Looking to score the best waves in Punta Mita?
Punta Mita is home to some of the best surf in Mexico for beginning and intermediate level surfers. The lush jungle setting, crystal clear water, and variety of waves for both longboarders and shortboards is the perfect place to up your wave count.
The gated compound at the very tip of the peninsula is one of the most exclusive beach communities in Mexico with $1,000 dollar a night hotels and world-class golf courses. This is where Hollywood celebrities and Silicon Valley executives come to relax.
There are a bunch of waves in the area and a thriving Nayarit surf culture, including surf shops with board rentals and multilingual surf instructors who surf really well. The area is a little more laid back than Sayulita and San Pancho but the waves are consistently better and less crowded.
This is the first article in my series on surfing in Mexico. I have been updating and editing this particular article for close to ten years.
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 traveling surfer will score the whole package of fun point breaks, warm-water tropical paradise, and Mexican coastal food culture.
I have lived in Mexico since 2009 and I have been surfing Punta Mita since 2007. This is my favorite surf region in Mexico because of its consistency of waves and proximity to my home in Guadalajara.
Punta Mita Surf Overview
The Punta Mita region of Nayarit is hot right now. Ex-president Enrique Peña Nieto spent a lot of time here which means the infrastructure and security are top-notch. Even Bloomberg magazine is doing stories about Punta Mita becoming the next big luxury destination with over 5,000 more rooms at mostly small, high-end beach properties. And there is surf. Why would you go to Tulum (there is no surf in Tulum) when you can surf Punta Mita, Nayarit?
Much like Puerto Vallarta, The Riviera Nayarit is a tropical paradise with dense jungle, and iguanas and still has some secret spots that you will have to find on your own. The difference is that Nayarit has surf and Puerto Vallarta does not (except during hurricanes).
The Punta Mita surf scene is well developed with surf shops, restaurants, and accommodations for every budget.
Where is Punta Mita?
Punta Mita is on the Pacific Coast of central Mexico just one hour northwest of Puerto Vallarta. It is on the north shore of the Bahia de Banderas, in the State of Nayarit.
I tend to use the name Punta Mita to refer to the entire area west of the Cruz de Huanacaxtle all the way over to Litibú. However, there is a difference between Punta Mita and Punta de Mita. Technically, Punta Mita is the gated development at the tip of the peninsula with hotels, golf courses, and expensive villas. Punta de Mita is the village just outside the gates of that development. The area is sometimes called the north shore because it is on top of the Banderas Bay.
Punta Mita Surf and Beach Map
If you scroll out of the map you will notice the Banderas Bay. It kind of reminds me of the Monterrey Bay in Central California. The difference is that the Banderas Bay is deeper than the Monterrey Bay and not nearly as much swell enters the back of the bay where Puerto Vallarta sits. Punta Mita has a similar geography to Santa Cruz, California sitting on the northern edge of the bay with a broad swell window. The best surfing in the Banderas Bay is in Punta Mita.
Surf Lessons and Surf Guides
Punta Mita is a great location to learn how to surf because of the variety of different surf breaks and large quantity of excellent instructors. Playa Anclote, Stinky’s, and La Lancha all have slow peeling waves that are perfect for beginners. There are different spots for advanced beginners and intermediate surfers that can catch waves on their own. Advanced surfers will enjoy the guide’s local knowledge when planning surf trips up and down the coast when the swell is big. The can help you score the best conditions for the best places.
My top recommendation for surfing lessons is WildMex. I have rented boards from them, and arranged a boat ride, and a close personal friend works with the owners at another company. As someone that has worked as a surf instructor, I can tell you that WildMex is a professional organization that has insurance and shows up on time. They hire experienced surfers who love the ocean and are fun to be around. Everybody speaks English and they have a significant footprint in the area with brick-and-mortar surf shops in both Sayulita and Punta Mita.
The shop in Punta Mita is within walking distance from Playa La Lancha.
They do group lessons, private surf lessons, rent equipment, run surf camps, and organize surf trips. Look them up when you are in town.
11 Best Punta Mita Surf Spots and Beaches
The best local surf spots are listed in order from east to west. Additionally, I have listed some nearby surf spots that are a lot of fun as well. There is good surf all over the peninsula.
1. Los Veneros
Veneros is a heavy yet fickle beach break on the eastern edge of the Punta Mita region. It is closer to the Cruz de Huanacaxtle than it is to Punta de Mita.
