Once a tiny hippie surf town on Mexico’s Pacific coast, it has now turned into a booming destination for tourists looking to escape the all-inclusive lifestyle found on the West side of Mexico. It offers a good mix of genuine Latin culture combined with year-round hot weather and some of the best things to do in Mexico.
Sayulita beach is a primary selling point, but the food found at Sayulita restaurants is also second-to-none. Plus, it’s situated less than an hour away from Puerto Vallarta international airport, making the commute pretty straightforward.
Every year, thousands of tourists head towards Sayulita for vacations and beach getaways. But that’s not the only type of lifestyle to lead here. Sayulita is also popular among digital nomads, who live and work as they base themselves from different locations all over the globe. Fortunately, there are enough things to do in Sayulita to satisfy even these long-stay travelers for months at a time.
Where is Sayulita, Mexico?
Here is the map of Sayulita.
In more general terms, Sayulita is located fairly centrally down on the East Coast of the country of Mexico. The town can be found in the state of Nayarit, which borders Jalisco and its well-known city, Guadalajara. It is on the opposite side of the country from the tourist hotspots of Cancun and Tulum, so gives a totally different cultural experience for visitors.
For vacationers from the USA, driving is an option. It should take approximately twenty-four hours of driving time from the border crossing on either the west or central parts of the States to reach Sayulita. Drivers should be aware that there are several nuances to driving in Mexico compared to the US, and special insurance is required.
Flights to Sayulita are easily done through Puerto Vallarta airport, which is less than an hour’s drive from the town. Most major US flight networks are connected to the airport, alongside many of the Latin airlines too.
What to expect in Sayulita
After the short Sayulita- Puerto Vallarta airport drive, travelers will find themselves having arrived in the town. Coming during the months of December to April is most recommended since the weather is getting warmer but should remain fairly dry. After this, in the month of May, June, and July, the wet season is in full swing. Although it will be cheaper to travel to Sayulita during the wet season (and summer months), it may hamper any activities or events you have planned.
The town has a population of approximately 2.5k people, but this climbs much higher during the peak tourism season (by the thousands). Average temperature highs around the year usually fall in the month of July or August at up to 90F, whereas the low 60s occur in February. Travelers visiting during this time should certainly bring a jacket!
Identical to the actual town of Sayulita, Nayarit Mexico as a state is actually almost tropical in climate, with lots of humidity. This leads to brilliant flora, and secondly some of the most outstanding wildlife in all of Mexico. The Nayarit Riviera’s terrain is made up of a number of cool features, such as two volcanoes and a few mountains. This, alongside the coastline, could make it the perfect place to travel.
Looking at the map, where tourists decide to stay could be based on a few factors, such as price and proximity to the activity center. There would be four main areas:
North End (Nanzal)
The North End was traditionally construction-free before foreign property investors began developing the land in the last few years. Therefore, while the roads to reach this area are not the best, it can be worth it to escape the hustle and bustle of the town’s central area.
The Central area of Sayulita is like the name would suggest, where all the action happens. Here is where to find a classic Sayulita hotel, like Selina, which is just meters from the beach. Moreover, the central area has easy access to other amenities such as Sayulita restaurants and surf (a pretty major reason to come to the town). In fact, those looking to prioritize surfing with practical, theory and video review during their trip can find out more here.
The South End of the town offers access to Los Muertos beach, which is one the most revered beaches in the town. Staying here will be ideal for those wanting to experience more of the Mexican culture, as it’s still developing from its old fishing village roots. Plus, the roads make it an easy walk into the central area.
Finally, Gringo Hill, as the name would suggest, is full of foreign property developments. For the best view of the town, we recommend visitors to stay in this area. However, it is slightly out of the way and travelers staying in this area are likely to need their own means of transportation.
Best Things to Do in Sayulita Mexico
Without further ado, let’s get into the 9 best things to do in Sayulita.
Fans of the Mexican Caribbean coastline might tell you that there are never large enough swells to go surfing. But those who say there are no waves in Mexico at all have clearly never tried the Pacific Sayulita surf. With a steady and reliable break, it can also be a great place to learn to surf.
