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If you’re looking for the best things to do in Sayulita, Mexico, you’ve come to the right place! Sayulita is a place I’ve loved for quite some time, and probably my single favorite spot on the Pacific coast of Mexico.
I first visited Sayulita for a women’s fitness retreat in 2011, and returned for a weekend in early 2022 when I was living in Puerto Vallarta for the winter. What a difference a decade makes! There was so much more development in this small town on the Riviera Nayarit. The crowd has become less bohemian and more smartly coiffed, too.
Sayulita is a surf town, which is what first drew travelers to its shores. It’s one of the best places in Mexico to learn to surf, but if you’re an experienced surfer, there are plenty of killer waves for you, too.
What struck me about Sayulita this time around was that it feels tailor-made for elder millennials like me. While Sayulita does have its share of Mexican travelers, the town is dominated far more by American and Canadian travelers in their thirties.
Go out at night and one bar will be playing Californication-era Red Hot Chili Peppers. Another will be blasting early 2000s hip-hop, from Dre and Snoop to 50 Cent and Ludacris.
A lot of towns in Mexico cater to the backpacker party crowd — tons of hostels and dirt-cheap bars. Sayulita caters to an older, more moneyed crowd with upscale restaurants, fabulous boutiques, and chic bars on top of the quintessential cheap taco spots.
And when the sun goes down, Sayulita is all about the party scene! It’s just less about clubs and giant beers, and more about nice cocktails and live music.
Sayulita is one cool place — full of surfing, gorgeous jungle hikes, excellent dining, and spectacular views. If you’re in your thirties and looking for a Mexican beach getaway this winter, Sayulita is the perfect place for you.
Best Things To Do in Sayulita, Mexico
There are so many awesome things to do in Sayulita — and yes, more than just surfing and partying. Sayulita has jungle on one side and ocean on the other, making it a fabulous destination for adventure seekers. You can hike, zipline, ride ATVs, and finish it up with a yoga session on the beach!
For me, some of the biggest highlights were getting a cheap beachside massage, visiting San Pancho for the day, exploring several fabulous cocktail bars and tacos al pastor stands, shopping for beautiful home decor, and enjoying a Chocobanana topped with coconut!
Learn to Surf
Sayulita first landed on the map as a surfing destination, and decades later, surfing is still THE thing to do here. Experienced surfers love the wild and gnarly waves. However, if you’re a kook or a grom (in other words, a surfing beginner), don’t despair! There are calmer sections of the beach that are ideal for newbies.
There are tons of great opportunities to take a surfing lesson in this area. Typically classes are approximately 1.5-2.5 hours for newbies, and they cost around $50-60 each. This surf lesson has a maximum class size of eight, getting you lots of attention, and this surf lesson works equally well for beginners and intermediates, which is a nice option if you’re a beginner and your friend is more experienced.
And if you’re open to traveling to another town, you can learn to surf in nearby Punta Mita, where the waves are often ideal for lessons. Also, know that some of Sayulita’s beginning classes may move you to Punta Mita if the waves are too big that day.
Explore Sayulita’s Colorful Streets
The streets of Sayulita are so bright and cheery, it’s almost impossible to have a bad time here. If it’s your first time here, just wander around and take in the colors and scenery. The downtown area is walkable, but golf carts are available for rent if you’d like.
Just keep an eye on the cobblestones. I took a spectacular wipeout in Sayulita one morning, my leg shooting forward like I was Elvis. (A kind man saw me fall and invited me into his restaurant to wash my hands. I love Mexico!)
Don’t miss Slap Street, where hundreds of vibrant flags are strung up above the street. This rainbow-decorated street near the main road is full of fantastic restaurants and shops, and it’s also a major draw to tourists since posing here makes for such a good photo op. Though if you’re looking to avoid crowds, there are several other streets that sport colorful flags.
