I almost didn’t go to Sayulita. Everyone said it was crowded. That it was too touristy and there were too many gringos. I had been traveling for several weeks in Mexico and truthfully I was tired. Did I really want to travel again only to get there and it not be what I was hoping for? But, since I was already in Puerto Vallarta, only a short ride away, I loaded up my bags. I had time. Why not spend 48 hours in Sayulita?
The big surprise is – I loved it! I had way more fun than I thought I would. Sayulita is one of those perfect laid back Mexican beach towns we all dream about. It was Valentine’s Day so it was a bit crowded. I guess. Because I never felt crowded. And yes, there are gringos, but cool ones at least.
This is the Sayulita I saw, experienced and loved.
Where is Sayulita + How to Get There
Sayulita is located on the Pacific coast in the Mexican state of Nayarit, just to the north of Puerto Vallarta. After flying into Puerto Vallarta (PVR), the nearest airport, it’s only about a 25 mile drive or ride.
Since I was already in PV, I decided to take an Uber. I used the Uber app to go but then made arrangements with the same driver to pick me up and take me back to Vallarta.
It’s not that far, but it can take about an hour to get there because the road is a two lane road that passes through some other small towns. The cost of an Uber is about $500 to $600 pesos one way or roughly $25 to $30 USD.
If you are on a budget, bus travel in Mexico is perfectly affordable and a great way to get around. The bus station in Puerto Vallarta is close to the airport so you could easily fly in and take a bus straight to Sayulita. The bus station in Sayulita is located a bit out of downtown but still easily walkable if you are staying in town.
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.
Or course, if you plan on renting a car, you can do it at the airport and then drive yourself. You could probably also hire a taxi but this would be more than a bus or Uber.
Getting Around Sayulita
Once in Sayulita, it’s easy to explore town on foot. Personally, I prefer to walk but you’ll see a lot of people using golf carts and ATV’s to get around. There are plenty of places locally that rent them. If I’d had more time, then I wouldn’t have minded renting one. It would be an excellent way to explore the areas outside of town and some of the secluded beaches around.
Is Sayulita Safe in 2020?
Like many tourist destinations, Sayulita isn’t exempt from petty crime, theft and scams. However, it’s still one of the safest places in Mexico. Visitors should take normal precautions they take when traveling. Females and especially those traveling alone, need be alert to their surroundings. Keep an eye on your drinks. Never accept mixed drinks or shots from strangers and don’t drink too much. I was solo, walked around at night and never felt unsafe,
Officially, according to the US State Department, the state of Nayarit is at a Level 2 warning. This means “Exercise Increased Caution Due to Crime.” Don’t let that scare you too much. The State Department hasn’t restricted government employees from travel to Nayarit. Which is a good thing for travelers. For comparison, Jamaica and The Bahamas are both Level 2 travel and you don’t hear near as much in the news about those countries as you do Mexico.
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 is now the only beach town in the area, that doesn’t dump 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.
When’s the Best Time to Visit Sayulita?
Honestly, there’s really no bad time to visit the Pacific Coast area and Sayulita. However, certain times are more expensive than others. High season in Sayulita is when the rest of North America is experiencing winter. So generally October through May is high season. The weather in February, when I was there, was perfect with nice temps and low humidity. Expect bigger crowds during Semana Santa or Holy Week, the week before Easter.
Rain and hurricane season, which is middle and late summer, is low season and lodging prices are less expensive. During that time, rain or thunderstorms are likely.
Where To Stay in Sayulita
There’s no shortage of places to stay in Sayulita. That means you can find pretty much any kind of accommodations you want. There are countless hotels, bungalows, Airbnb’s and even hostels available.
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.
And the rooms are big. Between the beds and pullout sofas, they sleep at least four people with a lot of room to move around. Each floor has a large shared full kitchen and living area. MBoutique would be a great place for a long term stay or if families or couples are traveling together. Room 3 was my favorite and I was so happy to see a huge bathtub. Exactly what I needed to relax after traveling around for a few weeks and not something you see often in Mexico.
M Boutique Amenities
In addition to the common area, the hotel has a rooftop with a Jacuzzi that all guests can use. There are beach umbrellas and chairs available to take to the beach. The only real downside to the hotel is that there’s no elevator. It’s a little difficult to get bags up to the top floors, especially when you are alone.
