Sayulita, Mexico is the perfect getaway- this colorful beach town is filled to the brim with boho charm. Sayulita is so special, in fact, it’s been named a pueblo magico by the government of Mexico, a designation reserved exclusively for the most enchanting towns throughout Mexico that provide visitors with a “magical experience”, due to their culture, history, or natural beauty.
So if you’re interested in heading to this town for its chill, artsy vibes with just a hint of magic, here’s 11 incredible things to do in Sayulita.
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Table of Contents
- How to Get to Sayulita
- When to Visit Sayulita
- Things to Do in Sayulita
- What to Know Before Visiting Sayulita
- Where to Stay in Sayulita
Psssst… if Mexican beachside towns with boho vibes is your jam, you may be interested in checking out our post about how to spend a weekend in Tulum, Mexico.
How to Get to Sayulita
Sayulita is located about an hour northwest of the resort town Puerto Vallarta in the Mexican state of Nayarit, so if you’re not already in Mexico, you will likely need to fly in. Given that Puerto Vallarta is a popular destination, it’s usually not too challenging to snag decent airfare there- to help get the best deals on airfare, I swear by Skyscanner to set flight alerts, compare prices, and sometimes even find flight and hotel package deals.
Once you’re in Puerto Vallarta, there are a couple of ways to get here, ranging from the cheapest to the priciest:
- Bus: If you’re backpacking Mexico, this is likely the way you’ll reach Sayulita, given this is by far the cheapest option (46 pesos or about $2.50). To get to the bus station from the airport, cross over the highway using the pedestrian bridge and look out for a green and white bus that says “COMPOSTELA”, which should come every 20 minutes or so.
Be sure to check that “Sayulita” is written on the windshield- not all COMPOSTELA busses go there! From Puerto Vallarta, the bus usually takes about two hours to reach the city.
- Uber: You’ll get a cheaper rate with Ubers than taxis, but they can be a bit unreliable in Puerto Vallarta. You’ll have the best bet of meeting up with your Uber driver if you exit the airport, cross over the pedestrian bridge, and get picked up near the bus stop.
- Taxi: You’ll pay a lot more if you get a taxi right at the airport but if you, again, go over the pedestrian bridge and flag one down, it should cost about 700-1000 pesos ($35-50 one-way). Be sure to negotiate the rate before you get into the taxi; I’ve had some not so pleasant surprises with taxi drivers before I learned that trick!
- Rental car: If you’re just planning on staying in Sayulita, this is a bit of an overkill, given that it’s a tiny, super walkable town, with virtually no parking. If, however, you’re interested in exploring the neighboring towns, like San Pancho (which you 100% should), I’d highly recommend getting a rental car, which you can usually get pretty cheaply (around $30 or so a day).
There’s a few quirky things about driving in Puerto Vallarta (like you turn left from the right lane… what?!), but otherwise, it’s not challenging or scary to drive around here.
When to Visit Sayulita
One of the wonderful things about Sayulita is there’s really no “bad” time to go, given the year round pleasant weather, although there’s some things to keep in mind while you’re planning your visit.
Although December is one of the coolest months (with highs in the mid to upper 70s), it can also be one of the busiest seasons, with Christmas and New Years bringing lots of travelers into town. If you’re wanting to celebrate the holidays in a colorful and lively setting, Sayulita is one of the best places to relax and enjoy the beach on Christmas! If, on the other hand, you prefer avoiding the crowds, coming in January would be a safe bet, with the weather getting progressively warmer through May.
Come June through October, the weather gets quite hot, humid, and rainy, so if you’re looking for a time to avoid, this would be it.
Alternatively, if you like to party, the best time to come is Semana Santa and Semana de Pascu (the weeks leading up to and after Easter). This is a popular time for Mexican families to head to the beach and celebrate- Sayulita is supposed to be absolutely PACKED with revelers during this period.
Additionally, while Sayulita is not known for having a particularly large Día de Muertos celebration (observed on November 1 and 2), it’s still an excellent spot to participate in this celebratory holiday.
Things to Do in Sayulita
First things first, it’s important to note that Sayulita is a tiny town- you could walk around all of its blocks in about 20 minutes. So if you’re looking for a thriving metropolis that offers you a zillion things to do, this probably is not the town for you.
But, if you’re looking to soak up the sun and all the chill vibes, there are plenty of things to keep you busy during your stay. There’s a reason, of course, this is such a popular destination for digital nomads!
1. Take a surfing class
It would be silly to talk about Sayulita without mentioning what put it on the map in the first place- surfing! There’s a ton of different surf breaks in and around Sayulita (upwards of 15), making this the perfect place for both beginner and advanced surfers alike.