The break needs more of a westerly swell angle to make it into that part of the bay. Veneros really comes to life on hurricane swells and south-westerly swells with a lot of west in fetch angle.
Access to Veneros is kind of tricky. It is located right in front of the Los Veneros Beachfront Residences and right next to the W Punta de Mita. It is a quick walk down the beach from the Marival Armony Resort and little longer walk from the public access point at Destiladeras Beach.
2. La Lancha
La Lancha is another one of those iconic Mexican waves. Tons of locals learned to surf here and absolutely treasure the place. It is a ten-minute walk through a mangrove forest. There is a stream that is considered an ecological preserve. The place is pristine. There are waves up and down the beach and the vibe is family-oriented.
The wave is mellow and easy to get into with peaks up and down the beach. Most folks will be riding longboards or something with a little more volume in it. The bottom is a mixture of sand and reef. At low tide, there will be some pockets of exposed reef but there are easy to avoid.
Access to La Lancha is currently in conflict and the wave is in danger of being altered due to development. The trail that leads to La Lancha goes through a lot that has plans for development. The company that wants to develop the area has imposed strong-arm tactics to close the access point with tear gas and fencing. It looks like the local government is on the side of the community but only time will tell.
It is unfortunate that beach access is in danger. The best thing that you can do to help maintain access to this amazing beach is to visit and help keep it pristine. One legal argument used to close access to the ecological preserve is that a large amount of traffic will damage the environment.
Please do everything that you can leave this place nicer than you found it. This includes picking up trash if you should see any (I almost never see trash) and not having fires.
3. Punta Burros
Burros is the best break in the area but it is not a true point break. It is a well-shaped reef break that lines up for a long ride. It is a spectacular beach that is perfect for camping out all day.
The wave at 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 suited for 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 or even has a little east in it, 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 the 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 if 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.
Stinky’s is the public beach on the east side of the boat harbor in Punta de Mita. As the name suggests, the runoff creates a foul smell during much of the year. If you head just a few hundred meters east of the harbor the smell dissipates quickly.
This is not the type of wave that I would travel around the world to surf. It is a soft, longboard or paddleboard wave that breaks slowly.
5. El Anclote
El Anclote is a fun wave for beginners, longboarders, and paddleboarders. Short boards are not going to catch as many waves as longboards. Besides being a slopy it is a very large playing field and the set waves sometimes break on the inside and sometimes break on the outside. Having a bigger board and the ability to chase down a big set is a huge advantage. It isn’t likely you will get a set wave by just waiting for the wave to come to you.
The place is famous for its great conditions and favorable winds but the waves don’t get very big. On my last trip, Burros was reeling at 4-6 ft and El Anclote was barely 1-2 ft. It is a great place to take a private surf lesson but I don’t know if I would fly internationally to surf here.
6. El Faro
El Faro surf spot needs a pretty hefty long period swell to really get going but on its best days, it is a long wave. The wave is a right-hander best for longboard surfing. It is best on mid to high incoming tide. Be careful surfing at low tide and the outgoing tide as there will be exposed reef to avoid. When it is working, El Faro is a great wave with long rides The bottom is mostly reef with a little bit of sand. While it is possible to walk all the way out there from Punta Mita, it is no fun. The walk is almost entirely on rocks. It starts off easy but once you twist your ankle it is a nightmare. The best way to get there is to hire a boat (lancha) to give you a ride and check out Bahia while you are there.
7. La Bahia: The Tip of Punta Mita Surf Peninsula
Unless you are staying at the Four Seasons Resort it may be difficult to gain access to the Bahia surf spot. Most people are going to take a boat in from Punta Mita harbor and a few crazies may try walking in.
What is special about Bahia is that it picks up just about any swell that is in the area. This is your Punta Mita surf spot of last resort. If it is flat here, it is flat everywhere. Grab a boat, check Bahia, if it’s flat, head over to the Isla Marietas to do some snorkeling because it is flat everywhere else too.
8. Playa Careyeros
Not really a surf spot but one of the most beautiful beaches in the area. There is public access right next to the gates community of Punta Mita. There are some great tidepools at low tide and the waves are typically small and good for little kids.
9. Litibú Beach
One kilometer from Higuera Blanca is Litibú beach. There are wide open stretches of sand and beach rocks.
