Best in Sayulita, Mexico. A guide to a beachside paradise.

Sayulita was once a sleepy fishing village. Surfer’s first found the gentle right point break in the 70’s and the town has since changed dramatically. Sayulita retains its relaxed atmosphere but buzzes with a weekly turnover of visitors from around the globe, most predominantly from America’s west coast, and a large permanent expat community that has fueled a building and infrastructure boom over the last ten years. The once dirt roads are now paved, Sayulita boasts a dedicated ambulance and medical staff, a volunteer staffed animal shelter looks after all the dogs in town, they have a boulangerie, gelato, decent coffee, amazing restaurants and incredible natural assets. It’s family friendly, safe, and still retains an authentic vibe. But most visitors to Sayulita will only have time to do so much, so here is the best of the best in Sayulita.

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Photo: Flickr / dog4aday

What time of year is best in Sayulita?

High season in Sayulita coincides with dry season (November thru April), holidays are just better when you’re not having to take shelter in a hotel room for the afternoon because of torrential rain, the climate is also far more pleasant. There are a few busy times of year that are best avoided, I have written about these times here. From May, it starts to heat up, the rains come in, and the crowds disappear. I’d say it is a requirement to have A/C in your apartment from May onwards. By August, even in the shade it feels like you’re in an oven, most restaurants will close, and the town will feel deserted but for a smattering of locals. BUT HEY, you’ll have the beach to yourself.

Where to stay in Sayulita

There are going to be differing opinions on this one. For me, I lived in the south of town, so of course I think it’s better, it’s more rustic, your neighbours are more likely to be locals who have lived in Sayulita for generations. It’s not for everyone though, the majority of expats live to the north of town or on gringo hill, and have put in decent roads and a variety of restaurants catering to tourists. It’s cleaner, it’s touristy, it’s less Mexican-y. That works for some people but I’m all about having neighbours that still keep roosters that crow at 5am, I want my roads to wash out in big storms, I love it when my afternoon nap is disturbed by ranchero music, I want restaurant staff who don’t speak english, because I came to Mexico to experience Mexico and, hey, love it or leave it, this is Mexico.

How to find the best place in Sayulita to stay

A great way to find accommodation in Sayulita is to hit the forums at SayulitaLife.com. Go to the message boards with some requirements, something like:

March 20 – 27, 2 bedrooms, 1.5 bath, pool, A/C, AREA (northside, southside, gringo hill).

And see what comes back, the likelyhood is that one of the rental property owners will get back to you with an offer. But maybe you like hotels more, same deal, get on the forums and ask for what you want and someone will steer you in the right direction. The advice at the forum is usually very usefull, coming from people who are actually living in Sayulita and know things like who is having a four storey apartment building noisily erected next to their hotel. Local knowledge really is the best in Sayulita.

I lived at Tambo de Oro and really enjoyed it, but it might be a little bit out of town for some folks.

Where to hang

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Photo: Flickr / jramels

You mean other than at the beach? Activity is centered around the town square, lined with restaurants, shops and clubs, there is nearly always something happening in the square, with shady benches it’s a nice place to grab coffee from hipster Yah-Yah’s and watch Sayulita go about its business. At weekends, it turns family-friendly with travelling performers coming to entertain townsfolk.

Markets

Traditional Huichol weaves and stuffed toys can be purchased at market stalls that line Las Gaviotas across from Chile Rellenos restaurant, this market expands on Fridays and sells all sorts of treasure and tatt.

Also on Fridays (High-season only) is the must visit Mercado Del Pueblo farmer’s market. Located on calle Revolucion north of the bridge leading out of town.

Shopping

Best in Sayulita shopping
Evoke the Spirit / TravelAgeWest

 

Sayulita is home to a literally vibrant shopping scene focusing on housewares and apparel. Inspired by the tropical surrounds, Sayulita’s retailers have created a signature look with plays on hippy vibes, fluorescent colors, and indigenous Mexican styling. The stores are scattered amongst the narrow lanes of the centre of town with some standouts including, Revolución Del Sueño and Evoke the Spirit.

Also worth a look is Z Galeria on the north side of  Calle Revolucion. Artist Zoey Pierce creates encaustic paintings that hang on many walls in local resorts and sells original work for vacationers to take home.

And if you insist on working

Yes, Sayulita has internet. No, you’re not the first person to ask. In fact, Sayulita CoWork has fibre optic internet and is coolest place in Sayulita to get things done. With daily rates as well as great deals for long-term users, the question surely has to be how do I permanently move my business to the beach.

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Photo: Flickr / apasciuto

Where to Eat

Let’s start at the top end, the fancy stuff, the night out. There are so many places to eat in Sayulita it’s bordering on ridiculous. But here the few I believe to be the best in Sayulita.

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 Il Vizietto

I’ve written about Il Vizietto before, so I’m going to keep this short. As far as eating goes, this is the best in Sayulita. It’s the first place I take anyone visiting, I think that says it all. Read my previous review.

KM5 Surf Bar

You’ll need a car, or maybe you can get a taxi, but halfway between Sayulita and Punta Mita, is a small town named Higuera Blanca where you will find KM5 Surf Bar. The food is good (some of the best salads in the area and wood fired pizza), the mezcal is out of this world, and the sunsets are stunning. Sunday evening is always a good time to go as they usually have live bands.

And for the day-to-day meal, like the taco stand you can’t stop going to.

Alas Blancas

As it is tucked in behind the far more busy Restaurant El Costeno, the beach front Alas Blancas restaurant is a hidden gem. Run by the same folks who own the fine wine and beer store a street back from the beach, the selection of beverages is more varied than any other restaurant in Sayuilta. But the real attraction here is the aguachile, shrimp and fish marinated in a blend of orange juice, tomatillo, and habanero. And of course, there’s the view.

