- Sayulita is on Mountain Time and PV is Central, and your air tickets are PV time, so leave an extra hour when returning to the airport.
- Sayulita has no bank nor cash machine, yet is almost entirely a cash
economy, so get pesos from the cash machines in the airport, or from the
exchange booths in the airport or many other spots in PV. ATMs give the best rates. In 2004 an exchange booth opened in town, opposite the plaza, good in a pinch.
- Few houses have phone service, but you can place or receive calls and
faxes (for a small fee) from the internet shops, or call from the many
(though new a couple years ago) public phones which use phone cards sold in some of the little stores.
- Winter normally sees clear skies, highs in the low to mid 80s, lows in the high 60s or low 70s. Swimsuits are appropriate dress everywhere, but take along a sweatshirt in case it gets cool after dark. Summer is the rainy and hotter season, still a paradise.
- Two pharmacies are friendly and can converse in English or Spanish, as can the wonderful doctors (two rotate) at the Sayulita Salud (health clinic).
- It is standard to tip your maid about 25 pesos (only $2.50) per day at the end of your stay. It is best to give it to her (all are female) personally and tell her it is la propina. Maids generally clean up six days per week (no Sundays) so to be sure you might want to catch her a day before your departure.
- Cash is the primary means of purchase in Sayulita. Credit cards are accepted at very few locations. US dollars are accepted at some locations but at an unfavorable exchange rate. There are two money exchange banks at the airport. Compare rates. Bital Bank has been the most competitive recently.
- Tourist Cards – Do not lose this card. You must have it to leave the country. You will get one on the plane going to Mexico and it will be stamped by Mexican immigration upon entry. Should you lose the card a new one will be issued at the airport but it will take time and cost money.
- Taxis are available at the airport and across the highway (Route 200) from the airport. Fares range between forty and seventy-five dollars – depending on the size of the vehicle. The taxis across the highway over the pedestrian bridge are less expensive. Always ask the fare before getting into any taxi. Once in Sayulita, taxi and bus service is available at the town square to Puerto Vallarta and nearby villages.
- money exchange—2 doors off the main square toward the beach
- good retail shops -Galeria La Hamach …high quality, one of a kind artesania, next to Choco Banano
- laundry—Lavandaria Sayulita at Revolucion #9
- Veg – La Terrazola
- Veg – Vegetarian El Oasis
- Veg – Macondo Italian Restaurant in Sayulita Mexico – One block north of the soccer field
- Rollies, Choco Banano, and El Bicho for breakfast and lunch; La Terrazola, on the beach at the Sayulita Bungalows and Trailer Park; Macondo on calle MR Sanchez, lemon meringue pie just like home! Si Hay Olitas on Calle Revolucion; Café Caminata: Argentine fare on main square; Restaurante Leysa: vegetarian offerings on main square.
- Three beach restaurants (one takes credit cards) and another nearly two dozen or so small restaurants in town serve very good local meals at modest prices, mostly seafood and traditional Mexican. Kid friendly fare is available at a couple, there are pizza & Italian, Thai and Chinese places, but seafood and mexican plates are good everywhere. Ice cream and popsicles are offered at three paleterias.
- If you like to cook, you can get all you need at the handful of small
groceries in town. They are small, but offer a wide array of fresh fruits and veggies, cans, packages, cheeses, breads and drinks. At least a couple open by 6am, and some stay open until at least 10pm. The carniceria sells meats, and the best place for fish is at the trailer on the beach, where fishermen offer their freshly caught dorado (mahi mahi) and huachinango (red snapper – like), usually between about noon and 2pm. Avacados grow everywhere, so guacamole is easy and cheap. Frequently a pickup truck will go through town selling fruits, veggies or fish & shrimp, usually at very good prices and great quality.
- If you want to cook at home there are a number of small grocery stores in town. It is worth a stroll through town to see what is fresh that day. Stores open at 6 am and close at about 11 pm. Fresh fruit is always available. The grocery store with the most choices is across from the plaza. There are meat stores (carnecerias) where you can buy fresh meat. In addition, barbecued chicken is sold most days right off the grills which are set up on sidewalks all over town. The easiest place to buy fish is from the grocery store on the left after crossing the bridge into town. Some may wish to get it directly from the fishing boats when they come in with the day’s catch, usually between noon and 2 pm.
