Natural beaches, lush jungles and a taste of rural Mexico draw people to the picturesque fishing village of Sayulita. Located on the Pacific coast of Nayarit, Mexico, this pueblo was originally a hacienda for harvesting small coconuts for oil. These brown golf-ball sized nuts are still found on the jungle paths, along with mangos, large coconuts, papaya and citrus fruit. Dogs, chickens and kids run and play in the dirt roads. Visitors and locals enjoy baseball games, festivals with live music, surfing, bicycling and kayaking. Sayulita is a world away from nearby Puerto Vallarta and it's huge resorts, discos and parasailing. In fact, many say Sayulita is what Puerto Vallarta was 40 years ago. Sayulita's slow pace makes it hard to leave evidenced by the number of northerners building winter homes. The local government recently passed an ordinance prohibiting the cutting of all trees to help prevent Sayulita from becoming another Vallarta. The village location is ideal, only 35 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta airport and 3 hours from Guadalajara. Leave the complexities and pressure of the modern world behind and step back in time to the exotic, carefree village of Sayulita.
Sayulita is a small peaceful little town (with the exceptions being the holidays). Sayulita's sidewalks normally roll up early most evenings but there is often action at some late night clubs located around the plaza. There is always Puerto Vallarta for more sophisticated entertainment. Day trips are great, and if you are set on hitting the lights of Puerto Vallarta, I suggest you either spend the night there (you can dance all night at one of the discos), or drive home very carefully. Discos usually close about 6 am. There is an exciting rodeo each weekend at the edge of town.
- SURFING: Sayulita does have a nice, although small, break, a right and a left. It is more of a long board wave, but the local kids rip it up on short boards even on a blown out day. Trips can be arranged with a taxi to several spots to the north and south. I can tell you about the ones that are no longer secret spots. To the south some spots are Burros, La Launcha, El Faro, and Restaurants. To the north are San Pancho, Chacala, Santa Cruz, and San Blas. The best way to surf many of these spots is to hire a boat. There are a few boat captains who make surf charters. If you are learning to surf, then the waves of Sayulita are perfect; not too big, fast, or heavy. You can rent surfboards and boogie boards at Santa Crucecita, Sinena, Captain Pablo's, or Papa’s Palapas. Many also offer surf lessons. If you are a beginner, get a long board and try to go out where there are less people. Also, three times a winter, Sayulita hosts a two-day-long surfing competitions.
- FISHING: If you want to rent a boat for fishing, the cost will be about 350 pesos per hour with at least a two hour minimum. You can usually find someone to take you in Sayulita or there are a lot more boats in Punta de Mita. It’s also a great chance to see the coast. It is possible to catch some fish from the beach, but open ocean fishing is generally more productive.
- HORSEBACK RIDING: Horses can be rented from Verdin across from the baseball and basketball field. You can arrange to go down to the beach or tour through the jungle.
- ZIP LINES: Affiliated with horseback riding above, you can ride through the jungle canopy on a wire. Located just outside Sayulita and surrounded by huge trees and wildlife, you can fly through this tropical wonderland. All reviews of this have been great.
- SNORKLING: Snorkels and fins can be rented in the village at Santa Crucita or on the beach at Papa’s Palapas. The best place in Sayulita to see fish and find somewhat clear water is Playa de los Muertos, on the south end of town. The best place nearby is to hire a boat out to the Marietas Islands. This is a great trip and ask the guide to take you to the cave on the east side of the island where you can swim through to an enclosed private beach. Diving is available in Vallarta through Chico’s Dive Shop (in Mex. 322-22-21895) or many other places.
- BIKING: Bikes are available to rent by a few local Mexicans and by Santa Crucita. You can better explore the edges of town and even find a tour guide to take you on a scenic bick tour at the Taller de Bicicleta up the hill on Avenue Pelicanos.
- WHALE WHATCHING: You can hire a boat in Sayulita, Punta de Mita, or in Vallarta for this exciting excursion. In the Bahia Bandera all the boats work together to make sure that you see a whale on your trip. It is amazing to be up close to the largest animal on the planet. In the winter months the humpback whales use the protective waters of the bay to raise their calves.
- GOLFING: There is a golf course near Bucerias called the Flamingo Country Club. The green fees and caddy will run you about $100, and clubs are available if you need them. There are several other courses in the area including the Four Season Resort and several more in the planning.
