Puerto Vallarta Surf Guide: Best Beaches, Lessons & Tours

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Are you looking to go surfing in Puerto Vallarta?

No matter what anyone else says, Puerto Vallarta is a surf town. There are surf shops, surf lessons, and experienced surfers up and down the coast. There just aren’t a lot of waves in the city of Puerto Vallarta. 

Puerto Vallarta gets less than 30 days of ridable surf a year. It is flat almost all year until hurricane season starts. The Puerto Vallarta surf scene is not only about surfing in the city itself but extends to the Bahía de Banderas and Riviera Nayarit region as a whole.

I have lived in Jalisco since 2009 and I have been surfing the Pacific Coast of Mexico way longer than that. This is a wave-rich region but you might need to do some traveling to score the best of it. 

Puerto Vallarta Surf Guide: Overview

Puerto Vallarta surfers are hurricane hunters. They are also willing to travel because there are a tremendous amount of waves within a few hours of Puerto Vallarta. The waves within the city limits are fickle, to say the least.

The reason that Puerto Vallarta does not get a lot of surf is that it sits in the back of an enormous bay called the Bahía de Banderas. A typical, long-period north or south swell will not penetrate deep enough into the bay to make waves in Puerto Vallarta. 

Puerto Vallarta needs a storm with a westerly swell angle to wake up. Storms with a westerly angle are not typical ground swells from far away; they are hurricanes that pass right in front of the Bay of Banderas.

Just remember that travel becomes less predictable when there is a hurricane nearby. Flights are delayed, roads see landslides,  and bridges are washed out.

I thought this article really summed up the Puerto Vallarta surf scene nicely. Even with a massive earthquake and tsunami warning, the local surfers were not going to miss out on one of the few good days of surf at their local break. A small tsunami hit just down the coast in Manzanillo and paired with an unusually high tide in Puerto Vallarta but these kids couldn’t be convinced to get out of the water. 

Walking down the trail to surf Burros

The Best Puerto Vallarta Surf Spots

Most of the year Puerto Vallarta isn’t going to have surfable waves. If you happen to be there in hurricane season you could score.

If you do travel to Puerto Vallarta during hurricane season, you may have to deal with bad weather and debris in the water. Watch out for those tree trunks and crocodiles that get washed out to sea.

1. Olas Altas

Right off the boardwalk by the Río Cuale in between Downtown Puerto Vallarta and the Romantic Zone is a section of beach called Olas Altas. Guess what Olas Altas means in Spanish. That is right, big waves. The river will create some sand bars and the cobblestones give the wave a nice shape. The waves are typically A-frames with both ridable rights and lefts.

Olas Altas only breaks on hurricane swells that have a very short period. There is a lot of water moving around with strong currents and the waves come back to back without much time in between them. The waves break in shallow water and the paddle can be a challenge. Have you ever duck-dove a big wave right into a sand bar?

It is a rare treat to be able to surf a fickle wave. Keep your eyes out.

2. Playa Del Holi

Located at the mouth of the Pitillal River, Playa Del Holi or Playa Flamingos is a bank or a sand bar. It breaks like a point but it isn’t long enough to really be considered a point. There is only a right and it only breaks in a couple of different sections. When it gets good, it is a barrel in very shallow water.

It is rare that Playa Del Holi will break so don’t count on it. If you happen to be here in the rainy season you might just score a hurricane.

Playa del Holi is named after the old Holiday Inn, which was rebranded as Sunscape Puerto Vallarta Resort. This section of the beach is right in the middle of the Hotel Zone. The Fiesta Inn is a great budget option. Villa de Palmar and the Fiesta Americana All Inclusive are super popular. 

3. La Cobra de Velas Vallarta

La Cobra is the premier big wave break in Puerto Vallarta. The Ameca River moves a lot of water and sand into the bay creating beautiful sand bars that can handle the biggest waves of hurricane season. When the swells come, the large waves are a favorite for advanced surfers.

Because of the river, the water is a chocolaty brown during the surf season. It is important to watch out for small crocodiles that get flushed out to sea when hurricane rains swell the river. You would not believe what gets washed into the ocean after a big rain.

