Surfing in Nayarit, Mexico

Where Can You Go Surfing in Nayarit Mexico? Top Surf Beaches

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The Mexican state of Nayarit is one of Mexico’s premier surfing destinations. The consistent waves, warm water, and lush jungle setting draw crowds of surfers from all over the world. Surfing in Nayarit is particularly good for beginning and intermediate-level skill-level surfers because of the average wave shape and wave size. 

Nayarit is a small state located on the Pacific coast of mainland Mexico. It is one of the smallest states in Mexico in terms of population and was only founded as a state in 1917 during the Mexican Revolution. It was a part of Jalisco up till then and a part of Nueva Galicia during the Spanish era. 

View of the surf from the Palladium Hotel

Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort

A family-friendly all-inclusive a great wave

Nayarit doesn’t have the same international fanfare that Baja, Sinaloa, or Jalisco have but it is an underground heavy hitter. Proximity to the Puerto Vallarta International Airport means that surfers have been exploring the area and developing a local surf industry. 

The surf scene in Nayarit has international celebrities, cult-favorite surf contests, surf camps, and a good number of local surf shops. It is really easy to find a surfboard to rent or pick up an extra bar of surf wax if you need it. 

If you want to score the best waves and really hone in on the best conditions for each swell, a car is advantageous. Rent with Discover Rental Cars to save money on insurance. 

Renting a car in Mexico is expensive because of the insurance premiums. They usually surprise you with a price double what you were quoted online because of overpriced insurance coverage. Discover Rental Cars uses all the same rental car agencies but they sell you a premium insurance policy from a third party. 

The last time I rented a car the savings was over US$30 per day with Discover Rentals. 

An Overview Of Surfing In Nayarit

Territorially, Nayarit is the ninth smallest state in Mexico. It is intrinsically shaped by the Pacific Ocean. When it comes to surfing, only about half the state is regularly visited by traveling surfers. 

The main surfing zones of Nayarit run from the southern border with Jalisco, at Puerto Vallarta, and run up to San Blas. The coastal area north of San Blas is mostly swamp and marshlands that I haven’t had an opportunity to explore yet. Playa Novillero is considered to be the longest stretch of beach in Mexico so you know there are waves but I don’t know what the conditions are like. 

Fun waves in Sayulita, Nayarit

This article is going to focus on the most popular surfing beaches in Nayarit and some cool surf towns near them. 

If you are an intermediate-level surfer that lives in North America then Nayarit needs to be on your list of upcoming surf destinations. It is easy to get to and an absolute pleasure to surf. 

The principal surfing area of Nayarit runs from Punta Mita to San Blas. Punta Mita is very close to the Puerto Vallarta International Airport and San Blas is very close to Tepic making transportation simple. 

I see some guys out at San Blas that just fly in for the biggest swells of the year. When they see a huge south swell on the forecast it gives them a week to make travel plans. South swells arrive in the summertime which is the low season so flights are cheap and transportation is quick. 

Little tube surfing Stoner's Point San Blas

Most surf towns have a couple of different waves for both beginners and intermediate surfers. Advanced-level surfers will need a significant swell to get excited. Even when the waves are big at the premier breaks, beginners can find smaller waves down the beach or at the designated beginner spots

The average days are great for beginners with slow-rolling waves that are easy to pop up on. Most of the professional surfers tend to congregate in other parts of Mexico like Puerto Escondido and Boca de Pascuales where the waves are bigger and heavier, on average. 

Puna Mita

Punta Mita Nayarit surf map

Punta de Mita is a town on the north shore of the Banderas Bay next to a luxury development called Punta Mita.

A lot of people refer to the whole area west of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle as the Punta Mita area.

There are great waves along the entire peninsula and the highest concentration of the best spots in one small stretch of the Riviera Nayarit. 

1. Punta Burros

Heading from south to north (or east to west on this stretch of the coast) Punta Burros has some of the best surfing in Nayarit and is the closest break to the Puerto Vallarta Airport. 

The name might be a little bit of a misnomer because Burros doesn’t break like a traditional point break such as Stoner’s. It is a super fun reef break with a long right and a short left. 

While Burros isn’t known as a hollow wave, it is one of the steepest waves in the area. I still think that Burros is best suited for a longboard but you will see lots of people riding shortboards and boogie boards.

The beach in front of Burros is one of the most beautiful beaches in Nayarit with white sand, clear water, and a lovely view of the Sierra Madre Mountains above Puerto Vallarta. 

There has been some major construction by Burros with two massive hotel properties on either side of the break but most of those guests are not surfers. There is a short trail from a small parking lot next to the Palladium. The place gets busy on the weekend and you may need to park up on the highway. 

2. Playa La Lancha

Two miles west of Burros is La Lancha, one of the best beaches for beginner surfers in Mexico. It is a favorite beach for local families to picnic and spend the weekend relaxing. 

At one point La Lancha was completely virgin but development is slowly creeping in. There is a private ‘pop up’ beach club and developers are building million-dollar mansions on either side of the beach. In years past, the local community fought the developers for continued access to this treasured beach and surf spot. 

