Are you looking for the best guide to surfing in Mexico on the internet?
You are in the right place. I have lived in Mexico since 2009 but I have been surfing in Mexico since the 1980s. This is your local guide to the most famous surf spots in Mexico for beginner surfers.
It is no surprise that Mexico is such an established surfing destination. Surfing in Mexico has had an allure since the 1960s. Mexico has always had a close relationship with Southern California and all it took was a few stories of ideal Mexico waves with nobody out to create the modern Mexican surf mythology. Surfing big waves in Mexico is one of life´s great travel experiences.
One of the key differences between the United States and Mexico is the percentage of the population that lives on the coast. The three principal cities in Mexico are Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Mexico City, none of which are on the coast.
There are no cities like Los Angeles or New York near any surf spots. In Southern California, surfing became mainstream and big business. In Mexico, it stayed a counter-culture endeavor for much longer than it did in the United States.
To this day, many of the best surfing regions are rural in nature. Most Mexican states have small coastal cities and long stretches of undeveloped beaches. This is changing quickly. Baja California, Nayarit, and Oaxaca are all growing exponentially. Now is the time to visit.
DON’T FORGET TO BRING
- Sunscreen: The Best Biodegradable and Reef Safe Sunscreens for Mexico
- Hat: Barmah Wide-Brim Hat, Classic Panama Hat, Lifeguard Hat.
- Water Bottle: 40oz IRON °FLASK Sports Water Bottle
- Cooler: 3 Can TOURIT Cooler Backpack
- Shade: Pop-up Sun Shelter or Umbrella with Universal Clamp
- Long Sleeves: Rip Curl UV Long Sleeve Tee
- Shades: RAEN Optics sunglasses
- Car Rental: Discover Cars
Surfing in Mexico: An Overview Of The Best Mexico Waves
Mexico is enormous. There are almost 7,000 miles of coastline and much of that has consistent swells. The Pacific coast of Mexico is home to the premier surf towns. From California to Guatemala, there are waves for every skill level.
If you are willing to search, you can find waves where everyone says there are no waves. Both the Sea of Cortez and the Caribbean have waves when the conditions come together. If you are willing to search, there are a lot of waves to be found.
Because the coastline is so long and faces two different oceans, there are several distinct seasons. Baja Norte tends to favor wintertime north swells that form near the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands.
Baja Sur and most of mainland Mexico tend to prefer summertime south swells. Summertime in Mexico is wintertime in the southern hemisphere when massive low-pressure systems form between Australia and Antarctica. Those storms send swell energy marching all the way across the Pacific Ocean before detonating on Mexican shores.
The Caribbean loves hurricane season which runs between late summer and early fall. Hurricanes are also common in the Pacific Ocean and will light up the surf spots that have a more westerly swell window like Nuevo Vallarta.
Yes, it is possible to score in the off-season, but it is a lot less likely. If you have to book your tickets well in advance it is best to choose the high season rather than hoping to get lucky. If you have the flexibility to plan a strategic strike mission when a huge swell hits the radar, you can score some of the best waves on the planet with very few people out.
I’m not going to be talking about any secret spots. These are all well-known Mexico waves with some tourist infrastructure.
Water Temperature in Mexico
The water temperature is going to vary enormously from north to south. Additionally, climate change is altering averages with bigger variations and unseasonal weather. Hurricane season is taking on a new meaning as the average storm is significantly stronger than in the past.
The winter months in Baja California, Baja California Sur, Tamaulipas, and Sonora are cold. Most people will not be able to get into the water without some type of wetsuit. Northern Baja is significantly colder than Southern California and booties and a hood are a nice addition on the coldest winter dawn patrol mornings.
Climate change is creating some outlying conditions. In 2021 Nayarit had a month-long cold spell that saw most of the locals wearing full suits. Most of the tourists were able to still get in the water with just a jacket but the water was significantly colder than most years.
In the summer it is more likely to struggle with dehydration because the warm water temperatures are in the high 80s and not refreshing. Make sure to drink plenty of water and stay in the shade when not in the water.
The Hazards of Surfing in Mexico
Make sure to choose your Mexico waves appropriately. There are waves for both beginners and experts alike so make sure you know your limits. If in doubt, don’t go out. Rescue services and medical care are not the same in small towns as they are in big cities.
I stepped on a stingray in rural Colima and there was nowhere to find a bucket to fill with hot water. I had to settle for a cup of hot water and a piece of cotton to apply the hot water to the wound. It was not an enjoyable experience.
The hazards of surfing in Mexico are the same as the hazards of surfing anywhere. There are big waves and serious currents when the waves are large. Getting in and out of the water when the waves are big can be difficult especially if the high tide pushes up against the cliffs.
Sharks are not as much of a concern as stingrays and jellyfish are. Shark attacks are rare. Jellyfish stings are quite common. The stingray shuffle should be standard practice when surfing warm water breaks like in Mexico. In California the stingrays are small. In Mexico, there are more types of rays like bat rays, eagle rays, and even manta rays even though the manta rays don’t have stingers.
