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I will start this by saying that my initial reaction to Sayulita was – meh! We arrived right before a holiday weekend, the beaches were PACKED with people, and I was getting some serious Cancun vibes. I am not saying that that is abad thing, it is just not what I was looking for out of my time in Mexico. Fortunately, after just a few hours of exploring the nooks and crannies of this awesome surf town, my opinion was quickly changed. Sayulita is an awesome place (although not as awesome as nearby San Pancho)! It is the perfect combination of beach and sun. combined with great nightlife – from restaurants to bars that go all night long. This not-so-sleepy surf town definitely gets busy, but there are plenty of spots to go to avoid the crowds.
Sayulita first became popular in the 70s with American surfers and has only continued to grow in popularity over the years. In addition to the surf tourism in Sayulita, it is also known as quite the party hot spot.
One thing that is so great about Sayulita is that it appeals to so many different types of travelers. This Pueblo Magico is a hot spot for expats and digital nomads, an easy place to hang out for a couple of months. It is popular with surfers, as it is known for some of the best waves in Mexico. However, you’ll also find lots of US and Mexican tourists who visit for just a few days.
Where is Sayulita located?
San Pancho is about 40 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, 40 kilometers by car. Sayulita is located in the Mexican state of Nayarit, or Riviera Nayarit.
How to get to Sayulita, Mexico
By far the closest airport to Sayulita is the international airport in Puerto Vallarta (PVR). You can find direct flights to Puerto Vallarta from a number of major US cities including New York, Los Angeles Chicago, Atlanta, Minneapolis. Flights to Puerto Vallarta are served by major airlines including Delta, JetBlue, American and United. A direct flight from NYC to Puerto Vallarta takes 5 hours, while Puerto Vallarta can be reached from LAX in just 3 hours. Check out flights on CheapOAir here.
The easiest way to get here from the airport is by taxi or Uber. While Ubers do not operate in Riviera Nayarit, they will often drop you off at a considerably lower price than a taxi. We paid 600 MXN pesos with Uber. In order to grab your Uber you will need to cross over the pedestrian bridge to meet your driver on the other side of the highway in front of Tacon de Marlin. For your return trip to the airport you can book a taxi or hire a local driver.
Here is the number of a local taxi driver: +523221599710.
If you’re feeling adventurous, there is also a bus that is super easy that drops you off right in town in Sayulita. It picks up in front of Tacon de Marlin and cost 45 pesos.
Getting around Sayulita
Sayulita is a super walkable city so the easiest way to get around is simply by walking. However, if you are staying a bit outside of the main town, you might want to consider rent a golf cart. This is a fun and easy way to get around town. Rentals go for 50 to 100 US dollars a day.
Lastly, you may also want to consider renting a car if you plan to explore the regions around Sayulita. If you do plan to drive to Sayulita, make sure that you feel comfortable. The streets are quite narrow, and steep in areas. Check out rates on rentalcars.com.
When to visit Sayulita
The busiest time to visit Sayulita is from November to April, when the weather tends to be the best. If you want to avoid the crowds and get cheaper prices, I recommend visiting during the shoulder season from May to July.
August to October tends to be the lowest season, as it is super hot with a lot of rain.
We arrived around New Years when prices were high and the city was filled, especially in nearby Sayulita. However, once January started the mass of crowds died down and it was super pleasant.
Best things to do in Sayulita, Nayarit
Surf (or take a surf lesson)
By far one of the most popular things to do in Sayulita is surf. Surfers come from all over the world to surf in Sayulita. If you don’t already surf, don’t worry! It is a great place for beginners to learn how to surf, with tons of awesome surf shops that offer lessons.
I highly recommend El Punto. For 1200 pesos ($60 USD) you can get a 1.5 hour lesson, along with 5 hours of surfboard rentals that can be used at any time throughout the rest of your stay. This was a great way to learn a bit, and then this get to practice!
If you’re just looking to rent a board, they typically go for around $20 per day.
Explore the beaches
Sayulita is a surf town, so it only makes sense that spending time on the beautiful beaches is one of the best things to do in Sayulita. The main beach in Sayulita is extremely busy, and not the cleanest. It does have great surfing though! However, don’t fret if you’re simply looking to lay out, there are plenty of other beautiful beaches. This includes heading over to the nearby town of San Pancho – my favorite!
