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Sayulita's broad, sandy beach faces slightly north of west, and the headland beyond — called Punta Sayulita — swings to true north, thus absorbing much of the spring and summer S swell that graces points farther south and north on the Mainland Mexican coast. It's not world-class, nevertheless, a fun lefthander can be found breaking just off the beach on the north end of town, offering up clean, sectiony lines that are fun for longboarders and occasionally worthwhile for shortboarders (when a N-W or W swell shows up). The righthander in the middle of town is the main attraction, a mix of sand and rock delivering a shifty longboard wave most days that occasionally gets high performance on a solid swell.
Punta Burros is a fun, somewhat soft right-hand reef with a lower-quality left-hand option around 40 minutes drive from Puerto Vallarta. A great wave for beginners, if not for the constant crowd. Most fun on a longboard, fish, or just about anything with a bit of float.
The Punta Mita area is littered with fun waves, and most of them are righthand pointbreaks. La Lancha, as well as all the other breaks in the Punta Mita area, are actually more dependable wintertime spots, despite the fact that they face southwest. This is because Cabo Corrientes blocks all significant S swell and most SSW swell, though very westerly SW swells get good, while Punta Mita is just small enough to wrap in moderate to large winter NW swells. In a land of summertime lefthanders, Punta Mita is a welcomed anomaly for traveling surfers. So expect crowds, and lots and lots of longboarders, as La Lancha and most other nearby breaks are consistently mellow, although really quite perfect and fun on the best swells.
Sayulita is definitely one of the easier spots to surf, maybe in all of Mexico. It’s great for learning, and for bringing the whole family down to the beach and just having a good time.
Lead Forecaster
Surfing in Puerto Vallarta is centered on two zones: the south-facing spots along Punta de Mita, which make up the northern rim of the Bahia de Banderas; and west-facing Sayulita, north of Punta de Mita along the Riviera Nayarit. Both are heavily shadowed from southerly swell — Cabo Corrientes along the southern rim of the Bahia de Banderas blocks Punta de Mita, and Punta de Mita blocks Sayulita. But when storms set up near New Zealand and send more westerly or longer-period SW swell, both zones come to life. Long-period Southern Hemisphere swells wrap a lot of energy into tucked-away Sayulita and spots like Burros along Punta de Mita become insanely rippable. Tropical systems passing nearby with a more northerly track provide another source of SW-W swell during the Northern Hemisphere summer, while those tracking off to the west do little for the region in terms of surf.Unlike most of Mainland Mexico, the best time to score in Puerto Vallarta is during the Northern Hemisphere winter, when solid storm activity in the North Pacific can deliver healthy WNW swell, so long as the storms are low enough in latitude for the swell to sneak past the southern tip of Baja.Throughout the year, the dominant wind pattern is variable to weak offshore wind in the morning, followed by an afternoon sea-breeze from the W-NW. So for Sayulita, mornings usually offer the best windows;  unless passing storms set up improving conditions into the evenings. Those are most likely during the rainy season, late June through early October. For the south-facing spots along Punta de Mita, the typical pattern is offshore wind in the morning and side-offshore to offshore wind in the afternoon.
Conditions remain mostly favorable during the spring and fall, and if there are overlapping swells from the South Pacific and North Pacific, the exposed beachbreaks around Sayulita can offer really fun surf. Springtime NW windswell events can also provide fun waves for Sayulita as strong northwesterly flow sets up over the Gulf of California. In October, the wildcard is the tropics. Moving through the end of the Eastern Pacific tropical season, systems are more likely to track north or even northeast and back towards the coast, potentially bringing solid tropical swell, but also problematic winds and weather.
It's Mexico; you really can't go wrong year round.
What makes Puerto Vallarta a special place for surfers?
The environment here is easy-going and the people are very kind and inviting to outsiders. A lot of the locals are fishermen, so they’re very open to tourists. The tourists are respectful of the locals, and the locals are respectful in return.
What kind of waves can visiting surfers expect?
We have a variety of waves here in Puerto Vallarta. We get good swells practically year-round. Sayulita is definitely one of the easier spots to surf, maybe in all of Mexico. It’s great for learning, and for bringing the whole family down to the beach and just having a good time.
What’s the vibe in the lineup?
It depends. When the waves are really small, it’s great for beginners. There have been a lot of surf schools popping up all the time. So, if you go with a local surf instructor, you’ll be okay. They know what they’re doing. When it’s a bit bigger, it’s mostly the locals and anyone who knows how to surf well that will paddle out. But if you go by yourself, you always have to respect the locals and their spot — just like anywhere you go in the world.
What should surfers bring?
For Sayulita, a longboard is your best bet. But you can get away with a mid-length, too, like a 7’8”. For other spots, like Burros or all over Punta Mita, you’ll want a shortboard for when it’s bigger, or even a fish. A lot of the waves in the area are very playful, so you might want something with a little more weight. You’ll catch waves easier, and you’ll have more fun.
