I have to admit I was hesitant to visit Sayulita. It seems every week I see someone posing with brightly colored pom poms or some other prop that screams I’m in Sayulita. But on a recent trip to Puerta Vallarta, the proximity made going there a no brainer. What I found was a total surprise. I really enjoyed myself way more than I thought I would. Usually tending to stay away from trendy, I found Sayulita to be a real Mexican beach town tempered with surfers, artists and yes gringos, but cool ones.
Sayulita is the kind of place where you dance till three in the morning on a random Wednesday night with people you’ve never met before. Sayulita is the kind of place where they allow dogs into the bars. Sayulita is the kind of place where, well, you smell weed all day long. But Sayulita is also the kind of place that mourns the people who just died in the bus crash down the highway. Welcome to the Sayulita I saw. I’m so glad I went.
Sayulita is located in the Mexican state of Nayarit which is to the north of Puerto Vallarta. There isn’t an airport in Sayulita but since it’s only 40 km or 25 miles from Puerto Vallarta you can easily fly into the Licenciado Gustavo Dias Ordaz International Airport there (PVR) and drive, Uber or take a bus. Bus travel within Mexico is very safe and efficient. You can download and use the Rome2Rio app for the bus schedule. The bus station in Puerto Vallarta is very close to the airport and the bus station in Sayulita is within walking distance of town.
I made arrangements to go in an Uber. It was super easy and convenient. I also made arrangements for the same driver to pick me up at a designated time. Since most of the road there is only two lane, traffic can be a little heavy in some of the small towns. It’s about an hour from Puerto Vallarta and should cost $500 to $600 MXN 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 you are there you can walk everywhere. It’s a very walking friendly town and also very safe. ATVs and golf carts are available for rent if you wanted to explore a little more. You should have no problem finding a place to rent one. I just walked while I was there.
M Boutique Hotel is where stayed while in Sayulita. I booked it through Booking.com. The hotel, located about a five minute walk from downtown, has five individual rooms in a four story building, over a business located on the first floor. Because of the layout I would consider this more apartment than hotel but with some shared spaces common in a hostel. The rooms are huge and most sleep at least four people. Each floor has a nice large shared kitchen and living area. It would be a great place long term or if you had a family or couple were traveling together. You have your individual space but have a common area to gather in.
I stayed in two different rooms on the third floor. Number one and number three. Number three had a huge tub. Since that was the only bathtub I had the entire time I was in Mexico, I was pretty happy. There was also a rooftop with a jacuzzi that anyone staying there could use. The only downside is there is no elevator. The narrow steps stairs make it a little hard to get your bag up to the top floors. Especially if you are alone.
Umbrellas and chairs available were available in the common area for you to carry to use at the beach. If 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).
There are many other lodging options in town. I met and talked with a lot of other travelers who had used AirBnb and they were very pleased with their rental.
Food in Sayulita is very delicious. I had some of the best seafood of my entire trip there because everything is fresh caught and locally sourced. There’s also a good mix of old school family restaurants and more newer trendy places.
Breakfast: Café El Expresso has a great coffee and an awesome breakfast sandwich. So good, I went twice. They offer free WiFi (huge bonus) and while you can get a table or sit at a bar that faces the street. Good for people watching. There’s also a walk up window for coffee and smoothies. Strolling through town, you will see a lot of fresh fruit stands for juices and smoothies. Don’t miss a chance to taste some of the best fruit and “jugo” you’ve ever had.
Dinner: Emiliano’s and El Costeno were both very good. Fresh seafood and great views. Emiliano’s is street side while El Costeno is on the beach I spent roughly $150 MXN or $10 USD for a really good dinner of a fish filet, sides and beer.
El Costeno is said to be the oldest restaurant in Sayulita. Since it’s on the beach, it’s a great place to watch the sunset. They also claim to have the biggest margaritas in town. Six liters and at least, I was told, a whole bottle of tequila! They are only open till 8:30 pm. So get there and get your table to watch the sun go down.
As in many towns in Mexico, there is plenty of street food and taco stands. On the corner of Calle Marlin and Calle Jose Mariscal, that’s the corner of the center plaza, there’s a taco stand that had excellent tacos and super nice cooks making tacos late into the night.
For live music and bar options in town, Don Patos seems to be the most popular. 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 Tropical selections and Cumbia. Beer was very reasonably priced. About $30 MXN or roughly $1.75 USD for a domestic beer.
If dancing and a lot of people are not your thing, Aria Lounge, just around the corner had live music in a more relaxed, chill atmosphere.
Part of my time in Sayulita was spent visiting Isla Marieta National Park. located off the coast of Jalisco and Nayarit. You could arrange a similar tour by going over to Punta Mita, (instructions in my post) which is not quite as far as Puerto Vallarta.
However, Sayulita is a great place to to a lot or relax and just do nothing. If you are just going to hang out, the main beach in town has plenty of options for renting beach chairs and umbrellas. There are several spas in the area as well. If you feel more adventurous there are also plenty of places that rent surfboards and stand up paddle boards.
Sayulita is also home to a lot of artists. Something easily noticable from the street art around town as well as the many galleries that offer everything from traditional and local art to jewelry, paintings and pottery. There are several open air markets 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. With donations, they provide spay/neuter clinics and foster homes for unwanted dogs. Check their website for opportunities to volunteer, foster or adopt.
Money: One thing I cannot stress enough is change your money before you get there! The evening I arrived the cajas de cambio or change houses had closed and the ATM’s ran out of money. I’m assuming because it was Valentine’s Day and it was crowded. I had limited funds since I had been traveling and was waiting till I got into to exchange money. This 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 got a bad exchange rate. So change your money before you go and carry enough cash with you. Just don’t carry it all around with you at once or at least spread it around and not all in one wallet.
I also found that in a lot of the smaller towns in Mexico, even if they do accept credit cards, they don’t allow you to leave the tip on the card. This means you will need change and smaller bills available. It’s a good idea to ask for small bills and moneda or coins at the bank. All in all this is just good practice anyway because you never know when you might need change for a bathroom or to get into somewhere, like a bus station. That’s another story for another day.
If you go let me know how you spent your time in Sayulita. If you like this article please save it here.