With nearly 6,000 miles (9,000 kms) of stunning coastline decorated by nature with long sandy beaches, dramatic cliff faces and sheltered coves, it’s no wonder that surfing in Mexico is on the bucket list of so many surfers around the world – kooks and pros alike.
The best surfing in Mexico is on the Pacific side, where the deep Southern Ocean generates powerful swells that produce perfect point break walls, gentle beach breaks and some of the most spectacular barrels found anywhere on the planet. Clear blue warm water means that wetsuits are hardly necessary.
The best conditions for surfing in Mexico are found from April to October, although there are great waves throughout the year. Below are my top 3 destinations for surfing in Mexico. Each providing literally dozens of superb surfing spots, ideal for all skills. These towns have a strong surfing culture with no shortage of surf schools and shops. You can easily buy, hire or repair surfboards and other gear on arrival.
Right, let’s get to it!
Where Are the Best Places for Surfing in Mexico?
Surfing in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
This little fishing village has everything to offer all surfers and anyone else in search of glorious sunshine, golden beaches, perfect waves and high rugged cliffs overlooking the crystal blue ocean. Throw in stunning scenery, a laid-back lifestyle, freshly-caught seafood and cool margaritas around each corner, and you have the perfect beach holiday destination!
Where Can I Find Great Surfing in Peurto Escondido?
Puerto Escondido has numerous beaches and coves to provide everything any surfer could ever wish. From gentle ankle-slappers for the complete novices, to bone-crushing widow-makers for those not scared of dying, and everything in between.
Great beaches for novices are Playa Marinero, Principal, Coral, Bochoco and the magical Carrizalillo. The waves there are soft and gentle, which also make these beaches perfect for snorkelling, body boarding, bathing, or just lazing in the sun soaking in the breathtaking views.
Nestled in between two steep cliffs, Carrizalillo is a tiny, 200 metre beach, accessed only by a steep 167 step stairway, but the effort is certainly worth it. It holds a gentle left-hand point break but you may also get a decent right-hander when the swell picks up. It can become a little crowded during June/July, particularly when the surfing schools are operating, but numerous other beaches and sheltered coves close by provide a little more solitude.
For the more seasoned surfers, La Punta would be a good choice. It has both small and bigger waves with lovely left-hand breaks peeling off long and slow and easy to ride. But when the swell picks up and 12 footers come hurtling in, things can become pretty hectic. An awesome place to surf!
And then we come to the Holy Grail of Mexico surfing – the 3 km golden beach of Zicatela, the home of monstrous waves, smashed boards, bent egos and the “Mexican Pipeline”! Be warned: Zicatela is not for the faint hearted – it is not a bathing beach. It has one of the best and consistent beach breaks in the world, providing powerful left and right handers as well as spectacular barrels. Exactly why it hosts the annual World Surfing League’s Puerto Escondido Challenge.
If you are not in that league, watching these insane daredevils dicing with the foam and their lives, will leave you in awe. Local ace, Coco Nogales, summed up Zicatela perfectly in 2011. “Some people love it, but some people get pounded, turn around, head for home and never come back!” Enough said.
What Can I Do in Peurto Escondido, Other Than Surfing?
Apart from surfing there is tons of stuff to do in Puerto Escondido, none more unique than taking a bioluminescence night tour to the Manialtepec Lagoon. Nature puts on a spectacular show as millions of microorganisms illuminate and glow in the dark when disturbed by the boat or as you swim amongst them.
Other must-do experiences in Peurto Escondido include the turtle release tour, where you get to help baby turtles reach the ocean from their nests and learn about these endangered creatures. You could also take a boat cruise on the crystal blue Pacific Ocean to view dolphins, turtles and humpback whales… a truly unforgettable experience!
Where to Stay in Peurto Escondido?
Puerto Escondido has loads of lodging to suit all tastes and budgets. It can be reached by air from Mexico City, Oaxaca City and Guadalajara, and can also be reached by road.
Surfing in Sayulita
This picturesque little fishing village is a really great family destination, offering all-styles of accommodation, from boutique hotels to surf hostels, plenty of bars, restaurants, street vendors and great scenery. It has however become a tourist trap in recent years during peak season, but that too adds to the character and vibe of this magical and colourful place.
Where is Sayulita and How Do I Get There?
Sayulita is situated along the Pacific coastline in the Riviera Nyarit, about 40 kms (25 miles) north of the resort town of Puerto Vallarta. The Puerto Vallarta airport is served with regular flights from Guadalajara and most US cities as well as Canada and even the UK. It can also be reached by road from Guadalajara, with VIP buses offering a 5-hour comfortable ride. A quick and cheap taxi ride will get you to Sayulita as well.
Where To Go Surfing in Sayulita
The main Sayulita Beach in the centre of the town is excellent for beginner surfers as it is protected from the open ocean. There are both left and right handers that can provide long rides here, but are usually too gentle for any real challenge. The left of the beach has a sandy bottom, ideal for beginners, while the rocky section on the right is faster and more challenging for the more experienced. The downside of this beach is that it can get really crowded during peak season.
If you are looking for a quieter beach, a short walk to your left through the local cemetery will take you to Playa De Los Muertos (Beach of the Dead). The name sounds pretty gnarly but it is only named so because of the cemetery. This little beach is more protected with even fewer waves, but is great for swimming and for small children.