The Velas resort is beautiful. It isn’t likely that you would be able to reserve it in advance but if you happen to be in the area when that tropical storm is just forming it would definitely be worth a last-minute reservation. You just need to hunker down the day the hurricane hits.

Most of the hurricanes don’t make landfall anywhere near Puerto Vallarta but pass by well off the coast, outside of the bay. Even so, they bring a lot of rain. It is possible to lose a day or two to non-stop rain if the storm is close to shore.

The Best Surf Spots Near Puerto Vallarta

While there is surf in Puerto Vallarta it isn’t likely that you are going to see it. Most people are not traveling to the beach during a hurricane. The best bet for scoring surf from Puerto Vallarta is to make the short drive up the coast to the surf towns along the Riviera Nayarit. Punta de Mita, Sayulita, San Pancho, Chacala, and San Blas all have outstanding waves that are very consistent. There are beaches for both the summer season and winter season.

4. Quimixto Beach

Surfing Quimixto requires leaving Puerto Vallarta by boat. There are no roads to Quimixto, just boats. The water taxi leaves from the Los Muertos Pier and from Boca de Tomatlán and shuttles the masses to the beaches on the south shore to relax at the beach clubs. What better way to experience a beach club than to surf all day?

The Quimixto surf spot is a left reef break that picks up a lot of swell. There is an active waterfall and river that deposits cobblestones along the sea floor giving the waves a nice shape. The winter months are the best time to surf Quimixto when the north pacific swells march down the coast.

The south shore of the Banderas Bay is spectacularly beautiful with turquoise waters. Lots of people take the water taxis to this section of the coast just to relax away from the crowds in the city. Quimixto has some of the best beach restaurants and bars with really good food. Even if you don’t surf, Quimixto is one of the best beaches in the bay. 

5. Punta Mita

Punta Mita is the gated community of condos, golf courses, and hotels at the very tip of the peninsula. The small town just outside of the gated community is called Punta de Mita. When I say Punta Mita, I am usually referring to the northern part of the Bahía de Banderas pretty much from the Cruz de Huanacaxtle all the way to the tip of the peninsula. Pretty much the whole northern edge of the bay is filled with great surf spots. It is a short trip from Puerto Vallarta but worth it because the waves are much more consistent. 

6. Punta Burros

Punta burros in between waves

Punta Burros is out in front of the Grand Pallidum Hotel. It is one of the best waves in the region that is steep enough to surf a short board. I contend that the waves are best suited for a longboard but you will see a lot of shortboards, twin fins, and boogie boards as well. Intermediate surfers that know how to catch waves in a crowded lineup will love this favorite spot. 

The wave breaks over a mostly smooth rock reef. The left wave is short but the long rights roll down the point. It is best to surf at a mid-tide as the low tide will expose some dry reef. 

The access is kind of hidden and you have to walk down a short trail through the jungle. It can get a little muddy during the rainy season. It is an ideal place to hang out and spend the day on the golden sands. There are no services and very little shade so make sure to come prepared with water and some shade.

I love this spot. Besides the great surfing, the water is super clear and I almost always see a couple of sea turtles. It is a very beautiful setting. 

7. La Lancha

Playa La Lancha is one of the best places for beginners to take a surfing lesson. There is a surf shop next to the gas station with private instructors and group classes. They have all sorts of board rentals and there is even a world-class seafood restaurant next door. To surf La Lancha you have to find a place to park and walk down a trail through the mangrove forest. The beach is only starting to be developed and the services are only for hotel guests. It is best to think that there are no services at this beach. Make sure to bring your own water and shade.

La Lancha breaks pretty consistently but it isn’t the best wave in the world. It is a little unorganized and even though there is a significant amount of reef, the waves break all over the place.

8. El Anclote

El Anclote (The Anchor) is the main break in the town of Punta de Mita. This a great place to intermediate surfers to improve their skill levels because the wave never gets very big. The only problem is that the whole beach is cobblestone rocks so little kids are not going to like getting in and out of the water.

The beach is called the Anchor because of the harbor is home to a number of small boats that take tourists on surf excursions and tours of the Marietas Islands.  

