This laid-back surf town, sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains, is known for its sandy beaches, colorful Huichol culture, and beautiful coastal views. Although it’s not as popular as its big brother Puerto Vallarta down south, Sayulita is still an amazing destination if you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten path.
There’s something in Sayulita for every type of traveler, whether you want to hit the beach to work on your tan, shop through the town picking up local handicrafts, or sail along the coast admiring the colorful sunset. Here are a few of our favorite sights and attractions that you won’t want to miss during your visit to Sayulita.
1. Go Surfing at Sayulita Beach
If there’s one activity you must do while visiting Sayulita, it’s surfing. The sun-soaked beaches, rolling waves, and laid-backed vibes make this one of Mexico’s best surf towns. Sayulita Beach is one of the best (and most centrally located) beaches for beginners and experienced surfers alike. However, it tends to be one of the more crowded places, as well. If you’re looking to escape the crowds, we recommend heading to the Cove, Litibu Beach, or La Lancha.
If you’re never been on a surfboard before – don’t worry. There are a number of board rental shops and tons of surf schools where you can learn the skills and techniques before hopping in the ocean. The calm waters and gentle waves make Sayulita a great place for learning how to surf.
2. Shop in the Sayulita Hippie Market
With eclectic shops and colorful boutiques, Sayulita is a shopper’s paradise. While there are numerous places where you can pick up handicrafts and unique souvenirs, the Sayulita Hippie Market is arguably the best. Located next to the baseball stadium by the river, this daily market features tons of local goodies and arts and crafts.
Stroll from one booth to another and shop for crocheted dream catchers, hand-painted figurines, and colorful clothes and textiles that make excellent gifts or souvenirs from your time in Sayulita.
3. Go Whale Watching in Banderas Bay
If you happen to be in Sayulita anytime from December to March, then you’ll have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these majestic creatures up close. Every year, approximately 700 whales make their way to the warmer waters of Baja, California from Canada to mate and give birth. During this time, you’ll be able to take a boat tour to visit them as they swim around with their new calves.
Many different tour companies offer a whale-watching experience during the winter. While sightings aren’t guaranteed, they are common, especially off the coast of Banderas Bay. We recommend this whale-watching tour.
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4. Take a Boat Tour of Islas Marietas
Located five miles off the coast near Sayulita sits a group of small uninhabited islands known as Islas Marietas. The islands are largely undeveloped as they are protected by the Mexican government for their abundance of exotic plants and wildlife. Blue-footed boobies, reef corals, manta rays, dolphins, and humpback whales are just a few of the creatures that make their home around the islands.
If you are booking one tour for your entire trip this would be it! We recommend this tour to Islas Marietas. You won’t be disappointed.
Due to conservation efforts to preserve the natural environment and coral reef, only certified tour guides are actually allowed to enter and dock at the islands. Many companies offer beach excursions to Long Island, combined with snorkeling or scuba diving in the nearby reefs. However, it’s definitely worth visiting to see one of the most pristine landscapes that Mexico has to offer.
5. Day Trip to Puerto Vallarta
Take a short one-hour drive down the coast and visit one of the most beautiful cities on Mexico’s Pacific coast. Puerto Vallarta is a popular beach resort with miles of sandy coastline and dozens of places where you can soak up the sun. However, it also has a charming city center full of winding cobblestone alleys and spectacular churches (the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the most architecturally stunning).
You’ll also want to stroll along the Malecon, a paved pedestrian walkway that snakes along the shore of the coast. There are numerous sculptures along the way, as well as plenty of cafes, bars, and food stalls. During the evening, this promenade is a popular hang-out spot for locals and families that live in the city.
6. Go Ziplining over Bandera’s Bay
Thrillseekers – get ready to fly your way through the rainforest of Punta de Mita on this exciting ziplining tour. Consisting of 10 different lines, this is the longest and fastest zipline course in all of Riviera Nayarit. Soar high above the canopies (4,000-feet high) while you speed through the forest at 60 miles an hour, admiring the breathtaking views of Banderas Bay.
Don’t be surprised if you see exotic wildlife during your adventure. Deers, horses, bulls, wild boars, and even alligators may be lurking deep within the forest. This tour also includes a delicious tequila tasting at the end of your journey. This tour looks incredible!
7. Horseback Riding on the Beach
Is there anything more romantic than a relaxing horseback ride along the beaches of Sayulita? After you meet your guide at the ranch, you and your trusty steed will trot through the town, admiring the different local shops and houses. More on the tour here.
Then you’ll make your way into the depths of the rainforest, surrounded by lush vines and dense foliage. Soon, you’ll arrive at the beach, where you’ll have the opportunity to gallop with your horse along the coastline.
8. Go Tequila Tasting
While most people cringe when they think about taking tequila shots, we guarantee that a tasting at one of the tequila distilleries in Sayulita will change your mind about this tasty liquor. One of our favorite places is Agave Liquors, a distillery that produces tequila, mezcal, Raicilla, and Sotol.
Another popular choice for tequila tastings is through the Tequila Experience. They come directly to your home or vacation rental and set up an entire tequila-tasting evening for you and your friends or family members. You’ll sample 10 different types of tequila and learn about the cultivation and distilling processes.