Here are some other beaches to check out:
- La Lancha (10 kilometers from Sayulita, popular with surfers)
- Playa Carricitos
- Los Muertos
- Playa Malpaso
Take a yoga class
In any laidback surf town, you can expect to find some yoga studios. And don’t worry, Sayulita is no different. The Rose Room, at Hotelito Los Sueños, and Paraiso Yoga are popular options! The standard rate for the studios in town is 200 pesos.
If you’re looking for a yoga retreat, I recommend checking out Haramara.
Enjoy Sayulita’s amazing restaurant and bar scene
Sayulita has amazing food! But then again, I’ve never been to a city in Mexico that didn’t! The best part about the restaurants in Sayulita, however, is that there is quite literally something for any type of traveler (with over 100 different restaurants in Sayulita to choose from).
You’ll find super budget options, as well as fancier, more upscale dining options. You’ll find meat heavy restaurants (like Mr. Ribs or al pastor street taco stands), but there are also plenty of places to eat in Sayulita that are vegan and vegetarian friendly.
Take a day trip to San Pancho
The two areas of San Pancho and Sayulita are just 10-15 mins apart by car, but San Pancho is often overlooked as it doesn’t have the party scene that Sayulita is so famous for. We spent our weekends out in Sayulita, and our work week with a bit of peace and quiet in San Pancho. Expect to pay 200 MXN for a one-way ride to Sayulita from San Pancho. You can grab a taxi at the stand in the center of town at Parque de la Hermandad.
Go for a hike (check out Monkey Mountain)
There are tons of beautiful hikes in and around Sayulita. You can even hike from Sayulita all the way to the nearby surf town of San Pancho. This hike around 1 hour and 30 minutes and offers some gorgeous beach views along the way.
One of the most popular hikes is to Monkey Mountain. The trip is about 5 miles round trip and offers some of the most amazing views at the top. You can hire a guide, or do this hike on your own. Make sure that you bring enough water for the full hike!
Get a massage or facial
One of the best ways to properly enjoy your time in Sayulita is to get a massage or facial in town. There are a ton of different spas, and even a number of companies that will send the masseuse to your hotel or Airbnb. A one hour massage in Sayulita typically costs between $30-40 USD.
Visit Islas Marietas
Islas Marietas is a protected bio-area, made up of several volcanic islands in the middle of the bay. Unfortunately, due to deterioration of the island due to mass tourism, it has become more difficult and more expensive to visit the island. Only approximately 100 visitors can visit each day. I recommend booking with WildMex for a great experience!
Enjoy the local produce
One of my favorite parts of visiting Sayulita is enjoying all of the amazing local produce. You’ll find it at the local markets, on top of the delicious smoothie bowls, and, of course, making up all of the delicious fresh juices.
Go for a sunset horseback ride (on the beach)
Horseback riding is one of my favorite things to do while on vacation. I know that it sounds cliche, but after 7 years of horse camp growing up, it makes sense! Luckily, if you are like me then you’ll be happy to know that you can book a tour to ride along the beach and through the jungles surrounding Sayulita. Even better? You can enjoy a tour that operates at sunset.
Here is an option of a tour that you can book.
Shop at Sayulita boutique stores
Looking for an easy afternoon activity in Sayulita that doesn’t include catching the waves or hiking a mountain? Check out all of the amazing shops in Sayulita. But I warn you, they come with a steep price tag. You’ll find adorable linen sets (likely upwards of $100 USD) and beautiful prints.
Take a photo at Slap Street
Super cliche but a photo on Slap Street, the famous Calle Delfines flag street, is a must visit while in Sayulita. Although, truthfully it will be hard to miss it, as it is often filled with crowds, loud musics and lots of restaurants.
If you are looking to take a photo without the crowds, I recommend coming in the morning before it gets too busy. There are also many other streets through Sayulita and San Pacho with colorful flags that are similar but much less popular as well!
Watch the baby turtle release
If you are visiting Sayulita between January and June, you can actually experience and witness the release of the turtles at sunset. There are also options to volunteer with the organization to learn more about their conservation efforts. Click here for more information: Campamento Tortuguero Sayulita
Where to Stay in Sayulita, Nayarit
There are tons of amazing places to stay in Sayulita, and the best thing is that you can find something for any type of traveler on any budget.
