A Sayulita travel guide like no other, and other tips from someone who got “trapped” here
This Sayulita travel guide is based on my experiences from traveling here to potentially living here for 2 years! This small town in Riviera Nayarit is everyone’s favorite but note that this is not for everyone. Read on to see if Sayulita is the destination for you.
[This post was originally published on 02 Feb 2019 and was republished to update current events.]
Thanks a lot for reaching out! I now live full-time in Sayulita and loving it. At first, I didn’t think I will like it because it was too small (I usually find myself overwhelmed with small towns like this) but it’s been working great for me. I love living here!
I just started creating a few contents about Sayulita so if you have more questions that weren’t answered here, please feel free to send me a message via Instagram.
If you ever make it here, I’d love to take you for coffee! Good luck!
Sayulita is currently where I live. I traveled here three years ago and never left. The vibe here is so different that you barely can differentiate between traveling and living here – everyone knows each other. There is a deep desire to be involved in the community that’s why together with the community, I started Sayulita Insider, a platform where we feature the local life in town apart from the beaches and the beautiful Airbnbs.
The bulk of my round the world travels involve living with local families, which I mostly did in South American countries like Colombia and Argentina. I also did a few in the Middle East where I stayed with a Jordanian family for 5 weeks to teach English. When I first arrived in Mexico, my goal was to do more local content for my blog but the branding of my personal travel blog is way different than what I have in mind. With this, starting another website was the smartest thing to do so I grabbed my camera, went around town, and began filming the local life, which you can all find on Youtube. The videos are in Spanish since I want to keep the authenticity of the people living here but they all have English subtitles. I hope you enjoy them!
Where is Sayulita?
The strange pattern that I find here is that a lot of people know Puerto Vallarta (the airport that serves Sayulita) but those who visit PV skip Sayulita and vice-versa. Sayulita is a young town so when you look for places to visit in Mexico, it does not really appear in the listicles. Sayulita is only popular by word of mouth, often by Americans and Canadians.
It’s only 40 minutes from Puerto Vallarta and it has a way different vibe. While PV belongs to the state of Jalisco, Sayulita is in the state of Nayarit. It has less than 3,000 inhabitants and most of them are foreigners. Sayulita is popular for its surf and yoga culture. Most people who come here go on surf trips as we have many beaches suitable for beginner to professional surfers.
Sayulita Quick Information
- Currency: the currency in Mexico is called the New Mexican peso (MXN). As of 03 Feb 2020, $1 USD = $20 MXN. The travel budget in Sayulita will be discussed in this article, too.
- Electricity socket: Mexico uses types A and B but in Sayulita, type A is more common. See all plug types here to know what to pack!
- Visa: A 180-day visa is automatically given to foreigners who enter Mexico. Mexico will not stamp your passport but they will give you an entry card. Don’t lose it because it’s your only proof that you legally entered the country. You will need to present it when you leave.
- Airport in Sayulita: The airport that serves Sayulita is Puerto Vallarta International Airport. From the airport, it will take you 40 minutes to an hour to get to Sayulita.
- Wifi in Sayulita: The fastest speed of wifi in Sayulita is 20 MBPS for most Airbnbs. There are only a few establishments that have fiber-optic Internet. Unfortunately, Sayulita’s infrastructure is not yet ready for high-speed wifi.
Sayulita COVID update
We are very lax in terms of COVID here. People don’t wear masks but other stores require wearing masks. Unlike some Mexican cities, for example, Puerto Escondido, where it is mandatory to wear masks when entering restaurants. However, when I was in other parts of Mexico, restaurants only require masks when you are entering restaurants and establishments but once you are in, it is okay to remove it. So I don’t know how that changes anything, really. It’s just more of an ‘entry pass.’
All Americans are free to fly to Mexico so if you decide to come to Sayulita during COVID, do it at your own risk. Most of the tourists here rent a big villa via Airbnb and stay in their accommodations. They only go out for food but we do have a lot of deliveries here, something that we didn’t have pre-pandemic. American and Canadian families still travel here with their kids but again, I need to tell you, we are lax when it comes to wearing masks because it is not required within the pueblo.
