Adventure International

Sayulita: 12 Reasons to Visit Pueblo Magico

Sayulita is the Mexican village everyone tells you to visit if you vacation in Puerto Vallarta. As a Pueblo Magico (magical town), Sayulita is a mystical destination that sweeps visitors back into the folklore, history, and culture of Mexico’s past.

Minus the tourists that flock to visit, Sayulita is a small town of 5000 residents located on the Pacific Coast in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico.

Pueblo Magico

You visit Sayulita to discover “cultural richness, historical relevance, cuisine, art crafts, and great hospitality” (Secretariat of Tourism).

But this is no old-time colonial city.

You might think you were visiting a California beach town skirting the Pacific Ocean circa the 1960s except you are in Mexico.

Surfer’s Paradise

Sayulita is a surfer’s paradise. Waves, water, and wonder beckon

“From all over the world, surfing enthusiasts flock to this Sayulita beach, like a sacred site, with their boards on their backs, their golden skin glistening, and hearts full with a passion for the waves.”

Riveria Nayarit

Kayak’s Travel Hacker named Sayulita as a Top 10 Place in the World to Visit.

Popular Day Tour

I visited Sayulita in December as part of an all-day tour that also included San Pancho. The difference between these two Mexican beach towns was immediately evident.

San Pancho is more of a laid-back village. There is one main road that dead ends at the beach. The Indigenous vendors set up their tents to sell intricate beaded jewelry in the main square. You can roam down a few smaller streets that cross the main avenue.

Shopping District

In contrast, Sayulita is a bustling town where you can almost get lost exploring. The main road is lined with restaurants, shops, outdoor bazaars, and hotels.

To get to the main plaza, you need to cross a bridge (although I didn’t see any creek or river running underneath it).
You can climb back onto a wooden boardwalk on either side of the street. It connects the stores and restaurants.

Town Plaza

Your first stop should be to take a photo at the town’s sign. The block-style letters stand nearly three feet tall. They are each painted in bold colors, such as hot pink, yellow, teal, lavender, and orange. An artist’s swirling outline of the sun and surf serves as a background. It’s a popular destination for most visitors so you might have to stand in line. But you’ll be easily distracted if you watch.

Straight ahead lies the plaza where locals (and tourists) congregate. Stand under the fronds of the waving palm trees to get some relief from the sun. There are white metal benches as well as wooden benches to take a rest or peoplewatch.

Sayulita Street Art

If you turn right, you will discover a meandering street lined with more stores and restaurants.  But the eye candy is the street art.

Old Mexican brick buildings are decorated with humans, animals, and abstract images. Linger a while to appreciate the brushwork. Snap a selfie.

Don’t be surprised that the coal-black eyes of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo follow you as you walk down the street. Be ready to smile when you walk up close to the smiling ghoul adorned in red heart earrings and a floral head scarf.

Swim along with the turtle floating off the side of a building at Tomate una noes ninguna.

And I missed my Golden Retriever (Parker) when I stumbled on the mural of a black and white dog begging for a treat from his mistress.

Historic Church

If you swing back around right, you will be headed to the historic village church named after Senora de Guadalupe. The colonial structure is situated on a hill so its church tower and white cross can be seen from many angles.

I was deeply touched by the statue of the Virgin Mary with her hands folded in prayer and her eyes downcast. Her words appear in Spanish and English on a hanging flag

“I want very much that they build a sacred little house here. Listen, put it into your heart, my Son, don’t be afraid, am I not here I who has the honor of being your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection?

Senora de Guadalupe

The statue sits in a garden still in bloom in December. Pink, red, and yellow flowers wave in the wind.

Street Tacos

Your nose will probably lead you to your next stop. As is typical in Mexico, enterprising chefs set up their outdoor kitchens to sell tacos. You can choose between pescado, camaron, pollo, arrachera, or vegetables.

If you see a cluster of customers waiting for their orders, stop. It is also a good sign if the customers are locals.

But if you have been walking all day, you might want to sit down. Cruise down the street to examine the menus posted outside local restaurants and cafes.

