Is This the Most Charming Town in Mexico? A Guide to Sayulita’s Hotels, Restaurants, and Beaches

See recent posts by Colleen Stinchcombe

Consistent waves, lush jungle, and sandy shores. Sound like a dream? It isn’t. Sayulita is a Mexican beach getaway on the nearly 200-mile stretch of Pacific coastline known as Riveria Nayarit, directly west of Guadalajara. Once a hippie town and an escape from crowds, Sayulita has transformed over the last five years to be fully decked out for visitors -- but it’s still quieter than main resort destinations like Puerto Vallarta or Cabo. Sayulita is as popular with yogis and backpackers as it is with the jet set. Matt Damon,  Eva Longoria, and Catherine Zeta-Jones have all vacationed here.

Sayulita’s main attraction is its excellent surfing beach, which is appropriate for all levels of surfers, including those who have never been on a board (and yes, lessons are available). Vibrant snorkeling and diving are a dream, particularly at Marietas Islands, which also offer a restricted-access hidden beach. Sayulita is so charming that more than a few people have decided to extend their stay here permanently, taking up jobs in the hospitality industry -- so maybe plan some flexibility on your return ticket home. In the mean time, here's our guide to Sayulita.

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When is the Best Time to Visit Sayulita?

November through April has an ideal temperature of 75 to 80 degrees with reliably blue skies, though temperatures dip enough to need a jacket in the evenings. December through April is the best time to surf thanks to a northern swell that brings in bigger waves. In November and December, you can walk to the north end of the beach to watch turtles laying their eggs. Either side of this popular season (November or April) will have the smallest crowds.

While you’re certainly welcome to visit Sayulita in May through October, summer brings regular rain, higher temperatures, and higher humidity — the rainiest days come in August and September. And, well, the point of the beach is sunshine, right?

The Best Restaurants in Sayulita

El Itacate

For a quick, delicious, and meaty eat, El Itacate serves up tacos with rib-eye steak, sirloin, pork, chicken, fish, and even vegetarian fillings like garlic-studded mushrooms. The signature special is a cheese taco shell (no tortillas need apply), and as you might have guessed, these tacos are a meal in themselves. Chill at the small bar top, one of the few outdoor tables, or take your meal to go. But don’t skimp on the salsas and beans, which are served on the side.

Yeikame Traditional Mexican

With plenty of both indoor and outdoor seating, visitors rave about Yeikame Traditional Mexican’s mole, handmade tortillas, and generous portions. Stop by for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at affordable prices (think less than 100 pesos for dinner and a drink). They serve a full menu with everything from stuffed peppers to chicken soup. For a refreshing treat, try the cucumber and lime agua fresca on a hot day.

La Esperanza

Health-conscious travelers will appreciate La Esperanza’s dedication to organic and nutritious foods. Vegetarians have several options to choose from, like poached eggs with avocado, cauliflower bites, and mushroom ceviche. Pair your meal with a seriously fresh pineapple margarita or a sunrise berry smoothie to really celebrate the beach life. Gotta get a little work done? There’s free Wi-Fi and a full coffee bar to satisfy your caffeine habit.

Where to Stay in Sayulita

Our Sayulita Hotel Pick: Siete Lunas

Looking for a tranquil spot to relax in Sayulita? Siete Lunas is the place to be. You’ll feel like you’re right in the middle of the jungle in thatched-roof suites (there are only seven of them) and floor-to-ceiling patio windows, though you’re just a 15-minute walk from the downtown area. Located on a hill, you’ll get beach views from a distance (which means fewer sounds of evening partiers) and a heated pool to lounge in when the evening temperatures drop.

Our Sayulita Hotel Pick: Hotel Villas Sayulita

Eco-conscious visitors will appreciate Hotel Villas Sayulita’s dedication to recycling and composting in addition to traditionally-styled rooms with red tile floors and adobe-style walls. The hotel is just 150 meters from the beach and a 10-minute walk to town. At the hotel’s Secret Garden, entertain yourself by watching chickens, ducks, and dogs wander around vegetable plots and a small pond. Yogis can get their Om on at the on-property studio with regularly scheduled classes. Oh, and there’s a nearby smoothie bar.

