Everything You Should Know about Visiting Sayulita (+Photos)

Sayulita is one of those places that hits the perfect balance between a relaxed beach vacation and culture. It’s the quintessential Mexican beach town. Think colorful flags waving in the breeze, dusty streets, fresh mangoes on every corner, and a lounger-lined beach dotted with food vendors selling prawn kebabs, fresh coconuts, and candy.

View from Viajero Hostel

I won’t lie, Sayulita certainly attracts its fair share of tourists. Expats have been flocking to the seaside haven for the past thirty or so years, and there is no doubt they’ve had an influence. But I can confidently say that the town has, somehow, managed to upkeep its cultural and local flair with much more authenticity than its international beach-town counterparts (Bali, I’m looking at you).

The locals are friendly, the food is delicious, Spanish music floats through the streets, prices are still reasonable (although increasing yearly), and the tourist traps are far and few between. I’ve recently spent a few weeks settled in this tiny surfers’ paradise, and here is what I’ve learned:

Cash is King

Cash is King

I can’t stress this enough. Most traders, vendors, and restaurants operate on a cash-only basis. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, most, if not all, of the ATMs in the town are privately owned and charge between 7% and 10%, adding a $5 withdrawal fee on top of an already iffy exchange rate. And unfavorable exchange rates are the least of your worries when a handful of the ATMs don’t work or don’t have cash in the first place. The odds are not in your favor.

Sayulita Beach, Nayarit

The first time I visited I planned to exchange USD for Pesos at Puerto Vallarta Airport – another bad idea, as they use an exchange rate that is almost insulting. Your best bet would be to order Pesos in advance and arrive with the foreign currency on hand. I also recommend carrying USD, as many shops and restaurants do accept this currency (at the exchange rate of their discretion).

On the plus side, things are affordable here, and unless you’re spending your days shopping and nights sipping countless margaritas, your money can go pretty far.

Pro Tip: Pay your accommodation and expensive tour costs upfront online, so you don’t have to worry about bringing large wads of cash to settle your bills.

Getting to Sayulita

Getting to Sayulita

Sayulita is tucked away between the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range of Nayarit along Mexicos’ Pacific coastline.

One of my favorite things about this town is how easy it is to access. The closest airport, Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR), is just a 40-minute drive away in Puerto Vallarta.

Sayulita Beach

From here, it’s a quick and painless $35 to $50 Uber north of the city, with most of the drive taking you through dense jungle and forest. It’s important to know that Uber isn’t allowed into the airport, so you’ll need to liaise with your driver to collect you across the white pedestrian bridge at one of the car rental shops. It’s less confusing than it sounds!

If you’re on a budget, you can also catch a local bus from the other side of this same bridge. The bus costs just 46 Pesos or less than $3 per person. However, it makes a lot of stops and can take between an hour to an hour and a half.

Getting Around the Town

Getting Around the Town

Another attractive aspect of this town is that it is easily walkable. Roads can be steep, have potholes, and are typically cobblestoned. Still, the town is small enough that by staying in the center, I went for seven days without using any private or public transportation.

There are other options, however. Visitors can rent golf carts, which, if you are staying in an Airbnb a bit further out, can save you a lot of time and energy (did I mention, the hills). These rentals can cost around $40 – $60 per day.

Quadbike rentals are also available. I don’t advise renting a car unless you plan to explore the peninsula most days. Ubers can be very difficult to find in the town at times, although it has been done before. There are also taxis in the town square, which charge more than an Uber but offer the same services.

Sayulita is a Town Under Construction

Under Construction

While not a tip, I’m here to give you full disclosure. Sayulita is a growing – I could say BOOMING – town. A lot of construction is happening at any given moment, which means it can be noisy during the day.

In fact, the town is famous for its nightlife, which means noise levels can be high at night. I haven’t had any issues with noise, but light sleepers might want to consider bringing earplugs to be safe.

There Are Plenty of Activities to Explore

Sayulita Surfboards

So many people visit the town for its mellow surfing conditions and warm swimming water. Of course, surfing is one of the best activities to try out here, with ideal waves and conditions for beginner to intermediate surfers. There are other spots in the area for more advanced surfers, too.

Mountain bikes at WildMex

But Sayulita is a haven of activities. There are mountains to climb, trails to ride, reefs to snorkel, and secret beaches to explore. Check out WildMex for a full offering of things to do in and around the bay and mountains. Here, you can rent paddleboards, go on mountain biking adventures, and take boat day trips to underwater reefs.

I usually stick to surfing and yoga when on holiday, and the town also has a few great places to practice yoga. A yoga class costs between $10 and $20 for a drop-in, and a surf lesson might set you back around $30 to $50.

Casitas to Hostels: Where to Stay

Where to Stay

With the town expanding rapidly, there are plenty of epic places to stay in and around the main square. I’ve spent time in a hostel and a luxury casita, and I would happily do both again.

A night in a Casita rented through Airbnb might cost between $50 for an affordable option and $150 a night for a luxury option. These usually include a kitchen, outdoor living space, and a shared pool. The best place to find a casita is on Airbnb, which allows you to filter out all the amenities you are looking for and find a spot in the perfect location that matches your dates.

Depending on occupancy, you could find a bed in a shared room in a hostel like Viajero or Selina for as little as $15 to $25 per night. Hostels have shared pools, bars, kitchens, and even restaurants, and most offer an option of day trips, activities, and social events to attend each night.

The Most Authentic Places to Eat in Sayulita

Where to Eat

There are a lot of incredible places to eat in Sayulita. My expectations were that the town would be geared to the tourist influx, and while they sure do have a few Western-inspired restaurants, for the most part, the restaurants are locally owned and as authentic as they get.

When you aren’t eating from a taco stand on the street corner, you can dine at family-owned Mexican eateries throughout the town. Street tacos cost $1 each, while a meal in a sit-down restaurant might cost around $10 per person for a main meal with a drink.

Taco El Pastor - the best tacos in town
Taco El Pastor – the best tacos in town

For breakfast, go to Miscelanea Sayulita or Organi-K for Bali-inspired health food options. ChocoBanana is another option for a sweet healthy snack.

Dinner recommendations include Luna’s (for the best margaritas in town), El Itacate, and La Nina. There are also plenty of Western restaurants, one of the best being Pizza Venezia.

Pro Tip: Bring your own reusable water bottle to fill up at your accommodation and save on bottled water.

Explore the Surrounding Beaches


Don’t spend all your time on the crowded beach in Sayulita. Take a morning or afternoon trip to one of the nearby beaches in San Pancho, a 15-minute drive north. You can catch the bus here or grab a cab.

There are also a bunch of secret beaches you can walk to in about 30 minutes, just south of the town. Playa Carricitos is the most famous, but any local will be happy to advise you when you’re in the town.

How to Avoid Getting Sick

Avoid Getting Sick

There is only so much you can do to avoid getting sick, but I recommend taking extra precautions to ensure you have the best possible stay. Surprisingly, most say you can drink tap water here. I recommend avoiding it and using it only for teeth brushing.

Be aware of mosquitos during the wet season. Although the image below suggests otherwise, dengue fever is unlikely but possible in this region. I like to sleep in an air-conditioned room, which deters mosquito activity.

Pro Tip: I always carry an antibiotic with me when I travel and take probiotics religiously. While Mexico is one of the easier countries to get prescription medicine, language barriers can be an issue. That said, if you do get sick, there are plenty of pharmacies around the town.

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