Thinking of taking a beach vacation in Sayulita, Mexico? Read on for an in-depth look at all the fun things to do in Sayulita along with how to get there and where to stay, eat, drink and shop.
Sayulita is no longer the sleepy fishing village it once was. It isn’t even the not-so-secret hideaway of hippies and surfers it was in the 70s and 80s. Today Sayulita is vibrant, trendy, colorful and overflowing with exciting options.
However, for those looking for a change of pace from the popular beach town of Puerto Vallarta to the south you’ll be pleased to hear that Sayulita still has the laid-back vibe it’s always been known for.
Plus, if you want a taste of what Sayulita used to be you’re just minutes away from the beach-side village of San Pancho (San Francisco)
We’ve visited Sayulita many times over the past 10 years and we’ve seen lots of changes. But, it remains one of our favorite destinations in Mexico both for day trips from Puerto Vallarta as well as longer-term stays.
The chill beach town has also gained popularity with the digital nomad crowd as a great place to work and play.
How to Get to Sayulita
Sayulita is on Mexico’s Pacific coast, 40 km northwest of Puerto Vallarta, on the beautiful Riviera Nayarit. Puerto Vallarta’s airport (PVR) is the closest airport to Sayulita.
If you plan to explore the Riviera Nayarit then consider renting a car to get to Sayulita from the airport. Car rental is usually fairly affordable in Mexico but we highly recommend booking in advance with a reputable company like Hertz or Sixt.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to drive or don’t plan on going far from Sayulita it’s very easy to reach by bus or taxi. Once you’re in Sayulita a car is not necessary to get around town.
Sayulita is quite walkable but if you’re too hot or too tired to walk there are golf carts available to rent all over town. Be warned though that renting a golf cart for the day will likely be more than a car rental.
Traveling by bus from Puerto Vallarta or the PVR airport is easy and cheap. From the airport you will need to cross the highway by way of the overpass and wait for a Compostela Bus heading for Sayulita.
Cost of the bus from the airport will be about $45 pesos and they run every 20 minutes. The downside of taking a bus is that there is no luggage storage so you’ll have an issue with lots of bags.
Also, the bus lets you off at the entrance to Sayulita meaning that you will have to walk into town from the highway.
If you have luggage and don’t want to rent a car then a taxi or private car are the best way to go. For a taxi or Uber it’ll be best to cross the highway to avoid the pricey airport taxis.
Hotels in Sayulita
Accommodation choices have also grown with the increase in tourism. There are all kinds of hostels, hotels and private villas for rent in Sayulita.
Most people choose to stay either in downtown, the South End (between the beaches) or the quiet residential North End. Here is just a tiny sampling of what you can expect.
For a budget-friendly option in the heart of downtown near main beach Selena Sayulita is the only hotel downtown with a pool. The Boho boutique Petit Hotel Hafa is another good option for a central downtown location with a rooftop terrace.
In the South End, a popular spot is the luxury Amor Boutique Hotel with unique suites and villas. Also, a great choice is Villa Amor with a wide range of studios and villas overlooking the sea.
Top Things to Do in Sayulita
This small town packs a lot of punch and whether your plan is to surf, relax, commune with nature or party the night away Sayulita has it covered.
Surfing in Sayulita
As you’ve probably already guessed, surfing is one of the top things to do in Sayulita. Surfers discovered this heavenly spot in the 60s and have been riding the waves here ever since.
The main beach in Sayulita is the most popular spot for surfing. The bay offers larger breaks on one side and smaller waves on the other making it suitable for both beginners and experts.
There are several surf shops on the beach where you can rent boards starting at about $20 USD per day or take a lesson for starting at about $50 USD.
Note: If surfing isn’t your thing you can still test your balance out on the water with a paddleboard. Most of the surf shops also rent paddleboards and the calmer side of the bay is perfect for a serene glide.
Enjoy the Beaches in Sayulita
The main Sayulita beach mentioned above is not only the most popular surfing beach but also the busiest beach in general. It’s right in town so you’ll find restaurants and bars as well as beach loungers and umbrella rentals.
Sayulita’s main beach is really long so if you want to escape the crowds just take a walk north until you find a quieter spot for yourself.
Playa de Los Muertos (Beach of the Dead) is named for its proximity to a cemetery. The beach is an easy 10-15 minute walk from town and offers a much quieter option. Also, the water is calmer so it’s great for kids and swimmers.
There are few amenities at Playa de Los Muertos but you will find a bathroom and some food vendors.
For an even quieter beach experience head to Playa Carricitos. You will walk the same direction as Playa de los Muertos but will before you reach it you take a left uphill. Not far from there you’ll see a painted sign and an arrow directing you to Playa Carricitos.