The area can get windy in the afternoon as it is outside the Bay of Banderas.
There aren’t a lot of services and restaurants this way so bring your own shade and some extra water.
The waves are not great for surfing because it is one big close out and not great for swimming either because of the mixture of rocks and sand.
10. Sayulita and San Pancho
Sayulita and San Pancho (San Francisco) are not in Punta Mita but they are right next door and are a perfect complement to the region. Sayulita and San Pancho have decent waves but the real highlight is the nightlife and restaurant scene.
Several of the local surf shops in Sayulita and San Pancho run tours to Punta Mita to surf during the day and then head back to hit the bars in the evening.
High season in both towns is packed and there is little to no parking.
11. Alberca del Mar
The beach around Punta Burros is beautiful. One of the highlights of this area is not surf related but just plain relaxing. Out in front of the Grand Palladium Hotel is the Alberca del Mar. It is a swimming pool that has been built into the reef. Considering the environmental restrictions in the area I have no clue how they did it, but it is done.
The beaches in Mexico, in theory, are open to the public. Beach access is another topic and the trails getting down here are constantly being challenged. Plenty of locals, that are not staying at the hotel, walk the trail at Punta Burros to access the Alberca del Mar with their family. Bring an umbrella, a chair, and maybe a cold beverage and bask in the crystal clear water of Punta Mita.
It is best to visit around mid-tide. The high tide makes the walk along the beach challenging and the low tide empties the Alberca del Mar. I loved introducing my son to the ocean in the Alberca del Mar. The area is spectacularly beautiful. It is a must-see!
When Is The Best Time To Visit Punta Mita?
There are a couple of different considerations to take into account. The bigges waves coinside with the rainy season and hurricane season. Hurricanes can create some big waves but mess up the weather. Be prepared and know when to stay put.
Punta Mita Surf Seasons
One of the best things about Punta Mita is the consistency of surf. The beaches pick up swell from both the north and from the south. That means that you can surf year-round.
The summer season is famous for big south swells. The sheltered reefs on the inside of the bay need a little more west in the swell angle to make it around Cabo Corrientes, the southern tip of the bay. The best surf breaks like Burros and La Lancha will see their best days on a south swell. I think that summer is the best time of year to surf Punta Mita.
The winter season swells that come from the northwest are going to light up the beaches of Sayulita much more frequently than Punta Mita. Winter sees consistent offshore winds, long period swells from the northwest, and smaller swells. The average size of the waves is smaller in the winter than it is in the summer.
Punta Mita Weather Seasons
If you are fair-skinned, consider a surf hat. The midday, summertime sun is no joke. If you are planning on putting in some hours it would be a good idea to wear a hat. On the days that I go surfing I want to put in as many hours as possible. It’s hard to reapply sunscreen while you are wet and sweating. A surf hat is a great option. Look at all the old, lifelong surfers that you know. There are people who take care of their skin and there are those who get skin cancer.
In the summer, it is really hot and the sun is really strong. If you are going to be surfing long sessions multiple times a day, you need to protect yourself from the sun. I find it easier to put on a long sleeve wetsuit jacket than it is to apply sunscreen to my own back. A long sleeve rash guard would be perfect in the summer because the breeze across the wet rash guard helps keep you cool.
In the winter months, the water gets cool. It’s nothing like Santa Cruz winters but it’s nice to have a little warmth. The winter season of 2020/2021 has been unusually cold. The water temperature was in the mid-60s Fahrenheit which feels cold when it’s overcast, rainy and the sun is just barely coming up. I have had a number of sessions that surprised me because everyone in the lineup was wearing full suits. In addition to a little warmth, a wetsuit jacket offers protection from the sun as well.
Surf Shops and Surf Rentals
All three of these shops have a great selection of boards for rent. You don’t need to rent a softtop if you don’t want to.
I recommend scrapping all that cold water wax off of your board before you travel because it will just melt right off in your board bag anyway. Put a heavy coat of tropical/base coat when you get here and have an extra bar of warm water wax just in case. In the winter I like to use a combination of base coat and warm water wax.
Where To Stay In Punta Mita: Surf Hotels
There is nothing worse than flying out for a surf vacation and landing in a hotel that does not have access to a surfable wave.
Now that I have a family I need to think about a pool for my wife and kid but I need a wave close by. If I have to drive somewhere I am probably not going to get back until the afternoon to find a very irritable toddler and his mom.
