Headed to Mexico and looking for the best things to do in Sayulita?! You’re in the right place, my taco-loving, mezcal-dreaming amigos. I’m sharing all my favorite things to do in Sayulita, along with everything else you need to know — like what to eat, where to stay, how to get around, and more!
When I first saw photos of Sayulita a few years back, I instantly knew it’d be a place I loved. And I definitely wasn’t wrong – this small fishing village really stole our hearts! We fell in love with this little Mexican town almost as soon as we arrived! I kinda expected the town to be a little sleepy, but I was pleasantly surprised with all the many things to do in Sayulita!
Sayulita is colorful, laidback and bohemian, with lots of chill, beachy surfer vibes. It’s vibrant, warm, and authentic, and a world away from the bustling Mexico City or crazy Los Cabos – it’s really a place of its own.
The town reminded us of Gili Air (off the coast of Bali in Indonesia) and Todos Santos (another Pueblo Magico in Mexico), both spots we absolutely adore. It’s got tons of culture, a thriving hipster-surfer scene, and is trendy and very happening. Plus, the town’s surrounded by lush green forest. Honestly, what’s not to love?!
I’ve been to Mexico a lot in the last few years – to celebrate a friends birthday in San Jose del Cabo, to ring in the New Year in Mexico City, a fun solo trip to San Miguel de Allende and Oaxaca City, to see the ruins in Tulum and Chichen Itcha, to release baby sea turtles in Todos Santos, to go insane whale watching in a dingy off the coast of La Paz, for a chilled out long weekend in Playa del Carmen, and so much more.
I’m so glad I can add Sayulita to the list!
While I wouldn’t consider Sayulita a hidden gem anymore (it’s most definitely been discovered), you can still expect picturesque beaches, charming restaurants, and less crowds than nearby Puerto Vallarta. There’s impressive street performers, gentle surf breaks, and beach bars to hang at while watching the sunset. There’s a reason it’s been designated as a Pueblo mágico (Magic Town) by the Mexican government (just like Todos Santos and San Miguel de Allende!)
So let’s get to it! Lots of sand and sun, palm trees and playa (beach) coming right up! Just make sure to pack your sunscreen for all these amazing things to do in Sayulita.
Sayulita Trip Planning Logistics
Where is Sayulita?
Sayulita is located on the Pacific coast of Mexico in the state of Nayarit, just north of popular Puerto Vallarta in Jalisco. It’s on the opposite coast of popular spots like Tulum, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen, while Los Cabos is across the Gulf of California on the Baja Peninsula.
The town is backed by the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains, meaning lush green forests all over! It’s only 15 minutes south of another of my favorite towns on the Riviera Nayarit – San Pancho!
How to Get to Sayulita
Can’t wait to experience all the things to do in Sayulita? Thankfully, the town is super easy to get to! You’ll first need to fly into Puerto Vallarta (to Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport, airport code PVR), and then head an hour north or so to the town of Sayulita.
One quick piece of advice – when you enter Mexico, you’ll be given an entry card. DON’T LOSE THIS (it shows you entered the country legally)! You’ll need to present it upon exiting the country (and if you lose it, you’ll need to pay an annoying fine).
PVR is an international airport with plenty of nonstop and connecting flights. We were pleasantly surprised that our flight from San Francisco was less than 4 hours! I fully expected it to be way longer for some reason. Here’s a small sampling of the flight times to give you a general idea of how long your flight may be.
- From Mexico City (MEX): ~1 ½ hours non stop
- From Dallas (DFW): ~2 ½ hours non stop
- From Los Angeles (LAX): ~3 hours non stop
- From San Francisco (SFO): ~4 hours non stop
- From New York City (JFK): ~6 hours non stop
- From Miami (MIA): ~7 hours (connecting)
And once you get to the PVR airport, you’ve got quite a few ways to get from the airport to Sayulita:
1. Uber: Technically, Uber drivers aren’t allowed inside Puerto Vallarta airport (or within Sayulita itself). But don’t fret – you can easily use Uber just outside the airport to head to Sayulita. You’ll just need to walk across the pedestrian bridge to the other side of the highway (taking you away from airport grounds) first.
Don’t worry, it’s really easy to find – just look for a large orange bridge after walking outside from the arrivals hall. You’ll need to obviously bring all your luggage with you across the pedestrian bridge, so be prepared (thankfully there’s a ramp up). Expect to pay 500 to 700 pesos (~$25 to $35USD), depending on the time of day and how busy it is.
2. Taxi: Taxis are everywhere at the airport – you’ll have no problem finding one. But they’ll most likely cost you a bit more than Uber at 900-1200 pesos (~$45 to $60USD) due to the airport tax.
However, to save the most money on a taxi, cross the pedestrian bridge to the other side of the highway. Always bargain and agree upon a price before getting into the taxi – it’s common here in Mexico to haggle!