The beach is beautiful and secluded but be sure to bring water and snacks as there are no facilities here.
Go on a Jungle/Beach Hike
We love hiking and ever since we discovered the hike near Puerto Vallarta from Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas we’ve been hooked on Mexico jungle hikes.
There are several hikes around Sayulita that will take you on an adventure through the lush jungle and along the Riviera Nayarit coastline.
An easy beach/jungle hike is the North End Trail. Follow the main beach or parallel road north to the trailhead. This trail is great for bird watchers and will eventually take you to Playa Malpaso. You’ll be tempted to take a dip but be warned that there are dangerous undertows at this beach.
Another nice hike takes you from Sayulita’s main beach to the secluded Las Cuevas Cove. At the end of main beach you will walk inland on the right of the river valley until you reach the jungle trail. You’ll need to cross a small (possible dry) river, clamber over some small boulders, cross a cobblestone road and eventually hike down the trail to the cove.
For a more challenging, though still just moderate hike, you can walk all the way from Sayulita to San Pancho. This hike is about 5 km one way and is a bit of a labyrinth to navigate but you can’t really get lost for long. The only downside to this hike is that you’ll have to walk along the side of the highway for the final 10 minutes.
The most challenging and adventurous hike is the one to Monkey Mountain. The round trip takes at least 3 hours along some rugged terrain but the views at the top are breathtaking, especially at sunset. It’s best to go with a guide on this one due to the sometimes rough conditions and also not to miss the sights along the way.
Our first choice for guides on Monkey Mountain is Wildmex. They built and maintain many of the trails on the mountain so they know the best spots for views and wildlife spotting.
Visit the Beautiful Marietas Islands
A trip to La Islas Marietas is not super easy or cheap but it’s totally worth it if you can swing it! For many years visits to the islands were not controlled leaving some devastating damage to the natural beauty.
After being completely closed to visits for a while the Marietas are now open to a tightly controlled number of visitors. This is why it’s not so easy or cheap to get to as you can only visit with an approved boat tour.
The small group of islands is just a few kilometers off the coast in beautiful Banderas Bay. The islands are home to lots of marine life and wildlife and activities include snorkeling, diving and beaching.
Playa del Amor is the most famous and most photographed spot. It’s an idyllic hidden island accessed only by swimming with an organized tour group.
See Whales and Turtles
Depending on what time of year you vacation in Sayulita you may be able to see whales and baby turtles.
Whale watching season in the Bay of Banderas is from mid-December to late March. Several types of whales can be seen including Humpbacks, Sperm and Blue Whales.
Whale Watching tours are usually about 4 hours and some reputable companies are:
Turtle hatching season is from June to January. During this time female turtles return to the location where they themselves were born to lay their own eggs. After 2 months of incubation the babies hatch, often as a group, and make their way to the ocean at night.
Preservation groups are very active in helping to ensure as many of these little hatchlings make it to the water. There is a Campamento Tortuguero (Turtle Camp) in Sayulita where you can learn more about the sea turtles, adopt a nest and even volunteer during hatching season.
Ziplines, ATVs and Horseback Riding Adventures in Sayulita
There are plenty of adventurous things to do in Sayulita besides surfing and Rancho Mi Chaparrita has them all covered.
If you seek the adrenaline rush of a zipline the Rancho has 13 ziplines that take you flying through the jungle canopy as well as 4 suspension bridges.
Prefer to stay on the ground but still want that rush? An ATV tour will have you speeding over dunes and along scenic trails to beaches and mountains.
Have you always dreamed of galloping a horse along the seashore? Well, it’s possible in Sayulita as well as horseback riding through lush jungle trails.
Explore the Colorful Sayulita Streets
Take a wander through the streets of Sayulita and you’ll quickly see why it’s on the list of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos (Magic Towns)
The cobblestone streets are alive with colorful buildings, beautiful wall murals, boutique shops, street food and lively bars and restaurants.
Calle Delfines (aka “Slap Street” or Flag Street”) is the most vibrant and popular street in Sayulita. Not only is it full of fun places to eat, drink and shop it also has a colorful overhang of Papel Picado (cut out flags) making for a perfect photo opp.
Visit the Sayulita Cemetery
I’m one of those people who love to visit cemeteries and Mexico is one of my favorite countries for cemetery tourism.
Mexicans treat death quite differently than other North American countries and they celebrate the memory of their loved ones in a very colorful, and often loud, way.
