Long a secret to even the most seasoned traveler, Sayulita, Mexico has been exploding in popularity over the last decade. Upon arrival, it’s easy to see why; even during its rise as a tourist destination, the town has been able to keep its magical culture and laid-back vibe intact while keeping out the large resorts and hotels that line the beaches of Cabo, Cancun and its neighbor to the south, Puerto Vallarta. Here are 10 things to know about Mexico’s hidden gem, Sayulita.
1. It’s a surf town
Sayulita’s roots have and always will be surfing. Originally famous as a surfer’s paradise, Sayulita’s visitors are mostly Canadians looking for the perfect wave and escaping the harsh northern winter. To this day, Canadian travelers still outnumber Americans four to one, and red Maple Leafs can be seen hanging around town just as often as the stars and stripes. Surf hotels, tours and rentals can be found everywhere you look. Whether you’re into surfing or not, stop into the Chillum Surf House for chill vibes, great food and a killer cucumber margarita.
2. The best margaritas are … everywhere
Speaking of margaritas, the best can be found all over town. Not because they’re all equally amazing, but because many bars have perfected their own unique version. The cucumber margarita at the aforementioned Chillum Surf House is a must-have, Su Casa serves a number of fantastic cocktails including a jalapeno and strawberry basil margarita, and you can enjoy the best traditional variety at Los Corazones.
3. You should eat the street food
There are literally dozens of incredible food options in town, but the best and most authentic are made from street carts. The best Tacos Al Pastor can be found at Tacos El Ivan, just off the main square downtown. This masterpiece is grilled in front of you and served with fresh roasted pineapple, cilantro and onion … to die for! Equally amazing are the shrimp and ceviche tostadas at El Rinconcitos on calle Revolucion. Freshly caught and prepared each morning, the ceviche is combined with fresh lime, spices and onions then served on a crispy flat tostada. Make sure to enjoy it with one of their six homemade hot sauces. Both the tacos and tostadas run around $2 US. Pair them with a $.75 US beer from the general store next door to El Rinconcito and you have one of the best meals in Mexico for under $5 US.
4. Stay on the south side
From six-bedroom beachfront villas to downtown hostels, Sayulita offers accommodations for every style and budget. I recommend staying on the south side of town; you’ll be walking distance from everything including the beach, art galleries, restaurants and shops. The nicest and largest hotel in town is Villa Amor, a collection of stunning villas sprinkled across a hillside overlooking the town below. You can also rent rooms, houses and villas of all sizes on AirBnb or SayulitaLife.com.
5. Checking out the art and culture is a must
Sayulita might have the most art and culture per capita than anywhere else in Mexico. Each street features numerous galleries and boutiques with hidden treasures made by local artists. The town is small enough to see them all in an afternoon and makes for the perfect opportunity to find gifts for friends, family or yourself. Revolucion del Sueno and Evoke the Spirit are two of my favorites.
It seems like there’s always a celebration happening in town. I’ve only visited twice and witnessed five parades, countless fireworks and nightly dancing in the streets. No matter what time of year you visit, there will be some kind of cultural celebration, holiday or party happening.
6. Don’t use the ATMs on the street
You’ll notice public ATMs around town; don’t use them. Skimmers, a card reader placed over the ATM card slot allowing thieves to steal your account info, have a history of emptying bank accounts unbeknownst to their tourist victims. Instead, take out pesos from your local bank before you go, this way you’ll get the best exchange rate, too. If you run out of cash in town, use an ATM in a liquor store or other local business; they’re locked up at night and safe to use.
7. The best beach is Playa de Los Muertos
The main beach in town is the most popular with its lounge chairs, surf shops and fishing charters, but the best beach to swim and hang out is the lesser known Playa de Los Muertos. Located on the southern tip of town passed Villa Amor, Los Muertos gets its name from the cemetery nearby. It’s far less crowded, the water is cleaner and the vibrant jungle provides a relaxing backdrop.
8. Don’t rent a car
There’s no need to rent a car in Sayulita. It’s an easy 40-minute drive from the Puerto Vallarta airport and there are a number of shuttle services available, just ask the hotel or villa where you’re staying for recommendations. A favorite of mine is Taxi Sayulita run by a guy named Margarito Gomez. His family is one of the original to settle in Sayulita, so he’s a wealth of knowledge and always greets you with a cold beer or water for the drive. You can contact him at email@example.com. Once you’re in town, everything is walking distance, and if you want to explore the surrounding area, rent a golf cart. It’s easier to park and more fun to drive on the rickety cobblestone streets.
Photo via sayulita.com
9. You can save a baby sea turtle
October through December is nesting season for local Leatherback sea turtles, and each night at sunset (around 7pm), the organization Campamento Tortuguero Sayulita releases turtles hatched that day into the ocean. They rescue nests along nearby beaches and place them in a safe habitat until the eggs hatch, protecting them from predators, poachers and tourists riding ATVs or stepping on them. Volunteers can help release the turtles and learn how Campamento Tortuguero Sayulita help save thousands of turtles each year. 10 years later, the turtles will return to lay their own eggs … amazing!
10. December through March is the best time to go
The best time to go to is December through March when the weather is a comfortable 70-80 degrees and humidity is nonexistent. I recommend going during the first two weeks in December as the weather is perfect and there are far less crowds. If you can swing it, visit during the week of December 12th to witness El Dia de Guadalupe, the annual festival in honor of Mexico’s patron saint, Our Lady of Guadalupe. During this week, the town is literally bursting with culture including canons fired from the church each morning, nightly fireworks, and parades through town.