Surfing in Mexico
If you’re all about the surf, sun, and good vibes, then pack your board and sombrero because Mexico should be next on your surf trip itinerary. With an incredible 9,330 kilometers of coastline kissing the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea, there’s a wave for every rider, whether you’re a grom just starting out or a seasoned charger looking for your next adrenaline rush.
From the legendary point breaks of Oaxaca to the fickle yet fiery tubes of Baja California, Mexico’s surf scene is as diverse as its delicious cuisine. What’s more, these wave-drenched shores are backdropped by a vibrant collage of cliff-side towns, palm-fringed beaches, and rich Mayan ruins, giving the term ‘surf paradise’ a whole new meaning.
A country steeped in tradition, filled with friendly faces, and sprinkled with spicy tacos at every corner, Mexico’s surfing scene offers more than just perfect peeling waves. The feeling of sliding down a glassy Mexican wave while the sun sets over the desert is something that every surfer should experience at least once. So, grab your board and let’s taco ’bout where and when to surf in Mexico.
Where to Surf in Mexico
Mexico’s coastline is a wave-riddled buffet for surfers. On the Pacific side, you’ve got the sun-soaked beaches of Baja California. Starting from the north, spots like Ensenada and San Miguel offer consistent, reef-break waves that cater to intermediate and advanced surfers. Down south, the Scorpion Bay is a real gem, hosting one of the longest right-hand point breaks in the world, a tantalizing ride for any skill level.
Further down the Pacific coastline, you’ll find the surf hub of mainland Mexico, the state of Oaxaca. Oaxaca is home to the famous beach town of Puerto Escondido, often dubbed as the “Mexican Pipeline” due to its powerful and barreling beach break waves. Zicatela Beach, in particular, is where advanced and professional surfers challenge themselves with enormous swells, but beginners can head to La Punta for a mellower and more forgiving experience.
On the eastern side of Mexico, the Yucatán Peninsula opens its arms to the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea. The vibe here is different – it’s all about laid-back surf and underwater explorations. The island of Cozumel, just off the coast from Playa Del Carmen, is a well-kept secret, offering long, playful waves ideal for longboarding and beginners.
Whether you’re looking for grinding barrels, beginner-friendly breaks, or uncrowded hidden gems, Mexico’s surf scene has a wave for every surfer’s appetite. It’s the perfect combination of surf, culture, and tacos. Muchos tacos.
When to surf in Mexico
Mexico is blessed with swell throughout the year, but the surf season really heats up during the summer months. Between May and October, the Pacific coast, particularly Oaxaca and Guerrero, welcomes powerful south swells, making it the preferred season for advanced surfers seeking some high-octane action. Puerto Escondido becomes a playground for thrill-seekers during these months, with the infamous Mexican Pipeline firing on all cylinders.
For the beginners and intermediates, the winter months (November to April) provide calmer conditions, especially around beach towns like Sayulita and Troncones. Waves are typically smaller and more orderly, perfect for those still finding their balance on the board or wanting to enjoy a more laid-back session.
Over in the Yucatán Peninsula, the surf is dictated by the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The most reliable surf here comes during the hurricane season from June to November, which, while providing great surf, can be hazardous, so it’s essential to monitor weather updates and local advice. Outside of the hurricane season, the waves can be smaller and less consistent but are generally suitable for beginners and longboarders.
Regardless of the season, water temperatures in Mexico are generally warm (20-28°C), so a rash guard and board shorts are often all you need. Yet, a light wetsuit can come in handy during winter, especially if you’re surfing at dawn or dusk. So, ready to leave your booties behind and surf in warm waters all year round? Vamos a Mexico, amigo!
Culture and Non-Surfing Activities in Mexico
If you thought Mexico was only about surf, margaritas, and tacos, you’re in for a surprise, amigo! Its rich culture, diverse landscapes, and vibrant cities make it a country that’s brimming with experiences beyond the waves.
Let’s start with the culture, which is as deep as the Pacific Ocean. Everywhere you turn, there’s history. Visit the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacan near Mexico City or the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in the Yucatán Peninsula to step back in time. Don’t miss the Day of the Dead celebrations (Día de los Muertos), a colorful, poignant, and life-affirming event that happens around the end of October and start of November.
Nature-wise, Mexico doesn’t disappoint. Visit the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Michoacán, explore the stunning Sumidero Canyon in Chiapas, or snorkel the crystal-clear cenotes (natural sinkholes) in the Yucatán. Surfers might also love free diving or fishing on the peaceful days when the ocean lays flat.
And let’s not forget about the food. Each region has its specialty, from fish tacos in Baja California to mole in Oaxaca. Street food is a big part of Mexican culture, so don’t miss out on trying some local delicacies like tamales, churros, and of course, tequila!
The nightlife in Mexico is as vibrant as its colorful towns. Whether you prefer chilling in a beachside bar in Puerto Escondido, sipping mezcal in a fancy spot in Mexico City, or dancing the night away in Cancun, the choice is yours.
Finally, if you need a break from the saltwater, try the freshwater breaks in the lagoons and rivers. The famed Boca de Pascuales river mouth can dish up some hefty barrels on the right swell.
Mexico is more than a surf trip. It’s a cultural, culinary, and natural adventure! So, when the surf’s down, embrace the rich tapestry of experiences Mexico has to offer. It’s a ride that goes well beyond the waves.
“Know before you go” surfing in Mexico
Before you grab your board and sombrero and jet off to Mexico, here are a few things you should know. First, remember to pack your surf etiquette along with your sunscreen. Respect the local surfers, and you’ll find they’re some of the friendliest folks around. Mexican waves are known for their power, even the smaller ones, so be sure to paddle out only if you’re confident in your abilities.
Most surf spots in Mexico are pretty safe, but like any surf destination, certain areas can be sketchy. Do your research, connect with local surfers or surf schools, and always be mindful of your belongings, especially in crowded beach areas. Never leave your gear unattended on the beach.
Also, don’t forget to check the visa requirements. For most countries, a tourist card, known as a FMM, is necessary for visits longer than seven days. This can be obtained upon arrival at the airport or border.
Healthwise, it’s a good idea to have travel insurance that covers surfing. Mexican water is generally clean, but in some areas near towns or cities, water quality can vary, especially after heavy rains. So, maybe avoid those dawn patrols after a downpour.
If you’re driving, be aware that the “libre” (free) roads offer the best scenery, but the “cuota” (toll) roads are faster and often safer. And always have a map or GPS handy as some surf spots are off the beaten path.
Lastly, a little Spanish goes a long way. While many people in tourist areas speak English, learning some basic Spanish phrases will help you connect with the locals and enrich your experience.
Mexico is a magical place that offers an exciting blend of surf and culture. So, prepare yourself well, respect the locals and their land, and you’ll surely have an epic surf adventure. ¡Buen viaje, amigo!