There are tons of places to rent surfboards (which will cost about $20/day for a regular surfboard) or to book lessons around town (for a 1.5 hour lesson, including the rental, it will run you about $50-$70). Check out Surf’n Sayulita, Patricia’s Surf School, and Lunazul Surf School and Shop for lessons and for rentals, try Quiverito Surf Shop and Los Rudos Surf Shop.
2. Help save sea turtles
Due to overexploitation of turtle meat and eggs, the population of olive ridley turtles, which calls the Pacific coast of Mexico and Costa Rica home, has decreased from previous historical estimates by up to 50 percent. Due to recent intervention efforts by conservation groups, though, the population has started to bounce back (woohoo!).
There’s a group here named Campamento Tortuguero Sayulita that provides volunteer and educational opportunities to visitors, like observing the group release sea turtle hatchlings into the ocean from January through June.
This group focuses more on teaching visitors about its conservation efforts and protecting these magnificent creatures, as opposed to more exploitative activities that other “ecotourism” groups in the area offer (like charging tourists to personally rehome a turtle’s nest from the beach). Reach out to them on their Facebook page for information on how you can participate and learn more about their mission during your time in Sayulita.
As an aside, please always do research into any group that has a paid component with observing or, especially, interacting with animals- it greatly increases the chances of the animals being mishandled and exploited.
3. Take a yoga class
Is it any surprise that a town known for its laidback vibes also offers a bunch of yoga options? There’s tons of yoga retreats located in Sayulita, like Haramara, which allows you to choose the length of your retreat and provides an all-inclusive experience with yoga classes, beautiful cabanas, and organically grown foods (depending on the season and how fancy of a room you want, this will run you $216-$390/night).
If you still want to explore Sayulita, with just a side of yoga, consider instead taking some classes with a studio, like Paraiso Yoga. They have some pretty cool package deals, like unlimited yoga for a week for $55 and even some that offer surf and yoga classes (like 5 days unlimited yoga, with 3 surf lessons for $180).
4. Relax at the beach
The #1 thing to include on your Mexico packing list if you’re headed to Sayulita? A bathing suit, of course!
As a surf town located right along the Pacific coast, Sayulita is one of the best beach towns in Mexico, with all kinds of beaches for you to explore.
The main beach, Playa Sayulita, is located right off the downtown area and is where most surf lessons take place. It’s convenient given its location to bars and restaurants, but it can be quite crowded and unfortunately, the sand and water tend to be pretty dirty (fun fact: my husband, Justin, found a bag of cocaine here!).
But, good news, there are lots of other options for you!
- Playa de los Muertos: Named so given its location behind a colorful cemetery that’s worth exploring in and of itself, this small beach is usually busy, but much cleaner than Playa Sayulita. And while there’s no neighboring bars or restaurants, there’s a street stall nearby, selling beverages and snacks if you need to refuel all those calories you’re burning while surfing.
- Playa Carracitos: If you’re looking to soak up the sun in solitude, this beach, just down the hill from Playa de los Muertos, offers a gorgeous stretch of sand, surrounded by palm trees, lush vegetation, and green mountains on three sides. The tide here is quite strong, so this isn’t a great place to splash around in the water, but, on the flip side, you’ll almost certainly have this place all to yourself!
- Playa la Lancha: Simply, this is the best place near Sayulita to see surfers of all skill levels in action.
- Playa Escondida: You’ll need to stay at a swanky, secluded resort to access this private beach (meaning no aggressive beach vendors!), but I feel compelled to include it here, because it’s where Bachelor in Paradise is filmed (my favorite dumpster fire TV show!). This hidden cove is surrounded by a thick jungle and rolling green mountains- it’s no surprise why a reality TV show about finding love is shot here.
5. Try stand-up paddleboarding
Stand-up paddleboarding (or SUP) is a sport, originating with surfers in Hawaii and increasing in popularity since the early 2000s.
You essentially stand up on a floating paddle board (shocker!) and use a paddle to propel yourself forward. You can either take a class to learn how to do it, from schools like Lunazal Surfing or Surf’n Sayulita, or, alternatively, it’s fairly straightforward to pick up by yourself (I’m not the most coordinated person in the world and learned how to do it without taking a class).
If you’d rather go the latter route, you can rent a paddleboard from one of the many shops around town, like Stand Up Sayulita, and bring your paddleboard to Sayulita’s main beach, whose waves are usually fairly calm. If the waves are too high here, you can make the 25-minute drive south to El Anclote in Punta de Mita, which has mild waves perfect for paddling around.
