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The lush jungles of Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit meet the Pacific Ocean in Sayulita, Mexico. A bustling fishing village and surf town, this is where to eat, stay, and play in Sayulita.

Sayulita, Mexico is one of those postcard kind of towns. Surfers walk barefoot down cobblestone streets with their surfboards dripping with the Pacific Ocean, cafes serve fresh acai bowls and smoothies, art galleries around every corner, and amidst it, daily life unfolds under the swaying “papel picado“. And it’s oddly busy for a small town — travelers flying in to soak up warmer days, amidst the bright and colorful umbrellas of Sayulita.

The jungle quite literally spills out into the coastline in this section of Riviera Nayarit. Lush palm trees instantly become the dark blue waters of the rugged Pacific Ocean. It feels like a slice of a quiet oasis, especially on those beaches just outside of town. A reminder of what defines the landscape here even amidst all the new construction.

I found myself torn on how to spend my time here. To rest quietly at my hotel, in the pool or near the ocean, or to explore Sayulita and venture out into a very promising, busy downtown. Both offered something I was excited about. A moment to unwind, and another to discover the food, shops, and culture of this vibrant town.

So the days looked like a bit of everything and that’s what I loved about my three nights in Sayulita. I could never choose wrong no matter what I did. I loved it all.

Where to Stay, Play, and Eat in Sayulita, Mexico

These are my field notes on how to spend your time in Sayulita. The best things to do and eat, and where to call home while exploring one of my favorite towns in Mexico.

Short on Time? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Hotels in Sayulita:

  1. La Joya Sayulita, for the best beachfront hotel
  2. Siete Lunas, for the best romantic hotel
  3. Don Bonito, for the best digital-nomad hotel
  4. Selina, for the best budget-friendly downtown hotel

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Sayulita, Mexico


Frequently Asked Questions About Sayulita

Where is Sayulita Nayarit?

Sayulita is located in Mexico, along the Pacific Ocean just north of Banderas Bay and Puerto Vallarta. It’s in the state of Nayarit and is a popular beach town for surfers, digital nomads, and travelers. About 24 miles north of Puerto Vallarta, it’s an easy destination to get to.

How do I Get to Sayulita?

To get into Sayulita, you first fly into Puerto Vallarta Ordaz International Airport (Airport Code: PVR). This airport services direct flights to US-based airports like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and more.

Getting Around: Uber or Private Transfer

Upon arrival, you have a few options for getting to Sayulita. You can book an Uber on arrival and get transferred to the town in around a 1-hour drive (about $35 USD). Make sure to have access to data services in Mexico prior to arrival. You could also contact your accommodations to see if they have a driver they can recommend that you pre-book for a transfer.

Getting Around: Renting a Car in Sayulita

Your second option is to book a rental car with a reputable company like Hertz, and self-drive to your accommodations. Booking a rental car is easy in Mexico, I recommend paying for the extra insurance as part of your reservation to avoid any hiccups with Mexico’s mandatory policy for auto insurance. Having a rental car in Sayulita is not 100% necessary for the town itself, but helpful for exploring nearby beaches. Book the best car rental rates here.

What I did: My friend and I booked a rental car for around $240 for 4 days. It gave us the freedom to explore the beaches, and nearby towns, and go at our own pace. If I were to do it again, I’d consider just an Uber to/from PVR Airport and then utilizing a smaller golf-cart rental ($55/day) in town if I didn’t plan to go up or down the Nayarit coast. Sayulita town has small streets and limited parking for larger vehicles.

Is Sayulita Safe?

I’d say for most travelers who practice common sense and are aware of their surroundings, that Sayulita is a safe destination. It is known as one of the safest destinations in Mexico. I felt very comfortable here walking around during the day and at night with a friend as the streets are well lit.

When is the Best Time to Visit Sayulita?

The best time to visit Sayulita is during the months of October to March for mild weather (mid-high 70s). If you could pick the best pricing and timing, those months would be late April, May, and early June. This also largely overlaps with whale season, with whale watching tours running December through March.

The rainy season is from June to October and runs into the Pacific Coast hurricane season. That said, you’ll find mild temperatures quite nearly year-round. Do keep in mind that come August/September, many restaurants and businesses close seasonally.

Can I Swim in the Beaches of Sayulita?

One thing that took me by surprise was how un-swimmable the beaches were in Sayulita because of the time of year. Traveling in May meant strong currents and strong waves, making most beaches very unsafe for the average swimmer.

Beaches like Carricitos and Malpaso had strong riptides and large waves. However, the main beach and Playa De Los Muertos had calmer waters where many people were swimming. A bit of planning would be helpful and keep this in mind when choosing where to spend the day.


Helpful Travel Tips Before Arriving in Sayulita

Have Cash Prior to Arrival

Interestingly enough, most places in Sayulita only took cash or had high credit card minimums. I would be sure to have either US Dollars or Mexican Pesos prior to your arrival. All places took both (when using USD they give a lower exchange rate by a peso or two).

