as the southern part of the Historic Core but these buildings still have stories to tell.

There is no debate as to whether I would rather stay in a smaller hotel room in Historic Core or in a big resort in the Zona Dorada. The Historic Core wins hands down. My wife was a little disappointed with the hotel’s amenities when we first arrived but after a weekend of walking the malecón and the streets of the Historic Downtown she was happy with our romantic weekend in Mazatlán.

Hotel Posada Freeman

Hotel Posada Freeman Old Town Mazatlan, Sinaloa
Hotel Posada Freeman Old Town Mazatlan

Just steps from the water this classic hotel was built in 1944. Originally it was one of the first high rises in Western Mexico and the rooftop pool is still a great place to take in the views of Downtown and the boardwalk. Everything you need is walking distance and the surrounding area is picture perfect. The rooms are small but all we did was sleep in the room and watch a little tv at night. The pool is also small but we much preferred the Alberca del Mar (500 meters down the boardwalk) and Playa Los Pinos (about 1500 meters away). There is secure parking, a decent breakfast and a lot of history. This one I will probably repeat.

Boca de Pascuales, Colima, Mexico

Boca de Pascuales

one of the premier surf spots in Mexico.

The tropical coast of Colima is an agricultural hub that is famous for limes, coconuts and salt. The Armeria River flows from the Sierra de Manantlán to the coast sustaining the agricultural industry and building world class sandbars where it meets the ocean. This is not a wave for novices. Much like Black’s Beach in La Jolla or Moss Landing in Monterey, the sea floor gets very deep very quickly and the canyon focuses open ocean swell from just about every direction into a massive A-frame peak. During the summer months the south swells rarely produce waves under 10 feet and the barrels bring professionals from around the globe to try and score some photos for the magazines.

Boca de Pascuales, Colima, Mexico
Boca de Pascuales

Where to stay

Hotel Real de Pascuales is the hub the local surf industry in this part of Mexico. Local chargers from up and down the coast flock to Edgar’s place for the budget accommodations, local knowledge and quick ding repair. The most competitive peak is usually out in front of Edgar’s where the ametuer photographers line the second story ocean front rooms. Walking up the beach a couple hundred yards to the river mouth the waves are a little bit smaller, but if the swell is maxing out it probably doesn’t matter.

Pascuales Surfboard Repair
Pascuales Surfboard Repair

There are a lot of broken boards in these parts and Edgar’s ding repair guys can have your favorite stick back in the water in a couple of days for a fraction of what you would pay in California. If the ding is minor they can have it ready in less than 24 hours. Edgar also shapes custom surfboards when he can get the blanks. His shape are designed for the fast and hollow waves of Pascuales.

Pascuales Surfboards
Pascuales Surfboards

Down the beach is Paco’s Hotel which is slightly more expensive than Edgar’s place and a little more comfortable. This is where most of the professional surfers from California stay as is apparent from the design by surf sticker motif on the lobby windows.

 

Las Hamacas del Mayor, Boca de Pascuales, Colima, Mexico
Las Hamacas del Mayor

Where to Eat

Las Hamacas del Mayor is one of the most famous restaurants in this part of Mexico. Part beach club, part restaurant, the palm frond roofed palapa is easy to spot in plenty of surf media spreads about mainland Mexico. Families from Colima and Guadalajara love to spend Sundays at the beach relaxing in the hammocks hung throughout the restaurant and watching the kids play in the pool. Pascuales is a fishing community and the seafood is on par. The specialty is a filet of whitefish ( usually Dorado) stuffed with shrimp, octopus and calamari. Make sure to get an order of the tacos de frijol to start. They are grilled and come with some bomb salsas.

Las Hamacas del Mayor
Las Hamacas del Mayor

Surfing Mexico, Nayarit, Chacala

Surfing Chacala

Chacala and Caleta: The left hand point break at Playa Caleta is one of the best breaks in the region. This is for a little more advanced surfer because of the sharp volcanic rock bottom that is covered with urchins. You really need to be careful about straightening out on the inside section and not put your feet down after kicking out of a wave. The wave has an easy takeoff section that lines up on the inside and allows for a ton of turns before standing up on the inside.

