Mezcal and Waves: The Complete Guide to Surfing in Mexico

16 October 2019

As you plan your upcoming trip to Mexico, you’re probably conjuring up thoughts of white sand beaches, mouthwatering tacos, and flowing tequila. But Mexico is so much more than chilling on the beach while gorging yourself on food and booze. 

No matter how much you’re looking forward to beach time and Mexican cuisine, it’s important to set some time aside for the country’s surfing scene. Some of the best waves in the Western hemisphere line the country’s Pacific Coast.

 

Image: Lunazul Surf School

Mexico has a lot going for it, but you won’t experience the full potential of the area if you don’t at least give surfing a try. So take a break from basking in the sun on a lounge chair and ride a few waves instead. This complete guide to surfing in Mexico will tell you everything you need to know for planning your epic surf adventure. 

Getting There

Mexico has been a hot vacation spot for North Americans since the beginning of time. A huge reason for this is that the tropical beaches of Mexico are easy to get to for Canadians and US citizens. Depending on where you’re coming from and where you’re heading, getting to Mexico could be as easy as a quick flight. 

Flying in

With nearly 6,000 miles of coastline, there are dozens of airports throughout the country. For easy access to the best places to surf in Mexico, you’ll want to arrive somewhere near the Pacific Coast. There’s a pile of international airports to fly into, but the three busiest is located in Mexico City, Cancun, and Guadalajara. 

After flying into one of these international hubs, you can take a domestic flight to your Mexican destination of choice. The best surf camps in Mexico can be found all along the Western Coast. So the ultimate way to hit up all these top surf spots is to rent a car. This is an amazing road-tripping destination, so strap your board to the roof of the car and get driving. 

Quick Facts

Best Time to Visit Mexico

Since Mexico covers a massive amount of space with a variety of unique topographical features, the best time to visit depends on the specific location within the country. The best time to visit the ultimate Mexico surfing spots isn’t the best time to visit the mountains or lowlands. Other things to consider when deciphering the best time to visit include crowds and travel costs. 

We can’t tell you exactly when to visit and when not to visit, but this quick guide on the best times to visit depending on different areas in Mexico can help: 

  • Best time to visit the Baja Peninsula: June to October
  • Best time to visit the Pacific Coast: November to March/April
  • Best time to visit Mexico’s Lowlands: November to February/March
  • Best time to visit Mexico City: March to May

Water

Most travelers already know that drinking the water in Mexico is a big no-no. We’ve all heard of the horrors of Montezuma’s Revenge, which is essentially just a humorous name for traveler’s diarrhea. Experiencing diarrhea on the road is not only inconvenient, but it can also be extremely dangerous to health, even life-threatening. 

To prevent Montezuma’s Revenge, simply drink bottled water during your time in Mexico. If your hotel or hostel provides a large jug of purified water for bottle refills, feel free to use that instead. As a general rule of thumb, it’s safe to drink beverages with ice in touristy establishments, but try to go ice-free in local spots. 

Language

The main languages in Mexico are Spanish and English. Spanish is the predominant language, but most touristy destinations have a fair amount of English-speaking locals. Of course, knowing a few Spanish words and phrases will be helpful, but it’s not 100% necessary. 

Internet

Similar to the weather, internet connectivity in Mexico depends entirely on your location throughout the country. About half of the local population can regularly access the internet, and nearly all travelers have access to the internet in some form or another. 

No matter your Mexico surf destinations of choice, you’ll have several options for going online at your disposal. Travelers can connect via WiFi at a hotel or hostel, walk down the street to a coffee shop, or purchase a local SIM card for continuous data. Buying a prepaid SIM is fairly straightforward and inexpensive. 

Plugs

Travelers from North America won’t need to pack a power adapter/converter. The country uses a standard voltage of 127V and types A/B sockets. Plugs in the US use 120V, and this is more or less the same. Anyone traveling from Europe, Australia, or another part of the world should bring a universal power adapter. 

Visa/Immigration

Visa and immigration rules for entering Mexico depend on your country of origin. In most cases, there’s no need to jump through hoops for entry into Mexico. Residents of most countries just need to bring a valid passport from their country of residence. As long as you’re from one of the approved countries for entry into Mexico, you’ll be able to stay for 180 days with no visa. 