When surfing the reef breaks make sure to keep an eye out for sea urchins. It is very important to swim out of the shallows rather than putting your feet down on the reef when urchins are present. That is a quick way to ruin a surf trip to Mexico.
If you want to get off the grid and explore rural areas it would be best to employ the services of a surf guide. Google Maps doesn’t say which areas are sketchy and which are safe. I have taken the family to a couple of neighborhoods that my wife will never let me forget, both in Hawaii and in Mexico. Just because Google shows a dirt road heading to the beach doesn’t mean that there is 2-wheel drive access or that it is safe. Do your research before going off the grid. These guys learned the hard way not to drive down an unknown dirt road looking for exotic birds.
Transportation To The Best Mexico Waves
This is where things get complicated. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. The easiest Mexico waves to access will have the largest crowds. The most isolated waves are going to require some form of private transportation. You can provide for that in the form of a private vehicle brought to Mexico, a rental car, or a surf guide.
Each region is going to have a different set of circumstances. If you have a family, the best bet is going to be a nice hotel within walking distance from a quality break. Make sure there is a nice pool for the kids so Mom and Dad can spend a couple more hours in the surf.
A surf road trip through Mexico is a common coming-of-age tale for young surfers. Mexico is the perfect place to explore and improve one’s skill.
The Best Surf Camps In Mexico For Beginners
Beginners who choose the correct equipment and the correct surf spots will catch more waves than those who don’t and thus improve more quickly. It is the difference between catching 30 waves and catching 3. The people catching 30 waves per session are going to become intermediate-level surfers more quickly and graduate to surfing better waves and utilizing more specialized equipment.
The ideal conditions for a beginner are slow-breaking, medium-sized waves, predominantly sand bottom with few rocks. The fewer people the better but the beginner spots can usually handle a huge crowd because the waves do not break in one specific spot but rather all over a large area with enough space to spread out. Competitive reef breaks with a well-defined take-off spot will present trouble for beginners.
Many times, beginners do not yet own their own equipment. These beaches have some sort of surf rental and instruction available.
- Punta de Mita and Sayulita, Nayarit
- Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca in the winter and NOT in the summer
- Los Cabos, Baja California Sur
Surfing In Mexico Map
The surf spots on this list are organized by state and will work from north to south. I grew up in San Diego and the Baja Peninsula is one of my favorite places to explore so I figured that would be a good place to start. Let’s go check out some Mexico waves.
Baja California Surf Spots
The motto around here is “Aquí inicia la patria” or here begins the homeland. There are a lot of waves up and down the Baja California Peninsula and a lot of people surf. The state of Baja California is the upper half of the Baja Penisula. The vast majority of the population of Baja California lives in the area between Tijuana and Ensenada. South of Ensenada, the landscape turns to farmland and then desert. There is a four-lane toll highway from Tijuana to Ensenada with a heavy concentration of excellent waves. There are some of my favorite Mexico waves.
The water temperature in Baja California is strikingly different from the rest of Mexico. It is really cold most of the year. It is colder in Baja California than it is in Alta California. I recommend a full wetsuit and booties just in case. It is better to be prepared for long sessions than to be sitting on the beach watching perfect waves because it is too cold for board shorts.
1) Playas de Tijuana
This is where Tijuana goes to the beach. Playas de Tijuana is the northernmost territory on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. There is a bull ring right on the corner of the beach and the border with the United States.
Mexican surfers in the 1960s would paddle over to Imperial Beach to get ding repair supplies. I don’t know if they still do that anymore 😉
The water quality is suspect in the winter because of runoff from the Tijuana River. If you are coming in from San Diego, this is probably not the best wave in the region. It is a great place to learn to surf for beginners but experienced surfers will enjoy the surf spots further south along the coast.
2) Baja Malibu
The break at Baja Malibu is nothing like the setup at Malibu in Los Angeles. Baja Malibu is a heavy beach break like Black’s or Moss Landing. A steep, offshore canyon, focuses swell energy into thumping A-frame waves so perfect that one surfer can take off going right and another surfer can take off going left and they will both get barrelled.
This is where I got my first double in-and-out barrels. I got two clean in-and-out barrels on the same wave.
On a negative low tide and a huge swell Baja Malibu turns into a left point break with an insanely strong current pushing north.
Baja Malibu is an advanced surf spot best suited for a more experienced surfer. It is a difficult and large playing field and the paddle out is a challenge. It requires a lot of duck diving to punch out through the breakwater to the outside.
There is a little bit of parking up by the arches and a little cafe with some food and cold beers. Sometimes there are tacos and sometimes there are not.
3) San Miguel
A lot of people like to compare San Miguel to Trestles but that is a little bit of an overreach. San Miguel has good waves but it is only a right and it is only one wave that can’t handle a crowd like Trestles and the San Onofre State Park can.
That being said, San Miguel is a great wave. It is a right point that breaks over round river rocks. Getting in and out can be a little complicated for novice surfers if they are not wearing booties. I like to wear booties here even when it isn’t that cold because it makes getting in and out so much easier, especially on the low tide.
