Confession. I almost didn’t go to Sayulita. When I was considering going, everyone I mentioned it to said it had changed a lot. They said it was too crowded, too commercial and had too many gringos. Yikes. But since I was already in Puerto Vallarta, the proximity made going there a no brainer. I had time so why not spend 48 hours in Sayulita?
Surprise! It’s adorable! I had way more fun than I thought I would. In the last decade, I was told it has changed a lot, as most towns do when they get noticed. But 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 and the neighborhood dogs, since they are allowed in the bars and pretty much anywhere else. Sayulita 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 two days in Sayulita recommendations.
Where is 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. If you are on a budget, the bus station in Puerto Vallarta is close to the airport so you could easily fly in and take a bus to Sayulita. The bus station in Sayulita is within walking distance of center of town so once you are there you can walk around town.
The closeness to Vallarta or even Guadalajara makes it super easy to combine a trip with those cities.
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.
Getting to Sayulita
I had been in Puerto Vallarta a few days so in order to get there, I decided to take an Uber from Vallarta. 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 should take about an hour to get there from Puerto Vallarta and it 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, it’s easy to explore on foot or you can rent an ATV or a golf cart to get around. 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 caught fresh. There’s also a good mix of old school restaurants and newer trendy places.
Breakfast & Lunch
If you’ve read any of my posts, then you probably know that I’m a breakfast all day kind of person. Café El Expresso is the perfect spot for that. They serve an awesome breakfast sandwich all day. The coffee and service was equally as good. If you are looking to get some work done or just catch up on social media, they have free WiFi. With tables or a bar with outlets optimal for people watching, it’s an easy place to spend a morning or afternoon. They also a walk up window on the side or the building if you just want something to go.
Open till 10 pm, they take cash and credit cards.
While in Sayulita, don’t miss a chance to taste some of the freshest fruit you’ve ever had. All through town, you’ll see juice and smoothie stands. If you are new to Mexican jugos, I recommend a cucumber, orange juice and lime green juice. Some places make theirs with nopales or cactus and sometimes parsley. It’s the perfect pre-breakfast or if you just don’t feel like eating- if you know what I mean- drink.
Lunch & Dinner
Arriving in Sayulita just in time for dinner, I noticed Emiliano’s right away. It has a cute bar, perfect for a solo diner, right out front. I also noticed there were a lot of locals eating there. That’s always a good sign.
Everyone had told me how good the seafood is in Sayulita, so I ordered mahi mahi or dorado in Spanish. It was a la plancha, or on the grill, in a garlicy ginger sauce. Accompanied with rice and beans and some of the best guacamole I’ve ever eaten, I was perfectly content with my choice. Cost? 150 pesos or $10 USD for dinner and a Pacifico.
Emiliano’s is open till 11 pm and is cash only.
My Uber driver had recommended El Costeno so I went there on the second night for dinner. Again, he had recommended them for their fresh seafood. El Costeno says 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 tables right on the sand, it’s a great place to have dinner and watch the sunset while drinking a Pacifico. The restaurant also claims to have the biggest margaritas in town. According to my server, it’s a six liter margarita and has at least a whole bottle of tequila in it. Idid see a couple of people (gringos) drinking on and they aren’t for the faint of heart.
El Costeno is only open till 8:30 pm. My fish and beer set me back about $150 pesos or $10 USD. Cash and credit cards accepted.
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 two days 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).
It’s a good thing that Sayulita is the kind of place where you can do as much or as little as you like. It’s perfect for relaxing and just hanging out and to be honest, I did little else. This part of my trip was the end of a small tour through several cities and moving around a lot so it was a great place to relax before heading home.
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 paddle board. If you are new to either of those or have always wanted to learn, there were plenty of places offering lessons.
For the relaxation part, there are several spas in town or one of my favorite things is to get a massage on the beach. If you’ve never done that then Sayulita is a great place to start.
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.
One thing I cannot stress enough about visiting Sayulita is you should 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.
Like many small towns in Mexico, credit cards were not widely accepted. Both places I ate dinner at only excepted cash. I also found that even if they do accept credit cards, you cannot leave a tip on the credit card. The best thing to do, wherever you are traveling in Mexico, is always have some change and small bills on hand for tips. When you are at the bank or when you get change from a store, just ask for some monedas. You never know when you might need it for a tip, a bathroom or even federal property like a bus station. Ask me how I know about that one.
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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