Living in Sayulita: Community in a Lush Tropical Paradise

Table of Contents

The roving surfers, day trippers from Puerto Vallarta, and Barry Golson, with his book Gringos in Paradise, put Sayulita on the map. Behind the luscious jungle, away from all-inclusive resorts, the small pueblo magico, or government-designated ‘magic town’, is a world of its own, unlike any other Mexican town. While colorful streets, fiery sunsets, and unspoiled beaches are common on the Pacific coast, what sets Sayulita apart is its strong sense of community. 

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Local residents exude happiness, and the air is charged with positive energy. Their shared interests in movement, learning, and creating are infectious, and friendships are organically cultivated. Sayulita attracts active travelers, sustainability warriors, artistic and spiritual folk, families, solo travelers, and digital nomads. In its true inclusive fashion, Sayulita welcomes everyone with open arms. Most who visit are tempted to stay. 

How to Get to Sayulita

To get to Sayulita, you first have to fly to Puerto Vallarta on the coast of Nayarit state. The next hour-long leg of the journey is a breeze. You can take a bus, taxi, or Uber to Sayulita. 

Whichever option you choose, you won’t have trouble finding it. The nearest bus stop is just around the corner and across the road from the airport, and taxis gather in line at the entrance. 

If you choose to take the bus, look for the white and green buses with the ‘Compostela’ sign on the side and ‘Sayulita’ on the windshield and have Mexican pesos in small bills on you. 

Take a taxi if you prefer to avoid the hassle. It will drop you off directly at your accommodation or in the main square, from there, everything is just a five-minute walk in the city center. If you were dropped off at the bus terminal, the walk to the center takes around 10 minutes. Take a local taxi or get the lay of the land by getting to your accommodation on foot. 

Getting Around Sayulita

Everything in the city center is located a five-minute walk away. In fact, it takes only about 20 minutes to cross the entire town. Those staying on the outskirts tend to rent golf carts to avoid climbing hills to get to the center, but taxis are also plentiful. 

Renting a car to get around town is not necessary and even inconvenient. Traffic forms quickly as drivers try to navigate through hectic one-way narrow cobblestone streets, looking out for pedestrians and bicycles. So, unless you plan on exploring the towns around Sayulita, opt for getting around Sayulita on foot. 

Best Neighborhoods in Sayulita

The center of the pueblo is the most happening place. The main beach is only moments away, the restaurants encircle the plaza, and the nightlife is buzzing all days of the week. It’s likely to find people out until the wee hours of the morning. If you plan on joining the crowds, the noise won’t bother you. But if you are traveling with kids, looking for a tranquil vacation, or are a light sleeper, then opt to stay on the Southern or Northern edges of town, away from noise and commotion.

Weather and Seasons in Sayulita

Sayulita’s popularity has exploded in recent years thanks to incredible surf, a laid-back vibe, and nature. While tiny Sayulita still resembles a tranquil paradise during the humid rainy season from June through October, it overflows with tourism from November to May, when the weather is dry. The peak season is over Christmas, New Year, and Easter holidays. Businesses and properties relish, but tiny Sayulita struggles to accommodate the crowds, and getting around becomes uncomfortable. 

Things to Know Before Coming to Sayulita

Local Currency 

Having Mexican pesos on you is essential to comfortably enjoy your stay in Sayulita. While you can pay by card at boutiques and upscale restaurants, most venues work on a cash-only basis. You will need cash for tips, taxis, and hitting the taco stand for pre-dinner aperitivo

There are ATMs scattered around town, mainly around the main square. Usually, you have to visit a couple before finding one not out of service. Foreign currency can be conveniently exchanged at the Oxxo (local convenience store) in the city center.

WiFi

WiFi is of the basic needs for remote workers, and Sayulita gets its fair share of digital nomads. The common problem they will all agree on is that Sayulita’s WiFi could use some improvement. The connection is unreliable, and power outages are frequent in the rainy season. While the WiFi situation in Sayulita is not as bad as in Puerto Escondido, you may have to scurry around co-working spaces and cafes and test connections. If high-speed internet is not required to perform your daily tasks, you won’t be inconvenienced.