I chose a Mexican blue corn pancake with fruit compote and whipped cream as a late brunch. It was wonderful to watch people pass by the restaurant’s window.

But I was also tempted to order chilaquiles (fried tortillas bathed in red or green sauce), rancheros (fried eggs served in a poached tortilla with beans), and molletes (toasted bolillo with beans, cheese, and choice of protein, such as chorizo).

Mercado Artesnal Sayulita

I needed the caloric sustenance before I began my shopping at the town’s outdoor market (Mercado Artesnal Sayulita). You have to search for the courtyard (off Main Street) where more than 30+ vendors sell handmade items. The Farmers Market sells the best organic fruits and vegetables.

I could have spent my entire afternoon at the market without ever getting bored. This is a place where people want to congregate.

A band plays music to entertain the customers. Delicious food and drinks can be purchased, including fresh tropical fruits, chiles, cacao, vegan cheese, and snacks. Some vendors sell medicinal concoctions.

Papel Picado

The most magical part of your walking tour of Sayulita is looking up in the air. Brightly colored flags are suspended in the air like confetti shot out of a gun.

Known as “Papel Picado,” these colorful flags dance in the wind. You also might find yourself dancing down the pavement, especially after one or two margaritas.

Best Time to Visit Sayulita

Avoid Sayulita during major holidays, such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and the week before and after Easter (as families want to vacation during the school vacation weeks). Prices skyrocket.

I found the temperatures ranged in the mid-80s Fahrenheit during my visit in mid-December, perfect for swimming, surfing, or suntanning on the beach. The autumn months are also a great time to visit. June through October can be rainy months.

Since I live in the United States, I usually choose Mexico or a Caribbean island for a beach getaway. The cost of airfare and the distance traveled are always less than a beach vacation in Europe or Asia.

Sixties Vibe

But Mexico stole my heart on my last two vacations in Isla Holbox and Puerto Vallarta. I came for a time in the sun, but I reveled in the culture—the warmth of the locals, the delicious food, and the laid-back pace of a beach town.

“There is also a vibe similar to that of the sixties, focused on love and peace, gathering together in nature with a friendly and relaxed environment,” according to Riveria Nayarit.

I saw a doormat at a Sayulita hostel that captured the sentiment perfectly:

“We are not hippies. We are happies.”

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  • anukrati
    January 13, 2024 at 6:38 am

    Loved the last line – We are happies! This rings true for most people we call hippies.

    • Terri
      January 13, 2024 at 7:11 am

      I loved this line too. This is what I strive to be on my travels – one of the happies!

  • Natascha
    January 13, 2024 at 7:03 am

    I have read so much good things about the street art and the food in Sayulita! I am desperate to experience this charming village for myself. Unfortunately I do not have a trip to Mexico in the pipeline. It is about then years ago that I visited – I guess the country has changed a lot!

    • Terri
      January 13, 2024 at 7:11 am

      I hope you get to visit! I only had a day trip from Zona Romantica in PV but I would definitely stay in Sayulita and San Pancho on my next trip.

  • Anja
    January 13, 2024 at 7:53 am

    This looks so nice! Mexico is so high on my travel wish list but I never seem to be able to take enough time off to make it worth the long flight! That street art looks amazing!

    • Terri
      January 13, 2024 at 11:22 am

      I am a happy camper whenever I find great street art on my travels. I also recommend Isla Holbox for their street art.

  • Tara | Silly Little Kiwi
    January 13, 2024 at 8:27 am

    Gorgeous photos! I’ll be saving for future travels in Mexico!

    • Terri
      January 13, 2024 at 11:20 am

      If you love Mexico, you definitely must explore the Pacific Coast towns. I already plan to return in November.

  • Irma R Franco
    January 13, 2024 at 8:33 am

    Wow! ¡ Veramente mágico! How beautiful, colorful and inspirational! Love how the art is part of the city itself !
    Wonderful Thank you for sharing! -Irma

    • Terri
      January 13, 2024 at 11:19 am

      Awww thank you! This little beach town stole my heart. I love meeting all the locals at the outdoor farmers and artisan markets. The street art was vibrant.