Boat Ride to Chacala, Nayarit
Boat Ride to Chacala, Nayarit

The beach at Caleta is pristine if not a little hard to get to. You can take a boat in from Chacala for about 700 pesos or your can drive in through the Maralta Ranch if you have four wheel drive. Most of the 45 minute drive through the jungle is flat and easy but as your drop into the beach there are a few steep sections that make four wheel drive a must. Most of the people that drive in are planning on camping for a few days. There is a caretaker named Juan who has been living on the beach for decades. If you are going to camp, make sure to hook Juan up with some cash or bring him in some supplies (a bag of maseca or some canned food) for keeping the place clean. Remember, always pack your trash. There is an open air bathroom tucked back into the trees but you need to bring your own toilet paper.

Getting to Caleta
Driving to Caleta

Playa de Cuyutlán, Colima, Mexico

Playa de Cuyutlán

Cuyutlán is a sleepy little village with a long history that is known for its coconut farms, salt and the green wave. This little pueblo was the capital of Mexico for two nights in 1858 while Don Benito Juarez was locked in a battle for control of Mexico during the War of the Reform. Located  45 minutes south of Manzanillo, today Cuyutlán is a blip on the railway that connects the port with the rest of the country.

In times past the production of salt from the local estuary was an important source of income for the local community. A local cooperative still makes some of the most gourmet salt that money can buy. The saleros use the same techniques that have been used for over 600 years. Salt water is dried in the hot Colima sun and packaged for sale.  For a little over one dollar per kilo you should definitely pick up a bag.

Surfing Cuyutlán

Surfing La Ola Verde de Cuyutlán
La Ola Verde de Cuyutlán

All over Mexico people know Cuyutlán for the green wave or la ola verde. The black sand beach break is a wave magnet picking up swell from just about every direction. During the summer months the surf can reach up to 20 feet on a decent swell and create some pretty heavy rip currents. In the winter months the ocean is much calmer picking up the mild north swells. The water temperature rarely drops below 80 degrees Fahrenheit attracting snowbirds from the northern latitudes, as well as a few from Guadalajara.

Surfing La Ola Verde de Cuyutlán, Colima
Surfing Cuyutlán, Colima

The wave at Cuyutlán is a heavy beach break barrel. There are a lot of close outs but when the sandbars are set up correctly there are also some gems to be found.

Bodysurfing La Ola Verde de Cuyutlán, Colima
Bodysurfing Cuyutlán, Colima

The bodysurfing is particularly good.

El Tortugario

El Tortugario, or more formally known as, el Centro Ecológico de Cuyutlán is an education and community center that is dedicated to the protection of the three different turtle species found in the area and the incubation of their eggs until they can be released into the ocean. The mission of the Tortugario has grown to include the preservation of the Palo Verde Estuary and the abundant wildlife that is found therein. The estuary tour is particularly enjoyable and gives you the opportunity to see the birds, crocodiles, iguanas and more in their natural habitat. The Tortugario is located about one mile south of Cuyutlán.

Salt Museum, Cuyutlán, Colima
Salt Museum

El Museo de la Sal

If you read Spanish the Salt Museum is an interesting way to spend 45 minutes. The production of salt was an important source of income for the region going back hundreds of years and built a thriving middle class in the first half of the twentieth century. Most of the houses in the center of the Pueblo were once owned by workers at the salt plantation. While there is still active salt production the price for salt has continued to drop and the industry is not what it once was.

The museum has some great pictures of old-time Cuyutlán and stories about how a couple of tsunamis reshaped the village. It is interesting to think about what it was like to ride the train to the beach, eat some seafood and drink some beers a hundred years ago.

A few miles down the free road to Manzanillo you can see how they have been producing salt in this area for centuries. Salt water is left to dry on plastic sheets in the scorching sun until the water evaporates and the salt crystals are brushed into large piles. The midday sun makes the work excruciating but also produces the finest grains called flor de sal.

Where to Eat

Tacos in Cuyutlán, Colima
Tacos in Cuyutlán, Colima

The tacos in front of the Benito Juarez head in the main plaza are excellent. Make sure to put a few grains of that gourmet salt on your tacos.

hotel morelos

Hotel Morales, Cuyutlán, Colima
Hotel Morales

The Hotel Morelos has a great breakfast

the tortilla shop on calle puerto vallarta

Cuyutlán Tortilla Shop
Cuyutlán Tortilla Shop

The tortilla shop makes simple breakfasts and always stocked with beans and tortillas. Nothing like waking up to the smell of freshly cooked tortillas!

enramada mario

Mario with the Catch of the Day
Mario with the Catch of the Day

Enramada Mario has all the classic seafood dishes and a few specials depending on what the catch of day happens to be.