If you’re in the Flag Street area, you’ll also want to make a stop at the Chocobanana stand, right across the street. This is an iconic location in Sayulita that’s sure to make every tourist checklist, selling frozen bananas dipped in chocolate. Get one covered in coconut to up the tropical factor!
Get a Massage on the Beach
I love getting cheap massages when I travel — especially when you can hear the ocean waves! It’s a cheap and lovely way to pamper yourself. How cheap? You can usually get an hourlong massage for around $20, which is likely a fraction of what you’d pay in your home country.
I especially recommend a massage after a surf lesson, which is one of the best ways to recover. Surfing works every muscle you have, even the ones you rarely use!
You won’t have to walk far to get one either, as massage therapists typically come up to tourists advertising their massages. Know that the cheap massages right by the beach are no-frills — think rows of cots, no privacy, and shimmying out of your bathing suit underneath a blanket.
If you want a more private or upmarket experience, go to one of the high-end spas in town. This will cost closer to typical American prices.
Go on a Sayulita Food Tour
Food tours are one of my favorite things to do in Mexico, from Guanajuato to Mexico City — and Sayulita happens to have a fabulous collection of food tours! A guide will bring you around town, tasting everything from tacos and tequila to chilaquiles, desserts, and perhaps even some grasshoppers.
There are tours covering everything from street food to booze to brunch, but one that’s good to start with is this taco and beverage food crawl. Enjoy local favorites and learn about how these dishes grew to popularity in the Nayarit region.
If you want drinks to go with your dinner, there’s the Eat, Drink & Explore Sayulita tour, which pairs its meals with stops for traditional Mexican spirits, like tequila and mezcal.
And if you’re more of a morning person, you might enjoy The Food of My People, which is a brunch tour and cultural experience. A nice option, especially since many visitors don’t know much about Mexican breakfasts.
Take a Mexican Cooking Class
Souvenirs are one thing — but I think one of the nicest things you can do is making your loved ones a recipe you learned on your trip. And who doesn’t love Mexican food? Sayulita happens to have tons of Mexican cooking classes.
The Viva México cooking class is a great option that will walk you through the creation of an entire dinner menu. You’ll learn to make fresh salsa and enchiladas, and drinks like margaritas and palomas to match.
If you like privacy or have a small group, you can take a private Mexican cooking class that focuses on other traditional dishes like chile relleno and frijoles fritos. The instructor will come to you and teach you in the kitchen of your Airbnb or rental apartment.
Shop for Souvenirs in Sayulita
I loved shopping in Sayulita. This town is full of boutiques boasting colorful souvenirs, especially clothing and homewares. These shops can be a bit on the pricey side by Mexican standards, but they have beautiful items.
In my opinion, some of the best items to purchase in Sayulita are tiles, textiles, art, clothing, jewelry, and home decor. Pillow covers are lovely and fold down nicely in your luggage; shadow boxes filled with jovial skeletons are a where-did-you-get-THAT?! conversation piece.
There are many extremely talented craftsmen in Sayulita, which makes this one of the best places to pick up handmade and authentic Mexican artisan goods. I left Sayulita with four handmade tiles featuring skeletons dancing, drinking, and having fun. They rest on my coffee table in Prague today.
There are also plenty of markets and street vendors selling cheaper souvenirs.
Visit Sayulita’s Lesser-Known Beaches
Most people head to Sayulita’s main beach, Playa Sayulita, to get a taste of sun and sand. But these beaches tend to be more for surfers than swimmers, and they’re crowded with beach hawkers trying to sell you things.
Solution: head to one of the quieter beaches! If you want to explore a hidden gem and find the best beaches in the area, you might enjoy a visit to Playa Mal Paso or Playa Patzcuarito.
Playa de los Muertos is another well-loved spot, and it’s conveniently located near Sayulita Beach, but offers a more secluded experience in a stunning cove.
Go Horseback Riding
If you want to spend some time on the beaches in a totally unique way, look into horseback riding in Sayulita. You’ll never forget riding a beautiful horse through the sand as the waves crash beside you.
