Once a dusty fishing village, Sayulita is now a sunny, boho-centric surf mecca, where the Sierra Madres tumble into glistening blue waves that kiss the shore. Out of the rainforest, fringy palms spring forth and sway in the ocean breeze, while birds wheel into the sea and pelicans hold court on rocky crags. Not too far from Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita is not only a tropical paradise, it’s also the hippest beach you’ve probably never heard of. We’re here to give you all the ins and outs of Sayulita, an unprecedented, uncharted, sexy Beach Eden.
A PERFECT 10
1. Beaching. Sayulita Beach, the main gathering spot in this gorgeous area, is a long stretch of tawny sand and best of all, it’s a party. You’ll see surfers ridin’ the swells, kayakers floating along, paddle boarders truckin’ along, families picnicking, musicians strolling and vendors out and about with their wares. There are also restaurants if you don’t want to lug a bunch of vittles with you. Another beach, one that’s a bit quieter and one of the safest in the area, is Playa Los Muertos. It’s just north of Punta Sayulita and named for a nearby cemetery. One of our True Beach Lovers has been there and here’s what she said,
“It’s a short 15-minute walk on mostly level ground until get you to a small cove past the cemetery (hence the name). This beach has clean water, sparkling white sand, few people, the odd vendor selling snacks and a laid-back atmosphere. Great for getting away from the tourists and craziness in downtown Sayulita.”
Net net: this locale is a bit more chill and is more of a cove, so it’s good for family outings. Patzcuaro and Patzcuarito are two beaches that are overflowing with rustic beauty and privacy, but beware of strong currents. North Sayulita Beach is where sea turtles lay their eggs between June and November; this one is best for sunning because of the rough waves. Playa Las Cuevas has magical white sand and is the perfect getaway for a day trip. At low tide, you can trek on over to Playa Malpasos, a beach that is truly secluded so bring your own nibbles. Sayulita beaches don’t disappoint.
2. Surfing. In the late 1960s, surfers were some of the first people to head down to Sayulita and hit the swells. But you don’t have to be a pro: the waves are perfect for all levels and you can take lessons. Note: December to April is the best season for surfing and one of the best things about Sayulita is the consistent surf break. The top places to hit are San Blas, Punta Mita, San Pancho and La Lancha. Another beach that’s further south is Playa Carricitos. It’s great for body surfing (and regular surfing). However, because of the high waves, it’s not the best place for families, but for all you adventure junkies and wave riders, this is your home. For awesome vintage surfboards, you’ll want to check out Quiverito–it’s just a half a block from the beach. If you’re not up for surfing, snorkeling is great here, especially in Playa de Los Muertos, which is a safe beach for swimming. Other spots to check out near Sayulita are the Las Marietas Islands (stunning rock formations, octopus, possibly Sea Horses) and Punta Los Arcos (gentle waves and lots of sea creatures). If you really want to dive in, you can scuba and the dive masters are ready to take you out to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle and Punta Mita. The Marietas are excellent: The waters surrounding these islands are a marine sanctuary: you’ll see countless fish, undersea tunnels and funky grottos. There’s so much surfing in Sayulita, you might not know where to start.
3. Boarding. So, what do you fancy? Here in Sayulita, there are boards for everyone. Boogie boarding is probably the easiest to learn and can be a splish-splashy blast. Paddle boarding is big here and Sayulita has gained the reputation as the capitol for this sport in Mexico. Take a lesson and you could be off exploring secret coves and aahmazing beaches. Kayaking is perfect for those who like to cruise along the ocean’s surface, take in the tropical landscape and breathe in the fresh sea air. For those who are into riding the wind on a sailboard, or a kite board, head to Bucerias that’s less than half an hour away from Sayulita. On land, skate boarding is all the rage. Parents, there are lots of paved, smooth paths in Sayulita that are ready for your kiddos who will love hitting the curbs and ramps, and shredding those hills. In Sayulita, no one ever gets, er, board.
4. Yoga-ing. Sayulita is somewhat of a yoga mecca so getting your pose on here is easy. There are world-class studios, lots of super instructors, as well as a ginormous variety. Better still, you can find your Zen on the beach, sunrise or sunset–even on a paddle board. Yoga retreats and workshops are also plentiful. Paraiso Yoga is a special retreat and has a “Zen surfer” mentality. At the helm is Naranyani who is certified in Hatha and Ashtanga. After a class, you can de-stress even more with a Thai massage. Yogini, Moonchild and Sun Lover, Eva Estlander is also a formidable yoga instructor. A former marketing, instructor with a degree in economics, she combines the power of Vinyasa flow with the restorative energy in Yin. Her practice is well worth checking out. The fun part about being here, and if you’re up for it, you can toggle between yoga and surfing. Talk about a sweet day in Sayulita.