Fried bananas in front of the church

Fried bananas in Cuyutlan, Colima
Fried bananas in Cuyutlan, Colima

where to stay

Cuyutlán Airbnb Rental
Cuyutlán Airbnb Rental

 Lush Garden Setting in Cuyutlan

Beach house with a beautiful garden right off of the main plaza in Cuyutlán. The house is decorated in traditional Mexican style with talavera tiles, accents of antique furniture and a full kitchen. Excellent surf, tacos and mini-super near by!

Punta Mita, Nayarit

Surfing Nayarit

The Mexican state of Nayarit is one of the best locations for intermediate and beginner level surf trips. While the pros flock to Puerto Escondido and Pascuales during summer, the waves there are consequential and rarely drop below 10ft. The coast of Nayarit on the other hand trades wave size for length of ride. The Riviera Nayarit is on the north side of the Bahia de Banderas, stretching from Nuevo Vallarta to well beyond San Blas. The Nayarit surf scene is well developed with plenty of waves, surf shops and accomodations for every budget.

The summertime south swell are shaded from the direct south (180 degrees) and likes a swell with a little more west into (around 210 degrees). Wintertime swells that come from the northwest are going to light up the beaches of Nayarit much more frequently than the souths will. There are a number of world class point breaks all within an hour of the Puerto Vallarta International Airport.

Puerto Vallarta is one of my favorite cities but unfortunately it sits in the middle of a huge bay, the Bahia de Banderas, and sees very little surf. However, the Puerto Vallarta International airport is right on the border of the state of Jalisco and the state of Nayarit. Your best bet is to head north to Nayarit and set up camp in the Pueblo Magico know as Sayulita. From Sayulita you can take day trips to the other breaks in the area and still make it back for dinner, drinks and entertainment in Sayulita. If you have a little extra time, or the swell goes flat, you might want to spend some time in Puerto Vallarta. The Zona Romantica is the old town that screams classic Mexican beach resort. Elizabeth Taylor made Puerto Vallarta glamorous when her then boyfriend, Richard Burton, was filming the 1964 classic Night of the Iguana. The Zona Romantica and nearby Mismaloya are worth a visit if the surf forecast is looking rather dull.

Sayulita

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Sayulita used to be a small fishing village situated in front of a decent wave. Nowadays it is an international community with home prices that are denominated in dollars. There is a thriving restaurant and bar scene, plenty of surf shops for ding repair, lessons and rentals; and you can surf out front. The surf gets crowded with beginners taking lessons and is more often than not a longboard wave. There are plenty of local rippers who will be showing you how it’s done on a shortboard, but if you are interested in upping your wave count I would recommend a longboard.

What sets Sayulita apart from the rest of the Nayarit surf scene is the town. There is a diverse and international aura that is woven into, some might say on top of, your traditional Mexican beach town. Lots of people who love Mexico have moved here and blended their own culture to the cultures found throughout Mexico. There is live music to be found every night of the week. The wine shop is run by a couple from Los Angeles and has a better selection of wine than I can find in Guadalajara; and they offer classes on mezcal, tequila and Mexican wines. As you walk around the main plaza you notice that restaurants have placed tables in the streets and there is a feeling of European bistros with a distinctly Mexican touch.

There are all sorts of lodging options from beachfront campsites and hostels to boutique resorts and villas. I really liked the Airbnb options and thought that Casa Cereza was a particularly good deal.

Sayulita is not the end of the story. You probably wouldn’t fly to Mexico to surf only one wave when there are so many options close by. Renting a car will give you access to a plethora of great surf spots nearby. Some of the best spots may require an additional boat ride.

San Pancho (San Francisco)

Just north of Sayulita as you travel along the Riviera Nayarit is San Pancho. The mellow beach community, tropic golf course and numerous dining options have made this pueblo a retiree paradise. Beach cruiser bikes, skateboards and golf carts are the preferred methods of transportation much like the beaches of San Diego.

While there are plenty of surf shops around town the waves our front tend to be beach break close outs. Beginning and intermediate level surfers will enjoy the beaches of Sayulita and Punta Mita much more than those of San Pancho.

San Pancho Life, Nayarit, Mexico
San Pancho Life

The restaurant and cafe scene in San Pancho is vibrant. The streets are lines with al fresco dining options and excellent desserts. Mexicolote chocolatier has an incredible variety of hand crafted products made from the cocoa bean. The truffles and hot chocolate are decadent, and the oils and body lotions make great gifts. They will give you a full class on cocoa production in the South of Mexico and all the products that are made out of it.

