Backed by thick jungle on three sides, ocean on the fourth, Sayulita seems to have developed differently from the rest of Mexico.
I’ve spent about 2 weeks in the area, exploring the hippie town and the cute little neighbor San Pancho.
In this article, I will tell you what have been the highlights of my trip.
Top things to do in Sayulita
It was just a small fishing village back in the day until it was “discovered” in the 60s (some say “founded”) by a bunch of US and Canadian hippie surfers in search of good swells.
Here is where they found their paradise lost and where they have decided to stay and live the surfing lifestyle.
But you don’t need to be a surfer to appreciate Sayulita. The quirky town has now become the cool spot, the swanky town that, together with its neighbor San Pancho, is nudging up against Tulum and Trancoso, the celeb vacation resorts.
Whatever the style-conscious bohemian travelers and dreamers are seeking for, they will find it here between the swells of the Pacific Ocean and the lush green slopes of the Sierra Madre mountains.
Sayulita is a mix of boho culture, lazy beach life, original and authentic artifact shopping, night buzz and margaritas, yoga, and healthy food living. A place for the peace and tranquility seekers and the laidback glamorous living. All this in an ex-fishing town of 5000 inhabitants.
It’s no surprise that the gypsy culture icon Lola Mignon and her handsome family choose Sayulita as their home after sailing for 10 years across the world. It seems that the magic of Sayulita was able to tame their gypsy soul, or probably the waves? I didn’t have the pleasure to meet them although I did visit the busy multicolored shop Pachamama, which was full of the most extravagant creative pieces of body and home decoration.
Their property, Petit Hotel Hafa, is in fact, what I loved the most when I visited the town, a cute tiny place, which, like a cozy home, welcomes the stylish crowds of travelers.
After I read about their story, I realized how they are everything that is Sayulita: sexy, straightforward, wild, captivating, laid back, and generous.
What are the reasons for loving Sayulita?
#1 Beaches and Surf…
…or watch the people swirling freely on the waves while feeling awkward for not being able to do the same. Damn, it seems so easy!
The main beach of Sayulita is the most crowded and I didn’t really like it, but if you love to lime and hang out where everything happens, that’s the place to be.
There are other beautiful beaches not suitable for surfing which I am going to tell you about in a bit. The longboard lovers go to La Lancha beach located about 10 km from Sayulita, past Punta de Mita right in front of a Pemex (gas station) and a surf shop, one of the most expensive I have ever heard of, to be honest. The beach is free, and you can rent a board or if you decide to surf for a few days, it would be more convenient to buy a used one and then resell it.
Click here and go to the next paragraph to read about the beaches
#2 Variety of Cuisine
Sayulita offers a huge variety of restaurants, but the health food scene is definitely making its way up. So popular now that you can find great creative and healthy dishes almost anywhere. Juices and smoothies are also getting popular, at least before dawn … oh well maybe before midday.
Seafood is obviously the most demanded plate, but the vegetarian crowds have their special spots as well. Here some cool spots:
Italian cuisine popular for the crispy crust of the wood oven cooked pizza.
Very casual and cheap, the family-run restaurant caters traditional cuisine both pre-hispanic and Mexican classic. It’s a cozy little place, definitely worth a try.
Sayulita Fish Tacos:
Some say this is the best place for tacos and their shrimp ones are amazing. Plus, they have 300 types of tequila.
An icon in Sayulita as the two cousins founded this popular restaurant and bar right at the beginning of the town history, “when it was only a dusty fishing village that time seemed to have forgotten, with one phone line in town at the Paleteria and hardly any other services ” as they describe on their website. After the success of their restaurant and other business, the owners decided to give back to the community and they have been financing the restoration of the Malecon and fortification of the beach area beside contributing to the development of the growing town’s sewer system and financed upgrades to the local power grid. But it’s not all as they have also, and most importantly, employed at least one member of every founding family of the village and continues to be the largest employer in Sayulita.
On top of all that their food and drink are top-notch as the reviews confirm.
It’s a healthy food place, with branches also in San Pedro and a new one in Nuevo Vallarta. They offer healthy juices and salad or breakfast bowls.
Cafe’ el Fortin
A small coffee’ shop that sells amazing juices, smoothies and of course coffee’.
A cute little place offering smoothings, vegan bowls for breakfast, salads and also natural vegan body-care products.
Healthy food with vegan options served in a beautiful spacious place with colorful decorations and great service
Great international/Mexican food, beautiful presentations, and services. I love the space and its decorations.
