Luke Armstrong | Feb 15, 2021
Even if you say “No way Josè,” to surfing, the following list doubles as great options for beaches to thaw from the winter freeze.
Boasting more than 7,000 kilometers of coastline, Mexico’s Pacific coast is perfect for surfers of all skill levels. From learning to catch your first knee-high wave in the whitewash to the entering Puerto Escondido’s annual Big Wave Competition, Mexico has you covered.
Mexico, with its favorable climate, sunny skies, sandy beaches, friendly locals, and excellent exchange rate for most currencies have recently seen a large influx of surfers and travelers from all over the world.
Our list starts in the north beginning with a short two-hour drive from San Diego, California. We will finish up at the southernmost point of Mexico, in the state of Oaxaca, just a few hundred miles from the Guatemalan border.
Ensenada in Baja is known as the unofficial birthplace of Mexican surfing. The consistency of the waves and great beaches are what draw surfers to this haven.
Claim to Fame: The Birthplace of Mexican Surfing
Skill Level: Intermediate; Advanced
When to Visit: Winter
Top Non-Surfing To-Dos: Check out La Bufadora, home to one of the world’s largest marine geysers.
If you’re into nightlife and meeting new people, try First Street. Cruise ships dock here almost every other day so you always have a constant stream of vacationers to mingle with while in town.
Mazatlán is well-known for its left point breaks and kilometers of surfable coastline are what make this spot a veritable surfer’s paradise. Mazatlán and its surroundings are among Mexico's best-kept secrets … for now!
Claim to Fame: Pearl of the Pacific; Land of the Left Point Breaks
Skill Level: Any
When to Visit: April to September
Top Non-Surfing To-Dos: Mazatlán and the surrounding area has plenty of beauty to offer anyone staying in this hidden treasure.
Joe Gannon, recommends the Las Canadas Canopy Tour: “If you’re into zip lines, ropes courses, hiking, and camping in nature, this place is the perfect spot for you! “
Just a three and a half-hour drive south of Mazatlán, you’ll find yourself at the legendary San Blas. One beach, Playa de Matanchén was once famous for having the longest surfable wave in the world.
However, Hurricane Kenna in 2002 filled much of the bay with sand, greatly reducing the size of the waves. Luckily there are still some seriously long waves to ride and the surf culture is still very strong.
Claim to Fame: Former home to longest wave in the world (until 2002)
Skill Level: Any
When to Visit: Beginner and Intermediate: November to August, Expert: September to October
Top Non-Surfing To-Dos: Touring La Tovara Springs is a great way to see some of the most beautiful sights in the area.
Venture a quick two hours south along the Pacific Coast and you have arrived at the popular surf-haven of Sayulita, Nayarit. Traveling surfers in the late 1960s first popularized this area.
After Mexican Highway 200 was constructed, making Sayulita much easier to access, the area jumped in popularity. With its natural beauty and easy access to Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, it’s easy to see why.
Claim to Fame: Consistent river mouth surf breaks
Skill Level: Any
When to Visit: December to early April
Top Non-Surfing To-Dos: Check out the different boat tours and if you’re feeling adventurous, try wind and kite surfing.
If you’re going in late February, you have to try the San Pancho Music Festival in the magical Riviera Nayarit. Since 2001, the festival has hosted regional, national and international artists on two alternating stages.
Another seven-hour drive south along the Pacific Ocean coast is the city of Tecomán. From there, you’ll take a short half-hour bus ride southwest to one of the lesser-known hardcore surf havens: Boca de Pasquales.
With powerful waves year-round, many claim it resembles the famous Mexican pipeline of Puerto Escondido. But, with its low-key environment, Boca de Pascuales is a great place to meet and hang out with experienced surfers from all over the world.
Claim to Fame: A Hardcore Experience
Skill Level: Experienced Only
When to Visit: Year-Round
Top Non-Surfing To-Dos: Visit the nature reserve on the beach at El Tortugario Ecologico in Cuyutlán.
To satisfy your appetite, there are some incredible fresh fish tacos made fresh on the beach in the afternoons. The shops cater primarily to hungry surfers.
Another five hours down the coast and we arrive at the world-class surfing beach of Rio Nexpa. It has a fast and powerful left-hand point break with rides up to 300 yards long!
If you’re looking for a more private surf experience, on the other side of Rio Nexpa is a cobblestone reef, which is often less crowded than the main beach.
Claim to Fame: Rustic getaway beach surrounded by nature
Skill Level: All
When to Visit: June to September
Top Non-Surfing To-Dos: Come for the relaxed vibe and try some of the restaurants in front of the break. You can watch others surf as you eat. It’s a delicious combination.
Heading southeast, we’ve reached the state of Michoacán. Within the area, nestled between San Juan de Lima and El Farro, is our next stop: La Ticla.
What was once a spot notorious for banditos, is how a safe haven for surfers.
Claim to Fame: Long left point break with up to ten-foot swell
Skill Level: Intermediate
When to Visit: May to October
Top Non-Surfing To-Dos Fresh seafood is always available along the beachfront whenever hunger strikes. It’s a nice place to mellow out before heading to Oaxaca, the final state in our surf tour.
Chacahua is a little known but local favorite surf spot in Laguna, Chacahua.
Claim to Fame: Hidden Jewel of Oaxaca
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
When to Visit: Spring and Summer
Top Non-Surfing To-Dos: Rent a kayak and paddle around the lagoon with friends.
Take some time to enjoy the rich ecosystem that is home to over 160 types of birds.
In the evening, watch the sunset at El Faro, and when you’re not surfing or paddling around the lagoon be sure to check out La Piedra Beach on the other side of the river.
Playa Zicatela aka, the Mexican Pipeline, has a beach break just 30 feet away from the shore. Although there are some beginner-friendly areas, surfers should be prepared for strong rip tides and powerful waves.
If you’re a beginner, start out in Playa Carrizalillo in the north end of town and slowly work your way up to La Punta in the southern most point.
Claim to Fame: Dubbed “The Mexican Pipeline”
Skill Level: Beginner to Expert
When to Visit: March – December
Top Non-Surfing To-Dos: After a long day of surfing, head to Pepe’s Fish Tacos in La Punta. Most people who’ve had a taste claim they are the best fish tacos they’ve ever eaten. Pepe is a surfer and can give you some great inside info when it comes to surfing the area.
At night, visit the Zicatela strip. There’s a mile-long stretch of bars, restaurants, and clubs, all on the beach.
For those looking for other entertainment, check out the boat tours, bioluminescent lagoons, and a plethora of other beautiful non-surf beaches in this hidden port.
The last stop of our tour is just three hours away and takes us around the southernmost point of Oaxaca to Barra de la Cruz.
The area was a much lesser-known surf spot until Rip Curl’s “Live the Search” campaign widely popularized surfing in the area with the World Tour contest in 2006.
That campaign, coupled with the development of the nearby port city of Huatulco, Barra de la Cruz has seen more and more surfers from around the world in the past decade.
Claim to Fame: World-Class Right-Hander
Skill Level: Intermediate to Expert
When to Visit: April to September
Top Non-Surfing To-Dos: Head an hour down the road to Huatulco. Here you can take a break from the surf and enjoy the beautiful calm waters of Huatulco Bay.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, just a 90-minute drive to the interior is the breathtaking “Magic Falls”. Here you can swing from a rope into the water and shower in a waterfall surrounded by nature.
Luke Maguire Armstrong is the author of "The Nomad's Nomad." He has spent the last decade traveling, writing and designing, and funding philanthropic programs around the world.