This is considered to be one of the best waves in the region so it will be incredibly crowded on the weekends because it is an easy day trip from San Diego and Orange County. It is hard to get waves when it is crowded because it is not super consistent and the wave connects for so long that it is hard for two guys to share the same wave.
San Miguel works best on a northwest swell. Punta Banda, where the Bufadora blowhole is located, blocks most of the swell energy from the south.
There is a campground and parking costs about USD$5 per car.
4) Punta San José
Baja California is a different place south of Ensenada. There is no toll road, just a two-lane country highway. There is not nearly as much development here as there is closer to the border. The feeling of a surf trip to Punta San José is much different because of the wilderness and open space. It is much harder to do a day trip south of Ensenada because of the traffic in Ensenada and the border wait to get home. Most people who make it this far are going to stay for a little while.
The area south of Ensenada is wine country and vineyards are visible from the highway. The turn-off for Punta San José is in the town of Santo Tomás which is named after the Dominican mission that brought grapes to the region. If you get a chance, you should check out the Santo Tomas winery a few minutes out of town. It is one of the largest wineries in the country.
As the name would imply, Punta San José is a point break. A right-hand point break, to be specific. It is a reef break and there are a lot of sea urchins. Getting in and out of the water at low tide without booties can be a little complicated. The wave needs a solid northwest swell to start working. It is not worth the drive out here unless the buoys are less than 4 ft.
There is a rustic campground with a bathroom and not much else. Campers need to be self-sufficient around here. Bring plenty of water and whatever you want to eat. Remember not to set up camp next to the cliff and have a few too many tequilas before bed.
Baja California Sur Surf Spots
The Baja Peninsula is comprised of two different states: Baja California and Baja California Sur. La Paz is the capital of Baja California Sur and the majority of the population lives on the gulf side. The Pacific is still wild and desolate. There are a lot of dirt roads required to reach the remote surf spots and 4 wheel drive is an advantage.
Then there is Cabo. Los Cabos feels like a cross between Las Vegas and Orange County. There is a lot of money and the community is very international. The area may be developing much more quickly than the water supply but the developers keep planning more golf courses. However, it doesn’t take long to get out of town and into the desert. There are a lot of outdoorsy and back-to-nature types of activities in Baja California Sur. Surfing is just the tip of the iceberg.
5) San Juanico AKA Scorpion Bay
Old men with longboards absolutely love Scorpion Bay. The wave is fickle but with modern surf forecasting, it is pretty easy to score. A big south swell is going to light up the coast and a series of point breaks will connect rides for hundreds of meters.
The bottom is a mixture of sand and rock. The waves don’t get too big around here so this is a great place to surf in Mexico for beginners. Just make sure to bring a board with a lot of volume because the wave is slopey (horizontal not vertical) and doesn’t sand up and barrel like the Bonzai Pipeline or Puerto Escondido.
There was a time when San Juanico was a lonely fishing camp in the middle of nowhere. It takes a long time to get here. There are three different routes to take into account depending on one’s level of off-roading experience and how outfitted the vehicle is. Coming in from the north is the shortest in terms of distance but many amateurs realize that the difficulty level is more than anticipated. Off-the-grid navigation combined with some technical sections of tidal mud flats could require some recovery gear. Coming in from the east requires some significant off-roading but it is a little faster and less technical. The southern route from Ciudad Insurgentes is the easiest drive but is much longer in distance.
Those washboard roads are not meant to be driven quickly. Sedans and unmodified pickup trucks will not be the same after taking a washboard road at 40 mph.
There is a reason that people put so much effort into getting here: Long, right-hand point break waves. It is an easy wave to surf and will make beginners feel like a pro when they kick out of a wave 500 meters down the line. Scorpion Bay is one of the world’s classic waves that everyone should surf at least once in their life.
6) Punta Conejo
Leaving La Paz, Highway 1 heads west for a little while before turning north again. Highway 1 gets within 20 kilometers of the Pacific. There is an unmarked dirt road off the highway that takes you the rest of the way. Four-wheel drive is not needed. I saw a guy in a Honda Civic going real slow down the trail.
There is something about coming through the desert and cresting the last hills before seeing the ocean. Punta Conejo is beautiful. Like so many Baja surf spots, there is a small fish camp with some simple houses and some trailers. There will always be some surfers camped out on the bluff.
The wave reminds me of Upper Trestles with the softball to basketball-sized round rocks. It takes some time to get in and out of the water at low tide. There is a long left and a faster right. The wave is playful and stands up quickly with a couple of barrel sections. It isn’t a particularly strong wave like Baja Malibu or Pascuales but very, very fun.
The camping out here is rustic. Pack your trash.
7) Todos Santos
Todos Santos, Baja California Sur is a great spot to learn how to surf because the waves are mellow, the water is warm, and there are amazing accommodations in town. The town was named a Pueblo Mágico by the Secretary of Tourism because of the mission, 19th-century buildings, and artsy community. It is actually like three towns because Todos Santos, Cerritos, and Pescadero are all just a few minutes away from each other. And there are waves all up and down the coast.
