The Ultimate Guide to Surfing Mexico

by Asia Kaczmarczyk

A whopping 7,300+ kilometres of coastline strings along the Pacific Ocean, so there’s plenty of breaks for pretty much everyone who comes surfing Mexico!

Surfer in Mexico

Surfing Mexico at a glance

The good:

  • Awesome beach break barrels (Puerto E – that’s you!)
  • Fun and characterful surf towns
  • Brilliant selection of Mexican surf schools
  • It’s cheap

The bad:

  • Some places can be dangerous (this is Mexico, yo!)
  • Wave variety can be an issue in some regions
  • It’s become a bigger surf destination (visit now to dodge the line-up crowds!)

This guide is a part of our larger guide to surfing North America.

What will I find in this guide to surfing Mexico?

An introduction to surfing in Mexico

Mexico caps off the bottom of North America with a whopping 4,500 miles of Pacific Ocean shoreline. Taking over from where the legendary breaks of San Diego and SoCal leave off, it’s hardly a surprise that it has oodles of waves.

They begin in earnest right over the US border in the Baja. That’s long been a spring breaker’s party hub, but also offers up big wave swells in winter and mellow beaches in the summer months. That’s only the beginning of things, because region after region follows, each with their own enticing barrels and peaks. Some – Oaxaca and Salina Cruz – are a perennial favourite of pros on the tour. Others – Sayulita and Nayarit – beckon beginners with cruisy longboard waves.

But any veteran of this country’s coast will tell you that Mexico surfing isn’t just about the waves themselves. Boasting gleaming beaches fringed by stooping palms, cool surf towns like San Pancho and Sayulita, taco stands, mezcal, tequila, margaritas and mariachi, it’s one darn fine place to unwind and embrace the Latin spirit.

If we had to pick downsides to surfing in Mexico, we’d say there’s always a question mark over safety here. This is the country that gave the world Narcos, remember, and some stretches of the Pacific Coast (like Sinaloa, for example) have been known to have some serious cartel trouble. Regarding the waves themselves, there’s a little lacking in variety. You don’t get Bali’s mix of beaches and reefs. It’s mainly heavy sand-bottomed breaks and some points. But, hey, that’s being uber picky!

Surfing Mexico Colima

Where’s the best surfing in Mexico?

Mark these spots on your Mexico surf map, folks! They are the chart toppers and the show stoppers, the places with the finest waves in the land of tacos and sombreros. We’ve also thrown in a few guides to lesser-known spots, where you might find a little more surfing in Mexico for beginners or surf towns that really tickle the wanderlust. Enjoy…

Sayulita

Sayulita wave

Sayulita is a vibrant surf town that’s smack dab in the heart of the so-called Riviera Nayarit. Anyone searching for surfing in Mexico for beginners should have it on the radar. That’s for the duo of breaks that roll into the main playa. One’s a mellow little ride that’s just about tailor-made for starting out on a foamy. The other is more challenging, so you can progress as your trip goes on. Oh, and you’ll discover plenty extra breaks and points in the region, from sleek Punta Mita to intermediate-fav La Lancha and beyond.

Read our full guide to Sayulita surf

San Pancho

San Pancho surfer

We’ve got a serious soft spot for San Pancho. We won’t say it’s all down to the surf. It’s not. The waves here aren’t anything crazy to write home about. I mean, they are consistent and challenging, but suffer from blowouts and steep take-offs that can dump you onto the reef. The main thing is that San Pancho sits near some great breaks, like La Lancha and Sayulita. Spend your days riding those and then return to the charming beach town for margaritas and mariachi on the streets – it’s a seriously lovely place to be!

Read our full guide to San Pancho surf

Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta Ocean

Puerto Vallarta is a sprawling city in the middle of the beautiful Bahía de Banderas. To the south are gorgeous paradise beaches peppered with palm trees. To the north, you’ll enter the Riviera Nayarit, which is where some of the very best breaks on the Mexican Pacific crash into the shore. We’re talking the likes of Punta Mita, Punta Burros, La Lancha, Sayulita – the list goes on. Basically, the city offers the night-time vibes, and there are plenty of fun places to get surfing during the day.

