I have nothing bad to say about Sayulita, except that maybe it’s too perfect. Sayulita is the type of destination that makes you never want to go home.
Sayulita is the epitome of romantic, sleepy, small town, tropical Mexico. It’s not Cancun or Puerto Vallarta. The roads are either cobblestone or dirt (mud when it rains) and traffic includes a mix of pedestrians, iguanas, taxis, cars, trucks, ATV’s, horses, and the ubiquitous stray dog. But while it may seem quaint, you can find many modern conveniences here, such as WiFi and ATM’s.
Fly into Puerto Vallarta, get a cab, and tell them to take you to Sayulita. Don’t linger in Puerto Vallarta unless you’re a college age spring breaker and discos are your scene. Of course, you should have made hotel reservations in Sayulita in advance of arrival. There are only a few hotels in town and rooms are limited. I recommend Hotel Villa Amor. Located a peaceful five minute walk from Sayulita’s main plaza, Hotel Villa Amor affords breathtaking views of Sayulita, the beach, and the lush surrounding hills, as well as the best vantage point to watch the almost nightly summer thunderstorms.
The rooms at Hotel Villa Amor are nicely furnished, but may seem a tad rustic to those used to staying in Hilton’s. The locks on the doors are padlocks, but they get the job done. And there are crabs scuttling about on the floor of your room. I found this quite charming after the initial shock wore off.
If you go in summer make sure you book an enclosed room as opposed to the open air rooms because you’re going to want the air conditioning. Trust me on this. Summers are extremely hot and humid in Sayulita. And the ocean provides scant respite from the heat; the sea water is as warm as a bath. You’ll never sweat so much in your life and that air conditioning will be your manna from Heaven after a trudge around town in air so thick with humidity you’d think you could swim in it.
The rooms at Hotel Villa Amor are very reasonably priced, especially during the off season, which is in Summer due to the extreme heat and humidity. The staff are very friendly and most are fluent in English. Many people in Sayulita will speak enough English so that you can get by without knowing any Spanish. Of course knowing the local language is always a bonus, but not a necessity. And there’s always the international language to fall back on, hand gestures and pointing.
Sayulita is a small, beach side town surrounded by dense, green, jungle. This is a very tropical feeling place. At night, while lightning flickers across the bay, douse yourself with bug spray, sit out on your balcony, and listen to the jungle wake up and come alive around you. This is what made me ultimately fall completely in love with Sayulita; the thunderstorms and the jungle.
The food is really good in Sayulita. Ingredients are fresh and local. Get the shrimp and bacon pizza at Don Pedro’s. It’s good, but if you wanted to pay prices like this for food you would have gone to Hawaii. So don’t eat every meal at Don Pedro’s, instead go into town and get the best guacamole you’ll ever have. Take shelter from an evening thunderstorm and try the dollar tostadas, tacos, and enchiladas at the three story restaurant, Leyza, located right on the plaza. The food is good, the guacamole is the best, the price is right, and the view of the plaza provides ample entertainment. Life in Mexico revolves around the central plazas so sit back and watch the town of Sayulita unfold before you.
There are a lot of good food options in Sayulita. Try the garlic burger at Le Bus Garlic Burger. Get a sandwich from Ruben’s Deli. You can eat there or get it to go for a beach side picnic. The bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado is my favorite. Both Ruben’s and Le Bus are located just off the plaza. Eat breakfast at El Espresso located right on the plaza. Get the banana licuado and the chocolate pancakes. It was hands down the best breakfast I’ve ever had (I’ve read bad reviews of El Espresso since, so be advised). And no trip to Sayulita is complete without a chocolate covered banana from Choco Banana, also located right on the plaza.
Get out in the ocean. Go snorkeling. Right off the beach there are rock outcroppings where you can watch some amazing fish dart around. The water is so warm that all you’ll need is a regular bathing suit. Or try paddle boarding. I found this much more enjoyable and relaxing sitting on the board and rowing rather than standing. If you’re feeling lazy, order a bucket of beers and relax on the beach. Don’t mind the vendors, they aren’t pushy and some actually sell some really nice stuff for decent prices. I love my wood carved condiment bowls.
If your idea of a vacation includes laying on a tropical beach, good, cheap food, and a relaxing atmosphere, then go to Sayulita. You won’t regret it. This is a great little town. The people are friendly and accommodating. The setting is beautiful. And you’ll be hard pressed to beat the prices.
Things to bring: flip flops and lots of sunscreen and bug spray. You’ll think you’ve brought enough but you haven’t. There are some markets and a pharmacy in town just in case you run out of sundries though. There’s even an Oxxo, Mexico’s answer to 7-11.
Things to do: paddle board, swim, snorkel, surf, boogie board. Rancho Mi Chaparrita provides rain forest canopy tours (zip lines). You can find them located on the beach. Rent a boat to Islas Marietas (not recommended for those prone to sea sickness). Anywhere you go in town and on the beach you will be approached by tour operators offering you the best deals to go to Islas Marietas. And always remember, this is Mexico. You just have to learn to take some things in stride or this country will drive you crazy. Oh and don’t drink the water.