- Alas Blancas – The food is “very good” Mexican fare. The menu is in English. Open almost every day.
- Anna’s or El Bicho – Quaint. Serves only a few dishes, tortillas being the specialty. Very reasonable prices. They also serve great smoothies and fresh juices. Located on the main road into the town center, just after the bridge, under a large palapa.
- Café Sayulita – Located on the main street coming into town. Only one half block before the plaza. Known for their chile rellenos.
- Calypso – On the corner across from the plaza, on the second floor. It has a nice bar and seating outside. Great place to oversee the action on the plaza and to watch sports on TV.
- Captain Pablo’s – On the beach directly in front of the main surf break. Cozy spot featuring traditional Mexican seafood. Pablo and his wife, Patti, also offer fishing and surfing trips. Surfboard rental available.
- El Casteno – (aka Ruperto’s) On the beach, straight down from the plaza. Good food. Simple egg breakfasts for only 20 Pesos.
- Cheo’s Tacos – On the left directly after the bridge. The real Mexican deal and the best of the street vendors. Only open at night. Great food and great prices.
- Choco Banana – On the plaza. Known as Sayulita’s original coffee shop and café. Serve breakfast and lunch and lots of healthy food. Great place to hang out and maybe find a US newspaper.
- Don Pedro’s – The upscale restaurant in town. On the beach. They accept credit cards, can make all the drinks, serve a great filet and have American TV.
- Fish Taco – Decorated as a rustic taco stand but the food is far from it. Excellent Baja style breaded fish taco or shrimp taco. Also do a great job with steamed veggies and chile rellenos. On the east side of the plaza.
- Laura’s – Half a block from the beach. Excellent Mexican food with seating on the street. She is famous in town for her cooking and when she’s open she’s busy.
- Leza’s – On the plaza. Good food at good prices. Try everything.
- Macando – Italian restaurant located beyond the NE corner of the baseball field. Great salads, pizzas and pasta.
- Margarita’s – On the beach in front of the surf break. Traditional Mexican food, seafood and Gringo-Mexican food. A good place to have a beer and watch the surfers.
- Papa’s Palapa’s – Great little natural foods restaurant on the beach at surf central.
- Red Dragon – Didn’t you expect to find a great Chinese restaurant in Sayulita? A block north of Alas Blancas on the east side of the road. Great egg fu yung and a full bar.
- Rollie’s – Rollie and his family serve a great, American-style breakfast and a great time. Two blocks south of town on the road to Punta de Mita. A very large meal and a very large time. You won’t escape without trying the fried potatoes.
- Ron’s Pizza – A great hang out that’s been around a long time and has excellent pizza. Located on the south side of the river. Go right after the bridge. Wood burning pizza oven.
- Sayulita Net Lounge – Great drinks, snacks and internet connections. Copy services always and live music often.
- Si Hay Olitas – Traditional Mexican food with seafood specialties.
- Street Vendors – Many makeshift street side taco stands near the plaza. They are fried right in front of you and most are excellent. Most do not serve alcohol but you can always buy a beer or two at a nearby store, sit down at the sidewalk table and enjoy a good, cheap meal.
- Terrazola – One of our favorites. Right on the water. On the northern part of the beach just at the left surf break. Othon and Wendy serve great food and great music for lunch and dinner. Don’t leave without having one of Wendy’s special Margarita’s.
Banks and most businesses in the area will close on the following:
- New Year’s Day January 1
- Constitution Day February 5
- Birthday of Benito Juaréz March 21
- Good Friday to Easter Monday Four days in March or April
- Labor Day May 1
- Anniversary of the Battle of Puebla May 5
- Independence Day September 16
- Columbus Day October 12
- All Saints’ Day November 1
- All Souls’ Day November 2
- Anniversary of the Revolution of 1910 November 20
- Christmas Day December 25
Most visitors never leave town during their stay in Sayulita, as it is paradise with plenty of things to do right in town, including surfing, swimming, horseback riding (on beach or through jungle), hiking, fishing and just relaxing. However, some find the time to take day trips, and three of my favorites are below.