What I love about these hotels is the ability to wake up early, check the surf from the balcony, and walk down to the break. That way I can sneak in a few more sessions without evoking the ire of my loved ones for my selfish ways.
Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa
⭐️ Rating: 8.0 /10 | Neighborhood: Punta Mita | Check Prices
At about US$100 dollars per person per night, this is the middle of the road. The resort is a beautiful, European-owned all-inclusive that sits above my favorite wave in the area. All-inclusive means that you can surf more because you don’t have to go anywhere to worry about food and drinks.
One of the highlights of this hotel is the secluded beach and the ‘alberca del mar’ ocean pool that is built into the reef. If you want to introduce your small children to the ocean without fear of the surf pushing them around then you will love this pool.
Hotel Meson de Mita
⭐️ Rating: 8.2 /10 | Neighborhood: Punta de Mita | Check Prices
This is my favorite budget hotel in the town of Punta Mita. The Hotel Meson de Mita is budget fabulous at about US$50 per night with double occupancy.
There is a small pool and some high-end restaurants adjacent to the rooms but things wind up early in these parts so there is no reason to worry about noise.
You can quickly walk down the beach to Playa Anclote or surf Stinky’s out front. The wave in front of the Palladium is way better but the price is right.
The Four Seasons
⭐️ Rating: 9.2 /10 | Neighborhood: Punta de Mita | Check Prices
I haven’t actually stayed at the Four Seasons Punta Mita yet. If somebody from the Four Seasons is reading this and wants to give us the friends and family discount, we would love to add some pictures to the blog.
If you have the cash to blow (US$1000 per night) then I highly recommend the Four Seasons. Besides the luxury hotel bit, you will have access to one of the best and most consistent waves in the area and all the equipment you will need.
You usually need a boat to get to Bahia but if you are staying at the resort you can walk down. Plus, you are likely to be hanging out with minor celebrities and Silicon Valley big wigs. That could be cool or not.
Things To Do In Punta Mita When There Is No Surf
Punta Mita and Punta de Mita are way more laid back than Sayulita is. It is a very different crowd.
- Golf: The area was first developed as a golf resort and has a number of world-class courses.
- Sport Fishing: I think it goes without saying that there is excellent sport fishing in these waters.
- Snorkeling: The water is fairly clear and there is a lot of wildlife in the region.
- Marieta Islands Boat Trip: all the surf shops and the cooperative at the harbor can arrange trips.
- Hike Monkey Mountain: There are trailheads from both Higuera Blanca and Playa Patzcuaro
- Mountain Biking: Check out Mita Bikes for rentals and guided tours.
- Party in Sayulita: Check out the mezcal tastings at Sayulita Wine Shop
Where To Eat In Punta Mita
The restaurant scene in Punta Mita is more high-end than casual. There are some small taco shops like Teresa’s Tacos but this is a small town and not a big city. One thing that you can count on is excellent seafood.
The location for Makai might seem a little odd tucked in between a Pemex gas station and beach rental and tour guide shop. What you will quickly notice is the long line of people walking barefoot across the highway with surfboards held underneath their arms. Makai is a destination unto itself but the heavy volume of surf traffic probably does’t hurt either.
You can expect exceptional local seafood prepared in both classic and unique ways. Chef Sebastian Renner has been all over the world and loves heirloom vegetables. Just have a look at his Instagram and you will fall in love with his vision of Mexico.
The hugely popular Sayulita staple, La Rustica finally opened a location in Punta Mita. They have the best pizza in Nayarit and a great rotating menu. You can expect a creative cocktail menu and really educated serves that make good recommendations. I love eating at La Rustica and it is usually one of my first meals in the area.
Elegant and open-air restaurant on the water in Anclote Beach. This is another concept by longtime Puerto Vallarta resident and celebrity chef, Thierry Blouet of Cafe des Artistes.
It looks like they are only open for dinner right now but a while back they had the best breakfast and coffee in town. The space if beautiful, the ice cream is home made, and the dinners are delicious and will leave you feeling good for another long day of surfing.
Classic Mexican street food. They are making fresh tortillas with maseca and a little tortilla press. The portions are solid and will leave you feeling satified.