9. Stinky’s Main Beach

On the east side of the boat harbor is Punta de Mita beach break. The white sand beach is perfect for little kids and beginners. The wave barely breaks and just keeps rolling into the shore. The best equipment for surfing at Stinky’s is a big longboard with a lot of volume. The stand up paddle (SUP) boards are a popular choice. 

10. El Faro (The Lighthouse)

Experienced surfers looking for uncrowded waves will enjoy El Faro. The waves is hard to get to because it is beyond the gates of the Punta Mita golf course development. It requires a boat ride or a long walk down the beach to get there. 

​The wave is a right point that breaks in a number of different sections so there is plenty of room to spread out. And because it is a true point break surfers travel a long distance down each wave spreading the crowd out. It requires a lot of paddling when it is working

11. La Bahía (The Cove)

La Bahia is the most consistent wave in the region because it is the far tip of the peninsula. It is also behind the gates of the private community so it will require a boat ride in or a very expensive hotel room. The St. Regis and the Four Seasons both have easy access to the uncrowded surf. Both hotels are truly world-class with excellent surf schools, yoga classes, and all sorts of water sports. 

12. Sayulita Rivermouth

Left point break in the Puerto Vallarta Surf Guide

Sayulita, Nayarit is easily one of the best surf trips from Puerto Vallarta because there is a fun wave two blocks away from the main plaza. The waves are better in Punta Mita but the party is better in Sayulita. There are more bars and restaurants with concepts for a younger crowd. 

Punta Mita is a very wealthy enclave and it feels like everyone is at retirement age. Sayulita has a more relaxed vibe, a younger population, and a better hospitality industry. 

There are three waves in Sayulita. Surf schools use the inside sandbar to teach people how to stand up for the first time. Skilled surfers will enjoy the right off of the river mouth.  There is also a less consistent left that breaks off of the river mouth when the swell has some north west in the fetch angle. Because the waves are in town they can get pretty crowded especially when it is small. When the waves are big it is best suited for an experienced surfer. 

13. San Pancho

San Pancho is another small town right next to Sayulita. The wave in San Pancho is better suited for a short board most of the year. It is a much steeper wave that breaks over shallow sand. 

The town of San Pancho has grown a lot but still has a strong sense of community. Several of the local surf schools run daily surf trips out to Punta Mita because the waves are consistently better out that way. Experienced surfers will likely enjoy surfing San Pancho while beginners will struggle to catch waves. 

Puerto Vallarta Surf Lessons & Excursions

Puerto Vallarta surf lessons

Many people will come to Puerto Vallarta on vacation and realize that there isn’t a lot of good surf in front of their hotel like they had been hoping.

The best way for beginners to score a memorable Puerto Vallarta surfing experience is to hire an experienced guide that will handle the transportation and necessary equipment. Puerto Vallarta has excellent surf instructors with local knowledge to make sure visitors have fun while staying safe. They know all the best spots in the region and where to take a private tour so they score waves for their ability level.

There are dozens of companies doing surf lessons and most of them are driving an hour north to the beach towns in Nayarit. The probability of scoring good waves increases as you exit the bay. The nearby breaks are consistently better than the breaks in Puerto Vallarta.

Okala Surf School Puerto Vallarta

If you want to arrange transportation from Puerto Vallarta these guys will dial you in with exactly the type of wave you are looking for.

Okala has excellent surf instructors and more than 80 5-star reviews on Viator. This is a professional organization that will show up on time and keep you stoked all day while you are surfing.

Vallarta Surf Lesson

Vallarta Surf Lesson is another surf school that will pick you up and drop you off in Puerto Vallarta. The ride is about an hour depending on the traffic.

They will teach you about surf technique and go over the basic safety instructions. Surf instructors will help students with wave selection, positioning, and actually getting into the waves. That little extra push at the end is invaluable for new students.

Lessons last about two and a half hours from the time you reach the beach. Traffic will not take away from your surf time. If you are interested, they are more than happy to show you some great restaurants near the surf break or you can choose to hear directly back to the drop off location.

Vallarta Surf Lessons has more than 20 5-star reviews on Viator. They are a safe bet to have a great time surfing.