On the south end of the beach at Todos Santos, Playa Punta Lobos which is a fun beach break. A little bit further down the coast is Playa San Pedrito which is a super fun river mouth right that breaks over a cobblestone reef.
Playa Los Cerritos is the most famous break in the region because of the Cerritos Beach Hotel which looks like a crown sitting at the top of the point. It really is a great place to take surf lessons and catch your first waves.
Additionally, there is amazing food and drink in this area. Chef Javier Plasciencia has a restaurant called Jazamango. Agricole Cooperative runs a farm and a world-class kitchen. There is more specialty coffee and craft beer than a town this size should have. Todos Santos is definitely worth a visit not just for the surf but for the whole experience.
8) Los Cabos
The Baja Peninsula is surreal because of the exotic landscapes and natural beauty, but Los Cabos is surreal because of what has been built. It is a very young town when compared with Veracruz or Acapulco and the lack of zoning restrictions probably helped the recent growth.
There are green golf courses where there is no water. There is an over-the-top nightclub and entertainment industry that attracts talent from across the globe. International direct investment only increases as the peso devalues. There is immense wealth and eccentric behavior all around.
First off, Los Cabos refers to the San Jose del Cabo and the Cabo San Lucas Metro Region with a population of about 350,000. Most of the population of the region is located along the 40 km corridor.
It is a very quick flight from the United States to San Jose del Cabo so the place is full of English speakers. Spanish might be helpful but one could easily spend a weekend in a hotel without ever considering a word of Spanish.
There is a very particular color to the water in Los Cabos because of the geology. The bottom is mostly decomposed granite stone and sand which does not get cloudy or murky. The visibility in Los Cabos is excellent and there is plenty of sea life in the area.
It is always interesting surfing a new spot with crystal clear water and a shallow reef. You can see every rock and every fish below and the water magnifies the vision making the reef look even closer than it is. Those are the sessions you never forget.
There are a ton of great Mexico waves along this section of the coast. Monuments in Cabo San Lucas is one of the few lefts in the area. Punta Palmilla is closer to the airport in San Jose del Cabo. It is a super fun right-hand point break that gets crowded with both locals and tourists alike.
There is one fun wave after another as you head east out of San Jose del Cabo. The highway turns into a maintained dirt road and the golf courses fade into the distance. The interesting thing about the east cape is that the beaches face east. In order for these waves to work the swell needs to be approaching from a south or southeast angle but that is common all summer long. This is what surfing in Mexico is all about.
Sonora Surf Spots
Sonora is not known as a surfing state. It is like Arizona but with a big sandy bay, except this is a gulf.
San Carlos and Guaymas are famous beach towns but for boats and jet skis rather than surfers. Last year there was a hurricane that went straight into the Gulf of California. The whole time I was following the storm I was thinking there have to be some waves that only break on rare hurricane swells. You don’t get that much swell energy and not find a wave or two.
If you happen to be driving down the 15 from Nogales to the surf spots in southern Mexico, consider stopping in Bahia Kino for some seafood. The scallops, clams, and oysters are some of the best in the world.
Sinaloa Surf Spots
Sinaloa is such an amazing place it is a shame that the first thing that comes to mind is crime. The seafood is spectacular. It is farm country and the breadbasket of Mexico for that matter. Mazatlan is one of the few coastal cities in Mexico with a well-preserved historic downtown.
In addition to Mazatlan, there are a series of excellent point breaks in the north of Sinaloa but you are going to need a surf guide to access the best spots. I am still saving up to take a trip with Sinaloa Surf Adventures. Those point breaks look like a lot of fun.
When driving down the 15, I always stop in Culiacán to stay the night. I know the area has a bad reputation for sensational events but those are rare. The food is incredible, there is a world-class botanical garden, and the baseball team is one of the best in Mexico.
Mazatlan has a long boardwalk that the locals and tourists enjoy to the fullest. The town is a swell magnet and has super consistent summertime waves all up and down the coast. I love surfing in the city. There are plenty of hotels that have waves out front and do not require getting in a car to surf.
Playa Los Pinos is nestled between the Oceanography campus of the University of Sinaloa and an old navy party venue. The beach is a zoo in the afternoon but the waves are good in the morning when it is empty. The wave is a fun left that breaks off the rocks over a shallow sea urchin garden. Do not put your feet down.
One of the most easily identifiable landmarks on the Mazatlan boardwalk is Valentino’s Nightclub on a little outcropping of rocks that separates The Zona Dorada from the older part of town. There are great waves on both sides of Valentinos. You can surf a right on the south side and a left on the north side. And there are plenty of hotels within walking distance. At the Hotel Playa Mazatlan, you can leave the wife and kids at the pool and sneak off to have a surf without anybody getting worried about a three-hour surf session.
Isla de Piedra, AKA Stone Island, is another great Mexico wave. The name is kind of a misnomer. It is not an island but the tip of the peninsula on the opposite side of the Mazatlan harbor. The Isla de Piedra beach has a much more relaxed feel than the boardwalk does in Mazatlan proper. There are great waves, enramada restaurants on the sand, and some watersports activities for the whole family. This is another great family beach.