Truffles, brownie and hot chocolate at Mexicolate, San Pancho, Nayarit
Truffles, brownie and hot chocolate at Mexicolate, San Pancho, Nayarit

 

Punta Mita

Punta Mita refers to the peninsula on the northern edge of  Bahia de Banderas and the town next to the Four Seasons resort. There is a somewhat fickle longboard break out front called Playa Anclote, but your best bet is to grab a boat from the cooperative and check out the better breaks on the northwest side of the point.

Surfing Punta Mita, Nayarit
Punta Mita, Nayarit

Punta Burros

An ideal longboard wave with a spectacular beach that is perfect for camping out all day. The wave at Punta Burros has  a shorter left and a longer right. It is not uncommon to score rides longer than 100 meters. There will be guys on shortboards, longboards, funboards and sponges, but the shape of the wave is best suiter to a longboard most days. Punta Burros is tucked into the northern rim of the Bahia de Banderas and likes swells that have a little more west in them. If the swell is coming from due south the southern tip of the Bahia de Banderas, Cabo Corrientes, will block most of the swell energy. The bottom is a mixture of smooth sedimentary rock and some sand so booties are not necessary.

Burros is directly in front of the Palladium resort but there is a long stretch of secluded beach that is open to the public. As you are coming down highway 200 look for the Mictlan Surf Shop and head down the road towards the Palladium. About 20 meters before gate to the Palladium there is a little dirt turnoff for the beach parking. Follow the trail down to the beach. There is one relatively steep part of the trail but you can also walk around it you choose.  The Palladium is going to run you around US$200 per night if you want to stay in front of the break.  They have plenty of equipment to lend their guests with competent instructors and lessons. I like to stay in Sayulita and make day trips to the breaks in this area. Just make sure to bring an umbrella for the sun and some water. Also, don’t forget to pack your trash. You should get in the habit of picking up a couple pieces of trash every time you surf.

Chacala

Playa Caleta
Playa Caleta

Chacala and Caleta: The left hand point break at Playa Caleta is one of the best breaks in the region. This is for a little more advanced surfer because of the sharp volcanic rock bottom that is covered with urchins. You really need to be careful about straightening out on the inside section and not put your feet down after kicking out of a wave. The wave has an easy takeoff section that lines up on the inside and allows for a ton of turns before standing up on the inside.

Chacala, Nayarit, Mexico
The Drive to Chacala, Nayarit

The beach at Caleta is pristine if not a little hard to get to. You can take a boat in from Chacala for about 700 pesos or your can drive in through the Maralta Ranch if you have four wheel drive. Most of the 45 minute drive through the jungle is flat and easy but as your drop into the beach there are a few steep sections that make four wheel drive a must. Most of the people that drive in are planning on camping for a few days. There is a caretaker named Juan who has been living on the beach for decades. If you are going to camp, make sure to hook Juan up with some cash or bring him in some supplies (a bag of maseca or some canned food) for keeping the place clean. Remember, always pack your trash. There is an open air bathroom tucked back into the trees but you need to bring your own toilet paper.

Boat to Caleta
Boat to Caleta

San Blas And Stoners Point

Las Islitas, San Blas
Las Islitas, San Blas

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.

The community of San Blas has a lot of history. The Huichol (Wixárika) people consider the area a holy place and their origin story takes place on a small island just off the coast. For the Spanish it was one of the most important ports on the Pacific. Gold was sent to the Philippines to buy Chinese silk and spices that were sent back to Spain. Today San Blas is a Naval training center, a fishing town (commercial and sport) and favorite beach town for the population in Tepic.

Playa Borrego is a 3 minute drive south of the town square. It is mostly inconsequential beach break. You are not going to buy a plane ticket to surf this wave. The star of the show is Stoners Point on the northern edge of Matanchén Bay. When it’s on it’s the best wave in the region. 

There is another break on the inside called Las Islitas or Matanchén Bay. There was a time when it was considered the longest wave in the world by the hodads at the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s a gimmick that even the longboarders are going to get board with. Las Islitas is a good place to teach your kid or spouse to surf but not much else.

San Blas Surf
San Blas Surf

If you drive in to Las Islitas you need 4×4 or at least a truck with good clearance to make it all the way out to the point. If not, you can park a half mile down the point and walk in. Make sure to visit the old Spanish fort and the abandoned 18th century church on the bluff overlooking the city. The views are awesome and the tour guides have some great stories.