Ultimate Guide To Sayulita: Mexico’s Hidden Gem Surf Town

Ultimate Guide To Sayulita: Mexico’s Hidden Gem Surf Town

Last Updated on September 28, 2020


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About Me

Kien Lam  

I'm Kien, an international photographer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. After quitting my job in finance, I've traveled to over 70 countries in the last 10 years finding the coolest experiences to check off my bucket list. I hope to help you find your inspiration with my photography and tips to travel the world.

With the pandemic affecting so many local communities in countries that rely on the tourism business, now is the time to introduce people to a gem of a surf town in Mexico called Sayulita.

It’s one of my favorite places in the world. I’ve always wanted to keep it a secret, worried that it might change if too many people came.

Those who already know about it, know just how special this place is. There are many beach spots in the world, but what makes Sayulita unique is that while it has everything to offer to the most demanding tourists and continues to grow, it manages to keep the charm of the hippie surf culture that made it what it was in the first place.

Escaping The Crowd In Puerto Vallarta

My favorite thing about Puerto Vallarta is that it is very well known and 45 minutes away from Sayulita – which keeps most of your average tourists visiting Mexico away from Sayulita.

PVR has the international airport, the mega resorts, beaches, shopping malls, and even an old town to keep most tourists happy. There’s no reason to trek out nearly an hour to go to another “beach” when you can just stay “safe” at your hotel with its private access to a beach.

It is the ultimate buffer that has kept Sayulita a hidden enough town – at least for now.

And yet, being just out of arm’s reach from Puerto Vallarta means that I can take a 2.5 hour flight from Los Angeles in the morning, jump on a local bus across the street from the airport, and be there in time (even with a 2 hour time difference) to catch an afternoon surf and settle in for some beers on the beach at sunset.

I want to let you in on everything you need to know about Sayulita

Standup paddleboard and kayak rentals in Sayulita

My Favorite Places To Eat In Sayulita

Over the years, I’ve actually made it a challenge to eat at every restaurant and food stall in Sayulita and to my surprise, there were over 100 different dining options.

The main part of town is a 3 x 3 “block” grid and there’s over 30 places here alone. Finding a good place to eat is easy, but it’s also difficult because there are so many to choose from.

There’s 3 places I first recommend to everyone when they arrive into town hungry.

1. El Itacate

You can’t miss this place with all the fragrant smoke rising from the grill in their open kitchen. Look closer and you’ll probably see a large skillet with cheese being fried. That’s for the ‘Itacate’, a tortilla-less burrito wrapped in a crispy fried cheese.

I go here because it has the best arranchera steak tacos in town. Everything is served with a massive spread of salsas, fire-grilled onions, beans, cilantro and peppers. There are many options for vegetarians, but I recommend the sautéed ‘jamica’ or hibiscus tacos. If you come a second, or third time, get the ‘chili’ or ‘papas’. Trust me on this one.

El Itacate Tacos In Sayulita

2. Mary’s

I’d say this is the best Baja-style seafood tacos in Sayulita, but it’s much more than that. Order the Mary’s Taco and Sayulita Taco, a fresh take the camarones (shrimp) tacos that is topped with fresh avocados, roasted poblano peppers, sweet corn and mushrooms. Top it with their homemade chipotle sauce and you have perfection.

Mary's Tacos in Sayulita

Two of these tacos will fill me up each time. Order one grilled and the other breaded. It’s so hard to choose.

3. Barracuda

For dinner, treat yourself to a fine dining open air experience. This place has the freshest seafood in town. Any fish on the menu with be perfectly cooked, but I recommend their steaming seafood molcajete (picture an extra large mortar and pestle without the pestle made of volcanic rocks) with generous portions of giant prawns, octopus, melt-in-your-mouth arranchera (skirt steak) and slabs of fresh queso. They’ve got a great cocktail and wine selection too.

For a full list of restaurant recommendations, check out my ‘LOCAL guide to eating in Sayulita’ where I break down my favorite places to eat by category and budget.

Where To Stay In Sayulita

Like it’s food offerings, there are accommodations for all budgets and tastes in Sayulita from beach bungalows to hilltop hotels offering privacy and quiet.

Sayulita Hostels

For backpackers and budget travelers, there are a few hostels in Sayulita. The Amazing Hostel offers a quiet space away from the crowd, but by far, my favorite place is La Redonda Hostel. It’s run by two girls born and raised in Sayulita and has the best location in town – just about 100 meters from the beach.

La Redonda Hostel

La Redonda Hostel is rotunda shaped with dormitory style rooms on the top floor and an amazing open-plan hang out space and bar on the ground floor. It opens into a garden with tables, hammocks, and an outdoor kitchen. There’s even an outdoor shower to wash off the sand after a surf session. They rent surfboards and can set you up with anything you need to do in Sayulita.

You can book directly with them for the best rates.

La Redonda Hostel Backpackers At La Lancha

Sayulita Boutique Hotels

Hotel Boutique Oz

Located just 50 meters outside the square, Hotel Oz offers modern rustic-style rooms and a quiet escape with a rooftop pool and tapas restaurant on the main floor. I go here from time to time to eat and use their pool (day pass access).

Hotelito Los Suenos

Another place I come to for their pool. This laid-back hotel makes great drinks and smoothies on the other side of the bridge. A great option for families

Casablanca Sayulita Hotel

Just across the bridge is the Casablanca Sayulita Hotel that is popular with wedding guests for their massive pool and tropical atmosphere.

Sayulita Hotels and Resorts

Slightly more expensive, but offering a higher class of service and the best locations

AzulPitaya Sayulita Beach Hotel & Resort

One of the newest hotels that has opened in recent years is right on the beach with an open. It’s got a great tropical atmosphere, a nice restaurant and bar and spacious rooms.