9. Watch the Sunset on Carricitos Beach
Although Sayulita isn’t known for its sunsets (it’s north-facing), you can make the quick walk over to Carricitos Beach if you’re looking for those colorful views. This beautiful area is just on the other side of the Punta Sayulita, although it feels like an entirely different world once the sun sets behind the horizon.
From downtown, Carricitos Beach is just a 20-minute walk or 10-minute golf cart ride west along Niños Heroes. It’s much less crowded than Sayulita Beach, and if you’re lucky, you might get the entire beach to yourself. There aren’t any vendors around, so make sure to bring your own drinks or food if you’re hoping to stay here for a few hours.
One of the reasons we love Sayulita is for the sunsets. If you have been following us or read some of our other articles, you know we really love Holbox, Tulum, and Bacalar, but they all are missing great sunsets!
10. Hike Monkey Mountain
If you’re hoping to burn a few extra calories during your vacation, then the trek up Monkey Mountain is a great way to get some exercise. This four-mile out-and-back trail takes you to the summit of the mountain, where you’ll be rewarded with never-ending views over the Ocean, Sayulita, and even Punta Mita.
While the hike isn’t too long, it is somewhat steep, which can be challenging for inexperienced hikers or those traveling with kids. However, most of the trail is shaded, so you won’t have to suffer through the midday heat while you ascend the summit.
11. Indulge in Creative and Healthy Dishes
You can’t visit Sayulita and not talk about the amazing gastronomy scene. From authentic street food to freshly grilled fish and lobster, Sayulita has some of the most diverse restaurants on the coast. Head to Sayulita Fish Tacos for delicious Mexican food (and 300 types of tequila) or to La Rustica for wood-fired pizza. It’s also worth visiting Don Pedro’s Restaurant Bar if you’re looking for sweeping water views and open-aired dining.
While Sayulita has a huge variety of different restaurants and cafes, you’ll probably notice that there are generally more vegetarian and vegan options compared to a lot of other places in Mexico. The health food scene in Sayulita is booming, and you’ll have plenty of choices if you’re craving something on the lighter side, like bowls, smoothies, and salads. Café’ el Fortin, Organi-k, and La Esperanza are just a few of our favorites for healthy meals.
12. Go Snorkeling in the Ocean
The abundance of colorful corals, tropical corals, and exotic marine life makes Sayulita a great destination for snorkeling. However, you’ll have to put in a little effort in order to find some of the best snorkeling spots. Sayulita Beach may be centrally located, but the waters are better suited for surfers and swimmers than snorkelers. If you’re looking to snorkel off-shore, then we recommend taking the short walk over to Punta Los Arcos, Carrictos, or Playa de Los Muertos Instead.
It’s also possible to take a boat for a more remote snorkeling excursion. The waters around the Islas Marietas are teeming with life, making this one of Sayulita’s most popular snorkeling destinations. You’ll also have the chance to see more unique marine creatures, like octopi, blowfish, sea horses, and manta rays.
13. Go on an ATV Tour
Although you can mainly explore Sayulita on foot, one of the best ways to see the hidden sights and attractions is by an adventurous ATV excursion. This two-hour ATV tour starts with a ride through town, where you can soak up the vibes of the village center and sandy beaches.
Then, you’ll make your way to the Cerro de La Loca mountain, where you’ll enjoy the scenic landscapes and natural beauty of this rugged, untouched landscape. The views from the Cerro del Mono overlook are nothing short of spectacular. Then, you’ll head back down the mountain and towards the Questo beach, where you and your group can relax on the white sand.
14. Shop at the Sayulita Farmers Market
As the only farmer’s market in all of Nayarit, the Sayulita Farmers Market is a must-see for foodies and shoppers. Although it’s only open on Fridays from November to April (the growing season), it’s worth stopping by to feast your eyes on the local, organic products sourced from around the area.
Here, you’ll find almost 80 different vendors selling different types of products, from organic vegetables and homemade yogurts to oven-baked bread and artisan spices and sauces. It’s also a great place just to come for a snack, as there are numerous food vendors and stalls where you can grab a bite to eat. Best of all, all the proceeds of this not-for-profit market are donated to different local projects like children’s parks, river clean up, and researching biodegradable cleaning supplies.
15. Enjoy a Luxury Catamaran Cruise
Why spend your entire vacation on land when you can head out into the sea for an exhilarating day of adventure? Ally Cat Sailing Tours hosts some of the coolest boating excursions in the Bay of Banderas. They have three different boats, the original 56-foot Ally Cat, the smaller 50-foot Ally Cat Too, and the high-powered 60-foot Fat Cat Yacht.
The day trips are great for those who want to play in the water, with swim steps, slides, and diving platforms. You can also just chill on the decks while listening to music or sightseeing while you cruise around Islas Marietas.
The sunset cruises are also pretty remarkable, as you’ll have front-row tickets to the mesmerizing colors of oranges and pinks as the sun sets behind the horizon while you take advantage of the open tropical cocktail bar. If you’re lucky, you might also spot dolphins, manta rays, sea turtles, and if you’re visiting during winter, humpback whales.
What are your favorite things to do in Sayulita?
Sayulita is truly one of the best places in Mexico, and we can’t wait to return.