Mexico has an embarrassment of sandy shores and some of the most impressively azure waters in the world. Add to this a sprawling Pacific coastline and you have one of the world’ great surf locations. We’ve compiled our list of the top surf spots across Mexico – ideal whether you’re an experienced rider or just a novice – spanning from the Baja Peninsula all the way down to Oaxaca.
Barra de la Cruz, Oaxaca
A 40-minute drive east of the big resort town of Huatulco, on the Pacific Coast of Oaxaca, this indigenous village turned barefoot-chic hipster surf-town, draws novice wave riders all year round. Semi-pros come between March and October when heavy swells produce tubing waves to the right-hand point break at the western end of the village beach. There’s plenty to do away from the sea too – with good hill-hiking in the surrounding forests, including to the Laguna el Portrerón lake.
Rosarito, Baja Norte
You’ll hear more English than Spanish spoken in Rosarito village. Just a 30-minute drive from San Diego in the USA, it’s a hugely popular American retirement location. The long beach has excellent surf – especially just south of the golf course at surf Baja Malibu, which boasts one of the best beach breaks in northern Baja California. The town-center beach is popular with novices, and there are plenty of surf shops here, offering board hire and classes.
East Cape, Baja California
In the far south of the Baja California peninsula, where the Pacific meets the tranquil Sea of Cortez, East Cape is famous for its right point breaks. They’re so popular you can expect to wait your turn to catch them – especially between December and April, when tourists flood into the big resorts in San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. From June to August things are quieter, with the best surf, but with ever more condos and a burgeoning expat population, it’s never quiet.
Salina Cruz, Oaxaca
Southern Mexico’s Oaxaca coast, just south of the famous surfer town of Puerto Escondido, has some of the most year-round-consistent waves in North America, thanks to a prevalent southern Pacific swell. There are terrific waves throughout the region and on the beaches around the big port city of Salina Cruz, you can expect reliably flawless long point break, with rippable walls and barrels. There’s accommodation on the sand at Punta Conejo – a more attractive option than busy, industrial Salina Cruz city.
Calafia, Baja California
Calafia may be named after the mythical indigenous Queen of California – immortalized by poet Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, but it’s not what you’d call regal. A mere huddle of houses on a rocky outcrop at a bend in the Tijuana highway makes up this settlement just south of Rosarito. Yet there’s a very good reason to visit if you’re surf-crazy, and that’s to ride the right point break that runs onto the rocks. It’s an exhilarating spot, hence the popularity, and while there are a few hotels the best accommodation remains in Rosarito town.
The Ranch,West Guerrero
With a strong swell and reliable prevailing winds, this exposed point break next to a river mouth is rarely crowded, even in high season. The best conditions for experienced surfers are in autumn and early winter. Waves are good for beginners at any time. There are basic accommodation options just beyond the river at Los Cuches village, and plenty of hotels 25mi (40km) west in Lazaro Cárdenas town, which has flights to Mexico City.
Playa San Pancho Point
An hour north of Puerto Vallarta, San Pancho is a long stretch of golden sand with a left-hand point break at the southern end and a wedge near the mouth of the Arroyo river. The point break is easy, but the river-mouth wedge is for intermediates and up. Fast, especially in strong winds, with a rip and sharp coral, this wave is best visited in late summer when swells are biggest. Little San Francisco Nayarit village, behind the sand, has a few simple hotels.
Looking for a beginner’s beach within easy reach of Puerto Vallarta’s international airport? La Lancha, a 45-minute drive north, has a light right-hander over soft sand, suitable for absolute novices, and a faster left-hand wedge a little further out for those just beginning to master their rides. The closest accommodation is of the pricey, beachside variety over at Punta Mita village immediately to the west. We say scour Sayulita village, 30-minutes’ drive north, where you’ll find cheaper options.
The Puerto Escondido zone as a whole is world-famous for crashing waves and excellent surf conditions. It’s been put on the map by the many surfing pros who try their hand in the southern Mexican waters. As a rule, we recommend this spot for more advanced surfers who’ve had some experience on the board. The best beach for pros is La Punta. But there are beaches in the area suited to beginners, too. Does Puerto Escondido sound like your thing? We’ve written a more comprehensive guide to Mexico’s worst-kept secret here.
Ensenada, Baja California
A stalwart of the Mexican surfing scene, Ensenada is just outside Tijuana and not far from the US border, so it attracts surfers from all over the world. While the water is cold, there are some of the best waves around, especially in wintertime. The best beach for beginners is Playa Hermosa whereas pros will want to head to San Miguel or Todos Santos: San Miguel beach is probably the best place to check out, with its consistent breaks and reliable swells. Todos Santos is frequently excellent too.
In the western state of Sinaloa, Mazatlán has had some bad press in recent years, but tourists are fine and the surf makes it worth the trip. In fact, Mazatlán has arguably the best all-rounder beaches for surfing anywhere in the country. From the family-friendly, excellent for newbies Playa Los Pinos to the crashing break of Playa Olas Altas, whichever you choose, keep in mind that the Mazatlán surfing season runs from April to October.
Well-known amongst hippie travelers as the best destination for beachside raves, the quaint and colourful town of Sayulita in Nayarit is also up there among the finest surfing destinations in the country. All along the beautifull Playa Sayulita you will come across stalls offering surf rental and lessons, making this the perfect place for surfers of all abilities. The best beach for beginners is Playa Sayulita. For pros, best to make for Playa Carricitos. December to April sees the best swell here.
Further down the Mexican coast brings you to the tiny state of Colima, where the surfing potential is sometimes overlooked. Easily the most famous beach is that of Boca de Pascuales, which is legendary for its towering breaks and tubes coming from all directions and only suitable for experts. However, there are still plenty of spots for newbies to give surfing a go in Cuyutlán, well-known for its ola verde (green wave).
La Ticla, Michoacán
La Ticla is a small village in Michoacán on the southwest Mexican coastline. The state has sadly developed a reputation for drugs and violence over the past few years. In truth the troubles are internecine, and if you’re just a tourist looking for great surfing then this is definitely a spot to consider. It’s a (relatively) quiet spot as surf destinations go and if you decide to try it, head there in summer to make the most of the waves. That said, they won’t disappoint whatever time of year you roll-up.
This former fishing village turned surf hotspot has a reputation amongst those in the know for the crashing waves at the point of Troncones. But you can also find great spots to start your surfing journey in and around Playa Troncones too. In fact, it’s been described as one of the best spots for virgin surfers – something the sheer number of surf stores and classes attests to. You’ll get decent waves all year round, but if you can get here in the spring to summer months, you’ll have the best conditions of all.
Lauren Cocking contributed additional reporting to this article.
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