Villa Amor Hotel

This has been the top hotel in Sayulita for years offering villa style accommodations, a restaurant overlooking the waters and the kind of service and privacy you’d expect from a high-end hotel. A popular choice for destination wedding and couples.

Top Things To Do In Sayulita

1. Hit The Surf

This is after all, a surf town. Come learn to surf with the many surf schools in town. I highly recommend Marea Surf School, run by a local guy named Angel. They are laid-back, professional and offer really good prices on lessons and rentals.

The main beach has two main surf spots – one for beginners, and the others for experienced surfers. Further down the beach is another spot that’s right in between. The slower breaks are preferred by longboarders, but shortboarders come out when the breaks are faster and shorter.

Drone shot of surfer in Sayulita

2. Visit The Marieta Islands

The Marieta Islands is now a protected area and limit the number of visitors a day. The famous Playa del Amor is a bucket list spot that requires a short swim or snorkel in. The beach would be all but hidden if not for the massive caved in opening atop the rocky island.

Whale migration breeching near Marietas Islands, Puerto Vallarta

From December – April, you’re almost sure to catch a whale or two during their migration season.

3. Spend The Day On A Catamaran

It might be wrong to say this, but I’m almost bored of seeing whales when I go out on a boat trip here – because you spot so many of them breeching the surface. Daily catamaran tours take sunbathers out on the open waters for an open bar day of fun and sun.

They stop in different spots for you to snorkel, paddleboard or kayak. It’s one of my favorite things to do every so often with a group of friends. Chica Locca and Ally Cats are the two companies offering these boat tours. They are both similar, though you tend you find a younger crowd on Chica Locca.

4. Catch The Sunset At Carraccitos

The only bad thing you can say about Sayulita is that there is no sunset. It’s blocked by one of the small rocky mountains to the west. Go for a nice hike through the jungle down to Playa Carracitos and you escape all the people in Sayulita. It’s a great spot to spend a peaceful day and catch the sunset. That said, the afternoon glow and golden hour on the main beach is just sublime. It’s my favorite time of day.

5. Party Every Night Somewhere Different

There are a handful of bars and beach clubs that everyone goes to on certain nights of the week. Learn salsa at Don Pedro’s on Mondays and dance on the beach at Coco’s every Friday night. If you’re into techno and electronic music, you’ll find that at YamBak right in the town square. There’s live music every night at Don Pato’s, with the music selection changing every night. It’s the go to spot most nights offering cheap drinks and music till you can’t dance anymore.

6. Escape to San Pancho

The next town over is what Sayulita was 5-10 years ago. It’s a weekly day trip for me to go somewhere a little more quiet. That’s not to say they don’t have everything that Sayulita has, including some of the best restaurants and a sunset that everyone claps for each day.

For a full list of all the things to do in Sayulita, check out my ‘top 16 Things You HAVe To Do In Sayulita

The Best Time To Come To Sayulita

December and January is the high season for Sayulita. Everyone comes down here to escape their cold winters. It’s also the best to come down in terms of weather. Mexico’s hot and rainy season is in August and September, which is the quietest time of year in Sayulita.

Things cool down a bit in October, just as the holidays begin starting with Dia de los Muertos at the end of the month.

November is my favorite month personally because the water is perfect, it’s sunny every day and it’s the calm of the storm before the high season. Not to say that I don’t enjoy December and January. The atmosphere picks up and it’s a lot of fun. If it feels too crowded, like on a local holiday weekend, I just take a 10 minute cab to San Pancho, a sleepier version of Sayulita.

Sayulita sunset from drone

Things settle down in February a bit, so it’s similar to November, but a bit warmer. March and April marks the beginning of the hot months in Sayulita. The town is a lot more quiet, so it’s great time to go if you want to avoid most of the visitors.

May, June and July puts you right in the middle of summer. Puerto Vallarta gets a lot of the summer vacation crowd, with some making their way to Sayulita. I personally avoid these months because it gets too hot for me.

How To Get To Sayulita From Puerto Vallarta

From the airport, a taxi will cost about 700-800 Pesos ($35-40) and takes about 40 minutes. Alternatively, you can cross the highway outside the airport using the bridge and catch a local bus going to Sayulita. The buses will have a sign on it. Just look for ‘Sayulita’ or say Sayulita to the bus driver with a question mark. It costs 40 persos ($2) and takes about 50 minutes. It’s a local bus, but it’s perfectly safe. If you have a lot of luggage, take a taxi.

Leaving from inside Puerto Vallarta will surprising cost less, even though it’s farther away from the airport. You will have to negotiate a fee, but expect to pay around 600 ($30) Pesos for a taxi to get to Sayulita. Alternatively, you can get an Uber, which will cost a little less than a taxi.

There’s also this easy option I recommend for people who want to do a day trip to both Sayulita and San Pancho from Puerto Vallarta.

Although it’s possible to get an Uber to Sayulita, it is more difficult to get an Uber back to Puerto Vallarta from Sayulita. Like a lot of small towns around the world, the taxi drivers do not like Uber so Uber drivers aren’t really welcomed there.

If you are renting a car and driving to Sayulita, it’s a pretty straightforward drive with a grand total of two right turns to get into town. Parking inside the main part of town is difficult. You won’t need a car in Sayulita unless you plan on driving to other towns or beaches like Punta Mita regularly.

Last Words On Sayulita

Relax. Enjoy. Eat. That’s why I come to Sayulita. It’s always the perfect break and holiday after my travels. I come here to unwind, hang out with good people, and eat the best food. If you need a break from life, Sayulita is my recommendation.

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