6. Eat and drink to your heart’s content.
Y’all, the food in Sayulita is SO good! Justin and I follow a vegan diet and while we were a bit disappointed by some of the options in Puerto Vallarta, we were absolutely FLOORED by the offerings here, both in terms of Mexican food and international cuisine!
Not only is the food great (and, while pricier as compared to other spots in Mexico, still very affordable as compared to the United States and similarly priced countries), the atmosphere at most bars and restaurants here is just fun- everyone is in Sayulita to relax, with margaritas aflowing and live music blaring.
Some of the best places to check out (regardless of dietary preferences!):
- Mexican food: El Itacate, Yeikame, Mary’s
- Other yummy spots: Chocobanana (frozen chocolate covered bananas- YES!), The Anchor (coffee shop and Instagrammable smoothie bowls), Ki’i No Ramen (Mexican/Japanese fusion), and La Rustica (delicious pasta and pizza)
- Bars: Atico Breakfast Cafe and Bar (they have swings!), Don Pedros, La Rustica, Escondido Bar (great place to people watch)
7. Go shopping
Sayulita is packed to the gills with adorable shops offering bohemian clothes and Mexican crafts and decor, so it’s worth spending an afternoon moseying around its colorful streets and browsing its boutiques and open-air stores.
Unlike the food, the clothes and goods tend to be pretty expensive (there was one instance where a vendor told me a dress was FOUR TIMES as much as the price tag I later found on it- yikes!), but you can certainly haggle and try to snag a great deal. Some shops I liked are Gypsy Galeria, Evoke the Spirit, Pacha Mama, and Rosemary. There are also quite a few markets where you can check out local vendors:
- The “hippie” market is located next to the baseball stadium (a couple blocks southeast of the downtown area) and is open every day. It features vendors selling everything from typical souvenirs to handcrafted artwork, like woven wall hangings and embroidered blankets.
- Open on Sundays along Calle Gaviota, there’s an open air market that’s one of the best places in Sayulita to find local artwork from Tlaquapaque and Tonalá, like handmade jewelry and woven purses.
- Located half a block southeast of the baseball stadium (here), Sayulita hosts a farmer’s market each Friday from 10 am to 2 pm, with vendors selling everything from locally-grown fruits and veggies to baked goods and handcrafted soaps.
8. Support Huichol culture
The Huichol are an Indigenous people, descended from the Aztecs, that have lived near Sayulita in the foothills and mountains of the Sierra Madre Mountain range since before Spaniards colonized Mexico. Centuries later, the Huichol people still keep their culture and tradition alive through their beautiful artwork, primarily colorful beadwork and yarn applique.
Selling their art is one of the primary drivers of the Huichol’s economy, so if you’re looking for a souvenir, I’d highly recommend checking out some of their artwork (plus- you’ll have a totally unique, handcrafted piece of Mexico to take home with you!).
There’s a few places in town to see Huichol art- Tierra Huichol and Arte Wixarika Huichol (located on the northeastern corner of Sayulita plaza), as well as the local artisan markets.
9. Go whale watching
Between mid-December through the end of March, some 18,000 humpback whales call the waters off Sayulita’s coast home.
If you’d like to get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures (in addition to other whales endemic to the area, like Bryde’s whales, gray whales, and killer whales), go on a whale watching tour from town, like La Orca de Sayulita. This company leads small groups (only 8 people!) on a three hour biologist-led tour, which focuses on providing an educational and eco-conscious perspective of these beautiful animals.
10. Take a tour to explore the surrounding islands and jungles
One of the best things about staying in Sayulita is exploring the beautiful jungles, mountains, and coastline surrounding it. For example, Isla Marietas, located about 14 miles southwest of Sayulita, is known as “the Galapagos of Mexico” due to its stunning biodiversity, with 115 species of fish and 92 species of birds (including the famous blue-footed booby).
Jacque Costeau and other scientists first discovered the abundance of wildlife here in the 1960s and, thanks to their efforts, the island is now both a UNESCO site and a national park. If you’re interested in seeing this beautiful island yourself, you can book a tour to lay on its pristine beaches and snorkel through its crystal clear waters through several operators in Sayulita, like WildMex Surf School.
If you’re instead looking for something a tad more adventurous, there’s tons of other Sayulita tours a that might float your fancy:
- Take a ziplining tour, with 10 ziplines through the mountains of Higuera Blanca (plus a tequila tasting at the end!).