Nayarit Surf Spots
Nayarit has become one of the premier destinations for surfing in Mexico. Surfing has helped define what the Riviera Nayarit is famous for.
Nuevo Vallarta was originally developed as a complement to Puerto Vallarta but the Nayarit side of the Ameca River lacked the charm of the Jalisco side. Further up the coast in Punta de Mita, Sayulita, and San Pancho a different type of tourist infrastructure took root.
As the Riviera Maya battled a seaweed infestation, the Riviera Nayarit absorbed the excess demand.
10) Nuevo Vallarta
The town of Nuevo Vallarta is known for very large resort properties with excellent all-inclusive options. Many people rarely leave the resorts because there is so much to do at the hotel.
Because Nuevo Vallarta is located in the back of a large bay, there isn´t a lot of surf around here. However, there is a slab that comes to life when a large west swell, usually a hurricane swell, enters the bay. Keep that in mind the next time you are stuck in Nuevo Vallarta for hurricane season.
Best Surf Hotels in Nuevo Vallarta
📍Luxury Option – Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit
11) Playa La Lancha
The north shore of the Banderas Bay is growing too quickly. There are still a few stretches of undeveloped beachfront but it looks like there are plans to develop most of the remaining areas.
La Lancha beach is located in Punta Mita and is considered to be a great surfing spot for beginners. The wave is mellow and doesn´t stand up too fast. There is a lot of room to spread out and the better surfers will congregate on the north side of the beach where the reef creates a long and consistent wave.
Currently, there is a public access trail that winds through an estuary to get to the beach. There is a surf shop next to the gas station that will rent equipment and give lessons. Makai, the restaurant next door to the surf shop, is excellent and should not be missed.
Playa La Lancha is one of the best beaches in Mexico to take surf lessons. WildMex has great instructors, tons of equipment, and they are very well organized. They offer daily lessons, week-long surf camps, and adventure tours of the region.
Best Surf Hotels in Punta Mita
📍Mid-Range Option – Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort
12) Playa Sayulita
It would not be an article about surfing in Mexico if it didn´t include a section about the surf in Sayulita. Sayulita is the premier surf town for beginning and intermediate-level surfers. Hodads have just as much fun as the surfers because of the party and yoga scene.
Several generations ago this was considered a fishing village. Ten years ago the terms hippy surf town or boho-chic might have been appropriate. Not much of that bohemian authenticity remains. Sayulita is a commodity for sale.
The town has grown faster than the infrastructure and water and sewage have become important local issues. Right now the water quality is fine but two years back, when the wastewater treatment facility was under construction, the entire town became violently ill. The reputation stuck even though the problem was resolved.
The wave at Sayulita breaks in front of a small river mouth. Most of the year the right is what people surf but during hurricane season the left is an absolute gem. The bottom is a mixture of river rocks and sand. The wave breaks over rocks and can get shallow at low tide. The beginners tend to congregate over the sand bottom closer to the shore on the inside.
The nice thing about Sayulita is the restaurant and bar scene and the wide variety of waves within a short drive. Yes, you can surf on the main beach of Sayulita but I probably wouldn´t travel internationally just to surf this wave.
You are going to want to rent a car and surf the world-class waves in the vicinity and make it back to Sayulita for dinner and drinks. If you get back early you can get a surf out front.
13) Stoner´s Point
The town of San Blas is located about three hours north of Puerto Vallarta and 2.5 hours west of Guadalajara. It sits on the northern edge of the Matanchen Bay between the beach and an estuary. Matachen Bay was awarded a Guinness World Record for the longest surfable wave. The estuary inlet helps form the wave at Stoner´s.
There is a long history of surfing in this area it is surprising there isn´t more tourism these days. The bugs have a bad reputation and scare away a lot of potential visitors.
Stoner´s Point is one of the best waves in Mexico but it rarely works. It is a long right-hand point break that only comes to life on the biggest south swells of the year.
To access Stoner´s it is possible to walk over from San Blas but that requires a quick swim across an estuary inlet that sometimes has crocodiles. Most people drive around the estuary to Las Islitas and walk the last kilometer into the point. Vehicles with 4-wheel drive can drive right up onto the beach and camp out all day. When it’s on, it’s on.
Except for the airport, Jalisco is not one of the premier destinations for surfing in Mexico. The Puerto Vallarta International Airport is right on the Nayarit border and is the most commonly used airport to access the surf spots along the Riviera Nayarit. The Guadalajara Airport is commonly used to access the beaches of Colima.
Jalisco is one of the most Mexican parts of the country with great beaches. Unfortunately, the surf around Downtown Puerto Vallarta is not the main attraction but may be a byproduct. If you happen to be in the area then you might score some waves. I don’t think most people are going to travel internationally to surf the waves in Jalisco. There are relatively few well-known waves for surfing in Jalisco when compared to all of the other phenomenal tourist activities.
