Confession. I almost didn’t go to Sayulita. When I was considering going, everyone I asked about it said it was too crowded and better before the gringos moved in. Oops. But since I was in Puerto Vallarta, the proximity made going there easy. I had time so why not spend 48 hours in Sayulita?
What I found was a total surprise and I enjoyed myself way more than I thought I would. I’m sure it has changed a lot, as most towns do when they get noticed. For all the changes, Sayulita is still a charming, sleepy real Mexican beach town. There are surfers and artists and yes, gringos, but cool ones.
Sayulita is the kind of place where you can dance till three in the morning on a random Wednesday night with people you’ve just met. Sayulita is the kind of place where the dogs are allowed in the bars. Sayulita is the kind of place where you smell weed all day long. But Sayulita is also the kind of place that was mourning the people who just died in the bus crash down the highway.
Welcome to the Sayulita I saw, experienced and loved. Here’s my Sayulita guide.
Getting to Sayulita
Sayulita is located in the Mexican state of Nayarit which is to the north of Puerto Vallarta. There isn’t an airport there but since it’s only 40 km or 25 miles from Vallarta you can easily fly into Licenciado Gustavo Dias Ordaz International Airport (PVR) in Puerto Vallarta and drive, Uber or take a bus. Bus travel in Mexico is very safe and efficient. The bus station in Puerto Vallarta is close to the airport and the bus station in Sayulita is within walking distance of center of town.
The closeness to Vallarta or even Guadalajara makes it super easy to combine with those cities and spend some time there.
Southerner Says: Download the Rome to Rio app, part of my 5 Essential Apps for Traveling in Mexico and use it for bus routes and schedules.
I had been in Puerto Vallarta a few days so in order to get there, I decided to take an Uber. Some Uber drivers might not want to go that far so just ask your driver. I had an Uber come pick me up at my hotel in Vallarta and he was willing to take me. I also made arrangements for the same driver to pick me up at a designated time and take me back to Vallarta. Since the road between Jalisco and Nayarit is a two lane, traffic can be a little heavy in some of the small towns. It takes about an hour from Puerto Vallarta and costs $500 to $600 pesos one way. That’s roughly $25 to $30 USD. You might be able to find a taxi that would take you but it would cost a lot more.
Once there, if you plan on doing a little more exploring, you can rent an ATV or a golf cart to get around if you don’t want to walk. There are a lot of rental places in town. Personally, I just walked everywhere and felt completely safe, even at night.
Where to stay in Sayulita
I stayed at M Boutique Hotel. The hotel, located about a five minute walk from downtown, has five individual rooms in a four story building. It’s located over a business on the first floor. Because of this layout, I would consider it more apartment than hotel but with some shared spaces that are common in a hostel. The rooms are huge and sleep at least four people. Each floor has a nice large shared kitchen and living area. It would be a great place for a long term stay or if you had a family or couples traveling together. You could have the entire floor with your individual space but a common area to hang out and cook in.
I stayed in two different rooms on the third floor (because I extended my time to stay 48 hours in Sayulita). Number one and number three. Number three had a huge bathtub. I was pretty happy about that since the other places I stayed only had showers.
There was also a rooftop with a Jacuzzi that anyone staying there could use. The only downside to the building is there is no elevator so stairs make it a little hard to get your bag up to the top floors. Especially if you are alone.
Umbrellas and chairs were available in the common area for you to carry with you to the beach. If you are arriving late, make sure you make arrangements with the business downstairs because they handle check-ins and are typically only there during regular business hours. The bus station is nearby, as well as an Oxxo (convenience store).
Airbnbs are also very popular in Sayulita. I met and talked with several other people who had booked through them and they were very pleased with their accomodations.
What to eat in Sayulita
Sayulita maybe small but there are plenty of restaurants to go around. In fact, choosing can be downright difficult because there are so many to choose from. I had some of the best seafood of my entire trip there because everything is fresh caught and local. There’s also a good mix of old school restaurants and newer trendy places.
Breakfast: Café El Expresso has great coffee and an awesome breakfast sandwich that they serve all day. I like to eat breakfast late so that’s a win in my book and enough for me to go twice. They have free WiFi (huge bonus) and you can sit at a table or if you are alone, like I was, you can sit at the bar that faces the street. Great for people watching. There’s also a walk up window on the side or the building for coffee, smoothies and ordering to go food.