- SWIMMING: Pick a beach. The waters are usually safe except when there are storms at sea and the waves get big. Then there are some rip currents and hard hitting waves. Use your best judgement.
- HIKING: There are many trails leading out of town you can hike out and see where they lead. A hike to one of the nearby beaches is fun or an organized trip to Monkey Montain can be arranged.
The main beach of Sayulita is rarely crowded, the exceptions being at Christmas and Easter. The constant activity of fishing boats and bird life make it a pleasant place to be. There are other nearby beaches more absent of civilization and worth discovering as well. The nearest is La Playa de Los Muertos (beach of the dead), so named because it is reached through the village cemetery. Follow the beach to the left of the village (facing the water) until the road ends (you'll pass the fish trailer). Take the trail to the left that goes over the hill and through the cemetery. On the other side of the cemetery, turn right to a cove with a wide expanse of beach. The next good beach is Carasitos to the south, very secluded and beautiful. Just hike out of town on the road before Rollies Restaurant or ask for directions from a local. If you want to walk about 45 minutes, there are wonderful beaches to the south called Pasquero (pahs-QUER-oh), and Pasquarito. Take water and food as they are at least a half hour walk away and there is nothing available out there. People have begun building out that way so you may not be alone. To the north you can hike past a couple beautiful beaches to the town of San Francisco (San Pancho) and have lunch. It is about a 3 mile hike. They also have taxis you can hire to take you back after too much tequilla.
The town does not have many tourist shops and we are just beginning to see bags and T-shirts with "Sayulita" on them. Where the bridge meets the river a small group of stores have sprung up. These include some eateries, nic-nac shops, and a good jewelry store, My Jewelry Shop. Also, near the town plaza there is Las Hamacas, high end artifacts, and a few more.
The following are some good places to eat in Sayulita:
EL BICHO: This quaint little eatery serves just a few dishes, tortas being the specialty, at very reasonable prices. They also serve great smoothies and fresh juices. It is located on the main road into the town center, just after the bridge, under a large open palapa.
BREAKFAST - THE BREAK: Just awesome on the beach goodness.
EL CASTEÑO (also known as RUPERTOS): This restaurant is on the beach, straight down from from the town square and is distinguished by its rustic columns imbedded with shells and good food. Simple egg breakfasts are 20 PS.
FISH TACO: Uniquely decorated as a typical rustic taco stand, this eatery is the only place to find the Baja style breaded fish taco. They do a great job with steamed veggies and chile rellenos as well. Located right on the town square.
DON PEDRO’S: This is one of Sayulita’s fanciest restaurant/bars. The first bar in town to serve blended drinks! You can’t miss the place as it’s on the beach, about 3 stories tall with a huge palapa roof. They serve food upstairs and down and it’s all good. They take credit cards. Lot’s of TV’s for sporting events.
LEZA'S: Located right on the square with traditional Mexican fare. They have good food at good prices. Try everything.
PUBLIC HOUSE: Sayulita's one and only Pub. This place has charm and the best beers in town.
ROLLIE’S: If you are big on American style breakfasts, try Rollie's. He is open in the winter season from 8:00 - 12:00. Rollie, his wife Jeanie and his son run the restaurant. They are located about a block south of the plaza on the road out of town. His son Josh is quite a musician and he plays a guitar as they both sing.
RON’S PIZZA: This is a great hang-out that’s been around for a long time and serves great Pizza. It’s located along the south side of the river, right past the bridge, and a block and a half from the beach. He has a real wood burning pizza over.
STREET VENDORS: There are a number of makeshift street-side taco stands near the village plaza. They are fried right in front of you and are excellent. I don't know of anyone who has ever gotten sick from eating them, but trust your own judgment. They are made from chicken, pork or beef. They are very, very good, and you can buy beer from the liquor store, sit on the street or at the sidewalk tables and have on of the best and cheapest meals of your life.
TAMALE LADY: Some of the best tamales can be found wandering the town in the basket of a local Mexican woman. She works during the day making delicious carne, pollo, y chile con queso tamales and then walks her way around the village until she sells out. Her house is on the river just inland from the bridge.
TERRAZOLA: This place is cute, has great food, and genuinely nice workers. Wendy and Onton are the sweetest people and they really know their recipies. They have taken over this little Trailer Park snack stand and given it character and class. Serving lunch and dinner with excellent fish, burgers, tacos, and many other specialties.