This requires only leaving in a boat, the 18 foot pangas used by the local fishermen. If anyone in the group likes to fish, talk to Nacho at the El Costeño restaurant on the beach, as he has fished here his whole life, and will take up to six others out on his panga, for 1400 pesos (about US$125) total regardless of number of people, usually leaving at 7am, returning by 11am, to fish for dorado, which is mahi-mahi. He rarely fails, and afterwards he will fillet the fish for you, so you can BBQ (or get a cook to do so) that evening either at home, or they will do it for you at the restaurant. You can count the number of English words Nacho knows on your fingers, but that never stops anyone from having a great time. He has the rods and everything, so no need to bring anything but sunscreen, hat and a small water bottle. You generally leave from the beach down past Don Pedro’s, but make sure you agree in advance on time and place, and have one of the English speaking waiters help translate when arranging if necessary.
Anyone with even the slightest interest in snorkeling should spend a morning at the Islas Marietas, where decades ago Jacques Cousteau filmed one of his diving specials. This set of islands is uninhabited by people, but has thousands of birds, including the blue footed booby found only in these parts and in the Galapagos, and the surrounding coral is teeming with colorful fish. Leave Sayulita by 9am either in auto or get Lalo, Agustín or another of the dependable Sayulita taxistas to take you the roughly 20 minute drive to Punta de Mita. You can arrange a taxi the day before at the house (2 blocks from our complexes) with TAXI written on the side, or Janet can help arrange if you need that. You can take the highway back toward PV, and after about 6 miles you see the right hand exit for Punta de Mita, just where the highway turns from 2 to 4 lanes, then continue on that road until you enter the town of Punta de Mita, a trip totalling about half an hour from Sayulita. Or take the direct shortcut road (double dotted in the map below), if conditions are good, a touch shorter. In 2005 they have been working on improving (actually paving) much of the shortcut road, so by the next year it may be the best route all year round. Punta de Mita is small, with only one beach area, so it would be hard to get lost.
At the beach ask for Oscar (pronounced O-skar) if he doesn’t find you first, and he will provide snorkels, masks, fins and the boat with pilot (up to 9 of you in one boat, and he has a couple more boats if needed) for the price of 200 pesos (about US$18) per person. If you are running short on pesos, Oscar is always happy to take a twenty dollar bill instead of 200 pesos, as then he makes a bit extra! Before you leave the beach, ask Pedro, a wonderful waiter in one of the couple of beachfront restaurants, to prepare an ice container with one drink (soda or water recommended, beer if you really want it) per person, as it will be delicious on your way back. The drinks are about a buck a piece, and you can pay Pedro when you return to shore. Your boat is an 18 foot wooden panga with outboard, the only boats in small fishing villages, and most likely Alejandro (Alex) or Toby will be the driver, who will stay with you the entire time. Most of the boat has a cloth overhead cover for shade, but those wanting sun can sit uncovered in the very front. After the 10 – 15 minute boat ride out to the islands, Alex or Toby will anchor the boat in the best spots, so anyone who tires or does not want to snorkel can still come along and stay on the boat. An hour and a half of snorkeling generally sates everyone, then Alex will take you on a quick spin around the islands as you return. If you leave Sayulita by 9am or so, you are at the islands by 10am and back just about noon. The trip to and from the islands can also be great, as at different times we have seen sea turtles, dolphins, whales and even a school of manta rays, each one 6 to 10 feet across gliding just under the surface. Even if not so lucky, there will be beautiful birds flying past. So feel free to bring along those who do not want to snorkel, as they will enjoy the boat.
Anyone who feels like it should put a life vest (they are in the boat) under the belly while snorkeling, as this is common and makes you float easily. Advise beginners that they really need to snorkel right near the edges of the island, right over the coral rather than 50 feet out where it is deep, as fish stay in the coral. Sometimes they are afraid to get to close to the “cliffs” but they really need to be there. Be sure people have sun screen on their backs, as it is easy to forget about that when your tummy & face are in the water. Also, please do not take anything back with you, and try not to touch the coral as it is delicate. There also are spots with sea urchins clinging to the coral, and these guys can sting if you touch them.