In some cases, American citizens entering Mexico over land do not need to show a passport upon entry. But it is ALWAYS REQUIRED to show a passport when entering back into the US. No matter what you read or hear about needing a passport for Mexico, always bring it with you. 

Cash/Payment

One Mexican Peso (MXN) is equivalent to 0.052 USD. So 10 pesos would be equivalent to about $0.50, 100 pesos to about $5, and 1000 pesos to $50. Luckily for American travelers, the conversion rate is between MXN and USD is easy. 

When stocking up on pesos, try to avoid doing a currency exchange at the airport unless it’s absolutely necessary. Instead, head to an ATM in the area. The conversion rate at an ATM will be minimal compared to what is charged at a currency exchange. 

Health and Emergencies

It doesn’t matter how much you’ve prepped and planned for a trip to Mexico, there is always the risk of getting sick. Health issues in Mexico range from very minor stomach discomfort from spicy foods to very major traveler’s diarrhea from unclean water. Then there’s the risk of becoming physically injured from surfing or another adventure activity. 

The good news is that Mexico is home to many hospitals and clinics that can cater to your medical needs. It’s no surprise that the best hospitals in the country are located in the capital of Mexico City, but this doesn’t need that you need to travel here for medical attention. 

While visiting the best Mexico surf spots, you’ll be hundreds of miles from Mexico City. Your best bet is to find a medical facility in your area. For severe medical problems, these are the top-rated hospitals for tourists and expats throughout Mexico: 

  1. Galenia Hospital in Cancún
  2. Hospital Médica Sur in Mexico City
  3. Star Médica in Mérida
  4. Hospital San Javier in Guadalajara

Crime

Mexico has always had a history of drug-related crime, especially near major cities near the US border. Lately, there has been an increase in this criminal activity, so it’s completely valid for tourists to worry about safety. The US Department of State issued a travel warning to American citizens heading down south in November 2018. So is it safe to travel to Mexico?

The short answer is yes, but there is a lot to know about safe travel before heading to Mexico surf beaches. Certain areas should be avoided, like Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas. The bottom line is to stay alert and stick to the safe places to surf in Mexico, not the cities and towns that have been deemed unsafe for tourists. 

Getting Around

The enormous size of Mexico - all 761,600 square miles of it - means that you’ll want to book flights for long-distance travel. Unless you plan on staying in one central area, flying is the most efficient way to get from point A to point B. The good news is that domestic flights are fairly cheap. A flight from western Guadalajara to eastern Cancún typically costs about $120. 

Low-cost airlines like Interjet, VivaAerobus, and Volaris make is possible to fly throughout Mexico on a budget. Of course, hopping on a bus is the cheaper option, but if it saves you 2 days of travel, it’s totally worth it to fly. For the best prices, try to book your flights as far in advance as possible. 

Another method for getting around is to rent a car and embark on the road trip adventure of a lifetime. This is a great choice for travelers focusing on one region, like the surfing spots in Mexico along the Pacific Coast. Renting a car is an amazing way to set your own schedule and save a few bucks by not flying. 

Typical Cost and Suggested Budget

Each region of Mexico brings something new to the table, both in terms of culture and cost. This is an incredible backpacking destination for budget travelers, but it’s also the perfect place to experience luxury by the beach. The typical cost of Mexico depends on personal preference and what you’re willing to spend. Plan on spending anywhere from $50 to $300 per day. 

Budgeting for Accommodation

It’s possible to find a dorm bed for as cheap as $7 per night, but for a comfortable and clean hostel, it’s more likely that you’ll spend an average of $10. In more touristy destinations like Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, it’s more likely that you’ll be paying $15 per night for a dorm bed. For privacy but also a social vibe, a private room in a hostel runs around $30 per night. 

Airbnb is another option for booking accommodation in Mexico. You’ll be able to book a pimped out home or apartment on Airbnb for less than $40 per night in most cases. For those of you who are more comfortable staying in a hotel, nightly rates range drastically. Book a 2-star hotel for as low as $20 per night or something more luxurious for ~$100 per night. 

Budgeting for Food

Don’t be surprised if you gain a pound or two during your travels. Mexico is the mecca of all things delicious food. Not only that, but it’s also the mecca of all things cheap food. Travelers who stick to eating at local establishments and street stalls can stuff themselves for less than $15 each day. 

For anyone with fancier taste, it’s still easy to get by on less than $30 for food. A nice meal at a local sit-down restaurant typically costs between $5 and $7. The same dishes at more touristic restaurants will cost more like $10. When all is said and done, the food will be better - and cheaper - and local Mexican eateries. 

