What to Do in Sayulita
Sayulita is a world away from nearby Puerto Vallarta and its resorts, big hotels, discos, and parasailing. Its slow pace makes it hard to leave as evidenced by the number of northerners building winter homes there. The local government recently passed an ordinance prohibiting the cutting of all trees to help prevent Sayulita from becoming another Vallarta.
Sayulita is known for its rare black and white sand beaches. You could visit a different beach every day of the week-by foot, bike, kayak, horse or car.
• Playa Centro
A short two-block walk from the square is the town’s main beach. Small wooden fishing boats accent the long swoosh-shaped beach. Many people enjoy walking or jogging the beach that takes about 30 minutes walking.
People watchers and seafood lovers flock to El Costeño, Sayulita’s oldest eating establishment. In addition to the restaurant’s affordable menu, local divers often come here to sell their just-caught oysters.
This open-air palapa with a sand floor is steps from the water where waves attract surfers and boogie boarders. The calmer water in front of Don Pedro’s restaurant is very swimmable with a gradual slope and sandy bottom.
• Playa Pilitas
North past Papas Palapas is where the river runs into the ocean. Egrets and other birds often feed here while horses and cows graze the riverbed. This isn’t a good place to swim due to the river’s polluted
water. The sand gets softer as you reach Playa Questos in front of the village’s two camping parks. The rough waves welcome surfers and brave swimmers.
• Las Cuevas
Surrounded by rocky cliffs, this tiny horseshoe-shaped beach is perfect for lovers. Carefully watch the ocean so you don’t get washed when the tide comes in. Access is by a treacherous rocky path through
the brush or through the rock arches on the south side of Playa Malpasos. To find it, walk inland along the arroyo after Sayulita’s main beach ends and get on the jungle road until you see another arroyo
after the barbed wire fences end. From town you can also reach Playas Cuevas and Malpasos by walking along Calle M. Navarrete until it turns into the jungle road. Playa Malpasos is free of rocks and surrounded by palm trees. Unfortunately, Vallarta Adventures started bringing groups of tourists here daily. Come in the early morning or evening to enjoy solitude. Don’t swim here, there is a dangerous undertow.
• San Pancho
For real exercise, continue walking to the neighboring village of San Francisco AKA San Pancho four miles from Sayulita. One end of the beach is very swimmable and the other end is home to Costa Azul Adventure Resort, a nice place to have a drink and watch the sunset. In the middle lie the quiet cobblestone streets of San Pancho.
After Playa Malpasos, you’ll pass the former estate of Mexico’s former president. Here you might have to practice a bit of citizens’ action because the new owners have blocked access, which is against Mexican
law. People still cross by ignoring the “no trespassing” signs. If you’re up for some risky rock climbing, it’s possible to scale the rocks over the ocean at low tide. Hopefully by the time you arrive, this situation will no longer be an issue. San Pancho is accessible by Highway 200.
• Playa de Los Muertos
In the other direction from Sayulita is Playa de Los Muertos, which is very popular with Mexican families and a safe swimming beach. Huge rocks protect it on both sides. Walk around the curved bay past Villa Amor and head up the hill through the cemetery. When you hit small river walk along it to the ocean. Las Cargadas is the tiny beach past the rocks to the south. There are other little beaches here that are
best accessed by kayak.
Here, you’ll find huge waves and it’s very possible that you’ll be alone on this wild, windswept beach. There are homes here but most are well hidden in the wooded hill about the water. Taking the one-lane
dirt road through the jungle is the best way to get here. Starting at the cemetery, its your second right turn. Through town, follow Niños Heroes until it enters the jungle and make the first left turn. This is
an uphill 40-minute walk.
• Playas Patzcuaro and Patzcuarito
Near Gringo Hill, these beaches are an hour walk or 10-minute drive from town. Continue out of town on Revolucion past the cantina onto the road to Punta de Mita (Camino Punta Mita). Make a right at the first
road and continue straight on it. The adventurous can also climb the rocks past Carrizitos.
In addition to hiking to the beaches, explore the hilly countryside by foot. Since tourist development gravitates towards the beaches, you’ll see more authentic Mexican living as you head inland. Dirt roads and a lack of traffic make the area very walkable.
Sayulita is a great place to start as a beginner and draws advanced surfers as well. Lessons are given by all the local outfitters below.
Playa de Los Muertos and the main beach in front of Don Pedros are the best areas for swimming.
Ask at El Costeño for a local fisherman who’ll take you out on a boat to fish for snapper, mahi mahi, manarays and small sharks.
• Horseback riding
Horses are rented at Villa Amor and by Don Pancho who lives a block past the town square on Ave. Revolucion across from the hardware store.