WildMex Surf Lessons

I recommend WildMex if you are already in the Cruz de Huanacaxtle or Punta Mita area. I have used them over the years to rent boards a few times. They have a surf shop at the trailhead to La Lancha beach with a bunch of types of boards all types of conditions. If the waves are small it is nice to have a board with a little more foam to catch more waves.

Puerto Vallarta Surfing Seasons

Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit have three different surf seasons to contemplate: summer, winter, and hurricane season.

Summer is the season for south swells. Punta Mita and the northern edge of the Banderas Bay love a big south swell.

Winter is the season when swells originate in the northern hemisphere. Sayulita, Quimixto, and to a lesser extent, the tip of Punta Mita light up on a north swell.

The very best waves in Puerto Vallarta come to life during hurricane season. The best swells come from hurricanes and tropical storms that pass directly in front of the Banderas Bay with a due west swell angle but don’t get too close.

It is really hard to score hurricane surf. The best days are reserved for the hard-core local surfers. I have traveled extensively during this time of year and the roads are dangerous. The day after a big rain brings landslides and swollen rivers that nock out bridges.

Puerto Vallarta Surf Shops

Things to do when there is no surf in Puerto Vallarta

Where to stay in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta surf guide

Puerto Vallarta Hotels

📍Olas Altas – Los Arcos in the Zona Romantica
📍 Playa del Holi – Fiesta Inn Puerto Vallarta Isla
📍Luxury Option – Velas Vallarta Suites Resort

Surf Hotels Near Puerto Vallarta

📍Burros – Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort
📍 Playa Anclote – Hotel Meson de Mita
📍Luxury Option – The Four Seasons Punta Mita

How to get to Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is a very easy travel destination. There is a major international airport with more than 30 destinations in North America with non-stop flights.

The drive into Puerto Vallarta is slow. There are no toll roads connecting Puerto Vallarta to the rest of Mexico at the moment but there are several under construction.

Having a vehicle is the best way to explore the different breaks in the region. Taking some tours would be the second best way to find good waves.

Final Thoughts On The Puerto Vallarta Surf Scene

I don’t think that most hardcore surfers are going to be planning a surf trip to Puerto Vallarta in the near future. If they happen to be in Puerto Vallarta and happen to see a big swell on the forecast it is easy to score some great waves.

Puerto Vallarta isn’t a surf destination but a place that a lot of surfers are going to pass through and should maybe check out. I think the town and beaches in Puerto Vallarta are worth a look.

Puerto Vallarta Surf Guide FAQ

These are the most common questions that I see in the online forums and that I get on the blog. 

Is Puerto Vallarta good for surfing?

No,  the city of Puerto Vallarta is not good for surfing during most of the year. However, less than an hour away from Puerto Vallarta are numerous surf spots for both beginners and experienced surfers.

The Puerto Vallarta Airport is the gateway to excellent surf along the Riviera Nayarit.

Where is Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta is located in the State of Jalisco on the Pacific Ocean. It is on the border with the state of Nayarit and many of the best surfing spots are located along the Riviera Nayarit to the north. The latitude of Puerto Vallarta is almost the same as Hawaii so you can expect warm waters year-round.

The Puerto Vallarta Airport is one of the most common places to start a surf trip in Mexico because there are waves up and down the coast. 

In addition to Puerto Vallarta, there are surf breaks on the north side of the bay at Punta de Mita and on the south side of the bay at Quimixto.

How to get to Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta is a very easy travel destination. There is a major international airport with more than 30 destinations in North America with non-stop flights.

The drive into Puerto Vallarta is slow. There are no toll roads connecting Puerto Vallarta to the rest of Mexico at the moment but there are several under construction.

Having a vehicle is the best way to explore the different breaks in the region. Taking some tours would be the second best way to find good waves.

Should I rent a car in Puerto Vallarta?

Yes, if you want to surf.

Can you surf in Puerto Vallarta in October?

Final Thoughts On The Puerto Vallarta Surf Scene

I don’t think that most hardcore surfers are going to be planning a surf trip to Puerto Vallarta in the near future. If they happen to be in Puerto Vallarta and happen to see a big swell on the forecast it is easy to score some great waves. 

Puerto Vallarta isn’t a surf destination but a place that a lot of surfers are going to pass through and should maybe check out. I think the town and beaches in Puerto Vallarta are worth a look. 

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