Supermarkets

There are a few local convenience stores around town and small but fully stocked grocery stores and fruterias on Avenida Revolucion. The cost of living in Sayulita is slightly higher because everything is imported. Those staying long term tend to do their big grocery hauls in Mega supermarket, located 38 minutes drive between Bucerias and Nuevo Vallarta. For organic produce and personal care products, visit the charming Terrenal Organic Food Store just outside the pueblo, on Punta de Mita main road.

Wellness and Fitness

While Sayuleros love partying until late, it’s surprising how many of the same people you see in the surf line up or at yoga the following morning. The community in Sayulita prioritizes wellness and loves to collaborate. As a result, there are different workout options and activities for every day of the week. You can experience various types of yoga at enchanting shalas, visit a Pilates studio, pump weights at a fully-equipped gym, learn new skills in a jiu-jitsu class, go surfing, take up dancing, or get out in nature. 

Do I have to Speak Spanish to Live in Sayulita? 

Sayulita has a close-knit international community and receives tourists from all over the world. Some level of English is usually spoken by staff at hotels, restaurants, and agencies. But having basic knowledge of Spanish will go a long way in integrating, availing better prices on rentals, or being able to communicate at the lovely fruterias.

Health and Safety 

Couples, families, and solo visitors will feel extremely comfortable in Sayulita. It’s a town where everyone knows one another, people stay out well into the night, and the worst enemy is the sun. Although it’s unlikely for visitors to encounter problems in Sayulita, common sense should always be applied in any country. Read our recommendations on how to keep from being a target for theft and crime [here]. (link your article on general safety advice)

Tap water is unsafe to drink in all of Mexico, and Sayulita is no exception. Consume purified bottled water, which can easily be found throughout the town in all mini-marts and restaurants.

Things to Do in Sayulita

Sayulita offers incredible beaches and an abundance of activities. With new events constantly popping up, there is never a shortage of entertainment, and there is something for everyone. 

Start your day with a leisurely walk along the beach past the bobbing lineup of surfers and pelicans in the water as you make your way to a yoga class. End the day by releasing turtles at sunset or rejuvenate with a massage. The options are endless, and taking a couple of classes is the best way to meet local residents and get the insider scoop.

Explore the Great Outdoors

The pueblo, surrounded by lush jungle, has plenty of hiking trails, which you can also explore on mountain bikes. You can hike to a hidden beach, climb Cerro del Mono mountain and enjoy 360-degree views of the bay, or join an ATV or a horseback riding tour through the jungle.

Go Shopping

Sayulita’s streets are lined with boho-chic boutiques selling unique fashion items, home décor, local crafts, artwork, pottery, pearls, surf apparel, silk dresses, and crochet tops. The stores are fun to browse around and get inspired, even if you don’t buy anything. 

Visit the hippie market across the river, where locals sell a colorful array of souvenirs, shirts, earrings, bags, hammocks, and decorative pieces.

One of the best things about living in Sayulita is even though the boutiques offer stylish getups, it doesn’t matter what you wear. You can show up for dinner in a chic outfit or sandy beach clothes – anything goes as long as you bring a positive vibe.

Learn How to Dance Salsa

Sayulita has an active nightlife, and Latin Dance Nights make an appearance three times a week! Head to Don Pedro’s on Monday, Selina on Wednesday, and Xochi on Thursday to practice your moves.

Start your Day with Yoga

If you don’t surf, taking a yoga class is the next best way to start the day in Sayulita. There are different types of yoga being taught, many yoga studios to choose from, and even retreats being held in Sayulita.

Try Jiu Jitsu

Whether you are an experienced practitioner, a female wanting to learn self-defense, or a family looking for a way to burn off kids’ energy, Sayulita Jiu Jitsu is an institution welcoming anyone. 

The coaches are fantastic with children; the classes are conducted in both English and Spanish simultaneously, and the parents get to mingle while watching their kids having a ton of fun.

Adult classes are extremely inclusive and are a great way to try something new and meet people. Also, the dojo has a smoothie bar, which is a great place to hang out before or after class.

Take a Surfing Class

Surfing is one of the main reasons people come to Sayulita. The waves are fantastic for beginners and challenging enough for experienced surfers. When in Sayulita, taking a surfing lesson is a must. Stand-up paddle boarding to nearby beaches is also available.