Although it’s possible that you didn’t fly a thousand miles to shop, you might want to take a look to the variety of original artifacts showcased in the trendy Sayulita shops, which is in a way part of the local culture and one of the reasons why it turned from a fishing town to a trendsetter spot.
What stands out is the Huichol art, which from its humble origin has become one of the fashion icons of the region. The beautiful multicolored beaded works have taken over the jewelry scene and have become a precious exclusive gift offered in the coolest places.
Pachamama The iconic shop of the Mignon family, offering soulful art and crafts inspired both by Mexican tradition and the family travels.
Revolucion del Sueno (55 Calle Manuel Navarrete) artfully made clothing accessories and gadget the owners strive for innovation and creativity always in search for new style, shapes, and color
Artefakto (Delfin #15) they showcase the most beautiful creations directly from the local communities from different regions of Mexico. Among their works of art, you will find Pillowcases, blankets, shawls, tapestries, rugs, bags, bedspread, hammocks, all handmade and embroidered.
Evoke the spirit The shop that best represents the Huichol tradition blended with the owner’s unique sophisticated designs. The shop has been created by the Newyorker Brittney Borjeson, who arrived in Sayulita in 2012 and fell in love with each other. That’s how the shop was porn and its fame continue to grow thanks to n NY transplant who first fell in love with Sayulita in 2012, the shop and much of the merchandise are designed by Borjeson and made by local Huichol artisans. Stop by to admire the wall of skull “paintings” and even see some of the action as pieces are being made in the shop.
#4 People Culture
Despite the cool-trendy fame it has made for itself in the past years, which has put Sayulita on the map of the boho-culture followers, the quirky, laid-back town welcomes any kind of character, whether you are a yogi-mama, or a health guru, a party seeker, an “Easter tourist,” whether you are a blue hair nostalgic hippie or a posh, wealthy millennial, whatever you are or want to be, here you are welcomed. No judgments, you will be received by just a happy, laid-back crowd that wants to celebrate life every day.
#5 Holistic Healing
The well-being wave couldn’t lose its way towards the trendy cosmopolitan town of Sayulita. And in fact, for those seeking soul healing, body restoring, and mental purification, we have a place for you.
The Haramara retreat just outside of town offers all of that in a beautiful mystical setting in the heart of the Jungle overlooking the beautiful bay.
#6 Perfect Location
Sayulita is strategically located in the south of the Riviera Nayarit, a few miles from the quieter San Pancho, which, by the way, is slowly taking over its title of the coolest place to be. It’s also close to the most beautiful beaches of Nayarit and a half an hour ride from the ever exclusive Punta de Mita; it is also one hour away from the lively Puerto Vallarta and its international airport. It could be useful to know that Sayulita is also 4 hours away and directly connected to the modern city of Guadalajara, the second biggest city in Mexico.
#7 Breathtaking Sunsets
You can stay on the main beach and watch the sun disappearing behind Punta Sayulita on your left, or you can walk for a 1 km hike to Playa Carricitos and see the sun slowly being swallowed by the ocean right in front of you. Every day in Sayulita feels like a miracle.
#8 Chilling Your Day Away
Although there are plenty of activities that you can do from Sayulita, e.g., surfing, horseback riding, hiking… you can also indulge yourself in dullness, and totally guilt free because that’s what vacations are for. Get yourself a massage if you feel like, or hang on a hammock in one of the bars or on the beach, read a book, or just watch the surfers swirling on the waves of the glittering ocean. That’s a way to rewire and reconnect with your inner-self.
THE BEACHES AROUND SAYULITA
As I mentioned before it’s definitely not my favorite beach—it’s too crowded, and the water is dirty, but it’s great for surfing. Therefore, if your goal is to catch some waves or learn how to do it, that’s your place. Lots of surf schools there on the beach as well. It’s obviously close to restaurants, bars, and shops, being right in the heart of the towns, where everything happens.
Probably so called because right at its back there is a cemetery, a colorful one which is quite interesting to look at. It’s right on top of the hill overlooking the small secluded bay. In Playa de Muertos there are no restaurants or bars, but a great street stall where you can buy beverages and delicious fish and seafood on a stick, cooked right in front of you, typical of the area. The beach is tiny and most often busy but very pleasant.