Read our full guide to Puerto Vallarta surf

Puerto Escondido

Puerto Escondido Beach

Puerto Escondido surf got its rep (that’s a world-famous rep) for hardcore beach breaks. We’re talking in the ilk of Portugal’s Supertubos here – big barrelling overheads with quick takeoffs and unforgiving drops. Riders have been flocking to the big break along Playa Zicatela since the 1950s. However, Puerto Escondido surf has gone a tad more mainstream in recent decades. There are places for beginners a little further north that the local surf schools know about, and regular competitions that draw big crowds.

Read our full guide to Puerto Escondido surfing

Oaxaca

Oaxaca beach

The home of aforementioned Puerto Escondido (see above), Oaxaca is now a staple for anyone surfing Mexico. It’s famed for its heavy beach-break A-frames, which are the setting for lots of competitions. However, that’s just one chapter. There’s lots for less-experienced surfers to boot. Places like Zipolite and La Punta take care of that. Intermediates, meanwhile, can paddle out to the scenic cove points of Carrizalillo (that’s just like a Mexican Hiriketiya, for any of you Sri Lanka lovers) and La Bocana A-frames.

A guide to the Mexico surfing season

Generally speaking, the best surfing in Mexico happens in the summer months (April to September). That’s when the dominant swell changes to S-SW and morning offshores are common.

Summer (April to October)

Generally speaking, the best surfing in Mexico for experts happens in the summer months (April to September). That’s when the dominant swell changes to S-SW and morning offshores are common. The key here is that direction of the groundswell is ranging straight off the Southern Ocean. In fact, swells are generated as far afield as the Tasman Sea and New Zealand, which can add some real punch to the waves.

In addition to that, the late summer months (July onwards) adds the unpredictability of the Pacific hurricane season. Storms in the ocean churn up hefty undercurrents that add even more moxie to the Mexican breaks. At this time, it’s normal to see triple overheads, and you’ll see only the most seasoned riders risking the paddle out to breaks like Zicatela in Escondido. The downside of the summer is the quick change from morning offshores, which can cause blowouts anytime after 11 am. Dawnies it is, folks.

Rash vest

Winter (November to March)

Winter is the time to go surfing in Mexico for beginners. S-SW swells flip to N-NW swells, which keeps heights lower and periods more predictable. The weather is also nicer as the hurricane season drops away. Glassy, still mornings are the norm, so you’d be wise to get out in the water earlier. Extra chance of catching a nice N-NE offshore wind, too. That’s great news in the bigger breaks, like Puerto Escondido and Barra de la Cruz. Meanwhile, the smaller breaks, like La Lancha in Nayarit and other spots on the Baja become perfect for novices on a surf camp.

One downside of the winter months is that lots of the towns around the Mexican Pacific can fill to bursting with American snowbirds. Of course, that brings some good party with it, but you could find it trickier to get a space on the beach – and in the line-up.

Rash vest

What shall I wear for surfing in Mexico?

Mexico benefits from balmy waters pretty much all year round. That means a vast majority of its best surf spots will be A-okay with just a rash vest and board shorts. There are one or two exceptions to the rule. They come the further north you go. In the Baja and Baja California, the water is actually only a few degrees warmer than over in SoCal, which means you’ll need to bring along either a 3/2 or a 4/3, depending on how well you handle the chill. Booties are also recommended for getting in and out of reef and point break spots, especially in the rugged Baja.

Surfing Mexico La Lancha

Top things to do in Mexico when you’re not surfing

Surfing Mexico is the perfect excuse to delve into one of the most enthralling countries on the planet. From Wild West canyons speckled with cacti and sloshing with tequila all the way to soaring volcanos and misty jungles, there’s loads to keep you busy when the waves are low in these parts…

Explore the Yucatan Peninsula

We know the Yucatan is all the way out on the far east coast of Mexico. However, you should be able to book an internal flight there for under $100. So, once you’re done surfing Mexico Pacific waves, why not hop over to see the white-sand beaches and enthralling historical ruins that abound? They include the vine-dressed temples of Chichen Itza and the gleaming shores of Tulum. Oh, and the party city of Cancun isn’t far – just saying.

