Sayulita, a funky fishing village that feels a lot like Puerto Vallarta did a few decades ago, is still small town Mexico, with its appealing town plaza the heart and soul of the place. A surfing mecca of international renown, the shoreline of this picturesque fishing village is dotted with coves and beaches where surfers do their thing alongside day trippers from Puerto Vallarta.
Given its earthy feel and it’s appeal among younger crowds, it might be easy to dismiss Sayulita as a party town. But with the vast majority of its residents committed to healthy living (through surfing, yoga, organic products and such) it’s not unusual for its nightlife to dwindle shortly after midnight.
This is the Mexico that Puerto Vallarta was a couple of decades ago, fishing, farming, fiestas and siestas primary activities, its dusty streets dotted with lazy dogs ritualistically hosed morning and evening while children play with twigs and tires. And the town square is lovely, with lots of benches, shade, and good people watching, especially in the evenings.
Sayulita is definitely becoming more popular with tourists, national and foreign, which has done nothing to tarnish its dramatic wild beauty, but new shops and other business are lending a more trendy feel to the place year by year.
Sayulita is located less than 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta along Carr. 200 Norte. The exit on the highway is clearly marked. People traveling from Punta de Mita and surrounding communities can also take the direct route to Sayulita through Litibú. And if you are visiting Sayulita just for the day, driving the “North Shore Loop” is highly recommended, as it will allow you to take in several communities at once.
You can also travel to Sayulita from Puerto Vallarta using public transportation by boarding a Compostela bus at Walmart, in front of the Maritime Terminal. Round trips are scheduled throughout the day. The bus will drop you off as you enter the downtown area, and just about everything you will want to explore is located within walking distance.
Culture: Arts, Music, Cuisine
There is never a shortage of things to do in Sayulita, whether it is enjoying a fine dinner at a local restaurant, catching a late-night set performed by one of the local bands, or enjoying a photo exhibit at a local shop. It’s all there, albeit, in much smaller proportions than in Puerto Vallarta. Evelyne Boren, a painter of international renown calls Sayulita home, and frequently opens her studio for visitors to get to know her paintings up close.
Neighborhoods & Neighboring Regions
Most of the action in Sayulita takes place in and around the town’s main plaza, which is located two small blocks away from the beach. Surrounding the plaza, a radius of several blocks features a variety of shops selling everything, from traditional Mexican artifacts to surfing gear. Sayulita is home to a large number of jewelers who craft wristbands, earring and other accessories by hand, frequently incorporating natural elements into their design.
A small stream divides the town in two, the north end being more residential. Beautiful homes and condos located on the hillside and beachfront offer spectacular views of Sayulita bay. Unless you are staying high up on the hills, it’s easy to walk to the main plaza, even crossing the river on foot, except during the rain season, when the pedestrian or vehicular bridges are a better option.
Five minutes north of Sayulita along Carr. 200 Norte lies San Pancho, an equally delightful small oceanfront town. Heading south from Sayulita, it takes about 10 minutes to reach Punta de Mita through Litibú, and about 12 minutes to reach Bucerías along the main highway.
- Unless it is something you truly don’t fancy, you must surf while in Sayulita. A number of shops offer all the equipment you’ll need (to purchase or rent) along with instruction, so you can experience first-hand why Sayulita has become such an important surfing destination.
- Even if you don’t do it, surfing is still fun to watch. Pull up a beach chair under an umbrella or palapa with a cold beer or margarita, and enjoy the show.
- Walk the town. It’s a great town to just wonder up and down the streets, taking in the interesting shops and cafes, and it doesn’t take long to do.
- An unusually high number of iguanas have set up residence on what is commonly known as the “Iguana Tree,” a privately-owned tree on Av. del Palmar, one block away from the main plaza, attracting curious tourists and passersby.
- The Huichol Center for Cultural Survival, dedicated to preserving the traditions of the Huichol indians native to the area, has a gallery (Galería Tanana) at the entrance of town, where traditional beaded art is sold. Every purchase made helps the non-profit organization fulfill its goals.
Sayulita’s main beach has all the amenities you might need to spend a day worshipping the sun or the waves. There are palapa restaurants on the beach and inexpensive commida corrida-type spots, as well as gourmet food available, if that’s what you’re in the mood for after a day of swimming and sunning. The surf is moderate most of the times, making it ideal for swimming. And those looking to get their feet wet, pun intended, will find the surf ideal for learning how to surf.
A short walk heading south along the beach and over a small hill (past the town cemetery) takes you to Los Muertos, a smaller, more tranquil beach ideal for families with small children, or those looking for a more secluded hideaway.
Where to Stay
There are hotel accommodations for just about every budget in Sayulita, along with a handful of campgrounds and motorhome-specific options. In addition, many residences and condos are available for short- and long-term rental directly from their owners. The best source we have seen can be found at Sayulita Life.
Most of the real estate available in Sayulita is for single family homes; there is not much in the way of condominiums. To find out what real estate is for sale, you practically have to visit all the real estate agencies there, as most homeowners and agencies do not use the regional MLS to a great extent, they just let the agencies know they want to sell There are properties in the MLS, but there are certainly more for sale than are currently showing.
- Homes & Condos currently listed for sale in Sayulita
- Real Estate “new product” developments in Sayulita
Regular Important Events
- The Annual Punta Sayulita Surf Classic takes place February/March, uniting top competitors from around the world.
- Punta Sayulita organizes environmentally friendly civic events, from beach cleanings to film screenings, which can be found on their news page.
- Sayulita’s farmers’ market, or Mercado del Pueblo, sets up shop on Friday’s, 10 am – 2 pm during the Winter and Spring months. You can easily stay in touch with their activities by liking their Facebook page. The more traditional Mexican outdoor market (tianguis) takes place on Sundays.
- Sayulita celebrates its anniversary every February 24.
An important institution in Sayulita, Costa Verde International School is an ecological, community-oriented, multicultural and bilingual private school that provides a stimulating curriculum for elementary and middle school youth, with small class sizes and hands-on instruction.