All you need to take is a towel if you wish, though feel free to take a backpack or other carryall, and a camera would be nice. Bring cash, as credit cards are not used in Punta de Mita. It is customary to tip the boat driver 100 – 200 pesos, the high end if he provided special help or service.
We always stay and eat in Pedro’s restaurant, looking right out at the beach, enjoying their great seafood (or burgers and other fare for those who need that) and drinks. When we are without car, we ask our taxi driver to return for us at about 1:15 and find us in one of the couple of beachfront restaurants, and they always are there on time. Then we are home in Sayulita before 2pm, with most of the afternoon still ahead of us.
Do NOT try to take a boat from Sayulita to the Marietas. Some of the Sayulita boatmen will tell you it is fine to do that, but even in the best circumstances it takes a couple hours (those pangas are not too fast), and if the wind is against you, one of the directions may take much longer, and frequently they do not even make it and have to turn back. I love being on boats, but spending 3 or 4 hours round trip travel just to get there is way too much.
If you go, please say hello to Oscar and Pedro from Mark in Sayulita. Thanks!
Be sure to have passports, as that will become a requirement in 2006.
You first go through immigration upon arrival, showing your identification. You need to keep the bottom portion of your tourist card (filled out either on the plane or in line) as you are required to turn that back in upon departure, and will pay a fine if you lose it. After immigration you will claim bags and go through customs. Mexico has a push button system. If you get a green light you proceed through. If the light is red, they will quickly search your bags. As with most countries, you are not to bring in agricultural products. Customs exits into the main terminal lobby, where you most likely will immediately be asked (many times) if you need a taxi, and these guys are absolutely fine to say yes to, then tell where you are going. In the fairly small single lobby are also shops, cafes, ATMs for cash, an exchange booth and car rental counters.
Rent or Taxi? You do not need a car in Sayulita, as everything is within a walk. About 30% of our guests rent cars, 70% do not. Even for day trips, you can use the reasonably priced Sayulita taxis.
Taxis at the PV airport can take you to Sayulita. There are minvans and suburbans for families and minibuses for larger groups. Drivers will not know particular houses in Sayulita, so take your map or directions to be sure they find Los Delfines or Las Gemelas. Fares depend upon number of people as well as your ability to negociate. The current rate is about 500 pesos for a family of five, but on occasion you will be asked for about 850, to which you say NO. Agree on a price before you get into the taxi. Sayulita taxis are lower priced for your return trip and for day trips.
Car rentals available at the airport include Avis, Hertz, National, Enterprise, Dollar, Alamo and Budget. A variety of sizes and models are available. If you require automatic transmission, be sure to request in advance. It is best to make your reservation in advance if coming from the US or Canada, by calling the rental company in your home country. Only Avis and Hertz have counters in the terminal and terminal pickup and dropoff of cars, others take you to close by offsite locations.
Driving habits differ from US, and traffic is often fairly aggressive (rather like France or Italy), particularly the willingness of many drivers to pass on two lane roads even around fairly blind curves. If driving, please be aware of traffic both in front and in back of you, as erratic seeming actions can occur at any time. A custom particularly unfamiliar to those from the north is that in the city (PV) most left turn lanes are on the right side, where you wait for a turn signal. This carries over in the countryside as well. When exiting Highway #200 turning left onto the little Sayulita road, if there is oncoming traffic delaying your turn, you are expected to pull over to the right side to await your opportunity to turn. Also, beware that many local drivers of trucks and other slow vehicles put on their left turn signals to indicate to cars behind them that it is clear to pass. As a result, many drivers behind you may interpret a left turn signal as an invitation to pass, even when your intent is to turn left. So, be very careful and aware of those in back of you, particularly when turning.
If driving, Sayulita is 26 miles from the PV airport, on highway #200 going in the direction of Bucerias, Compostela and Tepic.
Sayulita is about 21 miles (35kms) north of the Puerto Vallarta airport. Upon exiting the airport take a right onto Rte 200 and an immediate left in order to be traveling north on Rte. 200. Proceed north on coastal Highway 200 following the signs towards Compostela and Tepic. After approximately twenty minutes you will pass through the town of Bucerias. Continue north on Rte. 200. Past the turnoff to Punta de Mita you should bear left, still Rte. 200, towards Tepic. The highway then becomes more winding, watch for animals grazing along the road and slow moving vehicles. You will pass signs for several small villages. After passing San Ignacio watch for a sign on your right that says “Sayulita 3km”. That is the entry to Sayulita.
Internet service and laptop hookup is available at variety of locations in Sayulita. Standard rates are about $20 pesos per hour. Some Sayulita vacation rental houses even provide phone lines.
Payphones were installed in Sayulita in 2003 and use phone cards that can be purchased in most of the stores in $30, $50, or $100 peso values. Calls to the USA or Canada from Sayulita are $5 pesos/minute.
Phone cards sold in the USA or Canada rarely work here in Mexico.
You will need to special order international (Mexico) service for a USA/Canada cell phone before arriving in Sayulita Mexico. For the best (and sometimes only) cell phone reception in Sayulita, walk out onto the beach right in front of town. The hilltops around Sayulita usually get a better signal as well.
Though not often marked in Sayulita, plenty of hiking trails offer visitors routes to secluded beaches and breathtaking views. The following hikes should get you going in the right direction but feel free to ask a local for additional information.
Head south from Sayulita on the back road to Punta Mita. After approximately two mile, take a right towards Playa Patzcuaro. You will come to a ranch about ½ mile down this road towards the beach. An unused road will take you south from here through the jungle to the top of Monkey Mountain. Make sure to pack food and plenty of water for this 4-hour Sayulita hike.
Two miles north if Sayulita, surrounded by rocky cliffs, this tiny horseshoe-shaped beach is perfect for lovers. Carefully watch the ocean so you don’t get washed when the tide comes in. Access is by a treacherous rocky path through the brush or through the rock arches on the south side of Playa Malpasos. To find it, walk inland along the arroyo after Sayulita’s main beach ends and get on the jungle road until you see another arroyo after the barbed wire fences end. From town you can also reach Playas Cuevas and Malpasos by walking along Calle Las Palmas until it turns into the jungle road. Playa Malpasos is free of rocks and surrounded by palm trees. Unfortunately, Vallarta Adventures started bringing groups of tourists here daily. Come in the early morning or evening to enjoy solitude. Don’t swim here, there is a dangerous undertow.
For real exercise, continue walking to the neighboring village of San Francisco AKA San Pancho four miles from Sayulita. One end of the beach is very swimmable and the other end is home to Costa Azul Adventure Resort, a nice place to have a drink and watch the sunset. In the middle lie the quiet cobblestone streets of San Pancho.
After Playa Malpasos, you’ll pass the former estate of Mexico’s former president. Here you might have to practice a bit of citizens’ action because the new owners have blocked access, which is against Mexican law. People still cross by ignoring the “no trespassing” signs. If you’re up for some risky rock climbing, it’s possible to scale the rocks over the ocean at low tide. Hopefully by the time you arrive, this situation will no longer be an issue. San Pancho is accessible by Highway 200.
Playa de Los Muertos
In the other direction from Sayulita is Playa de Los Muertos, which is very popular with Mexican families and a safe swimming beach. Huge rocks protect it on both sides. Walk around the curved bay past Villa Amor and head up the hill through the cemetery. When you hit small river walk along it to the ocean. Las Cargadas is the tiny beach past the rocks to the south. There are other little beaches here that are best accessed by kayak from Sayulita..
Here, you’ll find huge waves and it’s very possible that you’ll be alone on this wild, windswept beach. There are homes here but most are well hidden in the wooded hill about the water. Taking the one-lane dirt road through the jungle is the best way to get here from Sayulita. Starting at the cemetery, its your second right turn. Through town, follow Niños Heroes until it enters the jungle and make the first left turn. This is an uphill 40-minute walk.
Playas Patzcuaro and Patzcuarito
From Gringo Hill in Sayulita, these beaches are an hour walk or 10-minute drive from town. Continue out of town on Revolucion past the cantina onto the road to Punta de Mita (Camino Punta Mita). Make a right at the first road and continue straight on it. The adventurous can also climb the rocks past Carrizitos.