Mexico Travel Guides

Best Things to Do in Sayulita: Mexico’s Hipster Surf Town

Looking for fun things to do in Sayulita? Keep on reading for all you must do, see, and eat in Mexico’s chillest, most colorful surf town!

Ahhh, Sayulita. Some time ago, I started seeing photos of this vibrant beach town pop up all over the internet. Seeing as I am always drawn to colorful places, I knew this was a place I’d have to see for myself and went to seek out the best things to do in Sayulita. 

What was once a small fishing village has grown into a relaxed-yet-lively hippie town that has become a favorite among surfers, yogis, and those looking for a chill beach vacation. While the town has definitely been discovered and become more busy in recent years, it still has the vibe of a sleepy hipster town that still *almost* feels like a hidden gem.

Earlier this year, we spent a relaxing two days in Sayulita, and I was immediately charmed by the laid-back surfer vibes, the boho spirit, the colorful papel picado-lined streets, and the impromptu dance parties that broke out in the town square. 

It’s hard not to fall in love with this magical town (it was named one of Mexico’s Pueblo Magicos by the tourist board, after all) after spending some time here. While it’s still a tiny little town, there is no shortage of things to do in Sayulita – keep on reading for the best sights, activities, food, and more!

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How to Get to Sayulita

Sayulita sits on the Riviera Nayarit, a 200-mile stretch of coastline along the Pacific Ocean. It is about 40 kilometers/25 miles outside of Puerto Vallarta, which is also the nearest major airport (PVR), which serves most major US airlines.

From there, you have several options for making your way to Sayulita:

Rental Car

If you choose to drive to Sayulita, PVR is served by most major car rental agencies, including Enterprise, Avis, and Alamo. Upon arrival, follow signs that lead you to shuttles that will lead you to the rental car center. The drive to Sayulita takes about 45 minutes. Rental cars are fairly affordable in Mexico (you can sometimes rent one for ~$10 USD/day), but keep in mind that you must also pay for taxes and third-party liability insurance. If you want to check out some of the other beach towns in the region, this is your best option.

Private Transport

If you’re looking for the quickest and most comfortable transport to Sayulita without the hassle of driving, consider hiring a private driver. You will find many options for this once you land in Puerto Vallarta (and will likely be hounded by people offering their services), but for the most convenience, I’d suggest booking a driver online here

Public Bus

This is the cheapest way to get to Sayulita. To catch the bus, exit the airport and make a left around the building. Cross over the orange overpass to the other side of the highway, where you will find a bus stop with a bench. Look for the green and white Compostela buses – keep in mind that not all Compostela buses go to Sayulita, so make sure you see a sign that says “Sayulita” in the windshield! 

The trip takes just over an hour, and costs about 46 pesos (~$2.50 USD). One thing to remember is that this is a public bus and there is no storage for luggage, so if you’re bringing a lot of stuff, this might not be the best option for you. Another thing to keep in mind is that the bus doesn’t drop you off right in the center of Sayulita, so you will probably have to walk 15 minutes into town.

Taxi

Taxis are plentiful at the Puerto Vallarta airport. You can grab a taxi just at the airport terminal, which will set you back about 900-1300 pesos (~$48-69 USD). However, we had read that fares are much cheaper if you hail one outside of the airport premises (either across the pedestrian bridge or at the One Hotel). 

As we were making our way out of the airport, we found a taxi driver who offered to take us to Sayulita for 700 pesos (~$36), which sounded reasonable to us. On the way out of Sayulita, you can easily find a cab in the town square. 

In any case, remember that bargaining is common and always negotiate a price before you get into the cab!

Uber

While you can take an Uber from the airport, it is technically illegal in Sayulita, and requesting one in town is not allowed. There is also a war between the taxi drivers and Uber drivers in the region, and there have been instances of heated altercations between the two. While Uber fares to Sayulita tend to be cheaper (about 500 pesos, or ~$25 USD), we wanted to save ourselves from any trouble, so we just ended up taking a taxi.