Where to take a COVID test in Sayulita
There is only one hospital that serves Sayulita which is Punta de Mita (PDM) hospital. There is a new hospital in Sayulita but I’m not sure if they do COVID tests – it’s a very fancy hospital and I haven’t tried it myself so I will not recommend it in this post.
PDM is about a 20-minute drive from Sayulita. You can take a taxi but don’t take the white taxis or the hospital taxi because they charge $700 MXN ($30 USD) for the ride. I can hook you up with my Sayulita driver for a better price but you can just take Uber. It sometimes works but it’s a hit and miss – Sayulita is not an Uber town. Here are the COVID test prices:
- PCR: $3,690 MXN ($180 USD)
- Antigen: $1,250 MXN ($61 USD)
- Antibodies: $400 MXN ($19.60 USD)
The funny thing about COVID tests here in our area is that prices are different so if you want a cheaper option, you can just go to Puerto Vallarta which is an hour’s drive from Sayulita. To see the COVID testing prices in Puerto Vallarta, click here. Unlike Sayulita, there are over 10 hospitals in PV that offers COVID test and you’ll be surprised to see how different their price ranges are.
What type of travelers visit Sayulita?
Before you decide to travel solo to Sayulita, think about this: is Sayulita for you? Is this a destination that will fit your travel style? People originally come here to just travel but for some reason, everyone I know (I swear, and that includes me) never left. There are lots of repeat visitors who eventually end up moving here especially in these strange times. You are going to enter a bubble and it’s not going to burst – give it a year, I gave it two, HA!
Are there lots of families traveling to Sayulita?
Yes! This is a family-friendly vacation destination! You will see lots of kids on the streets and often in the plaza. I’ve never been to Sayulita main beach without not seeing children, they’re always just there! The Northside is a family traveler’s favorite in Sayulita. Avenida Palmar is a long street of Airbnbs with great sunset views of the bay of the Banderas and massive vacation rentals. In short, it’s fresa.
There is a
small big group of Sayulita digital nomads but since the wifi in Sayulita is not that great, it is often skipped by remote workers. Most of them go to Puerto or Nuevo Vallarta as they have better infrastructure.
Yogis, health buffs, massage therapist, physical therapists – if your job is about holistic health, then you’ll fit in! Photographers and creatives are here too as there is a lot of jobs for marketing. If you are also a wedding planner, a florist, a videographer, etc., Sayulita is a famous wedding destination in Mexico. You will definitely have lots of clients from the USA here.
Is Sayulita safe?
Sayulita is a very family-oriented town so you can see a lot of families on the beach and a huge amount of kids running around town every weekend. It has been a destination for family travelers, including Mexican families. Sayulita is only a 4-hour drive from the city of Guadalajara so it serves as the closest vacation spot to Mexicans.
Police are patrolling around town every night to keep the Sayulita environment safe. There aren’t a lot of crimes in town so they are more focused on enforcing laws regarding drug possession. It is very likely that you will see (and smell) people smoking weed on the streets. People here don’t mind but the police do. Avoid smoking pot in public places and be discreet if you want to use drugs. You’re a big girl – you know how the rules are.
I did a lengthy article about safety in Sayulita where I discussed a lot of things that I observed here and overall just feeling safe. I also included some safety travel tips and provided a general feel of the pueblo. You can read that here.
Sayulita Trip Planning
The busiest season in Sayulita is from October 15 – June 1. During this time, you will experience nice weather while enjoying the sun. This is actually the season when more Americans and Canadians come to Sayulita. If you want less foreigners or tourists, come during the low season (June 1 – October 15) where most people in town are only locals. Expect extreme humid weather – summer heat is unbearable here!
Planning your Sayulita rough budget
You can easily put $35 – $50 USD per day as your Sayulita travel budget, depending on the type of traveler that you are. Hostel costs are about $15 USD, Airbnbs at $35 USD (for 2 people), and hotels can be up to $45 USD. Airbnb is the preferred way to book here as it really depends if you want a simple accommodation or big villas with pools.
As for food, you can always get tacos (ehem) for as low as $1 USD. Restaurants range from $7 – $10 USD. If you’re staying in an accommodation with a kitchen (like a hostel or Airbnb), you can buy ingredients in the market for meals for as low as $100 MXN ($5 USD) per meal for 1 person.