This horseback riding tour is one of the top-rated activities in Sayulita, and it includes time riding along the beach as well as the jungle. You’ll get to experience both sides of Sayulita’s breathtaking nature and landscapes with a wonderful animal companion.
This is a great romantic activity for couples but works well with a group of friends, too. Whatever you do, be sure to take photos of the beach lit up at golden hour, the ocean shimmering as surfers rise and fall in the waves.
Go Ziplining Through the Jungle
Channel your inner Tarzan as you soar through the jungle canopy on a series of ziplines. If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush on your trip to Mexico, this is a fun option!
It’s also an absolute must if you want to get a bird’s eye view of the gorgeous surrounding areas of Sayulita. You’ll get incredible views of both the rainforest, the Pacific Ocean, and the mountains as well, all while having the time of your life. You may even get some incredible sightings of local wildlife, like alligators, donkeys, bulls, and peacocks.
This ziplining experience in Sayulita includes all the safety equipment and even a tequila tasting at the end of your journey.
Explore the “Mountain of the Crazy” by ATV
Another activity for the adrenaline junkie traveler is an ATV tour. Riding around dunes and the trails of Cerro de la Loca (Mountain of the Crazy) is sure to be a blast.
You’ll go through Sayulita and the mountain for two hours, allowing you plenty of time to soak up the stunning scenery and lush landscape. You’ll also be led by expert guides who know this area like the back of their hand.
This is the top-rated ATV tour in Sayulita. People age six and up can join the excursion, so the whole family can have fun zipping through the jungle and village. Plus, the complete experience is topped off with an opportunity to sample some local tequila at the end of the tour. (Maybe not the six-year-olds on that one.)
Go Hiking with a Yoga Class
I love pairing hiking with yoga! Gentle stretching and deep breathing is the perfect way to center yourself after an energetic hike. More people should do this, and there’s a hiking and yoga excursion in Sayulita worth trying.
As you hike through the jungle, you’ll enjoy the lush landscape and spot birds and butterflies. Next, get in touch with yourself with some mindful, meditative exercises and stretches. The steady crash of the waves makes the perfect backdrop for your deep breathing.
Even better, this experience is a steal. It starts at only $23 a person, and there are private booking options available as well.
Go Hiking (Just Hiking)
If you just want the hike without the yoga, go for it! You can navigate through the beautiful scenery of Sayulita and commune with nature.
Plus, there are different hiking experiences for you to have since there’s so much variety in the landscapes of Sayulita.
The Monkey Mountain Hike will have you navigate up to striking views of Bahia de Banderas. Along the way, you’ll birdwatch and spot exotic plants. Plus, you can schedule the hike for sunrise, sunset, or morning, depending on your preference.
The Hidden Trail Beach Hike has you explore the jungle before arriving at one of the area’s beautiful beaches. You’ll be able to swim if the waves permit, or just sit on the sand and soak up the sun.
Both of these hikes come with a local guide who knows the best spots for photos.
Explore the Jungles and Beaches by RZR UTV jeep
Maybe the best way to explore the mountains and rough terrain is to travel off-road in a utility terrain vehicle. Riding in a UTV is a bit easier than trekking through the jungle, but still provides the same, if not better, gorgeous views.
Plus, UTVs are a whole lot of fun. You can go off the beaten path and explore hidden wonders while getting a little bit of a thrill along the way.
This experience comes with equipment like helmets and goggles, as well as bottled water to keep you hydrated.
Go Whale Watching
Did you know that the Bay of Banderas has some of the best whale watching in the world? I had no idea until this year! It was almost as good as Antarctica. So often I saw whales without much of an effort. They’re just everywhere.
Whale watching season in Sayulita is between December and April, the months when humpback whales migrate south to this part of Mexico.
This whale watching trip from Sayulita to the Marietas Islands takes in many forms of wildlife beyond whales, including tropical fish, giant turtles, other marine animals, and many species of birds.
Go Scuba Diving
If you’ve never gone scuba diving and have the time to invest, you can learn in Sayulita. This beginner scuba experience is led by a professional instructor who will teach you everything you need to know to scuba safely.
Once you’ve taken a class, or if you’ve gone diving in the past, you’ll be ready to visit some of the incredible dive sites in the area. Los Arcos is a great place to go if you are not particularly experienced, but will still be exciting for those with lots of dives under their belt as well. You can witness octopi, eels, rays, and more!
Marietas Islands National Park offers another wonderful site in Banderas Bay, full of caves to explore, and tropical fish, dolphins, and other sea creatures to watch. This excursion, for experienced scuba divers, is completely inclusive of equipment, lunch, and transportation.
Watch the Sunset at Playa Carricitos
If you’re looking for a free activity full of breathtaking views, visit Playa Carricitos in the evening. As you watch the colors of the sun setting, you’ll get to enjoy nature at its best without spending a penny.
It’s a bit of a trek to get to this beach — about a 45- to 60-minute walk west of central Sayulita. The journey will take you through the jungle and past rural homes and farms before you arrive at beautiful Playa Carritcitos.
This beach is a true hidden gem. It’s secluded and stunning — just know that there’s nothing here, not even a restroom. Pee before you go!
Dine Out in Style
Sayulita is home to an impressive culinary scene, especially considering the town’s size! This is one of the biggest differences I noticed between 2011 and 2022. You won’t want for great restaurants here, and the diversity of cuisines offered is surprising.
One of my favorite spots was El Tiburon, a high-end restaurant dishing out fiery shrimp aguachile and Angus tenderloin ceviche along with some funky mixed drinks.
Tierra Viva is an excellent spot for a nice dinner. They offer innovative twists on various Mexican classics to create a unique and delicious menu. Their dishes are influenced by flavors from Oaxaca, Puebla, and Veracruz, as well as the Caribbean.
Achara is a great option when you need a brief break from all the Mexican goodness. They offer amazing Thai food in a really nice setting. They’re one of the best restaurants in town, so you won’t regret grabbing some curry or spring rolls when you just can’t eat another taco.
Finally — be sure to try out the tacos al pastor stands throughout town. Every Sayulita resident has their favorite!
Enjoy Sayulita Nightlife
Some Mexican towns aren’t my bag in terms of nightlife, but Sayulita really gets it right. This isn’t the place you go for pulsating clubs — instead, there are lots of smaller bars. Some serve craft cocktails, some have swings for bar seats, and some have wildly decorated interiors. It’s loud, but it’s more chill than crazy.
I loved El Barrilito, with its mix of quirky and intense cocktails, served to a background of early 2000s hip-hop. They even have games if you want to chill out and enjoy yourself.
If you’re a beer person, you’ll want to check out Cervecería Yambak. This is the place to go any time of the night if you want a really good beer in a fun atmosphere, and they’ll have some interesting brews you’ve never heard of.
You’ll know Atico when you see it — this bar is famous for its outdoor bar seating on swings! This is a very popular spot and you’ll often hear live music nearby. Get here early if you want one of the swing seats. They also offer hookahs if that’s your thing.
If you love stunning interiors, be sure to check out Xochi. This is a restaurant that feels more like a lounge in the late evening, and the interior is wild and colorful. Get a seat by the edge of the window for views over Sayulita Plaza.
And if you’d like something casual, fun, and local, check out Aaleyah’s. This is the bar for an authentic Mexican night out, and they serve up great wings!
Get Professional Photos Taken in Sayulita
Sure, you have photos from Sayulita, but wouldn’t you rather have NICE photos? Getting professional photos taken is something that I love to splurge on on my trips.
If you love your travel photos but wish you had a few really nice shots, consider hiring a pro. They know the best spots in time and the best times of day to shoot. Most of all, they know how to make you look your best.