3. Public bus: If you’re looking to save some money, take the public bus from the airport to get to Sayulita! Just like Uber, you’ll need to cross the pedestrian bridge described above. Once you’re across the highway, look for the green and white “Compostela” buses (make sure the bus says “Sayulita” in the windshield as not all of them go to Sayulita!).
The buses come every 20 minutes or so, and only cost around 50 pesos (~2.50USD). Can’t beat that! But since this is a public bus there’s no room for luggage – meaning if you have a lot of stuff this might not be the best option for you!
Due note the ride will be much longer (around an hour and a half) since the bus makes frequent stops. The public bus drops you off right at the bus station in Sayulita (roughly 10 minutes from the center of town). We actually ended up taking the Compostela bus from Sayulita to Punta Mita for a day trip and it was a total breeze!
4. Rental Car: Honestly, I don’t recommend renting a car to go from Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita unless you’re planning on making a bunch of day trips. Sayulita is a walking town and the streets are very narrow with lots of one-way traffic. Plus, parking is a nightmare. But if you do decide to rent a car, the airport has plenty of major rental car services and the drive will take you about 45 minutes.
5. Day Trip from Puerto Vallarta: If you’re tight on time and basing yourself in Puerto Vallarta, you can easily take a guided day trip to Sayulita! On this 6 hour day trip you’ll have plenty of time to wander the charming village and even visit other beaches in the area as well.
And if you wanna explore both Sayulita and San Pancho (one of our favorite surprises of our Mexico trip), this tour goes to both from Puerto Vallarta! Of course I’d recommend at least spending a night or two in Sayulita, but if that’s all the time you’ve got, better than nothing!
How to Get Around Sayulita
Walk: One of the best things about Sayulita?! It’s walkability factor! It takes less than 20 minutes to get from one side of town to the other, and if you’re staying in the center of town like we did, nothing will be more than a 5 minute walk away. I swear!
I think the furthest walk we had was literally the 12 minutes to get to Playa de los Muertos – and that was far compared to everything else! Trust me, all the best things to do in Sayulita are only a matter of minutes away.
Do note most of the streets are cobblestone, so wear your comfy sandals (and leave those heels at home). And plus, because of its small town, it’s practically impossible to get lost.
Electric Golf Cart: If you’re staying up in the hills or on the outskirts of town, you may wanna rent a golf cart. You’ll see these all over, and you can easily rent one in town — they go for around $55-65USD a day. I remember seeing quite a few rental shops as we were wandering around.
But honestly, if you’re staying in the center of town and plan to stay in town, getting a golf cart would be silly. You cannot use them to visit nearby towns (San Pancho, Puta Mita, etc) as you can only use them within the town of Sayulita itself and not on the Highway/main roads.
Rental Car: The streets are pretty narrow and there was plenty of traffic from what we saw. So you decide if a rental car is for you. I honestly think if you’re staying in town, it’s easier to simply walk and forget about a car altogether!
If you do want to explore other parts of the area (Punta de Mita, Bucerias, San Pancho, etc), then I’d consider renting a car, but the bus is just as easy if you don’t mind a little adventure!
Taxi: Taxis are plentiful in Sayulita, and you can get anywhere in town for less than 100 pesos ($5USD). Although you probably won’t really need one since everythings so close!
Uber: There is little to no Uber service in Sayulita, so don’t plan on taking any ride shares when you’re in this part of Nayarit. The app works and we actually found a car a few times but the rides never got picked up (so we couldn’t use it). Just adding this in here in case you’re wondering.
When to Visit Sayulita
High Season: Winter (late-October to May)
Winter is the high season in Sayulita, with warm and sunny days (but not too hot) and lower humidity than during summer. There’s hardly any rain between November and May, and the nights are cool enough to wander around and sleep comfortably without AC.
If you’re visiting from December to March, you may get lucky and see humpback whales breaching from the beach! This is prime whale-watching season – we saw at least a dozen on our trip to the Marietas Islands. So special.
The absolute best time to visit Sayulita? November and May! The town still sees near perfect weather but with much less crowds than the high holiday seasons of December and Easter. I guess I’d consider these the shoulder season. If you want to avoid the largest crowds avoid visiting over Christmas, New Years, and Easter.
For reference, we visited in late December and had absolutely perfect weather. It was high 70’s, low 80’s every day, with hardly any clouds and so much sun! The air felt hot but not disgustingly sticky, and there was very minimal humidity. It did get a bit chilly at night, but nothing that a light sweater couldn’t fix (around 65°F once the sun went down).
Low Season: Summer (June to mid-October)
Summer is the low season in Sayulita, with high humidity, high (high) heat, and tropical rainstorms at night. This is the rainy season, with the wettest days of the year happening in June. And yes, don’t worry, you can still enjoy all the best things to do in Sayulita in the rainy season as it hardly ever rains all day.