If arriving late, make sure you make arrangements with the business downstairs because they handle check-ins and are only there during regular business hours. The bus station is close, as well as an Oxxo (convenience store).
Other Places to Stay in Sayulita
Next time, to try something different, I would consider staying right in downtown. Here’s a few hotels that are in good locations and look like the kind of places I would enjoy staying.
Where to Eat in Sayulita
Sayulita may be small but there are tons of restaurants in town. There’s a good mix of old school, more authentic restaurants and newer, trendy places. Sayulita’s location on the coast means amazing fresh seafood. I took advantage of that and had some of the best fish of my entire trip there.
Breakfast & Lunch
If you’ve read any of my posts, you know that I’m a breakfast all day kind of person. Cafe El Espresso was my go to spot for that. They serve an awesome breakfast sandwich all day. The coffee and service was really good. Hopefully you don’t, but If you need to get some work done or just 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, they take
- cash and credit cards.
Also, 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 juices or jugos, my favorite is a green juice. It’s typically make with celery, cucumbers, orange juice and lime. Some places make theirs with nopal or cactus or other greens in the mix. It’s the perfect pre-breakfast or if you just don’t feel like eating, drink.
Lunch + Dinner
I arrived in Sayulita after a tour, hungry and just in time for dinner. I noticed Emiliano’s right away. It has a cute bar out front, perfect for a solo diner. There were also a lot of locals eating there. That’s always a good sign.
The fresh catch was mahi mahi or dorado, as it’s called in Spanish. Fish in this area is typically prepared a la plancha or on the grill. My mahi was prepared in a garlicy ginger sauce, with rice and beans and some of the best guacamole I’ve ever eaten anywhere in Mexico. It was the perfect meal for 150 pesos or $10 USD for dinner and a Pacifico.
- open till 11 pm
- cash only
My Uber driver that drove me to Sayulita knew the area really well and recommended El Costeno, so I went there on the second night for dinner. El Costeno proudly claims 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 on the beach, with tables right on the sand, it’s a lovely place to have dinner and watch the sunset. The restaurant also says they 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. I didn’t order one but I saw a couple of tables sharing one and they are huge. The food was adequate. I didn’t love it but didn’t hate it either. What I liked more than anything was the location.
- El Costeno
- open till 8:30 pm
- Cash and credit cards accepted
Sayulita also has plenty of street food. 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.
I’ve heard and read really good things about Mary’s located at Av Revolución 36, Sayulita, Nay., Mexico. They serve delicious food and homemade tortillas. A must for my next visit.
Bars in Sayulita
Surprisingly, for a small town, Sayulita has quite the nightlife. There are several options. It just depends on what you are in the mood for.
For live music, Bar Don Pato 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.
Expect to pay a little more for beer and drinks than you would in Puerto Vallarta. As long as you stick to domestic beer, it’s still way cheaper than in the states. A Pacifico is about $30 MXN or roughly $1.75 USD
- Bar Don Pato
- No cover
- Cash at the bar.
If a bar or club is not your thing, Aria Lounge just around the corner, 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 Isla 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.
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. Even better.
As you walk around town, you’ll notice that Sayulita is a very artsy community. Art galleries, jewelry stores and shops selling 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, embroidered souvenirs and woven blankets among many other things.
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 caring for their pets. Check their website for opportunities to volunteer, foster or even adopt.
Money Tips For Sayulita
In all my travels to Mexico, Sayulita is the only place I’ve ever had a problem exchanging money. Because it was Valentine’s Day and there were more people in town than usual, all the ATM’s were out of money. Here’s a few things to keep in mind.
To assure that you have the money you need when visiting Sayulita, it’s a good idea to exchange money 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 for me 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 pretty bad exchange rate for my dollars.
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, only excepted cash. I also found that even if they do accept credit cards, many times you cannot leave a tip on the credit card. This is a great reason to keep change and small bills in pesos, on hand. When you exchange money at a bank or when you get change from a store, all you have to do is ask for some monedas. You never know when you might need change for a tip, a bathroom or even federal property like a bus station.
It also courteous to pay in pesos. Sometimes I see people asking if it’s okay to pay in dollars. Just remember when you pay with dollars, someone has to make a trip to the bank to exchange that money.
48 Hours in Sayulita
So do I think it was worth making the trip to Sayulita? Definitely! And I would go back too. I hope you get to go and enjoy it as much as I did.