You can take a look at what a pro photographer in Sayulita offers here.
Take a Day Trip from Sayulita to San Pancho
Since you’re already in the area, why not take a taxi and visit one of the nearby towns, like San Pancho? This little beach town is a bit more low-key than Sayulita, so it’s great for a quiet day exploring a less touristy area.
Plus, San Pancho’s beach is actually much better suited for swimming than the one in Sayulita. (Sayulita is great for surfing, not as great for swimming.)
If you do visit San Pancho (the town’s actual name is San Francisco, though no one calls in that), I highly recommend taking this bike tour. Charlie and I took this tour, and our guide was so lovely, sharing stories about San Pancho’s creative history and taking us to really cool spots.
We finished with a stop at a cool devil-themed bar (seriously) and had so much fun, we all got tacos together for dinner.
To get to San Pancho, grab one of the taxis on Sayulita Plaza. It’s a 10-minute journey and shouldn’t cost you more than $15 or so.
Visit the Marieta Islands
The Marieta Islands are a nice option for a day trip from Sayulita. There are several day trip choices for cruising around the islands, but all of them will show you beautiful nature.
For instance, you can opt for a full-day tour. This will be a 7-hour excursion that offers you breakfast, lunch, snacks, and drinks. You can choose to paddleboard, kayak, or just play in the water. You can even go fishing! Plus, all of the equipment is included, so you don’t need to worry about anything.
Alternatively, one of the best options is to sail out and then focus on snorkeling all day! You can take a boat ride out to the islands before hopping in the ocean and viewing the beautiful underwater scenery. Observe tropical fish and the occasional jaunty sea turtle through crystal-clear water.
Note — if you want to visit the famous “hidden beach” of the Marieta Islands, pictured above, those trips are strictly limited and depart only from Puerto Vallarta. This one, which I did and enjoyed, departs from the Marina Vallarta neighborhood close to the airport.
If you will be staying in Sayulita for an extended period of time, you may want to take some day trips that are a bit further out. A trip to Yelapa, a remote fishing village in the region, is a nice place to explore.
I love Yelapa. It’s such a chilled out town. Nearly everyone accesses it only by water. It’s got a nice beach. And ladies on the beach sell you the famous Yelapa pies!
This is a really special Fortunately, there is an all-inclusive trip that can take you there. This is a luxurious journey as well, since your food and drinks will be provided by the charter, and you’ll have the opportunity to use all of their supplies to enjoy the water!
Please note that Yelapa is quite far from Sayulita town. It’s way on the other side of Puerto Vallarta. For that reason, if you’re visiting both Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta in the same trip, it would be a better use of your time to visit Yelapa from Puerto Vallarta.
Visit Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is the ultimate city on Mexico’s Pacific coast! I had a great time living here over the winter! It makes a nice day trip from Sayulita if you’re craving a bigger city.
Puerto Vallarta started out as a fishing village and has grown substantially over time. It became popular with tourists in the 1960s after celebrities like Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor began visiting. Since then, it’s become a major travel hotspot, and especially a huge LGBTQ travel destination.
The Zona Romantica neighborhood is where all the action is — think nightlife (especially gay nightlife), easy beach access, and excellent shopping. If you’re looking to dine well, though, check out one of the fabulous restaurants in up-and-coming Versalles.
Best Time to Visit Sayulita
Sayulita is a popular travel destination year-round. Mexico’s Pacific coast isn’t as prone to hurricanes as Cancún and the Yucatán.
The busiest time of year with the nicest weather is during the winter months: December to March. Winter is both high season and dry season in Sayulita.
The summer months tend to be the rainy season, but the rain storms tend to be short and intense, and you can still have a good time.
You’ll find peak crowds and pricing during the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
How to Get to Sayulita, Mexico
The closest airport to Sayulita is in Puerto Vallarta (PVR), which has direct flights to several American cities, from Chicago to Los Angeles to Newark to Vancouver. From the airport you can take a taxi or bus to Sayulita.
