Sayulita, Mexico is an incredible town for surfing, yoga, shopping and eating. The best part about Sayulita is that it’s an easy walkable city brimming with colorful local artwork, palm trees and delicious restaurants. There are enough good restaurants in Sayulita to make it a travel foodie destination.
Only 45 minutes north of the Puerto Vallarta International Airport (PVR), the colorful traditional Mexican town of Sayulita is part of Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit coastal corridor that extends from San Blas to Litibu.
Although people have lived in the Nayarit area since 5,000 BC, surfers didn’t start flocking to the area until the 1960’s. When Puerto Vallarta became a popular international tourist destination, vacationers starting exploring the neighboring towns and Sayulita discovered surf tourism. Local folklore says that Sayulita was formed by wave gods that created a place with perfect waves. And everyone from beginner to professional surfers tend to agree.
Now Sayulita is peppered with local ice-cream shops, restaurants, handmade crafts markets, shops and residents from countries all over the globe. While Sayilta caters to tourists with Mexican hospitality, it is in a relaxed and more authentic way than it’s highly developed neighbor, Puerto Vallarta. Although tourism is booming in Nayarit, it is still a predominately agricultural area because of the fertile soil and 181 miles of mostly untouched coastline.
WHAT TO DO IN SAYUILITA
Playa de los Muertos – Although the name is unfortunate, the beach is stunning. It offers better water for swimming than the main beach in Sayilta and is only about a 10 minute walk from the main beach. The water is clearer with smaller waves and the beach is less crowded.
Town Around Golf Cart rentals are perfect to cruise around Sayulita easily. And if you need something a little more exciting, there’s Polaris UTV tours (like ATV).
Las Marietas Archipelago (Marietas Islands) – The island is a donut shape with a beach in the center. You take a boat out to the island and then swim/snorkel through a cave to get to the hidden beach in the middle of the island. The trick is to go during low tide, so you have more space in the cave. And make sure you book a snorkeling excursion on a boat specifically to the hidden beach, and not just the Marietas. Hidden beach is a must see.
Haramara Retreat – Offers spa services, a great place to go if you’re sore from surfing.
Drive 15 minutes to Playa San Pancho for more fun in the sun. Or check out nearby Pinta Mita, known to be an oasis for A-listers. And of course, you can spend hours simply shopping and meandering the festive streets of Sayulita.
WHERE TO SURF
There is a great surf beach that I was worn to secrecy to not tell anyone about. The upside is fantastic surfing with few people around. The downside is a 5 or 10 minute hike through the jungle with your surfboard. Since I’m not supposed to tell anyone about it, I’ll just refer to it as Playa La Lancha. Shhhhh. Map to WildMex Surf & Adventures at La Lancha in Punta Mita, and you can park there. You can also rent surfboards here from them. Then walk directly across the street and follow the trail. This break works best at mid to high tide, as there are exposed rocks at low tide.
Other surf spots near Sayulita:
For more advanced surfers – San Pancho for short boards, El Faro (The Lighthouse), and Stinky’s for low tide in Punta de Mita next to La Quinta del Sol. Veneros is a fast break for short boards that works best at high tide. (You can access this beach next to Rancho Panderas, then it’s about a 5 min hike to beach.)
For Beginners/intermediate surfers – Litibu beach has easy car access and is good for beginners. Anclote is right in front of Punta de Mita and is great for paddle boarding or longboards. (Be careful at low tide, there’s a reef bottom here.)
And of course, the reason Sayulita became a haven for surfers is because right on the main beach in front of Sayulita there’s a little something for everyone, right and left point break, as well as a sand bar for beginners. (Best at low to mid tides.) However this beach is very crowded.
WHERE TO STAY
One of my favorite things about Sayulita is that there aren’t big chain hotels, mostly just small boutique hotels and Airbnbs. I highly recommend this beautiful Airbnb, Casa Yaka, that I stayed in. It’s gorgeous and recently renovated, but kept the traditional Mexican artwork and style. It’s right in the heart of Sayulita and walking distance to everything.
Also recommend these hotels:
Aurinko Bungalows – Colorful and stylish traditional bungalows with fully equipped kitchens close to the beach.
Villa Amor – A well known hotel staple in Sayulita. It is in a perfect location wedged oceanside between the main beach in Sayulita and the beautiful Playa de los Muertos. Hotel is oceanfront with ocean views.
El Pueblita de Sayulita – Colorful hotel with a pool.
Beach front hotel – Casa Blanca Sayulita – Hotel that is on the beach just north of the center of Sayulita, near the turtle release location.
Hotel Villas Sayulita – Hotel offers healthy meals, yoga classes, mountain biking trails and plush rooms.
Hotel Playa Escondida – If you want access to a more private beach, this hotel is a little outside of downtown Sayilita, but offers up a serving of R&R. A concept hotel that puts you closer to nature in a private jungle-beach setting with lots of activities and excursions. Offers up yoga, trail riding, hiking, biking and more.
Hotelito Los Suenos – This breezy hotel isn’t on the beach, but is a lovely boutique hotel with great yoga classes on the rooftop. Half of the hotel was recently renovated with a new addition, so request to be in one of the new rooms.
BEST EATS IN SAYULITA
While people may debate which restaurant is actually the best restaurant in Sayulita, these restaurants are good places to start while vacationing in Nayarit.
Leda Restaurante – Relaxed upscale restaurant for dinner with authentic Italian cuisine, very hospitable staff, extraordinary food and amazing patio. They have live music in the evenings.
Ino – Amazing food – pasta burgers, salads, a little something for everyone. Innovative vegetarian appetizers and a friendly staff. Kid friendly.
El Conejo Comida + Tequila – Gorgeous space is great for drinks and dinner. Very limited food menu, but what they offer is fantastic. Rooftop bar or air conditioned interior downstairs.
La Rustica – A solid choice for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Casa Tradicional Cocina Mexicana – On the left on your way to Playa La Lancha from Sayulita. It’s a big colorful new restaurant with traditional Mexican accents.
Organi-K – Great stop for smoothies and breakfast.
Mexichocolate – Chocolate store that offers everything from cacao beans to handmade chocolate to fresh chocolate drinks.
Tierra Viva for breakfast
Sayulita Cafe (Sayulita cafe institution)
Coco’s Beach Club
Jack’s Place Sayulita
Falafel and Friends – If you can catch them when they are open, try this street side vender.
Don Pedro – for drinks/appetizers/sunset
Si Señor – for drinks/sunset
Have a great time in Sayulita! Speaking of time in Sayulita…
You are near a time zone line. In 2010, the city of Saylita decided to change to a different time zone from the rest of Nayarit, because tourists kept missing their flights in Puerto Vallarta, which was in the time zone of the neighboring Mexican state of Jalisco. But be advised that your cell phone may pick up a tower in a different time zone and switch time zones anyway.
TRAVEL TIP: Don’t drink the water!
*As always at Finding Pura Vida, all opinions are my own.
If you feel like there’s something amazing in Sayulita that travelers need to know about that was missed, please add it the comments below and I will check it out next time I am in Mexico. Thanks so much for reading!