Whale Watching and Sea Turtle Release

Sayulita is a prime spot for whale watching, and from December to March, humpback whales can be seen from the beach. Watching them breach the surface up close from a boat tour is a bucket list experience.

Between August and December, the volunteers at the local turtle sanctuary Campamento Tortuguero located north of Sayulita Beach, welcome visitors to help release baby sea turtles into the ocean at sunset. 

Best Beaches in Sayulita

Playa Sayulita is the main beach, located two blocks from the plaza decorated with colorful papel picado (colorful flags made of perforated paper). It’s busy with surfers, vendors, and vacationers relaxing in the lounge chairs. The water is shallow near the shore, rather than an immediate drop, so parents can relax while their kids play. The beach bars get livelier as the day progresses, and residents and tourists alike come out to farewell the day at sunset.

Playa de Los Muertos, where the waves are more gentle but sunsets are equally stunning, is only a 15-minute walk from the center. It gets the name ‘beach of the dead’ from the colorful cemetery visitors have to pass on the way to the beach.  

Playa Carracitos is a hidden beach accessible by hiking through the jungle. Here, you get the best sunset views but keep in mind there are no food and beverage or seating facilities, so bring what you need and enjoy the seclusion. 

Indulge in Scrumptious Food in Sayulita

Despite the growth in popularity with international visitors, Sayulita has retained its Mexican roots. There are many restaurant options in town, including Thai, Italian, and Japanese, but Mexican cuisine is predominant. You can sample Mexican flavors and fresh seafood at the myriad of taco venues in Sayulita, from street stands to bohemian bars. Restaurants line the main streets, and the seating spills onto the cobbled road.

Try authentic Mexican street food at Naty’s Cocina, irresistible steak tacos at El Itacate, and the best seafood dishes in town at Mary’s that will keep you coming back. 

Pop by the artisanal bakery hole-in-the-wall Paninos Express, which is only open for breakfast serving the best coffee and freshly baked pastries if you are in a rush. Or soak in the boho atmosphere as you sip creative coffee drinks at Miscellanea Cafe

Satisfy your pizza cravings with delicious wood-fired pizza at La Rustica and enjoy drinks at their rooftop bar.

Best Day Trips from Sayulita

San Francisco, fondly known as San Pancho, is a charming sleepy surf town 15 minutes north of Sayulita. Getting there is easy – you can catch the bus or a taxi. It’s a smaller version of Sayulita minus the crowds. Most people don’t hear about San Pancho until they get to Nayarit as the town is popular mostly among Mexican vacationers. So, consider it a tranquil secret spot with hipster cafes, bohemian shops, yoga, and surfing but at a slower pace. San Pancho is a perfect day trip, but many prefer it over Sayulita as the place to stay. Oh, and there is a Golden Gate Bridge too, but a fraction of the size of the real one!

Puerto Vallarta is Sayulita’s big sister. It’s a busy city where millions of tourists fly in and disembark on cruise ships. Stroll along the turquoise coast, explore the craft markets, experience local hikes, and climb the Mirador Cerro de La Cruz, the highest point of the city, for sweeping ocean views.

Visiting Marietas Islands is probably the best day trip you can take from Sayulita, but we will let you decide! The exclusive tour takes you to a group of small uninhabited islands off the coast of Nayarit created by volcanoes. If you are visiting during whale season (December to March), you’ll likely see humpback whales and lots of other marine wildlife while snorkeling. Only 116 people per day can visit the stunning hidden beach called Playa del Amor. The tour departs from Puerto Vallarta, and it’s recommended to book tickets in advance as they sell out fast.

Visitors are enamored of Sayulita’s distinct culture, international crowd, and anything-goes attitude. The charming town resembles the early stages of development Playa del Carmen and Puerto Vallarta went through to become the tourism meccas they are today. But Sayulita’s atmosphere is unlike anywhere else along the Pacific Coast, where the community truly makes you feel at home away from home. And you will decidedly wish to extend your vacation and dream about an idyllic slice of Sayulita’s paradise to call your own by the end of your visit. 

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