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The Small Fishing Town Of Sayulita, Mexico Stuns With It’s Beauty And Family Friendly Vibe

harry at the sayulita sign

Sayulita, Mexico

Golden sunsets, year-round sunny days, a mellow fishing village, gorgeous beaches, amazing food at charming restaurants and cafes, family-friendly surfing, and stand-up paddleboarding, with the vibe of Tulum before the masses discovered it: Sayulita bound.   We spent a week in Sayulita with our 18 months old son and loved it.  Many of you also likely follow “thebucketlistfamily” as well and they are actually in Sayulita now, which helped us to choose this destination (@thebucketlistfamily).  

Where Is It?

Sayulita is located on the Pacific Coast of Mexico in the state of Nayarit.  It is a small fishing town of approximately 5,000 full-time residents and it depends heavily on tourism these days.  We visited during the fall – it was in the mid-80s and sunny every day.  The temperatures range from 75-90 degrees with very little rain year-round.  It is about 45 minutes from Puerto Vallarta (“PVR”) airport, which is the closest international airport.  Schedules are a little screwy during covid times, but there are direct flights from most major cities in the US and Canada on United, American, Alaska, Delta, Southwest, Sun Country, and Air Canada.  From overseas, most flights stop at LAX before continuing on to PVR.  It is about a three hours flight from LA to PVR.

How To Get Around?

We arranged a car service in advance to pick us up at the airport and stop at the Mega (a large Mexican grocery chain) along the way, to pick up some groceries in advance.  The Mega is located near Bucerias, about 30 minutes away from Sayulita.   We brought home several fun water and indoor toys for our son too.   

We stayed in a neighborhood to the North called “Gringo Hill,” where many of the vacation rentals are located.  This hillside area is a few minutes outside of the main town and has gorgeous views and homes with pools that overlook the beach for the most incredible sunsets. 

If staying on the hillside, we highly recommend booking a golf cart in advance to get around – the walking distance to town is maybe ten minutes but the hill is too steep to walk up and down regularly with little ones.  Our son was also delighted in using the “baby car” to get around.  All the golf cart companies in town drop off the golf cart at your vacation rental and pick the cart up from the vacation rental before you leave, so the golf cart rental process has very little friction.  We used Riviera Golf Carts (https://www.rivieragolfcarts.com/) and it was about $50/day for a four-seater golf cart.  Note that most hotels and buildings have golf cart chargers easily available because it is the most common way to get around town.        

If staying directly in the town, there’s no need for a golf cart because the town is highly walkable and very safe.  We would still recommend getting a golf cart because it is really fun to explore and move around the town this way, but it is not at all necessary.  We opted to not stay in town to make the most of the gorgeous sunset views followed by baby bedtime routine most nights, but the town is a livelier option.  You can also watch the sunset from the beach each night – the beach can just be a little bit crowded and less tranquil. 

Why Go?

We love exploring new places, particularly off-the-beaten-track options where we can combine interesting activities with good food and drinks for us and a lot of water baby time for all of us.  Because it is a small, safe, walkable town directly on the water, Sayulita was the perfect option for our family.  Sayulita is most famous for awesome sunsets, beautiful beaches, family-friendly surfing, a charming town, and terrific restaurants and cafés.  They also have a strong yoga, meditation, and wellness culture.  

Is Sayulita Kid Friendly?

For all of us, the beach was terrific.  The water temperature was like bathwater, the waves are gentle and the sand is sparkly brown – great for sandcastles.  The beachfront is lined with restaurants, from which you can rent chairs and umbrellas and order food and drinks for around $10 a day (for two chairs and an umbrella).  We had lunch at a different restaurant each day and all the food was consistently incredible.  We highly recommend Don Pedro’s on the beach – it’s at the end of the main beach with a thatched roof with creative Mexican food and excellent margaritas.  It is relaxed during the day with equipment rentals but Don Pedro’s also has the best fine dining restaurant in town, so make your reservations for dinner during the day if you want to eat there at night.  

We were there during the wrong time, but Sayulita is also a big sea turtle hatching location and you can help release sea turtles each night at 6:30 PM during the right time of the year (September – December).  The sea turtle release project is run by a local volunteer group called Campamento Tortuguero Sayulita and it is designed to teach the local community about the importance of sea turtle preservation and environmental compassion.  More about the project in English is located here. The sea turtle nests are clearly marked and cordoned off and our son enjoyed finding the “baby turtle cribs” while we wandered around the beach.      