La Lancha Beach is accessible via a 1 km-long trail from the highway. The trailhead can be found in front of the Pemex strip mall. There is a WildMex surf lessons shop and a great seafood restaurant called Makai.

WildMex set up their surf shop near La Lancha Beach because it is one of the best places to learn how to surf in Nayarit. There is a combination of sand and reef but on the high tide, it is mostly sand. The surf instructors have a great little section of sand bar to push beginners into their first waves.

La Lancha is one the best beaches for surfing in Nayarit that you need to check out. Just make sure to pack your trash and leave the beach cleaner than you found it. 

3. Playa El Anclote

Avenida El Anclote is the beachfront road in the town of Punta de Mita and Playa El Anclote is the beach in front. Parking can be a little hard to find with all the restaurants and boutiques in the area but surfers prefer to get up early before it gets busy. 

There are two different surf spots on either side of the boat harbor. Stinky’s is on the east side of the jetties and Anclote is on the west side. They are both longboard and SUP waves that gently break. 

Stinky’s break is a sand bottom surf spot while Anclote is covered with small, round stones that look like riverrocks. The waves don’t get big here often so it is a great place for beginners to learn how to surf. 

The biggest waves that I have seen at El Anclote were on a hurricane swell that shut down the town one day later. Most of the year, the waves are small and perfect for learning to surf. 

4. La Bahía & El Faro

Surfers at La Bahia in Nayarit

There are a couple of great surf spots beyond the gates of the Punta Mita resort on the very tip of the peninsula. There are a bunch of very expensive hotels and villas out that way that most of us will never have the opportunity to stay at. 

The rest of us will either walk an hour down the beach or ride a small panga boat into the breaks. 

El Faro is the right-hand point break at the tip of the peninsula. While there is no lighthouse (faro) here today I suspect there was one back in the day because this is the entrance to the Banderas Bay and there is still a lighthouse on the southern entrance to the bay in Cabo Corrientes. It is a great wave that lines up for a long way. At low tide some of the reef is exposed so it is better on a mid tide or high tide and big swell.  

La Bahía is a small cove around the corner from El Faro on the outside of the bay. It picks up just about any swell direction and is the most consistent break in the region.

Sayulita – The Capital Of Surfing In Nayarit

Sayulita is one of the two most important surf towns in Mexico. While Playa Zicatela in the state of Oaxaca caters to pro surfers looking for big waves, Sayulita caters to surfers of all skill levels. 

The town of Sayulita has a bohemian, hippy vibe with lots of boutiques and small restaurants. This is where most people stay when they are looking to surf in Nayarit because of the fun things to do out of the waver. 

There are some fun waves in Sayulita but many of the surf shops offer daily surf trips to Punta Mita. 

The waves in Sayulita can get crowded because the waves tend to break in the same place every time which favors the more advanced surfers.

The swell window in Sayulita is wide open and there are waves in both the winter months and the summer months. It has consistent small to medium-sized waves most of the year.

5. Sayulita Rivermouth

Sayulita party wave

The main surf break in Sayulita is the river mouth which builds a little reef by depositing rocks and the occasional car into the lineup. 

The most consistent and crowded break is the right off the river mouth because it is right in town. It can get really competitive when the waves are fickle because there are a lot of rippers in town. 

Surfing Sayulita on a surf trip

I have always enjoyed surfing the left on the other side of the river mouth because it feels like there are fewer people over there. I have scored the left on a couple of great hurricane swells that lined up for what felt like 100 meters or more. 

The only problem with hurricane swells is the aftermath of shutting down the roads because of landslides. Hunker down in case of a hurricane. You don’t want to be on the roads even the day after a huge rain. 

San Pancho

San Pancho is a great little town that feels like a complement to Sayulita. It is either a ten-minute drive down the highway or a one-hour walk down the beach from one to another. 

Both San Pancho and Sayulita have a hippy vibe but San Pancho attracts a little older crowd. The restaurant scene seems to be geared toward an older demographic. There are some great places to eat, a coveted community center, and a strong sense of community, and some waves.

6. San Pancho Beach Break

Surfing in Nayarit

The waves in San Pancho break consistently on the southern side of the beach in front of the lagoon. It is a shifty beach break with shallow water and strong currents. 

Most of the times that I have surfed San Pancho the wave was for intermediate to advanced-level surfers because it stands up quickly forming a fast wave. It isn’t a long wave and there are plenty of closed-out sets but but enough corners to have some fun. 

The waves at San Pancho tend to break in shallow water so there isn’t a lot of room to bail out or do a flip underwater. That sand is as hard as cement when you are falling from the sky on a big one. Watch out. 

I stayed at the old Costa Azul Surf Camp like 15 years ago and there were waves out front, on the far north side of San Pancho, but the guys at the camp said that wave never breaks. It couldn’t hurt to check on a huge northwest swell but not something that I would count on for a quick vacation. 

Chacala – The Next Luxury Beach Resort

The surf town of Chacala is going through some changes. There is a new freeway under construction that is making Chacala the closest beach to Guadalajara. The town is growing but at a more measured pace than Sayulita and San Pancho. 

Some very exclusive gated communities in Chacala attract wealthy vacationers renting mansions right on the beach. There is also a middle-class beach community with great restaurants and mid-range hotels. 