I had an issue with my ATM card so I was grateful for the $40 USD that I did have with me. My ATM card continued to not work the rest of the trip, so thankfully my friend’s card did. This is why I recommend having cash with you ahead of time.

Turn On Cellular Data

You really do need access to data here if you plan to use Uber or other phone services. I’d have Whatsapp downloaded (which a lot of businesses use for reservations). Have your data ready to go when you arrive in Mexico.

Be Mindful of What You Drink or Eat

Don’t drink tap water and eat food from a reputable place. It’s as simple as that in Mexico generally speaking to avoid any stomach bugs.


Where to Stay in Sayulita

When it comes to deciding on Sayulita hotels, you have three main neighborhoods to choose from. The first is Downtown, amidst the restaurants, happening nightlife, and the main beach. The second option is South End — this is more jungle-esque and is closer to a few of the quieter beaches. The third is the North End, a bit more removed and has a neighborhood feel to it with newer construction.

I’d personally opt for something either South or North end, away from the downtown hustle and bustle. Here’s a short list of boutique hotels to consider:

  1. La Joya Sayulita, for the best beachfront hotel
  2. Siete Lunas, for the best romantic hotel
  3. Don Bonito, for the best digital-nomad hotel
  4. Selina, for the best budget-friendly downtown hotel

If you’re looking for a vacation rental, there’s a wide range to choose from. Here’s a good short list of the best vacation rentals in Sayulita.

Where I Stayed: La Joya Sayulita

If I had to pick one hotel for my trip to Sayulita, it’s La Joya. From a pristine location on a private beach to incredible design elements, it’s a hidden oasis. The hotel is for travelers who want a quieter, more intimate experience of Sayulita. You’re out of the downtown but you can still access it quite easily when you want to.

Set on the ocean’s edge, La Joya cascades down several tiers featuring private bungalows, a pool and restaurant, a yoga platform, and a small beach area. Every element here brings in local design with thatched roofs, local ingredients, and native plants. It’s one of the most peaceful hotels I’ve stayed at in some time — you can hear each wave crashing in your private room. I cannot recommend this hotel enough. This hotel is good for couples, solo travelers friends, and families. For family travelers, keep in mind there are steep hills, flights of steps, and edges here. Book the best rates here.

Address: Escondida 6, 63734 Sayulita, Nay., Mexico

*La Joya did host me for my trip, and as always, this is my honest opinion. I’m already looking at a return trip because it was so magical.


Where to Eat in Sayulita

The Restaurant at La Joya Sayulita

Set inside the hotel of La Joya, the main restaurant has a wonderful terrace overlooking the restaurant. This would be a beautiful spot for a sunset dinner, that is quiet and out of town. I ate here over several meals and enjoyed the food!

Address: Escondida 6, 63734 Sayulita, Nay., Mexico

Anchor Cafe

Where to Stay, Play, and Eat in Sayulita, Mexico

My favorite spot in town for coffee and breakfast, Anchor Cafe is tucked up the street from downtown. They have several healthy options from their smoothie bowls to larger plates like bagel sandwiches.

Accepts credit cards
Address: C. Marlín 45, 63734 Sayulita, Nay., Mexico

Tacos Al Pastor Diaz

There are several al pastor taco stands in town, but my absolute favorite was from Diaz. The flavor topped with fresh cilantro and onion, was so good. It’s one of the most affordable options for a meal in town.

Cash-only
Address: C. Jose Mariscal 1-5, 63728 Sayulita, Nay., Mexico

Tacos Al Pastor Tal Ivan

Where to Stay, Play, and Eat in Sayulita, Mexico

While I did prefer Diaz over Tal Ivan, I do think it’s worth trying them here too to compare the al pastor. The flavor is a bit different, but this is still one of the top taco spots in town. They now have several locations after expanding.

Cash-only
Address: Several locations in town

YamBak

Where to Stay, Play, and Eat in Sayulita, Mexico

The in-town brewery is the place to be come nighttime. YamBak is a good spot for a local brew during the day, and then they even have specials like 2-for-1 margaritas on Tuesday nights.

Accepts credit cards
Address: C. Marlín 29, Centro, 63734 Sayulita, Nay., Mexico

El Itacate

Where to Stay, Play, and Eat in Sayulita, Mexico

El Itacate is a top contender for best meal on the trip — the steak tacos and queso fundido here was amazing. I loved all of their salsas that came alongside as well.

Cash-only
Address: C. Jose Mariscal 42, Centro, 63734 Sayulita, Nay., Mexico

El Tiburón Sayulita

I popped into El Tiburón for a quick drink one morning here, and wish I could have come back for a meal. The space is beautiful, tucked away off the main street. The food looks incredible!

