Mexico Destinations – Pacific Mexico cruising ports & anchorages

Map of Mexico Cruising Destinations

Mexico has four main cruising regions: Baja Coast, N. Pacific, S. Pacific and Sea of Cortez.

We have traveled the entire coast of Pacific Mexico by sailboat and have grown to love the people and the place.

This page provides links to all the Mexico destinations where we’ve had our cruising adventures. The blog posts on this page are grouped by region and are listed in reverse chronological order (newest first). 

As you read each post, you’ll find links to the previous and next adventure at the top and bottom of each post, but they also wander off to other regions at the times when we flew home or went inland. 

For cruisers considering a sailing cruise of Mexico, we have created nearly four hours of videos describing each anchorage in detail and offering hints and tips about the climate, weather patterns and navigation considerations in our video series “Cruising Mexico Off the Beaten Path,” which is available on DVD or by video download at this link.

All the info that is here can also be found on the individual sub-pages below (all are under the MEXICO menu item above as well):

You can see an overview of our cruise with links to the highlights here:
Mexico Cruise Start to Finish

In the first half of 2010 we lived at Marina Coral & Hotel in Ensenada, Mexico, while we outfitted our boat for cruising. In the winter of 2010-11 we sailed down the Pacific coast of the Baja peninsula and explored the mainland coast as far south as Zihuatenejo and then went up into the Sea of Cortez.

In the winter of 2011-12 we sailed down from the Sea of Cortez as far south as the Guatemala border and made several trips inland in southern Mexico. In the winter of 2012-13 we cruised from the bottom of Mexico up to Puerto Vallarta and then across the Sea and up the Baja coast to San Diego.

If you are planning to take your boat to Mexico, you may also find it useful to peruse our pages under the menu item Cruising Lifestyle.

PACIFIC COAST OF THE BAJA PENINSULA (San Diego to Cabo San Lucas):

Lots of folks come down to Mexico on the Baja Ha-Ha, stopping in Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria before reaching Cabo. We came down the slow way, stopping at almost every anchorage there is on that coast.

It was cold up north (early November). We had kelp until Turtle Bay and fog in Bahia Santa Maria. We finally took off our foul weather gear during the day south of Bahia Santa Maria and were finally able to swim in Cabo (mid-November).

Ensenada is a fantastic destination and a great place to outfit a boat for cruising Mexico.  The Baja Naval boatyard is top notch.  With a TelCel Banda Ancha USB modem we were able to get internet access everywhere but Cedros and Belcher Cove (outer part of Bahia Santa Maria). 

More about how to acquire a TelCel USB Modem here (½ down page)

We describe all the anchorages on Baja’s Pacific coast in detail in our video Cruising Mexico Off the Beath Path – Northern Pacific Coast which is available as a DVD or video download at this link.

Map of Baja California

Anchorages between San Diego & Cabo.

 

NORTHERN PACIFIC COAST OF MAINLAND MEXICO – (Mazatlan to Manzanillo):

This is a very popular cruising region.  It has very mild weather patterns but the water is prone to red tide and is chilly in wintertime. On the Costalegre (“Gold Coast”), there is often a lot of air pollution from fires burning on shore, so skies are frequently gray. The anchorages are often rolly.

However, the marinas in Mazatlan and especially in Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta area) are wonderful.  Banderas Bay is fabulous for day-sailing in the afternoons with tons of wind every day.  It is worthwhile to spend time at both La Cruz (either at Marina Riviera Nayarit or in the anchorage) and also at Paradise Village Marina. 

Each has its own flavor, and both are delightful in distinct ways.  La Cruz has a fabulous farmer’s market on weekends and fish market every day.  Paradise Village has a glorious beach, swimming pools, hot tubs, free entertainment, and a true resort environment, which is pretty nice after roughing it on the boat for a while.

Many cruisers never get further south than this region, and that is a shame because we found that the further south we went the more enjoyable the cruising became. 

Too often we’ve met cruisers who spent months or years in this area and then buzzed through the southern coast — Mexico’s best cruising — in just four to eight weeks.  Spend time here, but we recommend allowing time to go further south too.

We describe all the anchorages on Pacific Mexico’s northern coast in detail in our video Cruising Mexico Off the Beath Path – Northern Pacific Coast which is available as a DVD or video download at this link.

