The Ultimate Guide to Punta Mita Surf

by Rich Francis

Punta Mita surf takes you to a headland on the north side of the Bahia de Banderas. We love it, because it covers all levels with some of Mexico’s best breaks.

Punta Mita surf

Punta Mita surf at a glance

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

The good

  • Fantastic variety of breaks
  • You’ll need a car to explore the spots in the region
  • Needs some good swells to get properly kicking

The bad

  • Some parts are busy these days
  • Punta Mita surf hotel stays can be pricy
  • Some smelly spots because of the fishing fleet

This guide is just one part of our complete guide to surfing Mexico

What’s in this guide to Punta Mita surf?

An introduction to Punta Mita surf

It’s the geography at Punta Mita that makes it such a surf hotspot. The place is a headland that pokes out from the beaches of the Riviera Nayarit to the top of the Bahia de Banderas. Surf breaks occur on the north, west and south sides. That means a huge swell window of over 180 degrees and somewhere where the wind is always offshore. It’s hardly a surprise that consistency is one of the draws.

There’s also good variety on offer from Punta Mita. Hardcore shortboarders will drool at the prospect of nailing one of the double-overhead reef wedges on Burros in the summer. Intermediates can whip back and practice turns on the steeper sets of La Lancha. Beginners can relax on El Anclote and other spots. You’ll see all levels in the local cantinas after a morning sesh, and Puta Mita is now the go-to place for surfers in Puerto Vallarta and even Sayulita.

More than just cracking waves, Punta de Mita (notice the ‘de’ – it refers to the village, not the whole area) is a fine place to base a Mexican surf trip. Superior-quality hotels might cost a packet, but by god they’re good. Alternatively, you could branch out to lovely little surf towns like San Pancho to find a little casita of your own (though you will need to travel to get to the surf from there).

Where is Punta Mita?

Punta Mita marks the join between the Riviera Nayarit and the Bahia de Banderas. The latter is the huge bay where the city of Puerto Vallarta makes its home. The first is a run of coastline filled with quaint Mexicana fishing towns and surf villages. The area of Punta Mita is spread over a whole headland, with the big hotel resorts ot the north and the town centre of Corral del Risco to the south.

A guide to the Punta Mita surf spots

La Lancha mellow break

We’ll start in the north, right up on the Riviera Nayarit. It’s worth mentioning because that’s more untrodden Mexican surf territory. As you move south, you come to the Punta Mita surf spots proper. They begin with Bahia and then bend to face south with El Faro and Stinky’s, which are the first surf spots that are really wihin walking distance of the town. Remember to check out wind directions and swell angles to work out the best places to hit each day.

San Pancho

In our humble opinion, San Pancho is one of the most loveable towns in all of Mexico. It’s north of Punta Mita. Between jungles and low hillsides, it unfolds with cobbled streets and spicy taquerias. It’s downright charming and we can’t wait to go back. The surf is okay, but the break on the main beach is pretty dumpy, with coral hazards underfoot that mean it’s really good intermediates only.

Check out our complete guide to the surf in the small town of San Pancho

Sayulita

Sayulita is the de facto surf capital of Mexico. We won’t go into its breaks in too much detail because we have a dedicated guide to the surf there. Suffice to say it has all levels covered but suffers from overcrowding. The town’s worth a pitstop for its charming Pacific Mexicana character (banging fish tacos!). It’s close enough to the Bahia de Banderas to be a decent base for accessing the Punta de Mita surf, too. And it’s got loads of great surf hotels.

Check out our complete guide to the surfing in Sayulita

Litibú Beach

You can surf Litibú Beach, which stretches south from San Pancho to the top of Punta Mita. However, the main reason to come here is to dodge the crowds. It’s not the best break in the region. Can be characterised as a dumpy shorebreak. Pretty typical of the waves that hit the Nayarit coast without sandbanks or reefs to shape them up. Some fun on its day but you’ll need a car from Punta Mita town.

Bahia

Bahia is the most consistent spot in all of Punta Mita. It draws in swells from NW and SW channels, so it’s often working when nothing else is. It’s not a beginner wave, but does mellow to intermediate level in the calmer winter months (November-March). The best days are on 5-10 foot at low tide (don’t even both at high). They give hollow wedge A-frames with a very quick right and a fast but rippable left. Fun apart from the paddle out. A boat from Punta de Mita harbour is the only real option.