Sayulita surfing is great because of the huge range of breaks available. For example, the main left and right are easily within reach from the central region of the town. And if you’re still on the journey to learning how to surf, beginners will prefer the Sandbar, where all of the surf schools are located. It’s easy enough to find surf lessons in Sayulita, with long rides and plenty of greens once the skills are upgraded.
More experienced surfers can also make use of the huge number of other breaks within a twenty-minute vicinity of Sayulita. The Cove, La Lancha and Stinky’s are all famous Playa Sayulita surf sights to explore.
Not only one of the top things to do in Puerto Vallarta, but turtle releasing is also, for many of us, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While some species are also endangered, now could be the only chance to get involved with turtle conservation efforts before it’s too late.
During nesting season, female sea turtles will return back to the beach that they hatched from in order to lay their eggs. This is a seasonal occurrence and can happen for decades with the same turtles. Then, each egg undergoes a 45-day incubation period. This is the most important time since only 5% of sea turtle eggs will ever reach adulthood.
After the incubation period, the newly-hatched turtles are ready to be released back into the ocean. Seasonally, the majority of eggs hatch between July and December every year, which is the best time to fly into Sayulita airport if a turtle release is a priority. Babies are usually released at sunset in order to avoid predators, and attending a release can cost as little as a donation to the conservation efforts.
When in search of cultural things to do in Sayulita, Salsa and Bachata dancing are Mexican to the core. While locals might impress with advanced steps and spins, Sayulita can also be a great location to learn the funky footwork.
Salsa dancing is something that the locals of Sayulita enjoy, with many designated ‘salsa bars’. As a woman, it is customary to accept a salsa dance from whoever asks for your hand, so beware that it can become quite the workout after more than half an hour of dancing.
Salsa and Bachata are different too, with many visitors preferring one dance more than the other. While Salsa can be described as fast and sexy, Bachata is more of a smooth and sensual dance. Just remember to keep your Wednesday evening free, as that’s the designated time for Salsa dancing at Selina.
Eat your heart out at restaurants, Sayulita
The typical Mexican cuisine is known and emulated all over the world, with tacos, empanadas, burritos and more making their way across the Pacific and Caribbean seas. Fortunately, those visiting Sayulita will find that restaurant hopping here is one of the best things to do in Mexico overall.
Some of the best recommendations for restaurants in Sayulita include Barracuda or La Rustica as high-end options. Plus, there are plenty of more local places, like Mary’s traditional cuisine, that you’ll find offering hearty Mexican meals for very affordable prices.
Then again, a true Sayulita experience includes street food, which can be found by the cartload here. Be sure to check out tacos al pastor (juicy pork, often with onions wrapped in tiny tortillas) and quesadillas (oozing cheese encased in a crunchy tortilla wrap).
Visit the Sayulita Hippie Market
The Sayulita Hippie Market is actually what put the town on the map with tourists all those years ago. Otherwise known as ‘Mercado artisanal’, it’s an eclectic mix of different craft products. Honestly, this is the type of place to get lost and spend the entire day wandering around, eyes wide at the sheer number of high-quality locally made products on offer.
The Sayulita Hippie Market is located next to the baseball stadium, just a short walk from Selina hotel (we’re talking less than five minutes). It is held every single Sunday, and is set up in an open-air format. Here are some of the types of products to find at the market:
Hand-crafted silver jewelry
Body butters, pomades and scrubs
Macrame bags and plant holders
Locally made jams and preserves
Hike Monkey Mountain
Another of the top things to do in Puerto Vallarta includes hiking up the epic ‘Monkey Mountain’. This can be reached by heading to Bahía de Banderas, which is found on the drive from Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita.
Quick note: Bahía de Banderas also offers some of the best advanced surfing spots in the area, so combining this hike with a day of surf is also recommended.
A day out to Monkey Mountain should take around 4 hours, and while the hike is not considered difficult, it can be challenging on hotter days. Remember to bring plenty of water and snacks to fuel up along the way.