Map of Mexican Riviera

Overview of the Mexican Riviera

Map of Banderas Bay Puerto Vallarta

Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta) Anchorages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Map of Costa Alegre - Gold Coast

The Costa Alegre (known to cruisers as the Gold Coast)

SOUTHERN PACIFIC COAST OF MAINLAND MEXICO – (Zihuatanejo to the Guatemala border):

This region includes the “Costa Grande” and the “Costa Sur.”, and without doubt, for us, this area was the Best of Mexico cruising. The weather was mild and predictable, and the water was warm enough for swimming all winter long.

For us, our months in Zihuatanejo, and even moreso in Huatulco, were the best months in our 3.5 year cruise of Mexico. Huatulco was the pinnacle of our voyage and gave us the truly topical experience we were looking for.

All the blog posts listed on this page are in chronological order for each section. Some places we visited each year, and others we wandered in an out of.

So, as you read the posts, many link together, but others don’t, because we flew home or flew back or went inland from the coast… However, hopefully you will get a feel for what each area is like.

We describe all the anchorages on Pacific Mexico’s southern coast in detail in our video Cruising Mexico Off the Beath Path – Southern Pacific Coast which is available as a DVD or video download at this link.

Map of Southern Mexican Coast

Southern Mexican Coast – Costa Grande & Costa Sur

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Following are our blog posts from our adventures in Zihuatanejo. The little island of Ixtapa (or “Isla Grande” as given in the cruising guides) is a great place to snorkel and spend time on the beach. Zihuatanejo is a friendly beach community while nearby Ixtapa is more upscale. The water is quite polluted near town, so we preferred to anchor off Las Gatas beach. However, the bottom of our boat always still became thickly encrusted with barnacles after just two weeks. We used a stern anchor each time we visited. We spent a month here each season, enjoying its very laid back pace.

Fishermen mending nets in Zihuatanejo

Fishermen mending nets in Zihuatanejo

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These are our blog posts from our adventures in Acapulco. Acapulco has great day-sailing in the bay and several nice anchorages around the edges of the bay. Our favorite anchorage was Puerto Marques.

Cliff diver in Acapulco

Cliff diver in Acapulco

  • Acapulco to Huatulco – A Disturbing Passage 02/03/12 January, 2012 – A discovery at sea on our way from Acapulco to Huatulco was devastating. But the beauty of Huatulco got us smiling again…
  • Acapulco – A Faded Lady 01/31/12 January, 2012 – Acapulco, Mexico, is a faded lady, but the soaring cliff divers inspired us and we found lots of natural beauty in the outlying cove of Puerto Marques…

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These are our blog posts from our adventures in Huatulco. This area is AWESOME, as it has some 25 anchorages or so in a 10 mile stretch of coast. You can anchor in solitude in nature, anchor in a gorgeous bay ringed by resorts or anchor off a little harbor village. The snorkeling is superb. The water is 85 degrees in January. And there are tons of things to do off the boat, from eco-tourism to a day at a surf beach to inland trips to Oaxaca. We spent four months here all together, one month in the spring of 2012 and three months in the winter of 2012-13.

Huatulco Anchorage

Huatulco

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These are our blog posts from our adventures in the Tehuantepec and Chiapas area. The Tehuantepec is not difficult to cross if you have patience and wait for a weather window. Marina Chiapas is new and is an ideal jumping off point for adventures among the Mayan ruins and natural beauty of Chiapas. I have included our Marina Chiapas Cruiser’s Guide too, as it gives lots of great information about this new marina at the bottom of Mexico.

Marina Chiapas

Sunset in Marina Chiapas

SEA OF CORTEZ – (the ocean between Baja and the Mainland):

The Sea of Cortez is beautiful but is a land of extremes. It has a foul temper when it comes to weather. The old adage says that for two days of sheer bliss you pay with one day of pure hell. Unfortunately, that is not far from the truth.  Northers, Coromuels, Chubascos and other weather events with cute nicknames keep sailors on their toes.

In between the nasty weather and choppy seas, this region is wonderful. It is too cold to swim between December and April, and you may want to run your cabin heater on winter mornings.  The air temperature is an oven between July and October.  The water is cool until June but stays warm enough for swimming until the end of November.  The best times to cruise this area, we found, are late spring and early Fall.  Generally, if the water is warm enough for swimming, the air is so hot you want to swim all the time!