Lighthouse (El Faro)

Lighthouse is the second spot that makes the most of the rocky reefs at the end of the Punta Mita head. With a nice low tide and an offshore (NE) you can catch some bloody cracking rides. It does need some strong swells to start working, so the punchier SW season in the summer might be better. About 20% of the winter works to a quality that makes the paddle and walk worth it. You’re chasing a pretty hollow right hander that gets good, cruisy peelers off the rocks. Not for beginners. Shortboards are perfect.

Stinky’s

Stinky’s the premier break within walking distance of Punta de Mita town (that’s the village in the middle of the Punta Mita headland). That makes it popular, but it also gets busy because it’s pretty versatile. Yep, everyone from the total beginner (who can sometimes squeeze round to uber-chilled El Anclote) to the carving pro will find something fun. On good S swells the spot is a little quicker, but it’s usually a rumbling right that offers a neat pocket and plenty of scope for getting the log out (something of a rarity in Mexico!).

Palmitas

At high tide or on the push Palmitas can give gnarly sandbanks rides that crank the G-force up to 11. When it’s holding shape – which can be unpredictable – it’s a shortboarder’s dream. Rip-worthy shoulders are on the left and the right, but you will probably have to hold out for a good N swell in the winter months (the summer can kill it dead).

La Lancha

La Lancha is now sorta’ the place to go for surf schools in PV and Sayulita when they want an out-of-town break of real quality. As such, it’s getting busier. But we’d still rank it among the top three Punta Mita surf spots. The reason is that there are actually two breaks here, one intermediate and one more beginner. They are both great fun, with gorgeous turquoise waters and high cliffs dotted with palm trees as a backdrop. Good paddle and pop practice on the beach wave which is a short ride. Better left on the wedge that’s out back. Summer swells can turn it fiesty.

Burros

Intermediates after a challenge are sure to love the waves at Punta Burros. They require some extra punch to get going but often work well on southerly swell channels in the summer months but are tamer in December and Jan (chest high is uber-fun). Wedgy and hollow, the break is predominantly a right with plenty of speed off the peak and into the shoulder. Be ready to walk through the forest to get there!

What we’d take on a surf trip to Punta Mita

WEAR (men) XCEL Premium Stretch Short Sleeve Performance Fit Rashguard | Always travel to the tropics with a rash vest. We love the Xcel Stretch range, because, well…it’s stretchy. And it cuts out 98% of damaging UVA/UVB light.

WEAR (women): Billabong Salty Daze Wetsuit Vest | A key piece of kit for longer sessions. The waters here aren’t cold but you want to be in for, what, four hours at a time, right? Also keeps the wax from rubbing your skin. And looks great.

BOARD: Lib Tech Nude Bowl Surfboard | One of the most versatile shortboards we know, the Nude Bowl has extra volume to ease the paddle out, balanced out by a high-performance nose, and a low rail for speed. It’s like the dream versatile board – perfect for long-haul surf trips.

CARRY: Dakine John John Florence Mission Surfboard Bag | Eek! We hate flying with our precious quiver. This JJF board bag has some of the best padding you could hope for.

Choosing the right Punta Mita surf hotel

Punta Mita does hotels very well. Of all the resorts in the Bahia de Banderas, this is the one with a rep for style and class. In fact, one whole side of the headland is given over to the huge Four Seasons Punta Mita. It’s a stunning hotel resort that’s always out of our budget. If you can afford it we’d say go! You get the full Mexican luxury experience, with uber-cool villas that open straight onto the Pacific and access to the surf breaks whenever you want.

Below are a few other accommodation choices in the area. They should be pretty convenient, not just for hitting the surf but also for eating out and exploring the beaches around this north end of the Bahia. (Oh, did we mention that Punta Mita is a bit of a luxury hotspot?)

Punta Mita surf hotel

Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa All Inclusive ($$-$$$)

Okay, so the Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa All Inclusive still ain’t cheap. But we don’t think you can beat the locale. It’s right above the breaks of La Lancha (all levels) and it’s also within walking access (on the coastal path) to Stinky’s. What’s more, you get a gorgeous pool and spa facility, along with spacious suites and private swimming lagoons on the Bahia de Banderas.

Punta Mita Luxury Beachfront Condo ($$)

For longer stays that make your private space and self-catering facilities all the more important, the Punta Mita Luxury Beachfront Condo is just about perfect. Gazing straight out at the sea, it’s super close to surf spots like Stinky’s and has its own fitted kitchen, a large lounge, and a gorgeous terrace area. You also get access to a private infinity pool.

Casa Koko ($$$)

Best for: Luxury group holidays to the surf

Casa Koko is simply awesome if you’re planning a group surf holiday to Punta Mita. Some of the best breaks in the area are just a stone’s throw from the garden. But paddling out might take some convincing. This pad is cool as! You might not want to leave the thatched sunning cabanas, the private gym or hammam.