The jungle roads make for great off road riding. In fact, most cycling will feel like off-road. For longer rides, try the road to Punta de Mita. You can go as far as the village of Higuera Blanca about a
two-hour ride or all the way to Punta Mita (about three times farther).
One of the easiest ways to find Sayulita’s more secluded beaches is by kayak. From the main beach, it is easy to kayak to around the rocky point to Playa de Los Muertos and beyond to Las Cargadas. If you want
do a day-long trip, continue around the next point to Carrizitos. Short lessons are always provided before you go out on the water.
TOURING AND LOCAL OUTFITTERS
• Papas Palapas on the beach rents kayaks and surfboards by the hour
and day. Prices start at $9 an hour.
• Santa Crucesita on Revolucion rents surfboards, boogie boards,
bicycles and wet suits by the hour and day.
• Antonio Rodriguez sells aquatic equipment from his store on
Delfines between Alas Blancas and El Costeño. Day trips to Islas
Mariettas, an island bird sanctuary off Punta De Mita, are offered
• Baseball Games
Sunday is baseball day. You may catch Sayulita playing a team from a neighboring town or a game for older players. The stands have as much action as the field with raffles for money and cases of beer. Winners usually share their beer with other fans and everyone is good friends by the end of the game.
• Native Culture
The area was home to the native Cora and Huichol people. Ancient ceramics have been unearthed here along the Nayarit coast. The best place to learn about local history is by visiting the museums of Tepic,
Nayarit’s capital city. Tia Adrienne’s Bed and Breakfast hosts regular shows of Huichol art and culture. Ask her about trips to Huichol villages.
• Surfing Competitions
Three times a winter, Sayulita hosts a two-day-long surfing competitions. The couple’s surfing is especially entertaining and often comical.
There are many fine restaurants in Sayulita. Here is a sampling.
Two taco stands are open at night, one in the main plaza and the other near the bridge. On the plaza, you can find sandwiches (tortas), BBQ chicken and ice cream.
Restaurants on the plaza include: Calypso, Choco Banana, Seafood Tiger and Cafe Laura. A block toward the beach, on M. Navarrete is Alas Blancas and Breakers.
For seaside dining in order of increasing expense, there’s El Costeño, Captain Pablos, Barbaros and Don Pedros. Seafood pizza cooked in a clay oven is available Thursday through Saturday at Pizza Ron on the river.
Of several grocery stores throughout the pueblo, Mi Tiendita on the square is the largest and best priced. If you’re buying food for the week, go to Vallarta for better variety and prices. On Ave. Revolucion,
there are specialty stores (based in private homes of locals) that just sell tortillas, chicken and meat. For fresh fish, go to the beach in the morning and wait for the fishermen to return.
Sayulita is not a big party town, only a couple establishments stay open past midnight.
• The latest is Calypso, a bar/restaurant overlooking the town square that caters to tourists. Here you can listen to jazz, rock, and reggae music while watching surfing videos.
• Don Pedros, also a restaurant/bar, has live music and dancing during tourist season. Check the bulletin board outside regarding salsa dance lessons.
• On some Saturdays, there is dance or “baile” in the basketball court. Sometimes they play disco and other times local groups play. It’s very popular with locals.
• Cafecito features acoustic music Thurs.-Sat. in a classy garden atmosphere.
• The pool hall upstairs kitty-corner from Calypso is a hangout for Mexican men. In recent years, patrons have become tolerant of female tourists using the hall.
• Fiesta del Pueblo is always Feb. 24 with festivities throughout that week. Vendors and carnival rides and games fill the streets. Cars and buses have to find an alternate route. A rodeo and multi-band concert are the highlights.
• Semana Santa (Holy week) translates to Spring Break for city dwellers from Guadalajara who flock to Sayulita. There are no cultural traditions happening in the streets like in some Latin American towns. Discos and parties happen every night.
• Dia de al Marina is Mexico’s equivalent of Memorial Day. In Sayulita, instead of honoring dead soldiers, the people honor fishermen who never returned. Boats are filled with ice and beer, a huge meal is
cooked and people celebrate all day. At night, everyone goes out on boats and forms a ring to pray and throw flowers in the sea. When they return, the festivities continue.
• Mexican Independence on Sept. 16. For two days, the village celebrates with traditional dances, dramatic re-enactments of Mexico’s history including pre-Colombian rituals, bands, food and dancing in the town square. There is a special dance of the village elders and a greased pole with prizes on top that the men attempt to climb for hours. The successful pole climber throws the gifts out to the crowd. Festivitie culminate with the Gritar de Independecia where everyone shouts “Viva Mexico” at the top of their lungs.