I’ve learned something about myself this past year: I am terrible at getting my vacation posts written. I went to Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita late November and am just getting to them now.
This post covers how we got to Sayulita and how we spent our brief 20 hours there. It also explains how to get to the airport from Sayulita, which was much easier than I anticipated. I will cover Puerto Vallarta in another post later this month. Keep an eye out for it!
Getting to Sayulita
If you don’t have a rental car, the most cost effective way to get to Sayulita is bus. The bus costs around $35 pesos per person ($1.81 USD) and gets to Sayulita in an hour and a half. Typically, the bus will be white and green and say “Sayulita” in the windshield. Most bus drivers speak English, be sure to confirm that the bus is going to Sayulita before boarding. We boarded outside of the Walmart at Blvrd Francisco Medina Ascencio 2900, Isla Iguana, 48313 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico and rode until the end of the line in Sayulita.
Along the way, we saw several fruit stands. It would’ve been cool to stop and check them out but we were on a tight schedule. Also, I’d be wary of hopping off, many passengers got off of the buses at these stops but I didn’t notice anyone getting on.
Tip: Most bus drivers carry change.
Where to stay in Sayulita
Sayulita is relatively small, there’s definitely no need to have a rental car. As long as you select a hotel/hostel/rental house within walking distance to Sayulita Plaza you will be fine. We went with an AirBnb a few minutes away from the bus station (Bus Stop Provicional, Punta de Mita 22, Sayulita, Nayarit, Mexico), Sayulita Plaza (Av Revolución 41, Sayulita, Nayarit, Mexico) and the beach. We didn’t walk more than 10 minutes to anything, which was perfect for our short stay.
Tip: If you’re arriving to town at an awkward time (before check-in), ask if you can drop off your bags early. Many places are happy to hold your luggage while you explore the town.
The beach in Sayulita
We heard great things about the beach in Sayulita and how it’s the perfect place for beginners to surf. My husband and brother-in-law took advantage of the reasonably priced surfboard rentals while my mother-in-law, father-in-law and I got some drinks at Frente Al Punto, a nearby restaurant. My husband said the surf was good, but that it’s not a great swimming beach due to sharp rocks near the shore. He was pretty cut up after his first dip.
My mother-in-law, however, said the beach was great for shelling. She’s a pro, and was able to spot all of these treasures after just 15 minutes on the beach.
While Sayulita is somewhat off the beaten path, it is still a tourist destination. There are locals walking up and down the beach trying to sell souvenirs. It’s best to say, “Es hermoso, pero no gracias,” which means, “It’s beautiful, but no thank you.” It’s tempting to ignore them, but my mother-in-law made a great point, “People have a poor view of Americans, it’s important to treat everyone with kindness.”
Releasing sea turtles
While many tourist destinations charge an arm and a leg to release baby sea turtles, Sayulita allows visitors to guide the turtles to sea with the help of knowledgeable volunteers. On the north side of the beach every night at 6:30, baby sea turtles are released to the sea for the first time. It’s beautiful to watch as the crowd cheers them on.
The volunteers offer support to the turtles who are falling behind, relocating them to the front of the line headed for sea. This was one of the highlights of our trip and a must-see if you’re visiting Sayulita. You might want to cover your children’s eyes directly after the release; seagulls swoop in and snatch a handful of the baby turtles. Ah, the circle of life.
The language barrier
My mother-in-law speaks Spanish fluently. We relied on her fully when we called our AirBnb host to ask if we could drop off our bags early. If you don’t know a lick of Spanish, unique scenarios with locals can be tricky. Otherwise, I was surprised to find that in both Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita I didn’t have trouble with a limited Spanish vocabulary. People in the tourist industry (shop owners, waiters, bus drivers) are often bilingual. As my mother used to say, use your context clues. Look around you, imagine how you would communicate with someone who didn’t speak English in the United States. Use props, play charades, explain by using the few words you do know. I once said, “Cuantos esto?” while holding up a dress in the store, which loosely translates to, “How many this?” The saleswoman laughed, but understood that I was asking for the price.
After a day at the beach, we walked through the town and explored the shops. I was surprised to find designer boutiques filled with gorgeous, handmade items that were expensive, even by American standards. Example: A beautiful, opal necklace was $110 USD. The shops are definitely geared towards tourists. As we walked through town a local greeted us, my mother-in-law asked for recommendations for things to do in town, he said, “All visitors take a photo on this street (pictured left).” It’s a romantic little corner of town, perfect for a photo op.
Where to Eat
Sayulita is booming with street food options. A popular choice is Tacos Al Pastor which is warm, spit-grilled pork meat with grilled pineapple on a soft tortilla; complete with your choice of salsa. The food stands aren’t difficult to find, just follow your nose. The next morning we went out to breakfast at El Espresso Sayulita. It was perfect! Delicious food at a reasonable price. You can’t beat a giant plate of eggs benedict for $5.00 USD.
Getting to the Airport
After a wonderful 20 hours in Sayulita, it was time for my husband and I to head to the airport. We were a little nervous, having no bus schedule in front of us, so we gave ourselves plenty of time. We called out to the bus drivers and asked which one goes to the airport in Puerto Vallarta. This was trickier than going all the way to the end of the line in Puerto Vallarta, we had to watch the street signs carefully for any mention of the airport. When we neared the pedestrian bridge, we stood up and approached the front door (there is no formal way to notify the bus driver that you need to get off). Once again, our bus ride was $70 pesos for two people.
I would have loved to spend more than 20 hours in Sayulita. Our visit was short; I’d love to return and spend more time in town.
Have you ever been to Sayulita? What would you recommend to fellow travelers? Comment below!
Thanks for reading,