The beach in Chacala doesn’t have waves but most people traveling to surf here will use the small harbor to access La Caleta, the wave about 20 minutes away.

7. La Caleta

La Caleta is a celebrated left hand point break in the middle of the jungle. It breaks over shallow reef covered in sea urchins that many surfers will end up picking out of their feet. This is the reason that I carry a first aid kit in my car with a good pair of tweezers. 

The wave at La Caleta is easy to paddle into and only starts to stand up a little further on the inside where it races down the line. There is plenty of room for big turns and hacks off the top. 

La Caleta can get pretty crowded on a good swell on the weekend but there are also times when the place is firing and nobody around. 

Most people take a boat in from Chacala harbor. They will drop you off and pick you up at a prearranged time. 

Others will walk in from the town of Chacala along a somewhat challenging trail. It is on Google Maps and All Trails but the jungle grows quickly during the rainy season and it isn’t maintained very well. That is also what makes the area so beautiful. It is one of my favorite places to explore because it feels prehistoric and a dinosaur could come out of the foliage at any time. 

Vehicles with four-wheel drive can access La Caleta from the Maralto Ranch but there are often obstacles during the rainy season. Fallen trees make the passage difficult for large campers. 

The first time I took my wife here, we were the only ones on the beach when a hunting party came out of nowhere. There were six people with shotguns and a pack of hunting dogs. Everybody was amiable but the sight of a large group of armed men always raises the heart rate. 

San Blas – Quintessential Nayarit Surf Culture

The old church in San Blas, Nayarit

San Blas is a humble surf town and my favorite place to hang out in Nayarit. It is the historic port town 30 minutes away from Tepic, the capital of the state. Even though it is a little run down, San Blas is an authentic Mexican beach town with great surf.

Keep in mind that San Blas has a reputation for bugs. The surrounding area is mostly estuary and there are lots of bugs that bite. Make sure to take precautions like using bug spray or wearing long sleeves. Some years the bugs are aggressive and others they are not. 

8. Playa Borrego

Playa Borrego in San Blas Nayarit

Playa Borrego is the main beach in San Blas. It is a large sandbar that stretches between the harbor and the estuary. 

The waves at Playa Borrego can be fun but it isn’t worth flying around the world to get here and surf this wave. I really enjoyed staying at Stoner’s Surf Camp on Playa Borrego and surfing out front when the swell was too small for Stoner’s to break.

9. Las Islitas

Las Islitas is the most popular beach for families from Tepic. It is located in the municipality of San Blas but is located on the far side of the estuary. Essentially, it is a really long point break (doesn’t connect) on the north shore of the Matanchén Bay.

The Matanchén Bay only gets waves on the biggest swells of the season. The waves have to be absolutely macking and then Las Islitas will have little runners going down the point with beautiful form. 

This is a great place to teach the kids how to surf because the waves are small and break in shallow water.

The best waves break off of a rock in front of Restaurante Mysis III. I have an absolute blast here with my kids.

10 . Stoner’s Point – The Best Surfing in Nayarit

Stoner’s Point is a regional classic but fickle wave. It is a rare treat to score the top surf spot in Nayarit and something that you will remember for the rest of your life. The best time to watch the swell forecast is in the summer when a huge south swell is on the radar. 

There was a time when Stoner’s broke all the time and the Matanchén Bay won a Guinness Record for the longest wave in the world. Unfortunately, a passing hurricane moved all the sand around and it doesn’t break like that much anymore. 

When it is working, Stoner’s is one of the best waves in Mexico. It is steep and runs down the line for 500 meters. There is a lot of room to do turns but much like Rincon in Carpenteria, a surfer needs to learn how to read the wave.  

Bring bug spray because this is mosquito-central. 

Best Surf Hotels in Nayarit

My top choice for the best surf hotel in Nayarit is the Grand Palladium Vallarta. The hotel is not in Vallarta. It is not in the state of Jalisco but in Punta de Mita, Nayarit.

The Grand Palladium is the most accessible of the all-inclusive resorts in the area and there are some deals out there. A bunch of the rooms have views of Burros surf spot and you can walk right down to it. Burros is the best spot in the area.

Surf Camps In Nayarit

  • WildMex
  • Luna Azul

Final Thoughts on Surfing in Nayarit

Nayarit has a lot of the best surfing in Mexico. There is a well-developed surf culture with local surf instructors, board rentals, and surf shops where you can pick up a bar of surf wax. 

One of the best parts of taking a surf trip to Nayarit is the accessibility. It is very easy to fly to Nayarit and quickly get to the beach from just about anywhere in North America. If you live in San Diego, it is easier and cheaper to surf Nayarit than it is to visit Hawaii. Plus, it is less crowded. 

For those of you looking to take surf lessons, Nayarit has some of the best beaches in the world to learn how to surf. Warm water, incredible waves, and a lovely coastal culture. I think that everyone here will admit that coastal Mexican food is reason enough to travel to Nayarit but if you are surfing, that is just the icing on the cake.

I hope you enjoyed reading my article and will be booking your travel soon. Have a great trip. 

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