COOKING AT HOME:
If you want to cook at home, there are a number of small grocery stores in town, some offering better produce than others. It is worth a stroll through town to see what is fresh that day. Stores open at 6 am and close around 11 pm. Fresh fruit is available in the grocery stores. Produce grown in the area includes; plátanos (bananas), coconuts, sugar cane, piña (pineapple), limes, oranges, grapefruit, mangos, and avocados. Fresh fruit and vegetables that are going to be eaten raw and without peeling should be soaked for 20 minutes in water treated with Clorox (add one tablespoon to 1/2 gallon of water) and rinse with bottled water to get rid of the chlorine taste. The grocery store with the most choices is across from the plaza, near the ice cream store but there are a number of places you can get good food. Mexicans make a great bread roll call the bolio (boh-Lee-yoh). It is delicious toasted for breakfast or for sandwiches. There are meat stores (Carnicerias) where you can buy fresh meat. There is one across from Cheo’s Tacos and one across from Rollies. A delicious barbecued chicken is sold most days right off grills set up on the sidewalks all around town. The easiest place to buy fish is from the cooler in front of the first store on your left after you cross the bridge. Or you can get it from the fishing boats on the beach when they come in (usually between noon and 2 pm). The local fish are Dorado (Mahi Mahi), Huachinango (a cross between red snapper and carp), Bota, shrimp, and octopus. They are fair about price and will weigh the larger fish.
There is liquor, beer, wine and pop available in the village, but a bit more expensive than in Puerto Vallarta. You will have to pay a deposit on the beer and pop bottles. This is the best deal for beer. You pay deposit only the first time you buy the bottles. The dark rum "Ron Castillo", will work for your bourbon and scotch drinks if you’re not too picky. Bag ice is available at the liquor store and ice cream store in the village, or you can make your own in your freezer. All is safe.
Use the large bottled water (garafons) for drinking and cooking, just to be safe. You can refill your garafons from the water trucks that move through town all day. Or you can exchange your empty for a full at your local store. The price is now 14 pesos. Water from the tap should be boiled for at least 10 minutes before using. The tap water comes from either a tank on top of your house or pressurized from a cistern below the house by a pump. The water that fills these containers is supplied by the town cistern and pump that sometimes goes out or runs dry. Your tank should be sufficiently large enough to hold you until the water comes back on. Gas is supplied to the houses by refillable tanks. During your visit you may get a cold shower or run out of gas while cooking your gourmet meal. Don’t worry, most houses are equipped with a backup tank and the other tank just needs to be opened or switched. Contact the property manager or rental agency as soon as possible and they will refill or change the tanks. Electricity is very undependable and the town is subject to blackouts and brownouts frequently, especially during the rainy season. When this happens, there is really nothing to do except wait and light some candles. Usually the power is back on by morning.
You will need pesos in Sayulita. There is no bank or ATM in Sayulita. Some places may take a little bit of US dollars to pay for something, but the exchange rate they will give will not be good. Only a couple places take credit cards and the swimsuit shop is the only place that officially exchanges money and traveller’s checks. You need to either get money in the airport or pick it up at a bank on the way. Once you are here, the closest bank and ATM machine is in Bucerias, about 20 minutes south. The exchange rate is always changing. It is now 1 USD to 9.2 PS.
The only public phone is Sayulita is at the Paleteria across from the square. They have three lines and time your call with a stopwatch. One trick is to call home and have them call you back. This at least will save you money, but not mom. San Francisco, 5 miles north, has over 12 card operated public phone booths.
There are three good locations where you can log on to check on world problems and email the dog sitter; 1. Dot Com is just off the town square in Garcia Real Estate (40p/hr). 2. Sayulita Net Lounge is right on the square and offers snacks and drinks (40p/hr). 3. Bre@kFast is right on the beach between Costenos and Don Pedros.
You are adventurous, or else you go somewhere safer. This is Mexico, beautiful and hazardous. You are traveling in a foreign country where everything you eat is foreign. Sorry, you may get sick. Take precations but don’t allow your experience of the culture be hindered. Bring medicine with you for potential problem or buy it here. There are many Pharmacies in Sayulita. One is just over the bridge coming into town on the right. Another is after the bridge going out of town on your right, Pharmacia Americana. There is a clinic in Sayulita, called Salud. It is located by the first speed bump coming into town on the main road.