There are many free things to do in Sayulita so you don’t have to worry about paying for tours. If you are to book tours, they usually start from $100 USD depending on the tour you want to avail. This is mostly for outdoor adventures like Monkey Mountain or surfing trips.
Transportation budget? Forget about it. Sayulita is a walking town so join the fun! If you are not a person who is not a fan of walking, you can rent a golf cart for $50 USD per day.
How to get to Sayulita
Tourists who visit Sayulita normally come from Guadalajara by bus or from anywhere in the world through Puerto Vallarta International Airport. This airport caters to flights from San Francisco, San Diego, Vancouver, Montreal, and many parts of North America. Getting to Sayulita from the airport takes 45 minutes – 1 hour.
How to get to Sayulita from Puerto Vallarta Airport
You can take the bus outside Puerto Vallarta Internationational Airport. All you have to do is to cross the bridge and you will see the Compostela buses there that say “Sayulita.” This costs $40 MXN ($2 USD est) and it will go directly to the bus station in Sayulita. The trip takes an hour and a half though Sayulita is only 40 minutes by private car.
Ubers are not allowed in Puerto Vallarta Airport so if you take the regular taxi inside, they will charge you at least $1,200 MXN ($58 USD). I have a taxi guy who picks me up all the time so if you want me to introduce him to you, please do send me a message! I get a good price from riding with him frequently. I never have to pay more than $550 MXN ($27 USD).
Getting around Sayulita
Sayulita is a small town so everything is walkable. If you are not a fan of walking, the most common mode of transport is the golf cart that you can rent per day. This will not take you to nearby places like San Pancho, Punta Mita, etc. You can only use this within the town.
Daily rental starts at $50 USD and can go up to $100, depending on the size and capacity of the cart you are going to rent. Taxis are also available within town but they are pretty expensive.
Uber in Sayulita
The Uber app functions in Sayulita but please take note that these rides can be very expensive. They’re cheaper than the normal Sayulita taxis, though. For example, a ride with a normal taxi from Puerto Vallarta airport to Sayulita starts at $1,000 MXN ($50 USD) while Uber only charges between $500 – $700 MXN ($28 – $37 USD). If you are coming from Sayulita, it can be a bit more complicated as less Uber drivers travel this route. In my experience, I always get lucky with Uber so give it a try!
If not, I have a trusted driver who takes my Airbnb guests around Nayarit and Puerto Vallarta. Get in touch with me and I’ll definitely hook you up!
Where to stay in Sayulita
Sayulita is really expensive compared to most of Mexico. The influx of tourists has made prices increase over the years. In Sayulita, the majority of the tourists are Canadians. Airbnb is super popular and considered cheaper than usual. Click here to get a $40 USD discount on Airbnb when you sign up using my link.
In these strange times what we are living in, I noticed how travelers have changed the way they travel. Most of us prefer a minimum 2-week vacation and short-term vacation is decreasing. Now that the US requires a COVID test for everyone entering the country from January 26, 2021, many Americans find a month-long vacation more practical. Below are my top vacation home rentals in Sayulita that I’ve personally stayed in (or filmed for my project).
The Sayulita layout
The thing with Sayulita hotels, Airbnbs or Vrbos, you won’t really know what the exact location’s like unless you’ve been to Sayulita. Note that this is a hilly and jungly town – some pretty accommodations are way deep in the jungle or have very bad road conditions.
Let’s say you already found an accommodation you like: my advice is to put the address on Google maps and then see how far it is from Sayulita plaza. The plaza is the center of town and it’s probably the place you’ll frequent so it’s a great point of reference.
Most accommodations won’t show you the address unless the booking is already confirmed. Sayulita accommodations always have names in the format of “Casa ____” (i.e. Casa Iguana, Casa Vecino, Casa Rosa, etc). These casas are usually on Google maps so if the casa name is available on the listing, put that on Google maps first then see directions to the plaza. This way, you can be sure if you need a golf cart or it’s within walking distance from everything you need.