Where to Stay for Surfing in Mexico

Introduction

Looking at a Mexico surf map makes it obvious that the majority of Mexico surf is along the Pacific Coast. This coastline stretches an impressive 4,560 miles from North to South, which means you have no shortage of barreling beach breaks to choose from. If you’re new to the sport, it’s important to know which beaches are suitable for beginners and which ones to avoid. 

Beginners should stay away from the massive waves of Puerto Escondido - leave those to the pros. Instead, focus on improving your skills a the very tip of the Baja Peninsula in Cerritos. If you’re looking for something on the mainland, check out these best surf spots in Mexico for beginners: Sayulita, Troncones, La Punta, and San Agustinillo. 

For more of a challenge, head to Baja Norte. This is right across the US border from San Diego, so you'll inevitably meet some Californians. The desert landscape of Baja Norte makes for a fun camping trip, but be prepared for some chilly evenings. For slightly warmer weather and fewer crowds, head south to Baja Sur. 

For more advanced waves on the mainland rather than the Baja Peninsula, Puerto Vallarta is a fun (and popular) destination. It’s crowded here, but there are several reasons for this. On top of a fun social atmosphere and a wide range of accommodations, the waves are fun to ride. Sayulita, a beginner-level mellow point break, is located here.

Only the truly advanced surfers should test out the waters of Puerto Escondido. Zicatela, a legendary beach break in Escondido, is the most well-known Mexico surf spot of all time. It was part of the Big Wave Tour for a few years, and people from all over the world came to watch the pros conquer Zicatela. Needless to say, this is not for beginner surfers. 

Image: Lunazul Surf School - Location: Sayulita, Puerto Vallarta

Top Surf Guides and Operators in Mexico

Selina Surf Club

The Selina name is well-known around the globe, mainly for its coworking spaces geared towards digital nomads. Selina is so much more than just coworking/co-living… this travel brand now offers surfing adventures fro the wanderers of the world. The vibe at Selina is all about working alongside each other but also having fun together - in and out of the water.

“Participate in the complete ecosystem of Selina: stay, eat, work, surf, explore, and find a deeper connection with the world.”

- The Team at Selina 

Selina Surf Club is located in Puerto Escondido, an area that is known for the best surfing in Mexico. This Selina location offers up plenty of opportunities to surf, but also a wide range of activities like yoga, volcano trekking, and jungle hiking. Not all Selina locations offer all-inclusive packages, but Selina Surf Club in Escondido is different. Nearly everything is included, from food and accommodation to surf lessons and board rental. 

  • Language: English, Spanish
  • Location: Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate
  • Cost: From $346 (5 Nights in Dorm)

Punta Chivo Surf Camp

Many travelers feel that the best place to surf in Mexico for beginners is Oaxaca, which is why so many newbie surfers choose Punta Chivo Surf Camp. All experience levels are welcome at this Oaxaca-based camp, but it is specifically geared towards beginners. The camp is ideally located in a small surf town called Salina Cruz, which has waves for all surf levels. 

“Our success comes from our passion for the Ocean growing up traveling, surfing, fishing, hiking and meeting new people along the way for over 20 years.”

- The Team at Punta Chivo

The Salina Cruz area is fairly low-key compared to other Mexico surfing spots. When you’re not on the water, just kick back, relax, and enjoy the natural surroundings of Oaxaca. Pretty much everything is included in the Punta Chivo surf package except for alcoholic beverages and travel costs to and from the camp. No matter if you choose the 5, 7, or 10-night package, you won’t have to worry about anything during your time at Punta Chivo. 

  • Language: English, Spanish
  • Location: Salina Cruz, Oaxaca
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: From $825 (5 Nights in Private Room)

Cabo Surf Hotel

Wondering where to surf in Mexico but also live like a king? The answer is the Cabo Surf Hotel. This surfer’s paradise is located at the tip of the Baja Peninsula with waves catering to beginner and intermediate-level surfers. This is not technically a surf school, but instead, a hotel that gives guests the option to book lessons and embark on surf adventures in the Baja Sur area. 

“Visitors are surrounded by a dramatic backdrop of the endless cactus desert, cinnamon-colored mountains, and miles of white sandy beaches and clear, azure waters.”

