Hurricane Willa, a "potentially catastrophic" category five storm, is barreling towards tourist spots on Mexico's Pacific coast, prompting authorities to warn residents in its path to exercise extreme caution.

The storm is around 190km southwest of the Pacific town of Cabo Corrientes and "is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane when it reaches the coast of Mexico," the NHC said.

Willa has maximum sustained winds of nearly 260km/h with higher gusts, and is expected to hit the western coast of Mexico on Tuesday afternoon, the Miami-based US National Hurricane Center said.

A Category 5 storm - the top level of the Saffir-Simpson hurricane and wind scale - Willa could strengthen throughout this evening.

The NHC described Willa as "potentially catastrophic" and said it was moving northward.

It was expected to produce a life-threatening dangerous storm surge, which will push of ocean water into portions of the coast, and wind and rain.

The NHC said Willa is expected to strike just south of Mazatlan, a popular beach resort, and several other tourist destinations are also in the storm's path.

The storm will "produce waves of 20 feet and lead to the possible formation of waterspouts in front of the coast of Puerto Vallarta," Mexico's National Meteorological Service (SMN) said, referring to another beach resort in the state of Jalisco.

Storms ahead of Hurricane Willa have caused flooding already in many areas

The SMN urged residents to "exercise extreme caution" as recent rains have softened the soil in some areas, and Willa's downpours could cause landslides, flooding and damage to roadways.

Complete power outages, damage to roofs and even the foundations of buildings that are up to 500m from the coastline were possible, the SMN said.

The NHC said that the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter Aircraft that was en route to Willa experienced a safety issue before entering the storm and had to return to base.

Willa is expected to douse coastal states Jalisco, Nayarit and Sinaloa with 15-30cm of rain, likely triggering flash floods and landslides, the NHC said.

Some areas may see as much as 45cm of rainfall.

Nearly three years ago to the day, Hurricane Patricia, one of the most powerful storms on record, struck Mexico's Pacific coast with winds that tore down trees, moved cars and forced thousands of people to flee homes.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Vicente, with maximum sustained winds of 72km/h, is churning some 590km southeast of Manzanillo.

The storm is expected to approach the southwestern coast of Mexico on Tuesday.

While Vicente is expected to weaken to a tropical depression by Tuesday, it could produce major rainfall and the risk of flash floods and landslides, the NHC said.