I usually do consult calls with clients who are not sure which area of Sayulita to book. For example, my client last week has back problems and his wife booked a deep in the jungles where road conditions are not that good (for his back). They did not know that it was going to be a big deal since the host did not say anything but for his condition, they needed to cancel and book another one.
Other things you might want to consider are if it’s accessible to families with children, wheelchairs, etc. If you want to be 100% sure about this, we can get on a consult call before you book – just contact me for a trip planning service.
Best Sayulita hotels that are close to the center
Foreigners who often visit Sayulita opt for Airbnbs but since I stopped supporting Airbnb this year, I will give you some recommendations on Sayulita hotels that are in good locations. The problem with Airbnb is that they don’t disclose the hidden costs so you’ll end up paying for more. Again, if you need help in finding the best accommodations, just get in touch with me!
If you look at Villa Amor’s location on the map, it can be confusing as they are located on a hill. They have two entrances, one in the flat area (by the beach) which is very accessible and centric but the other entrance, you have to go deep into the jungle. Don’t worry about it because this hotel is really accessible! Villa Amor is popular to honeymooners and families because of its great views and amazing rooms. Price per night starts at $150 USD.
Located on the street of Niños Heroes, La Casa la Ballena is not very hard to spot. There’s a big whale mural right outside of the building. Ballena means whale in Spanish. This street is about a 2-minute walk to the plaza so rest assured that it would be comfortable for you to walk back and forth your accommodation without a golf cart.
Best Sayulita restaurants
I love cooking but this little pueblo called Sayulita has a lot of food options to choose from. Ever since I moved here, I’ve been tempted to try all the best eats in Sayulita they’re very interesting and delicious. Compared to the rest of Mexico, this town is a bit more expensive but even if I live here, it wouldn’t hurt to eat out every now and then.
For a year living in Sayulita, I feel like it’s not enough time to try all the good restaurants but here are the ones I recommend you to visit when you’re in town!
I go to Gloria’s when I am craving a big Mexican breakfast. They have this ‘bandeja paisa’ plate with beans, eggs, avocado, bread, rice, and meat of your choice. Mexicans like to have heavy breakfast so if you wake up with a hangover, Gloria’s is your place! The owner (Gloria) is always there and she’s very accommodating to guests even if she does not speak English. Gloria’s restaurant is not on Google maps but it’s just right in front of Jhoul Foods (click for directions). The big breakfast plate that I always order is only for $100 MXN ($5 USD) and it can last me for two meals!
Sayulita Friday Market
Every Friday, Sayulita’s mercado del pueblo is open and there are lots of food options here. I make sure to have brunch here every week because you won’t see these guys often – they don’t have a permanent ‘puesto’ in town. My favorite in the mercado is the paella and the choripan (chorizo sandwich). You can also buy artesanal breads, farm-produced fruits, vegetables, spices, etc if you want to keep some for your home cooking.
Chilaqueen: street food stall
Marcela and I met at a random Mexican party in Sayulita and that’s when I got to know about her chilaquiles food cart. She is a licensed lawyer from Mexico City and decided to leave her job to live a simple life in Sayulita. She opened Chilaqueen, which is a food cart with tables and chairs on the streets and she makes the best chilaquiles! Be careful though, she does not adjust the spice level for her clients. She believes that when you come to Mexico, you need to adapt to how the Mexicans eat and cook. Spicy food is very iconic to Mexico but I’m sure she’ll adjust it for you if you ask nicely.
La Fogonera: best burger in Sayulita
Tamara, Radaii, and Jenny are professional chefs who left their life in Veracruz, Mexico to travel with their food truck. On their travels, they came across Sayulita, loved it, and never left. Their burgers are really cheap but it’s very filling. I remember one time I visited them and they did not have artisanal bread – Tamara told me that she was only using the normal Bimbo burger buns that day and she refused to sell me any. They always strive to serve the best food and this is what I really like about them. They are also so warm, humble hard workers – I hope you can support them!
Local tip: After your sumptuous burger, make sure to order churros for desserts. It’s a big plate for sharing and it’s the best churros in town!
Things to do in Sayulita
1. Watch the sunset at Carricitos beach
Carricitos is my favourite beach in Sayulita and I come here every day with my dog, Lola. It’s quite a hike to get there – if you are walking from the center of Sayulita town, it can take you 20-30 minutes depending on your speed. The walk is a canopy forest where you can see hundreds of fireflies during its season (August-September).