So if you’re looking for less crowds, cheaper hotel rates, and still plenty of sunshine, a visit to Sayulita in the low season is a great option! With that being said, if you’re not a fan of constantly sweating in high humidity and heat, choose a different time to visit. 🙂 There’s a reason the locals flee Sayulita and travel during this time of year (the weather is almost unbearable for them).
Do note that some hotels and restaurants close for renovations during this time as it’s just simply too hot.
Additional Tips When Visiting Sayulita
Is English Spoken? Yes – but that doesn’t mean everyone is fluent nor should you only speak in English. English is widely spoken in town, but locals will greatly appreciate it if you use a bit of Spanish (or at least try!). So download Duolingo and practice the basics before you go!
Local Currency: Like the rest of Mexico, the local currency in Sayulita is the Mexican Peso. I highly advise you to take out some pesos at an ATM at the Puerto Vallarta airport upon landing (as you’ll get the best conversion rate using an ATM and never at a currency exchange kiosk).
Don’t expect all restaurants and shops in Sayulita to take credit cards, so always be prepared. In addition, you’ll want some cash for tips (see below), at small handicraft shops, and road-side taco stands, as well as for any taxis you may be taking.
American dollars may be accepted (we didn’t try nor did I see anyone else using them), but you’ll typically get a better conversion rate if you pay in pesos.
At the time of writing (January 2022), the peso is equivalent to 5 cents USD (or 1 USD = ~20 Mexican pesos). I found it easy-ish to convert in my head by thinking of 100 pesos = roughly $5USD (or 200 pesos = ~$10USD). It takes a bit of practice but after a day or two you’ll be able to do the conversion super quickly in your head.
We used quite a few ATMs in Sayulita but note they all charge a hefty fee. I recommend you get a no-fee ATM card if you don’t already have one (we’ve been using Charles Schwab for years and haven’t paid a pesky fee in forever).
Tipping in Sayulita: Tipping is not expected, but always greatly appreciated as Mexican salaries are very low. Common practice is 10-20% for wait staff, although we typically gave closer to 20% for most meals, considering it was almost Christmas and all.
Anyone who helps you should receive some kind of thank you (think taxi drivers, massouses, maids/cleaning staff, bathroom attendants, etc). Tourism is becoming a bigger part of Sayulita in the last few years, so be generous if you can!
How Long to Stay in Sayulita: If you’re just planning to stay in Sayulita and do some nearby activities, I recommend 2 days to get a good feel for the town. However, if you’d like to explore further afield and do some day trips (to the Marietas Islands, San Pancho, and even Puerto Vallarta for example), you could easily spend a week here!
For reference, we had 10 days total in the area and split up our time the following way: 4 nights in Puerto Vallarta (2 in the city and 2 in a bougie hotel south of the city), 2 nights in San Pancho, and 3 nights in Sayulita.
Health and Safety in Nayarit
Health: You’ll need to stick to bottled water as you cannot drink the water in Sayulita (you can brush your teeth with it, but that’s about it). But don’t worry, you’ll easily find bottles of purified water in all restaurants and markets. And rest assured, all ice is made from purified water. Our hotel had bottles of water for us everyday, and we thankfully didn’t get sick from any fresh veggies or fruit we ate.
In terms of food, when ordering from street vendors, ensure it’s fully cooked and hasn’t been sitting out for too long (if foods not selling this is a good indication it’s been there a while). We had no problems with any drinks or food in Sayulita, and felt everything was of great quality.
Safety: I know, I know. Mexico gets a bad rep. But I can assure you we felt completely safe during our few days in Sayulita. Use precautions like you would elsewhere in the world – like keeping expensive jewelry/watches at home, hiding electronics, being extra careful and observant at banks and ATMs, and knowing your alcohol limit.
Sayulita is a family friendly town so you’ll always see lots of kids on the beach and with their families in town. The streets are well-lit at night and we felt safe walking in town after dark (although nothing is far away).
Where to Stay in Sayulita
Whether you want to stay right in busy downtown, in the jungle with some privacy, or in a room with an ocean view, there’s tons of great options in Sayulita.
Regardless of what you’re going after, you won’t find any major chains nor ultra-refined, mega-luxury resorts here. Small boutique hotels make up the majority of accommodation in Sayulita, and I had such a hard time deciding where to stay because there’s just so many great spots!
Here’s a breakdown of the 3 main areas to stay and recommended hotels in each.
Downtown Sayulita is just thriving! There’s tons of delicious restaurants, lots of fun nightlife (many with live music), and it’s so close to the main beach! Plus, you can easily find street tacos until 3am or so (the best part, am I right?!).
Since these hotels are close to all the action (both day and night), it does get quite loud at night. Keep this in mind if you’re looking for a quiet romantic vacation or traveling with young kids who need to get to bed.
- Hotel Sayulinda: Think of a super swanky rooftop infinity pool, bean bags at the bar area, and a large garden patio with table tennis and hammocks. That’s Hotel Sayulinda for ya! The hotel exuded a fun party-like atmosphere but it never got wild and crazy. This is where we stayed and loved it! We spent more time relaxing in the pool beds than I’d like to admit. Plus, the sunsets from up here were divine! Highly recommend staying here!