Day Tour from Puerto Vallarta

You can also choose to take a quick day trip from Puerto Vallarta on a guided tour. This is a convenient option if your travel plans are based in Puerto Vallarta, since they offer hotel pickup, although I would highly recommend spending more time in Sayulita! If you choose this option, this 6-hour tour will give you a good introduction to Sayulita, and this tour also includes time in San Pancho (or San Francisco), in addition to Sayulita.

How to Get Around in Sayulita

The best thing about Sayulita is its walkability factor – because of its tiny size, you can literally get from one end of town to the other in 15 minutes! Therefore, driving around town or calling a taxi is not necessary to get around town.

You’ll find that most accommodations, restaurants, and shops are clustered around the main square – it was super easy to step outside our Airbnb and have everything we needed seemingly outside our doorstep (hell, we even walked back to our Airbnb when we needed to take potty breaks, instead of searching for a restroom). 

Some visitors choose to rent a golf cart to get around town – this may be convenient if your accommodations are on the outskirts of town, or up in the hills. There are a number of places around town that rent golf carts – the cost is about $55 USD/day.

Where to Stay in Sayulita

You can find a variety of accommodation options in Sayulita to suit your tastes and budgets, from romantic villas, colorful boutique hotels, Airbnbs, hostels, and more.

There are no chain hotels or all-inclusive resorts in Sayulita, which means that there are lots of fun and unique places to stay! The accommodations here, whether at a boutique hotel or vacation rental, all have character and personality to them, which is one of the things that drew me to Sayulita in the first place. 

My advice to you when looking for a place to stay in Sayulita – book early! Accommodations tend to fill up months in advance, so don’t be like us and plan ahead! We ended up booking at the last minute, just days before our arrival, and found that many hotels and rentals were already occupied (hell, they were even being taken as we tried to book them!).

Fortunately, we lucked out and found the Villa del Moro on Airbnb, which still had availability even at the last minute. It was super convenient, and a short walk to anywhere we wanted to go in town. 

The rooms were spacious, clean, comfortable, and secure (with a safe and a keypad to get into the villa). There was also a nice, well-maintained pool (with tons of floaties!) that we had fully intended to make use of, but never got around to because there were so many things to do in Sayulita! 

The hosts, Lawrence and Diana, were super accommodating and had lots of tips and recommendations about the town. The best part about staying here was that they put in lots of  thoughtful amenities to make your stay better, such as beach towels/umbrellas and plenty of drinking water. 

New to Airbnb? Click here for up to $40 off your first stay!

Prefer to stay in a hotel? Here are some spots that came highly recommended, and I considered staying at (but had booked up):

Heart walkway at Petit Hotel Hafa

Petit Hotel Hafa

How can one not want to stay at a hotel that has a super cute walkway with painted hearts? I had seen photos of said walkway pop up all over Instagram and Pinterest, which was one of the things that made me intrigued about Sayulita. 

The design-focused boutique hotel has sort of a Moroccan vibe, and it’s hard to miss from its brightly painted red exterior. They also have a cute rooftop terrace, and a fun bar next door. It is also one block from the town square, making it a very convenient (if noisy) place to stay!

The property is pretty tiny, and rooms book up super fast (they were all gone by the time we had even decided to go to Sayulita in the first place). Rooms rates are pretty affordable, but they do charge extra for air conditioning. (compare rates here)

Villa Amor

Nestled in the hills along the water, near Playa de los Muertos, Villa Amor is perfect for those looking for a quiet, secluded place to stay. Sure, you are a bit further away from the center of town, but you are still no more than a 10 minute walk away from all the best things to do in Sayulita!

I was originally intrigued by the Villa Amor because of the gorgeous two-tier infinity pool – it looks epic! They also host yoga classes and have a beautiful spa. This is definitely a perfect, romantic place to stay for couples! (compare rates here)

Casa Love

Another cute place to stay that perfectly captures the essence of Sayulita! Casa love has a relaxed, boho vibe with hammocks on the patios, a palapa roof, and a beautiful rooftop terrace. 

You really can’t beat the location at Casa Love, just steps away from the beach. The main square is also only a few short blocks away, making you close to all the many fun things to do in Sayulita. (compare rates here)

Check out more hotels in Sayulita and compare rates here.