We also went surfing as a family – the waves are perfect for beginners and the instructors were incredibly nice.  We used Captain Pablo’s for our lessons and it was $30/person for a lesson and surfboard rental after the lesson.  Unfortunately, they do not have a website, but they are right in the center of town.  The school is actually run by an American from Oregon who bent over backward to accommodate our little one, so we highly recommend them.  Our son had two separate instructors “teaching” him to surf and he loved the experience.  They have other equipment rentals (SUPs, chairs, umbrellas, etc) and trips/tours (fishing and ATV tours, in particular) and they are attached to a decent waterfront restaurant also named Captain Pablo’s.

Lastly, there’s a “hidden” second beach called “Playa Los Muertos” that our son loved.  It is past the Villa Amor hotel, up a hill, past a cemetery with very lively decorations, and then down a hill on the other side.  It is a kid-friendly adventure getting there and then the beach was practically empty when we visited, so it was a nice afternoon excursion one day.  We parked the golf cart at the top of the hill and there were not a lot of restaurants or rental options, so it was less of a place to hang out for hours.  There are some interesting rocks and tidepools to explore, though, which kept our son quite entertained for awhile.  

Beyond the beach and water activities, the town is charming and walkable, with a nice little grassy town square and a large “Sayulita” sign for our son to run around.

There are a lot of great places to explore in the town, so we spent a lot of time leisurely wandering around.  We also took the golf cart to explore outside the town a bit, although we did not find a lot of great places to recommend outside the town – it was more that our son loved the golf cart rides.  There is a hotel with a great restaurant you can visit normally called “Playa Escondida” (https://playa-escondida.com/) where “Bachelor in Paradise” is filmed, but the hotel is limited to guests only during covid.  

 

For The Adults

Outside of the above activities, we loved the food, drinks, and shopping.  We sometimes struggle to find family vacations that work for everyone because “kid-friendly place” so frequently means “mediocre food and drinks” for the adults.  This was definitely not the case in Sayulita.    

Generally, meals ran from ~$5/person on the low-end to ~$30/person on the high-end, including 1-2 drinks per person.  Some of our favorite restaurants in town were Sayulita Café ($$, amazing chile relleno), El Itacate ($, our favorite tacos), Naty’s Cocina ($, great breakfast), La Rustica ($$$, Italian food with a nice atmosphere), Bichos Iguana Garden ($, taco stand in a kid-friendly iguana garden sanctuary), and Barracuda ($$, great Mexican seafood).  

For bars, Don Pato’s is right on the main plaza with live music nightly.  Yamback was also fun, with a good DJ and interesting craft beer options.  We wanted to be fun parents so we considered going to Club de Playa Camaron for our Friday night, but we ended up not making it.  We heard that it is worth a visit and quite fun.  

For shopping, there are open-air shops throughout the town with lots of fun bags, swimsuits, and assorted souvenirs.  Our favorite more curated shop was called Nakawe Trading (https://www.nakawetrading.com/), also easy to find in town.

Day Trips

Because we were traveling with a little one still napping regularly, we did not arrange any day trips.  We have heard that there is terrific snorkeling/scuba diving at the Marieta Islands as well as some fun jungle excursions on ATVs.  There’s also excellent whale watching from December to April.  Finally, Punta Mita is close by (40 minutes away) and it is beautiful with some nice luxury hotels and restaurants, which could be worth a visit if you want a less rustic vibe for the day.  We did a separate family trip there and really loved it.  

 

Where To Stay

We stayed at the Airbnb below and we loved it – it was a three-bedroom condo in a lovely building with great wifi on the Northside of Sayulita.  Note that it is owned by Americans and priced in dollars, so it was around $325/night.  We wanted a kitchen option for our kiddo as well as fast wifi – the wifi in the private buildings was uniformly excellent but we saw mixed things about the wifi quality at the hotels.  Booking.com has a “wifi strength rating” that we used because we needed to do some work during the week as well.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/22115235?source_impression_id=p3_1617035779_oj0dbkPPvH3MRFwl&guests=1&adults=1 

While we did not use them to book, we heard great things about a website called, “Sayulita Life,” which has a lot of vacation rentals as well as some great content about all things Sayulita.  Check it out here!

There are no chain hotel brands in Sayulita – everything is smaller private options.  The most commonly recommended hotel was Villa Amor (https://www.villaamor.com.mx/), which runs around $150/night.  We ate there one night and they have a very good restaurant, but we did not stay at the hotel.  

 Disclaimer: We and our community of travelers are very excited about the prospect of getting back into the world, post-Covid. We recognize the eagerness to plan travel and will be resuming more frequent posts about traveling to specific places. However, we want to urge all travelers to be mindful that Covid-19 is not over and, in many places around the world with less access to vaccines, the virus will be a consistent challenge for years to come. We urge all travelers to be mindful of these disparities (read more here) as they travel and understand that even traveling while vaccinated can still pose a risk of spreading the disease. As it is important anytime we travel, we want to encourage our travelers to be responsible and courteous guests and to consider these questions as they plan to travel.

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