The Punta Mita surf season

There are two clear seasons to know about when it comes to surfing Punta Mita. They are:

La Lancha beach

Winter (October-March)

Winter is our favourite Punta Mita surf season, but not necessarily the best for you. Basically, the months between October and March are tamer waves. Swells originate predominantly from the NW Pacific, which means they’re wrap-around sets on the south side of Punta Mita and more angular on the west. The result is a whole load more glassy days and some smaller days with chest-high sessions that create waves running for 150m+. This is the time for beginners and intermediates.

Summer (April-September)

The swell direction switches to the south in the summer months and that can cause a whole load of action to roll into Punta Mita. The breaks on the south side of town are the first hit, with only Burros and La Lancha holding up well, although El Anclote (a beginner spot by Stinky’s) is more rideable. The real joy here comes with the reefs on the outside – Lighthouse and Bahia. They harness those SW swells and offer overheads on steep waves. It can get pretty heavy and some sessions are best left to the pros and locals who know what they’re doing.

Wear: Always rash vests and board shorts in Punta Mita. No need for anything else. Reef surfers might want to pack a pair of booties.

Surf shops in Punta Mita

The Punta Mita area has a burgeoning set of surf shops. Most are located in Punta de Mita village itself. Of the ones there, we can recommend one.

Punta Mita Go Pro

Mictlan Surf

Mictlan Surf is exactly the sort of local surf shop we love to see in our surf towns. It’s not got an overload of branded goods, but there are SUP paddles, flippers, foamies and good beachwear. Probably not stocked for all your gear needs, but a good base level for the extras.

Best places to eat in Punta Mita

Finding food won’t be a problem in Punta Mita. If you manage to make it out of your hotel’s classy restaurant, think about dining in…

Teresa’s Tacos ($)

Alright, so Teresa’s Tacos doesn’t look anything fancy (it’s little more than a roadside shack). But that’s the charm. This homely Mexican kitchen churns out some of the best local food in the region. Big words. All justified. It’s a must try!

Tacos & Papas ($-$$)

Tacos & Papas is right on the main street of Punta de Mita village. It’s a rustic Mexicana joint with stoop tables and adobe walls that are only half finished. Don’t come for the architecture, come for the mouthwatering plates of beans, salad and mole. Oh, and the live music!

Arena Surf Cafe ($$)

Arena Surf Cafe is a fine spot for a pre- or post- surf bite to eat. They do lush brunch sets of waffles and bagels, along with strong coffee and fresh milkshakes. There’s a surf theme about it and pretty chilled, friendly owners.

You gotta’ get a good sunscreen for surfing in sun-drenched Mexico. Check out our guide to the five best on the market right now to get what you’re after – AKA a block with zinc oxide that’s okay for both your skin and the ocean!

Things to do when you’re not surfing in Punta Mita

Most people will just kick it by the pool or on the beach when they aren’t on the Punta Mita surf. That’s fine, but you could also…

Puerto Vallarta

You gotta’ head down the road and visit Puerto Vallarta. One of the funnest cities in the whole of Mex, this one has a nightlife to keep you dancing and smashing tequila until sunup (especially around spring break). Buses there take less than an hour and there are some darn fantastic hotels (look for somewhere in the charming Romantic Zone area)

Hike in the Sierra Madre

The mountains that frame Punta Mita to the east are called the Sierra Madre. They loom over the surf spots with misty jungles and host all sorts of monkeys and orchids. There are now a few local companies offering guided treks in them, just in case you wanted to keep active when the waves die down.

How to get to Punta Mita

  • Fly: The closest airport to Punta de Mita (the town) and Punta Mita (the area) is Puerto Vallarta. It’s a major arrival point for flights coming in from the US, because it’s also the gateway to the resorts on the Pacific. You might need a changeover in Mexico City if you’re traveling in from Europe.
  • Drive: There are now pretty good roads linking the whole of the Punta Mita area. Some people choose to get around in one of those electric golf buggies, but if yo’re not retired we’d steer clear. Staying in Punta de Mita, you won’t even need a vehicle to get to the waves. If you’re staying in Sayulita or San Pancho, ask in a local surf shops about trips to La Lancha or Stinky’s – they usually run several times a day.
  • Bus: Public buses run from Puerto Vallarta to Punta de Mita about ever 15 minutes most days. They cost just a couple of dollars and take about 1h45 (they’re slower because there are lots of stops).

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

This article is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in Mexico

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