Swimming in Carricitos is possible but waves can get really aggressive, most days, out of nowhere. This beach is not necessarily for good swimmers. There are days when the tide is low and everyone can enjoy a dip. However, be mindful about certain conditions. I had a bad experience here when one person I know almost drowned but don’t let this discourage you. Sitting by the beach and bringing beers is your thing if you don’t want to swim.
2. Take surfing lessons
Surfing is one of the best things to do in Sayulita. In fact, some people come to town only for surfing! When I came here in May, it was the best time to learn as the waves are really low and are perfect for beginners. Most of my friends who tried it the first time were able to ride right away. These waves are really friendly! There are many surf schools in Sayulita but they are pretty expensive. It can cost up to $35 USD per hour. In my case, I took surf lessons with a young Mexican guy who works at the beach. He’s not a teacher but he is very good at it so I casually asked him if he can teach me some longboard techniques. Just for fun, he agreed without even asking me for a fee! Of course, I still paid him at a minimum amount but if you don’t want to pay for expensive surf lessons in Sayulita and still want to learn with a teacher, make friends with the locals at the beach.
3. Try over 50 mezcal types in Cava
A small mezcaleria in Sayulita, Cava has over 50+ types of Mezcal to choose from, hailing from different parts of Mexico like Puebla and Oaxaca. My personal favorite here is the Marta e Ines, a mezcal base drink made by Miguel, the best bartender in town who also happens to be a friend. The watermelon mezcal is interesting, too. Cava is kind of a pre-game chill night kind of place so make sure to come before they close at 12:00 midnight.
4. Micheladas, football, NFL, and food at Aaleyah’s
Get a huge-ass michelada at Aaleyah’s for only 65 MXN ($3.29 USD). Whenever someone asks me where to get michelada in town, I always recommend Aaleyah’s not only because of the generous drink size but also the way they do it. Aaleyah is an institution in Sayulita and you will find more locals hanging out here than tourists. Aside from cheap drinks, they also serve good Mexican food like enchiladas, avocado and chips, tacos, and many more! Think of all the Mexican food that you want to try – they are all served at Aaleyah’s! The ambiance in this restaurant is also super Mexican so expect a traditional experience.
5. Day trip to San Pancho
San Pancho is like Sayulita but a little more chill. It is 15 minutes away from Sayulita and the bus departs every 10 minutes from the Sayulita bus station. Fare costs $14 MXN ($0.70 USD). San Pancho has cool restaurants and a great beach for surfing. It is clean, quiet, and often empty so it’s a good place to lounge by the beach all day!
Currency, budget, cash, etc
The currency in Mexico is called Mexican peso (MXN). $1 USD = $18.67 MXN. To understand this conversion, I’m going to give you an idea about some basic prices:
- Basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the centre: $11 USD
- 1 cocktail drink in a downtown club: $5 USD
- 1 beer in neighborhood pub (500ml or 1pt.): $1.87 USD
- Cappuccino in a specialty coffee shop: $4 USD
- 1 package of Marlboro cigarettes: $3.50 USD
Money exchange in Sayulita
Money exchange in Sayulita is very low. If you google USD to MXN, the conversion rate is $1 USD = between $18 – $19 MXN. However, if you exchange US dollars or Canadian dollars in Sayulita, they do it for only $16 MXN per USD or $14 MXN per CAD. I don’t really recommend that you exchange money here in Sayulita because you will lose a lot but in case of an emergency, most stores (mini tiendas) give you better rates. There is a money exchange house near the plaza but as I said, their rates are very low.
If you will arrive at Sayulita from Puerto Vallarta, it is better to exchange money in Vallarta. It’s a big city with malls and lots of money exchange houses (casa de cambio) so you’ll get better rates there.
ATM withdrawals in Sayulita
There are lots of ATM machines all over town but depending on your bank, these machines charge from $5 – $7 USD withdrawal fees. There is a big bank near the Sayulita town entrance that only charges $3 USD per withdrawal but it’s quite a walk from town (about 15 . minutes from the plaza). This bank is right next to Saint Luke’s Medical Center and Sayulita Fit in Avenida Revolucion.