Our Sayulita Hotel Pick: Haramara Retreat

Haramara Retreat is 30 minutes from Sayulita and is located on 12 acres of private jungle, with its own private beach. The retreat features yoga pavilions, an infinity pool that overlooks the ocean, and absolutely no electricity in the cabanas — talk about a digital detox! Sign up for one of several yearly group retreats or design your own to cover your daily meals and your stay in a beautiful open-air cabana.

The Best Things to Do in Sayulita

Surf Sayulita

Whether you’re an old pro or never managed to catch a wave, you haven’t really experienced Sayulita until you’ve given surfing a shot. Sandy bottoms make wipeouts friendlier and the relaxed, consistent waves make it a good spot to learn. Rent boards or get a lesson at WildMex, which offers coaching sessions for everyone from kids to retirees. Surfs up!

Visit Marietas Islands — and Hidden Beach

Marietas Islands are a main attraction for tourists in Sayulita, in no small part thanks to the excellent snorkeling, diving, whale watching, and eye-catching flora and fauna (like the blue-footed booby). But one especially spectacular spot is Hidden Beach, which is an open crater that leads to a pristine beach, only accessible via a tunnel at low tide. Unfortunately, it’s also super popular, which has limited how many visitors  are allowed to go each day. You can still find tour companies to take you there, but you’ll want to be sure to book in advance by at least a few days to make sure there’s room for you. And be aware: Not every Marietas Islands tour goes to Hidden Beach, so read your itinerary carefully.

Find inner peace at a retreat

Daily grind got you down? Sayulita is sometimes called “The Bali of Mexico” for its yoga retreats (like the Haramara Retreat we listed above under places to stay), which are abundant. It’s a great place to find your center while enjoying the amenities of a small beach town. Not ready to dedicate your whole trip to balancing your chakras? You can still take classes at many hotels, or at local studios like Paraiso.

Watch and protect local turtles

August through December evenings, head to Turtle Camp at the north end of the beach to watch baby turtles release into the ocean. Turtle Camp works hard to preserve the cleanliness of the area and relocate turtles when necessary since female turtles always return to exactly where they were born to lay their own eggs. No flash photography or flashlights allowed (since it can spook the turtles), but it’s a unique opportunity to see these creatures in their natural habitat and to do some good. Consider donating or working with volunteers to help patrol the beach and keep the camp running.

Stuff your suitcase with souvenirs

Although Sayulita is not the least expensive place in Mexico to get souvenirs, the quality of art, clothing, and other packable items  is excellent. You’ll notice much of the art is handmade by the shop owner, so you’re getting something unique each time. Visit Galeria Tanana for local indigenous Huichol work and Casa Nahuál for traditional Mexican folk art.

Enjoy Sayulita’s nightlife

While it doesn’t get nearly as rambunctious in Sayulita as it does in, say, Cancun, there are plenty of spots to enjoy the evening if you’re looking for good music and booze. Don Pato is beloved for its live music and theme nights, which make it seem fresh every night of the week. Get a creative cocktail (especially if you love Mezcal) at Cava.

Safety in Sayulita

Sayulita’s home state, Nayarit, has a Level 2 Advisory from the U.S. State Department, which is the same advisory as countries like Italy, the UK, and Germany. This means the government suggests exercising caution, such as keeping family at home aware of your travel plans, avoiding flashy jewelry, using toll roads, and avoiding driving at night alone.

How to Get to Sayulita

The closest airport to Sayulita is the Puerto Vallarta International Airport (PVR), which hosts several non-stop flights from multiple countries as well as city hoppers from other areas like Mexico City. From PVR, it’s about an hour’s drive to Sayulita. Taxis (about 500-800 pesos or $27-43 US dollars), Uber, and rental cars are available at the airport.

The bus is the cheapest option, and a solid idea if you’re not traveling with a ton of luggage. It costs between 25 pesos (about $1.50) and 46 pesos (about $2.50) and arrives every 20 minutes between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. To catch it, cross over the pedestrian bridge from the airport and stand at the bus stop next to Salud Clinic. Look for a COMPOSTELA bus with a sign indicating it goes to Sayulita (not all of the COMPOSTELA buses go there.) It makes frequent stops, so the journey is closer to an hour and a half via bus. Once you’re in Sayulita, you might not want to leave.

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