The coast of Jalisco is virgin in many places and access is limited. While there not be a lot of well-known world-class waves, I suspect there are a lot of secret spots for hard-core searchers. The Costa Alegra has all the basic qualifications for excellent surf. With a little motivation and time, I think some explorers could strike gold.
Puerto Vallarta and the Banderas Bay do not see a lot of surf. One exception to this is the village of Quimixto.
Quimixto is a remote village more famous for a waterfall hike and beachfront restaurants/beach clubs than surfing. However, the wave is really fun and picks up a surprising amount of swell considering it is inside the bay.
The Quimixto waterfall leads to a river that forms the wave. The wave is a left-hander breaking over rocks at the river mouth. The best swells for Quimixto are northwests that are common in fall, winter, and spring.
It is a bit of a trek to get to Quimixto because there is no road. The road goes as far as Boca de Tomatlan before heading away from the coast. Water taxis shuttle visitors to the beaches along the southern part of the Banderas Bay. The water taxis leave from Boca de Tomatlan and the Los Muertos Beach Pier.
15) Barra de Navidad
Barra de Navidad is on the southern border of Jalisco with the state of Colima. The main surf spot is on the inlet jetty that separates Jalisco from Colima. Surfers can easily paddle across the inlet to the Grand Isla Navidad Resort or the Colimilla Restaurant for excellent seafood.
The harbor at Barra de Navidad is famous for launching the Spanish trade route with China back in 1564.
Colima is an underground surfing powerhouse. Some of Mexico´s best surfers grew up surfing the black sand beach breaks. The state is small but there are a lot of great waves and enthusiastic surf culture of real watermen.
16) Boca de Pascuales
The Armeria River deposits black sand from the Colima Volcano on the edge of an underwater canyon. That underwater canyon picks up swell energy from all directions but absolutely loves a good south swell. During the summer months, those south swells create legendary A-frame barrels. The barrels are big and powerful, and attract jetskis for assisted take-offs.
The beaches of Boca de Pascuales and El Real are located just a few kilometers from Tecoman in an agricultural community. The coconut palm orchards are a tell-tale sign that big barrels are on the way.
Many people compare Boca de Pascuales to Puerto Escondido and the waves do share some similarities. The towns however are quite different. Tecoman is an agricultural town and Pascuales is a collection of enremada thatched-roof restaurants and a couple of simple hotels. Puerto Escondido is a major international tourist destination not just for surfers but for other holidaymakers as well.
Cuyutlán is the name of the lagoon and the village. The village sits on a sand bar between the lagoon and the pacific ocean. The lagoon is famous for gourmet salt production. The port of Manzanillo is just 25 minutes away but Cuyutlán feels like it is a world away.
Time moves slowly in Cuyutlán. During the week the beach and boardwalk are empty. On the weekends and holidays, local families from Armería, Colima City, and Guadalajara make their way down to the beach to eat seafood and play in the water.
The wave at Cuyutlán is powerful. Much like Pascuales, the wave is biggest in the summertime. However, the river mouth at Pascuales continually shapes the sandbars which sculpts better-formed waves. There aren´t as many makable waves at Cuyutlán as there are at Pascuales. Cuyutlán still has some excellent waves but it is not as consistently good as Pascuales is. There are also a lot fewer people surfing in Cuyutlán.
The Cuyutlán boardwalk is lined with simple enremada restaurants that serve their food under umbrellas on the sand. The place will be packed on Sunday and empty on Monday.
Michoacan is a magical place. It has a long and rich history dating back well before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century. The food and agriculture are regarded to be among the best in Mexico.
The coast of Michoacan is incredibly rural. The port of Lázaro Cárdenas has a significant population but that is the only city on the coast. Lázaro Cárdenas is about a four-hour drive from the capital of Morelia.
Most of the inhabitants of the region live in villages or small towns.
Unfortunately, Michoacan has a reputation for insecurity. Everyone has a different tolerance for security issues in Mexico. I have never had a problem with safety in my travels through the region.
My in-laws’ people are from Tierra Caliente, Michoacan, and counsel me to take extreme caution when traveling to rural parts of Michoacan. My recommendation is to err on the side of caution. It may be cliché to say but don´t drive at night along the coastal highway.
18) La Ticla
There are a lot of beautiful beaches in Mexico but La Ticla has to be one of the best surfing spots in the country. This is a small village where the wifi is slow and the cellular signal is hard to find. The beach is the main attraction around here. People come here to lounge in a hammock and watch the waves rather than lay in bed and watch tv.
La Ticla has a river flowing through the town. The river mouth creates some really great waves. There is a short, fast right and a longer left. The waves that break on the outside are great for advanced surfers with ramps perfect for launching airs and little tube sections. The wave doesn’t barrel as consistently as Boca de Pascuales but it is close enough that you can surf both on the same trip.
19) Barra de Nexpa
I hope I am not being desensitized to the spectacular waves in Mexico. There are so many different styles of waves for both beginners and advanced surfers alike. Nexpa is a left that every goofy footer should train on. The long, long lefts will improve a surfers style the same way that Rincon does in California.