The hike involves an intermediate incline through jungle growth, which is typically humid and warm. Once on top, the beautiful 360-degree views offer a bay on one side, with a serene jungle on the other. From this view of Punta Mita (see below for more on that), some lucky visitors can even spot whales at certain times of the year.
Without personal accommodation, a tour is the best way to reach Monkey Mountain. These offer vans with air conditioning and a bilingual guide to help tell the stories of the local area. Book your Monkey Mountain hike here.
Yoga and Wellness
If slowing it down on vacation sounds more appealing, then it’s fortunate that Sayulita Nayarit Mexico is home to some of the best Yoga and wellness opportunities in the country (perhaps even the world).
Looking for what to do in Sayulita when it rains? If you don’t like the beach or want to focus on growth and development? The health and wellness practitioners of Sayulita really have all bases covered when it comes to self-care opportunities and fun activities relating to the mind, body and soul.
There are many reasons to take these sorts of classes in Sayulita. For example, the physical benefits of yoga include increased flexibility, muscle tone and aid injury recovery. Of course, the benefits of these types of activities are not just physical, but mental too. Reiki energy healing is believed to aid sleep, alongside promoting healing and cleansing the mind to focus and reduce stress.
Dive into the deep blue
If getting a PADI scuba diving certification is on the list, Sayulita is a great choice of location. With some of the best diving sites just out of the bay, the local wildlife includes corals, fish and even turtles.
Scuba diving is easily one of the top things to do in Puerto Vallarta for those who love the water, with a certification course for a PADI open water diver taking just 4 days to complete. During and after this time, students will get the chance to explore with a divemaster that knows the Punta Mita and Puerto Vallarta area best. These diving locations are just a short drive away from Playa Sayulita.
Once qualified as a PADI-certified open water diver, adventurers will be given the green light to dive at locations around the world.
Explore Punta Mita
If the Sayulita surfing doesn’t spark joy, the ‘buenas olas’ (aka good waves) in Punta Mita certainly should. Punta Mita is located at a headland point, between Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita. It offers lower levels of crowds compared to Sayulita and ensures that each surfer has their space in the line-up.
Things to do in Punta Mita are varied from whale watching to exploring and playing on famous golf courses. Plus, it’s a pick-up location for travelers wanting to explore Las Islas Marietas, which is an uninhabited group of islands bursting with local wildlife, birds and ocean creatures. This area is protected by the Mexican government, so be sure to find out which tour guides are legally allowed to operate in the area.
It’s undeniable that the majority of tourists come to this part of the world to practice their craft and surf. In fact, Sayulita surfing is some of the best in the world. Not only that, the good length of each Sayulita beach means that it’s easy to find a good place to hang out with friends, even in high season.
Alongside the water, Sayulita is well-known for its ‘hippie vibes’. Yogis and free-spirited individuals are likely to find like-minded friends in Sayulita, with plenty of events to facilitate introductions.
How many days do you need in Sayulita?
It’s hard to put a deadline on the time needed to properly visit Sayulita, Nayarit Mexico. Some tourists can certainly get away with a long weekend here, with a jam-packed schedule that is designed to explore the local area, get outside and taste true Mexican authentic food.
However, many travelers prefer to stay longer in locations like Sayulita, with some Selina residents here for a month or more. It is definitely approved as a place to put some roots down if you’re living and working online, with reliable wifi and a good coworking environment.
Is Sayulita worth visiting?
Absolutely. Sayulita is unique and totally worth visiting. Sayulita restaurants alone make it well worth a visit, even if only for a few days.
In terms of things to do in Mexico, Sayulita has it all: good weather, beaches and interesting culture. Plus (fortunately), it’s not quite as busy as other locations on the West coast of Mexico such as Cancun or Tulum, which means it’s still considered a bit of a hidden gem.
Can you learn to surf in Sayulita?
Sayulita surfing is genuinely some of the best in the world. For years now, it has been the birthplace and breeding ground for some of the best surfers in the country and has held several national and international competitions.
However, there is a good level of variation in the types of breaks available in Sayulita. This means there is a Sayulita beach for everyone, even beginners. With highly-rated and longstanding surf camps, the Sandbar on the main beach of Playa Sayulita is probably where to head.