In a Mexican East Coast vs. West Coast showdown, both sides are bringing major heat to the table. The Caribbean side has the assets dream vacations are made of—white sand beaches, palm trees, nightlife and brilliant turquoise water that positively defies description. The Pacific coast sand and water aren’t quite as picturesque, but if surfing is your M.O., then Mexico’s West Coast is the ultimate destination.
From untamed Baja California in the north to hedonistic Puerto Escondido in the south, Mexico’s Pacific coast has some of the best surf breaks in the Americas. Here are our picks for the top surf spots in Mexico.
Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
One of the southernmost states in Mexico, Oaxaca has over 330 miles of Pacific coastline, and the town of Puerto Escondido is a world-class surfing destination. Professionals from around the world come to ride the legendary Mexican Pipeline at the north end of Playa Zicatela, the biggest break in Mexico. When the swells hit the sandbars, the waves rise up and then come crashing down, unleashing the power of the Pacific. The size of the waves coupled with the strong undertow make Puerto Escondido a place best suited for advanced surfers.
Book a room at Hotel Escondido on the outskirts of town, a 16-suite establishment that provides plenty of privacy right on the beach. Or, stay in a tastefully decorated bungalow at Villa Mozart y Macondo, located close to shopping, restaurants and the beach.
For dining, try La Parrilla Mixteca on Avenida Oaxaca for tacos. If you need a break from the Mexican fare, get a table at One Love Restaurant in One Love Hostal, a cozy European fusion restaurant serving up tacos, pizzas, pasta dishes and more.
Several surf schools operate in Puerto Escondido. Puerto Surf is just 150 feet from the beach and located near an ideal point break for both beginners and intermediate surfers. Surf-and-stay packages include five days of instruction, a surfboard, surf gear and transportation to the beach. Oasis Spanish & Surf School provides, as the name implies, dual services: improve your skills in both riding the waves and speaking Spanish.
In the collective consciousness, the Yucatan’s Riviera Maya is the perfect vacation destination. But Mexico has another riviera on the west coast—Riviera Nayarit. Beginning just north of Puerto Vallarta, 200 miles of take-your-breath-away coastline stretches along the blue Pacific. Pristine beaches and quaint villages dot the seaside, and it’s here that you’ll find the hip little town of Sayulita.
A large, palm-tree fringed beach welcomes surfers from home and abroad; many consider Sayulita one of the best surf beaches in Mexico. You can surf here all year, but the best waves are from December to April. Since the town faces north, it catches the great north swell that comes in the winter months. The sandy left side of the beach is suitable for beginners, while the right side—with a rock bottom point break is best left to more experienced surfers.
After getting your surf on, head to El Rústica, a trendy but homey eatery serving up wood-fired pizza, Italian food, great margaritas and craft beer. Or try Tierra Viva, just a block from the beach, for authentic Mexican fare in a cozy atmosphere.
Stay immersed in the ambience of Sayulita by staying at Petit Hotel Hafa, a small boutique hotel with a dash of bohemian style. It’s just two blocks from the beach and has a roof deck with views of Sayulita. Hotel Villas Sayulita is only one block from the beach, but far enough from the main part of town that guests often remark how quiet and peaceful it is. Tea is made from herbs that grow in the garden and yoga classes are available on site.
If you want to try your hand at surfing, or advance to the next level, Lunazul offers private surf lessons for $60, which gets you 90 minutes of instruction, a rental board and an additional free hour of surfboard rental. The other option is Patricia’s Surf School. You’ll find this family-owned-and-operated surf school in front of Sayulita’s main surf break, with instruction is available for all levels.
A hundred miles south of Guadalajara lies the tiny state of Colima, and its frequently overlooked waves. Cuyutlán is a small village of a few hundred residents, and aside from surfing, not much happens there. It has a good break for beginners, but there isn’t much in the way of lessons. It’s well known among surfers for its ola verde or green wave. At certain times of the year, algae and plankton in the water give the waves a green hue when the sun catches them just right.
There is a pedestrian boardwalk in Cuyutlán overlooking the beach, and that’s where you’ll find Concierge Plaza San Rafael. With only 30 rooms, 10 of which have an ocean view, service is quick and personal. On Saturdays, the locals gather at 5 pm for dinner, drinks and dominoes. The Fiesta Inn, a Mexican business-class hotel chain, has a pool, gym and on-site restaurant right on Boulevard Camino Real. For great seafood, try Mariscos “Playa Cuyutlán”—nothing fancy, just tasty food right on the beach.
There’s something for everyone in Troncones, another fishing village turned surfer hotspot, just 170 miles north of Acapulco. Intermediate and expert surfers head for the breaks at Troncones Point and Manzanillo Bay, but this area is also considered a great location for beginners.
Tsunami Surf promises that beginners will be surfing on their own in just a couple of lessons. A $50 lesson includes a surfboard and equipment, sunscreen, a beach chair and transportation from accommodations in Troncones. Or, sign up with Isamexico Troncones Surf Camp for five days of progressive, in-depth training. Students are organized into groups, but each student also gets one-on-one time with an instructor.
Book a room at The Inn at Manzanillo Bay for a colorful bungalow in a tropical, beachy setting. It has a pool, restaurant, beach access and ocean-view rooms with patios and vaulted hand-thatched ceilings all for an affordable rate. If you’re looking for a steps-from-the-beach hotel, Hacienda Eden is just up the road. It offers guests yoga, kayaking and boogie boarding, but no TV. The only sounds you’ll hear are birds and waves.
For delicious, authentic Mexican food, check out La Mexicana, just across from the beach. It’s outside dining and full bar are open seven days a week and they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Jardin del Eden offers diners an oceanfront setting along with wood-oven baked pizzas and seafood.