- The Team at Cabo Surf Hotel

The rooms at Cabo Surf Hotel are not meant for budget backpackers, so you can’t expect to receive a budget-friendly rate. In addition to a surf school, guests have access to a seafood grille, a salon and spa, and a wellness center with a complimentary yoga session. This is the perfect surf getaway for anyone looking for a luxurious Mexican getaway.

  • Language: English, Spanish
  • Location: San Jose del Cabo, Baja Sur
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: From $295 (Nightly Rate)

Wildmex Surf & Adventure

For anyone looking for a surf camp in Mexico that visits the best breaks for beginners on a daily basis, focus your attention on Sayulita and Punta Mita. These beaches are perfect for new surfers, and they are conveniently located in the Puerto Vallarta area. Since this is a tourist hot spot, there are tons of surf camps to choose from here. The best of them is WildMex.

“We have different surfing camps in Sayulita and Punta Mita… whether you’re a beginner surfer or you’ve been surfing for years, and options for every budget, too.”

- The Team at WildMex

Booking a surf camp with WildMex won’t get you a place to stay, but it includes everything surfing-related. The trip fee includes lessons, gear rental (including SUP boards), board insurance, and all surf transportation. Just book a place somewhere in Puerto Vallarta and then contact WildMex about joining an upcoming surf camp.

  • Language: English, Spanish
  • Location: Puerto Vallarta, Nayarit
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: From $95 (Per Surf Lesson)

Cardon Adventure Resort

It’s completely normal to want a little bit of everything from a vacay to Mexico. Surfing should definitely be included on your list of things to do, but it doesn’t have to be the only activity. This is the exact belief behind Cardon Adventure Resort. This family-friendly resort is all about providing its guests with a variety of high-quality activities. 

“At Cardon Adventure Resort you will enjoy the southerly swells that pour down into two beautiful point breaks…” 

- The Team at Cardon Adventure Resort

Cardon is located in the Sinaloa region of Mexico, just north of Puerto Vallarta. The waves are very similar to the ones found in Vallarta, but the perk is that they are way less crowded. During your surf session, there’s a good chance you’ll ride the perfect wave with no other surfers in the way. 

Language: English, Spanish 

  • Location: Elota, Sinaloa
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: From $1,449 (One Week All-Inclusive)

Sayulita Cruz

"Sayulitacruz will make sure you have your ideal vacation by offering many different services and packages customized just for you. We offer personalized and private sessions and are flexible to work with. We always make sure to work with the best instructors and guides to assure you get the most of your time in beautiful Sayulita."

- Sayulitacruz

  • Language: English, Spanish, French
  • Location: Sayulita
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: From $840 for 8 days

Lunazul Surfschool

Image: Lunazul Surf School

Sayulita is fast becoming the most popular place to visit in Mexico, while still maintaining it's low key and relaxed vibe. This small fishing and surfing village lies in the heart of the Bay of Banderas, and is home to some of the best surfers and SUP'ers in the world.

Our goal at Lunazul is to always provide a fun and safe environment to teach our students to surf. We have a tight crew of instructors who, not only are excellent surfers, but amazing instructors. 

- The Lunazul team

Lunazul Surf School & Shop, established in 2004,  is a family business located on the main beach in Sayulita. Focus is to give surf lessons, organize surf trips, and rent boards.

Image: Lunazul Surf School

Language: English, Spanish 

  • Location: Sayulita
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: Lessons starting from 65$ per person and local trips starting at 110$ person

Gear and Packing

The temperature fluctuates drastically from day to night in the best Mexico surfing destinations. Even if the daytime temperatures are hot, pack a sweater or light jacket for the chilly evenings. Of course, don’t forget your bikinis, boardies, sunglasses, sunscreen, and bug spray. If you’re bringing only a carry-on, make sure not to exceed 3.4 ounces (100 ml) for liquids. 

It’s always wise to bring a daypack for daytime exploration. For beach days, bring a sarong and quick-dry towel as well as any other beach essentials you think you’ll need. There’s no need to bring your own personal surfboard since early all of Mexico’s surf beaches will offer board and gear rental. Feel free to bring your board, just be prepared to pay hefty airline fees for checking it.

Mexican Cuisine

Aside from surfing in Mexico, eating authentic Mexican cuisine is enough of a reason to travel here. You’ll have unlimited access to tacos, quesadillas, guacamole, queso, enchiladas, burritos, and more. A trip to Mexico isn’t the time to calorie count, it’s the time to indulge and stuff your face. 