Also, you’ll definitely want some bug spray, but I recommend something that’s eco-friendly. That way, all those chemicals don’t wash off in the water. The same goes for sunscreen. You’re gonna want it, but go for the eco-friendly option. We want to protect the reefs and the sea life. You also might want a sarong or a rashguard for the heat. And maybe a portable speaker for when you’re chilling on the beach.
When’s the best time to score waves?
It depends, because we get a lot of different swells. In the rainy season (July to October) we get a lot of sneaky swells and it’s less crowded. The water is also very murky due to the river. But if you come any time of year, you’re always going to get a wave that suits you.
What else is there to do when you’re not surfing?
There are so many activities. There’s a little bar or restaurant on every corner in Sayulita. Some of my main places are Le Zouave, that’s my uncle’s bar. We have a little hotel on the beach called Casa Love. Downstairs we have a little coffee shop. In front of that on the main street, Calle del Fin, there’s a bar called Aloha. That’s where all the locals go; we call it “the office.” Then, on the beach, you can walk towards the north side, where there’s much less tourism. You can get a little more space down there. And there’s a cool beach bar called Sirena. We all go there most afternoons to watch the sunset.
What’s your favorite local cuisine?
Tuna tostada. Or sashimi. We eat fresh-caught fish every single day. All our friends and family members, they’re always catching the freshest fish. We also have oysters and lobsters, ceviche, fish tacos… The town is filled with fresh seafood.
Where can people learn to surf?
The oldest surf school in the area is called Tigre Surf School, run by the Cadena brothers [Diego and Guillermo]. They’re some of the best surfers to ever come out of Mexico, and they’re the ones who taught me how to surf. It’s right there on the main street when you first walk down the stairs to Sayulita. They also opened Sayulita Surf Center, which is like a block away, where you can rent boards, buy surfboards, get fishing gear, go on tours… All that stuff.
Any local tips?
Just walk around, take it all in. You will always find something cool. Be kind to the locals, like you would anywhere. And make sure you eat a lot; the local food is amazing.
While Mexico suffers from an unfortunate (and often unfair) reputation for crime and cartel violence, the reality is most areas are quite safe and inviting. Despite the fact that PV (as the locals call it) has seen a boom in development and popularity with expats over the past couple decades, it remains one of Mexico’s safest destinations for tourists of all types. The city proper is pretty large, with a population of around 220,000 and a huge beach/party scene, but visiting surfers will spend most of their time in the quieter, surf-centric zones north and south of the city. There are dozens of waves within an hour of PV in either direction. The spots up north are well-known and developed, while down south is a more remote and solitary experience.
The PV/Sayulita/Punta Mita area has become quite popular with traveling surfers looking for small to mid-sized rolling waves, so crowds are a reality, particularly the traditional longboarding kind. But the vibe tends to be pretty mellow, as is often the case in places where gentle canvases accommodate everyone from professional longboarders to total beginners. While you’re unlikely to get a session to yourself at any of the marquee spots, you probably won’t get in any fights over waves, either. Bring a relaxed vibe, expect the occasional drop-in, and make friends. Surfing is supposed to be fun, and Puerto Vallarta’s waves provide plenty of that so long as you come with the right attitude.
The waves in PV are varied and diverse, and the only board in your quiver that won’t get any use is a big-wave gun. Logs and retro shapes abound on the gentle, playful points, while shortboards and maybe the rare step-up should have you covered if you’re looking to surf the wedgier, more powerful beachbreaks. Boardshorts and bikinis are the attire of choice — you are on the Mexican Riviera, after all. Make sure you bring enough sun protection, too.
Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport in Puerto Vallarta fields flights from all over Mexico and a number of international destinations. Once you land, simply rent a car or hire a taxi to your preferred zone. It’s too easy.
In the evenings, when you’re looking to shake off the saltwater at a discoteca or relax at a local café, you’re only a short drive to the heart of the city of Puerto Vallarta. This place has enough on offer to keep you entertained for weeks, whether you enjoy dancing and partying, exploring the local cuisine and culture, or simply baking on the beach. Malecon Boardwalk is the heart of the PV social scene and always has a thousand things going on. But if you’re looking for a change of scenery from the coast or the city, the nearby Sierra Madre mountains provide a mellow escape. Ecotour attractions closer to the city include Los Arcos Marine Park, the botanical gardens, El Salado Estuary and Palo Maria Waterfall.
LAX: 3 hrs
JFK: 5 hrs
Heathrow: 12 hrs
SYD: 25 hrs +
There’s decent Wifi at all the hotels and surf camps; things get a little less reliable when you’re off hunting waves. An international upgrade to your cellphone isn’t a bad idea.
Mexican Peso. At the time of writing, $1 USD = 20.32 MXN
Cup of coffee: $2.00
Lunch: $10.00
Beer: $2.50
Hotel room: $150.00
No need for a visa, unless you plan on staying for more than 180 days.
Bottled only. Don't chance it.
Petty theft, getting ripped off, sunburns, unleashed longboards careening through the lineup, foodborne illnesses, partying too hard and missing the morning session.
ATMs are available in most urban centers to pick up some spending cash, although credit/debit cards will be accepted at most major businesses. And similar to other touristy hotspots in Mexico, the USD is commonly accepted in addition to the Peso.
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