Tourist Overview of Sayulita, Mexico


Colorful sign that reads “Sayulita” in the center of town. Sayulita is full of unusual artwork and is ripe with festivity during this time of year.
Photo by Colette Greif

Sayulita is a lively beach town in Mexico located along the coast of Puerto Vallarta. The area typically has a harsh sun and mostly clear blue skies with the occasional cool, cloudy weather. Sayulita has approximately 5,000 people and is popularly considered to be very beautiful, making it a common tourist attraction for its beaches and scenery.

According the MOON guidebook: Puerto Vallarta: Including Sayulita & the Riviera Nayarit written by Justin Henderson, Sayulita was “once mostly the home of fishing families, coconut and mango farmers, and oyster divers.” Interesting enough, Mexico is populated by a lot of people from up North. “Sayulita is now home to a decent-size group of primarily American and Canadian part-time expats (these are the people who own the houses on the hills)”, according to the guidebook. These homes are also rented out by tourists and provide beautiful views of the city and the ocean. Despite the perks, something that needs to be considered once you arrive in Mexico, especially if it’s your first time leaving the country, is the sudden illness that has been commonly occuring due to what some consider a mysterious virus in the air. Best case scenario, you may feel weak, sick, and have a loss of appetite, and worse case scenario you might experience diarrhea and/or feel nausea. It may affect some people worse than others, but it goes away eventually. Something else to keep in mind is all the grocery stores readily sell bottled water due to a potential problem stemming from the condition of the delivery system, however it is safe to use for brushing teeth and cooking. Considering its small size, there are a lot of great places you can shop in Sayulita. Even if you’re not looking to buy anything, it’s cool to observe the colorful and original clothes, jewelry, artwork, and of course, surfboards and paddle boards. According to the guidebook, “It is becoming something of a shopping destination.” Many of the pottery and crafts such as dolls and woven bracelets and sacks are hand-made, and there are also plenty of jewelry stores in Sayulita, and “another two dozen talented vendors selling jewelry from small portable stalls at the side of the street.” There are also plenty of pharmacies and massage therapists in Sayulita, with one appearing on almost every block. All the shops are small, compact and don’t have doors, only screens that come down at certain hours during the day. Shops, stores, and restaurants are stacked on top of each other. Cars drive through the city at the same time people are crossing the cobblestone road and there are no stops, crosswalks, or even speed limits.

Around town are tons of vegetables, groceries, and baked goods available at several“tiendas” and “abarrotes”(snack shops), as well as local-style food supplied by a lineup of taco stands and carts at night as well as some beachfront palapa restaurants. Some recommended restaurants to visit are Choco Banana in the nerve center of Sayulita, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner ranging from“hearty American-style breakfasts, veggie and meat burgers, fish fillets, carrot cake, and a good espresso.” They are named after their famous frozen chocolate-covered banana treats. Another delicious restaurant in Sayulita is Calypso, which offers a great view of the plaza where you can watch the street performers during meals. The portions are notoriously huge, which makes them perfect for sharing and the menu offers a nice selection of dishes, from salads, pastas, fresh seafood and barbecue chicken.

There are no banks yet, but there are ATMs everywhere. They are convenient but also risky since people have stolen from them in the past and apparently “the cash machines in Sayulita charge excessively high fees and limit the amount of money one can withdraw from a single account in a single day to 3,000 pesos.” It’s recommended that people get their money at the airport or at a bank in Vallarta or Bucerias. On the beach, there are numerous chairs with umbrellas set up that cost pesos to “rent” out for hours to a whole day. Surfboards, boogie boards and even lessons are also provided. The water is super warm and salty and the waves break onto the shore. It’s better to move further south since the town beach can be extremely crowded, especially during Semana Santa, Easter Week, Mexico’s biggest holiday. Sayulita is an amazing, colorful, and beautiful city that is a great place to party on the beach, take hikes, and eat good food. It is also super tourist-friendly. There is a wide variety of things to do, and although you may inevitably feel unwell for some time, which might linger after you return, it is definitely a fun and worthwhile experience.

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