Yucatan Peninsula

Morelia

If you’re keen to discover some of the charm of inland Mexico, then the state capital of Michoacán is certainly worth a visit. Founded way back in 1541, it’s a quaint and pretty town with cobbled streets and stone-dressed cottages. At its heart is a vast plaza with a fine example of a colonial-era cathedral. It’s also a great place to launch a trip down to the amazing Mariposa butterfly reserves.

Morelia

Tequila

The town of Tequila can be accessed after just a single day’s bus ride from the Riviera Nayarit. If you can’t already guess the reason you’d want to visit, then it’s probably not something that should be on the menu. If you can, then get ready for tasting sessions in age-old distilleries and plenty of history related to Mexico’s favourite drink.

Tequila

Bahía de Banderas

The Bahía de Banderas stretches south and north from Puerto Vallarta. The north side hosts hotspots for surfing Mexico, like Sayulita and San Pancho. The south side is more idyllic. It’s linked by coastal paths that weave through palm and pine groves to picture-perfect beaches. The most beautiful of the lot is probably remote Yelapa, but we also loved Playa Las Ánimas (which you can walk to in a single bout from PV).

Bahía de Banderas

Guanajuato

Few cities in the world can match the sheer audacity of Guanajuato. Steeped in the history of silver mining, it’s a good 600 kilometres from the surf towns around Puerto Vallarta. But that shouldn’t deter you, because the trip in can take you past vast agave plantations (used to make tequila) and dusty mountain ranges. But back to the city itself. A maze of old riverbeds is now a labyrinth of traffic arteries beneath (literally underground) the cobbled streets. Above, beautiful colonial plazas meet narrow alleys by gorgeous cathedrals and Spanish-style mansions. It’s one of the most fascinating cities we’ve ever visited.

Guanajuato

Travel essentials for anyone surfing Mexico

Quick facts

  • Population: 126 million
  • Currency: Peso (MEX/$)
  • Capital: Mexico City (CDMX)
  • Size: 1.97 million km²

Where exactly is Mexico?

Mexico is the last country in North America before you cross over into Central America. It spreads between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. To the south, it borders Guatemala and Belize. To the north, it borders the United States.

How to get to Mexico

Virtually all international travellers get to Mexico by flying. The largest gateway to the country from the air (and one of the largest in the whole region) is Mexico City Airport. Sadly, that’s more than 300 kilometres and a few mountain ranges from the closest point on the coast around Acapulco. That means to connect to the best surfing in Mexico, you’ll need to hop on a connecting flight. They shouldn’t be too much.

Alternatively, you can look for a flight that will take you directly into Puerto Vallarta or the city of Oaxaca. The first is linked to the major surf spots of the Riviera Nayarit. The other is the gateway to the southern coast of Oaxaca, where you’ll find Puerto Escondido. There are also loads of direct flights to San Joe del Cabo, where the party town of Cabo San Lucas gives way to the surf breaks of the Baja California Sur.

How to travel around Mexico

Folks surfing Mexico will often just fly in and fly out of a single destination, so there’s no need to get around. The reason? This country is a whopping 1.97 million km². Getting from A to B can be a nightmare, especially when you factor in the rugged mountain ranges, jungles and deserts that can get in the way. If you do want to move around, you could consider:

  • Car rentals: A lot of people get their own wheels. They are great for discovering hidden surf breaks. However, beware of driving at night and in dangerous regions – there have been reports of murders and muggings!
  • VIP buses: One of the pleasant surprises of our last Mexican surfing trip (2019) was just how awesome the buses are. You can pay a little extra and get VIP service to go in style. They have reclining seats with HUGE headrests and even entertainment screens.
  • Flights: The internal flight market in Mexico is pretty good. You can get cheap deals – particularly on those must-buy connecting flights from Mexico City to the coast – on carriers like viva Aerobus, Volaris, along with AeroMexico.

If you’ve got anything to add to this ultimate guide to surfing Mexico, then we’d sure love to hear it in the comments below! We’re always looking to update and change the information here so it’s in line with what’s currently happening in the country– otherwise, it would hardly be the ultimate guide, eh!?