Map of Sea of Cortez Cruising Anchorages

The major Sea of Cortez spots
There are dozens of anchorages…

TRAVELS IN MEXICO – (Getting off the boat and seeing the interior of Southern and Central Mexico):

Our Lady of Guadelupe Morelia

Cathedral in Morelia

After spending nearly two years on the Pacific coast of Mexico with our sailboat, Groovy, we realized we had done very little REAL Mexico travel. So we ventured inland in southern Mexico during 2012-13. We left Groovy behind in anchorages and at marinas in Huatulco and Marina Chiapas (to see Southern Mexico) and Zihuatanejo and in Puerto Vallarta (to see Central Mexico). On these inland trips we discovered vibrant Spanish colonial cities that were full of color and life. Better yet, we found it easy to visit lots of thousand-year-old ruins dating from the days when the Zapotecs and Mayans ruled the land.

Where is Everything and How do you Get There?

For more details about how to put together an inland adventure, see these pages:

Mexico by Bus – How and where to catch buses between Mexico’s coast
and the hot spots inland.

Marina Chiapas Inland Travel Notes – Visit Mexico’s incredible Mayan ruins and see the country’s most beautiful state.

Callejones de Guanajuato

Colorful streets of Guanajuato

What was the Best Place?

It’s all fabulous, and hopefully future cruisers will see even more than we have. However, for those in a hurry, our favorite ancient ruins were at Palenque and Yaxchilan & Bonampak (map further down this page). Our favorite colonial cities were Guanajuato and Oaxaca (see map below).

Map of Central Mexico

It is easy to get to and from the coast in Central Mexico.
We chose to go inland to Central Mexico from Puerto Vallarta and Zihuatanejo.

Guanajuato Teatro Juarea

Teatro Juarez, Guanajuato

Places we visited while Groovy was at Paradise Village Marina in Puerto Vallarta. If you make only one off-the-boat inland journey to a colonial city, this is the one to do.

Places we visited while Groovy was anchored off Las Gatas Beach in Zihuatanejo. An alternative is to leave the boat at Marina Ixtapa. Morelia is a beautiful colonial city and it is lovely to see the millions of migrating monarch butterflies in the ponderosa pine forests of the inland mountains.

Monarch Butterfly migration Morelia Mexico

Monarch butterflies, Morelia

Map of South Central Mexico

Huatulco and Tapachula (Marina Chiapas) are the best jumping off points for
west coast sailors headed inland in Southern Mexico.

Monte Alban Oaxaca

Monte Alban, Oaxaca

Places we visited while Groovy was at Huatulco’s Marina Chahué: An inland jaunt to Oaxaca gives you both a fantastic colonial city experience AND some wonderful ancient Zapotec pyramid ruins.

Girls in Oaxaca

At Oaxaca’s Zócalo

Palenque Mayan Ruins

Mayan ruins in Palenque

Places we saw while Groovy was at Marina Chiapas (also known as Puerto Chiapas and Puerto Madero near Tapachula). These places can be reached from Huatulco too and are worth every effort to get to. The Mayan ruins at Palenque, Yaxchilan and Bonampak are absolutely mind boggling.

Mayan frescoes at Bonampak

Mayan frescoes at Bonampak

Have fun on your voyage and let us know how it goes!!

To help you plan your cruise and get you inspired, we created the video series, "Cruising Mexico Off the Beaten Path - Volumes 1-3," shown below. This is a fun-to-watch and easy-to-digest introduction to Mexico from a cruiser's perspective, giving you lots of valuable information that isn't covered by the cruising guides. Each video is available individually at Amazon, either as a DVD or as a download. For discount package pricing on the whole series, visit our page Cruising Mexico Video Series.

Volume 1 (left) reviews the geography, weather and seasons in Mexico and shows you what the best anchorages between Ensenada and Manzanillo are like.

Volume 2 (middle) gives detailed info that can't be found in any of the guidebooks about the glorious cruising ground between Manzanillo and the Guatemala border.

Volume 3 (right) provides all the info you need to get off the boat for an adventure-filled trip to Oaxaca.

Our Gear Store also has a boatload of ideas for your cruise!