What to Eat

There’s a huge difference between “Americanized” Mexican food and authentic Mexican cuisine. Even if you think you know what Mexican food is, you might be surprised. Try to broaden your horizons and give these authentic dishes a try: 

Chilaquiles - Chilaquiles are essentially nachos, but these are traditionally eaten for breakfast by the locals. These are much more authentic than nachos you would typically find in the US. They are comprised of lightly fried corn tortillas and a variety of salsa. The best part of all is that this dish is dopped with a fried egg, making it the perfect breakfast meal for hungry tourists. 

Pico de Gallo - We all know what pico de gallo is, but you don’t truly know how delicious it can be unless you’ve tried it in Mexico. This is a much fresher alternative to salsa, so order pico de gallo and tortillas as an appetizer. 

Cochinita Pibil - This is a Mexican pork dish that involves marinating a slab of meat for hours, followed by slow roasting it in a banana leaf. The citrusy pork pairs well with the pickled red onion, corn tortillas, refried beans, and habanero chiles that come along with it. 

Queso Flameado - Step aside, chile con queso. Queso flameado is where it’s at. This cheezy dish is essentially cheese fondue infused with chorizo, tomato, chili, onion, and a variety of spices. The proper way to eat this is not by scooping chips, but rather by spooning the queso onto deep-fried tortillas. 

Paleta - We’re all familiar with the famous churro, but there’s another must-try Mexican sweet treat to try. This is a Latin American ice pop that is made from fresh seasonal fruits. It’s a much healthier alternative to the fried dough of a churro, and it’s just as delicious.

What to See and Do in Mexico

Go For a Trek in Tulum

Tulum certainly isn’t a surfing capital of Mexico, but it’s still a cool sight to see. Tulum was a major center for trading back in the 11th century, and the ancient ruins from that time still remain. Visitors can explore the ruins for $4 or hire a guide for a more in-depth tour. 

Explore Mexico City

As the capital of the country, some say that Mexico City is the best place to take in authentic Mexican culture. The city is home to local markets, historical buildings, hipster coffee shops, and a trendy art scene. This is an amazing place to see the sites, and it doesn’t hurt that the city is the ultimate foodie destination in the country. 

Visit the Ancient Chichen Itza

This ancient Mayan ruin dates back to 550 AD. Similarly to the ruins of Tulum, visitors are allowed to wander around Chichen Itza to take in the amazing architecture of the past. Just be sure to explore the most impressive structure of these ruins, the Temple of Kukulkan. Entry into Chichen Itza is about $13. 

Spend Some Time at the Beach

No matter if you’re heading to Puerto Vallarta in the West or Cancun in the East, chilling on the beach in Mexico is a must. Aside from Vallarta, some of the most popular vacation spots along the Pacific include Los Cabos and Sayulita. Los Cabos is all about the party scene while Sayulita is all about catching some waves. 

Dive on the Great Maya Barrier Reef

With thousands of miles of coastline, surfing is not the only water sport to fill your Mexico itinerary. With its clear waters, tropical weather, and diverse marine life, this is an amazing SCUBA diving destination. The best diving spot in Mexico is along the Great Maya Barrier Reef, which is the second-largest reef system in the world behind Australian’s Great Barrier. 

Surfing Mexico FAQs

What is the best place to learn to surf in Mexico?

There are a few beginner-level waves to choose from along the Pacific Coast. It’s difficult to say which one is best, but one of the most popular beginner-friendly spots to surf in Mexico is Sayulita in Nayarit. This is near the center of Puerto Vallarta and it is known for offering dependable waves that cater to all surfing levels. 

Oaxaca in southern Mexico is another amazing surfing spot. It is often thought to offer advanced-only surfing, mainly because the massive Zicatela is found in this region. But Oaxaca has some amazing opportunities for new surfers wanting to learn the ropes. For beginner-level waves in Oaxaca, head to San Agustinillo or Playa Carrizalillo. 

When is the best time to surf in Mexico?

Waves are generated all year long thanks to the low-pressure systems of the surrounding ocean. The best time to surf depends on your specific location on a Mexico surfing map. Generally, the surf season runs from April through October but remember that the hurricane season is from June to October. No matter when you come, the water will be warm, but this doesn’t mean that the weather will be nice.