  • Jolayne
    January 13, 2024 at 8:43 am

    A farmer’s market is one of my favorite places to visit in any city or town in the world.

    • Terri
      January 13, 2024 at 11:18 am

      I love Farmers Markets too! I was so lucky to visit Sayulita and see their bustling market. I wanted to buy all the fruit on display.

  • Michelle
    January 13, 2024 at 9:11 am

    We have visited Puerto Vallarta so many times and have never been to Sayulita. I have to change that. The vibe of the city looks so great!

    • Terri
      January 13, 2024 at 11:18 am

      I am so glad that I took several day trips from PV to visit these small towns on the coast. They are charming. I highly recommend.

  • Angela Lowe
    January 13, 2024 at 10:19 am

    Love this. I have always wanted to visit this part of Mexico. I will keep this post in my heart for the one day that I will get to this sode of Mexico

    • Terri
      January 13, 2024 at 11:17 am

      I can’t recommend the Mexican towns on the Pacific Coast enough. They are charming. And you will eat so well!

  • Bejal
    January 13, 2024 at 12:43 pm

    This is so informative as I have never visited. I particularly like the street art as well as the historic church. Thanks for introducing me to this beautiful part of the world.

    • Terri
      January 13, 2024 at 2:35 pm

      You are welcome. I love historic towns where you can ramble on the skinny streets to look at street art or meditate in a historic chapel.

  • Jasmina
    January 13, 2024 at 2:45 pm

    Mexico is one of my favorite countries! When I visit a country, I love visiting places that are off the beaten track and I’ve really enjoyed reading this post! Love the charm of Mexico!

    • Terri
      January 13, 2024 at 8:42 pm

      I am in total agreement with you. I love finding the little town or the neighborhood within a big city that lets you slip back into the country’s past.

  • Hannah
    January 13, 2024 at 2:55 pm

    Sayulita looks like such a lovely place to explore! The church looks charming and refuelling with tacos sounds like a dream! Thanks for the great guide!

    • Terri
      January 13, 2024 at 8:41 pm

      The street tacos fueled my entire stay in Mexico. They are incredible. Glad you enjoyed the guide.

  • Patricia (Tish) Mikan
    January 13, 2024 at 3:06 pm

    Terri I loved everything you wrote about!
    Next stop for me is Puerto Vallarta! Loved the Art work and Mother Mary!
    Thanks

    • Terri
      January 13, 2024 at 8:40 pm

      Awww I am so glad you enjoyed the writeup on Sayulita, from the historic church to the street art. I really loved this little town.

  • Laureen Lund
    January 13, 2024 at 6:30 pm

    We are planning Mexico next winter. This is a part of the country Have yet to see. Looks laid back and lovely…just what I like. I’ll see if we can make it here!

    • Terri
      January 13, 2024 at 8:39 pm

      I really hope you get to the Pacific Coadt of Mexico. There is so much to explore. Stay in the old town (Zona Romantica) during your stay in Puerto Vallarta.

  • Sharyn
    January 13, 2024 at 11:25 pm

    I’m one of those ‘happies’ and would love to be one in Mexico! Sooooon.

    • Terri
      January 14, 2024 at 5:43 am

      Hahaha I agree. I belong to the Happies Club. A ticket to Mexico’s beaches always delivers me.

  • Alanna
    January 14, 2024 at 8:25 am

    Will go anywhere for street tacos haha! The street art is amazing too!

    • Terri
      January 16, 2024 at 5:26 am

      The street tacos will blow you away in Mexico.

  • Elizabeth Bankhead
    January 15, 2024 at 6:17 pm

    Looks eclectic. Love authentic Mexican towns.

  • Beth
    January 15, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    Looks eclectic. Love authentic Mexican towns.

    • Terri
      January 16, 2024 at 5:26 am

      It is a special place!

  • Mohana Das
    January 15, 2024 at 7:05 pm

    The street art at Sayulita is the beacon that’s calling me, not to mention the great food and the sixties vibe. A perfect destination for a long weekend. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Terri
      January 16, 2024 at 5:25 am

      I agree. I am very jealous of Californians who can enjoy a long weekend in Sayulita. It is a 8 hour journey from my home.