The Mayan Riviera on the Yucatan Peninsula seems to have it all: shimmering white sand beaches, brilliant turquoise water, pulsing nightlife and names that evoke images of exotic tropical utopias: Cancún, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
While Cancún is the undisputed mecca for spring breakers and Tulum has trendy counterculture for the free-spirited crowd, Mexico’s less-thought-about West Coast has chic, bohemian beach towns that come with spectacular scenery, their own unique ambiance and often less expensive rates than their Caribbean counterparts.
We submit for your consideration: Sayulita.
Stroll colorful streets with a refreshing paleta in hand before unwinding on breathtaking beaches. Reconnect at a yoga retreat or explore nearby Marieta Islands to see the famous Playa Escondida. Immerse yourself in the boho vibe, bask in the fiery skies of Sayulita sunsets and most importantly, don’t let a drop of this not-yet-famous town go untasted!
Sayulita’s Sun, Surf & Character
Twenty-five miles north of Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita has long been one of the best-kept secrets on Mexico’s left coast. Surfers have known about the town for fifty years, but it’s now becoming a trendy hotspot for travelers who want a taste of bohemian Mexico.
The town of Sayulita is a meld of laid-back, festive and chic, but not so sophisticated that you can’t walk around town barefoot. Along with surfing, it’s a destination for yoga and spirituality. Some of the streets are festooned with colorful streamers and pom-poms and vivid yarn and bead creations that local artisans display their shops, galleries and kiosks. Check out its colorful character for yourself—#sayulita has more than 350k posts on Instagram!
Peak season falls October through April when the days are dry and sunny with average temperatures around 80°F and cool evenings. The downside is that Sayulita is more crowded and prices are higher. Some consider November the best month, as the heat and humidity have broken but the winter crowds haven’t arrived yet. Outside peak season it’s considerably hotter and more humid with the heaviest rains June through August. The town is much quieter during the summer but some shops and restaurants are closed.
Where to Stay in Sayulita
If your main reason for visiting Sayulita is to log some quality beach time, you couldn’t do better than Casablanca Beachfront Hotel. The name says it all—step out of your room and you’re practically on the beach. The lagoon-style pool and funky thatched roof buildings add an artistic twist to this boutique property. It’s not a mega-resort by any stretch, as the entire establishment is comprised of just 14 suites in three different styles and a private three-bedroom house with a 10-person maximum occupancy. Expect warm hospitality from the natives running the hotel and peace and quiet—it’s located just 10 minutes from town but feels perfectly secluded.
At the southern end of the bay, Villa Amor also gives you a balance of privacy with easy access to anything you could need. Made up of 24 oceanfront villas with views of the hills, village and beautiful blue Pacific, the beach is just a few steps away and a 10-minute walk brings you into town. The villas are available in studio and one, two or three bedroom units. As far as amenities, Villa Amor has oceanfront restaurant “O” right next door, a heated saltwater plunge pool and complimentary yoga classes. One thing you won’t find at Villa Amor, in the true spirit of bohemian travel, is televisions.
Sayulita’s Most Popular Restaurants
Sayulita is known for its great surfing, but foodies would much rather talk about the amazing eats you can find here. Fish tacos are a Sayulita favorite, as numerous taco stands and restaurants are sprinkled around town. You’re pretty much guaranteed a good taco at any of them, but check out El Itacate in the downtown area near the plaza. The tacos are meaty and full and along with fish, you can order beef, pork, chicken or vegetarian. Cheese lovers—for a truly authentic meal, don’t forget queso fundido. Bring your appetite and cash—El Itacate is cash only.
If you see a charming eatery just a block from Sayulita’s main plaza with outdoor, candle-lit tables and a line of people, you’ve probably found Sayulita Café. Famous for its chile rellenos, the menu features authentic Mexican fare, seafood and steak. Complement your meal with a cocktail or glass of wine while you dine al fresco, inside or upstairs with a perfect view of the street below.
Best Beaches in Sayulita
Head to Playa de Los Muertos for safe swimming and the perfect setting for quality time. It’s just a short walk from Villa Amor and frequently hosts local families. For golden sand and a consistent surf break, head to Playa Sayulita. Playa Sayulita is where all the action happens—bikinis, surfers, vendors and beachgoers as far as the eye can see. Visitors itching to get out of town can walk an hour south to Playa Carricitos. This secluded stretch of beach is perfect for an afternoon picnic or sunbathing but not for swimming and children as it produces powerful waves only experienced surfers should attempt.
Venture to Playa Las Cuevas and Playa Malpasos for jungle-lined white sand that’s makes the perfect lovers’ escape. Hike north of Sayulita and you’ll find these unfrequented beaches through a path in the jungle. The aquamarine water and rocky cliffs surrounding the beach beckon you to the ocean, but beware—this area is best left for pictures and land activities only as the water carries strong undertows.