Best Things to Do in Sayulita

Catch Some Waves

If there’s one thing Sayulita is known for, it is for the consistent waves that make it a perfect spot for surfers of all levels. The town was “discovered” in the 60s for its easy waves and clean breaks, and the town has been attracting surfers ever since, and surfing is known as one of the best things to do in Sayulita.

Tons of surfboard rental shops and surfing schools line the streets of Sayulita, especially clustered around the main beach. The smaller waves of the main beach make it a great spot for first-timers, and there are many options for learning how to surf, from one-time lessons, to a surf camp. Some of the most highly rated surf schools in town include Luna Azul, WildMex, and Surf and Roll (they also offer surf gear and rentals as well).

For more seasoned surfers, there is a section of the main beach that is known to have stronger waves. While surfing is one of the best things to do in Sayulita, those looking for more surfing opportunities may want to check out the neighboring towns for other well-known breaks. La Lancha, about 25 minutes away, is especially popular with long boarders, and nearby San Blas once held the record for the longest ever recorded wave (almost a kilometer long!). 

The waves here make boogie boarding and stand-up paddleboarding some of the best things to do in Sayulita as well. Even if you don’t feel like catching a wave, you should definitely spend some time watching the surfers, as surfing is very much part of the culture here (plus, they’re super fun to watch)!

Be a Beach Bum

Sayulita’s main attractions are its beaches, so obviously it makes sense that spending time at one of the town’s beaches is one of the best things to do in Sayulita. Be sure to set some time aside to relax at the beach!

The most popular is the town’s main beach, which is right next to the center of town and where all the action is. You’ll find plenty of beachside bars and restaurants here, as well as surf schools, and beach chair rentals. 

Because of its proximity to town, this is also where you’ll find the most crowds. However, the beach stretches a few kilometers, and the crowds start thinning out the further north you go.

If you want a bit more peace and quiet, I suggest that you head over to the Playa de los Muertos (Beach of the Dead)  instead. It is about a 10-15 minute walk from the center of town, right past Villa Amor, and through a colorful cemetery (which is how the beach gets its name). 

The beach is in a protected cove, which means that the waters are calmer and much more suited for swimming than the main beach. You’ll find far fewer people here, making it the perfect spot to do some relaxing. 

The area is also known to have some spectacular sunsets, so one of the best things to do in Sayulita is to watch the sunset from one of the beachside bars or rooftop decks in town. Unfortunately, it was pretty overcast the entire time we were in town, but hopefully you’ll have better luck!

Say Ommmm…

If Sayulita has become known for something other than its beaches and surfing, it’s probably for the yoga. In recent years, the town has become somewhat of a hub for spiritual and wellness retreats, almost like the Bali of Mexico, and yoga has become one of the most popular things to do in Sayulita.

You can find yoga studios scattered all over town, and many offer drop-in classes. Some of the most popular studios in town include Paraiso Yoga and Moon Shala. Many of the town’s hotels offer classes for its guests as well.

If you really want to tune into your spiritual side, there are many retreats that take place in town. Several hotels offer yoga retreat packages, and the Haramara Retreat is a popular program that focuses on being one with nature.

Wander Through the Colorful Streets

One of my favorite things to do in Sayulita was to wander through its vibrant, colorful streets. Sayulita may be a small town, but its streets are full of eye candy, with something to discover around every corner. 

Sayulita was named one of Mexico’s 120 Pueblo Magicos (or magical towns), which are designated by the country’s tourism board to promote the country’s unique cultural heritage and history. Just strolling through the streets here, it’s easy to see why – Sayulita’s streets are definitely full of magic!

You’ll find lots of brightly painted facades, colorful street art, and vibrant papel picado banners hanging above all over town. If you’re a color and photography enthusiast (like me!), photographing the town will be one of your favorite things to do in Sayulita! You’ll find no shortage of photo ops here – be sure to have your camera (and extra memory cards) at the ready while you wander through the streets.

Hang Out in the Town Square

There is always something going on in the town square in Sayulita – not only are most of the town’s restaurants, bars, and shops clustered around it, it is always lively and bustling with energy. It’s a great spot to do some people watching, and during the day, street vendors line the square, selling regional crafts and merchandise. 

The square especially comes alive at night – we watched as a brass band put on an impromptu performance, while a dance party broke out. It was so much fun, and definitely was one of our favorite memories from Sayulita!

You’ll also see lots of street performers in the town square – we saw some impressive fire baton twirlers on one of the nights we were in town.

Enjoy the Nightlife

Sayulita may get a reputation for being a sleepy beach town, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t know how to have a good time! Taking part in the nightlife is one of the most fun things to do in Sayulita, and there are a variety of options to suit your taste.

As you walk through the town at night, you’ll see all kinds everything from open-fronted bars, beach clubs, sports bars, and tequila bars. You’ll even hear the thumping music coming from one of the clubs in town – this is a town that knows how to have a good time, and the party goes on all night!

We aren’t really the kind of people who are looking to rage into the night (we are too old for that now), but we still found plenty of chill nightlife options around town. We had fun bar hopping at several spots around the main square, while sipping some margaritas, cervezas, and pina coladas. 
A few spots we enjoyed:

  • Atico: This was near our Airbnb and it was always so lively and full of people! It’s got a quirky, eclectic vibe, and has some swings at the bar. They had some awesome live music as well, and everyone was dancing – so fun! (33 Calle Jose Mariscal)
  • El Barrilito: We loved hanging out on the outside bar stools and people watching while sipping on some drinks. It’s a sports bar too, if you want somewhere to catch the game. They also have excellent happy hour specials! (9 Calle Jose Mariscal)
  • Sayulita Public House: This is a great bar to check out if you are looking for some locally brewed craft beers. They also have a great selection of tequila and mezcal. (Calle Marlín 26)
Shopping at Revolucion del Sueno

Get Your Shop On

Shopaholics, rejoice – Sayulita is the perfect place to do some retail therapy, full of beautifully curated boutiques featuring locally made handicrafts and souvenirs. I am not usually one to do a lot of shopping while traveling, but browsing through the local shops definitely was one of my favorite things to do in Sayulita!

Many of the boutiques and street vendors feature the handicrafts of the Huichol people, and indigenous Mexican tribe who are descendants of the Aztecs. The Huichol are known for their intricate bead work, woven yarn pieces, and colorful pom-poms, which all make beautiful souvenirs!

What stood out to me about the boutiques and street vendors here were that you could often find the artisans and craftsmen at work, working on their pieces as they manned their shops – it was really inspiring to watch them work! 

Shopping at Evoke the Spirit

Below are some shops that you must check out while in Sayulita:

  • Evoke the Spirit: You can see the most beautiful examples of Huichol art at Evoke the Spirit. The ceramic cow skulls and woven pillows and wall hangings here are especially stunning. (12-A Calle Jose Mariscal)
  • Revolucion del Sueno: This boutique is an explosion of color and features a beautifully curated assortment of locally made clothing, accessories, home decor, and much more! I could’ve literally bought out the store here, no joke. (55 Calle Manuel Navarrete)
  • Pacha Mama: This shop is part of Casa Love, and has lots of one-of-a-kind woven piece and dreamcatchers here, as well as beautiful textiles and clothing. It definitely has the perfect boho-chic vibe. (4B Calle Delfin)
  • Artefakto: You can find beautiful, hand-made products made by local communities from all around Mexico at Artefakto. The embroidered items here are especially stunning. (Delfin #15)

Be sure to also spend some time browsing through the street vendors that line the town – they sell a great selection of local handicrafts and souvenirs, including pom-poms galore!

Visit the Marietas Islands

If you are looking for a bit of a adventure, consider taking a day trip to the Marietas Islands, a group of tiny uninhibited islands just off the coast of Sayuilta. These islands are home diverse array of interesting wildlife, marine animals, and birds, and are sometimes referred to as the “Mexican Galapagos.”

There are so many activities that are available to do on the islands that make a day trip there one of the best things to do in Sayulita. Its unique collection of marine life makes it a popular destination for snorkeling and scuba diving.

The only way to access the island is by taking an organized day tour – this snorkeling tour is highly rated and leaves from Sayulita. If you are a certified diver, this scuba diving tour comes highly recommended.

If you happen to visit between December and mid-March, you can even spot some humpback whales on the way to the islands!

The islands are also famous for its Playa del Amor, a hidden beach created by a volcanic crater that is only accessible by swimming to it. Unfortunately, the government heavily restricts access to the Playa del Amor, issuing only a limited amount of permits a day. You must book a special tour that includes this permit – these leave out of either Puerto Vallarta or Punta Mita.

This was pretty high on my list, and we had intended to go once we got to Puerto Vallarta after our stay in Sayulita – unfortunately, I ended up getting food poisoning on the day we were supposed to go and it didn’t happen. Sadsies.

Take a Day Trip to Puerto Vallarta

If you want a change of pace and want a taste of Mexican city life for a day, I highly recommend spending a day in Puerto Vallarta. The city may have a reputation for being a city full of all-inclusive resorts, but it is so much than that!

The city is full of beautiful colonial architecture, awesome street art, and plenty of delicious street food. It’s also easily accessible from Sayulita, making it an excellent day trip destination!

Here are some ideas on what to do on a day trip to Puerto Vallarta:

  • Walk down the Malecon, the city’s boardwalk. It’s always bustling with activity, and there are tons of restaurants, shops, and bars to check out.
  • Eat allllll the street tacos – I highly suggest doing a food tour, which will take you to all of the best spots!
  • Taste some tequila – this tour not only takes you to a tequila distillery, but also introduces you to some of the city’s highlights.
  • Go shopping for unique souvenirs on the Isla del Cuale, an island in the middle of the city’s river, full of local artisans and vendors.
  • Check out the beautiful Our Lady of the Guadalupe church.
  • Wander through the streets of the Zona Romantica, the city’s old town.

Where to Eat in Sayulita

Chocobanana

One of the most iconic spots in Sayulita. Pretty much everyone who goes to Sayulita ends up recommending this place and I was skeptical because, like, what’s the big deal with a chocolate covered banana on a stick? I’m not sure what it is about it, but it definitely hits the spot so here I am highly recommending that you get yourself one too. It’s also a great (and very popular) place to go for breakfast – their chilaquiles were on point. (Ave. Delfin 14)

Don Pedros

If you’re looking for a nice dinner on the beach, definitely head to Don Pedros. It’s admittedly a bit touristy, but you really can’t beat the vibe here. It’s perfect for a romantic dinner, or if you’re looking to hang out while watching the sunset. Definitely order seafood here, everything is super fresh! (Calle Marlín 2)

Restaurante Yeikame

You’ll find a great selection of traditional Mexican fare at Yeikame, inc a colorful setting full of Huichol elements. Every dish comes with an order of their blue-corn tortillas, which were awesome. The portions are pretty big here – you can easily split a dish between two people. They are also open pretty late (until 10:45). (Mariscal 10)

Organi-K

Sayulita has a great selection of organic eateries and juice bars, and Organi-k is one of the best! We really enjoyed starting off our mornings with a smoothie from Organi-k. In addition to smoothies, they also have acai bowls, juice shots, and poke bowls. (Av Revolución 21B)

La Esperanza

Another highly recommended spot for fresh, organic food. They have lots of vegan and gluten-free options as well. They’ve also got a funky, boho chic vibe, a perfect spot for hanging out and chilling while you enjoy your food. Try their avocado toast, as well as their cocktails! (Calle Jose Mariscal 12A)

Northside Cafe

Tucked into a quiet corner away from the hustle and bustle of the center of town, Northside Cafe is the perfect spot to enjoy a chill brunch. Really enjoyed my chilaquiles here (yes, I always eat chilaquiles for breakfast whenever I’m in Mexico), but I’ve heard their banana pancakes are amazing! They have great coffee here as well. (Calle Miramar 32)

Tacos el Ivan

You’ll find several street taco vendors scattered around Sayulita, but Tacos el Ivan is the best of them! The al pastor tacos here are amazing, and super cheap. They open later in the afternoon and stay open until 2am, so it’s the perfect spot for when you have the post-drinking munchies. (Av Revolución 26)

Burrito Revolution

Their shrimp burritos were awesome! Loved chatting with the people who worked here as well. Great place to stop in for a quick meal/snack, and be sure to wash it down with a cold beer. (José Mariscal 10)

La Reinita

Nothing is quite as refreshing as a paleta on a hot afternoon, and La Reinita makes the best! They have lots of fun flavors, and they make the perfect snack to have while walking down the beach. (Calle Gaviotas 1C)

La Rustica

So many people recommended La Rustica – we never actually made it there, but it came so highly recommended that I’m putting it on this list anyway. They are known for their wood fired pizzas (I know, I know, Italian food in Mexico), and are supposed to have an excellent brunch. They’re also supposed to have awesome cocktails as well – we had meant to at least stop for drinks, but we ended up just not having enough time. (Ave. Revolucion 110)

When to Go to Sayulita

Sayulita enjoys warm beach weather, with highs ranging from 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, making any time a great time to visit. The area experiences a rainy season during June through August, when both temperatures and humidity are also at their highest.

Sayulita’s busy season is between November to April, which is the area’s dry season, and when the temperatures are slightly cooler. This is also pricing and demand for accommodations are at their highest. Sayulita also tends to get very busy around Christmas and New Years, as well as the week leading up to Easter, and this is when crowds are at their absolute highest.

We visited in March, and the weather was warm and pleasant (albeit a bit overcast). Yes, our accommodations were priced a bit higher (although still pretty affordable), and availability was limited (we procrastinated). We did experience some crowds, since it was also on a holiday weekend in Mexico, but didn’t find it to be all that bothersome.

Shoulder season (May, September, and October), may be the best time to go, since the weather is still relatively warm and dry, but with fewer crowds.

Currency and Money in Sayulita

While some bigger restaurants and stores take credit cards, cash is king in Sayulita. Some places will let you pay in US dollars, but for the most favorable rates, it is advisable to you pay in Mexican pesos.

There are no national banks in Sayulita – the closest is in Punta Mita. That means that you are limited to sketchy roadside ATMs, which are known to have exorbitantly high rates. There have also been reports recently for increased fraud and skimming incidents.

To avoid this and to get the most favorable rates, it is best that you take out pesos at the ATM at the airport when you arrive in Puerto Vallarta, or at one of the national banks in town there.

It is customary to tip 10-20% at nice restaurants, and 10% at more casual establishments. Tipping is not expected for street food.

Health and Safety in Sayulita

Overall, Sayulita has a reputation for being a very safe travel destination. However, that is not to say that you shouldn’t let your guard down or take basic safety precautions.

While violent crime is very rare in Sayulita, petty crime does sometimes occur, so keep a close watch on your belongings at all times, and avoid carrying valuables. 

As with the rest of Mexico, avoid drinking tap water. Most hotels will provide filtered or bottled water that is safe for consumption. Otherwise, you can buy a large container of water from a grocery or convenience and use it to refill your reusable water bottle (this one is great for travel).

Stomach discomfort and food poisoning can happen while in Sayulita – to minimize risk, wash your hands, only drink potable water, and stick to busier restaurants. If you still get hit with a stomach bug (as it happened to my boyfriend), there are lots of pharmacies in town, and they will likely have an English-speaking pharmacist who can recommend the right medication to help alleviate symptoms.

When I first started doing my initial research on things to do in Sayulita, I started reading (mostly on TripAdvisor) about the town’s sewage problem. There were a bunch of posts (from the same handful of users) that there was an overpowering sewage smell all around town, that all the beaches were filthy, that it anyone who dared visited Sayulita was going to get sick. Honestly, it made me think twice about visiting, but I decided to take my chances anyway.

Yes, there is a sewage plant right behind the main beach, and yes, sometimes it gets overwhelmed and has issues coping with what it is processing and it spills into the river, which leads into the ocean. However, the town has made great strides in improving the infrastructure and cleaning up the mess.

We did experience a faint sewage smell on occasion near the river, but overall did not find it to be bothersome. We also saw them actively cleaning up the river and improving the infrastructure while we were there.

All this to say – do not believe everything you read on the internet, and do not let these reports dissuade you from visiting Sayulita.

However, the sewage plant tends to get overwhelmed during the town’s busy periods when an influx of tourists pour into time, so you can help the issue by trying to visit outside of these times.

Have you been to Sayulita? What are some of your favorite things to do in Sayulita?

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