- Petit Hotel Hafa: Expect a swanky Moroccan riad meets Mexico-chic decor. I mean who doesn’t love a room with a heart walkway and rooftop with views of downtown (guilty as charged). If you don’t stay here, at least come here for that coveted IG photo.
- Selina Sayulita: Looking to save some pesos? Consider staying at Selina Sayulita, an upscale hostel right in the center of town. One of the coolest hostels I’ve ever seen (I peeked inside one afternoon to see what all the fuss was about). I mean there’s even a pool in the courtyard – what other hostel has a pool with inflatables?!
- Casa Love: If you’re looking for a beach front hippie-chic bohemian style guest house in the heart of downtown Sayulita, Casa Love may be it! The decor is super IG-worthy and located on top of Pachamama Boutique which has so many good trinkets.
- Aurinko Bungalows: WIth it’s bright (and colorful) Mexican decor, swaying hammocks, and palapa-style roofs, I almost booked this place for us. They even offer discounted surf lessons and rentals for guests!
Not interested in staying in the heart of downtown with all the commotion? Consider staying up in the hills with sweeping views of the ocean. Note you may want to rent a golf cart if you’re staying around here since this area is kinda hilly.
- Amor Boutique Hotel: This is easily the most luxurious and upscale boutique hotel in all of Sayulita, so expect to pay a bit more than other spots. All the suites are a little different – there’s even one built around a tree! We passed by and while we couldn’t see much, I could tell the property was super secluded and impressive. I had originally wanted to stay here but booked too late and everything in our price range was sold out.
- Villa Amor: Lots of eclectic villas in all different shapes and sizes, many with private plunge pools – can you even imagine?! There’s dreamy outdoor showers and the property and rooms are filled with unique Moroccan and Indian inspired decor. Villa Amor shares a pool and restaurant with its sister property Amor Boutique Hotel.
- Siete Lunas: On your honeymoon or looking to get away with your lover? Siete Lunas is known to be super romantic – it’s perched on a hill with jungle scenes, thatched roofing, and sweeping views of the ocean below. But there’s only 7 rooms so be sure to book in advance!
This area has a more quiet, relaxing vibe in a residential neighborhood. There’s no nighttime party noise yet it’s still super close to the downtown area.
- Hotel Villas Sayulita: This spot is known to be a wellness-focused hotel, offering daily yoga, temazcal rituals, and guided meditations. It’s also great for families!
What to Pack for Sayulita
No one dresses up much here in Sayulita; it’s got more of a hippy, boho vibe. Plan to wear loose-fitting, flowy clothes, and it can’t hurt to wear your bathing suit underneath for the beach! I’d plan for more than one outfit a day – I found myself changing a lot (the pool and beach will do this to you!).
Definitely bring along a cute bathing suit coverup or two (I have this one and this one and love both!), as well as some comfy sandals for the pool, beach, and walking around town!
Other miscellaneous items you’ll wanna bring along:
- Polarized sunglasses (better for blocking out the harsh UV rays)
- Beach bag and/or backpack: make sure it’s large enough to fit a beach towel or two!
- Hat/s: The sun is strong here! I love taking a wide-brimmed sun hat for the beach and a fun trucker hat when hiking.
- A waterproof kindle or other e-reader for reading at the beach and hotel pool (I’d be worried a physical book may accidentally get wet!)
- Your hotel may give you towels, but we love traveling with a sand-free beach mat
- Reusable water bottle: better for the environment and a must at the beach!
- Reef Safe sunscreen (always apply when you’ll be in the ocean water, as other sunscreen is harmful to marine life): We love ThinkSport (make sure the bottles are less than 3.4 ounces if you’re bringing them in your carryon)! Don’t forget about SPF lip balm as well!
- Aloe Vera Gel: always have some handy in case you get a sunburn; aloe will give the burn some much-needed relief
- Dramamine: This will help with motion sickness if you’re planning to do a snorkeling or boat tour (the waves can get rough depending on the day!).
- Bug spray will come in handy during Sayulita’s humid months (June to October), and calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream is good to have on hand for when you undoubtedly get bitten
- Underwater camera: All my underwater photography tips and gear here. I’d check out an underwater phone case, too.
- Portable battery charger: Charge your phone on the go and never run out of battery! I always need to borrow my friends so I’ve finally made it a habit to start bringing my own.
- Noise-cancelling headphones: Great for both the plane and the beach! I’m obsessed with my AirPods and Noah loves his Bose Quiet Comforts.
- Foldable tote bag: If you’re planning on doing some shopping in Sayulita (you must!), bring your own fold-up tote bag as not all street vendors give out bags. I love this collapsible reusable tote bag (hardly takes up any room in your suitcase and it’s so lightweight)
- Some meds for an upset stomach/antidiarrheal medicine (just in case you accidentally drink the water or something doesn’t agree with you – bound to happen, just be prepared)
And finally, what you probably came here for – my favorite things to do in Sayulita (and others I wish I had time for)! Enjoy, and have an agua de cacao for me!