If you are lucky, it may happen that you will find nobody else on this amazing tucked away beach, nestling in the lush and green tropical vegetation on the other side of the hill opposite of Playa de los Muertos. It’s not very well marked. From Playa de los Muertos you will have to take the uphill road through the cemetery and continue to walk until cross a path with signs. Here, you will make a right and continue to walk uphill. You will eventually find a house and a turn to the left. There you will see a sign taking you to the most amazing beach that I have seen in ages.
Surrounded by palm trees, coconuts, and other spices of tropical foliage, as well as mountains on three sides, you can glimpse the infinity pool of a gorgeous swanky villa on top of the left cliff with, I imagine, breathtaking views of the ocean.
The sea is quite rugged here and currents can be unforgivable, so I didn’t take my chance and desisted from jumping in the water but enjoyed instead staring at the rhythmic pull of the tide echoing a silent refrain in my mind “how grateful I am”… for being in such a magical place in total freedom of mind.
La Lancha is a beautiful large beach suitable for surf lovers and surf watchers (or surfer watcher) like me; the surrounding vegetation gives you some shade also if you don’t want to stay in the sun, and, despite the swell, sea access is really easy and shallow. You can also walk all the way to the south and enjoy a soothing stroll on the shore. It’s totally safe and the views are stunning.
FOOD TIP: Right beside the shop there is an extraordinary restaurant if you love fish and seafood, that’s the place where you want to eat. The specialty is ceviche of all different kinds and flavors. The fish is fresh and the service is 5 stars.
About 10 km ( 7 miles) from La Lancha, direction La Cruz de Huanacaxte, you will find another beautiful beach, this time with no surfers, and very easy access to the blue ocean. There is a restaurant in the proximity for your convenience, but the beach is totally free and clean.
San Pancho Beach
The tiny town of 1200 inhabitants is becoming the new cool, probably overtaking Sayulita in its competition with the trendy Tulum. San Pancho is tranquil, laid back, and super safe.
Everybody watches over each other, and you feel like somebody has always got your back.
If you live there, it’s kind of awkward to know that everybody knows exactly all your movements.
I will talk about this town more extensively in another post. If you are staying in the busier Sayulita, you must pay a visit to this town and check out the gorgeous beach. Probably is not very much loved by surfers as waves break too close and it takes away the fun, or so I understand.
However it is paradise for swimmers and sunset watchers.
The beach is huge, and although in the middle it’s quite busy there are quieter spots on both sides, far from the noisy crowds. You can rent a beach chair and umbrella, or you can just lay in the sun or bring your own equipment.
Quimixto, Yelapa, Las Animas
Those beaches are located south of Puerto Vallarta and they are reachable only by water taxi. I have been to Quimixto so far and in this article, I have written everything about it.
If you want to go to any of those beaches from Sayulita or San Pancho and you don’t have a car, you will need to take the bus to Puerto Vallarta. Once you are in the Bus terminal, get an Uber or a bus to the “Centro” in Puerto Vallarta and go to Calle Badillo with Calle Constitution. Over there you will find white and orange buses to Boca de Tomatlan. It’s about 30 minutes. In Boca de Tomatlan you will walk down to the pier and ask for Quimixto, Yelapa or Las Animas.
In Yelapa, where I haven’t been yet, you can choose between staying there for the day or book a hotel for a couple of nights.
In Quimixto there is only one hotel which is actually a yoga retreat, called Xinalani Retreat. From the boat, you see cute little private cabins nestled on the mountain slope overlooking the ocean. It must be soothing for your soul to stay there.
OTHER BEACHES THAT I HAVEN’T BEEN TO
Worldly famous spot for a vulcanic conformation that leaves a hidden beach underneath a crater. They are only accessible through a watery tunnel.
It’s a dreamy place from a natural point of view.
Because of the fast deterioration of the natural environment, due to uncontrolled hordes of tourists, authorities had kept it close for a while and then reopened for a limited number of visitors. Sadly enough it’s a bit of an elite selection because, in order to control the access, they raised the prices to 2600 pesos versus the 400 in the past.
Therefore who can afford it can see it. SAD. Mind that you can only go on organized tours with authorized companies.
There is another tour that is cheaper, about 1600 pesos which takes you around the islands without having access to the most interesting part though.
Las Cuevas and Mal Pasos
Those beaches are quite secrets spot north of Sayulita, heaven for solitude seekers. Las Cuevas is formed by massive rocks that had been erased by the ocean– Mal Pasos can only be reached by a passageway through the rocks. Although these beaches are accessible by land, it’s much easier to look for a local water taxi. Be careful of the strong rip tides here but it’s all worth it.