How To Get To Punta Mita
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 depending on the surf forecast, set up camp in Punta Mita, Sayulita or San Blas. From Punta de Mita, you can take day trips to the other breaks in the area and still make it back for dinner, drinks, and entertainment.
What is the best Airport for Punta Mita?
Puerto Vallarta International Airport is located 1 hour (25 miles) from Punta Mita. Even though the airport is in the State of Jalisco it is much closer than using the international airport in the State of Nayarit which is located in Tepic.
I live in Guadalajara and think that visiting Guadalajara, Tequila, and the Riviera Nayarit is an amazing itinerary but that is a lot of driving.
There are all sorts of transportation options to and from the Puerto Vallarta airport but I recommend renting a car so you can surf more waves. If the waves are huge, Stoner’s is an hour up the road. If the swell is coming from the northwest there is always Chacala. There are a lot of waves around and having transportation means that you can surf more of them.
Driving to Punta Mita
If you coming in from Guadalajara to Punta Mita, check out this article about transportation from Guadalajara to Sayulita, it is almost the same. Make sure to stop for oysters, clams, and ceviche up the highway near Lo De Marcos. The quality is insanely good.
If you are coming from Puerto Vallarta to Punta Mita, drivers will cross the Jalisco/Nayarit state line, pass Nuevo Nayarit and Bucerías before taking the turn off for Punta Mita at Las Parotas. The turn-off is well marked. These are not freeways and are not meant to be driven at 75 mph (120 kph). There are speed checks so slow down and enjoy the scenery.
If you miss the turn-off for Punta Mita it is possible to drive all the way up to Sayulita, get lunch, and then take the back roads down to Punta Mita.
There is a lot of construction traffic on the roads around Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita right now (2023) because of a new freeway that is being built.
Punta Mita Frequently Asked Questions
Is Punta Mita Safe?
Yes, Punta Mita is very safe because it is behind a big gate. Punta de Mita is also safe. There is a small hospital that is significantly nicer than 99% of the hospitals in town this size.
Is Punta Mita Expensive?
Yes, Punta Mita is significantly more expensive than other Mexican surf towns. The hotels are more expensive, the souvenir shops are more like boutiques, and the food is gourmet.
Compared to the United States or Europe the prices are much more competitive but when compared to other parts of Mexico, where prices are denominated in pesos, it is considerably more expensive. Most of the real estate in Punta Mita is denominated in US dollars.
Is There Any Nightlife In Punta Mita?
No, there isn’t any nightlife in Punta Mita. There are some restaurants but nothing like Sayulita or San Pancho. It feels like the streets are rolled up at 9 pm.
If Punta Mita Worth Visiting?
Yes, Punta Mita is worth visiting and worth surfing. I recommend having a car because it would be a shame to come all this way and only see Punta Mita. Sayulita, Puerto Vallarta, San Blas, and Chacala are all amazing destinations that complement what Punta Mita is missing.
What is Punta Mita Known For?
Punta Mita is known more for golf than it is for surfing. The gated development was planned as a world-class golf resort with some pretty spectacular courses. It is also known as one of the most exclusive communities in all of Mexico. The concentration of luxury hotels has made it a favorite destination for people looking to keep a low profile.
Lots of people use the harbor at Punta de Mita to access the Marrieta Islands.
Are The Beaches At Punta Mita Swimmable
Yes, the beaches at Punta Mita are very swimmable. There are some beaches with rocks and reef, but for the most part, the beaches are perfect for swimming. The waves break far from shore and rarely get really big. This is a great place to bring the kids. Now that I have little kids we have been spending less time in Colima and more time in Nayarit because the beaches are better for little kids. Colima is dangerous for little kids during the summer.
Is Punta Mita Nicer Than Puerto Vallarta?
The beaches of Punta Mita are nicer than the beaches in Downtown Puerto Vallarta but the city of Puerto Vallarta is way nicer than Punta Mita. Punta Mita is like a retirement community with very little to see and do besides surfing. Puerto Vallarta is a city of 300,000 people with ample activities. It is hard to compare a city so large to a village and a golf course.
Some Final Thoughts on Surfing in Punta Mita
Punta Mita is easily one of the coolest places in Mexico for surfers. It is an easy trip from the West Coast of the United States because of the Puerto Vallarta International Airport and lots of direct flights from most major airports. It is safe and the waves are fun, not dangerous. Punta Mita should be on your list if it isn’t already. I guarantee you will have a great time.