All through town, you will see fresh fruit juice and smoothie stands. Don’t miss a chance to taste some of the best fruit and “jugo” you’ve ever had. If you are new to juicing, try a cucumber, fresh orange juice and lime green drink. Some places throw in nopales (cactus) or parsley. It’s the perfect pre-breakfast or if you just don’t feel like eating- if you know what I mean- drink.
Dinner: One of the best ways you can find a good restaurant is ask the locals where they like to go. You can also just look around at the clientele. You can bet if locals are spending their money there then it’s bound to be good. Emiliano’s had a lot of locals, so I stopped in on a whim my first night in town. They have cute street side tables and a small bar out front, that once again, is great for someone traveling solo. I had mahi mahi or dorado in Spanish, with rice and beans and some of the best guacamole I’ve ever had. It cost about $150 pesos or $10 USD for dinner and one beer. They are cash only.
My Uber driver had recommended El Costeno so I went there the second night for dinner. It’s said to be the oldest restaurant in Sayulita. In fact, there’s a sign that says if you come to Sayulita and don’t eat here, then you didn’t really visit Sayulita. Located on the beach, it’s a great place to watch the sunset while drinking a Pacifico. They also claim to have the biggest margaritas in town. According to my server, it’s six liters and has at least a whole bottle of tequila in it. They are only open till 8:30 pm so plan accordingly. My fish and beer set me back about $150 pesos or $10 USD. Credit cards accepted
After Dinner: Sayulita has quite the nightlife for a town this size. For live music and bar options in town, Don Patos seems to be the most popular place in town. At least it was on the Wednesday night I was there. The genre was Spanish rock that night but there was a DJ that played Urban Latin music with some Salsa and Cumbia thrown in. Beer was very reasonably priced. About $30 MXN or roughly $1.75 USD for a domestic beer. No cover. Cash at the bar.
If dancing is not your thing, Aria Lounge around the corner, had live music in a more relaxed, chill atmosphere.
There are also plenty of street food and taco stands in Sayulita. On the corner of Calle Marlin and Calle Jose Mariscal, that’s one of the corners of the central plaza, is a taco stand that had really tasty tacos and super nice cooks making tacos late into the night. Cash only.
What to do in Sayulita
Part of my 48 hours in Sayulita was spent visiting Isla Marieta National Park located off the coast of Nayarit. You could arrange a similar tour by going over to Punta Mita (instructions in my post).
However, Sayulita is the kind of place where you can do as much or as little as you like. Perfect for relaxing and hanging out, the main beach in town has options for renting beach chairs and umbrellas or if you prefer more action, you can rent a surf board or stand up board. If you are new to either of those, there were plenty of places that offered lessons.
For the relaxation part, there are several spas in town or try some yoga. One of my favorite things to do is get a massage on the beach.
Sayulita is also home to a lot of artists. You’ll notice street art and galleries around town that offer everything from traditional and local art to jewelry, paintings and pottery. There are several open air markets around where you can score those pom poms, among other local things.
If you would like to spend some of your time volunteering, Sayulita Animals is a rescue group that I got to know a little about while I was there. They offer free spay/neuter clinics and provide foster homes for dogs waiting to be adopted through donations. Check their website for opportunities to volunteer, foster or adopt.
Southerner Says: One thing I cannot stress enough about Sayulita is exchange your money before you get there. Cash is king in Sayulita and don’t plan on paying with dollars. The evening I arrived the change houses or the cajas de cambio, had closed and the ATM’s ran out of money. I’m assuming because it was Valentine’s Day and it was very crowded.
Lack of cash normally wouldn’t have been a problem except Sayulita is small and a lot of the restaurants just don’t accept credit cards. Even when the cajas opened the next day I a pretty bad exchange rate.
Even if they do accept credit cards, I found that a lot of the smaller towns in Mexico, don’t allow you to leave a tip on the credit card. So it’s good to have some change and smaller bills on hand for tips. When you are at the bank or when you get change from a store, just ask for some monedas.
Keeping some change on hand is just good practice. You never know when you might need it for a bathroom or even federal property like a bus station. Ask me how I know. That’s another story for another day.
So do I think it was worth making the trip to Sayulita? Definitely! I hope you get to go and enjoy it as much as I did.
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