Best Places to Surf Near to Sayulita
The best surfing beaches around Sayulita are found out of town. A short drive to the north will take you to the seaside town of San Pancho. The waves here have more punch, offering decent left hand breaks on a soft sandy bottom. Mid to low tide offers the best conditions.
Less than a 30 minute drive to the south will take you past several less visited beaches, and the small town of Punta Mita. Just before the town is Litibu, a normally secluded beach, ideal for all-level surfers and beginners looking for waves a little bigger than those at Sayulita.
More experienced and advanced surfers can enjoy fast right hand breaks at El Faro (The Lighthouse), located near the tip of Punta Mita, with low to mid-tide providing the best conditions.
A little further south is another great surfing spot near Sayulita – La Lancha Beach, providing consistent waves, with both right and left hand breaks. It is also less congested especially when the surf picks up and the Groms and Jakes go home.
What To Do In Sayulita – Other Than Surfing?
Exploring this little town is an experience all on its own. The Town Square is bursting with colour, which will keep any photographer clicking for hours. Bars, restaurants, street vendors, shops and entertainers performing all day and night amongst the brightly colourful facades and street art, really brings life and character to this town.
A day trip to the uninhibited Marietas Islands just off the coast is a must if you’re looking for a little adventure. Snorkelers and scuba divers will be mesmerised by the abundance of marine life here, and if you’re there between December and March, you may see humpback whales on the way. Visiting Playa del Amor, an iconic hidden beach created by a volcano is a must, but it’s only accessible by swimming. Too stunning for words! Boat trips can be booked from Puerto Vallarta or Punta Mita.
If you’re in Sayulita between 28 October and 2 November, you’re in for a unique Mexican festival you will never forget – Dia De Los Muertos. (The Day of the Dead!) No, there is no mourning here! This is a festival of pure joy and celebration where families display colourful shrines and altars everywhere, remembering and honouring family members who have passed on.
Streets are filled with vendors, food stalls and performers do their thing, while live music and the intoxicating aromas of food, flowers and sheer happiness permeate the air, setting all your senses alight. Everyone, including children, dress up and paint their faces, resembling skulls and walking corpses, and participate in the traditional night walk from the Town Square to the cemetery. This is one of the most spectacular cultural events I have ever witnessed. They really do have dancing horses!
Surfing in Todos Santos, Baja
If you want to be far from the madding crowds, head for Todos Santos, on the south west end of the Baja California Peninsula. This charming cobblestone town has ample accommodation for all tastes, including basic camping on the edge of the water. It is a great place to stay as it lies in close proximity to miles of beaches to its north and south, perfect for both beginners and hotshot surfers. It is very popular with artists and has several art galleries, a local history museum, and is also the home of the famous “Hotel California”, where legend has it that… I’m sure you know the story.
Ocean temperature here varies from 20°C (68°F) in winter to 30°C (86°F) in the summer months, which is a little cooler than the southern region, but still a lot warmer than the top of the Peninsula.
Where is the Best Surfing in Todos Santos?
The entire section around Todos is remote and you can find pristine beaches with decent waves virtually everywhere, but is not really ideal for beginner surfers and casual swimming. Waves can pop up out of nowhere surging high up the beaches so be careful with kids close to the water at all times.
A short drive to the north, you’ll find La Pastora, which offers a lovely right hand break for the more experienced surfers. A few miles to the south of Todos, is another great surfing spot – San Pedrito. Waves here can get quite big and a little intimidating for novices, but perfect for the more experienced. A few miles further south is another popular surf hotspot – Los Cerritos. This picturesque beach offers challenging A-frame breaks for experienced surfers, especially in the winter months, but can also provide gentle waves for novices in calm conditions. In fact, the entire stretch right down to Cabo San Lucas and beyond has a number of excellent surfing spots.
Be sure to hit up my friends at CRT Surf School for board rentals or lessons!
Best Activities Around Todos Santos?
There are loads of food and drink joints in this area as well as several interesting hiking trails that offer a break from the water and majestic scenery. The Sugar Port trail is 6.9 km long while the 1.6 km long Old Port Trail is more suited for the not so energetic… but you’re a surfer, right? Sunsets from these spots are to die for.
Wherever you are, keep a lookout for whales, particularly during January and February. A stone’s throw from Todos are the impressive cliffs and fishing beach of Punta Lobos, where one can enjoy stunning scenery and can buy freshly-caught fish straight off the boats. Just north of Todos is the Turtle Sanctuary of Tortugueros Las Playitas, where you get to cheer baby turtles as they take their first steps and race towards the ocean after sunset. They hatch daily between November and March. Just bring a camera and a torch. A real treat for kids and adults.
How Do I Get to Todos Santos?
You can fly directly to La Paz or Los Cabos from most US cities and either take a taxi or drive south or north respectively on Highway 19 to Todos. The trip from La Paz will take approximately and hour and a half, while the trip from Los Cabos will take about an hour.
The Best Surfing in Mexico
I hope this list of my favourite locations for surfing in Mexico is helpful to you! Mexico is of course a big place with plenty of coastline.
There are a load of other places that could be included, but that would make a very long list.
All I know is I cannot wait to get back out there.