Nexpa is an hour north of Lázaro Cardenas yet still in the southern half of the state. Just a few minutes down the road is the much more established beach town of Caleta de Campos. Nexpa is all about surfing. It is like a surf camp. The accommodations are rustic but most folks are spending 6 hours a day in the water and returning to the room to sleep and drink as much water (or Modelo) as possible.
The Nexpa River moves some serious water during the rainy season. The river rocks form a well-organized reef that picks up south swell all summer long. The wave is a proper left point break with some steep, strong waves. The wave isn’t perfect and has some mushy sections. It is very easy to gain speed on a wave like this to push through the flat sections and catch the steep section again. This is a great place to improve one’s turns on big open sections with lots of speed.
On my first trip to Mainland Mexico, I was surfing Pascuales with guys from all over Mexico: Cabo, Mazatlan, and Nexpa. The guys from Nexpa were so proud of their wave and so inviting that I had to drive down there to check it out. That surf trip was a life-changing experience and I often say it was responsible for moving to Mexico for school and ultimately setting down roots.
Driving the coast of Mexico and surfing is magical.
The coast of Guerrero is very similar to the coast of Michoacan. The vast majority of the coastal road is rural and off the grid. It reminds me a lot of Big Sur in California with a different temperature. There are a lot of rugged landscapes and striking cliff-top views.
The area also has some security concerns. We have a lot of friends in Morelia and their favorite beaches are in the Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo area. None of our close friends have had any problems but it is always a friend of a friend that has a horror story. Don’t drive at night. I prefer to drive early in the morning about 30 minutes after sunrise.
20) La Saladita
This is one of the longboarding world’s favorite waves and where professional longboarding’s favorite event is held. The Mexi Log Fest has been in Nayarit for the last couple of years but La Saladita is where it became legendary. The coolest longboarders from across the globe would make their way to Mexico for the type of event that brings the underground guys and gals out.
At La Saladita everyone surfs. Little old ladies, young kids, and sponsored veterans of the sport.
This is an ideal left-hand point break for a longboard. The waves are slopey (more horizontal than vertical) but run on for hundreds of meters. It is easy for a dozen surfers to all share the same wave doing turns around each other like they were tieing a braid. Even when the waves are big the style of surfing complements the turns of a longboard or maybe a fish.
The bottom is a mix of sand and rock.
There isn’t much to do in La Saladita except hang out at the beach.
Troncones is another authentic Mexican surf town. The waves are consistent and surfing draws a lot of tourism to the region. Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo might be a little more upscale and La Saladita a little more rustic. Troncones is still a small town but there are a number of restaurants and hotels to choose from. There is a surf shop and even an ATM.
The surf is great for beginners in the wintertime and excellent for shortboarders in the summertime. The waves are not as powerful as they are in Pascuales or Puerto Escondido but there is still a good push. The north side of the beach has a point break that is within walking distance from the town.
This is classic Mexico. You should check it out before it turns into Sayulita.
Oaxaca is the premier surfing in Mexico destination for advanced surfers. There are waves for beginners in the off-season but during the summertime, they should be reserved for the experienced surfer.
When I was young I heard a statistic, a rumor really, that 75% of the surfers paddling out at Zicatela for the first time will break their board before they actually catch a wave. I know that was made up but it is supposed to highlight how strong the waves are in Oaxaca when compared to Florida or Santa Monica.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Oaxaca is the center of the world for the surf industry during the summertime. There is a yearly pilgrimage of photographers and professional surfers hoping to get some images published in the magazines.
The competition is fierce and mistakes will be punished. Dropping in late on a surfer that is already up and riding when the waves are big is very dangerous. Perpetrators will be made aware of their transgressions and may be invited to leave early.
One thing that traveling surfers oftentimes miss is the Oaxcan food culture. There is exotic seafood, traditional moles, and lots of distilled agave spirits. Try to spend a little time getting to know the local culture.
22) Puerto Escondido
If Sayulita has the best Mexico waves for the beginning to intermediate surfers then Puerto Escondido is the place for the pros to be seen by the surf world. Video of great rides and huge swells are quickly uploaded to the internet.
One great photo published on the cover of Surfer Magazine or the Surfer´s Journal could be the difference between a sponsorship contract for an aspiring young surfer or going back to a restaurant job.
The town of Puerto Escondido has grown up with the surfing industry. Nowadays there are far more wannabes than big wave chargers. There are plenty of surf-themed restaurants, boutique Airbnbs, and juice bars that a digital nomad may decide to take up the sport. Everyone surfs around here or at least purports to. There will be a lot of people in the water even when the waves are big.
There are a couple of different Mexico waves in Puerto Escondido but the two most important places to surf are Playa Zicatela (AKA The Mexican Pipeline) and La Punta. Zicatela is across the bay (maybe 250 meters) from the town of Puerto Escondido. Punta Zicatela, or simply La Punta, is another 3 kilometers down the beach. La Punta and the Brisas de Zicatela neighborhood have grown into one of the coolest places to stay in the Puerto Escondido region.