Airbnbs in Sayulita: Boho Rooftop Studio, Jungle House
Boutique hotels in Sayulita: Hotel Boutique Oz, Avela Boutique Hotel, Don Bonito
One thing to note when choosing a place to stay, the center of Sayulita is busy and loud, especially on the weekends and during the high season. You can expect to hear people out partying until the early hours of the morning.
WiFi is hit or miss, but cell signal is pretty strong throughout the town if you have an international plan. I got perfect service throughout my trip with my T-Mobile cell plan.
Where to eat: best restaurants in Sayulita
My favorite thing to do on any trip is eat. And it is safe to say that I plan my days around where and when I’m eating next. If you’re like me, you’re going to love Sayulita, which offers tons of amazing restaurants to choose from.
- Anchor Cafe – I still dream about these smoothie bowls! When I first stepped foot into this cute cafe, I was transported back to my days in Bali. So it only made sense when I noticed posters of Canggu hanging on the walls. The smoothie bowls from Anchor Cafe, priced at 125 MXN pesos, are big, delicious, and filled with fruits and veggies! I recommend the Sayulita or the Blackberry. They have a number of other dishes as well, all of which look great, but I couldn’t resist a smoothie bowl each time I visited.
- Taco al Pastor San Ivan – I think I managed to visit this street taco stand 3 times in two days. It will always hold a special place in my heart since eating a plate of tacos here was the first thing that I did to ring in 2022. While they do have a small menu, the best item is easily the classic Al Pastor tacos. Priced at 15 pesos (around $0.75), these tacos with thinly sliced pork and a chunk of pineapple are incredible. They’re small, so I recommend ordering a few. This spot is only open in the evenings, but stays open until late at night.
- Barracuda – Barracuda is easily one of my favorite spots to eat in Riviera Nayarit. All of the fish is super fresh. My personal favorite is the tuna tostada – both seared and raw are amazing. This restaurant, however is located right on the main strip by the beach and is super popular. When we visited around New Years we waited an hour and a half for a table, and service was still super slow after that. My recommendation is to check out their second location, just up the road in San Pancho.
- Organi-K – You can’t visit Sayulita and not grab a poke bowl from Organi-K. They have a ton of options to choose from, including the option to sub in tofu for fish in any bowl to make it vegetarian.
- El Itacate – One of my favorite things about this spot is that along with your usual dips and sauces, they serve beans and tin foil wraps of grilled onions to top your tacos. The tacos are super filling, so two should usually suffice. They are famous for their steak tacos, but I personally love their tuna, shrimp, and breaded chicken tacos. Plus, the guac here is delicious!
- Miscenlenea – Another favorite cute cafe in Sayulita, Miscelenea. Although we only visited once, it was definitely worthy of this list. They serve breakfast and lunch, so don’t plan to come too late in the day.
Where to drink: best bars in Sayulita
Admittedly, we didn’t really explore much of Sayulita’s super late night scene. I am past my prime of all night partying, plus packed indoor bars weren’t ideal during this recent surge. However, we still explored a ton of great bars around Sayulita.
- Cava – Cava is easily my favorite bar in Sayulita. It is small and laidback, but it serves some of the best cocktails in town. Plus, the bartenders are all great! I highly recommend the Watermelon Mezcalita, made with fresh watermelon juice that they chop up and blend right in front of you. These craft cocktails are also super reasonable at 100 MXN a drink ($5 USD). If you’re craving a drink earlier in the evening, stop by between 4-6PM for happy hour for even better deals!
- Escondido – Escondido Bar is enough chill, laid back bar serving delicious craft cocktails. A bit pricier than other spots (170-200 MXN per drink), this is a great spot to start your night, or as a nightcap on a chiller evening.
- Atico – The swing bar! It is hard to walk Sayulita and not notice this popular bar with live music and swings! Atico has live music every evening and serves up some great drinks. While they are less known for their dinner options, I highly recommend the vegan nachos, which are loaded up with delicious jackfruit!
- Lucid – Known for their house made ginger beer (try the moscow mules) and swinging chairs right by the beach. Looking for a cheap night? Lucid has happy hours until 8pm with delicious tangerine margaritas for just 70 pesos.
- Aaleyah’s Nachos & Wings – Although technically a restaurant, I’m including under the bar section because we never actually came here. However, it quickly became a favorite spot for us because, according to my Michelada-loving boyfriend, these are the best in town!
Visiting Riviera Nayarit? Here are some articles to check out: