Updated for 2021 – I almost didn’t go to Sayulita. Everyone I asked about it said it was too crowded, too touristy and there were way too many gringos. I’d been traveling Mexico for a couple of weeks and honestly, I was tired of moving around.. Did I really want to go somewhere and it not be what I was hoping for? But since I was already in Puerto Vallarta – only a short ride away – and I have travel fomo, I packed my bags to spend 48 hours in Sayulita.
I’m so glad I did it because I absolutely loved it! Sayulita is one of those small, endearing Mexican beach towns with a perfect laid back vibe. It was Valentine’s Day, so it’s true, it was a bit crowded. And a lot of the tourists were gringos, but cool ones at least. Here’s what I did and some Sayulita tips.
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Where is Sayulita?
Where is this cute laid back town located? Sayulita is on the Pacific coast of the Mexican state of Nayarit. This area is called the Rivera Nayarit for the many beach towns that line the coast. Sayulita lies just to the north of Puerto Vallarta, which is in Mexican state of Jalisco.
How to Get to Sayulita
The closest commercial airport to Sayulita is Puerto Vallarta’s Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR). Once you land in Puerto Vallarta, you can travel the 25 miles or so the Sayulita via car, bus, Uber or taxi. It takes about an hour to get to Sayulita from Puerto Vallarta.
Using Uber to Get to Sayulita From Puerto Vallarta
To get from Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita. I took an Uber. I used the app to request a ride to Sayulita from Puerto Vallarta but I then made arrangements with the same driver to pick me up and take me back to Vallarta. That way I knew I had a driver and a dependable way to get back to Puerto Vallarta.
Southerner Says: I was told not all Uber drivers would go all the way to Sayulita so making arrangements to return to Puerto Vallarta just saved me some time.
To go from Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita using Uber costs about $500 to $600 pesos one way or roughly $25 to $30 USD. It’s not cheap but a taxi would have cost more and I really didn’t want to go by bus since I’d already been on quite a few buses.
Getting to Sayulita By Bus
If going by Uber just isn’t in your budget, then take the bus from Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita is a good alternative. Bus travel in Mexico is a great way to save some money and the buses are nice. To get to Sayulita from the Puerto Vallarta airport, leave the airport and walk across the pedestrian bridge to the bus station.
Southerner Says: do not get on a bus in Mexico without a pair of earbuds. Trust me on this.
The buses that go to Sayulita from Puerto Vallarta are green and white buses. Make sure that your bus says Sayulita on the windshield because the buses go other places too. If it doesn’t say anything, then just ask the driver where it’s going. Buses run every 20-30 minutes. They will take a little longer than Uber or a taxi because of the stops they make.
The bus station in Sayulita is on the main road going into town. From there, it’s just about a 5 minute walk to downtown. Bus fare from Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita is $46 pesos, which is less than $3 USD. That’s a huge savings over taking an Uber.
Southerner Says: Download the Rome to Rio app, one of my 5 Essential Apps for Traveling in Mexico. You can use it for bus routes and schedules all over Mexico.
Where To Stay in Sayulita
Even though Sayulita is small, there’s no shortage of places to stay. You can find pretty much any kind of accommodations you want. There are countless hotels, bungalows, Airbnb’s and even a few hostels available.
M Boutique Hotel
Since it was Valentine’s Day week and since I waited so long to decide if I was even going to Sayulita, I didn’t have a lot of choices last minute. Luckily, I was able to snag a room at MBoutique Hotel and it couldn’t have turned out better.
Located just a short walk from downtown, the hotel has five individual rooms in a four story building over a business on the first floor. Because of it’s layout, I would consider it more apartment than hotel but it also has some shared common spaces you usually find in a hostel.
The rooms are huge. With beds and pullout sofas, most sleep at least four people with plenty of space to not feel crowded. Room 3 was my favorite. As far as the bathrom goes, I was happy to have a huge bathtub to relax in. It was exactly what I needed after traveling around for a few weeks.
Each floor has a large shared full kitchen and living area. I didn’t spend any of my 48 hours in Sayulita cooking but it was nice to have that option. MBoutique would be a great place for families or groups traveling together for someone wanting to do a long term stay.
Besides the common area, MBoutique has a nice rooftop with a Jacuzzi that all guests are allowed to use. There are also beach umbrellas and beach chairs available to take to the beach with you. The only real downside to the hotel is that there’s no elevator so it’s a little difficult to get bags up to the top floors, especially if you are traveling solo.
Other Places to Stay in Sayulita
For such a small town, there is a wide variety of places to stay in Sayulita. Next time I visit I’ll consider staying closer to the center of town just to try something different. Here’s a few properties that caught my eye when searching for accommodations.
Several people I met in Sayulita, were renting homes. After browsing some of the options, these are my favorite Airbnb properties. Another possibility is to rent from VRBO. I would definitely consider a home stay because many of them have private balconies and pools. Plus there are some truly unique properties in different price ranges.
Where to Eat in Sayulita
Sayulita may be small but just like accommodations, there are tons of restaurants in town. There’s a good mix of old school, authentic Mexican restaurants and newer, trendy spots. Sayulita’s location on the coast means amazing fresh seafood. I took advantage of that and ate some of the best seafood of my entire trip there.
Breakfast & Lunch
If you’ve read anything on my blog, you probably know that I love breakfast. But I don’t always want to eat it early. So breakfast all day places make my heart happy. Cafe El Espresso was my go to spot in Sayulita for that. You can get anything on the breakfast menu all day long. Not only was the food delicious but the so was the coffee and the service was excellent.
If by chance, you need to get some work done or just want to catch up on your social media, they have free WiFi. It’s an easy place to spend a morning or afternoon. If you don’t want to do a sit down meal, they have walk up window on the side for smoothies, coffee and take out.
- Cafe El Espresso
- open till 10 pm
- cash and credit cards.
Fresh Fruit + Juice
While in Sayulita, don’t miss a chance to try some of the freshest, tastiest fruit you’ll ever have. All over town, you’ll see juice and smoothie stands. If you are new to Mexican juices, my favorite is a green juice or jugo verde. It’s typically make with celery, cucumber, orange juice and lime. Some places make theirs with nopales – or cactus – parsley or other greens in the mix. It’s the perfect pre-breakfast drink or the perfect if you don’t feel like eating, wink wink, drink to get you going for the day
Lunch + Dinner
When I arrived in Sayulita after a boat tour, I was famished. Once I got settled and walked through town, I noticed Emiliano’s right away. It has a cute bar out front, perfect for someone dining solo. I also noticed there were a lot of locals eating there. That’s always a good sign when choosing a restaurant in a new destination.
The fresh catch of the day was mahi mahi or dorado, which just so happens to be my favorite fish to eat in Mexico. Generally, fish in this area is prepared a la plancha or on the grill. My mahi was marinated in a garlicy, ginger sauce and served with rice and beans. It also came with some of the best guacamole I’ve ever eaten anywhere in Mexico. I couldn’t have asked for a better meal and introduction to Sayulita after a long day. All this for $150 pesos or about $8 USD. It was a steal to get that and a Pacifico.
- open till 11 pm
- cash only
Even More Seafood
The Uber driver that drove me over to Sayulita was familiar with the area and recommended El Costeno. So I went there on the second night for dinner. El Costeno proudly claims that they are 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 right on the beach, with a few tables right in the sand, it’s a lively place to have an early dinner and watch the sunset. They close a lot earlier than the other restaurants, so get there early.
Once again, I ordered mahi mahi. This time, it was prepared with garlic and red peppers. A regional specialty. The fish was excellent but the sides were just so so. Nothing like the night before. What I liked the most about the restaurant was the location on the beach.
The restaurant also claims to have the biggest margaritas in town. According to my server, the margarita is 6 liters and has at least, a whole bottle of tequila in it. Of course being solo, I didn’t order one but I saw a couple of tables sharing one and they are ginormous. Probably the biggest margarita I’ve every seen.
- El Costeno
- open till 8:30 pm
- Cash and credit cards accepted
One more place that I heard good things about but didn’t have a chance to go is called Mary’s Restaurant. They serve authentic Mexican food and fresh homemade tortillas. A must for my next visit.
- Mary’s Traditional Mexican Cuisine
- open till 11:30 pm
- Av. Revolucion 36
If you love Mexico for it’s street food then you will be happy to know that Sayulita has plenty of that too. On the corner of Calle Marlin and Calle Jose Mariscal, one of the corners of the central plaza, there’s a taco stand that has really good tacos for late night snacking. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the stand but it was so good. Cash only.
Surprisingly, for a such a small town, Sayulita has quite the nightlife. And the party went pretty late. There are several options, it just depends on what you are in the mood for. Also don’t be surprised to see dogs in the bars. In fact, dogs are allowed pretty much everywhere in Sayulita it seems.
For live music and dancing, Bar Don Pato seems to be pretty 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 Salsa and Cumbia thrown in.
How much is beer in Sayulita? Expect to pay a little more for here than you would in Puerto Vallarta. As long as you stick to domestic Mexican beer, it’s still way cheaper than in the states. A Pacifico is about $30 MXN or roughly $1.50 USD
- Bar Don Pato
- No cover
- Cash at the bar
If a loud bar is not your thing, Aria Lounge just around the corner from Don Pato, has live music in a more relaxed, chill atmosphere.
- Aria Lounge
- tapas, + music
- cash + credit card
What To Do in Sayulita
Sayulita is a surf town and has been since the 1960’s. The town faces north and that means it receives consistent waves and swells perfect for surfing or learning to surf. The main beach in town has several surf board and stand up paddle board rentals places. If you are new to either of those or have always wanted to learn, it’s one of the top places in Mexico to surf.
Part of my 48 hours in Sayulita was spent visiting Islas Marietas National Park located off the coast of Nayarit. You could arrange a similar tour by going to Punta Mita (instructions in my post) or checking with local tour operators in town. You could also hire a private guide. Just make sure you hire someone reputable because the rules for visiting the Marieta Islands are a bit tricky.
One of the best things about Sayulita is you can do as much or as little as you like. There’s no pressure to do anything else but sit on the beach. With several spas in town, it’s the ultimate setting for relaxing Or you could choose to have a massage on the beach or in your hotel. Even better.
As you get to know the town, you’ll notice that Sayulita is a very artsy community. Art galleries, jewelry stores and shops selling local handmade items are plentiful and so fun to wander around in. There are also several open air markets where you can buy traditional items made by the indigenous Huichol people. Sayulita is THE place to buy woven bags and the ever useful Mexican blanket.
If you are interested in volunteering while visiting, Sayulita Animals is a dog rescue group that I learned a little about while I was there. Through donations, they offer free spay/neuter clinics, provide foster homes and educate the community about the homeless pet problem in many places. Check their website for opportunities to volunteer, foster or even adopt.
When’s the Best Time to Visit Sayulita?
Honestly, there’s really not a bad time to visit the Pacific Coast area of Mexico and Sayulita is no exception. High season is mainly when the rest of North America is experiencing winter. So generally, November through May is the busiest time. The weather in February, when I was there, was perfect with nice mild temps and low humidity.
Crowds increase during March and Spring Break. Then, Semana Santa or Holy Week, the week before Easter is busy. That’s a big travel week for Mexicans too.
Rain and hurricane season, which is middle and late summer, is low season. You can find some awesome deals on lodging then. The further you get into summer, rain chances increase and so does the humidity.
Getting Around Sayulita
Once you are in Sayulita, it’s easy to explore the town on foot. Personally, I feel like you get to know a place better by walking. You’ll also see a lot of people using golf carts and ATV’s to get around. There are plenty of places to rent one scattered around town. If you are in town for a few days, then I definitely think renting one is a good idea. It would you a chance to explore some of the surrounding areas outside of town and some of the harder to get to beaches.
Is Sayulita Safe?
Like many tourist destinations, Sayulita isn’t exempt from petty crime and theft but that’s true of just about anywhere. Sayulita is still one of the safest places in Mexico. Visitors should take the normal precautions they take when traveling anywhere. Don’t flash money and jewelry around and don’t keep all your cash in one place.
Females and especially those traveling alone, should be aware of their surroundings. Keep an eye on your drinks. Never accept mixed drinks or shots from strangers and don’t overindulge. I was alone in Sayulita but I walked around at night from downtown to my hotel and didn’t feel unsafe,
Is it Safe to Swim in Sayulita?
After reading warnings about the quality of the water in the area, you may be wondering if it’s safe to swim in Sayulita? I’m happy to report that Sayulita no longer dumps their waste water onto the beach. Previously, news articles reported that people claimed they were getting sick from swimming in the ocean near Sayulita but according to sources, there have been no reported illnesses in more than a year.
Money Tips For Sayulita
Like everywhere else in Mexico, pesos are the currency in Sayulita. In all my travels, Sayulita is the only place I’ve ever had a problem exchanging pesos to dollars. This is most likely because it was Valentine’s Day and it was crowed. All the ATM’s ran out of money. Here’s a few things to keep in mind about your money in Sayulita.
To get the most out of your money, exchange your pesos before you get there. Cash is king and many places don’t take credit cards. The evening I arrived in Sayulita, the change houses or the cajas de cambio, had closed and the ATM’s ran out of money.
A lack of cash normally wouldn’t have been a problem except since Sayulita is so small, many of the restaurants don’t accept credit cards. Even when the change houses opened the next day, I got a pretty bad exchange rate for my dollars and the ATM’s were still out of money.
If you are paying with cash then use pesos. Sometimes I see people asking if it’s okay to pay in dollars. In a small town like Sayulita, it’s not. All the difficulty I just mentioned about exchanging money is what a local has go through when you pay with dollars. Just don’t do it.
It’s also good to keep some change and small bills in pesos, on hand. When you exchange money at a bank or when you get change from a store, ask for some monedas. If you only get bills from the ATM, then use them somewhere to get some change. You never know when you might need change for a tip, a bathroom or even federal property like a bus station.
Southerner Says: neither bus stations in Puerto Vallarta or Sayulita required money to enter but some bus stations in bigger cities like Guadalajara do.
Using Credit Cards in Sayulita
Like many small towns in Mexico, credit cards aren’t widely accepted in Sayulita. Both restaurants where I ate dinner, excepted only cash. It’s also common that even if a place does accept credit cards, you can’t leave the tip on the credit card. If you don’t have pesos, that means someone misses out on a tip. Don’t be that traveler.
48 Hours in Sayulita
So, was it worth making the trip and hanging out for 48 hours in Sayulita? Absolutely! It was one of the most fun times I had on my entire Mexico trip. Sayulita would make a great honeymoon stop, a fun girls or bachelorette trip or even a spring break destination. I hope to visit again soon!
Are you planning a trip to Sayulita? Some of my favorite trip planning websites are Expedia.com for plane tickets and hotel rooms. I usually compare their accommodations prices to Booking.com prices. Rentalcars.com is a necessity for renting a vehicle. Tripadvisor.com is excellent for reviews and planning tours. Last but also one of the most important things is travel insurance. Check out TravelInsurance.com to see a variety of plans for your next Mexico trip. Happy traveling!