Best Things to do in Sayulita
1. Spend a day at the beach
You can’t visit this Mexican beach town and not hang out at the beach – it’s one of the best things to do in Sayulita afterall! There’s a few beaches within walking distance, and even more if you’re willing to take a short taxi ride. Sunbathe, surf, or just chill out – your choice!
Playa Sayulita: This is the main beach right off the main street. It’s filled with surfers, local artisans selling their products, massage huts, and tourists/expats enjoying the sun. We LOVED the vibes over here, and loved that it was way calmer/less crowded than the beach in Puerto Vallarta (although still swarming with people). Make sure to check out the plenty of beach bars lining the shore, especially at sunset!
Beach vendors are everywhere – they’re very much a part of Mexican culture, and they sell everything from massive donuts and seafood on a stick to jewelry and woven handbags. If you don’t want anything, just simply say “No Gracias”. They’re just here to make a living afterall, not ruin your beach time.
Playa de Los Muertos: About 15 minutes south of the main beach, you’ll find Playa de Los Muertos. You need to walk through a colorful cemetery to get here, but we easily found our way with Google Maps. The beach is much more sheltered and calm than the main beach since it’s sandwiched between large rocks. We went in the early AM and there were only a handful of people there, but I heard it gets much more crowded as the day goes on. So, come early, especially if you want to rent a lounge chair and umbrella.
Playa Punta de Mita: A little ways away but the sand is so super smooth and a blinding white. The sea was calmer and was sparkling the entire time we were there! Plus, it’s hardly crowded! Perfect for a half day trip. You can easily take the Compostela bus from Sayulita for only 40 pesos (~$2USD). Much calmer and tranquil than any popular beach you’ll find in Sayulita. We hung out here for a bit after lunch at Lobster Paradise (another must!).
Carricitos: Since the main beach of Sayulita faces north, you don’t get that epic sunset like you do in San Pancho or Puerto Vallarta. But thankfully, there’s Carricitos Beach that faces due west! This is the best beach in the area for sunset! I’m still kicking myself that we didn’t walk the 20 minutes here! Oh well, there’s always next time! Do note there’s no vendors for food/drinks, so bring whatever you need.
2. Try a famous chocolate dipped banana
Right off the main square you’ll see the popular ChocoBanana. Yes, it’s a full-service restaurant serving all-day breakfast and lunch, but everyone comes here for the bananas – they’re absolutely delicious and only 25 pesos (~$1USD)! Choose from rainbow sprinkles, granola, and coconut. The coffee drinks are delicious here too!
3. Hang around the Main Plaza
The Sayulita Plaza is where all the action takes place, both day and night – you’ll see homemade crepe stands, churros rellenos (stuffed churros), fried plantains (that are mashed right in front of you), and late-night taco stands. Don’t miss a photo with the massive Sayulita sign and the papel picado in front of the church (it seems to change all the time)!
We were in Sayulita for Christmas Eve, and let’s just say Mexicans know how to throw a party! It’s also a great spot for people watching. If you’re walking around town, you’ll definitely come across the plaza on more than one occasion!
4. Relax in your hotel pool
If you’re not keen on swimming in the ocean, there;s nothing wrong with hanging out in the pool! Mezcal cocktail in hand! If you’re not staying in a hotel with a swoon-worthy pool, you can grab a day pass for 600MX (~$30US) at Sayulinda Hotel, where we stayed! You could easily spend hours up there laying on a chaise in the pool, chilling in a hammock, and ordering all the drinky drinks you could ever want!
5. Whiz around on an ATV Tour
Looking to get into the jungle?! An ATV ride will take you there! We recently did this in Los Cabos (albeit it was through the desert and not jungle) and it was oh so much fun! We’ve also ridden ATVs in Santorini, and they are always a good time!
I so wish we made time for this ATV tour in Sayulita – it looks absolutely epic. Imagine cruising through not only the jungle, but mud and the beach as well! Tequila tasting included! One of the best things to do in Sayulita for those with an adventurous spirit!
6. Wander the colorful town
I swear, Sayulita is one of the most colorful towns I’ve seen in a while. And I just LOVE eclectic towns filled with color (like Gili Air, Todos Santos, Chefchaouen, San Jose del Cabo, Guanajuato, etc), so Sayulita was right up my alley. Everywhere you look you’ll see dynamic street art, papel picado (those colorful flags you see blowing in the wind), and ojos de dos.
Don’t miss Ave. Revolucion, the main shopping street in Sayulita, filled with artisan home decor, touristy souvenirs, and homemade jewelry.