Tipping in Sayulita
Tipping is not mandatory in Sayulita but it is very much encouraged. I live here but I still tip. Mexican salary is very low so most workers are dependent on tips. Imagine, some servers only earn $200 MXN ($10 USD) for 8 hours of work! 10% is the most decent tip but if you liked the service, feel free to give more.[/vc_column_text]
Best time to visi Sayulita
End of October to May
This is high season in Sayulita when Canadians and Americans escape the harsh winter in their countries. High season starts during the week of dia de los muertos, a big holiday in Mexico. Weather starts to be cool (18 degrees celsius) with occasional rains. But the sun is always up!
May to August
Shoulder season is the best when there are fewer people in town and prices are lower. This is my favorite season in Sayulita because the weather is not too cold but can be a little humid towards August, which is the beginning of the summer season.
August to October
Very very very hot. I’m not kidding. Last year, I stayed here in Sayulita all summer and suffered from the heat and humidity! This is a time when restaurants close for renovations and people who live in Sayulita travel. I don’t recommend you to travel Sayulita in this period because it will be very hard to find accommodations and restaurants with air conditioning. AC is still not very common in Sayulita. If you are easily irritated by heat, go another time!
Major holidays in Sayulita
Below is a list of major holidays in Mexico where people flock the coast. Please note that in these holidays, Airbnb/hotel prices are double so if you plan to travel Sayulita in this season(s), make sure to book your accommodations in advance!
Based on experience, these are the holidays where I saw Sayulita holding more people than it can. This is a small town so it gets easily crowded during the holidays.
- Dia de los Muertos (day of the dead). From October 29 – November 2, Sayulita holds a major celebration for the day of the dead. There will be parades, parties in the plaza til 5am, and huge crowds on the streets.
- Christmas/New Year. From December 20th until January 2nd, people from all over the world visit Sayulita to spend Christmas and New Year.
- Holy Week (Semana Santa). Depending on the holy week dates of the year (usually March or April), semana santa draws crowds from Guadalajara and Mexico City. It’s better to travel to cities in this period because everyone’s on the coast!
- Mexican Independence Day. Mexicans love to celebrate and we all know that. September 15 is Mexico’s Independence Day and no matter what day of the year it falls, it is always a holiday.
The Sayulita culture
Sayulita is a very small town but it is very family-oriented and you will see kids everywhere. The community here is very close-knit: Mexican families help design the town during major holidays like dia de los muertos. Locals are very much involved in maintaining the “pueblo magico” vibe of Sayulita.
There is a big population of American and Canadian ex-pats in Sayulita so don’t be surprised if you see a lot of gringos around town. Most of them permanently live here. 80% of the tourists are also Americans and Canadians. Direct flights from the USA and CA are the reasons why Sayulita is a hotspot for the gringos.
The vibe in Sayulita is very laid back. You will see everyone walking on the streets (or on their golf carts) wearing bikinis and no flip flops. Surfing culture is big, as Sayulita waves are very friendly to beginner (and professional) surfers.
What’s next after Sayulita?
Sayulita is a small town and many people get hooked in staying here long-term. However, if you want to explore more of its neighbors, here are some recommended trips after your vacation in Sayulita:
- San Pancho. Just 15 minutes away from Sayulita is San Pancho, a small town with the same vibe but more mellow. San Pancho is usually known as a hippie town with lots of artisanal stores and vegan restaurants. The beach is less crowded and lots of surfers love the waves here.
- Puerto Vallarta. When you’re sick of the beach town life, Puerto Vallarta is just an hour away from Sayulita. This city is very modern with shopping malls, lots of restaurant options, and all-inclusive resort stays.
- Yelapa. If you want a more remote vacation, Yelapa is just an hour and a half away from Sayulita (by car and by boat).
- Chacala. An hour south of Sayulita, Chacala is another less popular beach town. Can’t tell you much about it but I will write a blog post when I visit!
- Lo de Marcos. 20 minutes away from Sayulita, this beach town is not yet popular with tourists but is very limited in terms of restaurants and nightlife. It’s a good place if you want to disconnect for a few days!