This makes for some pretty awesome cemeteries and though it’s small, Sayulita has a great example. It’s sitting right on the edge of Playa Los Muertos so if you plan to go to the quiet beach allow an extra half-hour to visit the cemetery.
Shop for Local Art, Crafts and Souvenirs
Sayulita has long been known for the crafts and goods created by the boho community and local artisans.
Beautiful handicrafts and artwork of the Huichol people (descendants of the Aztecs) can be found everywhere and make for wonderful souvenirs. Pieces include intricate beadwork, yarn weavings (macrame) and brightly colored pom poms. You’ll often see the artists at work in the boutique shops and market stalls and the Huichol people can be recognized by their white and red clothing.
Some good places to shop:
- Evoke the Spirit contains some of the best examples of Huichol art. I especially love the decorated ceramic cow skulls.
- Galleria Tanana is full of gorgeous art created by the proprietor and Huichol Yarn Painter, Cilau Valadez and his yarn artists-in-training.
- Artefakto has pieces from all over Mexico including some spectacular embroidery.
- Revolucion del Sueno is my favorite place for really unique and innovative clothing and home decor.
- Of course, this is Mexico so exploring the local markets is a must. Be sure to check out the side-by-side Mercado de Pueblo and the Hippie Market.
Chill in Plaza Principal
As with any town or city in Mexico one of the best things to do in Sayulita is spend some time in the central square or plaza.
Plaza Principal is a typical Mexican square with food and craft stalls, a gazebo and street performers.
This is where many of the town’s events are held and is the place where locals of all ages sit and chat while the kids play.
Nightlife in Sayulita
Sayulita isn’t known for nightlife like Cancun is but there’s still plenty of options to party the night (or day) away. You can hang at a chill beach bar, enjoy a cocktail on a rooftop or get your dance on at a nightclub.
Yambak Brewery is a must for craft beer lovers and it generally turns into a party with live music at night. Sayulita Public House on the main plaza provides a traditional pub atmosphere.
Indulge at the Delicious Sayulita Restaurants
On our first visit to Sayulita years ago dining was mainly limited to taco huts and beach bar food. Today’s Sayulita has many more options from vegan to seafood to fine dining and almost everything in between.
The options for breakfast, brunch and coffee are abundant. Yah-Yah Sayulita, Miscelanea and Northside Cafes are all good choices.
For lunch, we like to grab some street tacos at El Itacate, grab a burger at La Fogonera or have a bite at a beach bar. But if you want a fuller healthy lunch try Chocobananas or Organi-K.
Marcolino Pasta y Vino is a good choice for a delicious Italian dinner. If you like poke and other fresh seafood try the fabulous El Pescador. For meat lovers, Cafe Arte is a clear winner and for a splurge with an awesome view check out Si Senor.
Burrito Revolution, La Rustica and Restaurante Yeikame are other spots well worth a mention. Honestly, the list goes on and on but the above is a good start.
Treat Your Body to a Spa or Yoga Session
Pampering yourself doesn’t have to cost a fortune in Mexico. There are many reasonably priced places for a massage or spa treatment in Sayulita and it has also become a hub for wellness and yoga retreats.
There’s nothing better than practicing yoga and meditation on the beach and you’ll be sure to find sessions going on daily.
Sayulita Travel Tips
- Bring pesos with you to Sayulita. Many places do not accept credit cards and there are no banks in town. There are some ATMs but the service fees are known to be outrageous and they are often out of cash so we only use them as a last resort. Go to a bank or ATM prior to arriving in Sayulita.
- When to go to Sayulita depends on what you want. High-season is December through April because the weather is perfect but this means of course that it’s very busy. May to July is much less crowded and the heat is not yet unbearable. August to October is the rainy season.
- Pack for a casual beach vacation. You will not need formal wear in Sayulita and ladies definitely don’t bother bringing heels. The town is very laid-back and the cobblestone streets are best navigated in flat footwear.
- Bring essentials like medications, sunscreen etc. As Sayulita has grown it’s become easier to find things but it’s still a small town with mostly boutique shops. This means that even if you do find what you need it’s likely a bit overpriced.
- Don’t expect super-fast internet everywhere in Sayulita. Although it’s becoming very popular with the digital nomad crowd WiFi is still lacking in many spots. If you’re renting an apartment and you must have fast internet be sure to ask for a speed test.
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Born in England, Sarah developed her wanderlust at a young age as she traveled around Europe with her parents. As a young adult she spent every penny she could on experiences as opposed to possessions. Eventually she found a way to earn a living doing what she loved: traveling, writing and capturing images of the wondrous world we live in. When not on the go Sarah enjoys time in her “sometimes home” of Vancouver.