7. Go boutique shopping
On that note, go shopping! I was surprised to learn that the town has some of the best boutiques I’ve seen in a while! Making finding these unique treasures one of the best things to do in Sayulita! You’ll easily find swoon-worthy boutiques all over town, but here’s a few of my favorites:
- Revolucion del Sueno: Pop culture with a fun Mexican flair! Whatever you do, don’t miss this store. I wanted to buy everything (and I mean EVERYTHING). After careful deliberation, I ended up picking up a few postcard prints (all with a tongue-in-cheek twist), as well as a signature “Pinche Mexico Mi Amor” notebook!
- Evoke the Spirit: Such a different vibe than the others, with colorful beaded earrings and woven Mexican blankets (all naturally dyed). But my favorite things? The intricately decorated hand painted cow skulls and woven wall hangings. Absolutely gorgeous – I just wish I could afford one!
- Pachamama: Walk in and you’ll find more fringed leather and fabric bags than you know what to do with. There’s also gorgeous black Tahitian pearl necklaces, dream catchers, and so much more. Such a unique concept and you never really know what you’ll find until you go in.
- Tiendita Hola Sayulita: Probably one of the most colorful boutiques I’ve ever seen! Tons of jewelry, pom poms, stuffed animals, and accessories.
- Sal de Mar Beachstore: So many cute swimsuits and unique one-of-a-kind woven bags and straw hats. I bought a colorful beaded bracelet here that reminds me so much of Sayulita – punchy, bright, and playful! It’s right next to El Itacate so if there’s a line for tacos, pop on in!
8. Sip some agua de cacao
One of my favorite drinks in Sayulita! It’s like sipping a chilled hot chocolate that’s not as sweet. You’ll find the best one at Mexicolate – oh so refreshing with cinnamon and sweetened with piloncillo (a Mexican brown-sugar). I loved this drink so much I made sure to stop by Mexicolate at least once a day! Good thing it’s known to be healthy!
9. Search for iguanas
We were walking by one day, minding our own business, and then BAM – out came two HUGE iguanas! We had never heard about the famous Sayulita Iguana Tree, so seeing these massive prehistoric looking reptiles came as a big surprise. And then we saw another. And another. And like 10 more green iguanas!
They were so fun to watch, albeit a little scary when they came scurrying down the trees – they’re huge! And kinda look like small dinosaurs, with spiky backs, leathery skin, and long, whip-like tails. One of the most unexpected things to do in Sayulita for sure!
There used to be a large population of green iguanas in Sayulita, but due to tourism, they now concentrate in this enormous guamuchil tree. You’ll find the tree on the way to Playa de Los Muertos, next to the Tierra Viva restaurant.
10. Indulge in the incredible food scene
You may be surprised to learn that Sayulita has such an incredible food scene, being a small surf town and all. But there’s loads of good food (this is Mexico, afterall!). I could list 20 spots right here (I’ll leave that for another day), but here’s my all-time favorite highlights:
- El Itacate: Don’t leave without trying one of their famous cheese steak burritos. What’s so great about it? Instead of your typical corn or flour tortilla, they use freshly cooked melted cheese. Can you say yum?
- Barracuda: We first learned about this trendy spot in nearby San Pancho (where we stayed for a few days), but luckily there’s another location here in Sayulita! Try the tuna tostadas – they were so fresh and delicious.
- La Rustica: Pizza in Sayulita? Don’t be fooled – once you’re craving a cuisine other than Mexican, La Rustica to the rescue! I swear, the wood-fired pizza is some of the best I’ve ever had.
- Mary’s Traditional Cuisine: We loved this spot so much we ate here THREE times! Twice for lunch, and once for breakfast! I can confirm everything I ordered was absolutely delicious, especially the chilaquiles and mole chicken enchiladas. Muy delicioso!
11. Hike up Monkey Mountain
We chose to spend extra time at our hotel’s rooftop infinity pool (what a shame, haha), but if you’re looking to work up a sweat, a hike up Monkey Mountain is a great idea! It’s the highest mountain in the area AND has a 360º view, meaning you see the entire bay from up top.
The trail is rated as moderate-challenging; expect the climb to take anywhere from 3 to 4.5 hours (roundtrip). I recommend going first thing in the morning before the heat (and humidity) sets in! Sign up with an experienced guide if you’re prone to getting lost on hikes (like I am). Reconsider the hike if it recently rained as I heard it can be quite slippery and dangerous.
12. Take lots of photos!
You see how colorful the town is, right?! I couldn’t stop putting my phone down for photos (just ask my husband, haha). Some of my favorite spots for photos in Sayulita:
- Smile You Are In Sayulita: You’ll find this cheery saying at Casa Makawe, which we found on the way to Yah-Yah for breakfast one morning!
- Heart Walkway: Located on private property at Hotel Hafa; you’ll need to wander in and go up the stairs, but we didn’t have any problems taking a quick photo. Just remember to be respectful. 🙂
- Flags along Avenue Revolucion: It’s the ultimate selfie spot in Sayulita – don’t miss a photo with the iconic papel picado (flags) on Ave. Revolucion.