Address: Av. Revolución 37A, 63734 Sayulita, Nay., Mexico

Bonito Cafe

Situated in the North End neighborhood of town, Bonito Cafe is such a lovely hideout. They serve brunch-style food, coffee, and wine here. If you’re looking for somewhere to post up for remote working, this is it.

Accepts credit cards with high minimum
Address: Av. del Palmar 29, 63734 Sayulita, Nay., Mexico

MISCELANEA Sayulita

MISCELANEA is a good little breakfast spot in town with several classics from chilaquiles and more. Their coffee menu also had several creative options like coconut brews and more.

Accepts credit cards
Address: Av. Revolución 32a, 63728 Sayulita, Nay., Mexico

On My List But Didn’t Make It

There’s always a few spots on my list I don’t make it to. Here’s what’s on my list for next time:


Things to Do in Sayulita

Explore Downtown Sayulita and Shop Local

There is so much going on downtown, you could easily block a half-day to explore, shop, and eat. While the downtown is small, there are several little side streets to wander throughout. It’s a good spot to grab breakfast or lunch and combine it with some perusing.

While downtown, I found a few favorite shops that I enjoyed browsing. My favorite store was Nakawe Trading for a curated collection of clothing, jewelry, and home goods. Project Artefacto was my other favorite for traditional Mexican artifacts and an incredible collection of antique goods for the home.

Spend the Day at Playa De Los Muertos

The best beach close to downtown for a day of sitting out and dipping in the ocean is Playa De Los Muertos. You can drive over and park; there are beach vendors and even chairs with umbrellas to rent. It does fill up, but this is a really nice, tucked-away beach to enjoy in Sayulita.

Hike to Playa Malpaso and Playa Las Cuevas

Only accessible by hiking in, the two beaches are some of the most pristine on the coastline. They feel remote and untouched, with zero services available (and little shade). Playa Las Cuevas is a smaller, about 75 feet long stretch of sand, which then as you turn the corner turns into Playa Malpaso.

To get there, the most scenic route is to hike up and over from the north end of Sayulita Beach. You pass the trail near Casa Kestos. Linking this guide that gives way more detail on how to hike there. The trail is very easy and visible to follow, pack water and food!

Go Surfing or Take a Surf Lesson

Where to Stay, Play, and Eat in Sayulita, Mexico

It’s known for surfing, so if that’s what you’d like to do, bring your board and ride the surf breaks. If you don’t have a board, consider renting from Lunazul Surfing, a family-owned surfing school company in Sayulita. They have all of the equipment you could need. They also offer comprehensive surf lessons for all skill levels right on Playa Sayulita.

If you would like a private surf lesson, this is one of the top-rated lessons available to book on Viator.

Take a Day Trip to Marietas Islands

Marietas Islands Hidden Beach on Mexico, Punta de Mita, Nayarit

One of the experiences that I just did not have time for on this trip was getting out to the Marietas Islands. Most of the tours are half to full-day experiences, with an all-inclusive cruise that includes food, drinks, snorkeling, and visiting the island.

It’s a good opportunity to get out on the ocean, see whales (seasonally), and go snorkeling. The three tours that caught my attention were:

Catch Sunset at Playa Carricitos

One of the dreamiest beaches in my opinion was Playa Carricitos. You have to hike in (there are no services) and it felt very clean and remote. The ocean is tough here, so it’s not the most swimmable but a good spot for sunset or an early morning adventure.

I’d recommend allotting at least 45 minutes if you park your car at the end of the road where it tells you to stop.

Go Horseback Riding From the Jungle to The Beach

Sayulita Horseback Riding
Image via Viator.com

I always do extensive research and one of the tours I had bookmarked that had rave reviews was this Horseback Riding Tour. It’s 2 hours long, and the trail takes you from the jungle onto the beach. I loved that you don’t need a ton of experience with horses and that the guides help with all elements of the time there. As always, book any adventure tours at your own risk.

Visit the Town of San Pancho/San Francisco

About 15 minutes north of Sayulita is the smaller town of San Pancho/San Francisco. It’s often described as the more “authentic” beach town in the area, with a bit less of the touristy things. With that said, there are several restaurants, a small main street to go down and visit shops, and all ending at the beach.

The beach at San Pancho looked much nicer than Sayulita Beach but still offered the same amenities like restaurants, umbrella rentals, and ocean-gear rentals.

Take a Yoga Class on the Beach

Sayulita Hike and Yoga Jungle Experience
Image via Viator.com

Sayulita is the perfect place to participate in a yoga session. One of the more unique yoga options in the area that caught my eye during my research is this 2.5 hour combination hiking and yoga experience. Capped at only 12 people, the intimate experience begins with walk through through a lush forest, leading to a hidden, untouched beach. The yoga class is held on the beach in the shade of a palm tree grove. There is time after the class to explore the beach before making the way back via a different trail. It sounds like pure bliss. Book the yoga experience here.


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PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!

These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.

1. Book Your Flights

Use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.

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Use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

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Use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

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Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.

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Xx,
Jessica

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