5. Noshing. Whew, where to begin? There are so many delish places in Sayulita. First, you won’t find any better tacos in the world. At the stands, they’re a dollar a piece. Can’t beat that. Other great places to try in Sayulita are The Burrito Revolution, Carmelito’s Fish Taco and Chilly Willys (seafood and beer). If your palate is calling you to venture away from Mexican fare, you can dine on Italian, French, Mediterranean and sushi. For vacation carb-indulging, there are even bakeries that serve up European-inspired breads. La Esperanza is where you can get healthy eats and vegan options. Finally, Los Corazones (swoon) will steal your heart with their mouth-watering cuisine that’s literally food art, along with the bright red exterior and accents inside. Beach appetit.
6. Partying. If you want to throw down in Sayulita in a laid-back way, Club de Playa Camaron is where you want to be. Their cumbia set is a sexy dance fest and can last well into the wee hours. Lucid has great drinks, rockin’ sound system and a dart board. Sayulita Public House is pub that has a kickin’ collection of Mexican microbrews and you won’t want to miss ordering a double of Tierra Noble Tequila. El Mezcalito is a hip, candle lit joint that exudes charm along with tequila and live bands. Don Pedro’s is right on the water where you can grab a cocktail. This place was started in 1992 by two cousins from LA who initially set off on a surf and culinary adventure and never left. For a cool wine bar, Ino Laboratorio Gastronomico is your best bet. You can nosh there, too. Here’s to you having the time of your life in sexy Sayulita.
7. Chilling. One word: spas. Sayulita is overflowing with them. After a day of surfing, it’s what’s on tap. One place to visit is Nirvanna Spa, where it’s not only affordable, but also the deep tissue massage is raved about. Body Restoration Massage Studio and Boutique is doubly good: you can chill, then shop. Next, the Studio for Structural Integration and Massage offers massages as well as Rolfing. Body and Soul Massage is a great option and it’s on the beach. Another way to detox is through Temezcal Mexican sweat lodges, along with yoga retreats/workshops. If your idea of chilling includes exercise, there’s everything from Zumba to Power Ropes here, too. The ways to chill in Sayulita are endless.
8. Shopping. All over Sayulita you’ll see tianguis, which is a word derived from the ancient local language, Nahuatl, which refers to open air, temporary markets. One is called, you guessed it Sayulita’s, which takes place every Sunday on a two block stretch of Calle Gaviotas. There are two blocks to this section, but you’ll want to go to the second block, where you’ll find a great selection of hand-crafted jewelry, woven blankets, table cloths, as well as pottery, masks and other art and crafts. Evoke is one place you must visit: there are blow-your-mind skulls, pottery and other crafty things you’ll want to take home with you. Revolucion del Sueno is cute little boutique that offers clothing, home decor and much more. PachaMama is epic: stunning, hand-crafted Mexican embroidered dresses, purses, dreamcatchers and accessories. If you’re into art gallery hopping, you can swing by Arte de Sayulita, Artefakto and Cori Jacobs Gallery. Whether you want to browse an open-air market or head to the boutiques, you can find it in Sayulita.
9. Exploring. From beach-combing to whale-watching, there is so much to see and do here in this slice of beach paradise aka Sayulita. If you want to see the magic of a turtle release, they take place during the end of October and November so come on down then. Other outdoorsy things to do (and there are many in Sayulita), are bike riding on trails, hiking, zip lining and even riding a horse. Since Sayulita was once a fishing village, you know you can do this here. Your catches might include a big ‘ole tuna, dazzling dorado or even a half-dozen huachinango, which is red snapper. Day trips are also popular and fun. Alta Vista is where you can wander through an ancient, yet still active aboriginal religious site called the Petroglyphs. The sacred pools, butterflies, birds and different kinds of trees are incredible. Surrounded by lush mountains, San Sebastian is one of Mexico’s last remaining colonial towns with stunning architecture hugged by cobblestone streets. It’s got loads of charm virtually untouched by time. Here you can nosh on coffee and agave, shop and eat. Try El Galletero Magico. Lastly, Talpa is a city surrounded by pine-covered mountains and the big draw here is the Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Rosario Talpa, which has beautiful decorations during the winter holidays. We’ve barely scratched the sandy surface of all the things you can discover in and around Sayulita.
10. Romancing. Whether you’re single, getting married or planning a honeymoon, Sayulita is inherently romantic: the purr of the waves, warmth of the sun and best of all, the lack of clothing that’s required when you’re gallivanting about. If you’re single you might want to check out Escondido, where you can savor mezcal/tequila-based cocktails in a relaxed spot just off the main square. Yambak is also a hoppin’ joint. Bar Don Pato’s Aria Lounge & “Al Bacaro” Osteria are good bets, too. For proposals, anywhere in blessed Sayulita is more than perfect: During a sunset stroll on the beach (cliche, but it works), during a hike, or while watching a turtle release. For couples, there are many heavenly beach settings where you can tie the knot. See #1 on this list for Sayulita beach ideas.