You can reach this beach by a quick boat ride from San Pancho or Sayulita however if you like to walk in the woods, you can get there through the jungle. Make sure you ask very well for directions. It’s a very secluded beach really worth checking out. Surfer will enjoy big swells here. Remember to bring water and food as there are no facilities there.
Located right in front of the Hotel Cinco in Punta Mita, Anclote is the perfect surf spot for beginners and longboard lovers. keep an eye on the rocky bottom and the reef, though! From this beach, you can get boat rides to El Faro beach, The Cove beach, and the Marieta Islands.
Located directly in front of the hotel La Quinta del Sol and to the left of a jetty used by fishing boats (from which the name), to the south of Anclote (in Punta Mita), Stinky’s break is slow and steady, perfect for beginners and longboarders. However be careful because just like the Anclote, the bottom is rocky and you can get hurt.
El Faro (The Lighthouse)
This is not a good place for beginners, but if you are experienced whether on long or shortboard you can definitely enjoy this place.
WHERE TO STAY IN SAYULITA
Deciding where to stay in Sayulita is easy as the town offers a variety of accommodations from hotels in the busy town center to luxury villas tucked away into the jungle with breathtaking ocean views. Here’s my choice.
(Click on the name of the hotel to make a reservation)
Located on Sayulita beach at a walking distance to Restaurants and bars, the hotel Siete Lunas is the perfect hideaway, soothed by the piece and tranquillity of the jungle surrounding the cozy stylish property. A laid-back luxury place with beautiful elegant finishes where natural elements dominate the scene in total harmony with mother nature. The stunning views on the ocean are the cherry on the cake.
Right in the town center where everything happens, you have this cozy little hotel, artfully decorated with local art and crafts in the bright mexican colors with an elegant touch. The manicured garden embrace the comfortable chaise lounge around the pool where you really feel like in your home. This cozy elegant place is your warm tranquil nest when you are tired of the busy town. The lovely owner, who proudly showed me around is there to help with any question or needs you have.
Conveniently located right on Sayulita beach, Hotel Vista Oceania offers nicely decorated rooms in a minimal- chic style using mainly natural elements and local art. The rooftop terrace with chaise long and hammocks offer a lovely place to chill after soaking up some sun and sand.
Casa Love is beautiful home created by the love of the Mignon family, an icon of the Sayulita boho chich community of surfers and dreamers. It consists of seven bedrooms, three bathrooms, small yet convenient kitchen, and huge common areas to relax and share thoughts or just read a book. It’s located just above their creative boutique Pachamama in downtown Sayulita and it was created with the same inspiration and stylish ideas.
Every room boasts simple and yet tasteful decorations in different color patterns
From the house, you can enjoy beautiful views of the beach and surf breaks and walk to local shopping, bars, and restaurants. It’s also possible to have meals prepared in the house kitchen at an extra cost.
Located right on the ocean on the way to playa Muertos beach and at only 900 meters from the popular and tucked away Carricito beach, Villa Amor offers spacious ocean views rooms surrounded by the lush hills of Punta Sayulita
Villa Amor is a collection of 23 oceanfront villas creatively designed and individually decorated with Mexican art and worldly inspired creativity and charm.
You are at a 10-minute walking distance from town and 1 step from the beach, but if you don’t want to leave, and that can happen when you are in such setting, worry not. You can enjoy an oceanfront restaurant and bar, a saltwater pool, yoga studio and a jungle spa. Everything you need at an easy reach.
This cute little hotel, located right on the beach of Sayulita, is an outburst of bright happy colors. The property has been recenlty renovated and has no pretence but to offer the Sayulita lifestyle: simple, laid back, worry-free.
Each room shows its own personality and is gracefully decorated with local artifacts and stylish pieces of furniture and all offer stunning views of the ocean and magical sunsets. You can enjoy the local cuisine in the restaurant of the property or walk to the nearby restaurants and check out the culinary offer of the quirky town.
LOCATION: HOW TO GET THERE
International flights arrive directly in Puerto Vallarta from different cites of Canada and US. Here below I am giving you all the city with the respective airline (source www.puertovallarta.net)
From the airport, you can either book a private transportation to your hotel or transfer to the Central de Autobuses (bus station) and catch a bus to Sayulita (1-hour distance)