13. Get a massage on the beach
On the last day of our trip, we treated ourselves to massages on the beach! And at only 500 pesos (~$25USD) for an hour, we thought it was exceptional value (although, of course, not as cheap as you’ll find in Thailand of course). There are plenty of massage spas in town, but we found those to be overpriced compared to the beach. One of the most relaxing things to do in Sayulita for sure!
14. Watch the sunset
This part of Mexico (Riviera Nayarit) is known for their epic sunsets, and Sayulita doesn’t disappoint! You can watch from the main beach from one of the many beach bars dotting the shore (Don Pedro’s and Coco’s are favorites), or from the rooftop pool at Hotel Sayulinda (where we stayed). I do want to point out that the sun does not set directly into the ocean over here since this stretch of Sayulita points north. If you do want to watch the sunset head on over to Playa Carricitos.
15. Ride horses on the beach
I so wish we had done this as it’s easily one of the best things to do in Sayulita! On this tour, you’ll explore the lush tropical rainforest on the jungle trails and trot around on the golden sandy beaches in and around Sayulita. The horses are very well-treated and very tame – perfect for an inexperienced rider. The only other time I rode roses on the beach was back at home in Half Moon Bay, and I so wish I signed up for a horseback riding tour in Sayulita! Next time.
16. Go surfing
Sayulita is truly a surfer’s paradise. There’s a reason it’s a surf town after all! And plus, the waves are perfect for beginners (with its mellow and practically consistent waves), so Sayulita’s a great place to take a surf lesson! If you’ve never been on a board before, don’t fret! That’s what the lessons are for!
Some of the most popular surf schools are WildMex, Sayulita Surf School, and Surf’n Sayulita. You can even sign up for a multi-day surf camp if you wanna feel like a pro! Sign up for a private surf lesson here (they even give you all the necessities: rash guards, booties, and towels).
If you’re an experienced surfer looking for other local surf spots close to Sayulita (with even more impressive surf breaks), check out La Lancha, El Anclote (larger waves) and Stinky (beginner breaks) in Punta de Mita, and San Pancho (intermediate breaks). One of the best things to do in Sayulita if you wanna embrace the local spirit!
17. Practice yoga
The town is a hub for yoga on the Mexican west coast, so why not sign up for a class? I mean, Sayulita is absolutely a haven for yogis! And there’s lots of spacious open air studios to pick from. You’ll find plenty of classes at Paraiso Yoga and The Rose Room, two popular studios in the heart of Sayulita. Many studios even hold retreats throughout the year – worth looking into if you want some extra relaxation and rejuvenation.
18. Learn about The Huichol Indigenous People
The Huichol are an indigenous group of people of central northwest Mexico who live in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains in the Mexican states of Nayarit, Jalisco, Zacatecas, and Durango (including some of the US as well).
They’re most known for (and even globally recognised for!) their artwork – super intricate, spiritually significant, and absolutely brilliant colorful bead and string folk art. I just loved all the vivid colors. Look closely at the photos – all the animals are covered in individual beads! We found these gorgeous beaded pieces at Tierra Huichol, right next to our hotel, but plenty of galleries in Sayulita sell art by The Hoichol.
19. Browse the local markets/handicrafts
You’ll see more handicrafts than you know what to do with all over Mexico, and Sayulita is no exception. While there are plenty of boutique shops in Sayulita, the local markets have such a different feel. Find them on the shopping street on your way to the beach, from vendors at the beach, and in shops around town. I loved the woven tote bags and picked one up on the beach for about 200 pesos.
20. Zipline through the jungle
If you’ve never ziplined before, you’re in for a real treat! Imagine being suspended in the air and flying through the jungle and over tree tops. I’ve been ziplining in Belize, Croatia, and Whistler, and can guarantee it’s not as scary as it looks (I promise it’s so much fun).
On this tour, you’ll get panoramic views of the Sayulita beaches, reach heights of over 125 meters above sea level, and even partake in a celebratory tequila tasting once you’re back safely on the ground! Read reviews and book your zipline tour here!
21. Release baby sea turtles
If you’re visiting Sayulita between August and December, join the volunteers at Campamento Tortuguero Sayulita and help release the baby sea turtles into the ocean! The releases take place around 6:30pm each night (around sunset) on the north side of the main Sayulita Beach.
We did this last year in Todos Santos, and it was such a magical experience. One of the most rewarding things to do in Sayulita for animal lovers! I can’t stress enough how magical of an experience this was – the hatchlings you help release are literally born that day! Find more info here.
Day Trips from Sayulita (Even more things to do in Sayulita!)
22. San Pancho
This cute little surf town roughly 15 minutes north of Sayulita caught us by surprise – in the best way possible! We instantly fell in love! And being so close to the town makes for such an easy day trip – you can take a cheap taxi for 200 pesos or so (~$10USD).
