I almost didn’t go to Sayulita. Everyone I mentioned it to said it was crowded, too touristy and that there were way too many gringos. I’d been traveling in Mexico for a few 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? Since I was already in Puerto Vallarta – only a short ride away – and I have travel fomo, I packed my bags to spend two days in Sayulita.
So how’d it work out? I absolutely loved it! Sayulita is one of those rare finds – a charming beach town with a super friendly, laid back vibe. It was close to Valentine’s Day, so there was a bit of a crowd. And there were gringos, but cool ones at least. Here’s how I spent my time in Sayulita and a few travel tips.
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Where is Sayulita?
Sayulita is located on the Pacific coast in the Mexican state of Nayarit. This area is called Rivera Nayarit for the many beach towns that hug the coast. The Mexican state of Jalisco, which is where Puerto Vallarta is, is just south down the Pacific.
How to Get to Sayulita
Since it is on the small side, Sayulita doesn’t have it’s own airport. The closest commercial airport is Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR) in Puerto Vallarta. Once you arrive, you can easily travel the 25 miles – approximately one hour or so – to Sayulita via rental car, bus, Uber or taxi.
Traveling to Sayulita With Uber
To get from Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita, I took an Uber. I used the app to request a ride and then made arrangements with the same driver to pick me up and take me back to Puerto Vallarta. That way I knew I had a dependable way to get back.
Southerner Says: I was told not all Uber drivers would go all the way to Sayulita so check with yours if you want to make similar arrangements.
An Uber to Sayulita from Puerto Vallarta 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 a bus wasn’t really an option since I’d already been on quite a few this trip.
Traveling to Sayulita By Bus
If an Uber – or taxi – isn’t in your budget, then a bus from Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita is a good alternative. Bus travel in Mexico is a safe, convenient way to save some money and the buses are usually nice.
If you are flying into Puerto Vallarta, once you exit the airport, walk across the pedestrian bridge to the bus station. The buses that go to Sayulita from Puerto Vallarta are green and white buses. The bus should say Sayulita on the windshield. If it doesn’t say anything, then just ask the driver where it’s going. Buses run every 20-30 minutes. Just remember it will take a little longer on a bus than in a car because of the stops the bus has to make.
The bus station in Sayulita is on the main road going into town. From the starion, 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.
Southerner Says: Download the Rome to Rio app, one of my 5 Essential Apps for Traveling in Mexico. You can use it to check bus routes and schedules all over Mexico. It’s also helpful to have a pair of earbuds on the bus. Trust me on this.
Where To Stay in Sayulita
There’s plenty of options for where to stay in Sayulita. You can find pretty much any kind of place you want. There are countless hotels, bungalows, homestays and even a few hostels available. These are my recommendations.
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.
Mu Boutique is located just a short walk from downtown. The hotel is 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 Hotels in Sayulita
There really is a wide variety of places to stay in Sayulita. The next time I visit, I definitely would consider staying closer to the center of town to try something different. Both Amaia Boutique Hotel and Hotel Peix look amazing and Hotel Peix is right on the beach.
Homestays in Sayulita
Homestays are also popular in this area of Mexico. I met several people that were renting for their two days in Sayulita. Which makes sense because it’s the perfect beach destination to get a big house for a group trip or a even a girls trip.
After browsing some of the options, here’s a few of my favorite VRBO.com properties. Many of the homes on my list have private balconies and pools. Plus there are some truly unique properties in a variety of price ranges.
Where to Eat in Sayulita
Sayulita maybe small but there are so many wonderful restaurants in town. You’ll find a mix of authentic Mexican restaurants and newer, trendy spots. Sayulita’s location on the coast means amazing a lot of amazing fresh seafood too. Ask about the fresh catch of the day and for sure have some ceviche.
I’m a huge fan of breakfast but I don’t always want to get up early on vacation. So the only thing better than breakfast is being able to get breakfast all day. Those kinds of places make my heart happy. In Sayulita, Café el Espresso was my go to spot for that. You can order anything on their breakfast menu all day long. The breakfast sandwich hit the spot. Not only was the food delicious but the coffee was too. 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, the restaurant has free WiFi and outlets. It’s an easy place to spend a morning or afternoon, since they also serve lunch and dinner. If you are in a hurry – they have a to-go window for smoothies, coffee and take out.