Birria Stand

Photo: Flickr / Krista
Photo: Flickr / Krista

This place doesn’t even have a name, not that I know of anyway. It’s a one woman operation turning out delicious bowls of Birria, goat stew, that has long been a staple in Jalisco and Nayarit. It’s delicious, rich and served with an annoyed grimace by the lady chef who can act however she wants when the food is this good. She’s usually in her little spot most mornings next to Chilly Willy’s restaurant on Calle Revolucion heading south out of town.

Burrito Revolution

North of the town square, from the side farthest from the beach is Burrito Revolution. It’s all about the sauces here, but especially the chipotle sauce. It’s orange and near enough the best sauce in the world. Add it to a delicious shrimp or mahi mahi burrito. As the menu says, “Your tips  help purchase vital AK47s to sustain the revolution.” And so, Burrito Revolution is my tip.

El Itacate

Photo: TripAdvisor / Tonia S
Photo: TripAdvisor / Tonia S

A couple of doors down from Burrito Revolution is a steak taco joint named El Itacate. It’s been awarded a Trip Advisor certificate of excellence numerous times and is generally busy, they work from a small kitchen turning out juicy prime cut tacos for the tables outside the restaurant. I can recommend the New York.

Home

No, it’s not the name of some kitschy restaurant. It’s your home. If you have a grill, I thoroughly recommend visiting the fish wholesaler on Calle Libertad. There you can buy a full side of so-fresh-it’s-still-flipping mahi mahi (or dorado, as it’s commonly called in Mexico) for about $4. There isn’t a sign, but the house is white with blue accents, as anything associated with fish generally is. If you can’t find it ask directions from the guy who works at the corner store on the corner of Avienda Revolucion and Calle Libertad.

Where to drink

The Beach

For me, there is little better than grabbing a cold Minerva (A craft brewery from Guadalajara) from Alas Blancas, walking to the very south end of the beach and drinking in quiet solitude. One of the truly magnificent things about Sayulita, and Mexico generally, is that no one is going to begrudge you drinking a beer wherever it feels good.

Villa Amor

Located on the point at the south end of the beach, Villa Amor is the perfect sunset spot. They have a bunch of chairs out on a lawn where you can very nearly touch the water and a decent happy hour.

Escondido

Photo: Dekker Photography
Photo: Dekker Photography

What I really like about Escondido, besides the cocktails and beer, is that you  can watch the goings-on in the town square from the quiet solitude of a small outdoor deck. If only they provided binoculars so you could get some detailed people watching / spying going on.

Where to hike

Sayulita Life has good directions to most of the beaches in the area, but here are the two secluded beaches I think are the best in Sayulita.

Playa de los muertos

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Photo: Flickr / ralmonline alm

Head south along the beach from town, walking through Villa Amor, follow the road over the hill and past the cemetery for which the beach is named. Here you will find a secluded cove, a lifeguard (sometimes), and a man selling fresh oysters and grilled whole shrimp. A visit to Playa de los Muertos will be one of the things that makes you fall real hard in love with Sayulita.

Playa Cerritos

From Muertos keep taking forks in the road that head south until you come to some private land where it looks like you shouldn’t pass but do it anyway, eventually you’ll come to a bend to the left and spot a path running through the jungle, often there will be parked cars also. The path to Cerritos is one of the more lovely parts of the jungle surrounding Sayulita. The beach is wide, infrequently visited and about as isolated as you can feel on a beach near Sayulita.

Sayulita River

I wouldn’t recommend this hike to anyone but the adventurous, but you can hike along the Sayulita river to the main road, passing through gorges and farmland. I’ve previously written about the trek in more detail. Maybe not the best in Sayulita, but definitely interesting and challenging.

Where to surf

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Photo: Flickr / Christopher Michel

The right hand point break is what made Sayulita famous. It works during dry seasons when swells are sucked around Baja and peel down the pebblestone river mouth with a gentle push. It’s a great wave but spectacularly mobbed by tourists and locals who don’t mind running you over, as, unfortunately, Jo-Roxy found out the hard way. Despite living there, I rarely surfed in Sayulita preferring to drive to Burros or La Lancha where the crowds are more manageable. For the uninitiated, the south end of the beach is where the learners should be surfing.

What to do

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Hot springs

This is probably not for folks on vacation, but if you have the time, it’s about a hour and fifteen minutes drive on some rough roads (SUV recommended) but once you get there the Aguas Termales de Neuvo Lxtlan are a lovely day out. I’ve written about them here.

Fishing and Marietas

Photo: Flickr / Christian Frausto Bernal
Photo: Flickr / Christian Frausto Bernal

The Marietas islands are famous for having a small beach cove in the middle of Banderas Bay accessed by a narrow cave. It’s rare to be there by yourself but it is an incredible place.

There are about a million shopfronts where you can book a fishing boat, but I would always just wander down the south end of the beach where the boats are parked, find the table where the fishermen clean their catch and ask someone to take me out. I don’t think we paid more than $20pp for 6 of us to go fishing in the morning and visit the marietas for snorkelling in the afternoon.

Sit on the beach all day

I don’t think you need a guide for this, it’s the reason you came. What’s the best in Sayulita? This is it.

Helpful map of cool things in Sayulita

I’ve marked everything mentioned in this article in the map below.

Other Sayulita stories.

Here are some of the pieces I wrote while living in Sayulita

SATURDAY AT SAYULITA CLASSIC

IS SAYULITA A TOURISTY SHITHOLE?

A STRANGE ENCOUNTER WITH SAYULITA POLICE

DRIVING FROM LOS ANGELES TO SAYULITA, NAYARIT CROSSING THE MEXICAN BORDER AT NOGALES, ARIZONA

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