Don’t miss a meal at Limbo (our fave restaurant in San Pancho), a sunset cocktail at Playa San Pancho, and a wander through town! It’s like a mini Sayulita of the past.
23. Puerto Vallarta
I’m sure you’ve heard of Puerto Vallarta – it’s where you flew into after all! I highly recommend spending more than a day in PV, but if that’s all the time you have, you can really see a lot in just a few hours!
Take a long walk along the malecon, hit up the (overly-crowded) beach and see the famous sculpture on the pier, try all the street food (mmm that esquina with cheese), wander around the Romantic Zone, check out the Isla Cuale Flea Market, and watch the sunset with a drink in hand. You can also hike up to Mirador Cerro de La Cruz for some spectacular views!
24. Marietas Islands
One of the best things to do in Sayulita isn’t even in Sayulita itself! As soon as we bought tickets to Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita, I instantly booked a tour to the Marietas Islands (Islas Marietas).
Why? Because they are downright gorgeous, that’s why! Marietas Islands are a group of small, uninhabited islands off the coast of Nayarit.
Only 116 people per day are allowed entrance to the popular Playa del Amor, so if swimming to the hidden beach is on your wishlist, make sure to secure your spot ASAP!
On the tour we saw such incredible wildlife and breathtaking landscapes, including humpback whales (at least a dozen!), so many tropical fish (we also went snorkeling!), and blue-footed boobies on the rocks! I thought they were only in the Galapagos Islands – do you see their striking blue feet in the photo?!
The Marietas Islands were recently granted the title of National Park (which is a great thing because it means protection of these little islands!), so you’ll need to pay a fee of $25USD per person to enter.
Do note that not every Marietas Islands tour includes access to Playa del Amor (the hidden beach in the big cave you’ve likely seen photos of), so you want to make sure you book a tour that includes this. Not all do. This is why you need to book early – they get booked up fast!
If the hidden beach tours are already sold out (bummer), check out this snorkeling and beach tour of Marietas Islands instead! The water really is iridescent! And if you’re a diver, even better – there’s an option for certified divers as well!
25. Punta Mita
Looking to really get away from it all? Head to nearby Punta de Mita for a day! The sand is sparkling, the beaches are hardly crowded, and there’s a ton of great restaurants overlooking the water.
We spent a few hours here and loved getting away from the busyness of Sayulita for an afternoon. You can hail a taxi for ~500 pesos ($25USD) or take the Compostela bus for 40 pesos a person (~$2USD).
26. Whale Watching
Visiting in the winter months between December and April? You’re in luck! Whale watching is one of the best things to do in Sayulita! Due to its location, Sayulita (and the surrounding areas) are a prime spot for incredible whale watching – humpback whales are commonly seen along the Nayarit coast. Imagine seeing a humpback whale breach – what an incredible sight!
We even saw some whales off the coast on our first night in Puerto Vallarta from our hotel pool! Such a thrilling and awe-inspiring experience! But for the best viewing (and to get up close), you really need to book a whale watching tour! I could not for the life of me fathom just how many we saw on our tour — at least a dozen or so! An experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
Suggested Sayulita Itinerary
- Day 1: Get situated in Sayulita! Walk around the town, hit up the beach and a beach bar (or two), and watch the sun go down on your first day! Definitely try your first agua de cacao!
- Day 2: Day Trip to Marietas Islands! I recommend doing this early on in your Sayulita itinerary just in case the weather doesn’t cooperate and your tour needs to be rescheduled.
- Day 3: Take a surf lesson, treat yourself to a relaxing massage on the beach, and/or go shopping at the local boutiques in town.
- Day 4: Get outta town and take a day trip to Puerto Vallarta! The city will feel huge compared to Sayulita, but make sure to wander around the Romantic Zone, walk along the malecon, and check out the pier on the beach.
- Day 5: Choose your adventure, it may very well be your last day! A few ideas: whale watching (season dependent – December to April), horseback riding on the beach, ATV riding into the jungle, day trip to San Pancho, hiking up to Monkey Mountain, or just another day sunbathing at the beach!
Where to Eat and Drink in Sayulita
I’m planning on writing an entire post on this eventually (there’s just too many to list here!), but here’s my favorites! Whatever you do, don’t miss a cheese-wrapped burrito at El Itacate (absolute heaven) and the mole chicken enchiladas at Mary’s!
- Wood-fired pizza at La Rustica
- Famous cheese burrito at El Itacate (they’re known for their steak)
- Breakfast at Yah-Yah Sayulita Coffee Shop
- Mole enchiladas at Mary’s Traditional Cuisine
- Agua de cacao at Mexicolate
- Date drinks and pastries at Cafe Gourmet
- The best al pastor late-night tacos at Tacos Al Pastor Tal Ivan
- Healthy early breakfast at Organi-K
- Ice cream at Wa Kika
- Chocolate dipped banana at Chocobanana
- Tuna and marlin tostadas at Barracuda (plus the express location on the beach)