- Learn how to ride an ATV and climb up Cerro del Mono through jungle trails, to reach a viewpoint overlooking Sayulita
- Try mountain biking through the jungle to explore nearby beaches and towns
11. Explore neighboring towns
Sayulita is super charming, but you’d be remiss not to explore other nearby towns in Nayarit. Check out:
- San Pancho: Located just ten minutes north of Sayulita is this sleepy surfer town. San Pancho honestly feels like what I’d imagine Sayulita felt like ten years ago before its tourism boom, with small hole-in-the-wall watering holes, families enjoying time on the beach, and a smattering of shops and boutiques selling surf gear and artsy clothing and decor.
- Punta de Mita: If you’re into swanky vibes, Punta de Mita, located 30 minutes south of Sayulita, is definitely for you, with plenty of four star resorts and golf courses to satisfy even the bougiest visitor. Given that several celebrities, like Beyonce and the Kardashians, have regularly vacationed here, it’s no surprise this is the go-to place in Nayarit to indulge in upscale experiences, like renting a catamaran or scuba diving.
- Bucerias: This small beach town, located 40 minutes south of Sayulita, is an interesting mix of ex-pats and locals and is full of cobblestone streets lined with traditional Mexican buildings, with papel picado waving overhead. Perhaps, most importantly, this is one of the best places to get a cheap massage along the beach in Nayarit!
Psssst... this definitely is a bit more of a time investment than visiting the towns above, but if you like offbeat travel experiences, I'd suggest checking out Islas Marias while you're in Nayarit. This island, located 60 miles off the Pacific coastline, served a Mexican federal prison from 1905 to 2019, but now holds the title of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the home to 19 species of animals found nowhere else on the planet. It's definitely one of the most unique places I've ever visited! If you're interested, we have a whole guide, with everything you need to know about visiting Islas Marias.
What to Know Before Visiting Sayulita
Sayulita was described to me as a tiny surfer town with artsy, laidback vibes. And while it’s definitely charming and worth visiting, it’s important to note that, since Sayulita experienced a tourism boom in the early 2000s, it feels like the town is growing faster than it can keep up with and is morphing into more of a party town than its previous hippie roots (from my experience, seeing individuals casually doing cocaine in public restrooms isn’t super out of the norm).
Mega resorts are being built along its beautiful coastlines, garbage lines its streets after each night of drunken partying, and street hawkers, taking advantage of the spike in tourism, hassle visitors incessantly to buy their wares. In essence, Sayulita is on the verge of over-tourism.
So when visiting Sayulita, please be a responsible traveler and leave it better than you left it- don’t leave trash on its streets or beaches or in its waters, respect its wildlife, and seek out opportunities to support locally-owned businesses and vendors.
Pssst... want something a bit more chill than Sayulita has become? Consider visiting the neighboring town of San Pancho for chill surfer vibes or the small fishing village of Yelapa if you're looking for something even more quiet and disconnected.
Where to Stay in Sayulita
Sayulita has accommodations for every kind of traveler, from budget hostels to upscale resorts. Since I typically don’t spend much time in my accommodations, I generally prefer low- to mid-range stays that offer some kind of amenities (when in Sayulita, you need a pool!) or, when I feel like splurging, eco-lodges that focus on sustainability and highlighting the beauty of the nearby jungle and mountains.
Some places to check out:
- The Amazing Hostel Sayulita: Backpacker-friendly hostel with a rock-climbing wall and pool
- Selina Sayulita: With an excellent location in the middle of Sayulita’s bustling downtown, this boutique hotel offers tons of amenities for its reasonable nightly rate, like a pool and rooftop yoga. Given its proximity to bars and nightclubs, though, it may be best suited for night owls!
- Hotelito Los Sueños: Located close to the beach and just far enough from downtown to be peaceful at night, this hotel offers everything you need for a relaxing trip, from an onsite masseuse to yoga classes. Plus- free breakfast!
- Aurinko Bungalows: Located in downtown Sayulita, this colorful hotel offers all the Sayulita basics (pool and yoga classes, obviously), but also has a more eco-friendly aspect, with most of its electricity coming from its solar panels and offering filtered water to reduce guests’ dependence on plastic bottles.
- El Pueblito de Sayulita: Locally-owned and colorful hotel that’s perfectly located, offering a pool AND hot tub, free breakfast, and excellent service.
- Hotel Boutique Siete Lunas: For something a bit more bougie, this small hotel, offering only seven thatched-roof villas, has a stunning pool overlooking the ocean.
Have the best time finding out what makes Sayulita a pueblo magico! Are there other things you did in Sayulita that I missed? Let me know in the comments below!