The best way to get to Sayulita is on a bus. From the airport, cross the bridge and wait at the bottom of the stairs for the Compostela bus that has Sayulita written across the front windshield. The fare should be around 18 pesos. Getting back to the airport and into Puerto Vallarta is even easier. Catch the Vallarta bus in the town square (times: 6:00, 7:00, 7:30, 8:30, 9:30. 10:30, 12:00, 12:30, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 4:30, 5:30) and it will drop you off directly in front of the airport. Do not forget that Jalisco and the airport are an hour ahead. Sayulita is on Mountain Time, and Puerto Vallarta, is on Central Time. So don’t miss that flight or you will have to stay in paradise for at least another day. If you are going in to Vallarta, the bus will let you off in front of the Sheraton Hotel and then you take a city bus into downtown or old town. You have to do the opposite to come back; wait for the Sayulita Compostela bus across the street from the Sheraton. The last bus back to Sayulita is at 8:00. If you miss it you may have to take a cab back. The Pacifico bus lines do not come into Sayulita but you can catch them or get dropped off at the Sayulita exit on the 200 highway. Then walk the 3km into town or put your thumb out for a ride.
Sayulita has many taxis and you can usually find one in the square. If none are around or you want to plan ahead, you can call for one at the Paleteria across from the town square. They can take you anywhere, even hours north or south to the secret surf spots. Normal fares from the airport are quoted as you come out of customs by hordes of drivers. The price depends on the size of the vehicle and will vary between 400-600 Ps. We suggest that you barter if you are comfortable doing so. There is an alternative to taking the airport taxi by taking your luggage over the bridge and hailing a non-airport cab. Their price is between 300 and 350 PS and the standard tip is about 10%.
Renting a car is expensive, but highly recommended. If you rent a car, take the road heading north away from Puerto Vallarta. The road you come out on will take you all the way to the Sayulita exit. You will be on a freeway for about half the time and after Bucerias the road becomes one lane each direction. Sayulita is about 20 minutes up the road and on the left. Three kilometers on this road and you get to Sayulita. You are on the main road through town and as you pass through, the beach will be to your right.
Do not lose this card which you must have to enter and leave the country. You will get this card on the plane coming down and it will be stamped by Mexican immigration upon entry. Should you loose the card, a new one can be issued at the airport but allow at least an hour extra time. There may also be a fee for the new card. Take your ticket and go to customs before getting in the airline line.
There are a lot of people in Mexico that get stung all the time. It is like a very bad bee sting. If you weigh less than 60 pounds, are stung multiple times, or are allergic, it can be dangerous and you should go to the clinic located on the main road into the village. You don’t need to be overly nervous about getting stung, particularly by scorpions because they tend to avoid houses that are occupied. To be on the safe side, check your shoes and clothing before you put them on and you should not walk around at night without shoes or sandals. A visit to the clinic is a good idea for anyone getting a sting just to be on the safe side. At the very least bring some antihistamines with you.
There are snakes in the jungle but they are rarely seen in or near town. Most are harmless and the most common is the boa, which don’t grow large enough to be a threat. There are occasionally stinging jellyfish in the ocean but it’s not a “normal” event. Bees and wasps are present but don’t bother you unless you bother them. If you are allergic, bring your medication. There are stingrays in the water and usually they lay on the sandy bottom until someone steps on them. Then they sting you with the barb of their tail as they try to swim away. Usually these animals don’t swim near people or crashing waves. So you’re pretty safe in Sayulita. Bats appear nightly to eat insects and an occasional banana, but don't let them scare you as they are harmless.
The mail from Mexico takes at least 3 weeks to arrive at its US address. Everyone who lives in Sayulita gives their mail to people who are going back to the States where letters can then be mailed through the US postal service. To send mail out of Mexico, you need to get stamps and mail your letters at a post office. At Mi Tiendita in the town square you can purchase stamps and put your mail in the box to be picked up at some undisclosed time. To receive mail, you can pick up your letters at the same tiendra across from the square. Packages will need to be picked up from one of the post offices, depending on how it was routed that day. Be careful about having anything sent because Mexican Customs will open boxes and assess about 30% taxes on the value of the items inside.
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