The main beach at Zicatela is famous for big beach break barrels. A-frames stand up tall and break both right and left. La Punta is a left-handed point break and the waves are a little smaller than they are at the Zicatela beach break.
Watch out for the rocks on the inside. On my first wave, I did a big roundhouse cut back in the wrong part of the wave and finished my turn looking at some dry reef on the inside. The wave broke my leash throwing the board onto the rocks and snapping it in two pieces. I rode the wave 300 meters and did a dozen turns but it ended in tragedy. I love that wave even if you have to pay your dues.
23) Barra de la Cruz
Barra de la Cruz is a rustic village some 40 kilometers east of the Huatulco International Airport. The wave is said to be not as hollow as it once was but it is still a treat. Because the wave is outside of the urban areas there are far fewer people surfing here than in Puerto Escondido.
It would be hard to find a wave as good as Barra de la Cruz in Southern California with only a handful of people out. Trying to get a wave at Rincon when it’s firing is difficult, to say the least. Barra de la Cruz is no secret and the weekends are packed. The weekdays are an absolute dream.
Rip Curl used to run a WSL (back then it was called the ASP) championship tour contest that changed locations every season. It was called The Search and was an extension of their philosophy and marketing campaign. The Search contests scored a lot of great waves and made Portugal a regular stop on the tour. The waves at Barra de la Cruz were legendary and every surfer on tour in 2006 voted Mexico as the best stop of the season.
That much publicity created a tourism boom even if the event was billed as just “Somewhere in Mexico”. One guy decided to build a hotel on the other side of the river which changed how the sand entered the ocean, ultimately shifting the sand bars and the wave. The wave is still excellent just not like it used to be.
It is pretty common to forget that the Gulf of Mexico has some surf too. For much of the year, the ocean is completely flat. However, there are moments storms pass through sending small waves to the coast.
There are waves right on the strips in the Zona Hotelera in Cancun. You can find fun waves to learn how to surf on Playa Chacmool along with a couple of surf schools.
Cozumel is a small island off the coast of Playa del Carmen. The far side of the island doesn’t have a lot of development with makes it a perfect surf destination. The waves are surprisingly strong during hurricane season because the swell window opens up to the Caribbean Sea rather than the Gulf of Mexico. However, the region does not represent the best surf conditions because it is consistently windy.
Surfing In Mexico FAQs
These are some of the most commonly asked questions that I get in my inbox.
Is it safe to go surfing in Mexico?
Mexico is as safe as you want it to be. Flying into Puerto Vallarta and surfing in Punta Mita is safer than a surf trip to Venice Beach. Getting off the grid in Michoacan or Oaxaca will require some additional safety planning.
I have written extensively about safety in Mexico. I recommend reading the full article about the safest places to visit in Mexico on how to prepare. While there are real safety concerns in Mexico, it is usually easy to avoid problems when you know where the true dangers are hidden.
What month is best to surf in Mexico?
The surf season in Mexico coincides with the rainy season. The Pacific Coast of Mexico receives consistent south swells from April to September.
June is the best month to surf in Mexico because the rainy season is just getting started but the waves should be in full swing. My birthday is in May and I have scored a lot of surf trips around this time.
By the time July comes around, the rains are more like tropical storms. By September, hurricane season is in full swing and the weather conditions are more of a risk.
Is Cancun a good place to surf?
Cancun is a great place to learn how to surf and take surfing lessons. The waves are small but they do not have great form. The weather is often windy when there is surf. There are no world-class waves in Cancun and it is not a destination for intermediate to advanced surfers.
If you happen to be in Cancun with the family it is possible to find some wind swell waves. I would not plan a surf trip to Cancun unless you are a hurricane hunter.
What is the surfing capital of Mexico?
Much like California, there are two surfing capitals of Mexico. Puerto Escondido is the global surfing industry headquarters during the summer months. Sayulita is the surfing capital of Mexico for beginners.
During the summer months, surfers from across the globe head to Mexico. It reminds me of the wintertime pilgrimage of surfers to Hawaii’s North Shore. The place is full of professional photographers looking to publish photos in surf magazines across the planet.
Puerto Escondido is a fun town with lots of great restaurants, surf shops, and hotels. There is a small airport and lots of fun things to do out of the water.
Sayulita is the favorite surfing destination for beginning and intermediate-level surfers in Mexico. The waves are much smaller than they are in Puerto Escondido and there are surf camps all over the place. The whole Riviera Nayarit region is full of fun waves that are not as dangerous as the waves in Puerto Escondido.
Some Final Thoughts on Mexico Waves and Surfing in Mexico
Surfing and backpacking through Mexico is a phenomenal experience. There are so many different styles of waves that everyone can find something that is right for their unique circumstances.
If the boys want to go feral and stay remote in the desert for a month, it is easy to do. If you have a family and need a nice experience for the non-surfing members of the family, that too is an easy fix.
There are Mexico waves all year long and you should come and get some.
Buen provecho amigos.