Pass up the costly resorts, visit Sayulita

Pass up the costly resorts, visit Sayulita

For the budget-conscious traveler looking for an authentic cultural experience, Sayulita sure delivers.

Sayulita is a sleepy little fishing village on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, with the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains as the backdrop. With 5,000 full-time residents, it offers the right mix of history and funky culture.

We stayed about three blocks from downtown in a quiet pocket off the beaten path. But if you want total peace and quiet, consider staying out of the town area for lots of local nightlife and wildlife.

Central Sayulita Beach is the most popular due to world-class waves and its proximity to downtown. The beach is sandy and perfect for kids playing in the waves and surfers alike. Stand-up paddleboards, body surfing, surfing, you name it – water sports of all kinds are available, with lots of cheap rental options right on the beach. Umbrellas, chairs and full beverage and food service are available as well.

Pass up the costly resorts, visit Sayulita
Visitors pass through the Cementerio de Sayulita on the way to Playa de los Muertos (Kevin Parker photo)

If you want a slower pace with fewer crowds, try Playa de los Muertos. A short walk from town took us through a colorful arch and down past a hilly graveyard of colorful stonework, flowers and other items honoring the dead.

Muertos is a small slice of beach tucked between the rocks with plenty of sandy shoreline. Palm trees and foliage provide some shade, while the nearby rocks and calmer waters offer excellent viewing of tide pool activity and fish alike.

The downtown is a vibrant and exciting culture that comes alive at night, with Sayulita Plaza as the focal point. If you count all the local vendors, there are more than 100 food options at any given time. They close a few streets off to car traffic, which brings out machete jugglers, fire dancers and street performers of all kinds.

Other town highlights included ice cream at Buonissimo, shrimp with jalapeno aioli at Rustica, 50-peso donkey rides around town, Marquesitas (crepes filled with cheese and Nutella) and fish pedicures.

Our adventure to the Islas Marietas National Park via 56-foot catamaran was a trip favorite. (Check Ally Kat Sailing.) We got up close to humpback whales, Manta rays, birds, dolphins and lots of tropical fish. We also saw hundreds of blue-footed boobies, only found in one other place on earth: the Galapagos Islands.

We made a quick swim from a smaller boat to the shore for a tour and some snorkeling. The islands are protected, with a limited number of visitors allowed each day.

Want some culture and relaxation? Want to learn to surf? Want to just lie on the beach or play in the waves? Check out Sayulita, Mexico.

Sayulita, Mexico
Travel: Fly to Puerto Vallarta (PVR). Jose Ramos Transportation will take you 25 miles north to Sayulita for $130 U.S. round-trip, with grocery store stop. Safe and reliable.
Stay: We rented through VRBO. Daily housecleaning and groundskeeper included. Affordable, lots of options.
Town stats:
Called the “Magical Town” because of its colorful ambiance and convergence of cultures.
Popular hippie and off the beaten path travel destination.
Part of Riviera Nayarit coastal corridor.
Lots of recreation activities: surfing, fishing, swimming, snorkeling, horses, ATVs, golf, excursions, zip lining, mountain biking.
Trip highlights:
Central Sayulita Beach: best waves for learning to surf.
Access to local food, artwork and goods.
Local vibes, culture and safety.
Use of peso: Get your numbers straight before you go. Very few places accept credit cards, and the U.S. dollar gets a poor rate when street bartering.
Islas Marietas National Park.
Golf carts: best mode of transportation in town.

Contact Kevin Parker with comments or questions by email at