Mainland Mexico is one of the most consistent, swell-rich coasts in the Pacific, and the state of Oaxaca has a variety of waves and wave types to choose from. Add to that relatively mellow crowds, warm water, cheap cost of living and delicious food, and it is easy to understand why this has been a surf-trip staple for West Coast wave riders since the early ’70s.
The Surf: Famous for its next-level beach breaks and mind-numbing sand-bottom righthand points, Oaxaca is an intermediate to expert surf zone.
Five Waves Worth Surfing:
- Puerto Escondido (Zicatela Beach): The world’s heaviest and most infamous beach break, Puerto has charged back into the limelight in the past few years as the big wave paddle movement has come into it’s own. Handling upwards of 20 foot Hawaiian (40-foot faces), this strip of sand is not for the faint of heart.
- Zipolite: This rock/sand peak is a good option for the intermediate surfer who wants the Mexican experience but not the potentially fatal hold-downs of Puerto.
- La Punta: A popular option just to the south of Zicatela—particularly when the “Mexican Pipeline” is big and deadly—this lefthand point is a fun, rippable, often crowded alternative to death by beach break.
- Carrizalillo: Another mellow option when the area’s marquee spot is out of control, Carrizalillo is only a few miles from Zicatela and houses a number of user-friendly peaks.
- “La Jolla”: The surf spot dubbed “La Jolla” (an unsuccessful attempt by the Rip Curl Search event to preserve the spot’s anonymity) is only one of many semi-secret sand-bottom righthand barreling points in Oaxaca. Quickly gaining in notoriety and popularity, these points have already seen their golden age come and go—but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still epic waves, crowds notwithstanding. Want proof? Go find a copy of the video from the Search event in 2006 and have your mind blown.
The Water: Warm and dirty near cities, warm and clean away from them. Water temps hover between 81 to 86 F (27 to 30 C), making this some of the warmest water on earth.
The Season: The great thing about Mainland Mexico is that it pumps year round, picking up swells from the north, south and even west during tropical storm events. South swells are typically biggest and come between May and August, but you are just as likely to score in winter.
The Vibe: The waves surrounding Puerto Escondido can get very crowded, but most people are pretty friendly. Other areas see few to no surfers, so if you are looking to score empty waves, take a side trip off the beaten path.
Things To Do: You know those postcards that show beautiful people lounging on beautiful beaches, soaking up the sun and eating mangoes? They are all shot in Mexico—or at least they could be. This is about the best place on earth for beach bumming, so lounge to your heart’s content.
Where To Stay: This stretch of coast is set up for tourists and surfers, so whether you are looking for a surf camp, a hostel, a hotel or a fully-equipped and staffed villa, you’ll find it.
What To Bring: A bag full of shortboards and step-ups built for barrels, plus a rhino chaser if you are coming for big Puerto. A car with good 4×4 capabilities if you intend to explore. A book and some powerful sunscreen. A taste for spicy food and tequila. DO NOT bring, buy or attempt to transport drugs—you’ll either end up in jail or get killed by competing drug runners.
Getting There: Puerto Escondido now has it’s own international airport, which typically sees flights routed through Mexico City. Oaxaca houses the main airport in the region, and you can easily catch a bus from there to Puerto (six hours). Another option is to fly into Acapulco and travel overland from there (five hours). Visa’s available upon arrival. Airport codes: PXM (Puerto Escondido), OAX (Oaxaca) and ACA (Acapulco).