- Café el Espresso
- Open every day 7:00am till 10pm
- Cash and credit cards.
Fresh Fruit + Juice
Whenever you’re in Mexico, make sure take advantage of the plentiful fresh fruit there. Throughout Sayulita, you’ll see juice stands. And there’s not better way to start your day with a fresh juice. 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 a little lime. Some places use with nopales – or cactus – and even parsley or other greens in the mix. It’s the perfect pre-breakfast drink or the perfect thing if you just don’t feel like eating but want a little something.
Lunch + Dinner
When I arrived in Sayulita, I had just finished up a boat tour, so 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 solo diners. Anther notable thing was that it appeared there were a lot of locals eating there. That’s always a good sign and something to look for when picking out a restaurant in a new destination.
Thinking about giving it a try – I was sold when I found out the catch of the day was mahi mahi or dorado in Spanish. That just so happens to be my favorite fish to eat in Mexico. Generally, fish in this region is prepared a la plancha or on the grill. My grilled mahi was marinated in a garlicy, ginger sauce and served with rice and beans. It also came with some tasty guacamole. My two days in Sayulita was off to the best start. The meal plus a beer cost $150 pesos or just about $8 USD.
- Open 2pm till 11pm
- Closed on Wednesday
- Cash only
Even More Seafood
The Uber driver that drove me to Sayulita was familiar with the area and recommended a restaurant called El Costeño. So for my second night in town I decided to give it a try. El Costeño claims 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 right on the beach, with a few tables right in the sand, it’s a good spot for an early dinner and to watch the sunset.
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 was the location right 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.
Sayulita also has quite the nightlife. And the party went pretty late. There are several options for bars and dancing. It just depends on your mood. 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 cheaper than in the U.S. A Pacifico is about $30 MXN or roughly $1.50 USD
- Bar Don Pato
- Open 8pm till 3am
- No cover
- Cash at the bar
If a crowded bar is not your thing, Aria Lounge just around the corner from Don Pato. It has live music but in a more relaxed, chill atmosphere.
- Aria Lounge
- Tapas + music
- See website for hours
- Cash + credit card
What To Do in Sayulita
Since the 1960’s, Sayulita has been a surf town. The beach is on the northside and that means it receives consistent waves and swells perfect for surfing and learning to surf. The main beach in town has several places to rent surf board and stand up paddle boards. If you are new to either of those or have always wanted to learn, Sayulita is the perfect spot for that.
Part of my two days 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. If you like, there’s no pressure to do anything else but just 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 wander through town, you’ll notice that Sayulita is a very artsy community. 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 rural areas of Mexico. 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 local Mexicans too.
Rain and hurricane season, which is middle and late summer, is low season. However, 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’re 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. You’ll see plenty of places around town to rent them. If you are in town for a few days, then I definitely think renting one is a good idea because 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, except only cash. It’s also common that even if a place does accept credit cards, many times there’s no option to leave a tip on the credit card. If you don’t have pesos, that means someone misses out on a tip. Don’t be that traveler. Always keep coins on hands and peso bills for tips.
Two Days in Sayulita
So, was Sayulita worth visiting? Absolutely! Even though I changed hotels and had to travel, those two days in Sayulita were so fun and relaxing and totally different from Puerto Vallarta. In fact, it was one of the most fun times I had on my entire Mexico trip. It was easy to meet people, hang out. and just enjoy being. It was the perfect getaway and I hope to visit again.
Are you planning a Sayulita vacation? Here’s the trusted websites I use every time I plan a trip. Don’t forget to include travel and trip insurance.
- Flight info and airplane tickets – Skyscanner.com
- To book a package all at once – Expedia.com
- Hotels and hostels – Booking.com
- Home stays – VRBO.com
- Vehicle rentals – Rentalcars.com
- Check reviews and what other travelers are saying – Tripadvisor.com
- For local tours & experiences – Viator.com
- Browse a variety of travel insurance plans – TravelInsurance.com