Ubers are not permitted at Puerto Vallarta Airport; you’ll need to cross the bridge at the end of the airport to summon an Uber. This should cost $25-50 depending on whether there’s surge pricing. The drive takes just under an hour; buses are cheap (around $2) but take closer to 90 minutes.
Another option is booking an airport transfer, which is pricey but can be a comfy option for larger groups.
To get to Sayulita from Puerto Vallarta or other nearby cities, there are bus networks up and down the coast.
You can occasionally get an Uber in Sayulita, but don’t count on it. I wasn’t able to get one. To get a cab ride back to the airport or Puerto Vallarta, use the InDriver app, a popular Mexico rideshare app where drivers bid for your service (just know that the less they bid, the worse the car, and the quality is below Uber’s standards). You pay the driver in cash.
How Much Time to Spend in Sayulita
How long do you need to spend in Sayulita? I think the biggest factors are where you’re staying and how you feel about the party scene. If you’re staying in the heart of the city, you’ve got to be okay with the noise going on until late.
However, if you’re staying further out — especially on one of the beaches — you might have a quieter atmosphere and enjoy making this the place where you spend most of your time. You won’t have to worry about the noise out here.
For me, visiting for two nights and staying a 10-minute walk from downtown was perfect. That was the perfect amount of party. I’d be up for staying longer if I were staying further away, especially if it were on the beach.
Where to Stay in Sayulita, Mexico
Sayulita has excellent accommodation at lots of different price points. Yet like many places in Mexico, prices have increased steadily as it’s become more of a popular destination.
Keep in mind that staying in the heart of town will be very noisy at night, and staying further back may be much quieter, but you might have to walk up in the hills. Research carefully before you book.
Here are a few top-rated places to stay:
Hotel Villa Los Corales — I stayed here. This is a lovely mid-range hotel on a hill with gorgeous views and a rooftop pool. Rooms are very spacious. Walking up the steep hill at the end of the night was a bit annoying, but overall we were happy staying here.
Selina Sayulita — Selina is a chain of hotels geared toward digital nomads. I loved the one in San Miguel de Allende. The one in Sayulita is central (re: LOUD at night), with both dorms and private rooms, a big pool, yoga classes, and of course a coworking space. If you want to meet people, THIS is where you stay.
Hotel Ysuri Sayulita — This is right on the corner of the main beach, but far enough away from the loud parts of town. A best of both worlds place to stay.
Hotel Boutique Siete Lunas — Now THIS is a peaceful beach retreat, removed from the craziness. (Multiple reviews say “zero noise.”) Yet you can still walk downtown if you want to.
See more cool places to stay in Sayulita here.
Travel Insurance for Mexico
One last note — it’s absolutely vital to have travel insurance before traveling to Mexico. If you get sick or injured on your trip, if you get robbed, or even if you have to be flown home for more care, travel insurance will protect you from financial ruin. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Mexico.
Travel insurance will help you in your hour of need if you come down with appendicitis in Sayulita or fall and break a bone while on a bike tour, and if your flights get canceled due to bad weather, you can get accommodation and new flights paid for.
As always, be sure to read your policy carefully and make sure it’s a fit for you. See what World Nomads covers here.
Is Sayulita Worth It?
Hell yeah, Sayulita is worth it! Know what it is when you’re going in. It’s very touristy. It’s very developed. It might not be the traditional small Mexican village or ramshackle bohemian hotspot it used to be.
But man, is Sayulita fun. I miss it.
I’m writing this on a cold and foggy November day in Prague, and I can’t tell you how much I’m craving a return trip to Sayulita!
I hope you go to Sayulita — and end up having a fantastic time!
More from Mexico’s Pacific Coast:
Planning a Trip to Mexico:
Best of Inland Mexico:
Best of the Yucatán and the Caribbean Coast:
Have you been to Sayulita? Any tips to share?
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